Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bad analogies, final batch

Kissing your sister is like water for chocolate. -- Bill Highsmith

Bad analogies are like good ones, badly applied. -- Bill Highsmith

Her kisses were like queries; you didn't know if she liked you for months, and even then, she might only want a little more of you for further consideration. -- Bill Highsmith

She was like a bad movie; she worked during the day so you could only see her at night. -- Bill Highsmith

Feeling desperate about just about anything right now feels like standing in line at a deli and seeing a slightly plump mutton-chopped man in line in front of you who's minding his own business and ordering a roasted veggie panini, and you having a sudden urge to grab him by the lapels and beg him to do you, I mean, do your query. Next, I mean. Yeah. Like having blog fever or something. --Church Lady

Face-Lift 444

Guess the Plot


1. A gripping account of the process by which one substance, such as a solid or liquid, takes up another substance, such as a liquid or gas, through minute pores or spaces between its molecules.

2. A cross section of vaginas from every possible demographic discuss their relationships with tampons.

3. When a supermind composed of nanotechnologically connected people causes them to dress asexually and talk in stilted phrases, it falls upon hunky Brett Johnson to get assimilated absorbed into the supermind and save the universe from disaster.

4. By the time Newton discovered gravity, his sister, Lottie, was already a millionaire, thanks to a discovery of her own -- absorption! She invented the nappy, the napkin, the fuzzy towel, and the wool sock -- changing our world forever.

5. Penelope's gotta go so badly she can taste it, but she’s in a tent with seven others on an Outward Bound fright-week adventure, and she’s afraid of the dark and the weird hump-backed guy standing behind the outhouse. Which leaves her with only one desperate choice - hoping her Depends truly are dependable. Because at this point, it’s all about . . . absorption.

6. The Conovers couldn't have children, so they adopted. And adopted. And adopted. But how many members can one family take in before the household explodes in a massive salvo of animosity and resentment? Let's find out.

7. Hash-slinger Sarah Rapp had tried them all but nothing satisfied her needs. When a brawny lumberjack shows up at her diner, however, she discovers that absorption can mean more than soaking up spills. And like his paper towels, the hunky woodsman can be wrung out and used over and over again.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

If you’ve ever wondered why a supermind composed of nanotechnologically connected and enhanced people would cause them to dress asexually and talk in stilted phrases, Absorption is the book for you. [Man, there's a book for everybody nowadays.] [Clearly you've never read number 9 from Evil Editor's Ten Laws of Getting Published:

1. Any book is sure to be improved by the addition of sharks.

2. A query letter should not be--or seem to be--longer than the book it promotes.

3. If nothing has exploded by page 2, you started in the wrong place.

4. I'm almost as uninterested in your characters' dreams as I am in your dreams.

5. Never let an agent or editor see the quality of your writing before the contract is signed; it's a sure deal-breaker.

6. If there's a wolfman in a book, it should be stated clearly, up front. It's sure to be a selling point. Zombies, vampires and super-powered cannibals should also be mentioned early, but not before wolfmen.

7. Throw away all your writing books except Why You Don't Get Published.

8. If you plan to submit queries by email, don't use a screen name like scifiwriterdude or thenextnoraroberts.

9. If you want to convince a publisher that they'll sell thousands of copies of your book, it's always a mistake to declare that your niche audience is people who wonder why a supermind composed of nanotechnologically connected and enhanced people would cause them to dress asexually and talk in stilted phrases.

10. Never drop in on your editor to chew the fat.]

Major Brett Johnson of the Federalist Worlds has been sent to the planet Oceania in a last ditch attempt to convince them they must give up the technology that supports the Oceanian supermind or face war. He rashly seduces a lovely woman who seems to be in immanent peril from the supermind, [In my experience, when someone's in imminent peril, they would rather be rescued than seduced.] [I assume you meant "imminent," though "immanent" comes close to making sense.] only to find she is already part of it and apparently pleased to be so. He finds himself walking a difficult line between duty and honor when he begins to doubt his conviction that the beauty of Oceania is merely a mask for a deadly snare to humanity, and to wonder how much would need to be destroyed for his mission to succeed – and at what cost. Dare he become temporarily part of the overmind [Is the overmind the supermind? Is there also an undermind?] to attempt to avert a war that might destroy a world – or will he be deceived into having his soul destroyed [Let's not go overboard.] and becoming bait for a trap?

If you need an exclusive look at the full or partial manuscript please contact me soon, since the logistics of publishing require me to send out more than one query letter. [Whoa. You seem to think an agent is like a plumber or a landscaper--someone who wants your business. Wrong. An agent is like the cable guy--someone who works when she wants, and for whom she wants. Meaning someone besides you.] I would also like to discuss the rough drafts of further manuscripts with you, and my plans for publicizing this one. I am fortunate enough to live near New York City, with all it’s bookstores including the Strand, which specializes in science fiction. I also live near the Book Revue, a large independent bookstore famous for the signings they host. [You're very lucky, especially if there's also a good bakery in your neighborhood. Now, will Barnes and Noble carry the book?] I would also like to discuss with you my rough drafts [You already said that.] for several novels, and my future plans after that. [Okay, meet me Thursday at the Starbucks to the right of the Strand. No, make it the one to the left of the Strand.]

Grateful Regards,

(I'm assuming any agent who represents science fiction will at least have heard of the Borg, tell me if you disagree please. I call it Absorption instead of assimilation because I want to allude subtly - use whichever title you think is best.)


Everyone's heard of the Borg. For that matter, everyone's heard of Bjorn Borg. However, the query doesn't mention the Borg or Bjorn Borg. This sounds a lot like when Captain Picard became part of the Borg collective. It could be argued that subtly alluding to the Borg will make the book seem derivative, that you should either remove the Borgness from the query or trumpet that you've taken Borgness to a new level. Also, is there any way Bjorn Borg can make an appearance?

The plot is four sentences. Four fairly informative sentences, but once you get rid of the last paragraph you'll have more room. Room to tell us why the Federal Worlds care what Oceania is doing. Is Oceania using their supermind to threaten the Federal Worlds? Are they a member of the Federal Worlds? How long would it take an Oceanian starship to get to the closest Federal World?

It sounds like a list of things that happen; a better connection between the seduction and the doubts would fix that: When Johnson tries to rescue a lovely woman from the supermind, only to find she is already part of it and pleased to be so, he begins to doubt his conviction that the beauty of Oceania is a mask for a deadly snare.

Is that what he doubts? It seems he would begin to doubt that the supermind is a threat; we haven't heard anything about the beauty of Oceania being a snare. Perhaps it can be mentioned why Oceania's beauty is so worrisome.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bad Analogies

The task was to come up with bad analogies. Possibly I've received all I'm going to, but as I set no deadline, I'll now set one: 5 PM Wednesday, eastern time. Here are the one's I've received so far:

She needed him like the desert needs rain--which is to say, not so much, because every part of her life functioned perfectly without him, and if he were around, more than likely everything would drown. -- elissa

The cupboard was almost bare and we worried about surviving until the next supply drop, like when Evil Editor runs low on queries and the only opening left is the one nobody gets and the continuations for it suck so EE makes up writing exercises to fill the void until a rush of new submissions always somehow appear and save the day, except we didn’t think it would work like that with our cupboard because it’s not connected to the internet and even if it was it’d probably only deliver really, really tiny food, or pictures of food, maybe clipart. --blogless_troll

She was a spiritual as the Virgin Mary on a salami sandwich. -- Bernita

The air outside was so hot it felt like it had been warmed up all day long by a giant ball of fire, without the benefit of cloud cover. -- blogless_troll

She was frustrated, like when you’re late for something, but also really thirsty, so you run in 7-11 for a Super Big Gulp and they’re out of Mountain Dew, so you have to get Dr. Pepper instead, but then you get stuck behind some goober at the register conducting an intricate Lotto transaction that the clerk doesn’t understand, so Mr. Goober says, “No, no, no, box the three,” and you want to smack him with his special vinyl lottery ticket wallet that’s overflowing with last week’s losers only you can’t because it’ll just make you more late and they’ll probably call the cops too. -- blogless_troll

Her legs were like toothpicks; I wanted them between my teeth. -- Chro

His face was like a watermelon smothered in chocolate -- you know what I mean. -- Chro

A scream erupted from her throat like a volcano that, coincidentally, is also afraid of spiders. -- Chro

A gunshot rang out, like one of those charity Santa Clauses, except louder and with more blood and black powder. -- Chro

Her lips were not unlike the lips of most women, except they were different in a way I couldn't quite put my finger on. -- Chro

It felt exactly like jumping on a pogo stick, except not. -- Chro

The quick-as-a-toaster-set-on-the-lowest-setting brown-as-the-toast-made-by-aforementioned-toaster fox jumped-like-the-toast-did-coming-out-of-the-toaster over the lazy-like-me-when-I-just-sat-down-on-the-couch-not-realizing-the-toast-would-be-done-so-quickly dog. -- Chro

She was striking, but dull, like a twenty car pile up with no fatalities. -- blogless_troll

The whiteness was all over the rice, like white on r— …like flies on shit. -- blogless_troll

He was as agitated as Porky Pig on crystal meth at a luau. -- blogless_troll

It was a familiar silence, like when police sirens in the background stop suddenly and you wonder if they caught the guy, or got T-boned by a semi instead, or maybe the cop just wanted to get through the red light. -- blogless_troll

Ripping her cuticle hurt real bad, like ripping her heart open would've, except she could suck on her finger to make it feel better. -- Robin S.

The way writers write about living through the apocalypse makes it sound like the world is cleaning out its refrigerator, and you’re just hanging on like a week-old celery stalk, and hoping you’re one of the ones that’s still got enough crisp in you not to be tossed out. -- Robin S.

It was cold as a really cold piece of metal on a cold frozen ground. -- December/Stacia

He was ugly as sputum sicked up on the ground. -- December/Stacia

Her smile stretched across her face like mucous. -- December/Stacia

The sunset was rosy as a spanked bottom. -- December/Stacia

She was smug and conceited, and arrogant about her legacy which she thought made her better than everyone, and she bought and sold people like internet stocks, but people still flocked to her, still rooted for her, and wanted to be associated with her even though they knew nothing about her, and they didn't understand why she deserved to lose, didn't understand why they should revel in her disappointment and celebrate her failures: she was just like the Yankees. -- blogless_troll

Lippman's sleep was as deep and satisfying as death itself, except for that part where you don't wake up, of course. -- Paul Penna

Her excuse was as flimsy as a roll of toilet paper you accidentally dropped in the bowl. -- Paul Penna

Virginia's husband confessing he was gay after twelve years of marriage was as unexpected as an SUV signaling a lane change. -- Paul Penna

His analogy was as bad as that thing that's sort of like that other thing. -- Paul Penna

New Beginning 395

Minos climbed to Marie's shoulder, wings half-extended, his claws making a ladder of her crocheted top.

Once in his favourite spot, he pecked her ear. "Stranger coming."

She pulled her arm out of the crevice in the preformed rock, and shook life back into her fingers. Surely even Daphne wouldn't lay eggs that deep.

"What kind of stranger?" She rewarded the kea with a grape, which he tasted, turning it round in his beak, then ate.

"Man. Tall. Dark."

"What are you, my horoscope?" She caressed his feathers with one finger. "Handsome, too?"

"Don't know handsome."

He pecked her ear again before beginning to patrol her shoulder. Surveying his domain.

Marie looked around too. This was the elder of the two kea enclosures, and it showed wear and tear. When kea got bored, they also got destructive. Or, as she expressed it at funding meetings, 'creative'.

"What's this?"

Her hand withdrew a strange contruction of sticks and twine.

"Mine!" cried Minos.


"I made! I, kea!"

Opening: BuffySquirrel.....Continuation: khazar-khum

Writing Exercise

As some of you know, I sprinkled a liberal dose of excerpts from Face-Lifts into Why You Don't Get Published, and lots of my favorite Guess the Plots into Novel Deviations 2 as space fillers. I've decided to fill excess space in Novel Deviations 3 with Bad Analogies. I have many from the previous exercise (Results in the July archive, 7/20-21), but I need a few more.

Normally I'd put this off till the weekend, but there's only one query in the queue, and not enough fake plots for that one (which makes this the perfect time to submit your query and get fast turnaround).

Submit your bad analogies as comments; rather than publish them as they come in, I'll compile them into a future post.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Face-Lift 443

Guess the Plot

Crucibles and Cauldrons

1. Fish-Face Nelson is desperate for respect but he can't stage a school shootout because he's afraid of guns. So he puts on his cape , takes his wand in hand, opens a tattered copy of THE FACELESS FIEND'S POTION BOOK, which he found under a moss in the forest, and starts cooking.

2. In a world of sorcery, two sisters morph into a dragon and a champion fencer and take on the Inquisition. But can two young girls prevent the Church's influence from being spread across the world by forbidden magic?

3. Octavia Tizano needs only one more ingredient for her Unquenchable Love Potion: ear of twit. This would be easy if she could just travel by night and pilfer one, but it has to be a gift. And what kind of person would give away his ear?

4. Jane Euclid enjoys her cloak and dagger spy girl life as a witch in Memphis, Tennessee, until strange things stop happening. Then young witches start turning up dead. What's going on? Jane teams up with ace homicide detective Zack Martinez to find out.

5. Love for the Harry Potter stories inspired the theme of Tammy and Jen's Internet laundromat cafe theater in Boston. They knew they'd get lots of HP fans as customers. But they didn't expect quite so many to fly in on broomsticks.

6. Rory Shaw, teenage alchemist's apprentice, was annoyed. First it was the talking knife, then the crucible ran off with the spoon and the cauldron was so grieved and jealous, it wouldn't stop crying. Desperate for peace, Rory threw the old pot in the moat. Oops! It was actually a thrice-cursed pirate: Viggo the Terrible. Now he's human again, very unhappy and covered with goo.

Original Version

Dear [agent];

11-year old Marta wants to fly, but she gets what she wanted in the worst possible way. Her sister, 16-year old Rosa wants a quiet life, but she gets the opposite when forced to rescue her family from the Inquisition.

The sisters live high in the mountains, when a mysterious inquisitor arrives and turns out to be their uncle running from the inquisition. [How is he mysterious? Why don't they know he's their uncle immediately?] He is shot in front of their family, but not before he casts strange magic on Rosa.

Desperate to know if their uncle told anyone the secret he knew, the Inquisitor General throws their whole family in prison. Rosa barely manages to escape by drawing on a mysterious physical prowess that she never had before and discovers her uncle embedded his mind into her psyche, [Or vice versa.] allowing her to access his skills as a champion fencer. [She escapes from prison using fencing skills? Does she have a weapon? If you're locked in a cell, what good are fencing skills?] She also learns the secret he discovered; [How does she find out?] the Inquisitor General is using a forbidden magic called Mentalism to spread the Church's influence across the world. [Hey, it's better than what the real Inquisitions did.]

Knowing Rosa possesses the secret, [How does he know? Can't anyone keep a secret?] the Inquisitor General uses Mentalism to switch Marta's mind with a dragon's. He erases her memories and alters her mind to be loyal to him. However, the bonds of loyalty shatter when Marta confronts her sister. She flees and struggles to regain her memory.

Using what little witchcraft Rosa [she] learned from her mother, she [Rosa] discovers the dragon is her sister and tracks it across the land. Finally reunited, they confront [You just used "confront" two sentences ago. I'd change the other one to "sees."] the Inquisitor General. It seems an easy task to a dragon and a champion fencer, [What does?] but the General can control minds. [Marta's uncle was shot. This would seem to imply that there are guns, and that proficiency with a sword is as useful as it was for this guy.]

I am seeking representation for Crucible and Cauldron (95,000 words), a complete fantasy novel set in a world of alchemy and witchcraft. This is my first novel, but I have extensive experience in technical writing. SASE enclosed.



I'm not sure why the uncle's magic is described as "strange," and Marta's physical prowess is described as "mysterious." In a world of alchemy and witchcraft, why would anything seem strange or mysterious?

The Inquisitor General knows Rosa knows his secret. Presumably this is bad for him. If so, shouldn't he take action against her instead of putting Marta's mind into a dragon?

If you need a loyal dragon, why switch the mind of an 11-year-old who hates you with a dragon, when you can switch the mind of someone who's already loyal to you, and just leave the kid in prison?

If the IG has the ability to erase people's memories, and he doesn't want Marta's family to know his secret, instead of throwing them in prison he should just erase all their memories.

In fact, the ability to control people's minds is such a useful tool, you have to be careful that there's an explanantion for why the IG doesn't use Mentalism for everything he does.

When Marta's mind is switched with the dragon's, does Marta's body go around trying to breathe fire on everything?

New Beginning 394

‘Craig boy’ is what we called him. Stud muffin to the stars is what he was, or what he thought he was, anyway, driving us in his bronze-colored van down through the main streets of Gatlinburg at dusk, all happy with himself and his stereo system and his fluffy warm seats.

With the big belt and the big boots and the new felt hat, he looked like he’d been trussed up in his sleep by a woman who didn’t love him, not one little bit. But I didn’t think he’d been with a woman he hadn’t had to pay for in some way for a long, long time, or maybe never, much less one that simply didn’t love him. So the trussing was all down to Craig boy, and his Tennessee cowboy dreaming.

Vivian was eyeballing him something fierce. It was like she’d just realized he was a fool, as though that hadn’t been there before we crossed state lines, him being a fool.

As it took time away from her eyeballing me and any nipple exposure I might’ve had through my sweater, I found it funny. I couldn’t stop smiling, watching her watching him, from my perch on the platform in the back of the van, laying on the fake bearskin rug belonging to Randall T.

Randall T was what we called him now, anyway, another new name to hide our unwanted fame as word about us reached the suburbs. We traveled after dark mostly, now, attracting too much attention from the state troopers in the daytime, they with their low slung bellies and tobacco tainted southern drawls. "What you pesky kids doing round these parts," they'd say and laugh like they'd just delivered the monologue for Johnny Carson. Assholes.

So we spray-painted the van and picked new names for ourselves and Fred became Craig boy and I was Leanne and that stoner hippy, Shaggy, we called him Randall T, and Velma, well she was still Velma 'cause nobody noticed her anyway.

I just wish we could get rid of that fucking talking dog.

Opening: Robin.....Continuation: ril

Friday, October 26, 2007

Face-Lift 442

Guess the Plot

Neska's Tattoo

1. Neska must learn to use the powers she acquired when the magic tattoo appeared on her hands in order to defeat the murderous criminal known as . . . The Usurper!

2. When Steve and Neska meet, it's love at first sight--until he mentions how much he hates tattoos, unaware of the passion flower vines encircling her.

3. When 11 year old Neska Jones gets home from the slumber party, her mom immediately notices the "skull & crossbones" tattooed on her arm. Now Bob Jones is racing across town with his hound dog and shotgun, looking for the rat that wrecked his little girl's life.

4. As the winner of the Most Churlish Clerk award at the company party, Neska thinks she has nowhere to go but up--until her weekend ends on Monday afternoon when she wakes up naked in a strange house, sporting a scandalous new tattoo and wondering who that blonde guy was.

5. It wasn't her wisest move, but Neska Smith got a tattoo one drunken night in college. Now that she's planning her third date with hunky journalist Aaron Michaelson, she realizes that he may soon see it for himself. Will he be intimidated--or amused--by her tattoo of a laughing woman holding a knife in one hand and and a penis in the other?

6. The last thing Stinky and Dwight want to do is, of course, what they must do -- if they want to hang with the Blackbrush Bankers. Their mission? Lick Neska's tattoo. The deadline? Midnight, this Saturday. The penalty for failure? Exile.

Original Version

When Neska accidentally becomes a sorceress, she has to fight against the murderous usurper who would kill her to steal her magic. [I recommend capitalizing "Usurper" so he sounds like a super villain.]

The usurper [The Usurper!!] , now King Baleren, [Boring. Always refer to him as The Usurper!!] .] murders both the rightful Andonian King and Neska's clan. She escapes to a nearby town where she agrees to guide a fleeing mage through her native mountains. The mage is killed, [Nice guide job, Neska. Hope you got paid in advance.] his magical tattoo appearing on her palms. She soon realizes that the tattoo contains [possesses] great power, power King Baleren will do anything to acquire and that she must now learn to control. [How does the Usurper know she has a magic tattoo?]

Salvation arrives in Erlant, a mage who offers to teach her to control the power that gives the ability to see the thoughts of the people around her and to fog their minds. [Thanks, Erlant, but instead of teaching me parlor tricks, could you teach me to destroy my enemies with a single thought?] But, salvation has a price, and Neska agrees in return to help Erlant find the missing heir to the throne. As much as she wants Baleren destroyed, she has no faith in their ability to achieve it. Yet together they hunt [search for] the Prince, pursued by traitorous mages, the usurper's army, [There's something odd about referring to someone as "the usurper" three times when you know his name.] and his half-demon minions called the Chanwe. [Well, that settles it; if you're going to capitalize his minions, you have to capitalize the Usurper.] She locates him by getting close to the sadistic Chanwe commander so she can see his thoughts. [Unfortunately, the commander thinks about nothing but naked women for three hours, but eventually he thinks, The prince is in the fourth cave from the left, halfway up Mt. Andonia; no one'll ever find him there.] Once they find the Prince, freeing him and reaching his awaiting army to defeat King Baleren takes them along an even more dangerous path. Then in their darkest hour, haunted by loss and with defeat imminent, Neska must call upon her deepest strengths to conquer her magic so they can triumph.

Neska's Tattoo is a completed stand-alone 90,000 word fantasy novel which could have a sequel... [Neska's Eyebrow Piercing.]


This is a clear enough description of what happens, but it does inspire a few questions:

What makes The Usurper!! think he can steal Neska's magic? Neska didn't make the tattoo appear on her palms; she got the tattoo magically. How can The Usurper!! make the tattoo appear on his palms?

Besides, when you've already usurped the throne, and you have an army of half-demon minions, do you really need the ability to read minds? You can be sure pretty much everybody is thinking, Must kill Usurper.

If Neska can't read thoughts until Erlant teaches her, how did she know she had magical powers in the first place?

When you're up against an army of half-demons, I wouldn't call mind reading ability "salvation." Knowing that the 6000 creatures charging toward you are thinking, Must kill Neska, isn't nearly as useful as a fast horse.

Why are the traitorous mages and the demon minions loyal to The Usurper!!? What do they need him for?

Writing Exercise

It was Halloween night, but there'd been no trick or treaters at the home of ____________, who was about to go to bed when the doorbell rang.

So begins the scene you're to write, which must be romance, horror, or literary fiction. And the blank should be filled in with someone appropriately scary, i.e. Dracula, the Bride of Frankenstein, Stephen Baldwin...

Get 'em in by noon Sunday. Include a name if you want credit. About 200 words, please.

New Beginning 393

Tommy winced at the mirror. The space above his shirt collar was pocked with zits. They were an ugly red color with yellowish-white centers. He touched the one on the tip of his nose and flinched. Placing a finger on each side of it, he took a deep breath and squished. His eyes squeezed shut, forcing out a few tears. Chunky white liquid squirted out and splashed against the mirror. Tommy sighed with the release of the pressure. One down, too many to go. The aroma of garlic tickled his nose. He took a huge sniff.


Tommy’s hands dropped to his side. “Coming, Mother.”

He dabbed at his tears with his shirt sleeve. Grabbing a wad of toilet paper, he wiped the mirror, leaving behind white streaks. He almost didn’t see the chunks of white on the sink. Wiping those, too, he threw the soggy paper in the toilet.

Tommy’s mother was in the kitchen, making spaghetti. She stood at the stove, stirring the sauce with a wooden spoon in one hand, and with the other she was excavating her nostrils. The right nostril was a no-go, but from the left she produced a beautiful quarter-inch long snot nugget, crunchy and brown on the bottom, a nice gooey green on top. She rolled it between her thumb and index finger until it achieved an even consistency; then she flicked it upward. It stuck to the ceiling above the stove, right between two of her most prized specimens, Mondo Mucus and Thank God I Can Breath Again.

"Ah, you're here." Tommy’s mother turned away from him and hiked her blouse up to her shoulders, revealing her splotchy, waxy skin that always reminded Tommy of headcheese. “Two, five, and seventeen,” she said.

Tommy sighed, but set to work. Two and five were no problem, but No. 17 Blackhead was a real bitch. Luckily, he hadn’t chewed off his thumbnails yet. They left half-moon indentations, but his mother only squeaked once. When he was done, Tommy wiped the goop, which looked like mashed potatoes mixed with dirt and blood, on his mother’s bra strap.

She thanked him and placed a hand on his cheek, smiling. “You’re growing up so fast,” she said. “I remember when you had to stand on the chair to reach seventeen.”

Tommy rolled his eyes. “Motherrrrr. You’re embarrassing me.”

She opened the fridge and removed a crinkled foil tube; the end of it was folded and rolled half way. “Now run along and find your father,” she said, handing the tube to Tommy. “He needs help with his hemorrhoids.”

Opening: Sarah L. .....Continuation: blogless_troll

Guess the Title 4 (Halloween edition)

Below are descriptions of ten books available at Your job is to guess which title goes with each book. The other five are fakes submitted by the Evil Minions.

1. TV reporter Delilah Street used to cover the small-town bogeyman beat back in Kansas, but now, in high-octane Las Vegas - which is run by a werewolf mob - she finds herself holding back the gates of Hell itself. But at least she has a hot new guy and one big bad wolfhound to help her out...

Casino Lycanos
Delilah trims Vegas
Handsome and Delilah
Dancing with Werewolves
What Spawns in Vegas Stays in Vegas
Larry, I've a Feeling We're Not in Kansas Anymore

2. The Queen of the Undead discovers that even Queens have to pay their bills, and vampire queens are no exception.

Undead and Unemployed
The Taxman is Succumbing
The Repo Man Wears Garlic
"Blood Banks Don't Make Loans"
You’re Dead to Me: Final Notice III – The Gasman Cometh

3. A Chinese doctor encounters one of the earliest zombie cases at a time when the Chinese government is ruthlessly suppressing any information about the outbreak that will soon spread across the globe. The tale then follows the outbreak via testimony of smugglers, intelligence officials, military personnel and many others who struggle to defeat the zombie menace.

Subgum of the Living Dead
Apple Blossoms, Rotting Flesh
The Zombie Disclosure Project
Shao Lin Zombies from the Underworld!
Zen and the Art of Zombie Maintenance
World War Z: an Oral History of the Zombie War

4. A patchwork anthology of 13 new vampire stories in which writers with serious vamp credentials craft stories around the concept of birthdays for bloodsuckers.

Many Bloody Returns
Fangs for the Memories
The Gift That Keeps on Taking
Suck it Up: Birthday Feasts for the Undead
Nutrient-Rich Hemoglobin for the Super-centenarian's Soul

5. The Ultimate Guide to Saving Mankind from Vampires, Zombies, Hellhounds, and Other Mythical Beasts.

The Bible
Stake Saucy
Monster Slaying for Dummies
The Monster Hunter's Handbook
The Book of Cain: Being Marked by God Ain't All That Bad
High School Girls’ Sleepovers from Hell: A Bitch’s Guide to Turning Back the Zombie Tide

6. As two witches prepare to host their annual monster bash, they decide to restrict the guest list.

Witches Only
No Zombies Allowed
The Unkindest Cut of All
Drawing the Line at Michael Jackson
Glinda and Gruntilda’s Spook Soiree
I Don't Care What it Says on That Card, We Didn't Invite No Weredingos

7. Zombies have devoured mankind. And the few survivors would be better off dead because a clan of vampires, bloodthirsty and vicious, have captured the remnants of humanity for livestock. In an apartment building barricaded with wrecked cars, concrete rubble, and snarls of barbed wire, the vampires breed lobotomized amputees.

Crypts Versus Bloods
Only the Dead Survive
The True Story of Walter Reed
The Bush Administration: Term 3
Roses of Blood on Barbwire Vines
One Flew Over the Vampire's Roost

8. To teach their obnoxious cousin Mabel a lesson, two boys convince her the statues in Central Park are people who were turned to stone by a zombie's breath, which smells like cheese.

Mabel's Marble Fable
The Listerine Chronicles
The Limburger Zombie Hoax
Gorgonzola Zombies in the Park
Liederkranz and Camembert are Dead
Gouda Night, Mabel; Don't Let the Muensters Get You

9. There is nothing more depressing for a middle-aged lovelorn woman with bald patches on her head than to find herself in an English seaside resort out of season. When our heroine finds her hair falling out, she travels to an old-fashioned hotel and buys hair tonic from a witch in order to repair the damage away from the neighbors in her all-too-cozy Cotswolds village.

Hairless in Brighton
Gone Today, Hair Tomorrow
Grizelda Sperling’s Hair Club For Women
Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadde
No Deposit, No Return: A Hair Raising Tale
Miss Charlesworth and the Love Potion Mix-up

10. Lou Kipinski seems to have it all. But beauty is only skin deep-and sometimes Lou's porcelain complexion can get a bit hairy.

Kibble and Kipinski
I’m Too Sexy For My Pelt
Confessions of a Werewolf Supermodel
I'd Love To, But I Don't Date During a Full Moon
Pardon Me, But You Seem to Have Turned Into a Leopard
I Wish I Could Marry You, But I Can't Afford Your Vet Bills

Correct answers below

Fake titles were provided by Chro, Dave, Paul Penna, McKoala, Robin S., blogless_troll, Khazar-khum, Ylimemmy, Precie and EE.

Actual titles:

Dancing with Werewolves
Undead and Unemployed
World War Z: an Oral History of the Zombie War
Many Bloody Returns
The Monster Hunter's Handbook
Roses of Blood on Barbwire Vines
No Zombies Allowed
Gorgonzola Zombies in the Park
Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadde
Confessions of a Werewolf Supermodel

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New Beginning 392

The bus rolled on, away from Baikonur. We followed the tracks of the old railway out into the desert, but I stared back at the town for as long as I could. The empty buildings rose like old teeth along the horizon, and the weedy streets lay empty in the approaching dusk. It was a ghost town.

Eventually I turned back in my seat and watched the barren landscape ahead. I was tired from my journey and didn't want to think about how much farther I had yet to travel. A young man sat in the seat opposite mine, wide-eyed and excited. His leg thumped rapidly and he kept glancing down at a letter that he clutched tightly in his lap. Was he on his way to see his love? Perhaps he was starting a new career. He had stars in his eyes, that was for sure, and I couldn't help but smile when I looked over at him. Seeing him made me think of my own letter--the one that sat heavily in my shirt pocket.

And why shouldn't it sit heavily? The envelope was stuffed with plastic explosive, carefully rigged to detonate on exposure to air.

Reject me would they? This was one submission that wouldn't be supplied with an SASE.

Opening: Gordon Clemmons.....Continuation: Antony

Face-Lift 441

Guess the Plot


1. Fido had a hobby. It never bothered anyone, until the day he dug up Mr. Kravitz's hobby. Some secrets will not stay dead.

2. Two bands of pirates meet on a small Caribbean island and Viggo the Terrible decides to ravish a few females. Now he's up to his ears in sand, while Big Sal and Elvira sail away with his ship and crew. What will he do when the rest of the Petticoat Posse arrives?

3. Ever since Tessa'a best friend escaped after three years as captive of a psychotic kidnapper, things haven't been the same between them. Can Tessa exhume the friend she once knew, or will she herself be . . . Buried?

4. Jillian has had it. Her boss is on her ass, David is going through a 'phase'--whatever the hell that means--the customers won't stop calling and bitching, and she hasn't had a day off in two years. No one told her that being a literary agent meant her own life would be . . . Buried.

5. Zach liked to boast that his house was built on an old Indian burial ground. But when his friends call him on it, and he digs up his back yard, he finds a whole underground world of super-intelligent mole people.

6. After the earthquake that leveled his apartment; the harrowing escape from a burning building complete with daring rescue of a girl and her puppy; the 3 day drinking binge; the 7 day tryst of passion with Tiffany Lopez; and the weekend of dysentery -- Berkeley graduate student Lambert Swiggney struggles to complete his overdue Chaucer essay in his new office in the back seat of a Honda Civic.

Original Version

Note: It's bring your kid to work day here at the office, and I decided to let Evil Jr., my six-year-old, make a few of the comments in this critique to demonstrate that this isn't as easy as it looks. The kid's comments are in red.

Dear Evil Editor,

Tessa, a sixteen-year-old perfectionist with obsessive tendencies, [She bites her fingernails, but when she's finished they look exactly like the Virgin Mary's fingernails.] [In researching obsessive tendencies for this critique, I went to Dr. Phil's site, where he explains the degrees of such compulsive behaviors as washing your hands a lot, and says, "An hour or more a day is moderate, 3 to 5 hours is severe, and 8 hours or more is extreme behavior."

Patient: Doc, I spend five hours a day washing my hands.

Dr. Phil: Hey, I wouldn't call that extreme behavior . . . Uh, you missed a spot.]

[I used to spend eight hours a day washing my hands . . . WHEN I WAS A COAL MINER!] [Then my psychiatrist suggested I switch from Ivory soap to Lava. That was the only psychiatric session that ever did me any good--I'm down to five hours a day.]

has isolated herself by hiding behind the lens of a camera [Either she's a midget, or that's one humongous camera!!] as she’s struggled for the past three years to deal with the kidnapping of her best friend, Noelle. When Tessa is accepted as a member of her high school yearbook staff, she is forced to make some changes, as she must learn to interact with and rely on others. Tessa even begins an unlikely friendship with Max, a new student who, upon first impression, strikes her as irritating and slightly dangerous [thanks to his practicing his knife-throwing act during arithmetic class].

When Noelle escapes her abductor and returns home, [I don't think she escaped. I think the kidnapper figured, Hey, I been feedin' this mooch for three years and I ain't seen a dime of ransom; time to cut my losses.] the girls meet again and Tessa is shocked to realize that the friend she’s idealized since her disappearance is not at all who she imagined. [Look, Noelle, I realize you've spent the last three years living in a pit under a psycho's house, but do you think you could lighten up?] In reality, the angry and sullen Noelle is someone Tessa would avoid if not for the past. [Kinda like you and me, Evil Dad!!!] As Tessa becomes intent on finding a way to reconcile the differences that have grown between herself and Noelle, she only hopes that she can unbury the girl she remembers and avoid burying herself in the process.

To complicate matters, the relationship between Tessa and Max moves beyond the boundaries of a simple friendship, [Or, to be more concise, they fuck.] and Tessa must deal with the confusing feelings that arise. At school, Tessa is labeled a "Narc," because several pictures she took for the yearbook inadvertently landed a star football player in serious trouble. [Was it her fault the running back's touchdown celebration consisted of shooting up steroids in the end zone?] When details of Noelle’s escape emerge, it becomes evident that Noelle risked her own life to save Tessa from becoming yet another victim of the man who had held her captive for three years. [Explain.] Through it all, Tessa finally understands that she can’t control every aspect of her life, that hiding doesn’t solve anything, and that change can, in fact, be positive.

Buried is a contemporary young adult novel, complete at 62,000 words.

I am a member of the SCBWI. I would be happy to send you Buried. Thank you for your time and consideration.



So, do they catch the bad guy?

I'd leave out the perfectionist/obsessive part, as it doesn't come up later in the query.

It's very general. Some specific details here and there would make it more interesting. For instance, which is more interesting:

As Tessa becomes intent on finding a way to reconcile the differences that have grown between herself and Noelle, she only hopes that she can unbury the girl she remembers and avoid burying herself in the process.


Determined to rebuild her lost friendship, Tessa gets Noelle high, takes her to a Body Count concert, and lets her spend a night with Max.

Tessa is shocked to realize that the friend she’s idealized since her disappearance is not at all who she imagined.


Tessa is shocked to find that Noelle has morphed into Sylvia Plath.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New Beginning 391 (short story)

Hush now. Be still. I have a story to tell.

Not long ago and not far from here, in a small town up in the hills, lived a farmer and wife who longed for a baby.

For many years they kept their longing close to their hope, but when their hope ran out they were left only with longing and the longing grew until it became pain. When the pain grew too great to bear, the farmer took his wife down to the coast in the quiet days after the harvest, and told her it was time to put the longing away.

He was a kind man who regretted the harvest, cutting his crops with whispered promises that he would save the seeds and next year they would grow taller and prouder than ever. When he told his wife that they must forget about the baby they would never have, he tried to do it with the kindness he showed his crops, with stories of foreign travel and an unencumbered life, but the tears in her eyes washed away his kindness and in the end he blurted out the truth: 'I don't want to try any more'.

No, you can't have any ice cream. Hush and listen.

The kind farmer removed a Cabbage Patch Kid from beneath his overalls and held it high. "This here's the only baby we need," he said. "Billy Bob'll make a fine boy. Now quit yer' ballin' and fetch me some grub, woman."

But as the kind farmer spat chewing tobacco on the ground, an evil grin surfaced on Cabbage Patch Billy Bob's face, and--

Sit still! You think hillbilly sci-fi is easy to do? Now be patient while I finish telling the story . . .

Opening: McKoala.....Continuation: The Church Lady

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Face-Lift 440

Guess the Plot

Blades of the Fallen

1. Tori Dean couldn't land a triple Salchow. She was ready to hang up her skates, until the mysterious old hag in the spangled costume gave her a set of gold-plated blades. Can Tori make it to the Olympics skating on Tonya's . . . Blades of the Fallen?

2. Competing with reality TV, on-demand movies, video games and more was putting Bob’s sport franchise out of business. Needing a new slant on an old sport, Bob is inspired to create Blades of the Fallen – combining the grace and beauty of ice skating with the action and blood of ultimate fighting.

3. Using his father's blade, Jak revenges himself on the man who killed his father. Now, aided by a talking dagger that wants only to be his friend, can he also find and kill the man who murdered his mother? It's a lot to ask of a ten-year old.

4. After the last mowing of summer, just as he is raking up the clippings, Harry's lawn takes its bloody revenge, and nothing in his corner of suburbia will ever be the same. Also, screaming hedges.

5. Collector David Dawkins has an unusual hobby: gathering the tools of deceased barbers. He covets a pristine set of 18th-century equipment once owned by Alexander Hamilton. What will he do to get . . . the Blades of the Fallen?

6. A trio of has-been prostitutes open a barbershop, hoping its clever name will draw customers. It does, but from an unexpected quarter: angst-ridden werewolves hoping a close shave will allow them to "pass." Also: bearded zombies.

Original Version

Dear [Agent],

I come to you seeking representation for my fantasy adventure novel, BLADES OF THE FALLEN: a tale of childhood, choices, and living for those you love.

Like many ten-year-olds, all Jak wants is to make his parents proud -- easier said than done when his father is a heartless, cynical thief and his mother is a bright-eyed priestess to a benevolent goddess. [Why is it difficult for a bright-eyed priestess to be proud of her son?] Even harder when, under completely separate circumstances, both of his parents are murdered. [Where was the goddess while her priestess was being murdered?]

In Jak's world, justice is more a means to control than a means to protect, so he takes matters into his own hands. [Not clear. Justice is a means to control the bad guys? Then why does Jak have to take things into his own hands? Shouldn't the justice authorities take control of the situation?] But when he assassinates the merchant lord responsible for his father's death, he sets in motion a series of events that will thrust him into the center of a hidden war that spans the continent. [It's not easy keeping a war hidden when it spans a continent. Unless you manage to disguise your armies as herds of wildebeest.] One empire wants to enslave him; another wants him dead. [A salesman kills a thief, and the thief's kid kills the salesman, and suddenly two empires go to war? Explain.]

To regain his freedom and survive, [To whom has he lost his freedom? Has he been captured?] Jak will have to escape a network of spies, a spell of enslavement, and the ghosts of his past (or, more accurately, the walking dead of his past.) [(Or, even more accurately, zombies.)] He has a short list of allies: a chipper tomb-robber with a fistful of secrets, a talking dagger who wants nothing more than a friend, [Does the dagger have a mouth, or do its words just emanate from it?]

[Jak: I need to kill that guy.

Dagger: Okay, plunge me into his eye. Then we'll play Truth or Dare again, okay? Please?]

and a goddess that has saved his life but refuses to tell him why. [Is this the same goddess?] If he's lucky, he might even bring his mother's murderer to justice, [Why doesn't the goddess bring his mother's murderer to justice? Someone kills her priestess, and she leaves it to a ten-year-old kid to get justice? Does this so-called goddess have any powers?] and keep a dangerous artifact out of the hands of those who seek power through death and deceit.

Considering his luck thus far, he can only hope that 'praying a lot' is an acceptable substitute. [For what?]

BLADES OF THE FALLEN is an epic, standalone tale and is complete at 209,500 words. [At 250 words per page, we're talking 838 pages. And that doesn't include the title page, copyright page, your 40-page index, etc. War and Peace is longer, but unless you write as well as Tolstoy, consider making this two or three books.] Its sequel, CURSE OF THE FALLEN, is already in the works. [No need to say "already" unless we know the date you finished the original, so that we can be shocked at how quickly you put the sequel in the works.] [Is the talking dagger in the sequel?] I have enclosed the first five pages of my book as an example of my writing, and a SASE if you wish to request a copy or partial copy of the manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I eagerly await your response.


[To Evil Editor: The title stems from two sources. He assassinates the merchant lord with his dead father's kukri, and the 'talking dagger' mentioned is believed to be cursed ever since the original owner used it to commit suicide.]


Usually a main character who's a kid suggests a book for kids. But not at this length. On the other hand, 800,000 words of a kid talking to a knife may not appeal to adults.

If Jak was captured, did his captors actually let him keep his dagger?

I see a spinoff series here, with the talking dagger as the main character. You could have Talking Dagger vs. Dracula, Talking Dagger Meets W.C. Fields, Talking Dagger and the Deathly Hallows.

So each book in the series is something of "the fallen"? Who are the fallen? Jak's parents? Surely there won't be two 800,000-word books inspired by the death of a heartless, cynical thief.

I feel that we're missing some crucial information. Why do empires go to war when Jak kills a cheese merchant? Why do both sides consider Jak a threat? Are there any good guys? What's the dangerous artifact, who wants it, and what happens if they get it? You've set this epic against the backdrop of war between empires, yet Jak's only goal seems to be to find his mother's murderer. Let us in on his quest to save the world.

Monday, October 22, 2007

New Beginning 390

The crowd settled in, conversation punctuated the task of finding seats. Fans, mostly, though sprinkled with blow-ins who just wanted to see what it was all about. Dave looked from behind the curtain and turned to his co-producer, Bobby.

"Like the mix. Lotta families; they're more likely to come back that people who just come on their own or with a friend or two."

Bobby nodded, his stomach still churning the first-time blues. He'd never booked a show like this before. He waited for the first man to go out. There was a sudden blare of trumpets and a guy in combat pants and wrestling boots ran full tilt at the ring and slid under the first rope before addressing the audience.

"I have seen the future, and it is crap! The mountains shall be laid low, the seas shall boil, and your knickers will get really twisted and there will be turds in those twists because you will be really, really, scared - what the hell are you?!"

His voice boomed through the crowd.

A young girl, a waif of a kid, really, stood up on her seat, right before him, scorching red eyes boring into him. That and the flaming red of her hair made the man think twice before asking again, but he asked anyway, filled with bluster, “Like I said, little girlie, just what the hell are you?”

“I am the goddess of hellfire for bullshit-filled men, and I have come for you,” the flaming red waif said in a deep, powerful voice, pointing her finger at him. As she twisted her finger around and around, still pointing and staring, the man’s Transformers bikini undies began to burn, shooting flames through his combat pants. He screamed for water, diving for the outside of the ring, as the women in the audience howled and clapped their appreciation.

Dave turned to Bobby. “Get that kid's contact information, and get it fast.” He rubbed his hands together. “I see a packed ladies-only night in our future.”

Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: Robin S.

Face-Lift 439

Guess the Plot

Coldharbour Lane

1. London, 1888. The city's upper crust are shocked by a series of grisly murders. Can Scotland Yard detective Miles Avery discover who is killing the flower girls of . . . Coldharbour Lane?

2. After years of struggle it looked like Winne Campbell's organic goat cheese would finally make her rich -- until the zombies showed up. Now Winnie and goat wrangler Jorge Santiago prepare to make their last stand on the roof of the barn, armed with only a potato cannon and the will to survive.

3. Chelsea is having trouble adjusting to her new home. None of the kids at school will talk to her. All of her teachers seem to want to expel her. But the real trouble begins when she runs afoul of the coven of vampires that keep her town perpetually shrouded in fog.

4. Mickey can't believe his luck when he lands a low-priced home on the waterfront--until the bodies start washing ashore. After recognizing one as his ex-wife, he starts to investigate. Big mistake. Will Mickey be the next body washed ashore at . . . Coldharbour Lane?

5. No one has lived there since the gruesome--and unsolved--murders three years ago. The Brownes know nothing about the murders when they buy the place. But they're about to find out the truth of what happened that night in the house on Coldharbour Lane. Will they survive to tell anyone else?

6. Michael buys a decrepit house, not realizing that the hippies next door have their marijuana crop on the property. What's worse, Michael's wife wants him to renovate the place into the world's greatest Georgian mansion, and Michael hates Georgian. Will their marriage survive the house on . . . Coldharbour Lane?

Original Version

Coldharbour Lane is a 100,000 word mainstream novel about a family whose plans are always in ruins.

Michael Galbraith buys decrepit houses, lives in them with his wife and three children during [amidst] all the dirt and disruption of renovation, and then, once he's restored them to perfection, sells up and moves on to the next. It's not a hobby; it's his life. Any period can become his favourite, except Georgian, which he hates. [That sentence doesn't belong there.]

Wife Rachel, a Professor of History, specialises in everything Georgian, and wants to combine Michael's mania with her in-depth knowledge to create a more perfectly-restored Georgian mansion than the world has yet seen. [Here's a better place to tell us about Michael's seething hatred of all things from Georgia.]

For the sake of family harmony, Michael agrees to view three walls and a chimney known as 8 Coldharbour Lane. But when he discovers mysterious ruins in the grounds, his imagination is captured by a much more exciting project: recreating a long-lost Roman villa.

Living in a leaky caravan, he labours on the villa by day and the mansion at night. Rachel can't understand how he can work so hard, yet achieve so little. [In other words, she doesn't know about the villa? Why is he keeping it secret from her? Even if he works on the villa while she's at work, wouldn't she notice a Roman villa taking shape on her property?] And why is he reading up on mosaics rather than Muff glass? [That was going to be my next question.]

The renovation project meets with mixed reactions from their new neighbours. The Britisher-than-thou Dhaliwals at number 2 set out to trump Rachel's period knowledge; [You teach the Georgian era? Why, our ancestors lived during the Georgian era.] the hippies squatting at number 4 think [Michael's] son Josh could be naive enough to be duped into tending their marijuana crop (it's behind the villa); [Hey kid, do me a favor and water my . . . uh . . . geraniums, would you?] and reclusive Mr White at number 6 has been pilfering artifacts from the villa site for years, and doesn't appreciate competition. [If you've been looting your neighbor's back yard for years and you still haven't got everything you want, it's time to give someone else a shot at it.] [Is the book a comedy, or are the neighbors just comic relief? It didn't sound that amusing up to here.]

But when the Department for Culture Media and Sport decides to list the mansion--as is-- [Not clear to me what this means. List it in real estate listings? List it as a historic landmark?] and the same Man From The Planning Dept who took Michael to court over the Case of the Pictish Roundhouse serves an enforcement notice on the villa, [and] then the police seal off the marijuana 'crime scene', it seems as if all the Galbraiths' plans really are ruined. [What's an enforcement notice? What does the Planning Dept. plan? Would I know these answers if I lived in Britain? Is the query going only to British publishers?]


While I'm a fan of specificity, I'm not familiar with the Case of the Pictish Roundhouse, so its mention means nothing to me. You could just say a man from the Planning Dept, with whom Michael had a previous dispute/brush/encounter, serves . . .

Have you considered scrapping this book and writing The Case of the Pictish Roundhouse? It sounds intriguing.

There's gotta be a decrepit Georgian mansion in better shape than three walls and a chimney. The Galbraiths usually renovate places good enough to live in. Now, for a project that's supposed to end up as the most perfectly restored Georgian mansion the world has seen, they start with rubble from the Battle of Britain?

As Georgian architecture was heavily influenced by classical Roman architecture, why is a guy who hates Georgian so obsessed with a Roman villa?

I'm sure this is more interesting than just watching the excruciatingly slow progress of an archaeological dig, but I'm not seeing the thread that holds it all together and makes me want to know what happens next and next. At least if Rachel knew Michael was working on the villa instead of her Georgian mansion there'd be more conflict. Can you have Michael dig up a dead body?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Writing Exercise

Because I'll be doing some traveling Friday and Saturday, and because we're running very low on queries and openings and GTPs and continuations, I'm going to hold off on Face-Lifts and New Beginnings until Monday. With any luck, our supplies will be replenished by then. Hint, hint. Meanwhile, I'll be posting results of this exercise:

Step 1. Get out a die. If there are no dice available get the Ace through 6 from a deck of cards. Or write the numbers 1 - 6 on paper and put them in a hat. Use your equipment to get your first number.

Step 2. The first number determines the genre of the scene you'll be writing. Use the following list:
1. Science Fiction; 2. Mystery; 3. Fantasy/horror; 4. Romance; 5. Thriller 6. Children's/YA

Step 3. Get your second number. It determines the setting of your scene.
1. Courtroom; 2. Gas Station Bathroom; 3. Bar; 4. Principal's Office; 5. Bed; 6. Starship Bridge

Step 4. Your final two digits determine the only two characters who have speaking roles in your scene. You may have the freedom to choose which list you get each character from (you may choose both from the same list if you wish--unless your last two numbers are the same number, of course).

List 1:
1. Inspector Clouseau; 2. Bullwinkle Moose; 3. Mr. Spock; 4. Hannibal Lecter; 5. Evil Editor; 6. Darth Vader

List 2:
1. Geoffrey Chaucer; 2. James Bond; 3. The Wicked Witch of the West; 4. Jesus; 5. Inigo Montoya; 6. Norman Bates

Step 5. Write your scene. If you want to do a second one, okay. Try to stay around 200 words. Include a name if you want credit. Deadline Sunday at 3 PM eastern.

New Beginning 389

The moment the door creaked open, Dom pressed his foot in the gap. He shoved the photo of the werewolf through the crack. "Seen him?"

"What--?" The door lurched, but the man inside recovered fast. He let it fall back a second later as if he never had any intention of shutting it in Dom's face.

Dom waited.

Alan Winn arched an eyebrow and ignored the photograph. "Not even a smile or a hello?"

Dom lowered the photo. "Hello." His foot stayed in the doorway.

Alan's pale face was all angles, thinned by the drugs he tainted the neighborhood with and made worse by the shadows of night. Dom could see the glitter of his eyes, familiar. Smug. It made him itch.

The whole fetid neighborhood made him itch, with its boarded-up windows and whiskey stink and the piles of trash hiding feral humans that would curse at anyone who came too close.

Nobody gave a shit there. Nobody believed in anything. That was it's biggest blessing to the people forced to spend their lives there, but it kept the place in an endless pall, day or night, sun or rain.

"So," said Alan, "what brings you to Detroit?"

Opening: Lynn Hall.....Continuation: khazar-khum


Here's an updated list of people whose openings will appear in Novel Deviations 3 if they have no objection. Let me know if you do or don't want in, and what name you want used, if any. I removed those who already responded and those who appeared in previous ND volumes. I also added names.

Dr. Billy
E.D. Walker
Ellen Oh
The Green Cat

Face-Lift 438

Guess the Plot

A Felony of Birds

1. When a murder of crows and a tittering of magpies get into a turf war over Susie Wu's eucalyptus, the real winner is Susie's cat, Mittens.

2. After bird-crime investigator Rhoda Deerwalker breaks up a parrot smuggling ring in Wisconsin, she takes on her biggest case yet: bringing down a survivalist militia group devoted to weaponizing bird flu and killing millions. Can she make them sing like canaries, or will she be forced to eat crow?

3. Stu Slivovitz seemed to turn himself around in prison, ready to go straight after learning how to train falcons. Can he win parole before the screws figure out that he's trained his birds to hunt diamond merchants, or will he be convicted of . . . A Felony of Birds?

4. Though indisputable scientific evidence has traced the spread of bird flu to an innocuous strain of Budgerigar, disbelieving little old ladies unite to form a cabal bent on discrediting those who have maligned their talkative avian companions. Their primary weapon: humiliating world leaders with floods of mail upbraiding them for neglecting to write thank-you notes to their grandmothers.

5. Mexican drug smugglers are on the decline . . . until they find a way to stuff their cocaine into birds. Now, a lone border guard has to unravel their plans, all while avoiding the Fish and Wildlife Service, which is on his case for shooting down endangered species.

6. An ostentation of peacocks flaunts their tailfeathers one too many times and gets whacked by a murder of crows. Even though a parliament of owls had recently outlawed hate crimes against flamboyant fowl, the crows are found not guilty after a deceit of lapwings perjure themselves at the trial.

Original Version

A Felony of Birds, 105k words, tells the story of Native American Fish & Wildlife investigator, Rhoda Deerwalker in three parts.

[Part One: The Early Years. Six year-old Rhoda feels sorry for her neighbor's Spix Macaw and sets it free in Manhattan.

Part Two: Tired of squirrels cleaning out her bird feeders every day, Rhoda takes sharpshooting lessons and scans the Internet for rodent recipes.

Part Three: When the world's last ivory-billed woodpecker flies over Rhoda's newly washed car, she decides that in the broad scheme of things, one more extinct species isn't that big a deal.]

Book one introduces the reader to those characters that tie the separate stories together. The first story follows the inexperienced rookie cop on her first big case— a parrot smuggling ring operating from a farmhouse in a small Wisconsin town. [Is it really cost-effective to transport the birds you smuggled across the Mexican border all the way to Wisconsin?] As Rhoda gets involved with the local people, politics, and police, the desperate smugglers turn violent as they attempt to save their criminal enterprise.

In book two, a newly promoted Rhoda is given responsibility for policing an immense wilderness area with a small staff of her own. A chance discovery of a number of dead birds leads Rhoda first to a survivalist militia camp deep in the woods and then to a clandestine laboratory devoted to weaponizing bird flu— a terrorist plot that comes within a hair of succeeding. Rhoda's impetuousness leads to the death of her friend [What friend? Someone on her staff?] but succeeds in saving millions of lives. Rhoda is confused and takes a leave of absence from the service.

The third story follows a chastened Rhoda now returned to her childhood home on the reservation to think about her future. [Chastened? In what way?] The presence of a casino has drastically altered life on the reservation. Corrupt indian officials and a mob owned corporation have succeeded in stealing the money intended for the people. [The people had nothing. The casino was built, but because of corruption, the people still have nothing. So how has the presence of the casino drastically altered life on the reservation?] Rhoda joins a group of plotters in a desperate attempt to win the huge jackpot on casino's progressive slot machine. The elaborate scheme falls victim to some unintended consequences but an equally unexpected ending puts things right. [We have a winner in the Vaguest Sentence of the Week competition.]

Rhoda Deerwalker is a fresh and engaging heroine. Readers are sure to find her back-story and present romantic entanglements realistic and interesting. [Better to describe the book than to gush over it. All authors think their stories and characters are fantabuloso. As most of them are wrong, editors pay no attention.] She is a complex and vulnerable woman, intelligent, brave and resourceful and in spite of a multitude of adventures, she never looses [loses] her humanity and her appeal. If this novel seems like something you would care to read, I would be happy to send you any or all of it.


An elaborate scheme to win a slot machine jackpot? Aren't there authorities they can call in if they know there's corruption?

I think once I get interested in Rhoda the bird detective, I'd rather keep reading about her wilderness exploits. Book 1: parrot smugglers; Book 2: Eagle poisoners; Book 3: Bird flu terrorists. Mob casino infiltration isn't a case for the fish and wildlife service's lead detective, whether she's on a leave of absence or not. The wildlife/birds gimmick is your hook, and you abandon it for a case any cop can handle.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

New Beginning 388

One of the first things Alexei noticed upon arriving in America--aside from how unbelievably fat the people were--was that random men on the street were staring at his crotch. The first few times it happened, he instinctively checked his fly to see if it was open, but it never was. These men, Alexei realized, were homosexuals.

“Brooklyn is full of queers,” Alexei said in Russian to his neighbor Natasha, who had lived in the U.S. for ten years and understood Americans, to the extent that they could be understood.

“Moscow was too, they were just hidden there. What brings this up?”

He explained about the crotch-staring.

She studied him, and a smile slowly spread across her face. “It’s your jeans.”

“But I’ve had these for years. They’re perfectly normal.”

“Straight men here don’t wear such tight jeans. Alexei, my boy, the Americans think you’re gay.”

"They would stereotype me that way?" Alexei's mouth dropped open in horror. "What judgmental people these fat American queers are."

Natasha nodded. "You get used to it."

"Is there anything else I should know?"

"Well. Their sour cream comes in plastic tubs from grocery stores. They mix their vodka with cranberries or orange juice." She sighed. "And when they hear your accent, for some reason most of them will ask you to say the words 'nuclear wessels.'"

Opening: Lightsmith.....Continuation: Lynn

Face-Lift 437

Guess the Plot

Eel River

1. An opening in the Eighth dimension creates a new river flowing though the heart of the Outback, a river swarming with poisonous eels that devastate the continent.

2. Mutilated goats. A mutilated hitchhiker. Something is coming out of Eel River and attacking the commune. Is it an enormous evil talking land eel? Thanks to their mind-expanding drugs, the hippies don't care.

3. Songwriter Carol Cohen has just five days to compose a new song for Andy Williams, one that will be his biggest hit ever.

4. One slip of the knife cripples brilliant sushi chef Kaoru. After a corrupt local doctor transplants the body of a eel where his missing arm should be, Kaoru can return to the chopping board. Instead he becomes an Olympic swimmer.

5. When a genetic plague devastates cattle worldwide, McDonald's averts disaster by quickly switching to eelburgers.

6. When the peasants of Bumbria rebel against their Needling overlords, it looks bad for Nate Bugbutter -- until he meets the legendary Talking Eels, who hold the key to all wisdom and power.

Original Version

Dear [agent]:

In the early seventies, an idealistic group of hippies goes “back to the land” . . . never dreaming that the Land itself doesn’t want them there.

It all seemed so mellow and idyllic when the young couple bought seventy-two acres of pristine land in the country. But as their commune grows, strange things start to happen. [Strange eel-related things?] Two of the best milking goats are torn to pieces and left in a bloody mess in the back meadow. A hitchhiker disappears, her mutilated body later found in a creek. [Yep. Eels.] [The word "eels" looks weird when the first "E" is capitalized: Eels. It makes me think of golfer Ernie Els.] [Great idea for a horror novel: something is coming out of Eel River and mutilating goats, and it turns out to be golfer Ernie Els.] Yet the adults, busy experimenting with mind-opening drugs and free love, are slow to react.

[Hey, I found a mutilated woman's body in the creek.

Far out, man. Here, have a toke of this weed.

But shouldn't we . . . Mmm, mellow. Pass me that bag of Doritos.]

Only the ten-year-old Princess knows what’s going on—and that’s because the monster speaks to her. [You're missing a great opportunity if you just call it the monster. Call it an enormous talking land eel.]

The madness culminates at a groovy overnight party on the Land. All the hippies in the county attend, swimming naked in the river, sharing pot brownies and jug wine, and dancing to psychedelic tunes, while the monster [enormous talking land eel] stealthily works to rid his domain of them all. The monster [enormous talking land eel] now tells the Princess that she must get her family off the Land, or they will be sacrificed as well. But the party may have been just too much, as her tenuous influence over the evil being comes crashing apart. [I gotta start laying off the pot brownies and jug wine when I'm reading queries; this is sounding pretty good.]

EEL RIVER, complete at 80,000 words, is a gothic supernatural novel told from various viewpoints, including the Princess, her parents, [the enormous talking land eel,] and a sheriff’s deputy. I was raised on a commune in rural northern California not unlike the Land [and I feel it's time the truth finally came out: it wasn't me who killed my hippie parents; it was an enormous talking land eel]. I’ve enclosed [whatever guidelines ask for]. May I send you more of the manuscript?

Kind regards,


It's well-written, but it would help to have a couple character names. All we have is "The Princess." Is she a princess, or is that her hippie nickname, or what? I can see calling her "Princess," but the Princess seems weird . . . unless she's a princess.

Is the monster an enormous talking eel? As you have a character talking to it, I assume it's not a mystery what it looks like. There've been talking monsters and screaming eels, but a misunderstood talking eel would break new ground.

This is like Friday the Thirteenth, except instead of a guy in a hockey mask it's an eel.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

New Beginning 387

The smell of summer was thick in the air. Of course, that happens when one simply must plow through a field of wild flowers knee-high and fairly bursting with enthusiasm to bloom. Her path followed an old wire fence that had been embraced by the flowers and was now as supported by their vines as it was by its own weathered wooden posts. A riot of blues, reds and purples greeted her vision as she made her way over the lush green hill, heading towards the inviting red-capped villa one valley over. The house was large with an inviting red door left open to welcome the gentle summer breeze through its corridors.

The dry wind teased loose a curl of thick black hair from the careful confection she had arranged it in that morning. Sighing, she tugged the jeweled butterfly comb from her hair and gave a toss to her lovely head. Her mass of blue black curls went tumbling loose in the wind.

"Shit!" she cursed as she chased after the wig.

A tangle of yellow and brown fur dashed out from behind the green gate in the rusted fence, knocking her on her arse while the dog responded to an ancient urge to fetch. The gentle breeze tugged at the magenta skirt and teal petticoat that she had carefully pressed that morning, now spotted mud brown. A commotion of blue, red and purple blossomed on her elbows where they had struck the pavement.

Flashbulbs popped white as she got to her feet, her red patent leather shoes scuffed. She was sorry she'd shaved her head, but sorry wasn't enough for the tabloids that followed her every waking minute. She closed her brown eyes, and a vision of next week's People Magazine glowed red-hot.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Anonymous

Synopsis 9

DYLAN O’Leary, a flighty sixth grader, has two fantasies. 1) To meet her father. [Why hasn't she met him?] 2) To talk with animals. She never imagined her dreams would come true.

How could she possibly know that crazy red bird, CARDINAL RICHELIEU (RICH), opens a wormhole at the exact moment two dogs push her and JAKE, her braniac best friend, into Lake Michigan during that terrifying earthquake? She couldn’t converse with animals before, and now, they won’t shut up. When Dylan, Jake, and the dogs emerge onto the hidden, treasure-filled islands of Animalia, the mind-blowing surprises keep coming. [These sentences are out of order. It's after she emerges onto Animalia that animals won't shut up, right?]

They soon learn that they’ve been called by KING RAJ III (RAJ) to perform a task these totally advanced, and oftentimes freakish, creatures cannot. They must stop Black Eagle Group (B.E.G.) from discovering the islands. [What makes Raj think the Black Eagles are going to discover Animalia?] If they fail, criminals will become the richest powers on the planet and rule our world. Dylan and Jake realize they aren’t just protecting Animalia’s secrets. They must save humanity. [Even if becoming wealthy did allow criminals to rule the world, I wouldn't go so far as to claim this would be the end of humanity. Criminals rule the world now and humanity is hanging in there.]

Before Dylan and Jake set off on their task, Raj arms them with a magical potion made from Calawacadoza flowers, giving them any animal’s traits they desire. In the middle of the Indian Ocean, Dylan lures B.E.G. with treasures, convincing them, she and Jake are rich American
kids they can hold for ransom. Then, Dylan introduces the men to Jake’s dogs, who now have peacock-colored eagle wings and glow in the dark eyes. It’s a dream come true for these evil men who’ll do anything from kidnapping to animal poaching to make a buck. [That seems like small potatoes when you're on the verge of world domination. You didn't see SPECTRE or THRUSH or KAOS poaching animals. A truly great criminal organization has to have standards.]

Meanwhile, unknown to Dylan, CATHERINE, her mom, arrives to Animalia with Rich and sees DR. BILL, Dylan’s father, for the first time in ten years. [No explanation of what her father's doing on Animalia? Is there anyone who doesn't know how to get here besides B.E.G.? If they're trying to keep the place secret, they might want to avoid turning it into a tourist resort.]

On the journey back to Animalia, things don’t go as planned. A dog is wounded, a man’s shot dead, and one of their captors explains he’s also a victim of B.E.G. [Leave out or explain.] Dylan and Jake quickly realize their powers can backfire [How did their powers backfire?] and panic sets in when they grasp the seriousness of their situation. [I missed something. Dylan tried to lure B.E.G. into kidnaping her. Did they kidnap her? Is she leading them back to Animalia? Shouldn't she be leading them away from Animalia?]

They must fulfill their mission by using powers found deep within themselves.

As their boat beaches onto the shores of Animalia like a dying whale, [No need to use metaphors in a synopsis.] Dylan remembers she has extra potions and tricks B.E.G.’s leader into drinking one, turning him into a baby orangutan. [The potion gives you whatever animal traits you desire. Did the B.E.G. leader desire to be a baby orangutan?] Jake, with his newfound bravery, confesses his true feelings for Dylan. And Catherine introduces Dylan to her father. The task is a success, dreams came true, and humanity is safe…for now.

The synopsis beaches itself like a dying whale. Presumably, to make the 400-word limit, you made massive cuts in the closing, rather than choose areas throughout the synopsis that weren't essential. Do we need to know there was an earthquake at the time the wormhole was opened? Or that Raj III is also known as Raj? No need to tell us Jake is a brainiac if you never mention anything brainy that he does. Here's a slightly shorter version of the opening few paragraphs:

Sixth grader DYLAN O’Leary has two fantasies: to meet her father, who disappeared shortly after Dylan was born; and to talk with animals. She never imagines her dreams will come true. But then, how could she have known that crazy red bird CARDINAL RICHELIEU would open a wormhole in Lake Michigan? Or that her friend Jake's dogs would push her and Jake into it?

When Dylan and Jake emerge onto the treasure-filled islands of Animalia, the mind-blowing surprises keep coming. The islands are populated by totally advanced--and freakish--talking creatures. Dylan couldn’t converse with animals before, but now they won’t shut up.

Turns out the kids have been summoned by KING RAJ III to perform a task these creatures cannot. The criminal Black Eagle Group (B.E.G.) is close to discovering the islands. If they succeed, they will become the richest power on the planet. Dylan and Jake must stop them, armed with a magical potion made from Calawacadoza flowers, giving them any animal’s traits they desire.

In the middle of the Indian Ocean, Dylan lures B.E.G. with treasures, convincing them she and Jake are rich American kids they can hold for ransom. Dylan introduces the men to Jake’s dogs, who now have peacock-colored eagle wings and glow-in-the-dark eyes. It’s a dream come true for these evil men who’ll do anything from kidnaping to animal poaching to make a buck.

At this point tell us what happens. Do the men kidnap the kids and demand they take them to Animalia? Is that what Dylan was hoping? Is there a trap set on Animalia? Do the kids use the traits of animals to defeat the villains? Details? Has Dylan's father been on Animalia all along? Is his name really Dr. Bill, or is it Dr. Moreau?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Novel Deviations 3 . . .

. . . will probably exist eventually. Not because ND is profitable, which it isn't, but because they're amazing and hilarious feats of collaboration that I, for one, want to own. As I don't require those submitting openings to agree to being in the book, I need to ask permission to print your 150 words, and I need you to tell me if you want to be identified the same in the book as you are on the blog. For those unfamiliar with the books, they include openings and continuations, but no comments. Here are the authors of the first 40 openings I've chosen for volume 3:

Bernard St. James
D Jason Cooper
Dr. Billy
E.D. Walker
K.E. Stewart
Margaret Taylor
Melissa J. Rees
Scott Jones
The Green Cat

If you don't mind being included in the book, let me know and let me know how you wish to be credited. Those who granted permission for earlier volumes don't need to do this, but it wouldn't hurt.

I'll remove names from the list as I hear from people.

If you declined to be included in earlier volumes, but have now decided it would be fun to be included, let me know.

If your opening was posted anonymously, I will attempt to find your email and contact you, as there are many of you. But feel free to contact me and identify your piece.

Continuation authors automatically agree to be in the book, but if you want to be identified differently than you are on the blog, let me know.

I'll get out another batch of names later this week.