Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Face-Lift 282

Guess the Plot

Tarina's Lady

1. Jim Luck is trying life out as a girl, desperate to improve his circumstances. He's got a huge wig, a fabulous outfit and a blind date -- with Ike Tarina. Little does Jim know, Mr. T is a notorious drug dealer looking forward to a night of crime.

2. During the French revolution Count Tarina hid his family treasure under a Parisian mansion. The family was killed by a mob, but the treasure was never found. Centuries later a ghostly countess urges Tiny Jim to excavate the cellar. Will he find gold and jewels? Or will the undermined house collapse in a sinkhole, killing the tragic figures who dwell within?

3. Jewel thief Bud Winkerstein and cat burglar Stella Deluxe join forces to relieve a ruthless billionaire of the painting Tarina's Lady, but plans change when they discover a gallery full of stolen masterpieces in the billionaire's basement -- masterpieces which hold encoded secrets that spell d-o-o-m for an unbearable cooking show hostess.

4. The cruel Lord of Tarina Manor dies of Plague. His oppressed wife takes over and manages the estate very well -- simultaneously inventing the pop-over, increasing chicken and barley production, decoding the secrets of strange relics from an ancient barrow, and carrying on torrid affairs with numerous well-endowed neighboring royals.

5. After Jasper the Jubilant gets thrown out of his home, his ex-lover, Madi, lets him move in with her. Out of gratitude, Jasper the Jubilant writes a song to honor Madi, titled "Tarina's Lady." Will Madi be impressed? Will she want to rekindle their romance? And what about the children?

6. The tiny Italian mountain town of Tarina was bombed to splinters in World War II, but the town's statue of the Virgin Mary survived without a scratch. Now a descendant of the statue's sculptor wants to know who stole her so he can retrieve the ancient fortune hidden inside.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

Tarina’s Lady is set in a world where magic is commonplace, and offers its own challenges to the inhabitants. Jasper the Jubilant senses his brother’s impending death but is helpless to prevent it. [For his brother is named Irving the Incurable.] A penniless bachelor, Jas defies tradition in order to raise his brother’s orphans himself. When his landlady throws them out, Jas has no one to turn to except his former lover Madi [the Magnanimous]. Jasper has his doubts about the wisdom of moving in with Madi, but the security of the children is more important than any risk to his heart.

A corporal in the city guard, Madi prides herself on being as tough and ruthless as her job requires, but she can’t resist playing the gallant knight to Jasper’s damsel in distress. She welcomes Jasper and his niece and nephew into her home, expecting them to be nothing more than a temporary nuisance. [Don't you just hate it when you invite your ex-boyfriend to move into your house, and he never leaves?] Then her feline familiar spots a corpse floating in the river. Madi performs a ritual on the body and discovers that the death was no accident. Shaken by what she has seen, [She prides herself on being tough and ruthless, but she's shaken at the discovery that a body floating in the river is murder?] Madi returns home and finds unexpected comfort in Jasper’s arms -- a comfort that is shattered when Jasper’s sister Ingrid [the Ignominious] catches them together and demands the return of the children. [Return of the children . . . to her? When did she ever have them? They can't be the children of Jasper's brother and sister. Unless . . . Ewwww.] Outraged by Ingrid’s behavior, Madi vows to help Jas keep the children.

For his part, Jas refuses to surrender his niece and nephew to his unfeeling sister, but the case against his guardianship claim grows stronger by the day. In a desperate bid to strengthen his claim, Madi proposes marriage, [She dumped this guy a year ago because he was a penniless mooch. Now he's a penniless mooch with two kids in tow, and she's willing to marry him? Basically to irritate his sister?] and Jasper has to decide just how far he will go to keep the children with him. Can he really trap the woman he loves into a marriage of convenience? [Hey, that was her idea.] Or worse yet, condemn his bereaved niece and nephew into the hands of a woman who cares more for the dead than the living? [I assume you mean Ingrid, but it's not clear what you mean by she cares for the dead.]

A fantasy novel with a strong romantic plot line, Tarina’s Lady is complete at 92,000 words. I am currently working on another novel set in the same universe. [Thanks for narrowing down the setting of your next book to only one universe. Could you go a little farther and reveal whether it's set in the same galaxy as this book?] Thank you for your time and consideration.


[note on the title: Tarina is the name of the patron goddess of female warriors, and "Tarina's Lady" is the name of a song Jas writes about Madi.]


If the corpse in the river is a vital plot point, tell us more about it. Who is it, and what does it have to do with these characters? If it isn't, drop it from the query, because right now it's creating more questions than it's answering.

I'd like more about the ramifications of magic being commonplace. Madi has a familiar and performs a ritual. Who else has magical powers? Everyone? Ingrid? If the Jas-Madi relationship (Jas-Madi? Isn't that a brand of rice?) is the main plot thread, how is it, specifically, affected by magic?

What's Ingrid's motivation? Is she better able to support the kids? Does she have a long-standing feud with Jas? Jas being penniless, you might make it clear why the kids are better off with him. There are hints that Ingrid is an ogre, but why not spell it out?

Is Jas pronounced Jass or Jazz? And what's he got to be so jubilant about?

New Beginning 228

“There’s a parachute in that locker,” Sam yelled. Anti-artillery bullets shattered the cockpit, ricocheted inside the old plane. I buckled my parachute.

“They’ll shoot you down. We have to reach the escarpment. There are caves there that can provide shelter.” Engine #4 burst into flame. Airspeed dropped. The plane shook. Tried to fly. Falling. Glenn throttled down #4.

“Grab the stick and help me pull it up. We need to gain altitude.” I jumped into the copilot’s seat and yanked the stick. Ground rose faster than the plane climbed. Glen bent the throttle levers back. The engines screamed in death agonies, climbing once more. An updraft lifted the plane. It clipped trees. Killed birds. The escarpment came into view.

“Jump now.” Sam yelled, bracing the stick. Engine bearings shrieked as metal scored metal. Engine #1 seized, ripped apart. We jumped. We watched. Half-wingless, the plane spiraled downward. A final descent. A fiery end.

Too late I realized that if the plane was clipping treetops and killing birds, it sure as hell wasn't high enough for our chutes to open.

So within moments we were impaled on sheared tips of trees. Then we grabbed our sticks again, if you know what I mean, because hey, when you're impaled on treetops in the middle of nowhere, you might as well yank the stick.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Dr. Hack

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

New Beginning 227

When someone's shooting at you, run in a zigzag.

When you're chubby and prone to hysteria, try not to get shot at in the first place.

Chubbiness and hysteria, along with lung-lancing Chicago cold and sneaker soles worn to tractionlessness, worked against Lacie as she willed herself through the parking lot. Her foot shot out from under her; despite the fact she'd been running head down, eyes-on-the-ground, Lacie had failed to notice an inconveniently-placed patch of ice.

Her ass hit the ground, hard. Knocked breathless, Lacie thought of nothing. Seconds later, as she scrambled to get back on her feet, Lacie thought two things: my coccyx is bruised, and why haven't I been shot?

Afraid to lift her head out of a childish conviction that to look for the bad guy was to see him, and to see him was to die, Lacie concentrated on slowing and steadying her breathing so she could hear.

What she heard was, “Did you get ’em?”

Lacie shrieked. She spun around to look right into the face of a heavy-set blonde. “Jeez, Chrissy,” she said, panting. “You scared the heck out of me.”

“Did you get ’em?”

“Here.” Lacie showed her the box. “We split ’em 50/50, just like we agreed. Right?”

A cacophony of screaming engines and sirens accompanied by strobing blue, red and white lights, interrupted them. Lacie started to hyperventilate. “Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod . . . ” The two women were now looking down the barrels of a dozen regulation issue revolvers held by a dozen super-pissed members of Chicago’s finest.

“Jesus, Lacie, what did you do?”

Lacie glanced back at the store. “I--I took the last dozen sugar-frosted double jelly supremes.”

Opening: CLD.....Continuation: Anonymous

Face-Lift 281

Guess the Plot

The Opposite of Bob

1. Bob is a pimply, poor-mouthed nerd, but when Satan comes calling, Bob sells his soul in order to become his opposite in every way. When his silver-tongued opposite brings the world to the brink of destruction, can Bob overcome laws of physics to save humanity . . . and the only girl who liked him as a nerd?

2. Everything goes wrong for Bob, from getting crapped on by geese to getting attacked by a rickshaw driver to losing his pants. Ultimately Bob decides he must take control of his life or he will never find happiness. So he packs up his belongings and moves to Cleveland.

3. Bob Smith vows to change everything. Not just a little, but a lot: do the opposite. He changes his name to Varthurthra, gets a new religion, starts recycling, sells the house and divorces Nancy, moves onto a sailboat with two parrots, Ted and Todd, and embarks for the Falkland Islands.

4. For the last three months, whoever sat across from Bob Starking at the Senior Center's weekly Pinochle Night died within a week of natural causes. When Charlotte is scheduled to be the next one to sit opposite "The Card-game Kevorkian," can she find a way to change Bob's luck?

5. Wendy goes to work as usual on Monday morning but where is her boss, Bob White Cloud? He had a little accident in the top secret anti-matter booth in the basement. Can she bring him back? Or is it more like time to take over the world?

6. The deranged Dr. Stippleton has created a lurching anti-Bob spy robot to replace Bob, the lowlife scumbag who stole the heart of show-stopping dancer Teresa Underworld. The mad doctor stands poised in the alley, ready to make the switch. But Secret Agent Ted Rugovich watches with binoculars, mafia hit man Bruno Villi waits around the corner, and Teresa removes her stage makeup, wondering if it's time to reveal she's really -- a vampire.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Agent,

Does God play favorites? Are some people blessed and others magnets for misfortune?

The main character in my comic noir novel, Bob, believes so. The Opposite of Bob takes the down-on-his-luck accountant on a roller coaster ride of mishaps, adventure, self-discovery, and love. In the end, Bob escapes his past and embraces a bright future.

I chose to query you because in an interview with The Writer you said, “The one thing that gets me every time is a great black comedy… I’ll read anything involving a road trip.” And, as it happens, my comic noir novel [now] involves the main character making two epic journeys to find what he has lost: himself.

I believe my novel will appeal to fans of Garrison Keillor and Richard Russo. Although I wrote this novel to entertain readers, I believe it also conveys a message of hope. If Bob can overcome his problems, anyone can. [Anything a fictional character can do, any real person can do too.]

I have traveled throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. [If the book is set in these places, say so.] I am passionate about ethnic cuisine and music. I speak five languages and have a Master’s degree in English. I am currently teaching English at the United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain, the U.A.E.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Please find my novel’s synopsis and sample chapter below. May I send you The Opposite of Bob?


The Opposite of Bob

Comic Noir Novel of 95,000 words

Middle-aged man encounters surreal mishaps until he stops blaming others for his troubles and takes control of his life.

Bob Seidenbusch still puts flowers by his ex-wife Caroline’s photo on her birthday, though she left him fifteen years ago to find herself in India. [Going to India to try to find someone--even yourself--can take at least fifteen years. The place is crawling with people. It would be like going to a convention of gay black interior decorators and searching for a Republican.] He hasn’t been on a date since Clinton was in office. The tiny house he lives in is a cave, his car is a rust-bucket, and he is balding and twenty-pounds overweight. [A list within a list. Impressive. But can you do a list within a list within a list?] He has not been promoted in eighteen years. The highpoint of his week is the meatloaf special at a local greasy spoon and the chance to talk to waitress/classical pianist, Mercury Jones. His family, his best friend, Smitty, and Lamentation, the grey cat he feeds, are all disappointed with him. Bob wonders if God is out to get him; even his petitions to the Almighty are answered with form letters.

[Dear Petitioner:

The Divine Creator regrets that the volume of correspondence He receives leaves Him unable to respond individually to all inquiries. Hey, I'm just three people, I can't be everywhere at once. Know ye that we readeth all supplications and implorations and consider them carefully.


In the worst twenty-four hours of his life, Bob is passed over for promotion again, his dumpster explodes showering him with liquid refuse, and a flock of Southbound geese rain feces upon him. Fed up, he escapes to his father’s cabin only to find it has burned down. In the next three days, his luck goes from bad to cataclysmic: [So that was only the worst twenty-four hours of his life so far.] he is shot by deer hunters, his car dies, he is drugged by weirdoes, he is assaulted by a minister, he is involved in a car accident, he is stranded at a bus station, and he catches a ride with a cursed trucker who crashes into a herd of deer. [We get it, we get it. He's going through a rough period. No need to list every little thing. I mean, who hasn't had a car die on them, or been assaulted by a minister?] [The next day Bob's life goes from cataclysmic to catastrophic as he loses his remote control, gets a paper cut, spills mustard on his favorite t-shirt, gets stuck in traffic, and plunges off a cliff to his death.]

Happy to be alive and resolved to better his life, Bob returns to Minneapolis. [Not a good start.] Things look up, when he, with prodding from Smitty, asks Mercury out. Just as their relationship blossoms, she receives a job offer in Cleveland and Caroline contacts him for the first time in ten years. Torn between the two women, he decides to travel to India and see Caroline, costing him his job and jeopardizing his romance with Mercury. [Jeopardizing? If you ditch your sweetie to visit your ex-wife whom you haven't seen in fifteen years, in India, it's over. Believe me, it's over.]

Bob’s weeklong journey to the Subcontinent is disastrous. The airline loses his luggage and denies his existence. He meets Sundeep: driver, tour guide, legal and cultural advisor, and friend. With his help and lots of cash, Bob sees many of India’s tarnished wonders and survives being arrested for killing a prostitute, [You're allowed to kill prostitutes in India. It's expected.] catching Delhi Belly, losing his pants in a crowded bazaar, and being attacked by an auto-rickshaw driver with a cricket bat. His rendezvous with Caroline never materializes. After a mental “falldown,” he consults an enlightened Swami who tells him, “It’s all your fault.” He leaves India angry, tired, broke, and confused. [An entire list of layered lists. We have the overall list of Subcontinent disasters, which includes lost luggage, failure to meet Caroline, Swami's incisive analysis. Layered in there we have the list of Sundeep's roles. Presumably it's Sundeep's role of tour guide that leads to the list of amusing incidents (loss of pants, Delhi Belly, rickshaw, murder of prostitute), and we close with a list describing Bob's situation upon leaving India.]

In a final twist, Bob runs into Caroline in the Dubai International Airport to discover that she wants him back. [They say if you hang around the Dubai airport long enough, you'll eventually see someone you know. Though not necessarily your ex-wife.] But, he no longer wants her. After mumbling a half-hearted promise to keep in touch, he boards the plane that leads him back to where his journey began. When he arrives home, Bob has to choose between a promotion from his former employer and an uncertain future in Cleveland with Mercury. He chooses Mercury, [but thanks to a clerical error, he ends up on the planet Mercury; Bob just can't get a break.] packs up his cat and belongings, and drives off to meet his destiny.


Obviously you missed the post where we declared one list per query, three items per list. You want to give the impression that the book is funny, so list the geese, the dumpster, and the rickshaw driver. Then get to the important stuff. If you wanted to give the impression it was tragic, you could list the meat loaf, the prostitute, and missing the Caroline connection. Then get to the important stuff. The agent is being exposed to your writing for the first time. She would rather see your ability to elaborate on two or three important ideas than to list twenty-five tangential events.

The query could easily give the impression the book is a series of unfortunate events, with little in the way of character development.

So the "two epic journeys" Bob takes to find himself are to India and Cleveland?

Not sure I'd call his experiences a roller coaster ride, unless I'm going to discuss its ups and downs. Also, not sure about the term "comic noir." Though you seem to mean it as a translation of black comedy, my research of the term (which consists entirely of Google) brings up graphic novels of dark detective stories.

This is probably going to remind people of the Seinfeld's in which George does the opposite of everything, in which Kramer burns down George's fiancee's father's cabin, in which they all go to India, in which Kramer starts a rickshaw business, in which Jerry gets away with murdering a prostitute.

The cover letter was of little value. I'd dump most of it and condense the synopsis into something that'll fit on one page.

Monday, February 26, 2007

New Beginning 226

They came down their Parisian house’s stone steps and opened the massive front door to a night unseasonably humid and warm, the ground still wet from a freak rainstorm.

Johnny dressed like a Frenchman these days, Annie noticed, the cut of his sports coat flashier than anything he would have worn in the States. As usual, the good and the bad overflowed from her Chantal Thomas velvet dress in a very un-French manner. They walked in silence on rue Nicolo, under the old fashion street lamps. She buried her hand in Johnny’s but he let go of it after only a minute. “You drive,” he said, stopping in front of her filthy minivan. “You hold your liquor better than I do.”

She eyed the Maserati Grand Sport parked across the street. “Let me drive your car,” she almost begged.

Johnny had a small smile. “Woman, are you mad?”

Annie waved longingly at the black Maserati. “One day,” she told the car. She pointed to the corvette, then to her heart. “One day, you and I . . . ”

Corvette? Annie stopped in her tracks and rubbed her eyes. Yes, it was a Corvette; and not a pristine example either. She turned back to Johnny who stared at her with a dumb country grin, standing there with a brown bagged quart of Thunderbird in his fist. Where was her Margaux?

Johnny’s “sports coat” bore an iron-on patch with his name and “When Your Tires Are Tired” in white lettering.

This wasn’t Paris at all, this was Poloxey Mills; “Rue Nicolo” was nothing but the piss-stained alleyway leading to the parking lot behind their tenement building. She felt disoriented and queasy.

“I . . . I don’t feel like going out now,” Annie said, her daydream in pieces.

What?" Johnny looked at her, incredulous. "I made reservations at the clam house!” He snorted like a horse and shrugged his shoulders, then flipped a cigarette into his mouth and lit it. “Whatever, bitch. Not like you couldn’t stand to miss a feed.” His mouth curved down in contempt, and he blew smoke into her face.

Annie smiled to herself. This was more like it. "Say that again," she said, with a shudder. "In French."

Opening: Anon......Continuation: ril

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Face-Lift 280

Guess the Plot

Like Running in Dreams

1. You know how in a dream, when you really have to get somewhere and you try to run, and it's like slogging through neck-deep molasses? Reading this book is, yeah, kinda like that.

2. Scantily clad Screaming Mimi clings to the ankle of handsome Thor Jones as he battles the Terrible Thing From The Deep with his Cosmic Zap Gun and a Magic Chopstick. It looks like The End for our sexy duo, but wait! What's in that Golden Bubble descending from the clouds? Could it be Wizard Squeezle with a bottle of his patented Disappear-Me Juice?

3. Renae Hayes is running as hard as she possibly can, but her legs won’t move her forward. A faceless man is closing in. But who is he? The guy who's been making obscene phone calls? The peg-legged oil rigger? The Bulgarian? No! Not . . . the Bulgarian! Anyone but the Bulgarian! Please, let it all be a dream!

4. I'm running, running, trying to get away, and now there's a dead end with a big wall and I'm trapped, but I leap into the air and push off the top of the wall and they'll never catch me now . . . but I've jumped too high!! I'm six stories up and now I'm fallllliiinnnggg!!!! Help!! I'm gonna diiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeee!!!

5. Mildewe Crubbs needs to shed 150 pounds, but the treadmill at the gym is placed smack in the window facing a Cheesecake Factory. Running in nightmares is more like it.

6. Hordes of imps pursue Ellie across the land of Nod as she flees with their bewitched centipede, stolen just as Wizard Tweedle unleashed a curse of Tee-De-Umms. Meanwhile Prince Bartok is sailing toward Zoology Bay, hoping to steal the centipede for himself, unaware the oysters are steaming because of an undersea volcano that will soon blow them all to Mars unless someone tall dark and handsome marries the terrifying Queen Sunshine.

Original Version

Dear Agent Who I Have Researched As Thoroughly As Could Be Done Without Stalking You (no time for quite this level of due diligence, so sorry), With Your Gender Correctly Noted (using Mr. or Ms., which should cover it just fine - unless you’ve had yourself a little merry little sex change recently), Whose Name is Absolutely Spelled Correctly (unless you’ve had a name change or name spelling change which hasn’t yet shown up when Googling you or checking your website, if I am lucky enough that you both --- A: have a website, and B: keep said website updated), and Whose Query Guidelines Have Been Noted Forthwith So That This Query Could Be Individualized From Here to Eternity: [Even Evil Editor never tosses a query into the recycling pile before he finishes reading the salutation. Don't give him an excuse to start.]

I am seeking representation for Like Running in Dreams, a coming-of-age novel, complete at 75,000 words.

It is the early 1970s, and Renae Hayes, born in the late 1950s, is a late boomer longing for a way out of the narrow world she lives in. Her way out will be a circuitous route, winding around two defining moments in her life. One, Renae has not talked about; the other, she has worked hard not to remember. [Thus, out of respect for her, I will not mention them in this query.]

Renae’s family moves away from her father’s Depression-Era Irish immigrant neighborhood, and from the small coal-mining town of her mother’s youth. [Is this one move or two? Is dad's neighborhood in mom's town? If so, isn't it their neighborhood? Not that I actually care where they used to live, but I don't want to be confused in the first plot sentence.] Renae’s father brings with him a high intelligence and an unpredictable temperament that is not often cool enough to count on. [Which explains why he always keeps an abacus in the refrigerator.] Renae’s mother brings with her a beautiful face and a strong predilection for pretending, in the face of all things ugly, that nothing is ever wrong. Renae and her brother Charlie learn to live under the control of a closed, contorted family – what passes on the outside world as a warm, loving home contains a long-lived underlying secret system of emotional abuse and betrayal. Renae and Charlie form a closed system of their own, become comrades-in-arms at a very young age, taking care of each other as best they can. [I'm guessing this is the story of Renae, and that we don't need to know about her parents and brother until we're reading the book. And if we do need to know about them, it needs to be more specific. This is all pretty general.]

Entering adulthood, Renae is emotionally addicted to the art of the cut and run, collecting and discarding the men she becomes involved with; Charlie has problems of his own. They are both masters at the art of pretending nothing is wrong. [Too much about people pretending nothing's wrong, and not enough about what is wrong.]

Cut and run is a really good game to spend time with in the aimless 1970s – along the way, Renae meets the Gonad Looking for Trouble, Obscene Phone Call Guy, Too-Blue-to-Be-True Horny Fairy Guy, and shares a summer with a rock-hard lifeguard and a Bulgarian named Valeri. She spends a long, long weekend [Three years.] in New Orleans with a rod-legged oil rigger, [Rod-legged oil rigger: good tongue twister. Say it five times fast.] [I think you'll find "peg-legged oil rigger" a much more compelling character, and easier to say really fast. (He has a pegleg because he fell off the oil rig and a herd of sharks ate his lower leg.)] frequents discotheques in Germany with Saarland Harald, [Who? Should I have heard of Saarland Harald? Sounds like a German newspaper.] and scopes out a field of pot dreams [What does that mean?] in Daniel Boone National Park with the Ski-Boat Guy. It seems that Renae is traveling down a pointless path, mirroring the drift of the decade.

Underneath all of the pretending, Renae sees her life moving nowhere. [I see this query moving nowhere. Are we going to get to the two defining moments? Instead of listing eight guys Renae had sex with, list the three funniest sounding ones (being sure to include the Bulgarian, of course, but don't reveal his name; call him a mysterious Bulgarian) and elaborate on one of them, so we get some idea what these relationships were like.] She remembers the feeling of running in place. In the recurring dream of her childhood, she is running and running as hard as she possibly can to round the corner of the dark mossy place outside the house she grew up in. A faceless man is running up behind her; she hears his breathing as he closes in. She is terrified of being caught; her legs won’t move her forward. [In Evil Editor's recurring dream, a flock of man-eating salmon are chasing me as I wheel myself backwards up a spiral staircase in the Empire State Building in a wheelchair.] [Although tonight I think I'll start having a new recurring dream about a mysterious Bulgarian.] This is the story of Renae, who has kept herself from falling apart but doesn't have a roadmap pointing the way to putting herself truly together. Drawing the map herself, she turns to face the past and learns much more than she expected.

I would be happy to send a copy of the manuscript for your review. I have included a SASE.
Thank you for your time and consideration.



It's not specific enough. The only specificity is the names she gives her men. I want to know what happens in the book. What's the plot?

It may be Renae's memoir, but it's got to be tied together by Renae's quest. She suffered emotional abuse growing up, then she was unable to trust or commit to men, and then . . . the defining events of her life happened? She realized she wanted x and did y, and now she's gonna be okay? "She turns to face the past and learns much more than she expected," is too vague. What are x and y? Until I know that, I'm more interested in the mysterious Bulgarian's story than in Renae's.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Face-Lift 279

Guess the Plot

One Way to Paris

1. Library assistant Gertrude Moffin is too claustrophobic to take the Chunnel and too afraid of flying to take a plane. When a mysterious man offers her passage on a Unesco hospital ship, she knows it is her last shot at a vacation on the Continent.Will she accept without a round trip guarantee?

2. When sexy spinster Amelia Pettipants goes undercover in a lingerie factory, she discovers a frightening plot to blow up the southbound Chunnel using explosives hidden in corset-boning. Can she prevent a rapid British population decline? Or will France be forced to digest the influx of British cuisine?

3. It's good-bye Siberia! Hello world! when Demetri Pushkin uses duct tape and baling wire to reinforce the machinery of his grandpa's old car, waves adieu, and steers toward Paris with his dog Groucho.

4. This exposé of the Parisian chocolate factories explains why the world can't get enough French chocolate. The trail of clues leads from the Belgian guilds to the Pennsylvania countryside to the war in Afghanistan. The investigators conclusion: "It's just a freaking Hershey bar sprinkled with opium!"

5. Fatima escapes from an arranged marriage, looking to Paris for a new life. Unfortunately, a clerical error lands the burqa-clad beauty in Paris, Texas. Hilarity ensues when the handsome Homeland Security agent takes her aside for some 'probing' questions.

6. When Annie is forced to rent out rooms in her downtown Paris home, she gets some odd tenants, including a woman whose husband apparently has rabies, and a master vegetable peeler from the United States.

Original Version

Attn. Evil Editor

Query for ONE WAY TO PARIS, a story of resilience, rebirth and the power of love.

Annie’s husband died on her two years ago and she’s not exactly recovering. [In fact, she's still trying to get out from under him. What was she thinking, marrying a sumo wrestler?] She’s only thirty-five but has three demanding children in tow. [The word "but" implies that it's unusual for someone only thirty-five to have three children.] Sure her beautiful house is located in the heart of Paris, but it’s derelict and bankruptcy is looming. Annie, an American, is surrounded by French people, a breed she doesn’t particularly trust. She’s anxious whenever she leaves her house, she’s too fat, at least by Parisian standards, and for a reason she can hardly admit to herself, she’s angry, angry as hell. These days, Annie’s options are, unlike her, pretty thin. [That's two cracks about her weight in two sentences. Meeeoow.]

Lucas, her wealthy, blue-blooded, Lanvin-wearing friend who knocks at her door daily and complains about her American coffee will not, absolutely not, charm her into selling her beloved house, her one anchor in this world, for her own good. What Annie will do, in part to make ends meet, in part to infuriate Lucas, is rent out rooms to perfect strangrs. “Start over in Paris?” says her small ad placed in two American newspapers.

Enter Lola from Bel Air, who’s everything Annie wishes she were: gorgeous, even-keeled, and long-legged. Lucas, that rat, is smitten. They don’t know that Lola is secretly hiding from her violent husband, who’s currently foaming at the mouth and circling the globe in search of her. [If you're looking for someone, and you've managed to narrow down her location to "somewhere on the globe," it's time to settle for someone else with the same color hair.] Althea, the second tenant also looks harmless at first. She’s a quiet young mid-westerner, master vegetable peeler, [She can finish off a good-sized cuke in six strokes.] albeit anorexic and crippled with a teensy bit of a death wish. Althea puts Annie’s patience and empathy bone to the test and she wonders if Althea will manage to kill herself before she [Who's "she"?] strangles her with her bare hands. Things unravel completely with the arrival of a third tenant, a smoldering French artist named Jared. The women in the house swoon while Jared spends his nights roaming the underbelly of Paris or locked up in police stations. [Not clear how Jared's arrival and the resulting swooning constitutes a complete unraveling.] [Also, this makes it sound like it's his roaming and getting into trouble that makes them swoon, rather than his accent and that cute thing he does with his eyebrows.]

What did Annie get herself into? The plan was for them to start over! But what happens when you get involved with people is that your heart might open up in dangerous ways. You might face the lies you’ve been repeating to yourself for the last ten years, and you might--kicking and screaming and against your better judgment--begin to trust again, forgive yourself, and perhaps even fall in love.

ONE WAY TO PARIS is a work of women’s fiction and is 95,000 words long. I hope you will be interested in reading my manuscript and look forward to hearing from you.

Best Regards,


Heavy on the synopsis side, but I'd rather hear more about the book than a list of credits--unless those credits sparkle. This makes the book sound entertaining, amusing, fun. Assuming the book is fairly light (describing it as a story of resilience, rebirth and the power of love doesn't get that across; perhaps you could describe it as exuberant, spirited, or lighthearted without sounding like you're bragging, the way you would if you called it hilarious, rollicking, or effervescent), the tone is spot-on.

I don't, however, think you're fitting all of that on a page, so here's a shorter version that might squeeze in.

Revised Version

Annie’s husband died two years ago and she’s not exactly recovering. Her beautiful house in the heart of Paris faces bankruptcy, she's surrounded by people she doesn’t particularly trust (the French), and for a reason she won't admit to herself, she’s angry as hell. These days, Annie’s options are (unlike Annie) pretty thin.

Lucas, her blue-blooded, Lanvin-wearing friend who knocks at her door daily and complains about her American coffee will not, absolutely not, charm her into selling her beloved house, her one anchor in this world. What Annie will do, partly to infuriate Lucas, is rent out rooms to perfect strangers. “Start over in Paris?” reads her small ad, placed in two American newspapers.

Enter Lola from Bel Air, who’s everything Annie wishes she were: gorgeous, even-keeled, and long-legged. Lucas, that rat, is smitten. They don’t know that Lola is secretly hiding from her violent husband. Althea, the second tenant, also looks harmless: a quiet young mid-westerner, a master vegetable peeler, but crippled by a bit of a death wish. When a third tenant arrives, a smoldering French artist named Jared, the women in the house swoon.

Annie's plan was to start over, but when you get involved with people, your heart can open up in dangerous ways. You might confront the lies you’ve been telling yourself. You might forgive yourself, begin to trust again, and even . . . fall in love.

ONE WAY TO PARIS is a lighthearted, 95,000-word story of resilience and the power of love. I hope you will be interested in reading the manuscript.

Best Regards,

Friday, February 23, 2007

New Beginning 225

Dahanagh had just finished rounds when the gryphon appeared overhead, its wings beating in doubletime as it selected its landing place. Every torch flame flattened under the wafts of its downstrokes.

Lowd Company R had no air sentry, so Dahanagh fell out ten men to confront the rider once the gryphon landed. In loose order, they surrounded the gryphon as it stretched its talons towards the ground. Torchlight licked along crossbow shafts and picked out sword hilts.

Praed nudged Dahanagh with one bony elbow. "Meat we'd be if it chose."

"It's Vessy," Dahanagh said. "Live cargo, too."

"That's not being Vessy."

"It's his gryph."

The gryphon landed, and its eagle head turned quickly this way and that, assessing the threat. Arched over its back, its wings stayed ready for an emergency take-off.

Dahanagh peered at the rider, who had his head bent down, unbuckling the strap that secured him to the gryphon's back.

Hard to tell in flickering torchlight, and with the leather cap the rider wore, but maybe Praed had the right of it. That didn't look like Vessy.

Dahanagh broke from the group and warily approached. The gryphon shifted its feet and belched, a deep gutterance that echoed from the battlements. The stench settled around them and filled their lungs.

From the number tattooed on the creature’s rump, Dahanagh confirmed it was Vessy’s Gryph; but Vessy was a big, ugly lump of a man, and the one who stepped down from the Gryphon now was younger, slimmer and had better of the looks about him.

“This be Vessy’s gryph,” Dahanagh said, taking the charge. “Where’s Vessy being?”

“I really have no idea,” the pilot replied, by his words an obvious outlander. “I found this chap wandering alone at the edgelands.”

“What be you carrying?”

“Got me there again, I’m afraid. Vicious little buggers though.”

Dahanagh grunted as he continued his inspection. The gryphon lifted its tail. Dahanagh recognized the sign and stepped back just before the gryph let loose a steaming, stinking mound.

“Praed,” Dahanagh shouted, examining the excrement. “I . . . I think I’ve found Vessy!”

Praed rushed over and took a look. “That’s not being Vessy,” he said. “That’s being a steaming pile of gryphon shit.”

Dahanagh scratched his head. “So you’re right,” he said, and paused for the thinking. “Send a man for the barrow and carry this to town -- his wife won’t be knowing the difference of it.”

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: ril

Now in Existence!

The new book is now available. If you pre-ordered it, it will be in the mail no later than Monday. If you order now, it'll be in the mail by Monday. It includes most of the Q & A's, and lots of the funniest stuff to appear on this blog. If it's one of the funniest books ever published (and trust me, it is), you, as an aspiring author, will be among the few to realize it.

Other writing books bore you with information that never seems to lead to publication. Evil Editor believes that if you're going to read a useless book, you might as well be entertained in the process.

Your RWA chapter should buy a batch to give as welcome gifts to new members. Your critique partner deserves a gift, just for putting up with you. Why, Christmas is right around the corner.

Here's where to order.

You asked for it . . .

The power rankings in the previous post spurred several emails asking where these characters could be found. Miss Snark gets mentioned in passing now and then. Zombies, vampires, and Miss Pettipants have come up so often you can't miss them. Rogue Mages were in the previous post. Here are the earliest appearances of the rest:

Ruthless Vigilante Sorcerers

Crazed midwife

Brutal eunuch



Zombie cow

Obsessed serial killer

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Face-Lift 278

Guess the Plot

The Mages of Triannis

1. A psychic courtesan and her husband must find the assassins who killed the emperor. But the assassins are also after them. The assassins, of course, are mages. From Triannis.

2. A dozen role-playing friends rent a Welsh island castle for a week of Medieval fun and romance, but things turn strange when a mysterious body is found in the tower, the bridge to the mainland collapses, and the only "rescue" ship has a crew of pirates led by two prankster Mages.

3. Young Mary-Annette's delusions of grandeur seem harmless until the mages of nearby Triannis start wearing sheep's clothing to get under her pretty shepherdess skirt. When her little brother posts the resulting action on YouTube, the mages are caught looking sheepish.

4. Icelandic geothermal engineer Tommy Thorsen is surprised to find a crowd of medieval looking eccentrics in his kitchen. The Mages have arrived to announce he must help defeat the Wizards of Woe, seal the mid-Atlantic rift, and reset the global thermostat or the Earth will soon be drier than Mars. Having been spurned by Roxanne, Tom is in a bitter mood and says . . . No.

5. Timothy becomes one of the galaxy's greatest economic theorists despite a rare learning disorder in which he sees the beginnings of words upside-down. This explains why, when he volunteered to handle the wage negotiations on the coal-mining planet of Triannis, he was surprised to find fireballs being hurled at him.

6. Dublin's best Goth-rock punk band is known as the MAGES OF TRIANNIS. They do everything to flaunt the supernatural shtick: paint runes on stuff, put Tarot cards in their promo kits, perform stage magic at all their concerts -- until a real wizard takes offense and decides to destroy them.

Original Version

Dear Agent X,

I learned on your agency’s website that you are currently interested in fantasy manuscripts. I think that you may be interested in my novel, The Mages of Triannis, complete at 108,000 words. I would like to invite you to review the manuscript and consider it for possible representation.

When Corina is married off to Lord Raul of Berentel she is thrust into a world of political intrigue that neither her training as a courtesan nor her psychic talents could have ever prepared her for. [A guy with the title of Lord shouldn't have any trouble finding a wife from the ranks of nobility, and maintaining a side relationship with his courtesan. Appearances are everything.] [Plus, being married to someone who can read minds is just asking for trouble.] After the Emperor is magically assassinated Rual [That's two different spellings of the guy's name in two sentences. I predict later spellings of Raoul, Rollo, Ricardo, and Borgo the Disemboweler.] and Corina are charged with finding the murderer, all the while being hunted themselves by an old enemy determined to destroy their bloodline and usurp Rual’s inheritance. In a society where magic is commonplace they are among the last telepaths, condemned to death by the crimes of their ancient forbears should they be discovered. [Discovered to exist? The guy's a Lord, people must know he's alive. Discovered to be telepaths? If it's not known that they're telepaths, why are they charged with finding the assassins? A Lord and a courtesan are the best investigators available?] As the palace descends into mourning tensions mount, relationships shatter, and a desperate killer stalks both Rual and the widowed Empress. Soon Corina and Rual find themselves in the middle of a political war of magic and deception, fighting for their lives with nothing less than the throne of the Empire at stake.

The Mages of Triannis is my second novel, the first being Arcadia which is currently on submission to Luna Books. I am a professional horseback riding instructor in upstate New York and presently working on the sequel to Arcadia as well as a new novel. Enclosed is an SASE for your reply. I would be more than happy to send you a partial or complete copy of my manuscript for you to review if you should wish it. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.


[For GTP purposes: the title The Mages of Triannis refers to the rogue mages responsible for killing the emperor/hunting Duke Rual.] [I know that sentence isn't part of the query, but I hope you have it straight in the book whether it's Duke Rual or Lord Rual.] [For those minions wondering who are more powerful: rogue mages or ruthless vigilante sorcerers, I provide power rankings for our favorite characters.

1. Ruthless vigilante sorcerer

2. Shark
3. Kohrlach, god of the dark realm
4. Zombie
5. Obsessed serial killer
6. Miss Snark
7. Zombie cow
8. Vampire

9. Miss Pettipants
10. Rogue mage
11. Brutal Eunuch
12. Crazed midwife]


I wouldn't mind a little more information, even if it means dropping most of your credits paragraph. What relationships shatter, for instance? What's Triannis? What is this inheritance the enemy is after? What kind of magic can the mages do? Seems like in a world where magic is commonplace, you wouldn't need to usurp someone else's inheritance.

The note after the query indicates that it's the mages who killed the emperor, and the mages who are hunting Rual. The query said Rual was being hunted by an old enemy determined to destroy their bloodline and usurp Rual’s inheritance. Is that the mages? If not, who is it, and if so, maybe the mages should get some mention in the query, as they seem to be involved in everything.

Maybe we don't need to say that after her marriage Corina was thrust into a world of political intrigue, and later say after the emperor's death they find themselves in a political war of magic and deception. The latter sounds a lot like the former. When do they actually enter the world of political intrigue? Marriage or assassination? Nitpicky maybe, but both phrases are cliché-ish, so getting rid of one can't hurt.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New Beginning 224

I sat bouncing off the sticky beige back seat as the car bounced out of deep ruts in the road. A relative I didn’t know, big-boned Donna-Something, some double name that sounded stopped-short, like hitting your face in a wall, talked away in the front seat with the tall boy driving. Donna-Something looked and sounded desperately happy, hammering away with her loud voice as streams of hot dust from the road sprayed us through big open car windows.

Donna said she was studying piano and gonna go to college to study more piano, because she was gonna be a pianist. Her aunt was paying for it so she could make something of herself, she said.

I figured Donna must have just learned the word pianist and thought it sounded really smart, because she repeated that word in every other staccato sentence coming out of her mouth. And I figured her friend that was a boy thought it sounded like she was saying penis, because every time Donna-Something said the word pianist, and she said it a lot, the boy’d chuckle under his breath. Then they’d glance back at me to see if I understood the joke. Then he’d do another deep chuckle. And that would get her going again.

I tried my best not to listen to them, my only thought being, Some college somewhere, no matter how horrible, actually wants my Too-Low-On-The-Tree-Branch Relative to attend their idea of higher education? A girl snickering over the word "pianist"?

A coil in the seat did a number on my butt as we hit another pothole and a rock flew in the window and pinged me on the side of the head. I think Tall Lanky Boy aimed for any pothole and even roadkill on purpose. He seemed like the type. They could have at least turned on the radio, so I wouldn't have to listen to their ignorant comments.

"I'm going to be the world's finest pianist, working it like no one's seen before!" Big-Bone Donna declared. Lanky Tall Boy chuckled and eyed me through the rearview mirror.

I finally snapped. "Can't you just call it what it is? A cock manipulated by a fifty-cent whore?"

And in that one, horrible moment, I realized why this backseat was so sticky.

Opening: Robin Sinnott.....Continuation: Brenda Bradshaw

New Beginning 223

When I was ten, my "boyfriend" Johann showed me how to crack my knuckles. It hurt the first time, but I got used to it. We were standing in my garage. Johann was eleven or twelve. I learned a lot from him.

He tried other things in my garage, which I have to say, looking back, was really stupid since the garage door was always open and my mother could see us from the kitchen window. My mother didn’t think I could see her moving around behind the red and white checked café curtains she had sewn for the kitchen windows, but even then I knew she was a born sneak.

One time, Johann tried to convince me that he could hypnotize me so I would do what he told me to do; he said I wouldn’t be able to stop myself.

That was his thing back then: magic and hypnotism. I went along with it for a while but, looking back, he wasn’t very good. We lost touch soon after that. His dad got a new job in Edinburgh -- we wrote to each other once or twice, but it soon trailed off. Well, we were kids; what can you do . . . do . . . cock a doodle dooooo . . .

Funny thing is, I ran into Johann again just this spring. He works at a library now, but he does a stage show on the weekends. Sorry, does that bother you? Ba . . . Baaaaaaaaad habit, but it makes my fingers feel so good. He still does hypnotism, can you believe that?

Of course, I ragged him about it. I know that stuff is all faked. Oops, sorry, forgot to turn off my cell phone. No, I won’t answer it; it’ll be my mum, checking up on me. Nosy bint. I-- Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize I was doing that. I should have gone before I came in. I'm so embarrassed, doctor . . . Doctor, doctor, gimme the news, I got a . . . bad case of lovin' you . . .

Opening: Robin.....Continuation: ril

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

New Beginning 222

Anticipation drove her a little insane ever since she'd received the message with the day and time. If she allowed her mind to linger on it, her body ached all the more. Good thing she had such self-discipline.

Most times.

The moment arrived and after three long months apart, she'd see him. That knowing smile. Those blue, lust-filled eyes. Surely he was nervous too, craving this just as badly. To hear his voice, saying her name again . . .

He signed on and she almost cried just watching the name appear on the computer. She clicked on ACCEPT and the green light of her own webcam blinked on. Damn her heart, skipping another beat. Screw patience anyway. She focused on that black square, cursing it to go away and reveal him instead. She fought against chewing on her bottom lip so the gloss wouldn't smear. She had to look perfect, despite her nerves.

As the black square morphed into a living picture, she held her breath, the smile frozen on her perfect face.

She tried to speak, but her lips wouldn't move. The three months had been hell, no Internet, no nothing.

His face came into focus. Those tortured eyes. That sneering mouth.

"Hi," she smiled.

"Never again!" he bellowed. "An entire semester teaching creative writing at SUNY is more than even Evil Editor should have to endure."

Opening: Brenda Bradshaw.....Continuation: Kate Thornton

Okay, I'm game.

Send your blurbs for Novel Deviations 2.

For that matter, send your introduction.

These have come in so far:

"Volumes better than volume 1"
"More deviant than volume 1"
"It's volume 1 on steroids"
"Blows volume 1 right off the shelf"
"More recent than volume 1!"
"The long-awaited prequel to Volume 3"

Face-Lift 277

Guess the Plot


1. In the deep jungles of Colombia there grows a tiny purple flower, the Isaran, which can cure cancer. When agents of MI5 and the CIA can't get past the Colombian rebels to harvest the flower, the President calls on a guy he knew in college who could make funny noises in his armpit. Also, a botanist babe.

2. Murdered unicorns are found near the land of giant cats. The unicorns blame the cats. The cats claim they've been framed. It falls upon Arija sy Kieri to find the truth, and avert interspecies war on the world called . . . Isaran.

3. Under pressure from her mother to bring a date to Aunt Gladys' 4th wedding, Jenny resurrects the Babylonian God of the Plague, Isaran. But when Jenny falls for Isaran, can she convince him not to go back to dealing death to the innocent, and to settle down with her?

4. When a parrot tells Joe he must save the world from space aliens by flying to the moon and recovering the lost talisman of Isaran from Crater Gassendi, Joe laughs. But the bird tells him what numbers to play in the lottery to finance his rocket and two days later that ticket wins. Should Joe defy his wife and go?

5. It's a spy vs spy world, and glamorous Binky Koslov must use her cover as a lingerie model to infiltrate the dangerous world of celebrity golf and discover who poisoned the Prime Minister's gin.

6. Martha Stewart meets Isaac Asimov in this short story collection that defines the Three Laws of Cling Film. Tales of saran wrap gone mad, saran wrap with a sense of humor, and a guest appearance by Rachael Ray.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for my 110,000-word fantasy novel, ISARAN, and thought you might like to consider it.

When murdered unicorn foals begin appearing [are discovered] on the border between the unicorns and the lirolen---a race of intelligent, tiger-sized felines---tensions rise between the two nations. [Whoever came up with the idea of the unicorn deserves an award for lameness. I mean, if you want to make up a fantastical new creature, slapping a horn onto a horse doesn't take a whole lot of imagination. It's like the guys plotting out the Star Trek universe, and they need a new species from a planet called Vulcan:

Star Trek Producer: We need a creature called a Vulcan.
Makeup Artist: For one episode?
Star Trek Producer: No, it'll be in every episode.
Makeup Artist: Shit. Okay, I say it should look exactly like a human.
Star Trek Producer: The species evolved on a planet larger and hotter than Earth, thinner air, mostly deserts and mountains, in another solar system. Completely different environment. No way would they look like humans.
Makeup Artist: All right, already. I'll give him pointy ears.
Star Trek Producer: Now you're talking.]

Arija sy Kieri, Advisor of the Five Lands, must determine the truth: whether the lirolen are being framed, as they protest, or if the giant cats are reopening the interspecies wars that once devastated the continent. He attempts a dangerous question spell to find out. But someone interferes with his spell, in a manner that should be impossible, and Arija is nearly killed in the process. He is left with no answers, only more questions [At which point he slaps himself on the forehead and says, "Idiot! Instead of a question spell, I should have used an answer spell.] and a wary young woman accidentally---and irreversibly---transported from another world. Accompanied by her and two maverick unicorns, Arija sets out to discover the spell's saboteur. [My money's on Alex Trebek.]

Before he can, the enraged unicorn queen declares war on the lirolen. Then the king of Coribar, the human nation, is assassinated, [Humans? On the same planet with unicorns? Wouldn't they have wiped out all the unicorns to get their horns?] [Unicorn, from the Latin "uni," meaning one, and the English "corn," meaning ear of corn. Most people think a unicorn's horn looks like a spiral tree ornament, but it actually looks like this ] and Arija himself comes under suspicion of treason. Faced with treacherous dragons, politically wavering centaurs, and a spreading tangle of war and conspiracy, Arija can't imagine how his problems could get worse---until his investigation leads south, to a legendary land across the sea, [One wonders what kind of legends they would have on a world that actually has unicorns. I can imagine centaurs telling their children about the legendary land of Australia, with its mythical kangaroos--part deer, part velociraptor, part purse.] where the legacy of Coribar's bloody past may wait to destroy them all.

I have enclosed a SASE, and the complete manuscript is available upon request. I am currently at work on a second standalone novel set in the world of Isaran. [A world on which evolutionary development, coincidentally, mirrors our Greek mythology.]

Thank you for your time.



Unicorns have made their way into numerous fantasies, but if you're gonna make up lirolen, why not make up all your creatures?

Are unicorns born the same way as horses? Because I definitely wouldn't want to be pregnant with a unicorn.

Is Arija human? Usually you want to focus on a human character, but if the reader doesn't know if he's human . . . I didn't even know there were humans on Isaran until their king got assassinated.

Can unicorns and lirolen talk? What are the two other lands, besides human, unicorn and lirolen? Just wondering.

I'm not sure what purpose the girl from another world serves in the book, but I think you should either give her a bigger role in the query, or eliminate her. All she does is appear. Is she instrumental in solving any problems?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Q & A 96 Will I be ruined?

I'd like to be a part of Novel Deviations, but I'm hoping to sell this book someday. Once you print my 150 words, is my book unsalable?

A few minions declined to include their openings in Novel Deviations, volume 1, and a few more have made this choice for volume 2. I have no problem with this; there'll be more than enough pieces for volume 2. Of course I'd like to put the best ones in the book, so the more I have to choose from, the better. For those who are worried that their careers will be affected, I might point out the following:

1. You retain the copyright to your writing.

2. These books are bought by few people other than the minions.

3. While the books may get read by one or two hundred people, the blog has had a half-million hits. If you don't want your work seen . . .

4. Excerpts from soon-to-be-published books are published such places as Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, etc. etc. The authors/publishers want this. Anything that gets your name out there can't hurt.

5. Book reviewers often include excerpts in their reviews, reviews that come out before the book.

6. When an anthology of short stories is published, usually most or all of the stories appeared previously in magazines or other books.

7. By the time your book gets published you'll have changed the opening lines anyway. If you don't, some editor will. You probably changed them after reading the minions' comments.

8. Your opening can be published anonymously.

9. Your opening can be revised by Evil Editor so that it works with the continuation, but with different words. This was done with two openings in volume 1, and so far with one in volume 2.

10. You can tack this pub. credit onto your resume.

11. Declining denies the continuation author her one chance to ever see her name in print as the author of anything. (On the other hand, you open up a space for another two authors--but if yours had a really funny continuation, the book won't be as good without you.)

12. It's 150 words. Your novel is 75,000. Rounding off to the nearest 1/2 of a percentage point, it's zero percent of your book.

Changing the subject, many minions submit continuations anonymously. This is fine if you also want to be anonymous if your piece makes the cut for Novel Deviations 2. If you'd rather have your name (or a pen name) in the book, you have to contact EE, because he has no idea who you are and no way to contact you. I can usually contact opening authors by searching email files, but continuations come in as comments.

New Beginning 221

In the last hour of the last day of her going out of business sale, Susan Smith-Halsey, owner of the Turn My Page book and aromatherapy candle shop began taking paperback books from the sale table set up in front of the store and heaving them at passing motorists. When she ran out of the light weight books she turned to the 2 for $3 hard cover books and threw those, denting at least one roof and a few fenders. By the time the police arrived the sale tables were bare, and broken books and torn pages littered the street where, by now, a crowd had gathered to watch the action. The police allowed her to put away the tables and lock the doors before hauling her down to the station to be, of all things, booked.

Lydia Perry smiled to herself. Susan’s Final Chapter, at last. She’d always thought Bridget Jones was a bit of a wimp, and Shopaholic? Who has that kind of money? The confessions of a spunky bookshop owner, though: that was so completely Lydia’s cup of tea. Flipping through the pages and buzzing with excitement, she headed toward the register -- and walked straight into a guy browsing the outdoor pursuits section. Shocked, she looked up into the deepest blue eyes she’d ever seen.

"Shocked"? No. "Surprised"? No . . . "Startled!" Yes: Startled, she looked up into the deepest blue eyes she’d ever seen.

Ginny put down her pen and sipped her coffee as Brad came into the room wearing nothing but a towel. He massaged her neck and asked, "How's the book coming? I can't wait to read it. Does Lydia finally find happiness?"

Elaine Marie Marcos smiled and hit SAVE. This was shaping up as the best book of her Ginny Blaine series by far. This time, Ginny would finally get her dream guy: just what the fans were pleading for.

That was enough. Joel Lymas, associate agent at Moboten Literary, put the manuscript down on his desk, rubbed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Metafiction,” he said, shaking his head. “Fuck.”

Opening: Inkmandoo.....Continuation: Anonymous

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Face-Lift 276

Guess the Plot

The Unknown Champion

1. Fletcher Armstrong sets the World Record for Stupid Bunji Stunts--nine in a week! He's the new champ! But what's with Sally, his all-legs publicity chick? Didn't she tell anyone? What does she mean, her computer crashed? Should he kill her now?

2. Strangers with microphones and TV cameras come to town to ask everyone, "Who is the great masked bowler?" But of course no one knows except Joe Bob Pupovich, and he's not telling.

3. 90 year old Marvin Granville kicked the ball that won the championship for his team in 1935, but who remembers? He does, and he still wears sturdy shoes so if zombie cows invade the Garden O'Rest Home, he's ready.

4. The story of Champion the Wonder Horse: his early years as the abused runt of a second-grade stud farm; his short-lived delinquency with a gang of wild mustangs; his breakthrough when a talent scout spotted him giving pony rides; fame, parties, drugs, fillies . . . Until that fateful day when he was eloquently humiliated on live TV by Mr. Ed, and never worked again.

5. When Alicia moves to a new town, she finds herself in the middle of a war against the Harvels. The townspeople are hopelessly outclassed, and in need of a champion. But who? Also, a dragon.

6. In this update of Cinderella, Prince is the celebrity host of the World Wrestling Championships when a leather-clad whip-wielding woman calling herself Sin-D drives into the arena in a Ferrarri and summarily dispatches the others in under 5 minutes. When Sin-D vanishes as mysteriously as she came, Prince is left with only an 8" stilletto with which to find her.

Original Version

Dear ----:

I came to your website ---- [accidentally] via ---- [my computer] and immediately noticed that you are interested in Fantasy works. I would like to offer my manuscript, The Unknown Champion, to you for review and consideration for representation.

Alicia Elluci, daughter to the worst of man, [What does that mean? Wait, great idea for a prequel to your novel: a descendant of Dr. Frankenstein reanimates his preserved corpse, and assists him in creating a new monster, this one from the body parts of Hitler, Saddam, Dennis Rodman, and Russell Crowe. The monster impregnates Rosie O'Donnell, who gives birth to . . . Alicia Elluci!] [If you don't want this idea, let me know, I'll assign it to another minion. Any character dubbed the daughter to the worst of man needs to have the story of her origin told.] has forsaken her title, robbed the family's estate, and exhausted all of her resources. She seeks refuge in the small town of Korryn and finds sanctuary in the center of a war. It is not the tips of swords or points of arrows that she fears, but rather that she will be met with treachery and betrayal by the few she's managed to now grow close to. [She just got there. There's a war going on. How close can she be to anyone?]

As her involvement in the war grows, her fears are bolstered by the manipulations and spy tactics of those she fights against. Harvels – elusive creatures and the true puppet masters of the invading force – are relentless in their mental assault on the woman. ["Harvels" sounds too comedic. Call them Teleps, Sibyllines, or Psikos.] It is not long before she has trouble discerning what is truth, what is an honest mistake, and what is deliberate deceit. But her tormentors do not simply seek to break her waning sanity, they seek to have her betray her own and bring about the destruction of one small city she has sworn to defend. [Okay, I'm finding this much more boring than the book actually is, and it's because of the word choice and wordiness. She soon finds she's unable to tell truth from lie. Or, It is not long before she has trouble discerning what is truth, what is an honest mistake, and what is deliberate deceit. One small city she has sworn to defend. Or, Korryn. If you want to hold my attention, keep moving to new ideas; don't draw each idea out with big words and sentences. Long sentences are okay if they're mixed in with short ones. Big words are okay if they're the best for the job, but short words take up less space, leaving more room on the page to describe your book.]

However, Alicia's worries do not only lie with such devious foes. Ceapheine – a dragon who once fought for the kingdom in ages past – has become involved in matters, but her motives have nothing to do with either side of the conflict, nor is she still loyal to the crown. These motives threaten not only the war effort, but the very new identity Alicia has laid claim to since fleeing home.

If only the one who Alicia trusts most – who also happens to be the king's greatest asset - weren't completely in love with the female dragon, she might be more optimistic about surviving.

Thank you for your time, and I would be happy to send a copy of the completed manuscript for your review. I look forward to hearing from you.


Revised Version

After forsaking her title and family, Alicia Elluci seeks refuge in the small town of Korryn and finds herself in the middle of a war. As her involvement in the war grows, it's not swords and arrows Alicia fears; it's betrayal. The puppet masters of the invading force are relentless in their assault on her mind. They seek to manipulate her into distrusting and betraying her allies, bringing about the destruction of Korryn.

Alicia has other worries, as well. Ceapheine – a dragon who fought for the kingdom in ages past, is no longer loyal to the crown. Her motives threaten not only the war effort, but the new identity Alicia has assumed. And now the ally Alicia trusts most - who also happens to be the king's greatest asset - has fallen hopelessly in love . . . with Ceapheine.

The Unknown Champion is a 70, 000-word fantasy novel. I would be happy to send a copy of the completed manuscript for your review.


The revised version isn't ready for submission. It has distilled your information to the point where you can now add some specifics. You don't have to answer all these questions, but addressing a few would help:

Who are the invading force (the puppets)?

Do the Harvels have contact with Alicia, or do they assault her mind from afar?

Who's the character in love with the dragon? I can't even tell if it's a man, a woman, another dragon, or Donkey, from Shrek.

What are the dragon's motives?

Is the small city she has sworn to defend Korryn, which was earlier described as a small town? I tend to think of small town/small city as Mayberry/Raleigh. I wouldn't use both terms to describe the same place.

What is Alicia's new identity? Does she use a different name in Korryn? Does the dragon know?

Is it a fire-breathing dragon? Cool.

What are the "resources" Alicia exhausted? The stuff she stole?

I realize the champion is unknown . . . but who is the champion? Alicia?

I realize you're the author, but don't feel bad if you get two or three wrong; these are tough questions, and several are dreaded essay questions. Don't start until I say "Begin." Ready . . .


New Beginning 220

Brian Hodge looked at the raffle ticket he had just bought from his daughter.

"A werewolf? What on Earth am I going to do with a werewolf?"

"It's for a good cause, Dad."

"You mean it's for your cause."

Brian looked at his daughter, just turned nineteen. She wore a black leather corslet and high leather boots to her mid thigh. Her breasts were tightly packed into a cleavage, and from her nipples to her hips was a tool-worked pattern of roses and fire. Around her neck she wore a heavy wooden cross, and she carried a crossbow that fired bolts in the shape of wooden stakes.

"I wish you wouldn't wear stuff like that to the office. I mean, that thing barely even covers your butt crack."

"It's the lifestyle I chose, father. I wish you could respect that."

“I’m trying, honey, really I am -- but a werewolf? What if I win? One minute it’ll be chewing my slippers and crapping on the carpet, next minute it’ll be in my chair, reading the sports section and drinking my good liquor.”

His daughter sighed and gave him her special pity-the-parents look. “Modern times, Dad. You have to adapt.”

“I know, I know.” Brian’s gaze darted around the room, searching out divine assistance. “But werewolves, vampires, zombies? Ancient prophecies and arcane curses? Last month there was that band of unlikely adventurers you brought home. Your room's full of enchanted talismans and mystic keys. I mean, how can I--”

His daughter bent down to pick up a case of silver bullets.

Ohmygod!” Brian clasped his hand over his eyes and turned away.

“What, dad?” Her eyes widened and her mouth hung open in exasperation.

“Honey, you have got to wear different clothes. I-- I think I just saw your magic portal.”

Opening: D. Jason Cooper.....Continuation: ril

Saturday, February 17, 2007


I've reorganized a couple sections at Evil Editor's Gallimaufry into a FAQ, and placed a link to it in the sidebar here. I could see how someone happening upon this blog for the first time might have trouble figuring out what's going on.

New Beginning 219

When he was a kid he'd never known any different, but now that he was eight, it was hard going home. He checked to make sure nobody was watching, and took a swig from the bottle he'd hidden in his school bag. One more glance around - nobody looking his way - and he ran down the alley to sneak in through the back. With luck, nobody would be up yet.

No such luck. Missus Swindell was sitting in the kitchen in her massive pink robe and curlers, smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee. She grinned when he burst in. "Hey, Fox. Yer ma ain't up yet. You want some breakfast?"

He tried his most impish little-boy grin, hoping she wouldn't smell his breath. "Missus Swindell, it's noon. I already et, anyway."

"Suit yerself, boy. There's some toast on the counter, anyway."

"Thank you, ma'am. I gotta go see ma."

"All right. You see that Addie Mae, tell her she needs to settle up."

"Yes'm, I sure will." Fox ran up the stairs. He paused outside the closed door of their apartment. Through the thin wooden panels he could hear the television blaring. He opened his school bag and pulled out the bottle, eyed the level of the amber liquid. Only noon, and the bottle was half gone. He shouldn't drink any more today, but on the other side of the door was his mother, that wretched alcoholic slattern with her impossible expectations.

Fox shrugged. It's beyond my strength. If I do not drink, I cannot keep up this churlish, lowbred, straight-out-of-Faulkner dialect. He raised the bottle.

A moment later, the whiskey still burning in his throat, Fox burst through the door and called out, "Howdy, ma! Y'still feelin' poorly?"

Opening: kt.....Continuation: Theo Katz

Friday, February 16, 2007

New Beginning 218

Jamie crouched on the planks beside a luxury yacht. Its giant hull blocked the breeze that drifted in from the water. She shivered and pulled her jacket tight around her as she hugged herself to keep warm. Taking deep breaths of the cool air, she tried to calm the fear that threatened to overwhelm her. She unzipped her jacket slowly to keep the noise down. She clutched her gun, waiting for a feeling of reassurance that didn't come. Boats bobbed in the water on either side of the pier. She looked at the sailboat across from her, trying to see something in the predawn shadows. The wooden boards gave an eery creak beneath her feet.

The water lapped against the boats, making a rhythmic slapping sound. Her ears strained to hear the sound of human movement. Standing up, she leapt from her hiding spot. Adrenaline rushed through her body. Holding the gun in front of her, she spun in a circle searching for her pursuers. No one was in sight; she ran down the pier. Hope filled her. The parking lot was only a few minutes away.

She took a deep breath and set off at a sprint for the car park. Her mind was racing. She should have known. How could she get taken in like this? How could she have been so stupid? Never trust a stranger, that’s what she'd told her kids. Was she too old to take her own advice?

This early, the lot was almost empty: just a couple of utility vehicles and . . . there in the corner, a sleek, red Ferrari. Instinctively, she knew it was his. It took only a quick check of the vanity tags to be sure. A luxury yacht and a Ferrari. Nice.

She looked around again. No one. She’d lost the guards. She sat down on the hood of the car. He’d be back here sooner or later, that snake-oil selling, good for nothing, profiteering, son of a bitch. She checked the ammunition in her gun, and waited. Screw everyone else. She was sure as hell going to get paid for her continuation.

Opening: Rashenbo.....Continuation: Anonymous

New Beginning 217

I hate cannonballs.

Muskets, I can handle. Bayonets, I can counter. But those damn, shrapnel-filled cannonballs scare the holy hell out of me.

I've seen whickering strips of metal tear a man's legs out from under him, rip out his intestines, peel his face down to the bone. I hate cannonballs.

They put nails in them. Nails and barbed wire and even forks when they run out of other sharp things. Who thinks of such tortures? What kind of mind comes up with something so insanely, effectively cruel?

Whoever he was, they probably made him a general.

I wish we were fighting foreigners. I don't have any kin up north, but it just doesn't seem right to slaughter people from my own . . . well, my own country, sort of. I don't guess I've killed anyone I know yet, but it's only a matter of time.

Especially now that we've got the bomb.

It's so much tidier than cannonballs. Somebody gives a command, a plane takes off, flies over enemy territory, releases a few hundred napalm bombs, and that's that. Everything burned to ash. None of that evil-smelling, up-close-and-personal, internal-organs-lying-everywhere kind of death.

Ain't modern warfare grand?

Opening: Gutterball.....Continuation: Anonymous

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Face-Lift 275

Guess the Plot

Who Wants to Marry a Cowboy?

1. Rodeo Bob has been trampled, kicked, and thrown. He's got metal knees and hips and a hook hand. His hair fell out and the suture lines from his brain surgeries criss-cross like a freeway interchange. He keeps his moustache and eyebrows waxed and twisted. He's worn real man boots, dungarees and snap shirts his whole life. The snuff rotted his teeth out. At age 30, he's ready to settle down. But where's the gal?

2. A down-on-his-luck reality TV game show producer tries to cash in on the popularity of Brokeback Mountain--but runs into unexpected difficulty when he finds he can only film the series in Massachusetts.

3. Bored with the company of sheep and cattle, Joe-Bob Lloyd moves to Boston to seek a two-legged companion. But he's turned down by members of all genders because he talks like a hick and smells like a horse. Will a new reality show give him a chance at finding someone... anyone? Anyone at all?

4. The Bachelor meets Rawhide, as 20 women converge on cowboy Riley's ranch, each hoping he'll choose her as his wife in his own personal reality show.

5. Frank is humiliated when his fiancee tells her friends that it really is just a ten-gallon hat in his lap -- and there's not much underneath it. Desperate, he answers an email with the heading "Soopers1ze Yr Ween1e." Now, thanks to his fiancee's gossip, he's in demand all over town.

6. After the Civil War, the widows of Littleton and their younger sisters send a desperate message to Tombstone, Arizona. Two hundred eager ranch hands quickly arrive and their bad manners inspire the ladies to ask -- who wants to marry a cowboy? But is there a better alternative?

Original Version

Dear agent-type person:

I have completed a contemporary romance novel, currently titled Who Wants to Marry a Cowboy? The novel is approximately 89,000 words long. I read your web site information and feel that your company would be the best to represent me.

What would you do if your life started to resemble a reality TV show? Ainsley Fairfax is finding out. She’s one of many women invited to spend time at the Crescent Ridge Ranch in Little Falls, Wyoming, to meet cowboy Riley Pommer. She doesn’t want to leave her life in Charleston, South Carolina - she has her floral shop to run - but she is being blackmailed by her mother. Sophia Fairfax wants Ainsley to marry hand-picked Edward Anders, an overbearing but thoughtful in his own thoughtless way accountant. According to Sophia, if Ainsley doesn’t go and see what dregs of society will be left for her if she doesn’t marry Edward, Ainsley’s beloved Gramps will be sent to a home for the elderly against his will. [This is sounding like Theater of the Absurd. When I'm having trouble making sense of something, I like to convert it into dialogue. Sometimes it adds clarity. Does this conversation sum up what we've learned so far?

Sophia: Ainsley, I want you to travel from South Carolina to Wyoming to meet cowboy Riley Pommer, a member of the dregs of society who's looking for a wife.

Ainsley: What? Where? Who? Why?

Sophia: He's choosing his wife from a bunch of women. Like on The Bachelor.

Ainsley: You want me to marry a cowboy?

Sophia: I want you to marry Edward. I figure once you've seen this idiot, even Edward will look good to you.

Ainsley: I don't need to go to Wyoming to meet an undesirable man. South Carolina's full of them.

Sophia: Either you go to Wyoming, or I put your grandfather in a home.]

Riley Pommer is finding out, too. [I have to go back to the beginning of the last paragraph to find out what you're talking about. That's too far.] His family thinks he needs a wife, and he’s had time to see the women who live near him. So, they branch out and bring to their ranch 20 women from around the country. [20 random women? How many women did they have to invite to get 20 to show up for this?] The Pommers have had a bad couple of years emotionally. Divorce, infidelity, and alcoholism have defined them, and Riley hopes that his agreeing to the wife gathering quest will change the mood around on the Cresent Ridge Ranch. [Nothing reverses a dysfunctional family's descent into despair like the arrival of 20 hard-up women fighting for one guy. I call the women hard-up because they apparently found the following invitation intriguing:

You are cordially invited to attend a gathering of women from among whom cowboy Riley Pommer will choose his wife. Be at the Crescent Ridge Ranch in Little Falls, Wyoming, Tuesday, March 12th. Ranch casual. Good luck! BYOB.]

Ainsley and Riley meet over fruit salad [No Wyoming cowboy eats fruit salad. Well, except the kind who would have invited 20 men to this party.] and discuss the habits of women trying to impress a man. Their affection grows over a lost calf, minced onions, [He falls in love with her because he thinks she's crying over a lost calf. Turns out she was mincing onions, and didn't even know the calf was missing.] and a mechanical bull. [Nothing kindles romance in the heart of a genteel Charleston lady like a session on a mechanical bull.] But when the other would-be wives realize something might be going on between the florist and the cowboy, [Where were they during the calf, onions and bull episodes? How did Ainsley get so much time alone with Riley?] they become cruel and organized. [A deadly combination. The Marquis de Sade was a pussycat until he developed his keen organizational skills.] The Bitch Crew wins, sending Ainsley back to Charleston [She doesn't even survive the first rose ceremony?] and Riley asking another woman to stay on the ranch. [Just to be sure I've got this straight, being asked to stay on the ranch is "winning"?]

When they meet again at a wedding a few weeks later, [The South Carolina florist is a friend of the bride and the Wyoming cowboy is a friend of the groom. What a coincidence.] Riley realizes the mistakes he made and sets out to win Ainsley back. He goes to her room hoping to make up, and though she at first is joyful that they can start over again, she soon realizes it took the words of other people for Riley to trust her again. [What other people? You said he realized his mistake when he met her at the wedding.] This is unacceptable to her, and she throws Riley out of her room.

Undeterred, Riley follows her back to Charleston where he enlists the helps of Gramps and her employee in proving his love. His persistence makes her realize that [he's an insane stalker, and she'll never get rid of him unless she tells her mother she's gonna marry him, and her mother freaks out and kills him.] it didn’t matter how he came to the conclusion that she was exactly who she said she was, [Pretty vague. Who did he think she was?] as long as he got there. He invites her back to Little Falls, and she demurs, worrying about Gramps and her shop.

One night alone after Riley leaves is enough to convince her she wants to be with him. Gramps gives her the encouragement she needs to settle her shop and head back to Wyoming. Once back at the ranch, she tries finding Riley, but first manages to get hot, dusty, dirty knees, [I'm thinking we don't need to know that her knees are hot, dusty and dirty in the query, even if it's a crucial plot point in the book.] and fly[a]way hair. Riley finds her that way, and doesn’t care what she looks like. He just cares that she’s there. [It would be funnier if he went through all this and then dumped her because her knees were dusty.]

If there is any more information you require, I will be happy to provide it.

I work as a technical writer and spend my evenings writing for my pleasure. I have a monthly article appearing in Gainesville Parenting magazine and will soon appear in the Gainesville Writers’ Group anthology, Killing Mr. Smith. I am also a member of the Florida Writers’ Association and I am looking into membership of the Romance Writers of America. [I recommend joining. It'll sound more impressive than saying you're looking into it.]

Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.


It's too long. Your plot is the classic Cowboy meets girl, cowboy loses girl, cowboy gets girl. We don't need to know everything else--except possibly what girl sees in cowboy.

We do need to know how Ainsley happened to be one of the women invited. Also, I'd be more willing to buy her wanting to go to Wyoming to get away from her mother and Edward, than going because of this nonsensical blackmail scheme by her mother. It sounds like you couldn't think of any possible reason Ainsley would go, so you went with a totally lame one.

Plenty of romances have preposterous plots and still work, but 20 women agreeing to go to Wyoming for any reason is beyond belief. That they would all come in hopes of marrying one guy they've never met is insanity. I mean, if Evil Editor invited all of his hundreds of minions to his home for a Bachelor-type production, do you honestly think a single one of them would show?