Saturday, September 30, 2006

Face-Lift 203

Guess the Plot

Calamity: This is How the World Ends

1. A giant squid wakes from its million year slumber cranky and hungry. Can Stouffer avert disaster and transform this calamity into calamari before its too late? Also: a vampire.

2. The year is 2036 and President Paris Hilton faces a dilemma: deal with pesky North Korea or make an appearance at the MTV Music Video Awards. Also: a CD.

3. A valley girl learns her father isn't rich, and she must get a job. The only job she qualifies for is cosmetic salesgirl at the mall's biggest department store. Her world ends when her friends discover her fall from snobbery. Also: perfume.

4. The noise is deafening, from machines gone haywire to dogs yapping through the night. Vince decides to end it all with a toothbrush and some lamp oil, McGyver-style. Also: a computer game.

5. The large-scale consequences of any potential natural disaster are compared with more localized hazards such as dying in a car wreck, through a single number: the Calamity Quotient. Also: short stories.

6. On Zignoid Elevtwo, a band of runaway emus spark debate that leads to conflagration and galactic catastrophe. Also: Bird flu.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil:

A supervolcano explodes setting off a millennium of severe cold. Soon humanity is starving and dying en masse until only one small band of forty people is left. The fate of our species depends on their survival. [They all said the cockroaches would be the one species that survived; turns out it's the penguins.] [Tell me the 40 people left alive aren't the Oakland Raiders.]

Fiction? No. As CALAMITY: THIS IS HOW THE WORLD ENDS explains, the exceptionally limited genetic diversity of Homo sapiens along with other evidence tells us such a disaster happened in the recent past. [Not to argue a minor point of semantics, but to you, the recent past is a million years ago; to me, it's Thursday.] A single group of individuals did survive, and we are all their descendents. [This confirms what Evil Editor has long suspected: that he's related to Einstein, Springsteen, and Clooney.]

This is just one of the little-known devastations my 75,000-word popular science book recounts. All chapters except the first open with 1000-word short stories depicting real events [Real fictional events, that is.] to more effectively convey important concepts and facts. My book also introduces the Calamity Quotient or CQ, a number derived from a simple equation that allows the large-scale consequences of any potential disaster to be compared with more localized hazards such as dying in a car wreck. [For instance, to determine how many people would die if a tsunami struck North Dakota, multiply the number of people who die in skydiving accidents by the CQ, which in this case would be 417, and there's your answer.] Calamity is the first book about natural disasters in thirty years to combine authoritative scholarship with a captivating easy-to-read style. [Plus, it has the CQ.] Unlike the speculation and hyperbole common in competing titles, [I'm more concerned with the hyperbole common in your previous sentence.] I include only natural calamities known to have occurred in the past. [As the CQ is used to compare "potential disasters" to something, it would seem you also include disasters that could occur in the future.]

In addition to the millions of adults who are increasingly apprehensive about natural disasters according to recent polling, I suggest marketing Calamity to the three million students taking earth science and beginning geology each year through direct mailings to their instructors. [If there are three million students, I'd hate to be the one charged with gathering the mailing addresses of all their instructors.]

I am an internationally known PhD geologist [I found this most impressive, until I realized that I'm an internationally known blogger.] with more than forty published professional articles. I have presented at international conferences and chaired conference sessions. I also enjoy teaching science to non-specialists and have led seminars and workshops for high school teachers, spoken to civic groups and was featured on a statewide TV program discussing geologic catastrophes. Well received, the program was repeated several times. I have long been interested in the numerous world-shaking calamities that have occurred during the Earth’s long history and have gathered a trove of information to use in writing this book. [Not sure "trove" is the best word there. "Oodles" is closer, but probably not the tone you're looking for. "Abundance?"] I also write fiction. The literary magazine Lynx Eye published one of my stories and the electronic magazine Nth Degree another. My first novel is available as an ebook and my second is being revised.

Thank you for your consideration. I have enclosed a mini proposal. A complete proposal including two 9,000-word sample chapters is available upon request.

Best regards,


I'd drop the CQ from the query. You haven't made it clear what good it is.

Declaring as fact that a volcano once left forty humans alive seems awfully specific, and had me thinking, Yeah, right. If there's hard evidence of this, maybe your credits (which were the best part) should come first; people are more likely to think you know what you're talking about. With the forty humans and the CQ up front, they'll think you're a mad scientist.

Choose a "for example" disaster and elaborate on it, while leaving out the hyperbole, the marketing plan, and the CQ, and you might have something. People do like to read about other people dying.

Friday, September 29, 2006

New Beginning 131

The electronic notes of my "Night on Bald Mountain" ringtone cut over the buzz of morning commuters in the line at Starbuck's.

It was McAllister. Of course. I flipped open my cell phone while balancing a bag of mini-muffins in the crook of my elbow. "Lisa."

"Good morning, Lisa. We need you at the travel center. Joe is dead."

I scrutinized the fruit and yogurts in the iced display case. The bananas looked all right. I dug one out and propped it on top of the mini-muffins. "Again?"

"Bring Denise. Carlos will meet us there. And please, do try to be on time."

"On time?" I said. I unloaded my armful of breakfast onto the counter. The cashier tapped a listless finger on the counter as I dug a debit card out of my purse with one hand. "What the hell does that matter to Joe?"

I closed the phone before he could answer, and was about to pay when I noticed a well-dressed man near the window. He'd managed to balance a cup of coffee on each shoulder and was standing on one foot atop his chair. The people in line were watching him, and ignoring me.

This isn't over, I thought, snatching three bagels from the bin and juggling them. Each time the cinnamon-raisin one passed by I quickly leaned back and took a swig from the bottle of chocolate milk jammed into my cleavage.

"Top that, coffee boy!" I sneered at the man on the chair.

But he hadn't even noticed me. He was looking at the woman in the kimono with the donuts on her ears and the pitcher of orange juice balanced on her forehead.

Opening: acd.....Continuation: Dave Conifer

Face-Lift 202

Guess the Plot

How To be Fabulous

1. A little ribbon, some limburger cheese and a pipe wrench: essential tools that you'll come to know and love.

2. A freckle-faced dork is having the high school year from hell--until the head of a modeling agency spots her and signs her to the world's most coveted modeling contract.

3. Porn star Fabulous Fontaine offers a series of how-to videos that win critical acclaim and vault her to the top of the daytime TV popularity list.

4. Megan and Kylie hate their freshman year of high school until they start stealing clothes from the girls' locker room and selling them on eBay. But things get sticky when the IRS comes snooping around.

5. Aesop gets an update in this collection of comeuppance tales. In the first story, a hare and a tortoise get a makeover and take up power walking.

6. Liza Minnelli turns Martha Stewart's advice on it's ear and kicks it's ass to the curb in this fascinating addition to the lifestyle genre.

Original Version

Dear Acquisitions Editor:

I have recently completed my novel How To be Fabulous and read that you handle young adult fiction. [Color added by EE. Decision to capitalize "To" but not "be" made by author.]

How To be Fabulous is a comical novel about Spencer Garrison, a dorky Manhattan teen who at five foot nine with firecracker red hair, masses of freckles and no thongs in her closet [Her closet? Spencer's a boy's name. No thongs in his closet. Possibly a skeleton in his closet, if he's now a girl.] is about the biggest loser since Gigli. As if her life isn't already awkward enough, it seems that nothing ever goes her way; she's embarrassed by her fake chested, celebrity obsessed "Frussian" stepmother Regina, who walks around midtown in hot pink spandex and white faux fur; her best friend has just started dating the Upper East side's answer to Josh Hartnet, while at fifteen Spencer has yet to kiss a boy; and the bitchmonster Whitney Fellows has made it this year[']s extracurricular activity to humiliate Spencer.

Given the circumstances of Spencer's existence, she is baffled when a classmate's mogul father and owner of the elite Ideal Models modeling agency, Branson Stoddard, wants to sign her to Ideal. Still even [No need for both "still" and "even."] more surprising is when Spencer snags the most coveted modeling contract in the world as the new DuJour girl. Stepping into the limelight as the darling of the fashion industry Spencer is plagued with insecurities about her former dorkdom, especially as she returns to school as the most popular girl in the sophomore class.

How To be Fabulous is better than a modern day Cinderella story and is splashed with more secrets than the girl's locker room. [The girl has her own locker room?] The jealous Whitney Fellows plans Spencer's demise; Someone is spreading vicious lies about Spencer in a national tabloid; ["DuJour Girl Pregnant with Russell Crowe's Child."] ["DuJour Girl's Parents Named her Spencer Because She Was Baby Boy."] ["DuJour Girl in Sex Tryst with Space Alien and Manatee."] and why is Mike McKenna hanging out with Spencer's hottie history professor Mr. Robeson along with the notorious drug dealer Tommy G? [Why is who hanging out with whom and whom? I think we can do without this question involving people we previously didn't deem worthy of even being mentioned.]

Although this is my first novel, [Lose the "although," if not the whole phrase.] I am an editor at The Park Literary Review and a former contributing writer of the Tewks Adventure Society, a travel and exploration website. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Revised Version

Dear Acquisitions Editor:

I have recently completed a 50,000-word Young Adult novel, How To be Fabulous. It's a comical story about Spencer Garrison, a dorky five-foot-nine Manhattan teen with firecracker red hair, masses of freckles and no fashion sense. As if her life isn't awkward enough, it seems that nothing ever goes her way: she's embarrassed by her fake chested, celebrity obsessed "Frussian" stepmother Regina, who walks around midtown in hot pink spandex and white faux fur; her best friend has just started dating the Upper East side's answer to Josh Hartnet, while Spencer has yet to kiss a boy; and the bitchmonster Whitney Fellows has made it this year's extracurricular activity to humiliate Spencer.

Given the circumstances of Spencer's existence, she is baffled when a classmate's father, owner of the elite Ideal Models modeling agency, wants to sign her to Ideal. Even more surprising, Spencer quickly snags a highly coveted modeling contract as the new "DuJour Girl." Stepping into the national limelight as the darling of the fashion industry, Spencer becomes the most popular girl in her school--prompting the jealous Whitney to plot her demise.

How To be Fabulous is a modern-day Cinderella story that should appeal to dorky girls the world over--and who reads more books than dorky girls? I am an editor at The Park Literary Review and a former contributing writer of the Tewks Adventure Society, a travel and exploration website. Thank you for your time and consideration.



The title sounds like a manual for drag queens. On the other hand, Spencer vs. the Bitchmonster sounds like fantasy.

One would think having the most coveted modeling job in the entire world would require enough training and responsibility that one wouldn't be able to return to one's high school so soon, if ever.

Try using fewer semi-colons.

If Spencer marries Dick Tracy, she should keep her maiden name.

New Beginning 130

"We should've turned ourselves into koalas," the possum with the shorter whiskers said.

"Don't be an idiot," longer whiskers replied. "Koalas don't live in California. And you were the one that wanted to be an animal with a pocket."

"Pouch. It's a pouch."

"Whatever," longer whiskers said.

The two marsupials hid under a huge wax myrtle that faced a modest two story brick home, in an ordinary neighborhood, on an average cul-de-sac. It was the home of a twelve-year-old boy named Jake Marks. If Jake had gone outside and looked closely at the bush, he might have seen two sets of black, beady eyes peering through the branches. But Jake was inside, having breakfast with his mom and little brother.

The sound of a car engine alerted the possums and their tails swished back and forth. The car slowed and turned into the driveway.

"The female has arrived," longer whiskers said, running out to the arriving car. "Quick! Grab her pouch!"

Short whiskers made a flying leap at the woman's Marc Jacobs bag. She screamed and attempted to fight the creature off.

Jake ran to the window. "Look! It's Mrs. Splick! And there's a possum attacking her!"

Mrs. Marks looked out the window. Mrs. Splick, the babysitter, was on the ground, blood spurting from thousands of scratches and bites. One possum appeared to be eating her face while another was dragging her bag into the bushes. Mrs. Marks sprang into action, grabbing a kitchen knife and sprinting to the door.

"No!" Jake shouted. "Don't go out there, Mom!"

"Sorry, honey," she replied, "but no one treats a Marc Jacobs bag like that. No one."

Continuation: Kate Thornton

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Face-Lift 201

Guess the Plot

Children of Mercury

1. A thermometer bursts as a feverish woman gives birth. Adorable quicksilver twin babies unwittingly poison hospital staff. Boy in the Plastic Bubble meets Terminator 2.

2. Mercury Hospital in central Little Rock was shut down and abandoned fifteen years ago because of a stillborn rate two hundred times the national average. Now the neighbors are seeing eerie lights in the maternity wing, and three children are missing.

3. After sweeping first through third in all sprint events for 6 track and field meets in a row, the sprinters in the Santa Monica Junior Track Club are dubbed The Children of Mercury by the press. Future Olympians? Or will they be busted for designer steroid use?

4. Alice Jerman's affair with Mercury, the messenger of the gods, was terrific. Bearing his children wasn't all that bad. But trying to find shoes at Stride-Rite that will fit winged feet is nearly impossible.

5. All they want to be when they grow up are merchants, controlling the trade and profits of the planet. They claim direct descent from their ancient god. But when Belabarians show up to invade their planet, only the children of Mercury can avert a galaxy's demise.

6. Book 1 in my series which will include Children of Venus, Children of Mars, etc. Here's hoping we don't quite make it to Children of Uranus.

Most honoured and praiseworthy Evil Editor!Though but a humble lurker on your blog, I humbly submit my first 150 words for mockery and dismemberment at the hands of Your Esteemed Self and the Minions. The title Children of Mercury is based on the medieval and Renaissance system of astrology, where it was the planet and not the constellation of birth that governed one's temperament. Mercury is the patron of artists, philosophers, doctors, astrologers, spies and thieves, several of which professions appear in the story. If it became a series, others would be titled (for example) Children of Venus (courtesans, hunters, musicians), and Children of Mars (soldiers and mercenaries). [Included to show where the correct Guess the Plot came from.]

Original Version

Dear Agent-name-spelled-right,

Children of Mercury is a 90,000 word mystery set in early Renaissance Italy, where a painting could bring down a city, and the finest colours came from the deadliest poisons.The struggling Florentine painter Agnolo asks only for obedient apprentices, clients who know what they want, and a life untroubled by the powerful. [Evil Editor asks only for obedient minions, authors who know what Evil Editor wants, and a life untroubled by submissions.] The last, at least, he might have achieved, if his old friend Gaudenzio--brilliant artist and ruthless duelist--[Not as cool-sounding as "ruthless vigilante sorcerer, but a much better tongue twister.] hadn't asked for help with a simple task.

Before that "simple task" is finished, a prince will be poisoned and a workshop burnt, assassins and espionage encountered. Agnolo and Gaudenzio must unmask a murderous Milanese spy without bringing down [You already used "bring down" in the first paragraph. Come up with something new and exciting.] Gaudenzio's wealthy and vindictive patron who (knowingly or unknowingly) shelters him. ["Him" meaning the spy, but that's not so clear, as you mentioned Gaudenzio more recently than the spy.] Their fresco of The Planets And Their Children may provide a chance to expose the spy--if they live to paint it. [Or it may bring down all of Italy.]

Children of Mercury is complete in itself, but could become first in a series. Historical mysteries continue to be popular, and Italy has been surprisingly underexploited as a setting in the genre. [I've never thought of novels as exploiting their settings.]

I have been involved in historical reenactment and living history displays for almost 30 years, often portraying a painter, so I am familiar with the texture of late medieval life: the feel of wool and linen, the taste of pottage, [Evil Editor is familiar with the taste of porridge and of potted meat food product. I hope pottage tastes better than those, whatever it is.] and the labor of grinding pigments.

SASE is enclosed. Thank you for your time and consideration.



This was actually pretty good. Just address the few serious points made, and the other ones sure to be made by the minions.

New Beginning 129

Graham Maeda, homicide detective, first grade, already regretted that his partner caught the call that sent them to Lockerbie Square. He hated Lockerbie Square. It was part of the downtown Indianapolis revitalization project, sending all sorts--moody artistic types, pretentious liberals, and, to be politically correct, those of an alternate lifestyle--buying up old homes and rehabilitating them.

"How bad do you think it'll be?" Cantrel asked.

"Bad enough. Someone's dead."

"But you said the vic had multiple stab wounds."

"Let's wait and see the scene first." Maeda hoped that would quell his partner's incessant need to chatter. To say Cantrel was anxious may be an understatement: he'd only recently transferred to homicide and, after being carried for a few cases, this was only his second as primary. Maeda stared out the window, marshaling his thoughts.

Cantrel glanced at his notebook. "He was some kind of artist."


"Pretty successful, by all accounts. They found him in the bedroom."

"Living room." Maeda signalled and steered the car left across a line of traffic.

"Well, it was a frenzied attack. Stabbed to death with a carving knife and then beaten with a blunt instrument."

"Fruit knife." Maeda's knuckles whitened as he gripped the wheel. "And a skillet."

"He'd just moved in. Apparently he outbid the next buyer by more than ten thousand dollars."

"Twelve thousand, four hundred. Cash. The bastard." Maeda stared at the road ahead as Cantrel fell silent.

Opening: MB.....Continuation: ril

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Face-Lift 200!!

Guess the Plot

The Sosunda

1. A new dance craze hits the tiny Carribean town of Port Au Feu. But tourist Staci Mesa discovers that it's an invitation to death when she meets a handsome zombie in the hotel bar.

2. In this fast-paced novel of the wunda down unda, Australian deep-sea diver Stryne Hardly takes us on a thrill ride to find and rescue the trapped occupants of a tourist submersible in the Great Barrier reef. Will he reach them in time? Or will their SOS become SOL?

3. A London man escapes from the dreadful routine of writing propaganda for the government into a blissful orgy of the poet's life.

4. Freedom is the message, and the messenger is a child who speaks to God Herself, a child known as . . . the Sosunda.

5. Desperate to rescue his beloved car from the repo man, Jose decides to take a job as a male stripper in his cousin's new business. Dressed as a masked Spaniard, he drives the ladies crazy as . . . the Sosunda.

6. Hannah Quinn is drawn into an underworld of secrets and passion that threatens the entire city when she investigates the origins of a mysterious building in the center of Rome, a building known as . . . the Sosunda.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Thank you for your wholesomely terror-inducing blog. May your minions continue to strike fear into the inept and inane.

Delaem, daughter of the Governor of Burramesh, is going to court. She has a contract for a marriage to a handsome courtier and a will to explore the world beyond the walls of her provincial city.

But when her mother arranges one last gift for her daughter, Delaem's certainties begin to fray. [Her certainties? Begin to fray? Not sure what that means.] Her lessons in the "easing" of men are learned too well. [Easing of men? Is that the same as pleasing of men? Are these lessons the gift from her mother?] When all her attention should be focussed on her betrothed, Delaem can only dream of Shapeis, the head-horned servant employed to teach her. [Head-horned? Is that the same as horn-headed?] [Would you describe Shapeis head as looking more like a rhinoceros, a bull, or a trumpet?] [If the lessons are the mother's last gift, what mother, even if she has the gall to hire someone to teach her engaged daughter the art of man-easing, would hire a horn-head? What does an alien from Planet X know about what men want?]

Shapeis has problems of his own. [For starters, he's head-horned.] The servants in the city are finding themselves a new religion - her name is the Sosunda, [Her name? The religion is female?] the child who speaks to God, and God has a message for his chosen people: freedom. Between his lessons with the Governor's daughter, Shapeis learns about the history of his people, the genetic wrongness of his creation - and the increasing desire he has for his aristocratic pupil. [Apparently he's not just horned; he's horny.] [Not clear what the part about the new religion has to do with Shapeis's problems.]

Beyond their knowledge, the world is changing. Life has never been easy on this planet: a new plague has evolved in the southern ports, and the Empire will destroy cities to halt its progress. Fearful that illegal servant movements are threatening his city, the Governor orders their termination.

Escaping the city, Shapeis [Why is he escaping, if the plague is beyond his knowledge?] discovers an alien world where survival depends on knowledge and cooperation. [He wanders onto the set of Survivor, Cook Islands.] For Delaem, too, survival has become more than deciding which dress to wear for breakfast. Both have to grasp new strengths and skills.

Yet no skill can stand firm before the plague. It stalks the city's unwashed streets, killing all in its path. Despite the Governor's every effort to contain the disease, the news of its presence within the city walls travels fast beyond them.

The Empire must act - the disease must die, as must the city and all within it. [All within it will die. The plague kills all in its path.] If the surviving servants are to fulfil their dreams, they must reach the safety of the mountains before the the soldiers arrive. [But our main characters escaped the city two paragraphs ago; are they still our main characters?]

One man will not listen to prophecy. One woman will not accept defeat. Only when these two people learn to work together and respect each other will any life - master or servant - be rescued from the fires and fevers of death. [Are we talking about Shapeis and Dalaem? I thought they were in love. Why wouldn't they already respect each other?]

"The Sosunda" (working title), my first full novel, is a 90,000 word work-in-progress [Work-in-progress? Have you finished writing it? Are you up to 85,000, or 8,500? As you won't be sending the query out until the book is ready, no need to include this.] for which I hope to find representation in due course. My previous writing experience has ranged from drafting government propaganda [I write for Fox News.] to writing and publishing my own poetry. I hope you find my first serious foray into writing interesting enough to ask for a further 750 words.

As stipulated in your post, the opening paragraphs of the first chapter follow.

And many thanks for taking the time to read my submission.


It's too long. Too much of it is vague. You need to distill it into specific, clear information. Something like:

When a plague strikes the walled city of Burramesh, the governor's daughter, Delaem, heads for the hills with her head-horned man-easement tutor, Shapeis. Also, a Sosunda.

Maybe there should be more about the Sosunda in the query.

Just tell us who we care about and why, what their problem is, and what they do about it. You should be able to do this in fewer paragraphs.

New Beginning 128

The alarmed terrorists stood and turned. It was the last thing they ever did. Debbie put a bullet in the back of each of their skulls with precision and speed that shocked the Douglas brothers almost as much as the act itself. She turned to the men and smiled diabolically at them as they gaped. The hope that they had just been rescued sank like an anchor.

Debbie strode over to Otis and sat on his lap facing him. She was still smiling as she looked into his eyes and asked if he had ever gotten paid twice for one job. Then she threw her head back and laughed hysterically at her own joke.

"Bitch!" Mark spit in her face just before she back-handed him across the cheek with her weapon. Blood from the cut mingled with the rest of the blood on his face, renewing the drip onto his lap.

Otis sighed. This was the absolute last time he would let the Douglas brothers drag him to a strip joint. It was the second-worst lap dance of his life.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Kate Thornton

New Beginning 127

Wendy Keller crawled through rotting jungle vegetation to the edge of the clearing. A horned beetle, at least five inches long, scurried in front of her, and she resisted the urge to flick it away. This close to the clearing her movements had to be slow and steady. She couldn’t afford to draw any attention from the men who were outside the target house.

Billions of mosquitoes strafed her head, completely ignoring the industrial strength bug repellent she had doused herself in but the beetle kept going, a bit of luck for her. No matter how often she’d been in the jungle, she never got used to bugs crawling all over her.

Slowly, rocking herself forward on her toes and elbows, she inched to the edge of the clearing. Someone had cleared a rough circle in the jungle, tree stumps jutting out of the ground, bushes trying to reclaim the empty space.

Suddenly, Wendy's elbow landed on a twig; it cracked like a gunshot. The two men spun around to see her lying at the edge of the clearing, her face scratched and bitten, her clothes torn and dirty.

"Ah. Wendy. I had a feeling you'd turn up sooner or later." Maurice, the taller of the two, smiled in recognition. "It's okay, I found them; they were in my pocket the whole time." He held up his car keys for her to see. "Be a dear and grab that bag, would you? And don't forget to take care of the bell boy."

Wendy pushed herself to her feet. Island resort, she thought. Big fun, Moe.
Next year, separate vacations.

Continuation: ril

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Face-Lift 199

Guess the Plot


1. When little Tommy Mupler named his dog "Snitch" he didn't know the dog could talk. Now Susie next door is too embarrassed to go to school, Tommy's mother is on the warpath . . . and Snitch is in the doghouse.

2. After inmate Roy Smith admits in confession that he murdered someone, he warns the priest not to blab. Will the good Father keep quiet, or will he snitch . . . in order to reduce his own sentence?

3. Ratso Rizzo had a life before Midnight Cowboy. He's on the police payroll and the Family has found out.

4. Herbert Koober wants to be a cop, but he doesn't meet the height requirements. He does, however, have big ears and a big mouth.

5. A would-be young witch juggles middle school with the Middle Ages as she tries to find a spell to keep her from blurting out her best friends' secrets.

6. A reporter goes undercover at a maximum-security prison to try to befriend the inmates and pry out their secrets . . . and grabs the scoop of the century.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

SNITCH: a nasty word. [Although not as nasty as "snatch."] So what does it have to do with an Old Catholic priest, the pastor of a California church? He sells his parsonage and buys a $102,000 dollar black BMW. He’s also married to one woman and engaged to another. When the authorities catch on to his money-laundering and pandering, our good priest [Good priest? Oh, you mean compared to all the other priests we've been reading about.] is arrested and tossed into jail. His life will change forever when he meets Roy G. Smith, twice convicted, high-risk pedophile presently being held for murder in one of California’s highest profile cases. [The pedophile isn't the priest? Nice twist.]

Roy, over the course of months, confesses the murder of a 45 year old woman to our unethical priest. [Over the course of months? How long does it take to say you killed a 45-year-old woman?

Week 1: There was this woman. She was 45.
Week 2: She's dead.
Week 3: Got any smokes?
Week 4: They found her with multiple stab wounds.
Week 5: What is it with the cooks in this place? Everything's too salty.
Week 6: I mean seriously, salt in fruit cocktail?
Week 7: You don't think I had anything to do with it?
Week 8: I see no way a wolf could blow down a house made of sticks.
Week 9: Okay, okay, I killed her. But she had it coming.]

When Roy realizes he has divulged too much, he warns the priest to keep the information on the low down – or else. [Week 10: By the way, that was all off the record.] Will the priest snitch, thus reducing his own sentence, or will he quietly go on with his jail time, and live with the knowledge of the murder, a weight on his mind which will eat away at him like a maggot feasting on garbage? [That's the kind of simile you use when you're mocking writers who use too many similes.]

The reader will explore the very timely topics of priesthood, jail (a prismatic subculture) [I think you mean a cultural prism.] and murder within a cocoon of murderers, [Huh?] chomos (child molesters) [Why isn't that chimos? Just asking.], homosexual prostitutes [promos)], [arson within a termite mound of] arsonists, supreme white power dudes (Pure Boys, Nazi-Low Riders, Nor-Cal Woods), [Are you under the impression that the stuff inside all these parentheses is making this more clear?] paranoid schizophrenics, and gang-bangers (Nortenos, Sorenos, Crips and Bloods). [Lists tend to get boring the longer they go on. Especially when most of the items being listed need explanations. It would be more interesting to choose a couple of the more important items on the list and elaborate on them.]

Snitch is a non-fiction, [Nonfiction? Why didn't you say so earlier? I wouldn't have mocked it for being preposterous if I'd known it was true.] true-crime memoir written by the author of The Sound of Meat, [The sequel to The Sound of Music, in which the von Trapp family all have jobs frying bacon.] an e-book published by Cool Publications of Great Britain, and the essay, Snitch, soon to be published by Hillary Carlip on Fresh Yarn. [The cool thing about publishing on fresh yarn is that after the reader is finished reading, she can knit a sweater. I'm not sure it's important that the yarn be fresh, actually.] At your request, I will send you a writing sample and a book proposal. [I thought this was a book proposal.] Please feel free to contact me at the address below.

Thank You,


It sounded like an interesting story when I thought it was a novel. I think you need to scrap it and come at it from a new angle, one that points out that it's the true story of whoever, and why his story is so interesting. Or make it a novel.

New Beginning 126

Madame Hands and the Matter of Will

Teresa Fetter first saw the young man outside her store late on a Wednesday afternoon. He followed the length of the windows one way and then the other, trudging along on stiff legs with a studied look of indifference. The third time, Teresa's head jerked up. A buzz of alert shot across the back of her neck.

He wanted something—what was it? She watched him. He was young—early twenties or so—and tall, with the lurching-forward posture typical of men with such proportions. He looked solid, lean. He kept his eyes focused straight ahead, as if moving them might indicate weakness.

He intended to come in the store; Teresa knew this with a certainty she didn't even question. What she couldn't figure was why. Her first-floor antique and second-hand business hardly sold the kind of merchandise a young man would covet. And he didn't fit the profile for her upstairs psychic services, even if she were accepting new clients. Which she wasn't.

You're not, Teresa, she told herself.

The brass bells on the door clanged, and the stranger stepped inside. "Hello?" he asked. His accent was French. "I'm interested in this chest, here, in the window."

"It's an antique." Teresa beamed, stretching out her hand and introducing herself.

He held her gaze; she couldn't have looked away if she'd wanted to. "I'm interested in something else as well," he said, winking.

Teresa couldn't help smiling. Frenchmen were irresistible.

"They call me Monsieur Foot, by the way. Shall I explain why?"

Teresa grinned. She was accepting new clients, after all. And this one was going upstairs.

Opening: pjw. Continuation: Sarah

Monday, September 25, 2006

Face-Lift 198

Guess the Plot


1. When the Smith triplets were born, their parents were expecting twins. Little Pearl and Ruby had no trouble in school, but Amethyst spent her childhood in speech therapy.

2. A girl born at midnight on the cusp of Aquarius and Pisces realizes that in her hands, her birth stone has the power to heal... even to restore life.

3. Magical gems are a dime a dozen in Caer Columbine. When a young page boy finds a rare, normal amethyst, the kingdom erupts as everyone tries to get their hands on the precious stone.

4. The theft of the ancient Amethyst was the darkest hour in the history of Perdonia. So far. Now the prosperous nation is in danger of being enslaved by demons.

5. This generational saga follows a clan of violet-eyed romance heroines from the Scottish Highlands to Boston's High Society.

6. They ruined her life with an unpronounceable name. Now Amethyst Themister is out for revenge on her parents, Thumbelina and Thurmondsly Themister.

Original Version

Dear Secret Agent,

I met Other Secret Agent at Secret Conference in August, [What is this, a query letter from Tonto?] and he said that you might be interested in my work. [Of course he was probably just trying to get rid of me, but . . . ] (Good news, since I was planning to query you!) Enclosed is this first chapter of Amethyst, the 100,000 word first novel in my fantasy series.

Reclusive Grace O'Toole never expected to find herself crammed in a closet with outgoing Daniel Larke, eavesdropping on her father's killers. [Why not? Because she's reclusive? Because she's claustrophobic? Or because no one in the world would ever expect this? If the latter, it seems kind of obvious that Grace never expected it, and not worth mentioning.] But that's what happens when a mysterious letter lures them both to room 309 at Maurland Institute. [The letter said,

Dear Grace,

Come to room 309 at Maurland Institute. Get into the closet. You should find the experience highly enlightening.

P.S. You may bring a friend.]

Now, Grace has a chance to win back her family's honor [By doing what?] and end the disgrace that's hung over her for most of her life--her father's failure to keep Perdonia's most valued artifact from thieves. But this theft wasn't about the ancient Amethyst at all, they find out, and as Grace and Daniel hunt for the thieves' real plans, [They're not so much hunting for plans as investigating the thieves' true objective.] they discover a conspiracy that will plunge their prosperous nation into slavery under a demonic regime... unless something is done to stop it.

I'm a member of two critique groups, one in my community and one online, have attended several writing workshops, seminars, classes, and conferences, and I also read your blog. (In case you're wondering, my username is "Username.") [Insofar as anyone can join or attend or read these things, it might be better to devote the space to your book, assuming you can think of something else to say about it.] If you're interested in seeing a partial or my completed manuscript, please let me know. I also have synopses of the other titles in the series, and a sample chapter of the second book[, Diamond, in which demonic slavers force Grace and Daniel to continually watch movies starring Lou Diamond Phillips.]

Thanks for your time!


Except for the word "demonic," it doesn't sound like a fantasy at all. It wouldn't hurt to emphasize and expand on the fantastical elements if you're selling a fantasy.

It seems odd that thieves would steal the amethyst and then do nothing for most of Grace's life, and then spring their plot. What have they been waiting for?

New Beginning 125

Jim finished gutting the doe and dragged her onto the tarp. Even with the snow still patching the ground, the air held the crystal sharpness which made every sound a blade to slice the air. He wrapped his prize in the crackling plastic. He was just looping the rope tight around the doe's legs when the snap of a branch cracked through the woods.

Jim froze, the skin between his shoulders twitching. The one night he was out without French Eddie watching his back, and this happens.

Unfortunately, he heard nothing further after that, making it unlikely to be a wildlife. Also unfortunately, there weren't but a couple of fellows locally who could stalk that well. Neither had Jim's best interests at heart. The one he was worried about, Deputy Bob Darnell, was supposed to be otherwise occupied tonight with Jim's faithless wife, Earlene; and that left Pookie Tuck, the game warden.

So Jim listened with all his might while he slowly reached for the rifle on the ground beside him. If it was Pookie, so be it. If it wasn't, he didn't want a chunk sliced from his ass by a bear wanting an easy meal.

Jim slowly turned to find himself facing a half-circle of staring children.

"You killed Bambi."

He glanced at the doe. "No, no, this isn't . . . it's not even his cousin."

The children moved closer, their faces coldly impassive as they chanted, "Bambi, Bambi, Bambi."

Jim never even got off a shot.

Continuation: Stephen D. Rogers

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Face-Lift 197

Guess the Plot


1. In this wrenching high school memoir, Tondelayo Tudd describes the rest of her day.

2. After a plague wipes out most of the world's population, a fascist theocrat rises to power by executing all those who refuse to follow him. Can 13-year-old Cara stop him?

3. Katie wasn't exactly honest when she swore to her mom she wouldn't use nuclear fission as her science fair project. But what's done is done, and now she's got a mess to clean up.

4. Five survivors of a plane crash think their ordeal is over when they are rescued by a cruise ship. But with a vampire captain, a crew of ghosts, mummified passengers and a cook from the 18th century, their problems are just beginning.

5. Well, it was a fun spree for Victor Pockle and the clerks at Veronica's Secret. But now the fun's over and someone has to put away all the plus-sized bras.

6. Opal thought fooling around with her math teacher was a sure fire way to get good grades and a fantastic recommendation letter for college. But the week before she starts college she discovers she's pregnant.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am seeking representation for my 90,000-word young adult speculative fiction novel, Aftermath, set in post-apocalyptic Norman, Oklahoma.

Aftermath tells the story of 13-year-old Cara, who survives the viral apocalypse that kills her family and most of the population of Earth. While Cara learns to live on her own, a young man whose life she saved during the plague is rising to power as the leader of a fascist theocracy. This mysterious Prophet hopes to sway Cara to his side, [Why would this power-hungry guy care about getting one 8th grade girl into his camp?] but after she and her friends begin publishing an underground newspaper with the help of two surviving journalists, [twenty additional surviving journalists, a surviving printer, surviving financial backers, surviving advertisers, surviving editors, and lots of newsprint and ink,] he takes action to quell their rebellion. The Prophet tries to have Cara killed, but she escapes to tell the truth about his mass executions of unbelievers. [Viral apocalypse, fascist theocracy, mass executions? Is this what thirteen-year-olds want to read about these days?]

[Parent: Glad to see you finally quit playing those violent video games. Whatcha reading?

Child: Book.

Parent: Duh. What's it about?

Child: A plague wipes out most of the population, and this fascist theocrat wants to take over so he starts committing mass executions of anyone who doesn't follow him. He even tries to kill this 13-year-old girl who saved his--

Parent: That Resident Evil IV looked pretty good. Wanna show me how to play?]

I am a native of Norman and a newspaper copy editor. I have used my background to create an authentic portrayal of this lively college town and how its people and landscape would be transformed in a post-apocalyptic world. [I don't know about the landscape, but the people would be transformed to dead.]

The second novel in the Aftermath trilogy, in which the Prophet's Army lays siege to the rebel forces gathered in ruined Chicago, is near completion.

Thank you for your time in considering this submission.


The query is okay, but brief. The paragraph describing your plot is only four sentences. I suggest doubling that. Things I wouldn't mind knowing:
How old is the Prophet? Adult? Teen?
How many people didn't die? Thousands? A billion?
What is Cara to the Prophet?
How does Cara know about the mass executions?
Does the prophet really care what's written in a newspaper published by thirteen-year-old kids?
What is it about the novel, besides the age of Cara, that makes it YA?

I'm guessing you could answer some or all of these questions and still fit it all on one page.

New Beginning 124

Rainaut stared down at the two-toed track in the dried mud next to the rotting remains of a pig. He closed his eyes.

There's no such thing as dragons. There's no such thing as dragons.

He opened his eyes. The track was still there. Ravens nearby fluttered, causing Rainaut to jump. His gaze flicked to the forest, for the last eighteen years, a bright and lovely place, but today, dark and foreboding. Nothing moved, except for the ravens, impatient for him to leave, so they could return to the carcass.

The sun hovered just over the tops of the mountains. Perhaps he should return to Agarèla for the night. But, no, two of the houses there had walls missing from where dragons—no, bandits, he told himself—had broken in and attacked the residents.

A flock of birds erupted from the treetops a half mile away and Rainaut made up his mind. He sprinted down the road toward Corbisnèle.

"There's no such thing as dragons," he sang aloud as he ran. His song seemed to bolster his courage. But as he rounded the next bend and caught sight of Corbisnèle in the distance, a giant shadow fell over Rainaut. He turned, just in time to see the stream of fire blazing from above.

He managed one last thought before the flames engulfed him: So. Apparently there is such a thing as dragons.

Continuation: Evil Editor

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Contest Results

The object of the contest was to write the opening to a work of fiction, using one of five given Guess the Plots. Those that aren't published below may be viewed at Evil Editor's Openings (link in sidebar) by scrolling down to (or clicking on) Additional Contest Entries.

1. Thou shalt not kill, so GABRIEL does everything but. Armed with stun guns and a rubber chicken, he goes to war against the Clown Cartel.

“You think you’re so high and mighty, Gabe?” Bubbles sneered. “So much better than just us clowns? Two sides of the same coin, pal o’ mine. Take a look in the mirror some time. You take away my make-up, afro wig, jumper, big red shoes, and these balloon animals on my arms, and you and I the same goddamn thing.”

As he had been for a long stretch, Gabriel stood at the far end of the empty office floor, no more than a silhouette against the city’s ever-burning lights. The tip of his cigarette flared again as he took another drag from it, looking out over the bustling night-time city far below.

“You think you scare me, Mr. Quiet Badass In Your Muscle Shirt And Jeans That Fit Really Nice?” Bubbles went on. “Think again. You take me out and a dozen more will take my place. A hydra’s got bupkis on a clown car, baby.”

Gabriel took his last drag threw the butt aside, his mind made up. He marched toward Bubbles, who suddenly lost his verbal swagger, face dropping. Taped to the office chair, he couldn’t lean nearly as far back as he would’ve liked.

Snapping to a halt in front of the chair, Gabriel pulled the rubber chicken from his backpack and eyed Bubbles with a dark pleasure.

Time to send these clowns a message.

--Reay Jespersen

2. Bored with her tiresome literary agent husband, Stephanie decides to splurge on a depilatory regimen and try to bag a New York book editor.

Every morning starts the same way. The alarm in my cellphone, set to vibrate, wakes me two hours before it needs to. I reach under my pillow to stop it before he notices and I slip out of bed, guided by the early morning light that falls out from under the curtains. I scrub my face with recommendations from the painted dolls of the cosmetics counter, and I brush and I floss and I rinse and I spit.

I sit down in front of the triptych mirror of my dressing table and tease and comb the kinks out of my chestnut hair -- no hint of gray. I have a wide toothed comb and a fine toothed comb, and I leave not a hair out of place. I apply creams and foundation and blush and a shadow to blend with the cool green of my eyes. I use a lipstick that scientifically complements the tone of my skin. I spend thirty minutes to choose the right dress and the right shoes. I follow the advice from all the books and magazines and web-sites.

Then, I go downstairs to obsess over the details of breakfast: Toast the exact shade of brown; eggs minute perfect; tea, five minutes, water boiling not just hot. Every morning, every detail is more perfect than yesterday -- I’m sure of it. And yet, he comes downstairs and gives me no more than a cursory glance, and I can see that ‘not quite right for me,’ look in his eyes. I know he’s looking for something else, something special and unique; something that will grab him right from the start. Well, I know I’m special and unique, and if he rejects me, maybe I should shop around?

-- ril

3. When nine year old Seymour Mertens discovers the Ancient Sunglasses of Power in a hidden cave, he becomes the only force capable of stopping the Invaders from the Dark Dimension. He becomes... The Wayfarer.

"Seymour, would you please take off those old sunglasses when you're at the dinner table?"

The Wayfarer glared at his mother, but his look was lost on her. The sunglasses were powerful. The lenses were thick and as black as Hades, and after lying in a hidden cave for eons they were considerably scratched up as well. He looked down at his plate. The dark spectacles made the broccoli look like an evil growth, deposited there by a powerful, sentient being determined to poison him before he could save the world.

"But Mommm," he said, "I have to wear these so I can see the Invaders from the Dark Dimension."

"Seymour, if I've told you once I've told you a thousand times. This is Manhattan. There is no dark dimension here. If there are any invaders they're going to have to fly in from the Midwest where everyone votes Republican. Give them to me."
The Wayfarer reluctantly handed his mother the Sunglasses of Power. The broccoli looked even worse now. He managed to work it into his napkin when his nemesis wasn't looking. He finished the rest of his so-called dinner, excused himself, and carried his plate with the broccoli wadded in its white shroud out to the kitchen.

There he quickly pulled out of the cupboard the Hearing Glass of Power. He carried it into his bedroom and placed it against the wall, listening for the telltale sounds of evil in the apartment next to theirs. It was difficult, but through the powerful Glass he could hear the tiny, staccato taps of a man striking a keyboard – a twisted man – a man from a literary Dark Dimension, who with his uncounted minions toiled destroy fiction. The Wayfarer knew that he must act soon to save the world from . . . Novel Deviations.

--Morgan Saylor

4. This was not just any mousehole, as Tess the feline Guardian knew well. This was a doorway into the realm of Fairie, and if she lapsed in her duties the real world was doomed!

Kibbles, scooped fresh out of a just-opened bag. The occasional sardine. A nice scratch under the chin. Long naps in the sunny spot under the window. Tess sighed and swished her tail. She had given up all those things when she left home to become a Guardian. She didn't regret her decision, but sometimes she still dreamed of the old days. Especially at times like this.

Boots was late. Tess had been keeping watch over the portal for almost eight hours now. She'd pulled a double shift, covering for Fluffy when he had a hairball problem. But Guardians were not supposed to stay on duty for more than six hours. Boots should have been here two hours ago. Her eyes began to close, and she could almost feel the warmth of that sunny spot under the window again. She mustn't sleep. Even if Boots never came, even if they left her here alone forever. Tess forced her eyes open again by sheer will.

Suddenly she saw it -- the flutter of a tiny, shimmering wing near the mousehole. Tess pounced. She growled deep in her throat and sank her teeth into the small creature's neck. Then she shook it hard until she heard a snap. She set the creature down and began to eat it, delicately. It tasted almost like a sardine, but the wings tickled her throat. Tess spat them out and licked her whiskers clean. That makes one more, she thought. One more fairie who wasn't going to sneak in and destroy the fabric of her world.

-- Anonymous

5. When Apple's low-budget CEO-cloning project goes awry, the company is left with no choice but to bring in Wozniak to clean up the mess.

"It's happened again." Talbot took off his glasses and rubbed at his red eyes. "It's always the same. We get them up through all the really tricky parts and then they do something horrible. I don't think I want to work on this project anymore, Steve. I think it's time for me to go back to the university."

Steve stared at him, at the rumpled lab coat and the stooped, thin shoulders. He sighed. "Okay, Talbot, I guess maybe 500 tries is enough. Thanks for all your work here."

Talbot left the lab. Steve looked around at the rinky-dink equipment. The idea had been a good one, but maybe they had skimped too much on the financing. That was always a problem at Apple.

"Mr. Jobs? I have Forbes on the line for you, sir."

"I'll take it in here, Mindy," he replied to his OA. Forbes. Terrific. Just the icing on the goddam cake.

The news from Forbes was grim. Carly Fiorina, one of the early prototypes, had been a disaster, escaping out to Hewlett Packard and a high-profile crash-and-burn. Pattie Dunn, from the same clone nexus, was next, also defecting to Hewlett Packard and into another spectacular scandal. Now it looked like the whole Fortune 500 was made of nothing but Talbot's clones, most of them failing in publicly embarrassing ways: Kim Woo Choong, Jack B. Grubman, Kenneth Lay, Dennis Koslawski, Jack Welch, Martha Stewart, the list went on. Even Bernard Ebbers, so promising, so flawed. And don't even talk about Ronald Wayne.

Steve made the decision he had been putting off for so long. He was going to have to go to the board and confess the failure of the CCP, the CEO Cloning Project.

They were going to have to consider the Wozniak option.

--Kate Thornton

Face-Lift 196

Guess the Plot

Strangely Insane

1. Henry Murchison refinishes furniture, plays a mean game of contract bridge, and reads the New Yorker cover-to-cover every week. The other inmates of the asylum just can't figure him out.

2. Dr. Franz Schmutz has a 100 percent cure rate at his hospital for the slightly bewildered. But he's in for a surprise when his nursing staff turns on him in a frenzied bloodbath.

3. In a world where everyone is normal, Iggy Mopp is strangely insane. Or so he thinks, until he is transported magically into a world where everyone is just like him. Now he must deal with being average and uninteresting.

4. Medical students often suspect they have the diseases they are studying. Unfortunately for psychiatry student Janice Marshall, she actually does.

5. Danny can't decide whether to kill himself with a shotgun or to write a lengthy memoir about his pathetic life as a lonely alcoholic. He writes the memoir, along with an even longer query letter.

6. Paula Jil comes from a long line of schizophrenics, religious zealots and corn-dog comedians. Her obsession with good grades and professional goals brands her as the one who is strangely insane.

Original Version

Dear Evil:

I am seeking agent representation for my literary memoir, “Strangely Insane”, complete at 110,000 words. The sequel, “Forty Four Days,” is nearing completion. [It should be done in, oh, about forty-four days.] Another free-standing book, Part III if you will, “The Broad Highway” is about what it is like for a recovered alcoholic to live normally and sanely in an insane world and is planned for 2008. [From 2009 to 2011 you can reach me at the Betty Ford Center, where I'll be undergoing rehab. Then in 2012 Part IV, if you will, "In and Out," about what it's like to lapse back into alcoholism from too much celebrating one's book deal will be ready.]

Ninety percent of all alcoholics will die alcoholic deaths. The reason is that there is a big difference between hard drinkers and real alcoholics and unfortunately there are not many people, professional and otherwise who know how to make that distinction. Even worse is that there are special interests that depend upon that important distinction being blurred. These interests exist inside of the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous and proliferate in the rehab industry. So real alcoholics like me, suffer needlessly or die from untreated alcoholism, never knowing why it was that we just cannot “Get it”. Fortunately I am one of those who finally got it. [Not clear. What's the distinction? What did you get?]

One night in October in 1999, Danny Schwarzhoff, who after being sober for two years finds himself on the balcony of his bedroom contemplating suicide after coming out of a two day alcoholic blackout. [Was that a complete sentence?] He cannot even remember how it happened. There is every good reason for it to never have happen again. [Are you sure you haven't been hitting the sauce?] Yet it did. It is the loneliest place on earth. Grey white moonlight pours from the skylight above and floods the upper rooms with vivid colorlessness ["Vivid" is not an adjective I would apply to colorlessness; in fact, defines "colorlessness" as "lacking vividness."] and with his back to his wife Nancy he can feel and see her in his minds eye. She is like a woman in a scene frozen onto a black and white TV screen, curled into a ball, sleeping – utterly exhausted out of her days of waiting for her husband of twenty years to finally come home. He had.

Below the balcony off the center hall of their Cotuit Massachusetts home he can see down into their two year old son’s bedroom – and he is sleeping. Danny’s eyes trace imaginary footsteps along the stone tiled floor, from the hall entrance into his son’s room - steps he has taken a hundred times on hundreds of nights [Which, when you think about it, means "occasionally."] – to kiss his son lightly on the forehead and whisper words into his ear that are the most important words in the world to both of them, “You are a good man and Daddy loves you.” Except on this night Danny did not retrace those steps as he had done so many times before. [Yes, a hundred times on hundreds of nights; you told us. Get on with it.] No words of love left his lips to seep into his sleeping son’s slumbering head. [Is this a letter or a bad poem?] When Danny came home tonight he rushed through the hall and up the stairway leading to the upstairs bedroom where Nancy lay in bed. He is disappointed and relieved to find that she could no longer stay awake for him.

Moved by the sight and the silent presence of his loving wife and child, but preoccupied with thoughts playing like an endless loop of tape in his head he was having bad thoughts. Rotten thoughts. Powerful and baffling thoughts. Danny has not come to the balcony to quietly consider the family he loves. He is there because the balcony is there. It is a bridge, a gangplank between two worlds and he is stuck between the two - one of which has nothing in the least to do with love. The other is seemingly indefinable - unattainable. [Indecipherable.] [That paragraph is so vague as to be meaningless.]

From this place where neither life nor death holds any import to him, Danny knows that the staircase leading downstairs will bring him one level closer to the 12 Gauge Winchester single barrel shotgun in the basement. It is the gun with which he is considering blasting his head off - in full view of his wife and son. He knows that there must be another way out, but if there is, it has not yet occurred to him. [He hasn't even considered the obvious? Jumping off the balcony and landing on his face? Or blasting his head off out of view of his wife and son?] He can only think of this one. Yes, it is horrific.

From the balcony I narrate an accurate, entertaining and verifiably true-to-life memoir of the real alcoholic, a person distinguished from all other forms of problem or heavy drinkers by characteristics that set me and my type apart as distinct entities – from the rest of all other drunks as well as the entire human race. My story is told in flashbacks that colorfully reveal the misunderstood dynamics of alcoholism in a way that no other contemporary author dare. [A quick check of shows more than 43,000 books on alcoholism. By 43,000 cowards, apparently.] The clues begin to build through events in my childhood, though adolescence and into my adulthood - and by the end of Strangely Insane, a preponderance of evidence defines the root causes of alcoholism and proposes a solution. It turns out that alcohol does not cause alcoholism and alcohol is the solution to the root problem - not the problem itself. [Alcohol is the solution? This is a revolutionary book, after all.] But the solution only works for real alcoholics like me. This common solution is the alternative to death that I seek in the moments on the balcony. Will I follow downstairs to the basement or will I take the alternative? Well, of course I take the cure -- I live to write a memoir about it. [I'm starting to think this query letter is a memoir about it.] [These really long ones always wear me down; I stop making comments just to get it over with.]

It is my passion and my pleasure to tell my story with dogged determination, intent upon smashing home the powerful message of successful recovery into the hearts and minds of the American consciousness. I must do this.

It was important to me that "Strangely Insane" not be anything like what has currently been written about alcoholism and addiction. My memoir is not a diary-of-contrition, scribbled into a Spiro-bound notebook from the lush couches of a well-appointed rehab center. I have never been in a rehab facility except as a speaker. It is not an overblown “Drunkologue” or a tear jerking chronicle of self-pity – the kind that has become so prolific in recent years. My story is simply a rigorously honest sometimes humorous if disturbing memoir of a former Wall Street Stockbroker, me, who shares a progressive, fiendish malady with millions of others for whom there only seems to be no hope.

I've been writing for a long time – over thirty years. A good portion of it while drunk I must admit. I was an advertising copywriter, a public relations practitioner and Editor-in-Chief for a weekly tabloid trade paper. I have covered everything from mold infections on Thompson Seedless grapes to an in depth interview with Caesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers Union, [You know you're an alcoholic when you get hired as a writer and most of what you write about is grapes.] among other credits with CEOs and top executives of major corporations. For the past five years I have been writing extensively on numerous online recovery sites and blogs. I have also been published (Anonymously) in Grapevine, AA’s magazine. I am also an in-demand international public speaker on the subject of recovery from alcoholism.

My most current reporting work, while sober I might add, has appeared in the Barnstable Patriot on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

If this query piques your interest, I should be delighted to provide a partial. Thank you for your generous time. I look forward to hearing from you soon



Evil Editor congratulates you on your accomplishments. But this query letter is long enough to be three or four query letters, yet it says less than most one-page query letters. It's not ready for an agent, and I'm not filled with confidence that the book has been edited into a clear and concise memoir.

If Danny is you, is there a reason you aren't writing in first person? Is it written as if it's fiction? It sounds like you're describing a novel through much of it. If it's nonfiction, describe it as such.

1st paragraph: the first sentence is all you need here.
2nd paragraph: Not clear enough; dump it.
3rd paragraph: Tone down the description.
4th paragraph: Wordy and repetitive, tighten it up.
5th paragraph: Says nothing; dump it.

I could continue, but there are so many paragraphs it would feel disheartening. When you've boiled it down to a page, stick with the credits about your public speaking and the AA magazine.

Actually, if you're an in-demand international public speaker, you're probably doing a lot more good now than you will by getting another book into a field that has more than 43,000 already.

New Beginning 123

“The Council’s decision is final, Don Vincenzo,” Basilio braced himself.

“The bastards hide while I rip my heart out.”

“…guard your position or death squads will be dispatched. Your son violated an entire village. He took a risk and lost.”

“A boy, barely out of his teens, is there no…” Don Vincenzo had tears in his eyes. “I could banish him to the jungle?”

“The Council demands blood... You have five days,” Basilio DiSica turned and walked out of the house. Armed guards let him enter his limousine. For the first time in his life, Basilio DiSica felt shame.

“Our new research facility,” Jordan steered the cart along the 6 kilometers of acrylic view ports carved into the coastline of theYucatan peninsula. Pompano, serrano, bass and shrimp floated past the view ports.

“Incredible,” Caleb stared like a small child.

“You’ll introduce new Piscean hybrids into the environment and monitor their viability. Consider this your new home.”

Denzel Patrik stared in exasperation at the glowing screen before him as he impatiently manipulated the controls. "Unbelievable."

"What's wrong?" The voice, edged with concern, came from behind him.

"Look at this crap." He pointed at the display. "A cheesy mafia movie or a documentary about fish. We gotta get cable." He pressed the "off" button, threw the remote aside and pushed himself out of his chair. "I'm gonna go read a book."

Opening: Dave.....Continuation: ril

Friday, September 22, 2006

Face-Lift 195

Guess the Plot

My Big Sucky Undead High School Reunion

1. Carrie White discusses her failures as a teenager and why she was the only one to show up at her tenth high school reunion.

2. In this sequel to The Best Damn High School Reunion, Period, the chess team comes back five years later as vampires to suck the blood from the cheerleaders . . . and the life from the party.

3. It's only Toula Portokalos's five-year reunion, but her classmates seem much paler and less fun than she remembers.

4. Molly the vampire is desperate to go to her 20th high school reunion. If nothing else, she figures she'll be a shoo-in for "Youngest Looking."

5. When Jackie Hatcher arrived at her high school reunion, she expected the usual bad dye jobs, saggy breasts and pot bellies. Green skin and lurching weren’t in the picture, and now she feels kind of awkward telling people to get a life.

6. Teen vampire Debbie Noogle explains her difficulties getting a date, getting a drink and getting a publisher.

Original Version

Dear EE,

I noticed on your hypothetical website that you're interested in paranormal chick lit, and I would like to submit my 85K novel, [Are you saying the letter "K" appears in your novel 85 times?] MY BIG SUCKY UNDEAD HIGH SCHOOL REUNION, for your consideration. [Could this be our long-awaited zombie book?]

Molly the vampire [It's always vampires. If I want a zombie novel, I'm gonna have to write it myself.] is desperate to go to her 20th year high school reunion, figuring she'll be a shoe-in for "Youngest Looking", if nothing else. She made a blood pact with her high school buddies, and as a vamp she takes blood pacts seriously. So she defies the ruling of the vampire Board [Corporations have boards; Vampires have councils.] that all of the transformed abandon their previous lives and takes off forAlabama. Her biggest critic, vamp security officer Victor James, is sent from New York to drag her back to where she belongs--Incognitoville, like the rest of their long-lived kind. [Doesn't have the same ring to it as Transylvania.]

However, not everyone on the Board wants to see Victor, a candidate for the vampire presidency, return alive--yes, vampires are alive, just infected. [Based on the title of the book, vampires are undead. Is that alive?] And one of Molly's former classmates has some massive revenge fantasies to fulfill that involve Molly, and since high school he's developed the ability to fulfill them. [Make a connection between those sentences.] [And what do you mean he's developed the ability?]

I'm an active member of RWA, have a Master's Degree in Creative Writing, and published short fiction with (list of publications with small press, royalty paying publishers). I look forward to your response.


Revised Version

Dear EE,

I noticed on your hypothetical website that you're interested in paranormal chick lit, and I would like to submit my 85,000-word novel, MY BIG SUCKY UNDEAD HIGH SCHOOL REUNION, for your consideration.

Molly the vampire is desperate to go to her class's 20th high school reunion. Hey, if nothing else she should be a shoo-in for "Youngest Looking." She made a blood pact with her high school buddies--they would all make it to the 20th reunion--and as a vamp she takes blood pacts seriously. So she defies the vampire law requiring the transformed to abandon their previous lives, and heads for her old school in Alabama.

Complications arise as soon as Molly arrives. One of Molly's former classmates wants to fulfill some massive revenge fantasies involving Molly--and since high school, he's developed the ability to fulfill them, having become the leader of an army of zombies. Vamp security officer Victor James has been sent from New York to drag Molly back to where she belongs--Incognitoville, like the rest of their long-lived kind. And adding to the confusion, someone on the Vampire Council doesn't want Victor, a candidate for the vampire presidency, coming back undead.

If you'd like to read more about Molly, the manuscript is complete and available. I'm an active member of RWA, have a Master's Degree in Creative Writing, and have published short fiction with (list of publications with small press, royalty paying publishers). I look forward to your response. Thank you.



Cute idea, funny title. Just a few points:

Why is Victor the biggest critic of little old Molly the vampire? It seems a candidate for the vampire presidency would have bigger fish to fry than Molly. You won't see Hillary Clinton or John McCain in Alabama with an election looming.

You call it chick lit, but the description could easily apply to mainstream comedy, or even young adult, assuming Molly was transformed while a young adult. Perhaps much of the book involves Molly's conversations with her old buddies, and perhaps you'd want to mention this, or something, to clarify what makes it chick lit.

New Beginning 122

Sometimes, when it was sticky hot and you couldn’t sleep, you woke me up in the middle of the night and we snuck out and walked to the beach. Or if you weren’t in the mood, we walked through the woods and talked until the sun came up.

That night, the night you told me, the last night we snuck out, we climbed out my bedroom window and down the apple tree with our beach towels on our shoulders like we’d done every summer since you were ten.

You had a small backpack slung across your shoulder that you kept hiking up as you climbed to the ground. When we hit bottom, we crawled beneath Mom and Dad’s bedroom window, you first because you always went first, and then we ran for the far side of the property. We had to muffle our laughs as we stood up and ran like bats out of hell to the street. At the next corner, we turned onto the trail on the left that led through the field to old man Garton’s driveway. It was one of those warm and humid nights, the kind that you hated. You always complained about the humidity. But that night you didn’t mention it.

We both knew we shouldn't be on old man Garton's property, but after you told me, told me what he'd done to you, I didn't care. It was as if we were in our own private world. Just you and me.

I didn't know then that it would be the last time I ever saw you. I didn't know that you would say good-bye and leave me forever, didn't know you would abandon me right after we'd killed old man Garton and you'd stuffed his head into your backpack and handed it to me. Hell . . . I didn't even know you weren't real.

Opening: Judy Gregerson.....Continuation: Kate Thornton/EE

24-Hour Contest

Below are 5 Guess the Plots from Face-Lifts of long ago. It's eight thirty A.M. Eastern time, Friday. You have until the same time Saturday to write the opening (100 - 300 words, don't go over) of a work of fiction (novel, short story, whatever) based on one of them. Email your response. Include your name (blogger or real) if you want to be credited. Winners will be posted on this blog, others at Evil Editor's Openings. Criteria: Humor, and whether it sounds like the beginning of a real work of fiction. Enter as often as you like.

1. Thou shalt not kill, so GABRIEL does everything but. Armed with stun guns and a rubber chicken, he goes to war against the Clown Cartel.

2. Bored with her tiresome literary agent husband, Stephanie decides to splurge on a depilatory regimen and try to bag a New York book editor.

3. When nine year old Seymour Mertens discovers the Ancient Sunglasses of Power in a hidden cave, he becomes the only force capable of stopping the Invaders from the Dark Dimension. He becomes... The Wayfarer.

4. This was not just any mousehole, as Tess the feline Guardian knew well. This was a doorway into the realm of Fairie, and if she lapsed in her duties the real world was doomed!

5. When Apple's low-budget CEO-cloning project goes awry, the company is left with no choice but to bring in Wozniak to clean up the mess.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Face-Lift 194

Guess the Plot

The Belly Dancer

1. Bob's wife has kicked him into the street. His daughter has a new, alarming hobby. His son has a tattoo of a too-familiar lady. And all thanks to...The Belly Dancer.

2. Bill Mash dreams that he's a belly dancer, but when he awakes and finds a small jewel in his navel, he begins to understand why he's been feeling so tired in the morning.

3. Tasked to supervise the belly dancers at the fair, who've been rumored to be putting on an obscene act, Dora not only doesn't find the dancing obscene--she abandons her high-society life to become a belly dancer herself.

4. Hortense signs up for ballroom dancing lessons, hoping to meet the man of her dreams. But the only man she meets is Amir Kufir, a taxi driver. Undaunted, she learns to dance for him.

5. John Figgle just wanted a part-time job. When the agency sent him to The Golden Scimitar, he thought it was as a waiter, but a mix-up in costumes put him on the dance floor. At least he had a veil.

6. Amber always dreamed of being a ballerina. When she meets a genie with a hearing problem, however, she winds up in a gypsy caravan.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

I learned from your Web site that you represent historical fiction, and I believe my recently completed manuscript, “The Belly Dancer,” a 90,000-word novel set against the backdrop of the belly dance scandal at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, might interest you. [This must be your lucky day; I represent only books set against the backdrop of the belly dance scandal at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. My peers said I was crazy to specialize in such a narrow field, but with your help, I will prove them wrong.]

The novel tells the story of Dora Chambers, a young woman from New Orleans who has just made the leap from working class to upper class by marrying a well-to-do banker and moving with him to Chicago, a city crackling with the energy and ambition of the Industrial Age. Upon her arrival, though, the women of high society are less than welcoming. She’s baffled and disheartened, but still determined to earn their favor. She uses her husband’s connections to land a place on the fair’s formidable Board of Lady Managers, an association of the city’s most influential women—and the same women who rule the local social scene.

In her eagerness to please the Lady Managers, Dora accepts a dreaded task: supervising the Midway’s Egyptian belly dancers with the purpose of tempering the scandalous performances that are jeopardizing the fair’s success. [Jeopardizing? Ensuring is more likely.] When she witnesses her first performance, it isn’t what she expects. She’s not repulsed; she’s fascinated—and as she gets to know the dancers, she finds they aren’t the miscreants they’re made out to be. Her admiration for the Egyptian women soon turns into friendship, and she can’t resist being enchanted by the dance. She’s drawn to the sheer joy of the movements and intrigued by this exotic lifestyle where women are not molded into something they’re not by tightly laced corsets or relegated to the role of pretty property for the men in their lives. [Egyptian men: the vanguard of the feminist movement.]

Dora becomes a quiet defender of the dancers even as she tries to win the favor of the Lady Managers. When her loyalties collide, however, a jealous rival who’s unearthed a dark secret from Dora’s past [She posed nude for Mathew Brady.] uses it to ruin Dora’s chances of ever being accepted into the world of wealth and privilege for which she’s longed all her life. Facing an uncertain future, Dora realizes she has learned something more than dancing from the Egyptians. She defies convention and expectations by doing something unthinkable: She takes control of her own life. She sheds her old dreams and reinvents herself as a belly dancer. [She has more to shed than just dreams--she weighs 190 pounds.]

This is my first novel. I’ve been a full-time journalist for more than a dozen years, and currently serve as the editor of a regional lifestyle magazine. Belly dancing and its history have been a passion of mine for more than fifteen years.

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


Revised Version

Dear Evil Editor:

I learned from your Web site that you represent historical fiction, and I believe my recently completed manuscript, The Belly Dancer, a 90,000-word novel set against the backdrop of the belly dance scandal at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, might interest you.

Dora Chambers has just made the leap from working class to upper class by marrying a banker and moving with him to Chicago, a city crackling with energy and ambition. Upon her arrival, she finds the women of high society less than welcoming. Disheartened, Dora determines to earn their favor. She uses her husband’s connections to land a place on the Fair’s Board of Lady Managers, an association of the city’s most influential women—the same women who rule the social scene.

Eager to please the Lady Managers, Dora accepts a dreaded task: supervising the midway’s Egyptian belly dancers and tempering their scandalous performances. But when she witnesses their dancing, she’s not repulsed; she’s fascinated—and as she gets to know the dancers, she finds they aren’t the miscreants they’re made out to be. Her admiration for them turns to friendship, and she is drawn to the sheer joy of their exotic lifestyle.

A jealous rival unearths a dark secret from Dora’s past and uses it to ruin Dora’s chances of being accepted into the world of wealth and privilege. Her future now uncertain, Dora draws upon what she has learned from the Egyptians. She defies convention and expectations, and reinvents herself as a belly dancer.

I’ve been a full-time journalist for many years, and currently serve as the editor of a regional lifestyle magazine. Belly dancing and its history have been my passion for more than fifteen years. Thank you for your time and consideration.



I didn't see a major problem here, but it seemed wordy and too long; I felt I could shorten it without losing much information by removing a few words here and a few phrases there. This should be easier to squeeze onto one page.

Did you write one of these?

A few of the openings came to me in comments anonymously, or I lost the email, so if you happen to recognize any of the following as the start to your novel, email me so I can give you credit for your work (if you want it) and so you can give or deny permission to include your brief excerpt in an anthology of New Beginnings.

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

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.

"We're all crumbling to the shore," the General said, "but I fear that I'm closest to the waves."

Alaya leapt into the stream, savoring the feel of water lapping at her ankles. She spotted a frog and focused on it.

Morgan, King of Glevissig, swore and shook his fist at the hillfort.

New Beginning 121

I sometimes become a hermit on the weekends.

It’s not that I’m anti-social. I like people a lot. Just last Friday night my roommate and I had twelve friends over and we all watched Beauty and the Beast and sang along. I don’t care what anyone says, Beauty and the Beast is perfectly acceptable for a college audience.

It’s just that I’m an introvert (and proud, dammit), and being around people makes me tired. Not sleepy, y’know, but “I’m going to kill someone if I don’t get peace and quiet right now” tired. So the weekends are my time to relax, and try to get some work done. Although, I admit it, sometimes not so much with the getting work done thing. I blame… uh… Neil for that. Yeah, I’ll blame Neil. He’s not here to defend himself, anyway, and he does have an annoying tendency to show up right when I’m about to get some Latin translated to try to drag me out of exile.

But I like my exile. I like my introvertedness and my hermitness. I could talk about them - and myself - until I'm hoarse. I love my own company, and that of anyone who wants to listen to me. Or even just look at me. But don't bother me, that's all I ask. Because, as you can tell, I'm really a quiet sort, given to classical pursuits.

Maybe I just like the word "introvert." Introvert. It sounds, y'know, classy. It's from Latin. I suppose you could call me an adolatent, an adolescent late into the time when I should be a grown-up.

So anyway, today Neil knocks at my door. He has that big dumb Neil grin, and he's holding a copy of Cinderella in one hand, Bambi in the other. I look at my Latin homework, consider kicking his ass for interrupting me yet again.

But I can't deny my inner longings.

It's party time, Disney style.

Continuation: Kate Thornton, Sarah

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Face-Lift 193

Guess the Plot

The Last Remaining Light

1. Huddled around the last, dim, electric bulb as the power slowly fades away, the townspeople of Kennebunk, Maine realize that maybe renewable energy would have been a good idea back in the 80s.

2. Orphan Caroline Light has to defeat erotic vampires, a school yard bully, and two handsome but disdainful wizards, in order to claim her inheritance.

3. Shipwrecked in the desert, Paula is befriended by an unusually intelligent camel who guides her to a land swarming with zombies.

4. In this intense psychological thriller, Tilly Fluppy is confused. Should she light her last remaining match and smoke her first cigarette? Or should she just forget smoking and save that match for the gasoline-soaked bodies of her schoolmates?

5. Marooned on a deserted island with only the contents of the duty free trolley for sustenance, the group from Nicotine Anonymous eye each other warily. Who will triumph and get his hands on that one last match?

6. Lotty Pearl thought seven hundred candles would make her bedroom look more romantic. When the fire blew out the last transformer, her house cast a romantic light over the whole town.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Paula wakes up in the middle of the desert without food or water and her only memory is of the tragic shipwreck that dumped her ashore. [They say desert shipwrecks are the worst kind.] She is immediately befriended by an unusually intelligent camel, [From what I've heard, that's an oxymoron. By which I mean camels are morons.] [Any camel that knows which end the food goes in and which end it comes out is an unusually intelligent camel.] and with his guidance she sets off to find civilization. A blistering journey across the desert places her in a foreign land hostile to both her country and gender; using her plain looks and foreign stature to her advantage, she disguises herself as a teenage male.

Taking up work as a contract mercenary, [You're lost, hungry, sunburned, and penniless. Solution: become a contract mercenary?] [See, minions, even mercenaries have to sign contracts, so get those book contracts in.] Paula discovers that all is not well in the land. The undead [Also known as the alive.] walk freely in certain, ever expanding unholy plots and a vault full of secret, dangerous artifacts turns up missing. [If the book has zombies, can we not call them zombies? Do you know how long the minions have to wait between zombie books? Only to have you call them "the undead?"] [Calling zombies "the undead" is like calling werewolves "the unbald."] Paula's proximity to the crime places her under the local Sheik's suspicion, but when a Djinn offers to sell her a magic amulet that matches a ring and dagger she found, she knows that someone has singled her out. [I don't see the connection between what comes before the "but" and what comes after it.] [Just because you were in the proximity doesn't mean you could have carried off a four-ton vault. And if you did carry it off, you wouldn't be in the proximity anymore.]

But why? Together with a politically estranged caravan guard and two old friends, [Old friends? From her past? What are they doing here?] Paula sets off to follow a series of clues embedded into the amulet, ring and dagger, all the while filling in the gaps in her memory. Her two friends, one a pirate and the other a musketeer, inform her that she is an orphan, for instance, but they offer no explanation as to why she can speak every language she encounters, instantly. [They never explain how everyone can speak English on Star Trek, either.] Or why she is the only one who can truly kill the undead things lurking throughout the land.

Paula's adventure climaxes in an ancient temple, under which lies a giant crystal maze. [I never saw the Lara Croft movies. This isn't the plot to one of those, is it?] At the apex of the maze, she discovers a vital clue to her past, unveiling her as nothing less than the daughter of an ancient goddess of war--the magical artifacts she'd found were drawn to her, to be used in a glorious resurrection. [No goddess would let her daughter be friends with a pirate.]

But when the Djinn appears, wielding the stolen artifacts, he offers Paula an ultimatum. Become a mortal vessel for his dark god, or die…[I'm guessing she finds a third option.] [Is she mortal? She's the daughter of an ancient goddess. How long has she been around?]

This novel, The Last Remaining Light, is complete at 100,000 words. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely Yours,


Well, it's all plot, and while a lot of plot isn't always a bad thing, this sounds crazier than it probably is (assuming it exists--it sounds wacky enough to be a gag). I'd cut out the camel and the mercenary job, and redo the plot description concentrating on the artifacts.

I can't tell whether it's fantasy (magic amulet), adventure (pirate), horror (zombies), children's (talking camel), mystery (embedded clues) or inspirational (glorious resurrection). Agents and editors want to know whom you see as your audience. Possibly everyone. But in trying to appeal to everyone, you may clutter the book with junk that doesn't work.