Friday, November 30, 2007


The following fake plots have appeared on this blog over time. Except two of them aren't fakes, but the actual plots of minions' novels. Which ones?

1. Jenny harkens back to the time before the solar flare that changed her boyfriend into a transgender vampirous werewolf. But at least now he’s kind.

2. Butch, Guts, and Ripper are pleasantly surprised when a rare female werewolf joins their pack. Tension ensues, however, when the three pals turn against one another in hopes of winning the position of Alpha male, and the affections of . . . Werewoman.

3. She was an ordinary Persian until the accident that sent her flying from her owner's limousine window into a dark alley . . . Now, every full moon, this stray cat becomes a bar-hopping little pussy known as . . . Werewoman.

4. In this collection of short stories, Cliffnote Brown discovers that his uncle Dire Wolf is a werewolf, a werewolf destined to battle Bob the Life Sucking Demon III for dominance over the known universe.

5. When Timmy goes missing on a winter field trip, only one person can penetrate the gloom of the Arctic, find the eco-terrorist's hideout, and rescue the boy before it's too late: wildlife photographer Jane Eminescu, the notorious . . . Werewoman.

6. When Shannon starts work as a waitress in The Blue Gemstone, the swankiest restaurant in town, she has no idea she's really stumbled into a front for the werewolf crime lords known as the Lupens.

7. By day, she lived in the woods, chased after squirrels, and snoozed in the sunshine. But by night she wore grey flannel suits and traded the Japanese markets. She was . . . Werewoman!

8. Only by defeating the combined assault of the Zombies of Zorr, the Hellhounds of Garbin, the Werewolves of Weir and the Harpy Witches of Nansket, can Enron regain the Lapel Pin of Conjoinment.

9. When Stinky and Dwight investigate the commotion behind the dumpster, they discover the mayor of Springfield is actually a rodent-eating werewolf with serious wardrobe issues. Should they scram fast or use Stinky's cell phone to zap her picture to the Springfield Times?

10. When Noah Fenton is seduced and bitten by a mysterious woman during a night of debauchery, he doesn’t think much of it--until the next full moon causes his penis to shrivel and crawl inside his body, and he becomes . . . Werewoman.

11. Evan and Ebony Walker have been through a lot together. But, when they awaken one morning and discover Polaroids scattered about of two werewolves doing the horizontal howl in their bedroom they ask themselves the obvious question.

12. 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.

13. 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.

Answers below

Actual plots: 10, 12

Writing Exercise

You're a private detective, hired by an Evil Minion to spy on Evil Editor. Write the scene in which you're camped outside EE's home, or the scene in which you follow EE when he drives away from his home, or . . . whatever.
About 200 words, deadline Saturday, midnight eastern time, include a name if you want credit.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

New Beginning 412

"They've sectioned off that part of the city for a reason, Charity," Senator Marche told her chief-of-staff.

Charity gave her boss a weak smile and pulled her curly hair back. She looked in the mirror; her hair was caught somewhere between a ponytail and an afro. She slipped on her fitted leather jacket, making sure that the inside pockets were aligned with as many potions as possible. She attached a silver pendant to the chain around her neck, and silently went over her checklist.

"Charity, are you listening to me?" Senator Marche asked. "They've have the National Guard's Mage Division containing the area. Even most reporters haven't ventured in."

"Those reporters don't have children there, ma'am. I'm going to make sure my son is safe," Charity responded.

"You know he's safe. He's strong, your son. Sahir wouldn't let anything happen to him. He's the leader of the Northeastern pack."

"Which why I must go. If Sahir is killed, Dani is next in line to be leader of the pack. He'll become a target. I can't let that happen."

"Pray the Goddess will watch down on you tonight."

"Thank you, ma'am."

"And Charity?"

"Yes, ma'am?"

"Be careful out there. Remember, we almost lost Faith, and we had to abandon Hope on the way in."

Opening: Xiexie.....Continuation: ril

Face-Lift 459

Every 459th Face-Lift, I turn the tables. I write the Guess the Plots, it's my query, and my minions write all the blue comments and notes. It's payback time.

Guess the Plot

Love Letters From a Stranger

1. When Liz starts getting daily love letters from a complete stranger, she's flattered . . . until she reads a newspaper article about a serial killer known as The Correspondent.

2. With her love life going nowhere, Tricia tries answering love letters received by her roommate, little suspecting that within hours of meeting their author she will reveal her darkest secrets . . . and will be engaged to be married.

3. The love letters were anonymous, but the envelopes had return addresses. Lonely spinster Mildred Marshall decides to investigate, but when she discovers that the address is a local graveyard she must decide: was it was all a prank, or does she have a secret admirer who happens to be a zombie?

4. Snooping in her sister Marie's dresser, Mary finds a bundle of passionate love letters from someone named Charlie. She should put them back the way she found them . . . but it's so easy to change "Marie" to "Mary" and "Charlie" to "Charlesworth," and then no one will know . . .

5. Anabel Pennilocks had never heard of Eddie Bauer until he started sending her coupons and invitations and booklets filled with pictures of clothes he apparently wanted to see her in. It was a little scary that he knew where she lived, but he did seem to have good taste. Could this finally be . . . the one?

6. His love letters arrived every week without fail. But who was he? Janice hires a private detective to find out, little suspecting that she will soon be embroiled in a diabolical plot to wipe out all marine mammals on the planet.

Original Version

Dear Editor:

IZ (short for Ishmael) [thanks for the abbrev; two syllables can be a mouthful.] frequently falls in love at first sight. [Every morning while shaving his chest]. He's a writer, but the only stories he's sold appeared in [self-published Internet] porn magazines too disgusting to show to women, [Says who? Robin might be interested. I know McKoala would be.] [Anyway, the author's publishing credits usually go at the end; oh, these are the character's credits?] so he tells women he's a bus driver. Actually, bus driver is his day job, and one morning, watching a beautiful woman leave her apartment and walk to his waiting bus, he becomes wildly infatuated. [I'm glad; mild-mannered infatuation is so confusing.] So much so that he writes her a letter. [Wow, that is wild.]

TRICIA, [(short for Trichinosis)], a librarian [with an affinity for undercooked pork], lives in the same apartment with BETH, the woman to whom Iz wrote his letter. [This is your lead paragraph. Actually, I recommend cutting Iz out of the story altogether and having this be the story of Tricia and Beth having late night pillow fights and exploring certain feelings they've had for a long time, but they've never been with someone they were comfortable enough to try it with. Probably Iz has already written this story up.] Though Beth was unimpressed with Iz’s letter, [It was worse than a new beginning on EE's blog] and worries that Iz is a stalker, [A stalker who mails a couple letters instead of getting on Facebook and poking you every other hour? Who wouldn't be unimpressed?] Tricia was intrigued by the letter— [Well, actually, there was an enclosed photo.]and also by [the way the alliteration of “Is Iz it?” makes her hot, and also by] the second letter Iz sends when he receives no reply to the first.

[Dear Bus-Riding Betsy,

I’m coming for you. One day, when you least expect it – when you’ve turned off the shower, being careful to give the faucet handle the extra twist it requires to keep the water from continuing to drip, and you’ve pulled back the sea-through shower curtain with the little tropical fishies painted on it right across the middle, hiding most of your goodies from me, right then, when you’re just drying off with that towels with the tassles, I’ll be there with you.

Love, Iz (but you can call me Ishmael).]

Months pass. Her love life going nowhere, Tricia asks Beth to dig out the letters from Iz so she can reply to them.

[Dear Iz,

Is it only Iz, or is Iz an ironic ID? Your name makes me hot. Do you like raw bacon too? Check the box below if yes.

Hugs and Kizzez,


When Iz receives Tricia’s letter he phones and asks her out. Beth feels Tricia will be safer if Beth goes along, and Iz invites his womanizing roommate, REX, to make it a foursome. [Earth to Iz: Never invite a womanizing roommate along when you've already got a threesome for yourself.] Is this the blind/double date from hell? [Is this the query letter from hell?] Maybe not--the hilarious evening culminates in some strange revelations and some surprising events--including two wedding engagements. [Iz/Rex and Tricia/Beth].

Throughout the novel are many excerpts from Iz’s journal, a journal he intends to adapt into a novel (this novel). He describes the novel-in-progress to Tricia as “the Seinfeld of novels,” a novel about nothing. [Good God! You've sumarized my whole day in the slush pile in one sentence! Send me a full.] And admittedly the draw of the book lies not in its plot twists, but in the witty conversations Iz and Tricia have with their housemates, [with Kramer and Newman,] with other characters, and, at last, with each other. But there’s more here than [whiny Jews and] snappy dialogue. There’s a sweet, feel-good romance [please, you're ruining my EE image] filled with gentle [Translation: Not Funny.] humor.

Love Letters from a Stranger is a quirky romantic comedy of about 50,000 words [, 12 of which move the plot forward]. My book Novel Deviations, though a miserable financial failure, [Then why are you still charging so much?], is being adapted into a Martin Scorsese film [starring Daniel Day-Lewis as myself, and Leonardo DiCaprio as blogless_troll]. Also, my blog has had 800,000 visits from people [delete "people" and insert "weirdos"] [Make that "weredingos"] eager to read anything I write so that they can pan, blast, nitpick, slam and trash me the way I have done them. [That's a good-sized platform, but none of the minions can rub two quarters together, except Church Lady, who swiped them from the offering plate.] Thank you.


While this may have been a sweet, feel-good romance when it happened to you, it doesn't mean readers will like it. However, if you change the title to Seinfeld: The Novel, it'll be well into its third printing before anyone catches on.

You can’t expect much motile movement with that inadequate word count of yours, EE. And, while your platform may be large and well-formed, it is, you must admit, self-propelled, and, as such, may not be quite the platform agents are looking for in the requisite self-aggrandizement-and-suck-up query letter paragraph.

[Comments and notes submitted by blogless_troll, Church Lady, Bill Highsmith, Robin Sinott, Pacatrue and anonymous.]

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New Beginning 411

My captors took everything from me, even my name. Their barbarian tongues lacked the sophistication to pronounce Lucius, so they called me Lugos, a name from their own guttural language. I would have preferred a dog’s name.

On the day they captured me, as I wandered naked and starving on the road to Alesia, I made the mistake of protesting that I was a Roman Citizen. “You barbarians have no dominion over me” were my precise words.

So great was their laughter they nearly forgot to beat me.

Ever since, my days have consisted of ceaseless labor. Each night as I lie down to sleep on the hard ground, exhausted beyond description, I am convinced that I will die before morning. However, one thing impels my heart to continue beating: the thought of returning to Rome and exacting my vengeance upon the men who falsely accused me of treason, ultimately securing my exile.

Yeah, yeah, that's real interesting, Lug-- . . . Roverus, but we're kind of in a hurry, so if you don't mind, I'll have the vitulinam elixum and the lady would like the aliter baedinam sive agninam excaldatum. Oh, and separate checks, please.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Anon./EE

Face-Lift 458

Guess the Plot

The Confederacy of Heaven

1. Nasan Rattlingbones is caught up in a religious war. Seems the almighty ones can't agree on whether Nasan's people should be granted salvation in the next life, or something practical.

2. Robert E. Lee, Jeff Davis and all their long-dead cronies recall their glory days. But this nostalgic reunion of war buddies soon balloons out of control into a celestial civil war the angels will never forget.

3. When Jeb Stuart dies at Bull Run, he never expects to go to heaven, where God has a special place for fallen soldiers. The Stars and Bars fly proudly over the clouds...until the Yankees break out of hell. Can the Confederacy of Heaven survive, or will the cause be lost all over again?

4. Confederacy of Heaven is code for beer party behind the church at midnight. Or at least that's what Patty Arbuckle thought she heard. So now she's out in the cold, wearing her best outfit, and where is everybody? The only person in sight is Sister Constance, hurrying to ask what's up. Or . . . is that dark-caped figure . . . a vampire!?

5. Madge Gundarson is flabbergasted to arrive in Heaven and discover -- not a solitary magnificence or even the beneficent trio -- but hordes of gods of all descriptions doing battle with thunderbolts, ray guns, boiling lava, etc. She flutters around in bewilderment and finally flies back to her old job on earth, serenely aware that life as a receptionist is actually not so bad.

6. One hundred and fifty years after the war, the souls of dead Civil War soldiers are still battling away in heaven and God's getting fed up. Can St. Peter bring the war to a peaceful end or will Archangel Michael have to bust out the fiery sword?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Though the myths of townspeople and nomads differ, they agree on one point: there has been no rain in two hundred years. [Is it the myths that agree on this point, or the nomads and townspeople? I assume the myths, or why even mention myths? But myths of different people are often similar, without being true. For instance, Christians and Jews both have the story of Noah, but did Noah really come up with two polar bears and two kangaroos?] Since the Stars cursed them, people have adapted to life in a sterile world by building fortified cities around the last remaining natural springs. Nasan Rattlingbones [Anagram: brainless antagonist.] is one of the nomads, people without a city who survive by trading for their water. But when the chieftain’s son [What chieftain?] dies in battle, [Who is battling whom?] Nasan is unfairly blamed for it and outcast from her clan.

[Orryn Chiggerboom: The chieftain is dead. We were supposed to be protecting him.

Tactuine Swillspigot: We're in big trouble . . . Unless--

Orryn Chiggerboom: Unless we blame it on the chick with the silly name.]

In the wilderness she crosses paths with a bird-spirit who claims to be her spirit guide but can’t quite seem to prove it. He’s the most irritating spirit guide imaginable, but he does manage to save her life on a couple of occasions.

[Bird-spirit: Hey, I've saved your life twice today.

Nasan Rattlingbones: I know, I know. But do you have to chew your ice?]

After much pecking and prodding, he gets her caught up in a bitter religious war between the city folk. [I expect a little prodding from my bird-spirit guide. I can even endure a bitter religious war. But if he's gonna be pecking me all the time, I'm dumping him and getting a hamster-spirit guide.]

Humanity will soon get the chance to plead its case with the Stars who rule the universe. Should they plead for salvation in the next life, or something more practical, like rain? [Let's see, joy, love and the wonders of the universe for eternity, or a glass of water tonight. Gee, I am pretty thirsty.] There are armed cities and Stars that walk the earth on both sides of the issue, and they become increasingly willing to kill as the time for judgment draws near. [Kill whom, and why? I'm not getting this. The "issue" doesn't sound like something rulers of the universe would kill for. What exactly is the issue?] Nasan signs up with a rebel Star’s army, but she soon finds she can’t trust Stars or even her own spirit guide. Why won’t the bird-spirit tell her what the war has to do with her? [More importantly, why won't you tell us what the war has to do with her?]

The Confederacy of Heaven is a young adult fantasy novel, complete at 70,000 words. I have included the first page and the synopsis according to your guidelines. Thank you for your time.



Are the Stars fighting because they can't agree on whether to give the people rain or eternal salvation? Why don't they give them both? They rule the universe; they can do whatever they want.

Why is Nasan blamed for the chieftain dying in battle? Was she present when he died?

What do myths have to do with it? Have myths about a curse developed to explain the lack of rain, even though there's a scientific explanation? If the Stars really have the ability to curse the people, I don't see that myths are involved.

It could be pretty funny if the bird does a lot of pecking. Especially if the bird turns out not to be Nasan's spirit guide, but a common bird who claims to be a spirit guide so it can get away with excessive pecking. There's no such thing as too much pecking. By the end Nasan's body should be covered with peck marks. Then the bird says, "My work here is done," and flies off to find another victim. It's a serial pecker.

If you change Nasan's name to Assani, not only will it sound like a girl's name instead of a decongestant; it really will be an anagram of brainless antagonist.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Success Story


As you see, I need something to put at the top of the new cover. Also, feel free to contribute all or part of the book's introduction.

New Beginning 410

The whole pub's got a good feel to it. The band's pretty good, the crowd's happy, Linda's at work tonight. Then, one stray crack, one unthinking comment and everything goes to hell.

I don't know what the kid said, but it gets taken the wrong way. An oversized purple top hat is tossed down from an oversized, misshapen head. An ugly face rears and a table goes flying. His ribs crack, you can hear it over the band from half a room away. Before he can even fall a warped and warty fist slams into his face and leaving its impression.

Suddenly the good mood evaporates. Except for the two in the corner, everyone is trying to get out right now. There was a crush at the doors so the crowd splintered. A sizeable group followed the band backstage while the rest were still pushing each other into the door jam.

Some kid tries to get between that woman and her victim. She picks him up and throws him at the wall. His head and chest go through and he just hangs there like a big sign saying, Mr. Hyde's widow has come to town."

The menu has the usual selection of bar fare, with a particularly good Ploughman's Salad, and there is a different guest ale every month. Well worth a visit if you're ever in Merton.

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

Q & A 123

I realize the weird humor of complaining to an editor about the difficult process of editing, but there you go. I’m really having just one big, good time editing the novel I’ve written. Editing has really been, so far, harder for me to do than the long and (largely) pleasurable process of writing was in the first place. Well, that may not be true. I‘m not sure anymore. I may be so frustrated right now that I can’t remember, but still, right now, that’s what it feels like from where I’m sitting, curled up in a big chair, sulking, with sheets of novel and notes all around me, in a frazzled state of mind, and wishing it was late enough in the day to pour myself a generous glass of wine.

The first problem has been that my writing got stronger as I wrote my way through the novel, so that I now find myself needing to rework beginning chapters. I tried the cut and paste approach, but the voice was too blotchy and wasn’t very strong when I tried patchwork, so I ended up reworking the first several chapters.

Then, I realized the underlying themes of the book had changed and developed throughout the time I was writing, so I reread with that in mind. Then I tried different things with language usage, and changed things back and forth, and back again.

And I may have set myself up for some frustration without knowing I was doing it, because, as I was writing, I’d kept a notebook (which grew into two and then some) and I wrote down scenes and sections of thoughts and other things I wanted to include, and I’m now working on including the sections I hadn’t already worked in, which is much more difficult to do, if it’s going to be done well, than I ever imagined.

Anyway, I could use some advice on how to organize myself, and I’d like to know, for peace of mind, if this kind of editing on a first novel passes for anything like normal. Maybe then I won’t feel like I’m going nuts, and worrying that I’ll never know when I’m finished.

1. First of all, if you spent the whole weekend Christmas shopping and failed to come up with the perfect gift, Evil Editor's books are always appreciated and often cherished. Visit What? Oh, right, that wasn't the question. That was a question?

2. You're finished when your book is in print. Even after you get it so good it sells, your editor will probably want you to change some things, and then after your editor thinks it's perfect you'll get to read the proofs where you'll spot a few typos and a glaring error in continuity. You'll be highly annoyed if you find something you want to change after it's published.

3. There's no right way to write a novel, but when you start your next novel you might want to try reading (and editing) the four chapters that precede the one you're working on before you start working every day. Many people write the novel straight through and then edit, but you sound like you might be better off going over each completed part many times as you go. It takes longer, but it's in better shape when you finish, which reduces the sense of panic that sets in when you realize that your first draft is a first draft.

4. It's not unusual to go through what you're going through. After you've sold three books and they've been successful bestsellers, and you're working on your fourth book, guess what? You'll still go through it.

5. It's never too early for wine. I pour it on my breakfast cereal instead of milk. Just remember, red with Wheaties, white with Rice Chex, rosé with Cheerios.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Face-Lift 457

Guess the Plot

Blue Screen of Death

1. When weather reporters start turning up dead, Detective Pete Paradiso knows that it's not about their botched forecasts. Can Pete find the killer before perky Suzie Snowflake does her last weather report . . . on the Blue Screen of Death?

2. Vince Malkoff wakes from his daydream to find those IT slackers still haven't fixed his computer. But why do his hands hurt, and where did this bloody, torn Star Trek tee-shirt come from?

3. Theresa has had it. She's caught Jake cheating for the last time. She's going to hit him where it hurts -- she's going to fix his ultrafast gaming computer. That'll teach him for chasing after Gillian.

4. Investigating the death of tech wiz Peter Yuen, Veronica discovers he was at the forefront of artificial intelligence research. The only way to unmask the killer is to complete Peter's project--but if she succeeds she'll bring down the Internet, and then how would she get her email?

5. The end of the world starts with a single blue screen. Then another, then another, then another. As PCs worldwide sizzle and die, Mac users find themselves in the ascendant. But unfortunately a bunch of writers, designers and advertising geeks turn out not to be the best-qualified people to run society.

6. Throughout the world, people have stopped dying. No one is succumbing to anything; not lethal injuries, not terminal illnesses, not even simple natural causes. Religious leaders proclaim this a sign of mankind's imminent transcendence of its mortal bounds, but it takes technogeek-cum-shaman Vishnu O'Halloran to find the real explanation: the Grim Reaper's computer system has crashed.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I'm seeking representation for my murder mystery, Blue Screen of Death.

Veronica Avalon's personal hero, Peter Yuen, is found electrocuted in his bathtub. His parents believe it was a freak accident. [He was trying to get a bagel out of the toaster during a thunderstorm.] The police call it suicide. Only tech-savvy Veronica sees the clue that points to murder. [A computer geek committing suicide would never use his toaster; he'd use his terminal. Get it? Terminal?]

When Peter's parents ask Veronica to recover banking information from their son's computer, she discovers that it hosts a pornographic web site--a fact she can't reconcile with her perception of Peter as an idealist. [Hey, what could be more ideal than having your own porn site?] Could his secret site have something to do with his murder? Loyalty and unresolved romantic feelings for Peter drive Veronica past her revulsion to the porn. [I admit some porn is revolting, but if I had a job looking into porn sites I'm pretty sure I could handle it. In fact, I'd be handling it all the time.] She digs into Peter's PC and follows the trail from online vice to the frontier of artificial intelligence research. [When I'm on a porn site, the only trail I follow is from one movie clip to the next. (And if I ever did find myself on a page with AI research, I would hit the "back" button so fast . . .)]

But her sleuthing provokes the murderer to strike again.

Uncertain if she can trust her friends, her boss, or even Peter's parents, Veronica tries to single-handedly unmask the killer. Her talent for debugging translates well into investigation, but the only way to draw him out may be [by employing her talent for disrobing], and to step into Peter's dangerous world [by becoming a porn star]. She moves into his apartment, hijacks his email, and tries to complete his AI project.

If she fails, she may become the next victim.

If she succeeds, her discovery could bring down the Internet and destroy the reputation of the man she loved. [Earlier he was referred to as her personal hero. Did she secretly love him? How did he feel about her? If they were in love, "personal hero" sounds weird.]

This would be my first fiction sale [unless I sell something else first]. I have one professional non-fiction sale for a technical magazine.

Thanks for your consideration.


It's not clear what the porn site has to do with anything. How is it connected to the AI project? Is it impossible to get to the AI site without going through the porn site?

The idea of prudish Veronica having to become a porn star to flesh out the killer's plans appeals to me.

Catchier titles: The Porno Murders; The Good, the Bad and the Geeky; The Case of the Bogus Bagel.

Obviously Veronica's computer savvy, but stepping in and trying to complete a project begun by someone on the frontier of AI research?

Also, I get the impression she was unaware he was on the frontier of AI research until she stumbled on his project. Seems like if he's her personal hero and she loves him she would have a better idea what he's into.

What do you mean by "bring down the Internet"? Literally destroy it? Make it obsolete? Make it so all urls are automatically forwarded to Evil Editor's blog? Wait, that would make the Internet better.

New Beginning 409

Laura couldn’t make her legs move faster. She knew he was behind her, but didn’t know how close. Looking back would only slow her down.

She had been in her garden, at the side of her house, when she first saw him walking towards her. People walk past all the time, but he immediately seemed different. His walk wasn’t the casual stroll of someone clearing their head or walking their dog. He strode forth with confidence and determination. His eyes swept from one side of the narrow street to the other, as though he were looking for something. Laura soon knew he had been looking for her.

When he spotted her, kneeling down in her muddied flower bed, he didn’t look away. He didn’t even seem to blink. He stared. His gaze caught hers, and Laura found it near impossible to look away. He didn’t open his mouth to greet her. He wasn’t a salesman or someone needing directions. This man was dangerous. He had already stepped off of the sidewalk and into her yard before it occurred to her to run.

But it was like she was knee-deep in treacle. The more she tried, the less far she seemed to get. Her heart pounded in her chest and her muscles started to cramp. What could she do? He was younger and faster.

If she stopped to confront him it would mean certain death -- before the end of the first chapter. If she woke from her dream, she would face the certain ridicule of the Feltham Downs Critique Circle. But wait . . . if she could wake him . . . that would be literary irony.

Laura stopped running and turned around. That's when the train hit her.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Anonymous

Sunday, November 25, 2007


It's the second annual All-Vampire Guess-the-Plot Quiz. Below are fake plots submitted over the past year. But wait! Three of them turned out to be the actual plots! Which three?

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

2. Mathias Corvinus discovers that he lived centuries before, in the land of Myrddin, and was killed by Queen Lilith. Now he lives again, and the Queen is a member of the faculty at his university. Coincidence? Or opportunity for revenge? Also, a vampire.

3. Dundenna Kantawanna momo dinteka wantana. Maima ratwonu titi kenka ma kenku, danna mianta Maru. Also, a vampire.

4. Her captain often wondered why Eleasa would volunteer for the graveyard shift: solo patrols on remote country roads. Although he's happy her radar gun catches speeders like a spider catches flies, he gets concerned when her abandoned vehicle reports match up with the missing persons reports. When vampire hunter Dusty McClain drifts into town, the pieces start falling into place.

5. Homicide detective Zack Martinez loathed the conceited professors at the local university. And not just because he lost his ex-wife, Marie, to Marcus Denethen, head of the History department. When Marie and Marcus are discovered naked and drained of their blood in the stacks of the school library, suddenly Zack becomes a suspect.

6. A trail of clues has Laurel and Jackie chasing the sick bastard who killed a boy and drained his blood. But as they break down the last door, will they be capturing a killer, or entering the cold, dark lair of a vampire? Also, another vampire.

7. When young vampire Damarco hears that many superstars are followed around by "bloodsuckers," he attends a Rolling Stones concert. Hilarity ensues when he slips backstage and bites Keith Richards . . . and experiences his first psychedelic trip.

8. Can things get any worse after Jeannette Wilson’s boss outsources her job overseas, her parents retire to Guadalajara, and her fiancé dumps her to become a goat herder? Yes! She learns her home loan is being purchased by a league of non-English speaking vampires. Also, scuba diving.

9. 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.

10. 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?

11. Lynn hopes her Vampire romance novel, 'Her Dress is Darkness', is a bestseller. It has to be, because she poured her soul into it . . . literally.

12. 4000 years after God turns him into the world's first vampire, an archangel gets bonked on the head and suffers amnesia. A thousand years later, he comes to, and encounters . . . Vlad, his old rival from the vampire wars. Talk about rude re-awakenings.

13. A prim English maiden, lost in the wilds of Scotland. A handsome Scotsman, who's also a vampire and can't come out in the day. Can they find true love . . . One Highland Night?

14. When The Vamps rock band went on the road, they performed at night. They dined at night, and partied at night too. They slept all day. In short, they were like any other rock band.

15. Rebecca didn't know if she should reveal to her friend Gareth that she's been dating a vampire. Finally she comes clean, and Gareth reveals that he, too, is a vampire. Also, a couple more vampires.

16. 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.

17. He was brought in to stop the bleeding when Hemodynamics Industries was going down the drain. Now the top executives are turning up dead, drained of blood. Is there a connection between the string of grisly murders and . . . The Consultant?

Answers below.

Click on the label below for last year's quiz.

Actual plots: 2, 9, 12


It's the 2nd annual collection of Zombie Guess the Plots. The following Guess the Plots have appeared over the past year, but three of them turned out to be the actual plot of the book. Regular readers may spot them. Newbies: Good luck.

1. Devout Catholic Dana Carmichael wears gloves to avoid picking up psychic impressions from everything she touches. But when a demon torments her with his theory that Jesus was a zombie, the gloves come off.

2. Sillibub Harvey, chef on the Orient Express, is dumbfounded to find himself face to face with a herd of zombie cows--cows unhappy with the meal plan--in the kitchen. But here he is, wondering if he'll survive to become a vegetarian, or if the phrase, "your ass is grass" will take on a more sinister meaning.

3. Lillianne Dillmouth has always been lucky, in love, in work, in health. But when zombies take over her small village and make a contest of choosing their next victim, she's hoping she loses.

4. Corbin Dooble has studied hard for his pilot's licence. But the plane he borrowed for his first solo is not exactly what he imagined. Nor did he expect it to be equipped with heat-seeking missiles and a crew of zombies.

5. It was just one small night, out of 365 that year, but June 18th, when a herd of zombie cows came through Butte, seemed like it would last forever.

6. 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.

7. Feverish and lost in the Forest of Doom, Jack Harper is saved by a stranger. Little does he know that eating a half-rotten apple and drinking from a leaky bowl completes the local marriage ritual. One sip later, he is married to a being known as the Crazy Zombie Granny With A Bouncy Afro.

8. His beat is the inner city, and he sees it all: vampires, zombies, werewolves -- but mostly demons. In fact, they call him Demon's Bane because he's sent so many back to the Netherworld. When the ultimate challenge becomes the ultimate temptation, can Bane hold on to his reputation . . . and his heart?

9. Tracey Robinson wasn't supposed to even go to her aunt's wedding, but a last minute change of plans had her driving south. Little did she know that a chance encounter with a dashing stranger at a rest stop would end with her engaged to the antichrist, who has at his command a thousand zombies waiting to take over the world.

10. Jake Ramirez pulls a green crayon from his pocket and draws a "safe line" around the corner dining table and chairs at Luigi's Pizza. Which seems daft to his date, Nonna Flores. But she's glad he did it -- when the zombies arrive.

11. Tamara likes to wander through the local cemetery while her husband cavorts with their whore neighbor. But lately Tamara's realized that something beneath the soil is not resting in peace. Could it be . . . ZOMBIES?!

12. Tanya is beyond bored with the life she's chosen as a taxidermist, something her bohemian, Voodoo-practicing mother warned her about. But hilarity ensues when she tries to learn the old ways of her ancestry and finds she has little talent for controlling the dead.

13. Nate Wainwright can't do anything about the past. He isn't yet accountable for the future. But he sure as hell better get those zombies out of his basement if he's going to have any shot at all with that hot vampiress down the block.

14. 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.

15. 90 year old Marvin Granville kicked the ball that won the championship for his team in 1935, but who remembers? He does, and he still wears sturdy shoes so if zombie cows invade the Garden O'Rest Home, he's ready.

16. 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.

17. 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.

18. When llamas and zombie cows begin acting strangely, cultists, roaming ostriches, and rival biker gangs are suspected, until one woman exposes the true culprits: parasitic brain-worms from outer space!

19. 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.

20. 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?

Answers below.

Click the label below for last year's zombie quiz.

Actual plots: 11, 16, 18

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Guess the Plot

The following book titles were on the "long list" of books considered for Canada's prestigious Giller Award. Your job: figure out which of the plots is correct. Answers below.

Zero Gravity

1. Between pushing and pulling, physicist Evelyn Grearguard must decide when the moon she just created is properly positioned in the gravity well, or the planet is doomed. Doomed!

2. When Prince Edward Island suddenly floats into the ionosphere, scientists ascribe the phenomenon to global warming. But Angus MacBeaver, top physicist with L.O.O.N., the super-secret intelligence arm of the R.C.M.P., sees in the catastrophe the machinations of the evil Dr. Caribeaux, crazed relativity theory-tinkerer and megalomaniac. Can MacBeaver stop him before the mad doctor sets his sights on a bigger target? Will the citizens of Saskatoon become helpless pawns in Caribeaux's plans for world domination?

3. A young woman, gradually detaching from reality, flees to Vancouver. A successful executive can no longer see himself. A lightly dressed tourist survives a mountain night by immersing himself in a hot spring. A sixty-eight year old woman encounters, on a nude beach, the woman who stole her sweetheart forty years earlier. From these seemingly innocuous plot lines, hilarity ensues.

4. Sara just couldn't be serious even though her lawyer boss warned her to appear solemn when clients were around. Now she's dead, and her boss has to discover which client couldn't stand a girl with zero gravity.

5. The heartwarming tale of a young boy's attempt to go through life with an unusual name. By the time Zero hits high school he's had enough of hanging from hooks, rooves and flagpoles and changes his name to Jim Smith. And then the real story begins...

6. The polar bears are disappearing from one small area of the Yukon. When Inuit physicist Billy Poller discovers that gravity in the area has been frozen out of existence in temperatures approaching absolute zero, and the polar bears are floating away into outer space, can he convince the Canadian government to fund a polar bear rescue? On the moon?

Late Nights on Air

1. Jay the Merman has spent nights on the Tiatanic, A week on the Andrea Doria, and a month on the Arizona. Now he's been offered a position as Jay Leno's sidekick. Can he spend late nights with Leno? Or will he need to grow a lung for that?

2. Produced in cooperation with the nation's leading rehab centers, this guide for recently-detoxed high-lifers demonstrates how a rich nightlife can still be enjoyed without the arsenal of stimulants, drugs and alcohol they formerly employed. Includes detailed listings of late-night lecture series and 24/7 museum tours.

3. Waterbeds are out and airbeds are in. Steve starts an airbed warehouse store but ends up spending a lot of late nights testing the beds out with various dates.

4. Dido and Harry are part of the cast of eccentric, loveable characters who form an unlikely group at a radio station in the Canadian North. On a canoe trip four of them make into the Arctic wilderness, they find the balance of love shifting, much as the balance of power in the North is being changed by the proposed Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline.

5. In the mid 22nd century, horror drug Ice has been replaced by the even more dangerous Air. Space Cop Barny Handlefield is sick of wiping the remains of Air victims off the flywalks. Shit, what did they think was going to happen when they took their face masks off? They were going to be able to breathe, or something?

Lauchlin of the Bad Heart

1. The fateful last words of Simon Anderson, "Adios Mi Corazon Lauchlin," ruins Calvin Armani's bid to become the 56th president of the United States on the Green Ticket.

2. Lauchlin always wanted to be on the football team, but his bad heart kept him from it. This is his memoir, writing in the style of the greatest literary fiction.

3. The tale of Snow White, told from the point of view of the soldier ordered to cut out her heart. These diaries, long thought to be lost, were preserved 'neath the floorboards of a tiny cottage in the Black Forest. The man could write. It's tragic that his life was cut short when the Evil Queen's personal chef reported to her that the heart could not possibly be Snow White's, because he had stolen it himself the night she turned seventeen.

4. In late 17th century Scotland, Prince Lauchlin is the ruler of a barren moor known as the Bad Heart. With only a few cows and crofters for neighbours, Lauchlin despairs of finding a wife. He widens his search to London - but is he ready for the big city? And is the big city ready for this red-bearded, bekilted highlander who walks his Highland cow through Hyde Park on a leash?

5. Lauchlin Maclean's attraction to a beautiful blind woman, the wife of a friend has awakened something buried deep within him. But others in the community are watching and waiting, for Lauchlin unknowingly has become entangled in a sinister plot of revenge. Now he must choose whether to trust in a heart that he has ignored for a long time.

6. Sir Lauchlin would have gone on the Crusade if not for his poor health. He can only win the love of the fair Wilhelmina, however, if he proves his manly prowess. Can he slay the dragon, or will a massive heart attack spell the end of the budding romance?

The Assassin’s Song

1. Attend the Tale of Stephen Wells, His manner wild, his eyebrows long. He planted a bullet in the brains of men, who never cut him off in line again. The bawdy tale of Stephen Wells. The singing hired gun of Sturbridge Dells.

2. Mel had an unusual gift for writing songs that put people to sleep--a sleep they never woke up from. A CEO of a major record company sees his frightening potential as an assassin.

3. After a night of debauchery, Mungo Fisk is accidentally elected to the post of Assassin to the Stars. This honorary position demands that he uncover a dirty secret in the past of as many Hollywood stars as possible. The only problem is, with so many dirty secrets out in the open, how's Mungo supposed to find any secrets that really are secret?

4. Karsan Dargawalla rejects his spiritual inheritance and heads for Harvard, against his father's wishes. Three decades of stubborn self-exile follow, ending when Karsan returns home to find his younger brother, Mansoor, involved in Islamist terrorist activities.

5. Paolo is an expert marksman, but a failure as an assassin once it becomes widely known that he always belts out two verses of "O Sole Mio" before pulling the trigger.

The Architects Are Here

1. Prompted by a near death experience involving a wayward billboard Gabriel English sets out on an impromptu road trip to Newfoundland, along the way encountering all manner of curious characters from his past including many familiar faces from the Canadian literary community.

2. The holiday party at Skidless Engineering is deadly dull, until Trish Quemble invites the guys from the neighboring office. The party is more fun once the architects are here, but civil engineer Bob Stickley isn't having a good time. Architect Chip Weathers has designs on the lovely Trish, but can Bob construct a solid romance before Chip gets off the drawing board?

3. When overnight, tawdry strip malls are transformed into elegant glass-and-steel emporiums, unimaginative tract houses into mini-Versailles and stark urban high-rises into gracefully-proportioned spires, the world holds its breath. A mysterious message from space summons world leaders to a conclave at the United Nations. There, a representative of a powerful yet benevolent interstellar race attempts to explain how his people have long since thrown off the shackles of crime, disease, warfare and cheap buildings.

4. Trish wanted the perfect house, so she invited three hunks who were also architects to a party. They were supposed to compete for the job, but they end up in competition for her heart instead.

5. Ruler bees, so called because their antennae are marked off in millimeters, are the result of a secret Pentagon weapons program gone awry. They escape into the wild and, knowing nothing of hive construction, hatch a plan to impersonate architects. They approach healthy colonies and present their phony credentials. The doorkeeper announces, "the architects are here" and is promptly killed by the intruders before she can ask, "Did anyone send for an architect? Why do we need an architect?"

6. Canada. The future. Clouds of ash hover over a devastated country. A few survivors huddle among rocks, dreading the coming winter and the never-ending fire storms, seemingly abandoned by the rest of the world. Only Bangladesh sends help, in the form of five recently graduated architects. Full of enthusiasm the architects set about rebuilding, using all their knowledge and ingenuity. Surely building houses that can withstand fire must be similar to building houses that can withstand flood?

Fake plots contributed by Dave F., Paul Penna, Deborah K. White, McKoala, Dick Margulis, and EE.

Correct Plots

3, 4, 5, 4, 1

Guess the Title 5

The following are descriptions of ten books that can be found at Each is accompanied by six titles, one of which is the actual title, and five of which are fakes submitted by the Evil Minions.

a. This self-help manual for female teens from age 14 up is a crash course covering every topic from puberty and sex to making friends and choosing colleges. Includes a detailed section on oral sex.

Am I Weird or Is This Normal?
Just Say 'Blow': A Girl's Guide to the Top
A Jaw-Dropping Guide to Teen Sex
For Girls Only: A Teenager's Survival Guide
The First Swallows of Spring Break
Making Your Parents as Miserable as You Are: What Every Teen Needs to Know

b. Devastated after being fired from her job at a Silicon Valley start-up and suffering a miscarriage, Devi feels she has strayed far outside the expectations of her traditional Indian family and attempts to commit suicide. However, her intrusive mother, a continual source of aggravation for Devi, saves her life. Devi then moves in with her parents, but she refuses to speak, taking up cooking instead.

From Here to Tandoori
It's Chapati, You Can Cry If You Want To
The Widgetmakers of Hindu Kush
Serving Crazy with Curry
Gosht Story
Joy of Cooking Tikka Masala

c. When Tori got lucky, she never imagined that her birthday fling would last longer than one night. But this papi chulo turns out to be "the one," and they quickly decide to elope. . . . Meanwhile, Sylvia has one of the hottest careers in town reporting on Miami's nightlife. But when Tori makes her shocking announcement over Monday-night mojitos with the girls, Sylvia decides it's time for some bold moves of her own . . .

Latino Chic
The Miami Welcome Mat
The Chicharrones Connection
The Devil Wears Tammy Apostol
Tori and Sylvia Do Little Havana
Sex and the South Beach Chicas

d. Wounding with words is the talent of this lopsided novel's heroine, so skilled at repelling her friends that she nicknames herself the Alienator. Unfortunately, the Alienator's powers work just as well on readers, who are likely to find her such unpleasant company that they won't stick around for the book's more satisfying second half.

Loathe Me and Leave Me
Full of It
Is There a Book Doctor in the House?
The Scathing: Yes, It's A Novel
How Jenny Came to Not Hate Everyone
Metamorphosis of a Miscreant

e. Julia, a hip salesgirl at Pelham's jewelry store, finds her social life turned on its head when she is asked to deliver a necklace to the store's young heiress, Lell Pelham, on Lell's wedding day. Beguiled by Julia's earnest cluelessness and her vintage-chic vibe, Lell and her gang adopt Julia, and "Eliza Doolittle" her into passing as the heiress to a Park Avenue family fortune, just for a laugh. Dazed by her new world, Julia is unprepared for the ardent advances of Lell's husband—or the vicious claws her new "friends" develop when they decide Julia is an ingrate, and demote her from society goddess to penniless cling-on.

Wolves in Chic Clothing
Breakfast at Wal-Mart
Cindy Adams, the Little Flower Girl and the taking of Pelham 666
Careful What You Wish For
My Phat Bitch

f. A collection of tongue-in-cheek characterizations of men, organized by sign, for the date-weary hetero woman.

All Dressed Up and No One to Love
What's Your Sign? (And Other Pickup Lines of Assholes)
The Loser Zodiac
Never Date a Virgo on Thursday
How to Spot a Bastard by his Star Sign
Is That Your Planet Ascending, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

g. Valuable insight into the way in which Latin America has been regarded and utilized by modern nations, governments, and corporations interspersed with Disney cartoons possessing ridiculous political implications: vultures representing Hegel and Marx, dogs dressed up like Che and Castro...

How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic
Goofy Presents: Poverty Incorporated and the Plundering of a Continent
Under the Mouse's Thumb
Uncle Scrooge, South of the Border
Yankee Go Home . . . Pluto, Stay
Shamrock Bones and the Cocaine Cartel

h. When a British writer, performer and musician makes a drunken bet that he can hitchhike through his country with an unlikely possession, he starts an unexpectedly wonderful adventure into the good-natured soul of the Irish people.

Travels With My Anteater
'Round Ireland with a Fridge
Have You Met My Potato?
Erin Go Brassiere
Caravaning In The Land of Bogs with Patty O'Swirly
Mick and Bono's Most Excellent Adventure

i. CALIFORNIA ENGINEER EXPERIENCES CONTACT WITH OTHER WORLDLY VISITORS screamed the headlines in the Las Vegas and LA papers after an engineer first reported his contacts with extraterrestrials. The space beings said they were from a planet which remains hidden behind our sun and that they had developed their civilization to the point where there was no war or crime. To date the author's rather shocking claims have NOT been disproved!

The Nerd's Guide to Doppelgangers
High in the Hollywood Hills
You Weren't There; I Was
Probed! The Carson Waggoner Story
You Won't Be Calling Me Crazy When the Sarkonn Fleet Arrives
Messages from the People of the Planet Clarion: The True Experiences of Truman Bethurum

j. It's the edgy gift book for every unmarried woman who's fending off her nudgy mother and overly concerned friend, who can't go to a holiday dinner, class reunion, shower or wedding without hearing the usual round of questions. Something like So, why aren't you married yet?

Well, Just Look at Me
The Un-Vagina Monologues for Single Girls
Even God is Single, So Stop Giving Me a Hard Time
Because Gay Marriage Is Illegal, Okay?
Actually, She's More Than Just a Friend
I Know Why I'm Not Married; Why Aren't You Divorced?

Fake titles supplied by Paul Penna, Dick Margulis, Dave F., anonymous, and EE

Actual Book Titles:

Am I Weird or Is This Normal?
Serving Crazy with Curry
Sex and the South Beach Chicas
Full of It
Wolves in Chic Clothing
How to Spot a Bastard by his Star Sign
How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic
'Round Ireland with a Fridge
Messages from the People of the Planet Clarion: The True Experiences of Truman Bethurum
Even God is Single, So Stop Giving Me a Hard Time

We still need fake plots for tomorrow's exercise. The titles are Zero Gravity, Late Nights on Air, Lauchlin of the Bad Heart, The Assassin’s Song, and The Architects Are Here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Openings . . .

. . . to five not-very-old novels. Enjoy, discuss, whatever. If you'd like to read all of the first chapter of any of them, search for the title at (Titles/authors are below.)

IT WAS INEVITABLE: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love. Dr. Juvenal Urbino noticed it as soon as he entered the still darkened house where he had hurried on an urgent call to attend a case that for him had lost all urgency many years before. The Antillean refugee Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, disabled war veteran, photographer of children, and his most sympathetic opponent in chess, had escaped the torments of memory with the aromatic fumes of gold cyanide.

I sent one boy to the gas chamber at Huntsville. One and only one. My arrest and my testimony. I went up there and visited with him two or three times. Three times. The last time was the day of his execution. I didnt have to go but I did. I sure didnt want to. He'd killed a fourteen year old girl and I can tell you right now I never did have no great desire to visit with him let alone go to his execution but I done it. The papers said it was a crime of passion and he told me there wasnt no passion to it. He'd been datin this girl, young as she was. He was nineteen. And he told me that he had been plannin to kill somebody for about as long as he could remember. Said that if they turned him out he'd do it again. Said he knew he was goin to hell. Told it to me out of his own mouth. I dont know what to make of that. I surely dont. I thought I'd never seen a person like that and it got me to wonderin if maybe he was some new kind. I watched them strap him into the seat and shut the door. He might of looked a bit nervous about it but that was about all. I really believe that he knew he was goin to be in hell in fifteen minutes. I believe that. And I've thought about that a lot. He was not hard to talk to. Called me Sheriff. But I didnt know what to say to him. What do you say to a man that by his own admission has no soul? Why would you say anything? I've thought about it a good deal. But he wasnt nothin compared to what was comin down the pike.

For the second time that day, a woman stabbed Richard.

Jolted fully awake by the shock of pain, he instantly seized her bony wrist, preventing her from ripping open his thigh. A dingy dress, buttoned all the way up to her throat, covered her gaunt figure. In the dim light of distant campfires Richard saw that the square of cloth draped over her head and knotted under her angular jaw looked to be made out of a scrap of frayed burlap.

Despite her frail frame, her sunken cheeks, her stooped back, she had the glare of a predator. The woman who had stabbed him earlier that night had been heavier, and stronger. Her eyes, too, had burned with hate.

December 2001

I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it's wrong what they say about the past, I've learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.

The interrogation began like any other.

Kathryn Dance entered the interview room and found the forty-three-year-old man sitting at a metal table, shackled, looking up at her closely. Subjects always did this, of course, though never with such astonishing eyes. Their color was a blue unlike sky or ocean or famous gems.

"Good morning," she said, sitting down across from him.

"And to you," replied Daniel Pell, the man who eight years ago had knifed to death four members of a family for reasons he'd never shared. His voice was soft.

1. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez
2. No Country for Old Men, By Cormac McCarthy
3. Confessor, by Terry Goodkind
4. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
5. The Sleeping Doll, by Jeffery Deaver

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Face-Lift 456

Guess the Plot

My Soccer Mom's Séance

1. Fourteen-year-old Allyson wants to die--her friends have just discovered that her Mom is a witch. Now everyone wants her to tell their fortunes. But what is she going to do when Josh Dryton, her secret crush, comes for a session?

2. When he was a kid, Don Venolia thought that all moms wore drifty scarves and muttered into crystal balls. Now he's fifteen and his medium mother is just weird - especially when she sets up her tent in the middle of the school soccer field. She says that disaster is coming, but for Don, the real disaster is his mother.

3. Ginger could be using her new-found witchcraft abilities to make 80-yard field goals for the football team; instead she has to rescue her soccer mom from the evil Ghouligans, who've kidnaped her and the other witches.

4. A séance sounds like fun, right? RIGHT? Well, not for Snotgurgle Mcflop. It's bad enough he has a mom who plays soccer, but when his mother decides to take a class on Basic Witchery, what's a troll to do? Eat her, of course!

5. Wannabe-medium Cassandra Birkenstock tries to help her awkward son Simon make the soccer team by summoning the spirit of the sport's most legendary player. Unfortunately, she doesn't realize that Pelé isn't dead yet, and so unwittingly brings forth the similarly-named Hawaiian goddess. Will "Oops, silly me!" be enough to mollify the school board when a volcano erupts in the middle of the playing field?

6. 10 year-old Caitlin is suspicious of her mom’s scrapbooking parties, so she hides in the closet one night and learns that the parties are just a cover for their séances to resurrect Darlene, goddess of mini-vans, relaxed fit jeans and well-defined front butt.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Ginger Wynn could have been a cheerleader, but she opted for the football team instead. [Usually when you're a cheerleader, you can have the football team too. It's one of the perks.] Nature has been kind to Ginger---tall and leggy, a gaggle of male admirers, the first female kicker on Westington High's team—and only a ninth grader to boot!

But when she walks in on her yoga-loving, SUV-driving soccer mom [Shouldn't that be football mom?] leading a séance, she discovers that she, Ginger, is a witch—and not a very talented one at that. [Walking in on a séance doesn't prove you're a witch, nor does it suggest how talented at witchcraft you are. ] While her mother is overjoyed that her daughter has, at last, shown herself to be magical, [I missed when this happened. We need to know what happens that shows magical ability when she walks in on the séance.] Ginger is frustrated by lesson upon lesson spent learning to master nature's power.

Then, the witches of Suffolk County are kidnapped by Ghouligans--the evil, but closely-related counterparts to witches— [and] Ginger must marshal her fledgling powers and considerable wit to embark on a rescue mission. Accompanied by the only other witch she knows, a spacey girl scout named Elsie, Ginger dives headlong into a world in which she is not at all equipped to succeed. Yet, her quiet suburban town holds more clues than she dreamed possible. [Clues to what?] As Ginger unearths her ancestry, she discovers what it means to be a witch and the fine line her kind walk between good and evil.

Ginger and Elsie outsmart goblins, dodge power-snatchers, and befriend the local garden gnomes in an effort to rescue their mothers and save their kin from reverting back into Wicked Witches.

My Soccer Mom's Séance is a 70,000 word middle grade fantasy.



It moves too fast from walking in on the séance to lessons in mastering nature's power. The order of events is presumably walking in, mother later confesses she's a witch, and that Ginger has possibly inherited witchcraft abilities, Ginger takes lessons, proves to have ability, but not much. All of that is set-up for the actual plot, the rescue of her mom and the other witches; you could condense it into something like: When ninth-grader Ginger Wynn learned she was a witch, she never dreamed she'd soon need to use her powers to rescue her mom and the other witches of Suffolk County from the evil Ghouligans. This leaves more room for some specifics about the rescue, which seems more important than being on the football team or walking in on the séance.

The last plot paragraph/sentence is a fairly abrupt wrap-up. Something like this might be better:

Then, the witches of Suffolk County are kidnapped by Ghouligans--the evil, but closely-related counterparts to witches— [and] Ginger must marshal her fledgling powers and considerable wit to embark on a rescue mission. Accompanied by the only other witch she knows, a spacey girl scout named Elsie, Ginger unearths her ancestry, discovering what it means to be a witch, and the fine line her kind walk between good and evil. But can the girls outsmart the Ghouligans in time to save their moms from reverting into . . . Wicked Witches?

It does seem that if the Ghouligans are powerful enough to capture all the experienced witches, that two inexperienced witches would be unlikely to triumph over them. Can you throw in a hint of what they have in mind?

Monday, November 19, 2007

New Beginning 408

In this business, every once in a while, you meet a woman who's a class act. Not like the tarts and broads you usually get to meet in this business. She's the third class act I've met, makes the day worthwhile.

The sign on the door says Jonathan Slaughter. That's not my name, it's the previous tenant's. But, if it makes it a little harder for the bill collectors to find me, that's all right by me. Especially since my last three customers stiffed me part of or all their fees. It makes it hard to go home. It's not the anger that bothers me, it's the hope.

The class act has nice legs in expensive stockings. Her pumps are real leather. Sensible shoes for those stockings. Her dress is hidden under a trench coat, weather's been threatening rain for days but, so far, it's all been talk. I expect the dress is expensive, certainly her perfume is. She flashes her blue eyes at me, strokes her curly blond hair.

"I need a detective," she says, with a seductive voice that caries equal measures of loneliness, frustration, and desperation. "I need one quite badly."

"Lady, I don't know how you got through this neighborhood so late at night, but why don't you just go hire some white boy to be your detective?"

"Sugar," she coos, "if what I need is the best Private Dick, I know no white boy is gonna do it for me."

Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: Anonymous

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Face-Lift 455

Guess the Plot

The Crown of Amaratia

1. Supermodel scuba spy Mae Wong tries to save Fiji in a deadly battle with the invasive spiny starfish known as "the Crown of Amaratia" -- but is it really alive? Or is it a plastic robot controlled by Ted Winters, diabolical henchman of the fiend who ate Minneapolis?

2. Billy Jo Bean found the crown while she was cleaning the diner on Friday night. She took it home and put it on Tommy Jack with no idea the terrier might stand up on his hind legs and ask for a copy of Leaves of Grass and a smoking jacket. Now they're investing in Wall Street and planning a trip to Barstow. Will her parents approve?

3. Prince Wendell makes a crown of leaves and flowers to test the virtue of potential brides. If they choose the golden crown or the silver crown -- off with their heads! The result is tragic. After the massacre, he throws all three crowns away and takes a vow of celibacy. Next morning, as he rides a donkey toward the monastery, he sees a homely scullery wench wearing the flower crown. Is she the one? Or is it too late?

4. Entrusted with choosing the next king of the Amaratian Empire, the Prophet chooses Adelbrand's younger brother. But Adelbrand trades his soul for the throne. The Prophet retrieves the soul from the Underworld and then disposes of Adelbrand, and all is right with the world. Or is it? Where are the Half-Elves?

5. Museum director Melinda Tishton has a problem: the celebrated Crown of Amaratia, has vanished right before the opening of the special Amaratian exhibit. Can hunky detective Dirk Nadder help save the day, the museum's reputation . . . and Melinda's heart?

6. Anita Benn is an artist specializing in high-speed photography. Her series of liquid crowns formed by milk droplets is world famous. Looking for something different, she picks up the bottle of Amaratia di Sorrento she bought on her last vacation; vile taste, great colors. But when she develops the film, she sees something within the crown that challenges everything she knows about reality.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

The Prophet doesn't like the Amaratian Empire. In his mind, they're the ones who stole his past from him (quite literally, as he doesn't know anything about who he is) and forced him to live on a mountain to guard its future. [The mountain's future?]

Unfortunately for him, he's duty bound to the land, so when its king comes to him for help after being blackmailed into abdication, he has no choice. He heads to Amaratia's capital to name the next king.

[King: I'm abdicating the throne.

Adviser: But who will rule the empire, Majesty?

King: This decision will decide the future of us all. It should be made by . . . the Prophet!

Adviser: The Prophet?

King: He's this guy who lives on a mountain and doesn't even know who he is.

Adviser: Yes, we must consult the Prophet.]

And instead of naming the eldest prince, Adelbrand, as the king, he passes the throne on to the youngest prince, supported solely by the [belief that the empire would be a laughingstock if it had a king named Adelbrand.] book written by Fate herself. [Why don't the people just use this book by Fate herself to decide the next king, instead of seeking out the Prophet, who uses the book anyway?]

The only people who could be willing to ally themselves with the Prophet against Adelbrand (who seizes the throne even though he's warned that it could tear Amaratia apart at the seams) are the Half-Elves, [What's the half that isn't elf?] but they've moved on in search of prosperity. After a fruitless search in the desert that turns up a lost kingdom and almost ends up killing him and his companions several times, the Prophet decides to head back to the capital in hopes that he'll find support in the ranks of the nobles. [The Half-Elves are gone, the search is fruitless, the Prophet survives . . . In short, nothing happens. We can do without this paragraph.]

However, Adelbrand doesn't just have the support of the people behind him; he also has the support of [Poodleweiss,] one of the most powerful deities. After trading his soul for the Amaratian throne, it seems that he is unstoppable. [Unstoppable in his quest to do what? Is he out to destroy the empire? If he's a bad guy, why are the people and the nobles and Poodleweiss all on his side?] Nevertheless, the Prophet elects to go down to the Underworld to retrieve it.

He manages to retrieve said soul, but only after completing a holy obstacle course involving an endless pit, [How do you get out of an endless pit?] demons, a volcano, and many vows never to get involved Amaratia again. The ex-king is disposed of, [Which ex-king? The one who asked for the Prophet's help, or Adelbrand? And what do you mean "disposed of"? You bring Adelbrand his lost soul only to dispose of him? If you had the power to dispose of him, you could have disposed of him without enduring the pit of despair and the volcano and the demons.] his brother rightfully takes the throne, and all seems to be well in the land. For now, anyway.

The Crown of Amaratia is a fantasy novel and the first of the Prophecy Trilogy. It is complete at 80,000 words. I await your reply.

All the best,


Who blackmailed the king? Adelbrand?

If you're blackmailing the king into abdicating, wouldn't you also blackmail him into naming you the new king? You've got something on the king so damning that he's willing to give up the throne but he balks at letting you take over?

Shouldn't the Amaratian Empire have an emperor instead of a king?

When you go to the Underworld to retrieve a soul, what's the procedure? Just ask Poodleweiss for it? What if he says No? Even if you get the soul, and return it to its rightful owner, Adelbrand wasn't so hot with a soul, as he was willing to give it up for the throne.

Is the book by Fate the standard means of choosing a leader? The people don't seem to have any respect for it. Or for the Prophet. They're all on Adelbrand's side (except, possibly, the Half-Elves) Apparently they don't think he's such a bad guy. Everyone is in favor of Adelbrand taking over, yet when the Prophet returns from the Underworld, he's able to dispose of Adelbrand? Where are Adelbrand's allies and armies now?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

New Beginning 407

The magic bullet slammed into the back of Lenny Flooper’s right leg. It exploded through the other side with a spray of blood and fragmented kneecap, effectively ending his mad dash escape.

Lenny stumbled. His arms, hampered by age and untreated bursitis, were slow to react, and he did a face plant into the base of a cycadeoid tree, a common specimen of the Early Cretaceous Period.
The cycadeoid was at least sixty feet tall, and it stood at the edge of a steep embankment along with other, equally authentic-looking prehistoric flora. The tops of these cycadeoids fanned out into wide fern-like vinyl fronds that tangled high above the jungle floor. During the day, the canopy they formed blocked all but the most dramatic shafts of sunlight, a spectacular effect as viewed from the seat of a speeding coaster train. Tonight though, the canopy blotted out the inky sky. And the fireworks.

When he finally regained consciousness, it was the crackle of fireworks bursting overhead that Lenny initially mistook for the sound of his skull crumbling.

Using tree branches for support, Lenny pulled himself up, telling his brain to ignore the pain. A stray firework whizzed past his ear leaving a colorful trail of sparks and singed skin on his face.

He needed to get out of there, but with his shattered knee, all he could do was walk in circles. His foot landed in something soft and ripe. The smell told him some kind of animal had passed by recently. A sudden roar told him very recently. A fucking dinosaur!

Summoning all his strength, Lenny hobbled away from the sound of the creature. He stumbled into brush and found himself rolling down an embankment. He came to rest on cold, hard concrete.

"Do you need help, sir?"

Lenny tried to focus on the voice; dust and gravel in his eyes had blinded him. "Where am I?"

"Crazy Al's Antediluvian Autopark, sir. What can we do for you?"

Lenny groaned and pushed himself to a sitting position. "I just need a way to get home."

"Well sir, you've come to the right place. This must be your lucky day!"

Opening: blogless_troll.....Continuation: ril

Friday, November 16, 2007

Success Story

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 216 reports that the book will be released by Drollerie Press as an e-book November 25, 2007 and as a paperback in April next year.

New Beginning 406

The survey crew described Horizon Prime as Shangri-La -- a planet of tropical rainforests, fresh water lakes and trees -- many over a thousand feet tall.

Tran-Lux teleports its negotiating teams to the surface of the planet because they believe that naive natives are impressed by humans appearing in a burst of white light. Teleport is painful and sometimes we appear cringing and screaming and sometimes we evacuate our bodies and reek of ass. This time however, we were a handsome bunch -- knotted muscular faces, muscle-bound buff bodies and prehensile chimpanzee-like feet for swinging on vines and living in the canopy of the trees. The natives wore grass ropes on their biceps, ankles and foreheads. They covered their genitals with gourd-like Kotekas -- some long, some short, some curved, some thick. We were naked and our dicks dangled in the wind. I hate naked worlds.

I spoke first.

"We, ah, come in peace . . . " I said. That's what I always say, whether they understand it or not. Rules.

The natives were already staring at us, attracted by the light from the teleport before we could even focus. Now they seemed to be getting animated. Our presence had clearly aroused their interest; they began to jump up and down and shout in unfamiliar whoops and screams.

The leader approached us, seeming particularly excited. I also took a step forward. Then I noticed, this one was completely out of his gourd. And yes, he was very excited. That's when I also noticed, there didn't appear to be any females here.

I had a sudden feeling teleportation wasn't going to seem so painful after today.

Opening: Dave Fragments.....Continuation: Anonymous

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Face-Lift 454

Guess the Plot


1. Venus decides the world needs enchanted lipstick, so she starts a makeup company: Stellar. But will FDA chief geek Bud Jones ever approve her products? Perhaps he will, once Cupid shoots him.

2. Dig Redden is perfectly happy with his job selling rotting vegetables, so when his family arranges an intervention he's afraid his life will collapse like a dying star--until he meets a stellar woman who teaches him to use a telescope.

3. For as long as anyone can remember, Aunt Marge has been telling jokes about a giant talking iguana that lives in the tree out back. But when she goes missing and Todd flies to Orlando to investigate, he discovers the beast is real. And so is the broken space ship in the barn.

4. Collum Muntz blows his savings on an '89 Hyundai Stellar GXL. But his days earning money on a premium rate chatline and his nights in the garage returning his dream car to factory condition take their mental toll and his relationship with seductive obsessive Stella the Stellar starts to raise questions, both in town and in the Journal of Psychiatric Medicine.

5. Abby Starr meant to give her crush, Robert, a thrill of passion but they had a little misunderstanding about time. When she crept naked into the appointed bedroom it was occupied by the wrong person -- Brenda, the screaming wife. Innovating wildly, Abby quickly declared her love for Brenda and was surprised with a thrill of passion. Should she carry on both affairs, secretly? Or just propose a threesome?

6. Stellar Hooch -- squeezed from the innards of stars, distilled with the essence of comets and smuggled throughout the galaxy in genuine oak barrels by Buck Turgidstan is implicated in the bathtub drowning of four Federation Council members. Now Buck is on the run and only Sister Mary Steubbing can save his neck from the noose.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Douglass “Dig” Redden doesn’t use drugs and seldom drinks. So why, he wonders, has his wife Molly secretly planned to make him the subject of an “intervention picnic”? [Also, he wonders how it is he's in on the "secret" plans.] He soon finds out as friends and family close in, and over the course of a single week leading up to the event, he is drawn into a bewildering engagement with life. My novel of mainstream fiction, “Stellar” (91,000), though tragic at times, contains a thread of dark humor throughout, similar in style and tone to the work of authors such as Gary Shteyngart and Richard Russo. I believe its themes of adaptation, immigration, and formulating a place in modern society [AKA adaptation] will appeal to a wide audience.

Dig Redden, the man, has decelerated. [The man? Is there another Dig Redden who's a cheetah?] In fact, with both heels burrowing into the details of his life, he has brought it to a wheezing stop. [Presumably this is an attempt to use the idiom "Dig in one's heels," which might literally be applied to a tug of war contest, in which the team being pulled digs in their heels to keep from being moved. I don't think "burrowing" works well, as it suggests actual digging of a hole. Even if we change it to "digging," the important point to know is not what he's digging his heels into, but what force is pulling him where. Also, has his life actually come to a wheezing stop? Do they call him Dig because of the way he digs in his heels? What I'm saying is, I think we can do without that sentence.] His marriage collapsing and career in ruins, his days are now reduced to selling rotting vegetables from a stand along the Delaware River – and he believes he has never been happier. [Fresh vegetables would probably sell better, but hey, if you can sell rotting vegetables, more power to you.] [ Out of curiosity, does a customer shopping at a Rotting Vegetables stand tend to choose the least rotten of the vegetables? Or, having gone there specifically for rotting vegetables, does he thus choose vegetables well on their way to complete rottenness?] But Dig finds that life is not kind to quitters, and the harder he struggles to extract himself from society, the deeper he is drawn in by the cast Molly has assembled. His mentally fading father, Archie, returns, nearly bringing a jetliner crashing down upon his arrival. [I can't get on an airliner with my quart bottle of wart remover, but they let the mentally fading board with shoulder-launched missiles?] Dig finds his [father's] quirks - turning to a retired racehorse for medical advice, a penchant for eating his own hair [He gets his medical advice from Dr. Fager and his hair cut by Barbaro.] - alternately repulsive and heartrending, but ultimately he is affected most by seeing in the man a Dickensian ghost of his own future. His friend and former co-worker, Royce, a man who suspiciously survived the office purge that Dig did not, is willing to help him get back on track. That is, if in return Dig will assist him with a small ‘federal matter’. [This paragraph is longer than some books I've read.] Amidst this turmoil (including several run-ins with the local police), Dig hires a young Princeton astronomy student, Hannah Cho, to instruct him in the use of an expensive telescope that has languished untouched in a corner since the previous Christmas. [Point that end at the sky. Look in this end. That'll be ninety dollars.] He finds himself drawn to the girl, sensing her superior grasp of modern life may be what saves him before his life collapses in upon itself completely like a dying star. While the antagonistic forces of family and friends pull at Dig, he finds his only relief in the time spent with Hannah, discussing the stellar sky as well as their own small worlds. As the two of them struggle to find a path for their respective futures, tragedy unfolds, altering it for both of them.

My first major short story publication, “Copperhead”, is forthcoming in the winter 2007 edition of Rosebud Magazine. I have two additional credits, ["Water Moccasin" and "Black Mamba"] “Under” in July 2005 edition of The City Writers Review, and “Rivers” in the August 2006 issue of You Essays on-line.

I am hard at work on my second novel, a story involving hippopotamus, blueberries, and self-delusion. [Stellar schmellar. I'll buy the hippo book sight-unseen.]

Thank you for you [your] consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.



It's too long. What can we do without?

1. Gary Shteyngart and Richard Russo

2. Royce

3. The local police

4. Charles Dickens

5. Hippopotamus

That leaves us with our main character, down and out, yet somehow happy. His wife, Molly, arranges an intervention starring his friends and family. He arranges his own intervention starring a college babe, which, against all odds, goes much better than Molly's intervention. Then tragedy strikes, leaving everyone miserable, as required in literary fiction.