Tuesday, July 31, 2007

New Beginning 329

Alania halted upon reaching the shore. She gazed down at the water, intent upon seeing into the future. Unfortunately, there was no future for her to see anymore. Her magic was gone, somehow taken from her. Had she taken the time earlier to foresee her own future, she might have known what steps to take for protection. Instead, she had helped others willingly so their lives might be a bit easier.

"Nothing?" Jodry asked as he tightened the splint upon his leg momentarily so it wouldn't slip out of place.

"Only blackness. I do know you shouldn't make that so tight."

"It slips loose when I walk."

"We should rest anyway. Maybe we'll find steeds soon. Then you won't have to worry about it slipping."

"I deserve having to walk. It's my fault our other mounts were lost. I shouldn't have lost my temper at them after falling off," Jodry said.

"Look on the bright side," said Alania. "If you hadn't, we wouldn't have had any glue for the splint."

Opening: Dave Kuzminski.....Continuation: 150

Face-Lift 389

Guess the Plot

Zombie Stakeout

1. Dana's aunt mail-ordered a husband, but the man seems to be a zombie, and he's not the only one in town. The living dead are growing in numbers, and the only way Dana can uncover the mastermind is to make a deal . . . with the vampires.

2. When Benny Johnson and his partner stop for dinner before the biggest stakeout of their lives, Benny orders eggs, and his partner orders . . . brains. Soon Benny finds out why. Jeez, ya think ya know someone.

3. Boggy John didn't spell real good, but he had a knack for grilling steaks. Once people found out Zombie Stakeout was a restaurant, Boggy had more business than he could handle. But would they keep coming if they found out where he got his meat?

4. Petra is determined to catch the killer who has been decimating the population of Shady Oaks Retirement Village. And this time, she has the right bait: Fresh brains! If she doesn't catch the real killer soon, however, she's going to prison for a long, long time.

5. Mossy Dan and the risen dead have tired of pizza. Now they're headed for the local Sizzler. But will they indeed consume the succulent beef they set out for? Or will they settle for the meal they grew tired of before they grew tired of pizza . . . human brains? The impromptu health inspection they stage at the restaurant will give them the answer.

6. Plucky teenager Zenobia Schwartz battles the zombies who have invaded her Connecticut prep school. Inspired by historic tales, she places the heads of decapitated zombies on her school fence to deter others. But she has a better idea when she spots an ant hill out front.

Original Version

CIA agents. Vampires. Zombies. Mail order spouses. Welcome to [Evil Editor's blog.] Lowersex…

Mediating between her psycho dad and suspected vampire teens, Dana Spark is offered a job with a paranormal investigation agency. But her youth is exploited, ordered to infiltrate the emo subculture—not her idea of a good time. And there's the risk of becoming a donor for bloodsuckers, with no guarantee of compensation. [We're moving too fast here. What exactly is she mediating? She's offered a job while mediating?

Okay, Dad, you sit on this side of the table. Vampires, that side. With fangs retracted, please. Thank you. Now, before we--

Ms. Spark? Sorry to interrupt--

Who are you?

I'm with Monster.com. It's about the résumé you posted last week?

Did she accept the job offer despite the extreme drawbacks, and if so, why? Fill in the cracks.]

Meanwhile, the man that Dana's aunt mail-ordered seems to be a zombie, and he's not the only one in Lowersex. The living dead are growing in numbers, [Finally a true zombie book, instead of one of those cheap imitations with one bit part for a zombie.]

[This being a short query, we have room for . . . Quotes from the movie My Boyfriend's Back:

Mrs. Dingle: Dr. Bronson, the reason I called is that our son Johnny... died the other day, and I was wondering if you could take a look at him... Would you like to talk to him? Sure. Johnny?

Dr. Bronson: Okay, well, you're dead. Which is unusual, because we don't normally see this much activity in a dead person.

Missy: Johnny, hi! Uh, listen, I think it's really great that you're back from the dead and all, but I've got gym.

Dr. Bronson: I'm afraid I have some bad news. Your boy is very sick. He's lost a massive amount of blood, and his pulse and retinal response are poor, and as you can see there's an axe sticking out of his head.

Johnny: It's because I'm dead, isn't it. That's why you won't go out with me.
Missy: Don't insult me.
Johnny: You're afraid of what people might say, aren't you. Behind your back, everybody whispering, 'there goes Missy and the dead kid'!

Buck Van Patten: You think you can hang out with us decent living folks like you're still alive or something?
Johnny: Why is everyone making such a big deal about this? I've only been dead ONE DAY.

Johnny: What?
Eddie: What do you mean, what? You just tried to take a bite out of my arm!

Big Chuck: Is there anyone in my family you DON'T plan to eat?

Reporter Brenda: We just received word that some sort of tragedy has happened in the high school today.
Sheriff McCloud: No, nothing unusual.
Reporter Brenda: I was referring to the slaughter.
Sheriff McCloud: Right, well, there was that.]

and the mastermind is likely a bloodsucker. But to uncover the true culprit, Dana must make a deal with the vampires' emperor that will cost more than just her blood—it could screw up the rest of her life. As if her paranoid CIA parents weren't trouble enough…


This is just the plot part of the query, as the credits are the same as the author's previous queries (426, 427, 428).

As with the others, it's not telling us the story, just touching on highlights. Sort of like listing quotes from a movie.

New Beginning 328

Just let me tell my story. I will tell it my way, not hidden within some narrative of your choosing. I will speak directly.

I am Onagh. I have titles and a clan but they matter little to me. I, who should have been smothered in the womb, was born. I, who should have been outcast, was protected.

And now that I have come of age, I am an embarrassment. My father believes I should be grateful, that I owe him something, because he gave me my life. I disagree. He should have taken my life at the start, that he failed to do so does not put me in his debt.

What am I? I am a throwback, a malformation. My skin is unnaturally dark as if I were dirty from the inside out, my body plump, my eyes disturbingly empty like a dewdrop on the grass. I'm told I have no soul.

If you are interested in meeting Onagh, please dial 4945 followed by the pound sign now; or press star for other compatible singles in your area.

PartnerMatch. Pairing the world off one couple at a time.

Opening: Sylvia.....Continuation: ril

Monday, July 30, 2007

Face-Lift 388

Guess the Plot

Second Time Around

1. The term leftover takes on a new meaning when food critic Vera LeBlanc dies from a bad meal. Her assistant must prove the death wasn't an accident. But first, he, too, must learn the hard way that no food dish is good . . . the second time around.

2. When Tess Malone answers her ringing phone, she's plunged back in time eight years. Will she have to live those painful years over again? Either way, she vows to learn what all the buttons on her iPhone do before pushing them again.

3. An outcast caveman who is reincarnated in New Haven, CT in the mid 1940's must fight his primitive instincts if he is ever going to become the modern president his father failed to be.

4. Alexi was born in the frozen hinterlands of Russia, where he worked hard and died in poverty. In his second life, Alexi was born in the frozen hinterlands of Norway, where he worked hard and died in poverty.

5. Gay divorcee Wesley Welsey left Harry for Barry two years ago. When he tries to recreate the magic of his first love on Bali Bali, he finds that love is lovelier and fun is funnier - the Second Time Around.

6. Rookie Nascar driver Brett Kilgore had the lead after one lap of the Daytona 500, but when veteran Bobby Joe Hitchcock's girlfriend tosses a grenade on the track, Brett realizes he may not make it a . . . Second Time Around.

Original Version

I read on AgentQuery.com that you are interested in women's fiction. I am hoping you may be interested in my novel Second Time Around (women’s fiction; 94,000 words). I invite you to review my manuscript and consider representing me.

When Tess Malone answers her ringing phone, she’s plunged backward, to a time when her life seemed much simpler. [A time when there were no telephones.] [Idea for a story: Woman picks up telephone but forgets to dial prefix; just dials 1875. Suddenly she's transported to 1875. In order to return to 2007 she must inspire a drunken Alexander Graham Bell to lay off the sauce and invent the telephone. She succeeds, but she failed to recall that the concept of zero had not yet been discovered in 1875, and the phone dial has only 1 through 9. Brilliantly, she dials 2111, planning to then use a phone to return to 2007, but when she appears in 2111, she's on a Pacific island where natives decide she's a witch, and sacrifice her to the volcano.] [I should have used that as one of the Guess the Plots; no one would have believed someone made it up.] [Someone write that up and submit it to Asimov's; we'll split the payment.] After eight years, Jim Tidwell has decided to track down and get reacquainted with the woman he kicked out of his life. With one phone call, the floodgates between the past and the present have opened. Like all floods, the havoc that ensues affects everyone. [Except people who live on houseboats.] [I don't think "opening the floodgates" is the right expression. It usually means everyone will be doing something that wasn't previously allowed. I can't tell what your flood consists of.]

In Second Time Around, Tess is given the opportunity to step back into the arms of the man she thought she loved eight long years ago. [Given the opportunity?

Jim: Tess, baby, long time no see. I know I broke your heart eight years ago, but let's face it, it was kinda your fault. Anyway, all is forgiven, and you can have me back.

Tess: Are you serious?

Jim: Well, I do have conditions.]

She hesitates, questioning his rationale for phoning her, and her rationale for letting him back into her life. But when her questions deepen, and no answers are forthcoming, Tess realizes she must revisit the past, those painful first years after the breakup, and discover why her heart has stalled. Through the reading of her journals, she comes to recognize that she’s been living her life on the fringe ever since that fateful day Jim broke things off. [The fringe of what?]

Even though she’s overcome the death of both her parents, [a brief fling with Alexander Graham Bell,] a debilitating dance with alcoholism, [You have a bout with alcoholism; you dance with the one who brung you.] and a move across the country, she now faces the most daunting choice of her life: whether to stay in the shadows, or fully embrace life and walk in the light once more [; whether to latch back onto the scum responsible for her being in the shadows for eight years, or to laugh in his face; whether to forgive him for deciding to sow his oats for eight years, always assuming he could have her back whenever he felt like it, or to invite him over for a healthy serving of arsenic casserole] .

[Jim: Tess, I was a fool. It took eight years of playing the field, making love with thousands of women, to teach me what I should have known all along: you're the only woman for me.

Tess: Are you serious?

Jim: Yeah, thousands. Hard to believe, huh?]

Second Time Around gives us a glimpse into one woman’s journey through the decisions of the heart; both the heart of the past, and the heart of the present. The novel shows a woman willing to finally stand on her own for what she wants, rather than wait on the people in her life to show her what is best for her. [Vague and wordy. What does she want, and what did the people in her life think was best for her?]

I am a member of RWA, PRO-status. This is my fifth completed (unpublished) novel. I am unmarried with a grown daughter in her junior year of college, and recently relocated from Cleveland to California.

I’d be happy to send you a complete manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.



Frankly, the time travel and arsenic casserole scenarios sound more interesting. You've taken a lot of space just to say that Tess must decide whether she'd be happy with the total loser she thought she loved eight years ago. That situation can exist in a suspense, paranormal, historical, contemporary, or comedic romance. We want an idea of what happens in the book, not just the situation Tess finds herself in. Do they meet? Do they have jobs? What century is it? Do they go somewhere together? Is there a vampire? Surely it's more than dialogue and journal entries.

Openings Needed

Novels, short stories, whatever. We'll even take novel chapters that aren't the first chapter, if they are introducing all new characters. Send the first 150 or so words.

New Beginning 327

“Half breed,” Varick whispered, running his finger down her cheek. “You lack the courtesy even to make yourself beautiful.” He clucked his tongue. “It is such an easy change, Helaine.”

Helaine flinched when she felt his magic touch her, softening her facial features and lightening her complexion. She glared at him through her now larger, more expressive blue eyes. “I prefer my natural form.”

“You lack the energy to change,” Varick said, his tone gentle. “You do honor to your Ia heritage, dying in beauty.”

“You seek to kill me for that heritage,” Helaine replied, closing her eyes. She was tired from her fight with him, from matching her magic to his. His last attack had felled her, another could kill her. It was fortunate that he underestimated her strength. He may kill her, but she would wound him first.

Varick nodded, slowly drawing energy from the dying plant life. “The blood of deity must run pure.”

“Deity? You are not a god.”

Varick’s eyes narrowed; thunder rumbled in the distance.

Helaine breathed deeply. “Shibbolox of Var is a deity,” she said, and saw him flinch. Each battle is won through small victories.

“You always have to bring him up don’t you?” he said. “Shibbolox’s parents own the Fradial nectar fields.”

“I’m just saying. Shibbolox of Var has his own ethereal plane.” She had found his weakness and felt the wind of battle turning in her favor.

“Perhaps you should have married Shibbolox of Var, then.”

“Perhaps. I had the chance. Shibbolox of Var never told me, You lack the courtesy to make yourself beautful.” Power rippled through her soul.

“They say the Gods are blind.” Varick chuckled and birds fell from the skies. “By Thunder, if I hadn't given up my studies to raise our child ...”

Helaine smiled and played her trump card: “Your omniscience fails you, Varick; you do not see that Shibbolox of Var wields a Thunder Staff both greater and more potent than your own.”

Opening: Luney.....Continuation: ril

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Face-Lift 387

Guess the Plot


1. No one knows that Placido Domingo has an evil twin who has dumped the famed tenor in Lake Como, but will they notice the difference when Placebo steps into his brother's costume and tackles the lead role in Don Giovanni?

2. Niles Johnson wakes one morning in a cold, grey room to find he is next to be "tested" in the government's sinister plot to control the public. He has to take pills, a lot of them, and his fellow inmates assure him he'd better hope to God he gets a . . . Placebo.

3. Katia needs a break from her lover, Olof, and gets it with a new experimental drug. But Olof doesn't like the way she's suddenly ignoring him--especially since the drug is a . . . Placebo.

4. An enterprising teen combines some stuff from his hypochondriac mother's medicine cabinet and sells it on the internet as a breakthrough aphrodisiac - but when he learns that the concoction actually works, he is pursued by big business, the government, and the mafia who all want the formula he can't recreate to save his soul.

5. This could be a real book. With a real plot, real characters, and real entertainment. Or, it could be a placebo. If we told you which, it would ruin the experiment.

6. Romance author Miriam Worth finds herself pregnant after only one night with her editor. Is he a remarkable super man? Or is her birth control prescription just a . . . Placebo?

Original Version

Welcome to the shady supernatural side of suburbia, where ghosts and the living can live in harmony…but most often don't.

To say that Olof Karlsson is used to being the center of attention is an understatement. [It's been that way ever since the kids in his school discovered how to anagram his first name.] Slaughtered in the 1970s, an entire suburb is memorialized in his honor.

But Katia Belarova needs a break from ghosts—including her lover. An experimental drug provides respite, but Olof doesn't take kindly to Katia's non-acknowledgment. [Typical male ghost.] He's crazy in love…a little too much, if an abduction is anything to judge by.

Unfortunately, he's not Katia's only problem. Her sister is at the mercy of a supernatural organization with unethical practices. [The Central Incorporeality Agency] But Katia doesn't know what exactly her sister did to be institutionalized…and if she deserves rescuing.

Add to that the dilemma of whether to hook up with her best friend's lover or not, and Katia could do with a little rest…in peace.

[Additional info about what books this is sure to remind readers of and credits (see previous query).]


This is an improvement over the two previous queries (same author) in that some of the ideas have a logical progression, but it still needs more detail. We don't know enough of the plot and we have to guess what you're talking about here and there. The third paragraph shouldn't start with "But" because Katia hasn't been introduced and we don't know the connection between her and the previous paragraph. Is Olof her lover?

It's trying too hard to hook us with every sentence. I'd start the query: Katia Belarova needs a break from ghosts—including her lover. That's a decent hook. Then focus on Katia's story: Katia sees dead people; she's even fallen in love with one named Olof. Her psychiatrist tries an experimental drug, which ends the visions, but now Olof's unhappy. He can't stand that Katia no longer acknowledges him, so he kidnaps her, takes her to his old haunts, and replaces her drug with a placebo. Or whatever. If the query isn't focused, no one will expect the book to be focused.

Friday, July 27, 2007

New Beginning 326

Steven paced in the middle of his room and tried to figure out how to stay home from school. The only surefire excuse he knew was I feel sick, but Mom was wise to that one. He sighed and slumped down onto his bed. "There's gotta be a way," he whispered. But he had thought all night and thought all morning and he still couldn't think of anything. He was pretty sure he could stay home if he told what had happened, but he wasn't going to do that. Ever.

With a shrug of frustration, Steven slid down onto the floor and scraped his fourth grade books together in a heap. What a mess, he thought. As he reached out to straighten some papers, his hand trembled. He stopped and shook both hands hard in the air. If he was going to keep this thing a secret, he couldn't go around acting all scared.

Act normal. That was the thing to do. Mom could read him like a book; he had to act like nothing happened.

He gathered up his books and papers and stuffed them into his school bag, then pulled on his sneakers. OK, this is it.

Before padding downstairs, he took one last look in the closet and checked the ropes that bound Mrs. Ellison's hands and feet. "Looks like we're going to have a substitute today," he told her. "When I get home from school you can tell me how you liked spending an entire day in Time Out."

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Anonymous

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Face-Lift 386

Guess the Plot


1. Would-be prom queen Sadie's quest for the perfect shade of red hair ends in the murder of her hair stylist. But can she cover her tracks as a blonde?

2. Scarlet's ex left town seven years ago, after she transformed him into a vampire. Now he's back, and he's out for blood--literally.

3. In her newest book of handy household tips, Martha Stewart proves that you can, indeed, get blood out of a turnip, as well as parsnips, carrots and onions. Includes bonus recipes for czarnina, boudin noir and biroldo.

4. To save his beloved from agonizing death, Dorn must find the mythical bloodroot that can cure any illness. But to cultivate the plant, one must sow it in the living flesh of a virgin priestess of Talur. Can he find seeds and a willing host? Or must his true love die?

5. Harold's garden produces the finest vegetables in the state. Is his secret the spring water and perfect climate? Or is it the bone meal he gets from the vampires in the woods in exchange for his special . . . Bloodroot?

6. Mitzi thought her mom said "beetroot" when she sent her to the store for dinner fixings. But two pounds of beets weren't what her zombie-witch mother had in mind and it's getting dark fast. Also, a weredingo.

Original Version

Attn. [Agent/Editor],

When a vampiric journalist regains consciousness beside two corpses, it's not just her career that's at stake. [It's the entire planet.]

Scarlet Fleischer is a bloodsucker, [also known as a literary agent,] but she's no murderer ... right? Her sanity isn't up to scratch, but some sessions with a parapsychiatric intern could help. Unfortunately, the intern's professional conduct makes Scar's lusty blood boil.

She then learns that her ex is back in town – the same man she unintentionally transmitted the vampiric disease to seven years ago. [Sorry, honey, I didn't mean to sink my fangs into your throat and suck out all your blood.] Scar's convinced he's out for blood – literally. At least she's got her barrister father to look after her [Daddy, there's a vampire after me; can you get a restraining order?] ... only he isn't biologically hers, which brings up the question of who is.

Bloodroot, complete at approximately 67,000 words, is an adult women's urban fantasy novel. Written under the penname of Tez Miller, it may appeal to readers of Jennifer Armintrout's Blood Ties series, Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire series, and Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld series. The Australian Supernature setting will interest international readers wanting a different paranormal location. [Long-time readers, or at least those who've been here since yesterday, will note that the credits, etc. make it obvious this is the same author as yesterday's query. The author was kind enough to send five queries when I was running low; as you'll tire of reading the same credits, I'll just post the plot on the next three.]

I have written columns and reviews for the ACHQ and The Northern Sound, both international websites. Two of my short stories won second prize in the Eastern Regional Libraries Short Story Writing Competition (2000 and 2003), with a third receiving an honourable mention (2003). Another short story won the October Writing Challenge (2006), administrated by the international Otherworld Writing Group.

A synopsis, partial or full manuscript will be sent at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.



It feels like you're trying to hook us with every sentence, which leads to a lack of focus on the real hook. If the main plot is Vampire journalist awakens between two corpses, stick with that. Somewhere in the query you can mention that Scarlet must deal with a hunky parapsychiatrist and the return to town of her vampiric ex as she tries to solve the mystery, but concentrate on the mystery. Or, if the main plot is her romance with the parapsychiatrist, focus the query on that. Jumping from the corpses to the doctor to her ex to her father isn't working. If all of this stuff is vital (unlikely), lengthen the query by elaborating on each subject so that we see how everything's connected.

New Beginning 325

They were back.

I heard them before I saw them- three vans rumbling down Poplar Bridge Road, stirring up coffee-colored dirt and small stones. I felt my heart leap and my stomach clench and it was all I could do not to run out onto the road and wave them down with both arms.

“Audrey Lynn Poole, just what do you think you’re doing?”

I was pressing my hands against the front window, straining to get a better view of the vans, but they had already turned down Old Pickle Bend.

“They’re here,” I whispered.

Mama looked over my shoulder. “What’s out there?” she asked, concerned. Wolves had been spotted two nights earlier less than a mile from our house. People were nervous. Mr. Barger was keeping his goats inside and a rifle by the front door.

“They’re here,” I repeated, louder this time.

Mama frowned, but I could see as she reached for her bag, I’d already won.

“Audrey, you know I--” But I didn’t allow her to finish as I took the bill from her hand and rushed for the door.

The vans were parked up on Onion Lane, and there was already a small crowd around them when I arrived. It took me a while to work my way to the front. I stood on tiptoe and offered up my five dollars.

These were the best damned kebabs in the county. The sauce was perfect, and the meat . . . So different, so delicious; what was it? Too tender to be lamb. Then I had a sickening thought.

I ran as fast as I could to the Barger house and flew through his door. “Mr. Barger, Mr. Barger,” I yelled. “They took your--”

Mehh. Mehhhhh. They were all there. Princess, Mabel, Florin and even little Tuppence. The goats were all right. What a relief! But . . . where was Mr. Barger?

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Anonymous

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Face-Lift 385

Guess the Plot


1. Performance artist Tanya Wickinish is thrilled to find an old typewriter to play as a musical instrument in her project for MOMA. But when she fixes the sticky shift key and types MM to test it, she frees the ghost of Marilyn Monroe, who insists they must solve a murder mystery.

2. Australian Christina Margolin is the world's only known weredingo, a fact she has kept hidden, until she involuntarily "Shifts" into dingo form in the presence of Special Agent Donovan Moreno – who himself is a Shifter– a werepussy.

3. When the Earth's magnetic poles shift, suddenly it's freezing at the equator and millions of people move to Antarctica and Siberia, where it's tropical. But there isn't enough food for everyone once the penguins have been eaten, so mankind teeters on the brink of World War III.

4. On a trip to Portland, Anne's car breaks down and she has to borrow her friend's Maserati, but she's always used cars with automatic transmission before, and her failure to shift correctly causes a wreck. Is this the worst day of her life or will the hunk who rear-ended her become her one true love?

5. Hot-blooded boiler mechanic Norm Leech leaves work every morning at seven A.M., just before steamy receptionist Gladys Palmo arrives at seven fifteen. They are fated to be together in a passionate eternal love, but it takes a serious time clock malfunction before they even meet. Will they ever find happiness? Or are they doomed to each always be on a different . . . Shift?

6. Minor celebrity socialite London Marriot knows it's only a dress. But every time she puts on that vintage Chanel shift, she gets an irresistible urge to wash her face, put on gloves and keep her knees together. She loves it, but boyfriend Justin has other plans for the . . . Shift.

Original Version

Attn. [Agent/Editor],

When the only known weredingo in the world is found out, her neighbor is endangered. [You had me at weredingo.] [But you lost me at neighbor. The threat should be to the entire community. No one is safe when a weredingo is on the prowl.]

The police want private investigator Christina Margolin to liaise with the International Supernatural Board, a.k.a. Internature. [Why? Since when do the police want a private investigator working one of their cases?] Chris's ability to Shift into a dingo is secret, until she involuntarily Shifts in the presence of Special Agent Donovan Moreno – who himself is a Shifter of the feline variety. [Is he a special agent of the police or Internature or the Cat Fanciers Association?] [Does the fact that one guy knows you're a weredingo make you a "known" weredingo? Or does Moreno blab it to the press?]

But when Chris finds out her neighbor is missing, she discovers the case links with Internature in a bad way. Paired with Moreno to investigate, Chris's loyalty to her live-in lover, Scot, [the world's only known werekangaroo,] wanes. It takes a Shifter to understand a Shifter, but to find a supernatural abductor Chris must revisit her past and explore the present. [Those sentences aren't connecting well, and are pretty vague anyway. How do they know the neighbor was abducted by a supernatural being? Tell us how the case links with Internature, rather than say "in a bad way." "Explore the present" tells me nothing. Any investigation of a missing person would involve exploring the present.]

Shift, complete at approximately 69,000 words, is an urban fantasy novel. Written under the penname of Tez Miller, it may appeal to readers of Kelley Armstrong's Bitten, Rachel Vincent's Stray, and Sparkle Hayter's Naked Brunch. The weredingo and Australian setting will interest international readers [(people who read while on planes flying between countries)] wanting a different kind of Shifter and paranormal location.

[Agent: I'm sick and tired of books about people turning into wolves. I'm looking for something fresh.
Author: I have a book about people turning into dingos.
Agent: Now you're talking my language.]

I have written columns and reviews for the ACHQ and The Northern Sound, both international websites [(websites read by people who surf the Internet while traveling between countries)]. Two of my short stories won second prize in the Eastern Regional Libraries Short Story Writing Competition (2000 and 2003), with a third receiving an honorable mention (2003). Another short story won the October Writing Challenge (2006), administrated by the international Otherworld Writing Group. [That's three "internationals" in four sentences, and while "international" sounds more impressive than "foreign," even more impressive would be "world-renowned," "universally recognized," or "exalted."] [On the other hand, you've used the word "weredingo" only twice; see if you can work it in again.]

A synopsis, partial or full manuscript will be sent at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.



The transitions between sentences in the plot paragraphs are weak. You need to connect some ideas, not just list facts. This wouldn't sound much different if the sentences were rearranged.

Possibly the problem is that the events are in the wrong order. This order seems logical:

Neighbor disappears.
Private eye Chris investigates.
Chris discovers supernatural aspects.
Police ask her to infiltrate Internature.
Moreno discovers that Chris is a weredingo.
Dingodoll and Manxman have wild animal sex.
Neighbor saved from world's only known wereplatypus.

That may not be the actual order, but it seems unlikely the police would ask a private eye to look into anything if she didn't already have a personal interest in the case.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New Beginning 324

It was always best to be behind them. That way, Josie could keep her eye on the pack as they careened down the hall, whooping to one another like they owned the school. She spent most mornings with her back pushed against her locker until they passed. As she breathed in their scent, a hint of fresh perspiration mixed with spearmint and perfume, she wondered how many molecules of carefree popularity she would have to ingest to become a different person. Not one of the populars, just someone other than Josie Preston.

All she knew was that it hadn’t happened yet. Josie always woke up to the same freckled face, full lips, and thick eyelashes. She had yet to escape the dark vacuum of her room, trapped in her lumpy bed behind a locked door.

But not tonight. As always, we've had our panel of experts with us to aid in the transformation: Pierre Montaine, lead stylist at Hairs and Graces, Beverly Hills; Cecille Normandy, one of Hollywood's leading make-up artists, the woman who made Holly Hunter half-way decent looking; and Dr. Terrance Montague, lead cosmetic surgeon at The New You clinic in Manhattan.

So let's take our first look at the new Josie. Without further delay, open that door and join us, Josie, and you will be--

Oh, sweet Jesus.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: ril

Face-Lift 384

Guess the Plot

Rest in Peace, Dan Duggen

1. Though he died in the 19th century, Dan Duggen's ghost haunts the woods to this day. Four kids exploring the woods find clues and artifacts left by the ghost, who is leading them either to the truth about his death . . . or to their doom.

2. Dan Duggen listens to his own eulogy while in deep, drug-induced catatonia. The drug was administered by his loving wife while his three loving sons held him down. Can Inspector Fields solve the case before the casket is sealed and buried?

3. All the cool girls wrote little notes in Dan's yearbook. As he goes back through the book, copying out the phone numbers, he runs across a note that leaves him scratching his head: "Rest in Peace, Dan Duggen." It's signed by the daughter of the local axe murderer. Maybe Dan should have taken her to the prom after all?

4. After faking his own death, Dan Duggen learns that a distant relation has left him a stock portfolio worth millions. Now how is he going to get a fake resurrection without Cardinal O'Brien asking questions?

5. It was in the glove compartment: a faded photo of a handsome man named Dan Duggen and his prized '47 Studebaker. But when Brenda Braddock bought the car at auction as a gift for her father, she had no idea it came equipped with the photo . . . and a ghost.

6. He fell into Vat No. 5, but managed to swing his leg over the top and take a leak before he drowned. The late brewmaster Dan Duggen is lovingly recalled in this stirring tribute to his life and the dedication to beer that cost him his life.

Original Version


Four adventurous kids discover that the woods bordering their grandparent’s [Change to "grandfather's" or move apostrophe.] farm have a grisly past when their grandfather relates the tale of the phantom haunting the forest. During the days of railroad construction, a young employee of the railroad company disappeared after an argument with his supervisors. His body was never found and his friends suspected that the corrupt company he worked for was responsible, but had no proof. [Coincidentally, arguments with supervisors declined dramatically thereafter.] The ghost of the young man exacted his revenge on the railroad company by terrifying its employees and sabotaging construction, never allowing them to complete the railroad. The phantom is still seen haunting the woods to this day. [In fact, he's solely responsible for the fact that American rail service sucks, and for things like this and this.]

The kids are captivated by the story and after wrestling with their fears, decide to explore the woods in search of the ghost. The ghost leads them deep into the forest with a series of clues and artifacts that not only verify the story but also give them a new perspective on why he is here and what he wants. [He wants inner peace, which, according to legend, he will attain the day the Amtrak New York to Miami run passes by his woods on schedule.]

In its entirety Rest in Peace, Dan Duggen is an approximately 23,000 word middle-grade, ghost story that ties the past and the present together by telling the story of the turn of the century railroad worker, and the modern day kids who are torn between their longing for adventure and the fear of what waits in the woods.

I would be happy to send the full manuscript if you are interested.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



This is well-written and sounds like an interesting book, but Grandpa's story about the railroad worker is getting twice as much ink as the kids' story. Though you aim to be educational, I'm guessing the search for the ghost is your plot, and deserves at least as much querritory as Dan Duggen's story.

I'm not a railroad historian, but there was so much railroad construction in the 1830 - 1880 period, I'm not sure the turn of the century would be included in a period known as "the days of railroad construction." I suppose it's okay to use the phrase "turn of the century" even if it's not the most recent turn of a century? But be careful, each of the following happened at the turn of the century. Can you guess which century (1200 - 2000)?

1. “The Edifying Book of Erotic Chess,” in effect a manual of seduction, was published. 1400
2. Sweden's 17-year-old King Charles XII defeated the Russians at Narva 1700
3. Greece and Turkey sign accords to regulate commerce and provide for cooperation in preventing illegal immigration, promoting tourism and protecting the Aegean Sea environment. 2000
4. A clock was built in Augsburg, Germany, that shows a king riding in an elephant pulled chariot. His huge belly has a tiny clock placed where his navel would be. 1600
5. Invention of sunglasses 1200
6. Worcestershire sauce created 1800
7. The population of the world was about 400 million 1500
8. Creation of the hamburger 1900
9. Invention of women's corsets 1300

Answers appear after the event, highlight with your cursor.

New Beginning 323

The desert breathes. The wind is the breath of the desert, and the curve of every dune is the back of the wild living thing that the people of the desert – Sonia’s people – claim it to be. The wind buffets Joshua Tree Hold continuously, seeking out chinks in its heavy walls, kicking grit into people’s faces, whipping the sleeves of Sonia’s tunic. Sometimes the wind rises and sometimes it falls, but today the wind was rising.

Sonia ignored the bustle of the people below her rushing to bring their belongings inside in front of the incoming sandstorm. Her mind was occupied elsewhere. Climbing the steps of the hold’s outer wall was no easy task even under good conditions, and she was trying to do it one-handed: her other hand was clapped to the top of her head, holding her bonnet in place.

The steps breathe. Their rickety creaks are the breath of the steps and every inch higher is that much closer to the head of the living thing Sonia's people claim it to be.

Sonia lost her balance and toppled down, face first into the living, breathing grass. The curve of every insect is the feet of the thing that the people of the desert claim it to be.

Joshua looked down from above. "Sonia, you doofus. That's what you get for climbing one-handed. I told you it's boys only in my tree house." Sonia ran crying into the house.

Her mom breathes. Sonia's whines and cries for the tenth time today are the straw that breaks the camel's back, and Joshua's Tree Hold is no more.

Opening: The Green Cat.....Continuation: whoever

Face-Lift 383

Guess the Plot


1. When identical twin billionaire heiresses Madison and Dakota give their guardians the slip and set out on a bicycling adventure from London to Rome with Johnny Charming Dari, they have no idea the trouble that awaits them.

2. Dari has made a chilling discovery: Prince Cassius, heir to the throne, is tired of waiting for the king to die, and plans to kill him. But first the prince will have to get around the king's ace in the hole . . . he's immortal.

3. There once was a fairy named Dari who spent all her time making merry. She fell on her head and was pronounced dead. Were her naysayers cheery? Yes, very.

4. Dari Mondano lives on a remote wildlife sanctuary with her parents & two older brothers. One day she is struck by a strange red lighting bolt...and now she can speak with the animals. Can she use her new gift to convince people to live in harmony with nature?

5. This adventure anthology focuses on feats of bravery which end suddenly and without warni

6. Emissaries from another planet have heard tales of the magic elixir that heals bones and helps build strong teeth. They arrive in Wisconsin, eager to find the temple of the demigods who produce this potion.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil,

I seek representation for Dari, a fantasy novel complete at 120,000 words.

Dari Imogena has lived among the Southern Sangi race since she and her father took refuge among them when Dari was eight years old. [We need to know her current age for this to have any informational value.] She has studied with their teachers and acquired a slightly sentient sword. One night, a desparate messenger arrives, seeking her. His plea to Dari: return to Florindell and intervene in her sister Cecily's treason trial. Family duty calling, Dari travels to Florindell to ask the King to accept her in Cecily's place as his reserve fiancee . . .

King Kyan has ruled for over two hundred years. His immortality is tied to his bachelorhood. Kyan must marry an Imogena for the kingdom to prosper. The King found a fortuitious side effect: until he marries, he will not age or die. He uses this immortality to build his kingdom. Dari's ancestress took issue with his pride and invoked her own magical decree: for each generation of Imogena the King passes up, the land will be hit with a curse. Thus far, the punishments have been insufficent to sway him; [but the curses have been getting worse each generation:

1. Moldy cashew crop
2. Bunions
3. Tribbles
4. Unfunny jesters
5. Elevator music
6. Koalas
7. Toilet paper shortage
8. Big Brother, the musical]

and things haven't worked out with any of the Imogena women. When Dari shows up and by a swordfight wins a land dispute for him, he takes notice. [Sword fight is two words. Or did you mean swordfish? Actually, winning a land dispute with a swordfish would be far more entertaining than a sword fight.] It is Dari's older sister Anaisa, however, to whom he is promised if he chooses to wed this generation . . . [Anaisa? That lazy cow? No wonder he's still single if there's but one woman he's allowed to marry per generation. And this guy's the king? Can't he change the rules?]

Prince Cassius, favored of the King, has watched the King's snubbing of the Imogena with growing contempt. The heir to the throne, he himself will be immortal until the King weds. [I'd be bad-mouthing Anaisa to the king every chance I got if I were the prince.] Cassius, however, has tired of the curse. He is committed to moving things forward. And if the King looks like he might not choose to marry the Prince's friend Anaisa, the Prince will finally act . . . [That's three straight paragraphs that end with an ellipsis . . . ]

In a land of stories and secrets, Dari makes a chilling discovery: Prince Cassius killed once, isn't afraid to do it again, and has his eye on the throne. By the time she learns of his plot, it's already in motion. What's a girl to do? [What's the problem? The king's immortal. Or is he immortal only until he dies?]

I was managing editor at my university's Faculty Editing Service [Then you probably noticed, as you were reading, that "desperate," "fortuitous" and "insufficient" were spelled wrong. If you purchased a book and were finding four typos per page, you'd be so annoyed you'd toss it aside and pick up another one; some editors are almost as intolerant as you are.] and Editor-in-Chief of a multidisciplinary research journal. I've published in [newspaper], [lit mag 1] and [lit mag 2].

Thank you for your consideration,


If the king must marry an Imogena for the kingdom to prosper, one would think the Imogena family is the most important family of all. So why did Dari and her father have to take refuge with the Sangi race?

It's not clear whether the king or the prince is the villain. The king uses his immortality to build the kingdom, but subjects it to curses. The prince wants to end the curses and is committed to moving forward, but killed someone once. Under which one is the kingdom better off? Dari seems to favor the king, but it's under the king that her sister is charged with treason.

The king found a fortuitous side-effect: immortality until he marries. If all kings have been immortal till they married, you wouldn't say Kyan discovered this side-effect; he would have known about it from the beginning. But if he's the first, I don't see how he could figure out that not being married was what was making him immortal. If I were in his place, I'd assume it was large quantities of ice cream.

Monday, July 23, 2007

New Beginning 322

Alanna Stewart was not meant to die at age thirteen. Death visits 136-year-old women with forty stringy, bluish-gray hairs poking out of their sunburned scalps; not teenagers, and certainly not the invincible Alanna.

She had cherished this foolish belief since the age of seven when an almost accident, at Busch Stadium, threatened her life. An unknown spirit wrapped its tender arms around her head just in time to keep Albert Pujols’ rogue baseball from shattering her skull. While her parents breathed a “Thank God for coincidental flukes,” Alanna believed in a guardian angel reserved just for her. From that moment on, Alanna gambled her luck by riding helmetless on bikes, scaling barbed wire fences, and loosening harnesses when rock climbing.

“I don’t worry about getting hurt! I have someone to protect me,” she once told her sister Debbie. As a result of her shoddy belief system, Alanna wore permanent scabs on her bony knees from following the whims of her teenage friends. Even though physical risks never worried Alanna, the fear of peer rejection terrified her.

Which is why she accepted Melissa's challenge. "Bet ya can't jump off the school roof without breaking any bones."

Alanna smiled and conjured up her guardian angel. "Of course I can. Just you watch."

Melissa did watch, as did the rest of the 12:30 lunch groups at Hilltop Middle, as Alanna stretched and jumped. Others would later describe it as a 'swan-dive,' not a jump.

But everybody agreed on 'splat.'

Melissa stood next to Alanna's mushy carcass. "Anyone else got a guardian angel?" she asked, scanning the crowd. "No, I didn't think so."

Opening: J.....Continuation: takoda

Face-Lift 382

Guess the Plot

The Whitlock Papers

1. Whitlock Manor is an exclusive spa, catering lavishly to the rich and famous. But smooth-skinned young girls have been disappearing and janitor Willy Bliss has discovered the mystery behind the manor's famed bathroom tissue. Can he survive the perilous journey to the outside world and reveal the secret of . . . The Whitlock Papers?

2. An ancient secret has been kept for centuries, but the current custodian of the precious knowledge faces a temptation so strong that it may destroy the world. Can newspaper editor Beauregard Jameson resist publishing . . . The Whitlock Papers?

3. Second grader Joey Whitlock obsessively chronicles every mundane activity in his household. While searching Joey's desk for a spare candy bar, his teacher, Mrs. Grodle, discovers the diary containing a detailed description of her one-night fling with Mr. Whitlock. Maybe it's time for another "parent - teacher conference."

4. The POWs in Colditz are desperate for cigarette papers. They've already smoked their way through the Old Testament and the New Testament is disappearing fast. Will Captain Whitlock, on his way to liberate the castle, bring them what they need?

5. Super spy Dan Whitlock told his psychiatrist everything. Now his case file has gone missing. Can Dan retrieve his papers before his true identity is exposed? Or will his girlfriend find out why her Victoria's Secret lingerie was stretched out of shape?

6. In the medieval city known as Whitlock, fourteen-year-old Amelia finds papers that could rock the Earth's very foundation. Now she must decide whether to destroy them, give them to a complete stranger, or turn them over to the space alien.

Original Version

What happens when future and past collide—when fate tosses ordinary people into the mix with heroes and monsters older than time itself [—when clichés battle it out for supremacy in a query letter for the ages]?

Amelia Paige is about to find out…

I am writing in reference to my YA fiction title, The Whitlock Papers. It is the story of Amelia Paige, a fourteen year-old girl living in the medieval town of Whitlock. When she stumbles upon a trail of riddles left behind by her missing grandfather, [If I'm captured or whatever, and I find myself with the opportunity to leave a clue to where I'm being taken, it's going to be something like, Help! They're taking me to the library! Not: What building has the most stories?] Amelia finds herself in the middle of an ancient mystery involving the forgotten city of Veritas and an enemy who will stop at nothing to reign on its throne. Knox, a visitor from Veritas, comes to Amelia’s aid, and the unusual pair discovers a map to the city’s hidden gates. In the wrong hands, this map could lead to an overthrow that would rock the very foundations of the earth. [If this city is that important, why has it been forgotten?]

While striving to keep the map safe, Amelia and Knox find a citizen of Veritas who needs it in order to return home. [There seem to be a lot of people from Veritas roaming around, even though it's a forgotten city and no one can even find it without a map.] Can they give him the map without endangering Veritas? Can they help one man while hindering another? [Hindering? When you discover an evil overlord is about to rock the foundations of the Earth, you might want to do something more drastic than hinder him.] Amelia and Knox attempt to answer these questions, but all is not as it seems: Whitlock’s Prince keeps sneaking into the forest by night, [What of it? Can't you make that sound a little more sinister?] Amelia may be helping the enemy, and her beloved mentor, the King’s High Councilor, is not even human. [Minions may vote on what the King's High Councilor is:

1. Alien from another planet
2. Wolfman
3. Marionette
4. Zombie
5. Dick Cheney]

This book is written for young teens. Its appeal lies in a fun, mysterious plot which deals with friendship, faith, and finding one’s purpose through the chaotic maze of adolescence. [I see no evidence that it deals with any of these things. Except for that sentence, of course.]

I am a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, and am currently staying at home with my young daughter. This is my first attempt to become published. Whitlock is finished, [I recommend using the full title, even if it requires additional ink.] and its word count is 56,000. I am writing the second book in the Hidden Gates Trilogy, The Labyrinth of Ocasus, [Labyrinth? Maybe this is the one about the chaotic maze of adolescence.] at this time.

Out of courtesy, I would also like to inform you that I am submitting to other agencies simultaneously. Thank you so much for the time you have taken to read my query. I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.



The title sounds like a thriller or mystery. You know, like The Ipcress File, The Quiller Memorandum, The Pelican Brief, The Colbert Report. Plus, your character is named Amelia. That's like naming a character Hercule or Sherlock. As soon as people see the name Amelia, they'll think Miss Pettipants.

I wouldn't mind seeing a stronger connection between the missing grandfather and the rest of the plot. He left a trail of riddles, but that's the last we hear of him.

Whitlock sounds more like a Wyoming mining town than a medieval city. How far is it from Ocasus, which sounds like it's on Crete?

I can't tell from the query if the story is set in medieval times or if it's set in present times in a medieval city. And what do you mean, "future and past collide"? Where does the future come in?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

New Beginning 321

It was me that found Duggie Watts first, with his guts leaking out across the cobbled close like hot strawberry jam over the crusty top of Gran’s rice pudding.

‘Aw, shite,’ I said out loud and I was amazed how grown up I sounded, just like Dad. Then I turned and went back along the close, and up the stair into Mrs Gammie’s dance studio where the piano was plonking and Rose and her wee friends were jinking up and down pretending to be fairies, despite their muckle elephant feet. Mum gave me a skelp for not bringing back the milk she’d sent me out to buy, but when she tried to send me back out again I just shook my head.

I never told anyone I’d found Duggie first. I never told anyone anything much after that. ‘Aw, shite,’ was the last important thing I said for twelve years, which would have been dead embarrassing, except nobody heard me.

So when they found Colin Bates dead in London I kent exactly what he looked like, even though they didn’t show that on the telly, just a dark mark on the floor where the sofa had been.

They'd bashed his head in and his brain had leaked out of his skull like grey stew from a bread bowl.

Somewhere, Rose and her friends were probably still dancing like elephants in a studio with pipes that leaked like . . .

I stopped typing and looked back at the first paragraph. The strawberry jam and rice pudding line. Yeah, that was the one. No improving on that! I deleted the rest and sent that line on in to Evil Editor's Bad Analogy exercise.

Opening: McKoala.....Continuation: whoever

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bad Analogies, Part 4

This is the last batch; sorry if some of yours didn't get in.

The blood-spattered, purple surgical gloves looked like a character in a Dr. Suess book. --ME

She was about as graceful as a ballet dancer with a bad case of vertigo. --wonderwood

McBirdie was a big bloke, near twice the size of the next man, not unlike the extra large size popcorn at the movie theatre that's just a little bit more expensive; only with McBirdie, there were no free refills. --ril

His kiss was so bad that it reminded her of the big, red rubber plunger her father used to use to unplug the toilets--cleaned, sterilized and peppermint-scented, of course. --Dave

She cried until she had no more tears, like going from the rainfall in Bangladesh to the rainfall in Egypt. --EE

As I stared into his eyes, the reflection of exploding fireworks was like the birth of a new universe that would belong to only us. --ME

The restaurant had atmosphere. It reminded him of one of those old-style, aluminum shelled diners reeking of stale deep-fry grease, flabbergasted with cheap air-freshener and urinal cakes, redolent with the stench of stale cigars, cigarettes, tipparillos, and darkened by the carbonized remnants of bloody steaks burnt crisp on the outside and rare on the inside on a plantane grill. --Dave

He was gone, gone for good, and Lainie's heart was as empty as a gin bottle in a literary agent's bottom drawer. --EE

Bad Analogies, Part 3

She was thrilled but it was short lived, like a bride who catches the groom with the maid-of-honor in a bathroom stall at the reception. --stick and move

The streaks of mayonaise around her shriveled lips resembled maggots, eager to assist the process of decay. --ME

Even though it was months since she left, her memory lingered, tantalizing at the edge of his perception, familiar yet vaguely discomforting, like when you sniff your fingers and you can't quite remember where you put them last. --ril

Going on a vacation he couldn't afford was a pleasure and pain thing, like a roofer up there roofing away on your house and getting a good long hard-on kinda look at the naked sunbather chicks sunbathing around the pool in the next yard and falling off the roof and breaking his leg in your yard ‘cause you didn’t have a pool to fall into. Like that. --Robin S.

His mendacity was so bad; it was like sticking your dick out a car window on a hot, humid day and calling it a blowjob. --Dave

Being 30 pounds overweight and dripping chocolate ice-cream on your yellow blouse then running into a hottie someone you haven't seen in 20 years and pretending you don't remember him and you also pretend to not speak English because it's the only way to save face and later get another chocolate ice-cream because by then it's just what you have to do is like my life. --takoda

The gravy on the hospital's entree of Salisbury Steak looked exactly like the meconium in her baby's diaper. --ME

She was rattled, like the time she was eating luncheon at her best friend's house and found a hair in her cucumber sandwich, and it looked too curly to have come from her friend's head. --EE

With scarlet red lips painted over the lip line, she reminded him of that strange liver dish he ate in the Chinese restaurant – the dish served with strawberries and red peppers on top of a bed of brown-green seaweed. --Dave

She was shocked and befuddled, like when you try to get money out of an ATM machine and it tells you there are insufficient funds in your account, which can't be true because you deposited a check just the other day. --freddie

Professer Mullen was ecstatic: it was as if he'd been sexually propositioned by Jenni Partick who always sat at the front in his Renaissance Art lectures, only this time he didn't need to break into the Dean's office and hack into the ORBIS system to alter anybody's transcript. --ril

Bad Analogies, Part 2

I woke up this morning with the seed of a bad analogy bouncing around in my mind, like a tiny brown Mexican jumping bean that wiggles around in your hand for a while and then falls dormant until long after the 7 pm Eastern time deadline, when at last it will hatch into an insignificant silver moth, flutter aimlessly around for a few days, reach the end of its life cycle, and die. --Ali

The brushfire reminded him of bleeding hemorrhoids, cutting a red gash across the virgin forest leaving ugly black and brown stains in its wake. --Dave

The red-white earth was cracked and scarred, like the face of a tuna boat captain using SPF 2. --Truthteller

Watching Larry Flynt and the D.C. Madam work together is like watching President Bush and Dick Cheney smoke pot then one of them gives a news conference about Iraq and the other shoots his lawyer and you're wondering if this is reality T.V. or an episode of 'Where in the World is Matt Lauer.' --takoda

They welcomed me with open arms, like a new guy on the cell block. --stick and move

She was as polished as a query submitted to Evil Editor. --Khazar-khum

As she climbed the ladder up out of the swimming pool, her wet hair caught the sunlight and shone like wet seaweed in the sun after it had washed up on shore but before it dried up and started smelling really bad. It was just beautiful. --Robin S.

Harold peered into the night at the narrow road which meandered seemingly at random, kind of like a stray string of spaghetti still stuck to the wall after a fight about having stayed at the bar until well after the game finished instead of coming home to help set the table; it's a good thing it was Sunday, because Mondays it's chicken pot pie. --ril

Her smeared lipstick reminded him of a birthmark on the buttocks of an ugly child. --Dave

He wanted to make it quick and get back to his own room, but she made him work at it, like a dog eating peanut butter. --Truthteller

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bad Analogies, Part 1

He couldn't seem to get her out of his system, like a three-cheese pizza during the prune factory strike. --truthteller

It was an old man's kiss, like slabs of wet liver clapped across her lips. --writtenwyrdd

She felt somehow incomplete, like a Rubik's Cube with only the top level solved. --EE

I was surprised, much like the first time I met her father and didn’t know he had Tourette’s Syndrome. --wonderwood

They laughed uncontrollably, like someone had just lit a fart with the Thanksgiving dinner candles. --truthteller

You know how when you're taping up a package to mail it with wide clear packing tape, and the thing that's supposed to keep the end of the roll of tape free fails and now you have to find where the end of the tape is, and you finally do, but then you try to pull it up, and instead of the whole thing coming up, just a little piece comes, so you have to keep pulling little strips up? That's what it was like living with Ernie Greeb. --EE

It was a day I’d never forget, like the first time I got laid, except this was a whole day rather than just two minutes of it. --stick and move

He was the most annoying man she'd ever met, like when that little hourglass appears on your computer monitor and won't go away until you reboot. --EE

Writing Exercise

Many of you are familiar with the Washington Post bad analogy contests, of which there've been three. (The results are frequently sent around the Internet with people wrongly claiming the analogies were taken from actual student papers.) Here's a link to the results from one of the contests.

No reason the minions can't come up with equally bad analogies. Send as comments; I'll collect and post them together. Include your name if you want credit. Deadline: 7 PM Eastern Saturday. Submit as many as you like.

New Beginning 320

"I’m pregnant." Claire’s lips moved slowly, less than an inch from the phone’s receiver.

"What did you--" The voice coming from the other end of the line registered confusion.

"I said I’m pregnant."

"I’m not sure how I can help you."

"I got pregnant while using your product." Duh, Claire thought.

"Oh, I see." There was clicking. The woman was typing on a keyboard.

"I want to know how that happened." Sitting on the closed toilet seat, Claire crossed and uncrossed her fingers.

"Our product is effective over ninety-nine percent of the time."

"Like that matters to me now." Claire sighed and looked to her left. The little frogs that covered the shower curtain gazed at her with a hundred happy eyes.

"If the product is not used properly, the risk or pregnancy or contacting a sexually transmitted disease rises." More clicking.

Claire stood. "I’d rather have an STD," she said to her reflection in the mirror. Her hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail. She wasn’t wearing any make-up.

"If the condom was used after the expiration date, if it was torn or damaged in any way when it was taken out of the package, if it was not properly placed on the penis, if there was not a sufficient space left at the tip to collect the--"

"What are you talking about?" Claire looked at the little stick on the counter. The word Pregnant stared back at her.

"I’m explaining all the things that could have caused our product to fail, ma’am." There was a pause. "You asked how it happened, I’m trying to list--"

"Forget it." Claire took the phone from her face and almost stabbed the button that would end the call. Then she thought of another question. "So, what do you do for people when your product fails them?"

"Well, ma'am, usually failure is due to user error rather than--"

"I don't want to hear it." Claire glanced at the test stick again; the little blue letters might as well have said Fucked.

"Well--without admission of liability--we do provide a trained counsellor to discuss your options with you. And you may choose a selection of products from our maternity and infant care lines."

"I see." Claire pressed the phone closer to her ear, surprised at how reasonable this sounded.

"We will of course reimburse you for the cost of the condom, as a good-will gesture."

"Why, that's very gener--"

"And we'll also send you a big rubber band so that next time there's a fighting chance you'll keep your fucking legs together."

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Anonymous

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Face-Lift 381

Guess the Plot

The Integral Path

1. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but what about that road painted with numbers and odd symbols? Fatal head wound or no fatal head wound, Donald Eager just has to find out where it goes.

2. Elizabeth's lifelong dream is a doctorate degree in mathematics, but because she's a woman her male adviser and instructors give her no respect . . . until she takes up karate.

3. After months of intestinal discomfort, exploratory surgery reveals that not only does Dara Spence's abdomen contain the usual organs, but also a gate, path and front door complete with doorbell. Weight Watchers is not up to the challenge, but handsome surgeon Ali Carruthers may have the solution--and it's not his scalpel.

4. The True Path to enlightenment is the sum of the steps leading to it. That was Mitzi's philosophy. Unable to break into the big-time world of philosophers, she settles for summing up the knowledge of mankind in short articles for Reader's Digest.

5. Isaac Newton may yet get this new math business down, but Vallomint the time-traveling astronaut is running out of patience in his drive to help Sir Isaac invent calculus. They've already gone down the road with derivatives, but will Newton lose his way when Vallomint sets off on . . . The Integral Path?

6. This fascinating book details the history of the humble path to your front door. Tiles, pavers, gravel, concrete - there's so much to consider when creating the right ambience in your front yard. With this book in hand, you'll never step wrong!

Original Version

Dear [agent],

Twenty-two year-old Elizabeth Harrington is pursuing her lifelong dream: obtaining a doctorate in Mathematics. But along the way she meets with obstacles that jeopardize her graduate school career, such as a learning environment hostile to women, a recalcitrant topologist [Talk about stereotypes; must every fictional topologist be recalcitrant?] who volunteers to serve on her exam committee for the sole purpose of failing her, [There's nothing worse than a duplicitous recalcitrant topologist.] and an adviser who selects his female students based on their "fuckability." [Which he determines using an extensive questionnaire known as the MMFI.]

As if the University environment is not sufficiently discouraging, the future Dr. Harrington's personal life threatens to destroy her resolve: her parents' seemingly rock-solid marriage ends in divorce, resulting in an estrangement from her mother and the weakening of Elizabeth's own marriage; the only other female graduate student and Elizabeth's unofficial mentor packs up and leaves with a master's degree; and her husband John's descent into mental illness endangers the couple's solvency as well as Elizabeth's own mental health. [Cut this guy loose now, Liz, and find someone with a higher fuckability quotient.]

Faced with these barriers, Elizabeth adjusts her tactics. She perseveres in the classroom through sheer strength of will, and takes actions to improve her situation, beginning with switching advisers. Outside of work she takes up karate, which helps to develop her missing confidence, and attends a mental illness support group, which offers her the tools to help her ill husband without damaging herself.

The Integral Path is the story of one woman's triumph over the roadblocks placed in her way. Along the journey to the elusive Ph.D., Elizabeth grows from an innocent girl to a strong woman and respected mathematical scholar. The novel is complete at roughly 80,000 words.

I am a woman with a doctorate in the mathematical sciences, and some elements of this book are based on my own experience as a graduate student. Although I have no literary credits, I am the author of several scholarly articles and my students have praised my clear explanations of complicated mathematical concepts. [Which comes in handy in my fascinating twelfth chapter, when Elizabeth attends Professor Metternich's lecture, Orthogonality of Eigenfunctions.] May I send you sample pages from The Integral Path?



I find it somewhat derivative. Get it? Derivative?

Don't worry about not having any literary credits; most agents choose their clients based on their fuckability.

The query is well-written, but let's face it: it's about a woman becoming a mathematics scholar. Have you considered having the lecherous adviser get murdered and the hunky and highly fuckable detective suspecting Elizabeth until he falls in love with her? It's the same book, but with a plot.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

New Beginning 319

Rennie Neves shifted from one fake Jimmy Choo mule to the other while attempting to focus on her brother Gabe and the current topic of conversation with his coworkers. As if he knew she was thinking of him, he turned to her with a broad grin and brought her back into the fascinating discussion of how to sell golf shoes in the twelve to eighteen year old market.

It was the hot topic of the night among the NHW employees at the Sole of Toronto Fundraiser. She’d heard about shoe-sizing issues during dinner, popular color combinations during dessert, and a whispered conversation about the difficulty of cartoon imaging while an auctioneer raffled off gift baskets. It had been a long night, but one she had agreed to in advance.

To be obliging, Rennie slipped her hand through Gabe’s arm and tried to pay attention. She had to keep reminding herself to act like his date, not his bored sister. Kind of ruined the effect of having a be-gowned, be-jeweled, and hopefully, be-gorgeoused woman on your arm if everyone knew you shared the same parents.

What the hell, she thought. Might as well go all out to make it convincing. She grabbed Gabe's face and stuck her tongue into his mouth. She'd show them a date!

Gabe was happy to play along, and she knew he was proud. They'd fool 'em, fool everybody into thinking the hottest girl in Toronto was his girlfriend.

Betsy rolled her eyes and turned to Janice. "Who are they kidding? How stupid do they think we are?"

"Apparently very stupid."

They both shook their heads as they watched conjoined twins Rennie and Gabe strut from the room.

Opening: RT.....Continuation: whoever

Face-Lift 380

Guess the Plot


1. Half the fun is in trying to find this book on the shelves, thanks to an innovative printing method, never before seen.


3. In the finest tradition of literary hoaxes, this book asks the reader to figure out why every page appears to be blank.

4. Josie knows why people ignore her. The Rules of Invisibility keep her unseen. But Claire has discovered her, and now nothing will be the same.

5. Gertie can't figure out why people ignore her. Then she looks in a mirror. Turns out, she's . . . Invisible.

6. Revenge is never pretty. But for Isabel Hitchens, 50 and looking it, a new overnight cream has the answer. Tom Burke isn't going to know what hit him.

Original Version

Dear Agent:

On the surface, Claire and Josie are total opposites. Once childhood friends, Claire now enjoys Park High School’s pinnacle of popularity while Josie remains unseen, blending into the crowd by following a list of self-made "Rules of Invisibility," which include [using an unscented anti-perspirant; not wearing clothes--which aren't invisible, and yes, I know the Invisible Girl's clothes disappear when she becomes invisible, but that's a comic book and we're talking about real life here; not bumping into anyone, unless it's Jimmy Clark in the boy's locker room; wrapping your head in bandages like a mummy and putting on sunglasses and a hat when you want to be seen, like when Mrs. Wilson is taking attendance (people find this less disconcerting than empty space);] avoiding eye contact and speaking only when necessary. Things change for both girls when their worlds accidentally collide.

When Josie finds Claire in the school bathroom suffering a painful miscarriage, the two high school juniors begin to rely on one another. [When I was in high school, the worst that happened in the bathroom was that some hoodlum smoked a cigarette. Nowadays the bathroom's home to heroin shooting, abortions, murders . . . and that's just the teachers' bathroom.] Claire needs help, and Josie, avoiding [Repressing?] her own dark memories of sexual abuse, agrees to keep Claire’s secret. Josie is surprised when she discovers just how much she has in common with the seemingly perfect Claire; they’re both miserable and hiding it.

To ensure that her secret will remain safe, Claire wants Josie close. Convincing her friends that they need a "project" to spice up their boring lives, Claire sets in motion a plan to bring Josie into Park High’s circle of popularity. [I was thinking modern-day Blackboard Jungle. Now I'm thinking My Fair Lady.] Josie is wary of the situation, but decides that she can use it to her advantage to escape her own problems. She is accepted quickly, especially by quiet and mysterious Owen, who is dating one of Claire’s best friends.

Claire and Josie’s unlikely friendship sparks a chain of events that ultimately leads each girl to confront the secrets they’ve been keeping, causing them to endure entirely new inner struggles and to realize that the only true way out of anything is straight through the middle. [Vague. Come up with something better than "through the middle."] [Also, the best way to get out of a tunnel is at one of the ends.]

Invisible is a contemporary young adult novel, complete at 53,000 words. A third person narrator offers the perspectives of Claire and Josie in short, alternating chapters. A second book in the series, which will follow these characters through their senior year of high school, is in its beginning stages. [Four additional books covering college (and various prequels) are not yet planned, but inevitable.]

I have taught secondary English for eight years and recently completed my Master’s Degree in education. [Is that the usual order?] I am also a member of the SCBWI. I would be happy to send you Invisible. Thank you for your time and consideration.



This wasn't the next query in line, but it was the only one with five GTPs.

To me, a miscarriage in the girls' bathroom sounds more like tabloid headlines than reading material for a 14-year-old. Obviously I'm out of touch with today's youth.

It may be a bit long. The good news is you can do without the third paragraph. And the sentences about your teaching/education and the third-person narrator can also go. The bad news is that the fourth paragraph needs more specificity. What's this chain of events? Is confronting their secrets a good thing? It's not clear, since they end up with new inner struggles. This paragraph may be the heart of your story, but it's so general we can't tell.

New Beginning 318

He was quiet. He seemed a little slow at first, and I really thought he might be stupid, which would’ve been a shame, given all the other parts of him being so good to be around. But then I saw, after a while, he wasn’t stupid. No, not stupid. Just dumbed down by circumstance, you know, just drilled down by circumstance, until he was just left with being still and quiet and grateful for whatever he got.

Eugene. I fucked his brains out for him. He was grateful; grateful and quiet.

You have to believe yourself way before other people believe you, is what some old guy on the boat he worked on had told Eugene. Not believe in you, just believe you, is what Eugene told me when we were laying there after, and I got him talking a little. I just loved hearing that shit. Like hearing that shit is gonna turn around a long time of being nothing. But I smiled anyway, to make him think I believed it, too.

We were in his bare white bedroom in an apartment. In Houma, Louisiana. And we were hiding out, hidden in a cool, white place, the sun out there pushing away with its wet heat. I swear you could feel the heat pressing, even in the cool of the room, feel it weighing everything down heavy outside. Just waiting. Waiting and hoping the pizza would get there before the heat became too oppressive. We wanted our appetites. Needed them: we would be eating a meat-lover's supreme. In August. In Louisiana.

The doorbell. You got there just in time, Wayne, riding in on a wave of sweltering fever. I fucked your brains out too. Before I got tired of all that chatter, black olives this and extra cheese that and your precious $12.95. You shoulda been quiet, Wayne. Quiet and grateful, like Eugene.

I believe you, Eugene. In all your quietness, gratefulness, and dumb-downedness, I believe you.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: takoda

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Q & A 117

When you or an agent provide commentary back to an author, how much revision by the author is going too far? Say the author makes all the changes and increases the number of words by 20 percent. That's significant. Would it cause trouble? Suppose the author added a new chapter what would be the reaction? OR suppose the author found a plot twist to change the ending. Is that asking for trouble? Or will the agent or editor be happy with the improved story?

It would be unusual for an agent to ask you to make wholesale changes unless she were already YOUR agent. In which case you may consider her your teammate and ask her all of these questions, and she will get back to you immediately, or whenever she feels like it.

If an editor has not agreed to buy your work, and suggests changes, I doubt she'd be bothered by an additional chapter. If the work needed only minor changes, she'd buy it first to be sure she got it, and then request changes--or make them herself.

Of course, a 20% increase in length is a lot of words if we're talking about a novel. If an 80,000-word novel truly needs another 16,000 words, it's hard to believe it's getting much interest. A few plot holes is no big deal; 16,000 words is a plot canyon.

If you've been asked to make some changes, and those changes don't include changing the ending, I'd hold off on that. If Margaret Mitchell was asked to add a couple chapters to Gone with the Wind, I'm guessing she did so, and I'm guessing she did so without the South winning the war.