Monday, July 31, 2006

New Beginning 25

Audrey sidestepped so the man she could see from the corner of her eye could slide past her in the aisle. She pressed back into a rack of clothing, the thrift-store smell wafting out at her. She kept her eyes down, waiting for him to pass, then glanced up to see that he was standing in front of her, staring at her intently.

"Pardon me," she said, stepping aside again. He just looked at her, which upped her city-girl dander. "Is there a problem?"

He thrust a flier at her, big black letters on bright yellow paper. Just a crazy, that's all.

"I'm okay, thanks," she muttered, and headed down the aisle.

"You really need this," he said.

"I'm all full up, honestly." Audrey looked around for a clerk. No one in sight. If this guy got any closer, she was going to stomp on his instep.

The man turned away. Thank God. But as he turned, some of the black letters on the flyer jumped out at Audrey. Audrey Quigglesthorp. What was her name doing on the flyer?

"Give me that!" Audrey snatched at the page, but the man held it above her head.

"Can you pay the price?" he sneered.

"Damn right I can." She stomped on his instep, then tackled him into a rack of shirts.

"You're too late," he laughed. "You had your chance."

As they lay among the garments, Audrey pounded on his face until it was an unrecognizable bloody pulp.

"Too . . . late," the old man moaned.

Audrey grabbed up the flyer. Her name was nowhere to be seen. It was nothing but a coupon for ten percent off her purchase. At the bottom it said, Expires at 5 p.m.

She looked at her watch. 5:02.

Continuation: Nancy Conner/Evil Editor

New Beginning 24

I hate working with people.

Let me qualify that: I hate working with people when I have to read minds. And it's not some stupid party trick, because I have to go into a trance before I can do that. If there's an easier way, my father sure as hell never told me.

Never will.

“Mickey,” he told me when I was twelve, “reading other people's thoughts is called an 'Ability.' It's not magic, like some simpletons might think.”

Like me?

Good ol' Mickey Swoboda, Simpleton. Sighing, I trudged down Northampton Street, brushing a few crumbs of snow off the front of my coat. I shoved those thoughts into some deep, unused pocket of my brain. My boss was my concern tonight. I didn't want her to find out on this or any other night how I acquired stories for her paper, The Daily Slab.

So, when I ran into her coming out of the Liquor Barn, I kept my face expressionless despite the heat radiating from her thoughts.

"Hey Mickey, you freakin' simpleton!" she yelled.

"Hi, Hera."

"How is a swack job like you comin' up with these stories? Huh? You'd have to be a freakin' mind reader to know this stuff!"

She leered at me and I read her mind. No story there, but a lurid, repugnant picture.

I puked.

Uh-oh, I thought. The "Ability" is out of the bag now.

Opening: Nancy.....Continuation: Kate Thornton

New Beginning 23

Amanda Moore, Ph.D., took a seat across a table from a killer. Except for the cameras leering from the room's corners, they were alone. "Good morning, Gordon."

"Good morning, Amanda."

"Dr. Moore," she corrected, as always. Gordon smirked.

This exchange prefaced every session. Amanda insisted that Gordon call her Dr. Moore, to keep some clarity in their relationship. Gordon called her Amanda, but she didn't protest his defiance. It was an attempt at preserving his dignity, just one of the convoluted steps in their ongoing dance.

Amanda put her mini-recorder on the table, clicked it on. Gordon leaned toward the microphone. "You're late."

Amanda glanced at her watch. "I am not late."

"You're late." He repeated his accusation in a tone other people used to say things like You're a child molester or You're a Nazi. "You promised to start this week's session 10 minutes early, Amanda, so you could perform that banal inkblot test yet again."

She looked away. She had forgotten.

"You also promised to bring me a Frosty and the latest issue of the New Yorker." It was a rare comedic moment. They both knew such contraband was forbidden. They also both knew that she didn't make deals. Still, they continued to dance.

“Gordon—” she began.

“Mr. Crump.”

Amanda eyed the serial killer. He shrugged. “You want me to call you Ms. Moore—”

“Doctor Moore.”

“—then you can call me Mr. Crump. Yeah, I like the sound of that. Mr. Crump, schizo killer.”


“Mr. Crump.”

“You are not a schizo.”

“Am so.”

“Are not.”

“Am so.”

In the guard room, Pete turned to Tony. “Can you change the channel or something? At least on Jerry Springer they’d be whacking each other with chairs by now.”

Continuation: Nancy Conner/Anonymous

Face-Lift 140

Guess the Plot

Common Ground

1. Allison accepts a job teaching high school English in Atlanta, the lesbian Mecca of the Southeast. When she falls for fellow teacher Brett, Allison understands why they also call the city "Hotlanta."

2. Velma runs the front office of the Madland News & Blues. When Forrester joins the staff as an investigative journalist, he asks her to get him coffee and the war starts. But then Velma's son is kidnapped and Forrester's assigned the story. Will they find a common ground?

3. It's 1944 and Millicent Penney has found a secret cache of frozen beef. During an air raid, she uses a hand grinder behind her blackout shades to turn it all into hamburger, the better to share.

4. Sick and tired of the lowfat-half soy-mocha-caramel-crappiatto nonsense that has replaced the morning cup of joe, Richard and Luna decide to open their own shop, selling plain coffee with a side of attitude.

5. A former cheerleader and Miss Texas is appointed Undersecretary of State and is given the unenviable task of securing peace between Israel and Palestine. Will her "Extreme Makeover" approach to the process succeed?

6. Ellen and Jake are accidentally transported to a parallel universe. Seattle is much as they remember it, except that, to their horror, coffee is outlawed as a toxic substance. Unable to get back to their own universe, Ellen and Jake open The Common Ground, a coffee speakeasy disguised as a used book store.

Original Version

"I think I found the perfect job for you. Just listen before you say no." [No.]

Allison Monroe had no way of knowing how those simple words would change her life, or that hers would not be the only heart affected. Complete at 75,000 words, Common Ground is a love story between two women [That's enough for me; send me the full manuscript, along with your research materials.] who seek the same goals, but follow very different paths.

An unexpected loss on Capitol Hill [What does that mean?] leaves Allison scrambling to find a new career path, and in a departure from her usual thoughtful behavior, she impulsively accepts a position teaching high school English. [No, no, a departure from thoughtful behavior would be taking a job as a prison guard or a stripper. Teaching English is a fine and noble endeavor.] [True, your chances of being murdered on the job are about the same with all three, but at least teachers get the summer off.] She is not sure how her shy persona will translate to the classroom -- or how her mature, reserved nature will adjust to Atlanta, the lesbian Mecca of the Southeast. [I checked my list of nicknames for Atlanta. It includes The Athens of the South, The City Too Busy to Hate, Dogwood City, Gate City of the South, Hotlanta, The Phoenix City, The Big Peach, and The New York of the South. To which I must now, apparently, add The Lesbian Mecca of the Southeast.] [Google informs me that every region has a lesbian Mecca. Iowa City: lesbian Mecca of the Midwest. Little Rock: lesbian Mecca of the Ozarks. Ketchikan: lesbian Mecca of Alaska.]

Brett Gallagher is young, brash and idealistic. Just out of a two-year stint working with Teach for America, she dreams of making the world (or at least the public school system) a more welcoming place for gay teens. She is charming and magnetic but seemingly incapable of an actual relationship, preferring instead one night stands and casual flings.

When the two women meet at an orientation for new teachers, sparks fly immediately, and the two women spend the summer getting to know each other better and falling in love. [According to the Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms, "Sparks fly" means they argue angrily.] It is a difficult road because along with their political and personality differences, the constant parade of Brett's ex-lovers makes Allison jealous and insecure. [Even a sporadic parade of ex-lovers would probably be a bit of a bother. Why are her one-night-stand ex-lovers constantly parading through? Evil Editor's one-night-stand ex-lovers never seem to parade through.] She fears that even if Brett is genuine about her feelings, it won't take long for her to lose interest.

By early fall, the two women are enjoying the bliss of a new relationship. But all of that changes when there is an incident of homophobia at the high school where they teach. [It's a sad day when you can't even escape homophobia in a lesbian Mecca.]

The event brings to a head their contrasting views on life and politics, including how out they need to be at work. While Brett risks her job to lead an unpopular crusade to have sexual orientation and gender identity listed as a protected group in the school's student handbook, [I assume you're not saying that each student's sexual orientation is currently printed in the student handbook?] Allison would prefer to avoid what she sees as a losing battle and instead work more subtly to teach students about tolerance and diversity. This dichotomy places a great deal of strain on their fledgling relationship, [and sparks fly.] and both have to decide which compromises are worth making and how far they will go to reach common ground.

I hope you will be interested to read more about Brett and Allison. A full manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Revised Version

When Allison Monroe unexpectedly loses her Senatorial election, she impulsively accepts a position teaching high school English. She is not sure how her shy persona will translate to the classroom--or to life in "Hotlanta."

Brett Gallagher is young, brash and idealistic. Just out of a two-year stint working with Teach for America, she dreams of making the world (or at least the public school system) a more welcoming place for gay teens. She is charming and outgoing, but seemingly incapable of an actual relationship, preferring instead one night stands and casual flings.

When Brett and Allison meet at an orientation for new teachers, they bond immediately; they spend the summer getting to know each other and falling in love. By early fall, the two women are enjoying the bliss of a new relationship. But all of that changes when there is an incident of homophobia at the high school where they teach.

The event brings to a head their contrasting views on life and politics. While Brett risks her job to lead an unpopular protest, Allison would prefer to work more subtly to teach students about tolerance and diversity. This dichotomy places a great deal of strain on their fledgling relationship, and each must decide how much she will compromise to reach common ground.

Complete at 75,000 words, Common Ground is a love story between two women who seek the same goals, but follow different paths. If you'd like to read more about Brett and Allison, a full manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.


I merely did some shortening and polishing.

Sorry I decided to use only three coffee-related Guess the Plots. Overwhelmingly, that's what the minions felt was suggested by the title.

New Beginning 22

The masses had received the Lord’s blessing and had confessed for transgressions against their fellow man. With a cacophony of strained voices, they had praised the Lord with song, and had begged forgiveness for the inborn sins of their self-righteous souls. And as the church bells pealed, dismissing the congregation, Paine Robertson slipped out the door like the serpent out of Eden.

He walked across the dirt road to the freshly-swept porch of Fillmore’s Leathers, plopped down on the wooden planks and waited for his foster parents to finish mingling with the rest of the Lord’s flock. Like lambs to the proverbial slaughter, the parishioners waited to speak with the Reverend Chapman, thanking him for his eloquent sermon about the evils of magic. It was a message Paine thought typical of the new Church of the Ascension and of the good Reverend who brought it all the way from the Confederation.

The Confederation. That unholy alliance of the proverbial blind leading the proverbial blind to the proverbial forbidden fruit. Paine suspected that the Church of the Ascension held the proverbial key. That was why Reverend Chapman preached against magic as though it were the proverbial original sin. The Confederation feared magic. And Paine knew how to use it.

He was the proverbial prodigal son, except no one had prepared him a feast with the proverbial fatted calf. How did that African proverb go? A weapon which you don't have in your hand won't kill a snake. He pulled out his wand and sent a bolt of lightning through the reverend's heart. A weapon which you do have in your hand, he thought, will.

Continuation: Nancy Conner/Evil Editor

Sunday, July 30, 2006

New Beginning 21

"What the hell was that?" Jack, one of the men in Papa's crew, peered up at the tall pines.

Sha'na sat in the upper limbs of a Ponderosa Pine, fighting to stay blended. Our feelings display as wing colours, and I could readily imagine her trying to remain invisible while plagued with conflicting emotions.

"Don't know," Papa said. "But if Mrs. Walker hears you swearing she'll take it up with Fletch. You know she hates swearing."

"All I said was 'Hell.' It ain't so bad a word as I could say. . ."

"Yes, but you . . ." In mid-sentence papa ducked. "What was that?"

The flutter of Mother's wings made him search the sky, but she wasn't there. She stood beside him but remained invisible. It's hard enough to blend into a background with one predominating colour. Mother managed to be unseen among the shifting patterns made by their movements -- the patterns of their plaid coats and of the thick carpet of pine needles.

It was obvious from the way Mother blended with the plaid that she was in her Scottish mood. Fiddlesticks, that meant Haggis for our evening meal. The last time we ate the stuff, my wings turned vomit-coloured.

"Holy crap, d'ya see that thang, Papa?" Jack yelled.

"We'll deal with that later." Papa reached for his belt buckle. "First we got to learn you a lesson about that swearing."

Opening: Rachael de Vienne.....Continuation: Lynn

New Beginning 20


The sign on Highway 89 for his miniscule town was instructional: Pray, followed by a large arrow that pointed the way to his crumbling house. Hollis Dixon passed this sign twice a day on the twenty mile bus ride to and from his high school in Livingston, Montana. He imagined that years ago all the surrounding towns got together, picked out the worst of their lot, and transported them to this nothing place. He envisioned a black clad preacher hammering this sign into the ground: Pray, hoping that those passing by on their way to or from Yellowstone would ask God for guidance for the poor souls residing the three and a half miles to the east of Highway 89. Hollis assumed, given the present conditions of things, that no one bothered.


Hollis, home for his father's funeral. He wondered if anything had changed, if anybody had said a prayer for this God-forsaken place. He certainly hadn't.

The dilapidated road sign to Pray leaned toward the east. And someone had altered the sign, replacing its "a" with a crudely written "e." Prey. How fitting, thought Hollis. His house, his family, his very life had been consumed by the Montana wilderness.

Sighing, he turned up the dirt road that led to Livingston. When a shadow fell across his path, Hollis barely had time to scream.

Continuation: Nancy Conner

New Beginning 19

Gravel plumed behind the squad car as it turned right, roaring through the pines toward the light in the distance. The radio crackled. “Lyd. Lyddie, honey. Stop the car. I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but stop the goddamn car and answer me.”

The driver ignored it. She slowed only to fumble with the shells. It wasn't easy, loading a shotgun while driving. “You’re gonna get yourself killed,” the radio squawked.

A pothole sent the car lurching. Shells poured out of the box and rolled onto the floor, wedging themselves into the shadows under the pedals. Sweat ran down the valley between her shoulder blades. Her foot drove the accelerator to the floor.

The voice on the radio changed. “Officer Kelly. Special Control is en route to the scene. This is their baby, not ours. I expect you back here in—”

“Baby,” mouthed Lyd. She let go of the shotgun long enough to switch off the radio. It was a lot quieter.

She burned into the old quarry and stopped in a tornado of dust. But she was too late. Surrounded by a half dozen scruffy males, Maisie was being taken by the meanest-looking one of all. The first shot burst over their heads and scattered the onlookers, leaving only the rapist with his shit-eating grin. Could Lyddie take him down from here without hitting Maisie? Not with a shotgun. She dropped it and fumbled for her sidearm.

"Drop the weapon," came from behind her. She whirled, looking deep into the eyes of the Special Control team leader. “You were told,” he said. “Now hand over the weapon and your badge and your car keys, Lyddie. Do you know how much paperwork you’ve caused the department? How many tax dollars? And all for your damned dog?”

Continuation: J.E. Barnard

Face-Lift 139

Guess the Plot

Highland Princess

1. Fergus MacPout was fond of his kilt, but yearned for greater finery. Runner-up in the Castle Drogue Drag Contest meant only that he would double his efforts next year to be crowned queen.

2. Aara, Princess of ye Highland Clans, disguises herself as a boy to escape an arranged marriage, only to find--when she poses as his trainee squire--that her fiancé has a surprisingly liberal attitude.

3. What's a girl to do when the clan tartan so does not work with her glorious red hair? For Laird's daughter Shona MacDonald the answer is simple: marry cute Jamie Campbell.

4. The stepdaughter of a Shawnee tribeswoman leaves the Indian village and moves to a castle in Scotland. After marrying her new neighbor, the Earl of Aberhaven, she goes to London, where she's "the toast of the ton."

5. Princess Aashew of the planet Blezhiu is transported to Regency Scotland every time she sneezes. Will her time traveling romance with a Scottish snuff importer survive?

6. With her golden tresses streaming behind her and her tartan gown flowing in the wind, Princess Bonnie MacLeod makes a startling discovery: It's only the men who aren't supposed to wear anything under their kilts.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor, Puppeteer of my Fate:

Graham Brazier, Earl of Aberhaven, has a dim view of the world. The pile of rocks known as Brazier Castle looms over his beloved Aberhaven Manor, blocking the sun and his view of the sea. He can’t raze this unsightly nuisance because his great-grandsire lost it in a drinking contest.

Lady Scotia Bardford, heiress to the castle, returns to Scotland from the Shawnee Indian village in America where her father abandoned her before drinking himself to death.

Graham and Scotia's story begins with them already married; [Perhaps the query should begin there as well.] a result of their bargaining. [What does that mean? Who gets what in this bargain?] Conflict begins immediately. Scotia sees Brazier Castle as a romantic Highland dream; a pinnacled fairytale that makes up for the disappointments of her life. Graham, plagued by debilitating headaches and responsibilties to his native Scotland, has little sympathy for her unrealistic expectations. He wished to raze the castle, at last.

Putting the castle behind them, literally, Graham and Scotia head to London. Away from their looming problem, Scotia trusts Graham with the truth of her turbulent past, and confides that her father married a Shawnee woman, which is how she came to be in the company of Indians.

Graham hopes that a brief stay at an armament filled fortress of war (Stirling Castle) will give Scotia a more realistic view of castle living. [Why can't she get a realistic view of castle living by living in her own castle?] During their visit, Graham's cousin, a Scottish Duke, gives Scotia a curious ancient Celtic dirk that her mother, Lady Lydia Graham Campbell, had given him for safe keeping. If His Grace knows how Lady Lydia came by it, he is not saying. The lovers [They're lovers?] resolve to learn the history of this mysterious heirloom.

Although maturing, Scotia is still impenetrable about the real condition of Brazier castle, and the couple’s bliss soon fizzles. [There was bliss?] Graham chides Scotia for refusing to let go of her childish dream of living in a castle like a princess; indulged long ago by her mother. Scotia rails at Graham for being an ingrate to all that has befallen him.

London holds revelations for the couple, however. Graham learns how badly neglected Scotia was by her father, even before they’d left for America. Scotia learns Graham was previously engaged. With a better understanding of each other, and no more secrets between them — that they know of — they imbibe happily of Town life. Scotia is the toast of the ton. [Sounds like a great title for a historical romance novel. But to make sure it hadn't been used already, I searched Amazon. Amazingly, they list no book with the title Toast of the Ton. But they do list about fifty books with that phrase as an excerpt or as part of the back-cover description. Examples:

Pride and Prescience: "Mr. Parrish soon became the toast of the ton, and I benefited from his popularity.

Brazen Temptress: Hawthorne could expose the double life of Julien d'Artiers, the toast of the ton.

Duchess in Love (back cover): ... to discover that his bride has blossomed into the toast of the ton.

The Marriage Trap: I could make her the toast of the ton. I'd begin by cutting her hair . . .

The Bride Thief: Sammie's heroic rescue from undesired wedlock turned her into the toast of the ton.

The Secret Letters of Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy: I started making toasts to tons of people, Nureyev, Khruschev, Nabokov . . .

The Politeness of Princes: . . . oceans of hot tea and tons of toast were consumed.

Dave Barry's Bad Habits: Melba toast was developed by the British, and it is not really food at all. You could airlift a thousand tons of Melba toast to some wretched, starving Asian village, and . . .]
Even Aberhaven’s English-loathing valet, Napier, is leaving his lord’s lady roses. [A valet giving roses to his employer's wife?]

They return to Scotland, having learned little more about the ancient dirk.

Tensions about the disposition of the castle still exist, but the lovers are moving toward compromise. However, a fire destroys the thatched-roofed manor house. Scotia is suspected. Angry and hurt, she takes refuge alone in the castle ruins after her husband’s valet, Napier, [No need to tell us who Napier is again.] presses the dirk box into her hands. She does not ask him how he managed to save it, or why.

Scotia clings to her independence in the makeshift castle keep she now realizes is uninhabitable ruins. [Now realizes? Didn't she even attempt to live in the castle when she first got to Scotland? If not, why not? Where did she live before marrying the Earl?] Fighting her conflicting emotions, and bent on survival, she employs all the skills she’d learned from the Shawnee. [Skills like skinning bears, beading moccasins, and tracking the white man.] Living in the ruins, however temporary, proves to be a garden of reflection for Scotia.

Graham is not the sort of man that would leave his wife – the woman he loves – in deprivation. Heading to Edinburgh on business, he believes his wife safe in the village, not counting on her playing the part of a wild Indian to prevent his steward from carrying out strict orders to bring her to safety.

A local weaver-woman pays a visit to Scotia, [At the castle?] bringing tartan plaid for her to wear. Together they uncover Napier's rose garden conservatory, [In the castle?] and the dead body of Graham’s former English fiancée— [Which has been there how long? Is it a skeleton?] a victims of Napier’s obsession with the Jacobite past.

Graham returns to find Scotia looking every bit the Highland Lady in tartan plaid, and faring well enough despite the gruesome discovery. [This query appears to break Evil Editor's 4th rule of submission: A query letter may not be longer than the book it promotes.]

In the confession of the half-mad Napier, Scotia’s heritage is revealed. She is directly descended from the Countess of Carrick— Robert The Bruce’s mother. The dirk, Napier explained, is a historical place marker, passed down through matriarchal generations to the true Carrick heiress. Having foreknowledge of this, Napier plotted the destiny that would put his lord and future queen together. [I see the name Napier, but I keep thinking of Newman, on Seinfeld.]

Scotia is of ancient Celtic blood, and a true Highland Princess— but more importantly, a princess of Graham’s heart. Together they rebuild their home, overlooking the sea. [Only to discover that three unsightly oil derricks have been constructed off shore.] With a new foundation of love, honor and mutual respect, they raise a family.

Highland Princess, a 90,000-word work of historical fiction, features an intelligent Scottish lord and a spirited woman, joined in a marriage of conviencience [Of what? It seems unlikely they would enter a marriage of convenience, immediately start arguing over the castle, and yet still be described as lovers experiencing bliss.] and a battle of wills over a dilapidated castle and the Scotland they both love.

[Unimpressive list of writing credential here] [As we'll be lopping off three fourths of the letter, this list will be the first thing to go.]

An SASE has been enclosed for your reply. Thank you in advance for your consideration.


Revised Version

Dear Evil Editor, Puppeteer of my Fate:

When Lady Scotia Bardford inherits Brazier Castle, she sees it as her fairytale dream home. But Graham Brazier, the Earl of Aberhaven, who would own the castle if his great-grandsire hadn't lost it in a drinking contest, wants the unsightly pile of rocks razed. It blocks the sun and his view of the sea from his beloved Aberhaven Manor. Despite this conflict, the two find it financially and politically advantageous to marry.

Putting the castle behind them, the newlyweds travel to London, where they imbibe happily of Town life. Graham's cousin, a Scottish Duke, gives Scotia a curious ancient Celtic dirk that her mother, Lady Lydia Graham Campbell, had given him for safe keeping.

Upon their return to Scotland, tensions about the disposition of the castle remain, but Scotia and Graham have grown to love each other, and are moving toward compromise. When the earl's valet, Napier, sees the dirk, he recognizes it as a historical place marker, passed down through matriarchal generations to the true Carrick heiress. Scotia’s heritage is revealed. She is of ancient Celtic blood, and a true Highland Princess— but more importantly, she is a princess of Graham’s heart.

Highland Princess, a 90,000-word work of historical fiction, features an intelligent Scottish lord and a spirited woman, joined in a marriage of convenience and a battle of wills over a dilapidated castle and the Scotland they both love.

An SASE has been enclosed for your reply. Thank you in advance for your consideration.



That was way, way too much plot for a mere query letter. Yet even with all the extra space, it raises questions that don't get answered. I made a change or two to the facts in order to leave the dead body out. Don't worry about it; chances are the editor won't ever get to the part that's inaccurate, and if he does, he'll have forgotten what was in the query anyway.

New Beginning 18

Arun was right, as usual. I took a deep breath, resigned myself to the fight, and drew my sword. In an attempt to appear intimidating despite my stature, I took a defensive stance with my sword above my head. The Crotalines approached out of the dark woods from all sides, but I faced the most powerful one, assuming him to be the leader. There were eight of them.

I was perfectly visible because of my fire, while they were still hidden in darkness, but then I never relied on my sight very much. That didn’t keep me from feeling very self-conscious about the visible tattoos on my bare arms. Instead of combating the feeling, I drew it out of myself and let my skin luminesce and my sword heat. I felt rather than saw my sword begin to glow and vibrate.

The Crotaline leader approached. "How's that functional requirement specification coming?" he snarled.

I ignored the taunt and lunged for his groin with my sword. The barbarian dodged, but my sword intelligently countered, slashing wickedly into his femoral artery. Blood sprayed from the wound in great, copious spurts. My sword drank from it wantonly.

"Snap out of it, Kearney. The planning review meeting is in twenty minutes."

My intelligent sword and I were undeterred.

Continuation: J.H. Woodyatt

Saturday, July 29, 2006

New Beginning 17

“That,” said Kasian, the King of the Tantey, “is not how you begin a revolution.”

The main room of The Rose and Phoenix fell silent. The minstrel who was playing Orpheus’ love song to Eurydice, the mute woman who was paying her board by acting as barmaid that week, and the former assassin who had spent several hours telling him stories about the Lord of Ysthar all looked at him. The woman with whom he had frolicked away the night before after telling her rather too much about his brother stopped playing with his feet. The three pirates who were the object of his criticism stirred ominously.

The tall man with the oiled beard glowered. “Who asked you?”

“No one,” Kasian replied amicably; “but you’re still going about it wrong.”

The deaf, one-armed midget continued kneading Kasian's shoulders, unaware a conversation was taking place. A man who would soon stand and say something stood and said, "You're right." He drew a dagger and flung it at the King. It embedded itself in the King's throat; he slumped forward on the table as his blood gushed from the wound.

The owner of The Rose and Phoenix knelt before the fire, wondering how he might bed the mute woman without his wife's knowledge, while the man who had thrown the dagger, mug of ale in hand, saluted the three pirates and said, "That's how you begin a revolution."

Continuation: Lynn

New Beginning 16


It’s funny how an apocalypse can sneak up on you.

One day there’s just some weird flu down in Central America, and the next thing you know a quarter of your country is dead and it isn’t over yet.

It was a virus, transmitted by casual contact. After infection, it would incubate for six to eight months, symptomless but contagious. The symptoms, when they came, had a consistent pattern, beginning with a bad cough and a drop in body temperature, followed by the gradual loss of all five senses. Finally, the lungs broke down and filled with fluid- all the fun of drowning without the trouble of going into the water. It was invariably fatal.

Fatal, that is, to everyone except that handful of people who, like me, breathe through gills.

But what's the point of living if you can't hear, taste, see, smell, or feel? So forgve me if this mnuscrpt has typos...I can't be sure I'm hirting the corect keys -- hell, I can't even be sur I'm not typig on the dog. He could be gnawing my left leg and nut off, for all I can tel. And eating? I can't tell fish sticks from feces.

So what's my plan? Walking into trafic. If I can find the dam door.

Opening: Marjorie James.....Continuation: Ted Curtis

New Beginning 15

The chateau cast dark shadows across the gray-green lawn. Two young men walked on foot toward their former home, their horses left behind, tethered to a rail.

"Be grateful no one is buried on the property," the elder mused. His greatcoat whipped around his legs. Before his bowler could take flight, he pulled back it down onto his dark hair. "It's nothing like the Chicago Murder Castle. Should authorities pry, they'll find nothing to incriminate us."

Erik offered no reply. Instead, he led the way up the steps and through the door. Together they walked the halls, pausing to examine each room. Their final task was to ensure that the place would never betray the treachery it had known. Jason, Erik and the other surviving members of the disengaged criminal group had gone to great lengths to cover up the nefarious affairs of the past decade.

They passed a large room, the interior of which was a maze of low walls, marking out boxes not big enough to kennel a dog. A pile of shredded paper, light as fresh snowfall, blocked their path, and Jason kicked it out of the way. "To think," he said, "that this was once the center of a great empire."

"It may be yet again," Erik replied. "Mark my words, the world hasn't seen the last of Enron."

Opening: Eliza.....Continuation: Marjorie James

Friday, July 28, 2006

New Beginning 14

­­Oh, God. She's at it again.

Lia Mitchell ducked past the kitchen, jerked opened the front door and burst out onto the porch to wait for her ride. She looked anxiously down the street, trying to ignore the raised voices spilling out of the house. The whole town probably could hear her mother verbally clobbering her father.

"You'd better not take my Elton John collection with you, you selfish pig!" her mother cried.

Lia winced in embarrassment and hoped the neighbors had their windows closed. If there was anything good about her father moving out next week--and for a long time she doubted there was--it was that the yelling would stop. She was sure once her parents had a little break from each other they could start patching up their marriage. If anything was left of it.

Secretly, she hoped he would take the Elton John albums, or at least the one with "Candle in the Wind" on it, the one about Princess Di that her mom liked to listen to while she cried and lit thirty-six candles in front of her painting of Windsor Castle.

God, no wonder he was leaving.

Continuation: Marjorie James

New Beginning 13

His eyes fluttered, muscles attempting to revive; his flesh was cold, his bones weary. It seemed dark outside, but it had been dark for so long. Was he waking from a dream? Demons had troubled him in poisoned nightmare.

Timid, a voice: the harsh whisper of familiarity on the edge of remembrance. "My liege?"

Air exhumed itself from his chest in a whoosh; he tried to open his eyes but they were long crusted shut. But the voice--he recognized the voice, twisting and trailing through passages of thought, memories long not dwelled in. How long had he slept in fear? Stale, his breath; it felt of the dead. "Genvieve?"

"Bless the Sun, for all his warmth; we've needed you, my liege."

"My eyes, sore to move, Genvieve. My body aches. What witchery-?" He felt soft leather against his brow--felt, like he'd been starved of feeling for aeons.

Tense, the moment. A knife, the proper instrument for cutting it.

"How long?" he groaned. "How long have I been thus?"

"Since yesternight, my liege." Cool, her hand on his cheek. "'Twas not long after Pelleas challenged you," her timorous voice tiptoed through the alleyways of his brain, "to that drinking contest."

Aching, his head, as he recalled the whole sordid business. Never again, he vowed silently, would he mix dandelion wine with his mead. And most especially not after four helpings of Genvieve's venison stew.

Opening Kaolin Fire.....Continuation: Nancy Conner

New Beginning 12


Crowds of women cheered. The tanks carried the loudspeakers down the street and repeated their message. Women waving rifles and flowers followed the tanks. The vehicles were draped in flowers and only a little blood. Two women tore a cloth owl from the sign on a nearby coffeeshop and hung it from one of the tanks like a flag.

In the Owls’ Ley coffee shop a great cheer came and died away in the same second. Everyone went right back to their drinks and their discussions of Rilke. And what began with the brutal murder of a witch and a flamewar on the river ended with a cup of espresso and Mel Torme performing on the dilastage.

The Velvet Fog was in good form for a holograph. But halfway through the second chorus of “Makin Whoopee,” the sirens began. The loudspeaker’s words seemed to match the movements of Mel’s lips.


Jim sighed and put down his cup. Not again. Tucking his copy of Rilke into his jacket, he plodded out to the street, then ran around in circles waving his arms. His screams were half-hearted. How could they sound otherwise after all these years?

Opening: Jerry Stratton.....Continuation: Nancy Conner

New Beginning 11

Nola, Italia

Five paces forward, five paces back. The confines of the villa's small courtyard added to Tiberius' frustrations. As well, his sleeveless tunic clung to his body in a damp mass that did little to lighten his mood. A night breeze should be blowing in from the sea, but the air, the land and the sea were hushed, as if all creation were holding its breath in anticipation.

And well it should. Emperor Augustus, the Guardian of the Imperium, the Father of the Nation, had left his earthly domain to take his place among the immortal gods. The thought brought a flutter behind Tiberius' ribs. At last he was the ruler of Rome.

He rubbed his hands together in glee, for he knew that he had also inherited the property of Augustus, including--hidden behind that dreadful fresco of Apollo trying to get it on with a laurel bush--the complete back scrolls of Naughty Roman Schoolgirls. Suddenly Tiberius felt a flutter beneath his tunic again--though this time it was a good bit lower than his ribs.

Opening: Rita Toews.....Continuation: Simonbun

New Beginning 10

“Do we have a positive ID on the victim?” Detective Tess Chase asked her partner as they stood in the empty ballroom of the newest Las Vegas sensation, the Transylvania. Moments ago, chattering guests filled the opulent ballroom, enjoying the opening night festivities. Now, it was deserted, save for Tess and Barry. And the body.

“Sarah-Jane Robertson," Barry answered. "Worked here as a dancer.” They both turned to survey what was left of Sarah-Jane. At the front of the room, a velvet curtain the color of dying roses framed a small stage. In the center, a perfectly still body lay draped over a gleaming mirrored staircase. Her elbows were braced on the top stair; her back arched so that her bare breasts pointed at the ceiling. Her legs were splayed, revealing that she was completely nude, except for a glittering pair of silver high heels.

“No obvious cause of death.” Tess mused.

"I beg to differ," Barry said. "Did you get a look at those shoes? Payless is my guess. She died of shame."

"For God's sake, Barry, have some respect. The woman is dead." Tess let her gaze linger on the stillettoes, then said, "J.C. Penney."

Continuation: acd

New Beginning 9

It has been mine now two months; yet this name confounds me still. Giuseppina. Giuseppina Guillaume. My tongue stumbles over its unfamiliar sounds; my hand, as I sign, hesitates, threatens to trace instead the pattern of my other name, my other self. My husband calls me two, three times before I respond; my ear, accustomed to the harsh staccato of my given name, catches not the languid softness of this new one. Guiseppina.

I, who know the weight of words, who measure sound and syllable, chose this name—he granted me that liberty, at least, though at the time the choice seemed but a lovers' game, inconsequential. I never guessed how the very sound of the word would capture the contours of my life. Guiseppina: the soft, suggestive whisper of the first two syllables explodes in a crescendo that fades quickly to a sigh. A fitting emblem of the woman I have become. Guiseppina. I choke on the irony.

Now he approaches, my husband, the man who allowed me this name. He takes my hand, caressing it as though petting a small creature's soft fur.

"Giuseppina," he whispers. From his lips, the sound is round and sweet, like a plum.

"Yes, my lord?"

"Do you mind if I call you Jo?"

Continuation: Nancy Conner

New Beginning 8

Donna Henderson looked at the woman in hot pants, and hated her.

Donna didn’t say anything, of course, though she knew the other moms hated the woman in hot pants too. The woman in hot pants came every Saturday afternoon and sat in the bleachers with her legs crossed, her feet sporting a bright red pair of what Donna’s friend Karen called her “fuck-me shoes” and her blonde hair tied back in a silk something-or-other. And one of those macramé blouses nobody had seen since about 1966--as Rupert said, the kind of material that makes you try to see through the mesh--and the woman would sit there with her legs and chew gum. Actually chew gum! It gave a Lolita effect, which was even more infuriating, except obviously--

“Obviously,” said Donna’s sort-of-friend, Michelle, “she’s a little twat."

Donna wiped the white spittle from her leg. This was why Michelle was only a "sort-of-friend."

"Can you believe it?" came a small voice behind them.

Donna turned. Of course. It was the woman in the too-small cardigan who had spoken. The woman in the too-small cardigan was always there. Tagging along with her little smile, her delightful eyes, and her plunging neckline.

Donna hated the woman in the too-small cardigan, the way she would sit there with her Chinese fan and her neck, and that "do me" hat, the kind Rupert said they wouldn't even wear in Indonesia, which was clearly--

"Clearly she's a whore." Donna turned to see who had spoken. It was the woman in the mirrored sunglasses.

Continuation: Pacatrue/Evil Editor

Face-Lift 138

Guess the Plot

The Bridge Beckons

1. When Mark messes up his solo in the Christmas musical, his dad is so upset with him he crashes the family car into a gasoline tanker truck on a foggy bridge while driving home.

2. 10-year-old Thomas hates traveling over the village bridge, where the King has his enemies' heads on display. But when young Tom realizes the bridge is a portal to a world populated with the souls of the damned, he must decide whether to cross the bridge . . . and become the ruler of all of Hell.

3. Stan, a 29-year-old sock model needs help getting his love life in order. His dentist comes to the rescue with a novelty bridge that emits a hypnotic tone when Stan runs his tongue over it. Will it work on Shogun Sheila?

4. Agnes remembers the torment of "Take the key and lock her up," from kindergarten. Now 40, she vows to blow up London Bridge and put an end to her nightmares.

5. A wannabe novelist pursues his dream, but ten years, three bankruptcies and two divorces later, only PublishAmerica are interested. Will he accept the bridge's offer instead?

6. Randy Markinson lives in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge and waits in the lonely shadow of depression. All he needs is four more jumpers before he can be number 1,000.

Original Version

Dear EE

Seventeen year old Mark Wilkerson screwed up. He knows it. His dad is disappointed in him; his whole family knows he blew his solo in their Christmas musical at the retirement home. [Even the old ladies in their wheelchairs were booing and throwing rotten tomatoes at him.] So, later, when a car passes them through the dense fog on the Carquinez Bridge, and clips the family car, Mark knows if his dad hadn’t been so upset with him, he might have avoided the tangle with a gasoline truck. Mark and one kid sister are the only survivors of the fiery crash. Now, Mark’s guilt is tearing him apart. [If only I'd been on key with that b flat, they'd be alive today.]

Mark and his sister move in with their grandmother in a new town where the Carquinez Bridge dominates the town’s skyline and constantly reminds him of his tragedy. He suffers from nightmares, paralyzing memories and fears resulting from the accident. A girl he meets, Genie Lombardi, who promises [Suddenly you're talking like Yoda.] to help him overcome his phobia. But her ex-boyfriend, Jeff Marino, harbors a terrible secret that will affect Mark’s conscience forever. [He put a gerbil in Mark's tuba before the Christmas musical, causing . . . everything.] Jeff also wants Genie [Even the genie on TV didn't spell her name "Genie," and she was a genie.] back and will do anything to get her, including killing Mark - or even Genie if he must. [Now that's what I call true love.] [If he tells her he wants her back, I advise her against using the phrase, "Over my dead body."] [If you're willing to murder two people to get your girlfriend back, isn't it kind of stupid if one of them . . . Oh, never mind.]

Knowing of Mark’s phobia, Jeff kidnaps Genie to get to Mark. [One wonders what Genie saw in this guy in the first place.] Now, Mark must overcome his fear of the bridge to rescue the girl he loves. [It's the big climax. Jeff is dangling Genie off the bridge. "I'm losing my grip," he says. "You'd better come and save your girlfriend, tuba boy. Oh, wait, I forgot, you're afraid of bridges. Guess she's gonna die, and it'll be your fault, bridge chicken." Mark struggles closer, like Jimmy Stewart climbing the stairs at the end of Vertigo. It's a big four-lane bridge, but to Mark it looks like a shaky rope bridge over a gorge. Will he overcome his fear and save Genie?] At the last moment everything goes wrong. Now, Mark has two tragedies on the bridge to live with. [What?! She falls to her death? Another tanker truck explodes? The bridge wins?] But, ultimately, it's the second tragedy that forces him to face the bridge that beckons to him. [He's going back for a third try? Who gets killed this time, his sister? His grandmother?]

The Bridge Beckons is a 73,000-word romantic/suspense novel written primarily for young adults. It is a story where high school friends and enemies clash in a 1960s tale of teenage deceit and intrigue, some of whom will survive and some will not.

Set in the small Northern California town where I grew up, the Carquinez bridge, is known for dense fog, multi-car pile-ups, and even suicides which inspired many of the elements of this story. [Multi-car pile-ups, suicide, death, murder, kidnaping, guilt. Not what we read as teens in my time. I'm getting old.] [Did you mean that the story is set in your hometown? Because you said the bridge was set there.]



I just can't buy into the kid's musical gaffe setting off a chain of events that culminates in a collision with a tanker truck. Or into the kid's believing it did. Can't you come up with something else, a big fight in the car, the father gets a drink spilled on him, turns around . . . crash.

Also, Jeff seems too criminal for a small town high school kid in the sixties. Kidnaping and murdering? Over a girl named Genie?

Plus, Mark finally confronts his fear of the bridge and it ends in another tragedy on the bridge? And this spurs him to confront it yet again?

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Guess the Plot

Walk On

1. Paraplegic Stacey is ecstatic to get a new pair of robotic legs - until the "off" button breaks.

2. The lone ranger and a child-like giant form an unlikely friendship and walk through the forest, unexpectedly emerging in the center of a war.

3. When Ida sees her cruel Boss, Marty, mugged, will she use her cameraphone to snap a picture of the perps to aid in their capture, or will she Walk On?

4. It's murder backstage at the Hightown Drama League's production of The Scottish Play. Can walk-on extra Barbie McDaniels solve the crime before she's axed from the cast?

5. Bored with his humdrum life, Jeremy Brighton set himself a challenge - to walk all the way from New York City to Los Angeles . . . without stopping. But hunger and sleep deprivation weren't the only obstacles Jeremy would face on his cross-country trek; his ex-wife, a young Elvis impersonator, and an elite group of Australian ninjas all had their own reasons for stopping Jeremy before he reached LA.

6. Arnold Plush, dashing carpet salesman extraordinaire at Rugs to Riches, dreams of shag, but his sales assistant, Bitsy Berber, no doormat herself, has one piece of advice: Walk on!

Original Version

Dear __________,

I wish to attain your interest in my fantasy novel, entitled Walk On. Written as the first book in a three-volume series, the story concerns a young man named Jordi. Jordi is considered by many to be “a special boy”, [Because he's blind, but can see with his amazing visor.] despite the fact that this “boy” is twenty-one years old, seven feet tall, and mightier than any normal creature on the face of the earth. [Mightier than a rhinoceros? Mightier than the mightiest bull elephant? Mightier than Mighty Mouse?]

The reason Jordi is considered “a special boy” is because he has the mind of a child. He is a lackwit, a simpleton. Mentally challenged. [Okay, I get it. Did you think you were talking to a lackwit?] But to the villagers who live with him in a small place on the edge of the frontier, he is also is a miracle, a living wonder, for they have seen his true essence underneath the simple mind and childish persona. They know Jordi has the power of a god.

Those powers are put to the test one summer afternoon. A band of creatures unlike any the villagers have ever seen emerge from the wilderness and attack their settlement. [And Jordi uses his godlike powers to destroy the attackers and save his people?] The beasts move fast and smart with the controlled fury of professional soldiers. They waste no motion. Spare no victim. The violence occurs so quickly that when the initial shock finally dissipates, only one survivor remains. [Turns out Jordi was as mighty and powerful as a tall guy.] Alone, Jordi finds himself surrounded, confused, and near death. Then something else emerges from the wilderness. Or rather, someone. His name is Wethyn and he is a ranger. He helps Jordi escape from the monsters and together they flee deep into the forest where no foe can follow. [If a seven-foot guy who was near death a while ago can go somewhere, why can no foe follow?] From then on, the two men form a bond similar to that of Lennie and George, a la Of Mice and Men, and begin a journey [to a rabbit farm?] that takes them into the center of a war sweeping over their land. [A war that symbolizes a rabbit farm.]

But this is only one-third of the full manuscript. The tale includes two more storylines, detailing the life of a royal councilor guiding the kingdom’s war effort and a century-old priest seeking a savior to liberate his people in another land. [I don't recommend Jordi for the job.]

The novel is 132,000 words and complete through three drafts. May I send you a sample chapter? I have also enclosed an SASE for your response.



All we really have here is one early scene from the book. The other two storylines sound more interesting, though presumably they all intersect.

The main problem is the slow and simple pace/style. It sounds like a children's book:
Jordi is considered by many to be “a special boy." . . . The reason Jordi is considered “a special boy” is because . . .
Then something else emerges from the wilderness. Or rather, someone. His name is Wethyn and he is a ranger. He helps Jordi escape from the monsters

The letter needs to sound more impressive if it's to impress an editor.

New Beginning 7

Life, Love, and a Polar Bear Tattoo

"We have to go! I'm going to miss the plane." Ian's voice was muffled but his frustration came through all too clearly.

"I have to find it!" I called back, and continued scrabbling around under the bed, until he grabbed my feet and pulled me a few inches backward, dragging my face along the carpet."Ow!" I wriggled back out into the bedroom and stood up. "That hurt!"

"I'm going to miss the plane! With all the customs stuff, I have to be there on time. You can give me the last one when I come home."

"No! I bought thirty presents, and you have to open one a day. You're not leaving without one. I have to find it."

"Candice. There is no more time. Please."

"No! You have to have it. It's bad luck if you don't. You can't go without it, you just..." The tears that I'd been fighting all morning overwhelmed my anger at myself for losing the present and I started to sob.

"It's too late! I have to leave now."

"No! I bought thirty presents, and you have to open one a day. You're not . . . Oops, I just remembered what the last one is. Quick, drop your pants."

"Candice. There is no more ti-- Well, maybe I can spare a few minutes."

Opening: Heather.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Face-Lift 136

Guess the Plot

Wonderful Pleasure of Seeing

1. After spending the whole of her life in darkness, Abigail finally gets the chance to open her eyes to the world - but decides to wait until her mother finishes changing her nappy.

2. When Evan Landrieu, blind since birth, undergoes a revolutionary new type of surgery to restore his sight, he suddenly....ooooooh, shiny...

3. Being sucked into another dimension and living blind was the easy part. Returning home to the visual overload of modern society with its lack of malevolent overlords sends Ace Whitman into a tailspin.

4. World renowned painter Jesús Carles de Villalonga struggles to carve his name into the pantheon of Modern Art--and to fit his name onto the bottom of a canvas.

5. When Sam, a blind senior, accidentally captures a fairy in his briefs, she grants him a gift of eyesight, in exchange for freedom. Of course, Sam declines.

6. First of a five-part series introducing a race of benevolence-espousing, space-faring, but sense-lacking, gerundal-speaking aliens to our nerve-having species.

Original Version

Dear 'Nat',

Wonderful Pleasure of Seeing is about the unexpected consequences of an encounter and resulting dialogue between a young woman who travels to Barcelona to stay at the art studio of an eccentric world renowned painter Jesús Carles de Villalonga. [after "between," it's necessary to name two entities; no doubt you think you've done so, but look closely.] We discover from the odd juxtaposition of two strangers a generation and literally a world apart a unique perspective not only into the inspiring story of the painter's life, but an undeniably controversial viewpoint of the current Art World and its personalities, as well as a whimsical portrait of one painter's struggle to carve his name into the pantheon of Modern Art. [Lots of big words crammed into one sentence becomes confusing to the reader--and to the writer, who might have done better to move the "not only" after "apart."] The completed text of 35,000 words [Perhaps the woman should have stayed through April, so the book wouldn't be so short. Then again, how long can you stand to live with an eccentric artist?] would be classified as narrative fiction. The events took place from January to February of 2006 in Barcelona, Spain and have been documented in a weblog,_________________. [If the events took place, which part is fictional? If it's fiction, is there a plot? Will the artist mind you using him as a character? Wouldn't we gain more insight into the artist's life if it were nonfiction?]

Circumstance permitting, [If this book sells big . . .] my intention is to continue this ethnographic-biography style into a serial format, [I'm gonna write some more of them . . . ] thematically representing a variety of professions and centering around pivotal individuals who have capacity and power to inspire people of all generations and nations. [about other cool people.] [It's not that it's difficult to understand the big words, but you don't want to give the impression the book has stilted, pretentious language throughout.]

The SASE is enclosed as per requested along with a few pages taken from the piece. Please find my contact information below.

Many Thanks,

Revised Version

Dear _____,

Wonderful Pleasure of Seeing chronicles an encounter and dialogue between the eccentric world-renowned painter Jesús Carles de Villalonga and a young woman who has traveled to Barcelona to stay at his art studio. These two strangers, a generation and a world apart, offer a unique perspective into the artist's life, a controversial viewpoint of the current Art World, and a whimsical portrait of a painter's struggle to carve his name into the pantheon of Modern Art. The events described took place from January to February of 2006 in Barcelona, and have been documented in a weblog, __________.

The completed text of 35,000 words would be classified as ethnographic-biography. My intention is to develop a series, representing a variety of professions and featuring individuals who have the capacity to inspire people of all generations and nations.

An SASE is enclosed as requested, along with the first few pages from the piece. Please find my contact information below.

Many thanks,


If 35,000-word books were priced half as much as 70,000-word books, people might buy them. But most of the costs of a book's production are in the cover, which needs a designer and an artist and colored ink and thicker paper and glossyiness, no matter how short the book. So the price is almost as high as a thick book, and people feel they aren't getting their money's worth.

Contest Results

Okay, it wasn't really a contest, but there were so few attempts to provide Guess the Plots for Real Books, I've decided to choose one winner for each book and be done with it:

Bet Me

Bill looked at the four Jacks in his hand, and at the rugged cowboy across the table. He had nothing else to wager until his girlfriend whispered in his ear, "Bet me."

The Door Into Summer

Summer knew she was having a lot of operations lately, but she really didn't appreciate her surgeon's new time-saving innovation.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

A hardcore ballet instructor teaches Detroit's star running back about life, love, and the pursuit of proper accessories.

The League of Frightened Men

Sick of the over-courageous heroics of the world's standard superheroes, Mr. Timorous, Phobiaman, Captain France and The ScaredyCat team up to fight evil--as long as it doesn't make any loud noises.

Portnoy's Complaint

He doesn't care how many times they put him on hold; Dan Portnoy is determined to tell off his cell phone provider, or die trying.

New Beginning 6

Anyone who has met me would tell you that I am an ordinary man. Plain in face, quiet in nature, unexciting in every sense of the word. And they would be right, for the most part, because my life has been filled with very ordinary happenings.

I was born in a small town in western Illinois, only child to an accountant and a housekeeper. With the exception of their different views of all things spiritual, my parents got along very well. My father quietly read his bible in his study, while my mother allowed him his fantasies of a God, and heaven and hell. She didn't believe in any of it, preferring to live her life simply and go through each day as if it were her last one, ever. She advised me to do the same, enjoy each day and have no hope of there being anything beyond this world. As a small child might, I took this to mean that there would be no consequences for me to face later and therefore I spent a lot of time facing consequences with her, my teachers, and a couple of times with the law.

Now, only now, as I pen this memoir from a fire pit in hell, it dawns on me: my father was not quite the idiot my mother led me to believe.

Opening: Cheryl Mills.....Continuation: Evil Editor

New Beginning 5 (fantasy)

It took every ounce of control I had to keep from jumping forward to help the boy as the sword-blow knocked him to the ground. But such an unseemly action from the Favored Son would only have exposed me as the fraud everyone accused me of being. My father, beside me, glanced in my direction, alerted by the tensing of my muscles that I might be about to do something stupid.

Other priests pressed close, leaving no avenue of escape. I couldn’t break free, couldn’t dodge my duty – could only watch the inevitable conclusion of everything I hated about the church I now led.

The end of the fight came fast. The boy faltered: too small, too slow, too low in rank to have a prayer against the older priest. His tail drooped in dejection and pain, wrecking his balance. The flurries of blows against which he’d had no chance of defending had been deflected by his armor plates, but I knew from experience the agony each one had sent resonating through this body.

When it was over I bowed my head and said the prayer of thanksgiving along with the rest of the temple. The priesthood began to disperse, the show over--except for my father, who placed his arm across my shoulders, holding me there to keep me from considering something rash. Although, what, at this point, I couldn't guess.

A breeze pushed the fresh blood scent up my nostrils. My stomach growled then, and my father and I stood in silence as the carcass was gutted and hauled off to the kitchens. "He was a good choice, son," my father said. "He was young, and he'll be tender, a fine main course for the God Feast."

Opening: Barbara.....Continuation: Writtenwyrdd

New Beginning 4

Fenrir glanced up at the sky again, not expecting to see anything more than the low and endless expanse of dark gray clouds. He brushed his dark hair away from his forehead, the wind just whipping it back around anyway.

"Just sit back down, Fenrir!" Benali called out over the rushing wind, laughing. Fenrir always wondered how Benali kept good humor even in grim situations, with the certain peril the small group was willingly plunging themselves into. He smiled at Benali and shrugged. She smiled back at him as he sank back into his seat, staring out over the sparse terrain. The transporter quickly sped over the ground, levitating several feet above the red dirt and rocks.

"How much longer is it going to be again?" Fenrir asked, seeing the large metal dome loom on the horizon. It wasn't his first time on this kind of mission. And it wouldn't be his last. But
damn it, right now he had his priorities.

Benali looked over her shoulder, sadly shaking her head. “Not again.”

He tried to hold back the tears, but his wavering voice betrayed him. “I can’t help it, I’m 18 months pregnant. Thanks to you. Now pull over so I can pee.”

Opening: anonymous

Face-Lift 135

Guess the Plot

In Shining Armor

1. A knight with OCD causes the collapse of the kingdom when he stays at home to re-polish his armor instead of leading his men into battle.

2. Haunted by his wartime experiences, Ben takes a job on a freighter, only to discover that Captain Eve Marcori is being hunted for her mutated genes. Can she escape death on her own, or will she need hunky Ben to ride to her rescue?

3. A desperate housewife runs out of Pledge, drives to the store but runs out of gas on the way, and hikes in the 100 degree heat, worried about the dust at home and its effect on her allergic cat. Is it a mirage she sees or is it a knight in shining armor? Wait, is that a smudge on his visor?

4. When John ripped his tuxedo, he decided it would be amusing to show up at his wedding in shining armor ... John's still single.

5. "Oh Louis, we shouldn't."
"Just get me out of this and hurry. It's getting hot."
She fumbled with his breastplate.
"You know how I wilt when I get hot," he said.
Will Lady Demure be quick enough to save their romance? Or will Lord Morely discover the tryst and end it all?

6. When Brock Riker takes a job as bodyguard for a famous pop diva, it's clear that a standard-issue bulletproof vest isn't going to cut it. Melainie's body armor boutique may have the answer, but can a man really wear that many rhinestones and still respect himself in the morning?

Original Version

Dear Evil Sir,

In Shining Armor is a science fiction novel of 135,000 words.

As soon as his Fleet discharge is official, Doctor Ben Alexander takes a job on a small freighter. Starting immediately and offering time, solitude, and research—his captain heals with incredible, even inhuman, speed—it seems a good escape. If peace is what Ben wants, though, he is on the wrong ship. Violence is a way of life for Captain Eve Marcori, and Ben, haunted by his war-time experiences, struggles to cope with both her actions and the aftermath.

Eve Marcori, discharged Marine, does not want a doctor. [If she wasn't looking for a doctor, how did he end up seeking a job with her? And if part of his reason for wanting the job is research on her healing speed, how does he know about that?]

But Dr. Ben “Tackle Me Now” Alexander [That's his nickname? Doctors usually go by "Doc" or "Bones." Calling someone "Tackle Me Now Alexander" seems a bit strange.] is a veteran in need and damned cute besides, so she hires him. Her adorable ‘doc’ [I see you've taken my advice.] proves more elusive than the pirates she’s spent eight years hunting, though, and Eve has never found time or need to practice romance. [If you don't practice, you don't get to play in the game.] Besides, her few months of civilian life have been a pile of near-deadly ‘accidents’ with a sniper on top. Someone is trying to kill her.

[Ben: I'm looking for a peaceful job that'll help me get over my haunting wartime memories.

Eve: Sorry, we have no need for a doc-- Hey, you're cute. You're hired. Though I should tell you that violence is a way of life on this ship. We're going to be chasing pirates, and someone's trying to kill me.

Ben: I'll take the job on one condition. That I get to perform research on your body, which heals inhumanly fast.

Eve: How did you know that?

Ben: A sniper bullet tore through your shoulder about a minute ago.]

Now that she knows what is going on, who, why, and most importantly where become her focus. Research leads Ben to why—though genetic manipulation has been banned for centuries, Eve is not ‘just’ a mutant. She was designed to be the perfect warrior. Now someone wants the blueprints. Eve is able to deduce who—the geneticist with access to both alien technology and Eve’s genes before her birth. [Why doesn't he already have the blueprint? If he did it to Eve, can't he do it to others?] After a trap baited with children nets Ben, [There are children on the freighter? Or have they landed somewhere?] [Look, Tackle Me Now, children who heal inhumanly fast, on the other side of that oddly placed throw rug. Go get 'em.] Eve is given the where to lure her into a trap baited with her kidnapped doctor.

Surrounded by unknown enemies and unreliable allies, pursued by those who want her DNA and those who would kill to stop that genetic theft, Eve Marcori must use every resource of her enhanced body and mind to keep her genes to herself, her ship and crew intact, and her war-torn doctor sane. [Countries are war-torn; doctors are shell-shocked.] Fortunately charging to the rescue is a skill Eve has spent years honing.

I thank you for your attention, and look forward to hearing from you.


Revised Version

Dear Evil Sir,

In Shining Armor is a science fiction novel of 135,000 words.

As soon as his Fleet discharge is official, Doctor Ben Alexander takes a job on a small freighter. Offering peace and solitude, it should be a welcome escape from his haunting wartime memories. But if peace is what Ben wants, he is on the wrong ship.

Violence is a way of life for Captain Eve Marcori. Through genetic manipulation, she was designed to be the perfect warrior. She's spent eight years hunting pirates, and she's now become the target of a murderer. Seems she heals with inhuman speed, and someone wants a DNA sample badly enough to kill her for it.

Eve discovers that her adversary is a geneticist who had access to both alien technology and Eve’s genes before her birth; but before she can act on this information, Ben is kidnapped--and used to bait a trap for Eve. Now Eve knows she must use every resource of her enhanced body and mind to save Ben. Fortunately, charging to the rescue is a skill she has spent a lifetime honing.

I thank you for your attention, and look forward to hearing from you.



There's something to be said for leaving the romantic angle in there, as the "perfect warrior" might be inclined to abandon Ben rather than risk a rescue, but since her life is threatened by the guy holding Ben, she'd probably go after him even if she didn't have the hots for Ben. Now if this were a romance novel, we'd need that angle in the query.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

New Beginning 3 (erotic romance)

She was late, and as she ran up the stone steps outside the Performing Arts Center her heel caught on her dress. The tearing sound the satin made was loud and clear over the strains of the orchestra inside.

"Shit!" Becky stopped and started pawing at the voluminous skirt. Could anything else possibly go wrong tonight? Already, she'd been stuck in a traffic standstill, running behind after one of her clients insisted on hearing Becky's opinion on every single item she planned to take on her honeymoon, including whether or not she should splurge on a pink designer leather case for her birth control pills. Becky finally escaped while the irritating woman placed the order and insisted on overnight delivery.

Her zipper had stuck. The jeweled hair clasp she had inherited from her mother had somehow ended up under the couch and it took almost twenty minutes of crazed hunting to find it. Worst of all, she'd been too rushed to put on underwear, and had nothing beneath her dress.

And now, her one chance at escaping her tedious telemarketing job and becoming conductor of the New York Philharmonic was on the line. She ripped off the ruined dress and ran to the podium in her gloves and shoes. Realizing she'd forgotten one other item, she turned to the audience and asked, "Does anyone happen to have a baton I could hold?"

Continuation: Kate Thornton/Evil Editor

New Beginning 2

Stacy Warner watched her husband push his breakfast back and forth across his plate. He didn't like it. It was only 8:30 in the morning and she was a failure already.

"I don't think these eggs are done."

"What do you mean? Of course they are." Stacy hoped she sounded lighthearted. She felt anything but.

"They're runny." Adam's hesitation told her that he didn't want to hurt her feelings. She hated that he had to be so careful around her now. Their relationship used to feel so easy.

Stacy forced a laugh into her voice as she continued, "If people died from runny eggs, there'd be deaths all over the world every morning." Adam smiled at her now, so she crossed the room towards him as she continued, "Eggs over easy, poached eggs, sunny side up; any of these sound familiar?"

Subtly, as if there were a slice of Canadian bacon on his plate that he needed to cut, Adam picked up his knife.

Continuation: Evil Editor

New Beginning 1

I was in the cafeteria eating my turkey, cheese, and onion sandwich the day my life ended. I really like onion in my sandwich because it has that pungent taste that kind of wraps itself around your tongue and bites down hard. Not nearly as hard as what was coming next, but who was to know?

And Martin was sitting on my right, next to the left of condiment stand I put my mouse, Leroy, in when I was in ninth grade. We always sat there as a memorial to my poor, little rodent who suffered a horrible death at the hands of Mrs. Wagner, the head cook. But I was about to get up and get some milk when Janet and Heather walked in. They had their arms around Cindy Peterson like they’d just won the lottery and Cindy was the prize.

I nearly puked on Martin.

I don't think Martin even noticed, because he was watching the trio also. He didn't look nearly as upset as someone watching a corpse being carried to the dumpster ought to.

Apparently Cindy had drawn the short straw in poison class.

My gut threatened to heave again. Not because we didn't see this often enough at Dr. Death's Academy, but because I'd just remembered that I'd drawn Martin for the disembowelment research project.

Continuation: Writtenwyrdd

Q & A 80 Do I have to follow directions?

When an agent merely asks for queries, is it acceptable to also send the first 5 pages? I have read conflicting opinions. Yes, it is fine as well as expected to send a few pages; and, no, only send EXACTLY what they ask for.

The idea to toss in the first five pages probably sprang from the assumption that the query letter was sure to suck, and thus a writing sample was the only hope. However, now that you have Evil Editor in your corner, your query letter is surely brilliant, so you have no incentive to send anything not requested.

In my experience, a writing sample is the last thing you want anyone to see, anyway. It's a sure deal breaker. Evil Editor's fifth rule of submission: Never let an agent or editor see the quality of your writing before the contract is signed.

Face-Lift 134

Guess the Plot

The Minotaur and the Ho

1. Sick of his stressful job guarding a labyrinth, the Minotaur applies for a position pulling a sleigh. Can the taurine recluse learn to be jolly and get the job before Theseus finds him?

2. Lost in the Labyrinth, Helen of Troy climbs to the height of passion with its inhabitant, who is, literally, hung like a bull.

3. When Santa lost his way, Rudolph saved the day. Now Santa has lost his voice. Can the Minotaur help him rejoice?

4. Ferdinand Turnbull, nerdish Minotaur, postpones his search for his father in order to pimp for all the hos in Bethlehem.

5. When a serial killer nicknamed "The Minotaur" slips up and allows a single syllable of laughter to be recorded on a victim's answering machine, will detective Dan Malone recognize the voice--and overcome his heroin addiction--in time to save the next victim?

6. A couples Scrabble contest gets tense when Lenore scores a triple-word bonus with "MINOTAUR" but her husband scores minimum points on the crucial final turn. Can their marriage survive?

Original Version

Dear Miss Snark,

I am seeking representation for a fantasy/farce set in the future.

It is the year 2036 and a rough beast slouches towards Bethlehem, PA. Ferdinand Turnbull is a Minotaur in search of his cloven roots. He's looking for his father, Abelard, who's rumored to be in with a herd of Herefords on an Amish farm.

At a bus stop in the gritty steel town he meets Maggie, a teenage ho with a heart of platinum. She and her best friend Lilith are also on a quest. They are trying to find the perfect pimp, a man who will respect them and treat them like the working professionals that they are, and balance the books at the same time. When they spot Turnbull's pocket protector and he shyly admits that his nickname in college was Ferd the Nerd, they know they have found their man-bull.

The three form a consortium. It is so successful that all the women of the night are eager to be represented by Turnbull. He holds a series of checkbook-balancing seminars. Brought together by a sense of community, the hos form a union and revolt against their former masters. The other pimps are furious at the invasion of their turf and the loss of their booty, and begin plotting to do Ferdinand in.

The socially inept Ferd is oblivious to all this. Although he's traded in his plastic pocket protector for one studded with diamonds, the mystery of his father continues to haunt him. He spends his days tooling around the countryside in his Explorer, stopping at every barn and bellowing out his name.

But the sweet taste of wealth turns to ashes in his mouth when Lilith is found gored to death. Turnbull's been framed. On trial for his life, it looks like he is headed for the Big Barbeque when Abelard appears. Armed with quiddities and quillets and a leather briefcase, Abelard gets his son off on a technicality. Freshly sprung from jail, Ferd decides to make Maggie an honest woman. His mother, a New York literary agent, flies in for the wedding and falls back in love with the bull. They all live happily ever after.

The book is done, approximately 86,000 words, and I can send you the first 3 chapters, or a synopsis. Or both. The title is either Come Again? or The Minotaur and the Ho – I can't decide which is more catchy. What do you think?

Breathlessly awaiting your reply!



Please. I realize this is fiction, but even Evil Editor has his limits. Do you really expect anyone to believe a New York literary agent would fly to Bethlehem, PA, when she could hire a limo to get her there in 90 minutes? While flying would require getting to the airport at least 90 minutes before takeoff, and sitting amongst riffraff in the terminal and next to a fat guy with a cold on the plane? A plane which, considering its destination, would probably be making a few crop dusting passes along the way?

Up till then, it was fine.

Q & A 79 First Pages?

Just as a change from queries, would you consider doing critiques of first pages for a while?

I would consider it. My concern is that I would suddenly have 300 first pages lined up, and at two a day, someone would have to wait five months. The query wait is about 8 or 10 days. And those who already have queries in line would have a long wait. Of course it could go fast if I merely publish the page, make a few comments, and let the author get most of the input from the minions' comments.

No doubt this would be beneficial to those whose first pages get critiqued. But 99% of those who visit this blog are here for entertainment. Would this be more entertaining? Or less?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Face-Lift 133

Guess the Plot

Bell Tower Memories

1. Missed shots, lost loves, and Euclidean geometry. A sniper tells all.

2. When her brother is murdered, Julia wants revenge. But she's only twelve, and her parents insist she wait until she's eighteen, old enough for a revenge killing.

3. Quasimodo reminisces about his eventful life and rails against the pigeons.

4. A man, a mistress, and the bells of St. Catherine's Cathedral . . . will they ever relive the ring of past love? Or will the bell tower memories haunt them forever?

5. Mike flashes back over ten years spent throwing water balloons out the Bell Tower's window, even as his vengeful neighbors toss him out the same window.

6. A retired campanologist looks back over 40 years on the professional bell-ringing circuit, and the day in 1976 when he came that close to a full peal of Reverse Canterbury Bob Doubles.

Original Version

Dear Ms. (agent who handles YA),

Bell Tower Memories, 64,000 words, is a young adult novel about fear and revenge in tropical Micronesia. [And what young adult isn't on the prowl for a book about that?] The story, set against a background of Pacific island cultures, alternates between two main characters, Lambert and Julia, as each struggles to grow up after a disturbing murder.

Lambert David Taisague is a 10 year old Chamorro boy who lives on the paradise-like island of Saipan. His funny bone amuses his friends. His world is filled with unlocked doors, familiar people and friendly hospitality. Julia James is a 12-year-old Chuukese girl who lives in Saipan, also, but as an outsider. She is kind to stray dogs, considerate of her elders and strongly attached to her older, learning-disabled brother, Jimmy. [Don't the learning-disabled get picked on enough, without their parents saddling them with a name like James James?] [What's his middle name, James?] When Jimmy is murdered, Julia is devastated. The police fail to solve the crime and Julia’s family whisks her back to their homeland of Chuuk. Julia dreams of returning to Saipan and getting revenge for her brother’s murder. Lambert, an unexpected witness to the murder, finds life much less funny, much less safe. He dreams only of escape from his nightmares and memories. [Is a dream in which you escape from a nightmare considered a good dream or a bad dream?] [Evil Editor once woke in a cold sweat from a nightmare in which I was asleep and dreaming that I was a hopeless insomniac. Then I woke up for real in the nightmare--turned out I had been dreaming about the cold sweat part. Or . . . was it all a dream?] Clyde Barrow Barcinas won’t let Lambert forget, [How does Clyde know? Is he the killer?] and intimidates Lambert with quiet threats and tell-tale signs of his presence in Lambert’s home. When Julia, at age 18, returns to Saipan after a dangerous journey by outrigger canoe, seeking revenge, Clyde takes a lustful interest in her. [Have you considered changing her name to Bonnie Parker James?] Lambert must decide between his own escape or Julia’s safety.

I have lived and worked in Saipan for more than twenty years and know the setting and cultural content for my novel well. I have one published YA story in an inspirational publication (________, March 2006) and have contributed a monthly children’s book review column to the local newspaper, ____________, for three years.

This is a non-exclusive submission. Enclosed please find a synopsis, the first two chapters and a SASE. I would be happy to send you the completed manuscript. Thank you for your consideration.


Revised Version

Dear Ms. (agent who handles YA),

Bell Tower Memories, 64,000 words, is a young adult novel about fear and revenge in tropical Micronesia. The story, set against a background of Pacific island cultures, alternates between two main characters, Lambert and Julia, as each struggles to grow up after a disturbing murder.

Julia James is a 12-year-old Chuukese girl who lives on the paradise-like island of Saipan. She is kind to stray dogs, considerate of her elders and strongly attached to her older, learning-disabled brother, Jimmy. When Jimmy is murdered, Julia is devastated. The police fail to solve the crime and Julia’s family whisks her back to their homeland of Chuuk.

Lambert David Taisague is a 10-year-old Chamorro boy who lives on Saipan as well. His funny bone amuses his many friends. His is a world of unlocked doors, familiar people and friendly hospitality--until the day he sees Clyde Barrow Barcinas murder Jimmy James. Now he wants only to escape from his nightmares and memories.

But Clyde won’t let Lambert forget what he's seen, and intimidates him over the years with quiet threats and tell-tale signs of his presence in Lambert’s home. When Julia, at age 18, returns to Saipan after a dangerous journey by outrigger canoe, seeking revenge for her brother's murder, Clyde takes a lustful interest in her, and Lambert is forced to decide between his own safety and Julia’s.

I have lived and worked in Saipan for more than twenty years and know the setting and cultural content for my novel well. I have one published YA story in an inspirational publication (________, March 2006) and have contributed a monthly children’s book review column to the local newspaper, ____________, for three years.

Enclosed please find a synopsis, the first two chapters and a SASE. I would be happy to send you the completed manuscript. Thank you for your consideration.



It wasn't 100% clear whether Clyde was the murderer, though it's one obvious way he knows that Lambert witnessed it. If he isn't the murderer, some minor tweaking of the revised query will, of course, be needed.

It wasn't bad, but it seemed paragraphing would be helpful, and once it was paragraphed it seemed a bit of reorganization was in order.

If you're wondering about Guess the Plot #6, Reverse Canterbury Bob Doubles is a change ringing peal. Google can help you educate yourself about change ringing. That's how I found this site. Perhaps after you know everything about change ringing you'll find The NineTailors, by Dorothy L. Sayers, more interesting.

New Beginnings

Here's your opportunity to tell an author where to go. With his story, that is. The Beginnings of books--150 words worth-- get posted at Evil Editor's Openings. The minions attempt to provide, in 75 words or fewer, a continuation of the story. The object, of course, is wit, cleverness, laughs; not a suggestion or guess as to where the story's really going. Once we have a winner, we bring the piece to this blog for comments, including my own, and put a new one up at the Openings blog (for which there's a link in the sidebar). With luck, there'll be useful input for authors, and some good laughs. If you can handle negative feedback, mockery, derision and life as a laughingstock, submit your 150 words by emailing Evil Editor through his profile. To continue a story, visit the link above.

Face-Lift 132

Guess the Plot

Lost Magic

1. When little Billy Martin's birthday party ends in tragedy, Mrs. Martin wonders if it was a mistake to hire a magician who goes by the stage name, "The Child Butcher of Brenau."

2. Hired to find a missing cat called Magic, a pet detective finds himself drawn into a ruthless gang of international fur traders.

3. A ruthless vigilante sorcerer traps all magic for his own use, ruining everything for Jessa, who wanted to practice magic herself, but instead must take a job as an innkeeper, having no marketable skills.

4. When an archaeologist unearths a Celtic talisman, he releases an ancient druid who has been trapped for millennia. The druid finds a world where all of the old magicks have been lost. He eventually gets a job as a stablehand, having no marketable skills.

5. Stage magician "Samson" Blackstone wanted his wife to spice up their love life, but he didn't count on waking up stripped of his pubic hair--and his magic powers.

6. Telling callers that she’s out getting cigarettes won’t fly forever. It’s three months now and high time his wife gave up living at the truck stop and moved back home.

Original Version

Dear AgentName,

I have completed a 90,000-word fantasy novel called LOST MAGIC, set in a world politically and technologically similar to our colonial America.

Jessa, a young human woman, [One difference between this world and colonial America: when Evil Editor reads books about colonial America, the authors never find it necessary to point out that a young woman is a human.] wanted to study healing magic. But ten years after a rebel sorcerer [Please. Vigilante sorcerer. Ruthless vigilante sorcerer. First time here?] trapped all magic for his own use, she is struggling to earn a living as an innkeeper in her devastated village.

When the sorcerer is finally killed, [That's one incompetent sorcerer, if he controls all magic, and still gets himself killed.] Wren, his former assistant [Magicians have assistants; sorcerers have apprentices.] and a spy for a faction of the colonial government, shows up at Jessa's inn with the stone containing the trapped magic. Jessa discovers she has a talent for destructive magic when she helps Wren escape the rebel soldiers chasing her, and jumps at the chance to help bring magic back.

They travel to the famed college in the colonial capital, where their work is complicated by the fragile political equilibrium among several factions of humans and human-like iseair [I'm less interested in the fact that they are human-like than in how they aren't human-like.] in the colonial government, who are trying to find and keep magic for their own.

With tension between the species rising after two political assassinations, Jessa questions Wren's true goals and her own growing love for one of the iseair, Seliveon. [That name made me think of saliva, so I anagrammed it. Now it's Evil Ones.] At the same time, the woman who wanted to be a healer struggles with her unwanted talent for destructive magic.

To defeat a plot that threatens to start the whole rebellion over again, [Makes it sound like the rebellion is over, but they were just being chased by rebel soldiers.] Jessa must trust her new allies [What new allies?] despite growing evidence that one of them is an agent for another faction. [How many factions are there?] As soldiers arrive to steal magic, Jessa harnesses her unwanted destructive talent to set magic free. [Suddenly it's not even clear to me what magic is.]

I was a reporter for [paper], [city's] major newspaper, for three years.

Would you like to see more? Thank you for your consideration.


Revised Version

Dear AgentName,

I have completed a 90,000-word fantasy novel entitled LOST MAGIC, set in a world politically and technologically similar to our colonial America, but in which humans are not the only highly intelligent species, magic exists, and rebellious factions fight for control of the government.

Jessa's dream of studying healing magic ended when a rebel sorcerer trapped all magic for his own use, and she now struggles to earn a living as an innkeeper in her devastated village. When the sorcerer dies, Wren, his former assistant and a spy for a faction of the colonial government, shows up at Jessa's inn, running from rebel soldiers. Wren has with her the stone containing the trapped magic.

When Jessa discovers she has a talent for destructive magic, she helps Wren escape the rebel soldiers, and accompanies her to the capital, where together they work to return magic to the world. But their work is complicated by the fragile political equilibrium among several factions of humans and human-like iseair in the government, who are trying to find and keep magic for their own.

With tension between the species rising after two political assassinations, Jessa questions Wren's true goals and contends with her own growing love for one of the iseair, Seliveon. At the same time, this woman who once yearned to be a healer must come to grips with her unwanted talent for destructive magic.

If you'd like to read more of Jessa's story, I'll be happy to send along the complete manuscript or sample chapters. Thank you for your consideration.



If humans and iseair are coexisting, we might want some mention of what the iseair are like. Also, you're being awfully vague about what magic is. How was the world different before the sorcerer trapped all magic?