Thursday, January 31, 2008

Face-Lift 482

Guess the Plot

The Lost Girls

1. When Tammy and June walked into the mall they expected to spend an hour showing off their ipods and braces before meeting Aunt Agatha for lunch. But soon they realized Chucky Cheese was nowhere to be found and a sinister 8th grade boy with pimples was watching their every move.

2. Fourteen-year-old Barbara feels and almost looks like an old woman. She's lived outdoors for months at a time, borne a child, and fasted excessively in search of religious affirmation. Her friend Angela is the same. Eventually they realize that the community in which they've grown up is an extremist cult. Can they recover their girlhood and keep their faith?

3. Lap band surgery and dieting have trimmed Bertha down, but her life hasn't improved like she expected. Even a new wardrobe can't take her mind off her old body. Can she come to grips with the changes of massive weight loss, or will she forever look down at her chest and mourn . . . The Lost Girls?

4. A woman who lives next door to five-year-old Maribeth and eight-year-old Lana loves the girls because they remind her of her own child who was kidnaped in a grocery store. She is so grief-stricken when they move away, she leaves her husband, and sets out to find the girls . . . and keep them. Also, a corrupt clergyman named Bob.

5. When three underfunded soon-to-be-Hollywood-starlets get kicked off the bus in Iowa, they think they might as well be stuck on the moon. Luckily they heroically save blind old Mrs. Abernathy from getting hit by a truck, and she gives them her pink Cadillac, plus gas money. But can they find LA?

6. When on a field trip to a museum, a group of girls make a break for the mega mall across the street while their teacher, Ms. Beaker, is flirting with a hunky security guard. Hilarity follows as Ms. Beaker, with the help of the guard, try to locate the lost girls in a mall full of sale-crazed shoppers while keeping the rest of the kids in tow.

Original Version

Dear Editor,

Three months after their mother leaves, their father, compelled by the voice of God, moves Maribeth (5) and Lana (8) Ostrov to Vermillion, South Dakota. [When God tells me to move to South Dakota, I start looking for a new religion.] When they get to Vermillion, the girls are taken care of by Mrs. Blumke an alcoholic, mother of five, whose refusal to accept reality puts Maribeth in danger. [Elaborate, please. In what way does Mrs. Blumke refuse to accept reality, and in what way is Maribeth in danger?]

Deepti Bannerjee lives next door to Maribeth and Lana. She loves the girls because they remind her of her own child who was kidnapped in a grocery store years ago. When the girls move, Deepti is grief-stricken. [They move? They just got there. Did their father move to Vermillion with them, or did he just drop them off at Mrs. Blumke's?] Feeling as though she lost her child all over again, she leaves her husband to find and keep them.

Pastor Bob opens the door to find Ted Ostrov standing on his steps with his two daughters. He concocts a plan to exploit Ted's blind faith and defraud his church of money, [and then he invites them into the house.] which is going perfectly until the flood comes.

The Lost Girls is a 40,000 word literary novel that tells the story of Maribeth and Lana Ostrov and their struggle to be found. [To be literally found by their father after Deepti takes them or by their mother after she realizes she should never have left them with her whacko husband? Or to be figuratively found in the nebulous fog of their batty father's delirium?]

Raised Baptist in a homeschooling family, I am the second oldest of eight children. I am currently pursuing my MFA at_______ in fiction. [Interesting. And what are you currently doing in reality?] The Lost Girls is my first novel.


Just when I was thinking this was the story of Deepti's search for and possible kidnaping of the girls, up pops Pastor Bob, and a new plot, which immediately fades into the floodwaters. If everything in this query is vital to the main story, you need better connections. If some of it is irrelevant to the main story, get it out of the query.

We don't need to know your religion or the size of your family.

What kind of woman leaves her children in the care of their father when he's clearly not all there?

I don't think of kids, especially a five-year-old, struggling to be found. I'm not sure Maribeth would be aware she was lost. Looking for a normal home and family sounds more like it than struggling to be found.

It's going to be extremely difficult to find a publisher for a novel this short nowadays. Any chance you could squeeze in another eight or ten chapters?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Face-Lift 481

Guess the Plot

My Bazillions and Yours

1. Hector Crawford, once the richest man in the world, died lonely and estranged in a one-room shack on an isolated island. Now his family is after the money. Can Sean McMillan, Crawford's lawyer and the trustee of his estate, convince them there is nothing left . . . while he searches the island for the treasure he knows Crawford hid?

2. This novel/memoir/how-to book features the story of "Lucky" Ned Crump, a Las Vegas gambling guru who becomes a cult figure after winning and losing fortunes. Complete with illustrations, charts, superstitions, fallacies, and the constant exhortation to “Go With Guts."

3. What will happen to the sanity of real estate speculator Harvey Jones when billions of giant worm-things from space rain down on Malibu and make trails of toxic acid slime on everything he owns? Plus, an amazing cheerleader and her pony.

4. When Elmer Fudd decides to become a major player in the South American slave trade, he discovers his biggest competitor is none other than Bugs Bunny. Not content to let that wabbit spoil another one of his pwomising enterpwises, Elmer dukes it out with Bugs in a series of madcap antics, until they finally settle their diffewences and agwee to go into business together. Now they just have to find a way to wound up those wascally Bazillions.

5. Candice Matisse is rightly proud of her bazillions. What started as a modest endowment when she was a teenager has grown to towering proportions. Now, charmingly obnoxious entrepreneur Max Difford has his eyes on Candice's bazillions. But can he get his hands on them?

6. Gilbert Peachtree, inventor of a time machine, goes back in time, invests in a sure thing, and returns to the present to find himself a bazillionaire. Unfortunately, his meddling caused uncontrollable inflation, so everyone is now a bazillionaire.

Original Version

Dear Agent:

You can win in Las Vegas, enjoy a more fulfilling life, and score a free photo keychain! [I'm considering offering a free photo key chain to anyone who purchases Novel Deviations. You need a clever gimmick to make it as a small business these days.]

My Bazillions—And Yours is a novel of 110,000 words presented as a combination memoir/how-to. Subtitled What It Means To Be “Lucky,” it is the idiosyncratic story of “Lucky” Ned Crump, the self-styled gambling guru whose IncrediSystems have garnered a cult following since their first appearance in 1998. A guileless man subsumed by the Las Vegas dream, Ned wins and loses fortunes, guest-stars on The World Series of Poker, pursues his true love, spends time in jail, vanishes in the Alaskan wilderness, and finally finds something akin to transcendence. [A brief list of other things that happen besides the main story is okay, but what is the main story? The Alaska vanishing is intriguing, but the other items on the list need elaboration to interest me. What was he in jail for? Who is his true love? What does he find, and what does it transcend? If this is a novel, you want us to care about Ned. Here's a bunch of things that happen to a character I made up isn't nearly as compelling as Here's how a man captures and loses the American dream, all in pursuit of true love.]

Because Ned wants nothing more than to share his logic-defying success with you, his tale is punctuated with gambling advice, complete with illustrations, charts, superstitions, fallacies, and the constant exhortation to “Go With Guts.” [As gambling advice is readily available in a format more easily studied than a novel, I assume (or suggest) that Ned's advice is amusing, and not mathematically sound.

As I lay in bed next to Jolene, caressing her white skin, it occurred to me: I never should have gone all in hoping for an inside straight on the river. Even if no one else had one as a hole card, my chances of drawing an 8 were only 4 in 32. For once, Going with Guts let me down. See appendix 32 for my chart on when to stick around after the flop when looking for a straight or a flush. Anyway, back to . . . Where'd Jolene go?]
My own fascination with Las Vegas, its games, and its characters comes from countless visits and experiences that have grown into creative work and part ownership of, a travel website, and, its sister humor site. Together, these sites welcome a million unique visitors each year. Bazillions is my second novel based on this body of writing and collaboration. The humor in this book stems from my award-winning comedy writing and performance. Its literary quality reflects my M.F.A. in poetry plus twenty years of writing both professionally and avocationally. [I think the whole book should be written in verse;

I think that I shall never see
A draw as lovely as a 3.
It's not so hard to understand:
I've got three more 3s in my hand.]

Since you represent innovative fiction, pop-culture topics, and new novelists, you stand out as an agent who can make this book project a success. Please allow me to introduce you to “Lucky” Ned. Sample chapters (print and audio), [Audio? Who reads it, Doyle Brunson? What you really need is a video version. I, for one, would much rather watch a manuscript acted out on TV than read it. Especially if you can get some A-list actors to play Ned and Jolene.] a synopsis, and my bio are enclosed. The full manuscript is available now at your request.

Thank you for your time—and good luck always.



This sounds like a combination fictional memoir/how-to book, but calling it a novel is a stretch. If you're selling it as a novel, focus on the plot.

If your target audience is gamblers, they may not want to wade through a 110,000-word novel to get tips from a fictional character. And if your target audience is fiction lovers, only those with a keen interest in gambling will not be annoyed by frequent pauses to provide charts and statistics. Either target may be big enough, but I suggest choosing one and tailoring the book to their preferences. You can't be all things to all people.

New Beginning 441

I fell down the stairs again. No idea how long I lay at the bottom, but when I finally came to, the steps looked just the same as they did on the way down. That's the trouble with falling: you can't see which way is up. Or is it the other way round?

For too many precious seconds, I'm some doddery old tart flung pell-mell from beyond-her-years mobility to beyond-her-wits paralysis, thanks to a pair of flowery slippers, or a scientist whapped too hard on the head by his own metaphysical ultra-ballistic kumquat.

Or maybe I'm just me.

When you come to from somewhere you don't recognize, 'being me' will do. So you take it, along with whatever else you find.

I figure I'm on top of the booze for the moment. I fall down seven times, see double, and get up fourteen, or fifteen at a push. That's what being a hero is all about. Say I.

So where's my fucking costume? And why all the blood?

"Hey, could someone get another towel and some water for Mrs. Kapersky? And hose off the stairmaster."

"Again? You know, Ted, it occurs to me that a combination gym/bar wasn't such a hot idea after all."

Openining: Whirlochre.....Continuation: Anonymous

Evil Psychiatrist

Why is it I can start a book, compelling even, but then can't follow it through? I have like 8 here STARTED, but only one finished. What's up with that? Is that normal or another chaotic trait I seem to have marketed?

Have you figured out how these books are going to end when you start writing them? Not everyone does it that way, but you must admit that if you need to clear a path between point A and point B, it helps to know in which direction point B lies. If you start by moving away from point B, it could be frustrating when you realize you're lost.

Now that you've set the books aside, maybe you should go back and read one as if it's someone else's and decide where you would want it to go next. (If you realize the book isn't your best work, and it can't be salvaged, and it's going to be a trunk novel anyway, it doesn't need an ending, so move on to the next one.

Then again, there's that song that goes:

I'm just waiting for my world to fall apart.
That's why I'll never finish anything I start.

But that can't be it, because you finished one. What was the difference? Was it better, and thus more worthy of being finished? Did you know where it was going from the beginning? Was there less turmoil in your life when you wrote it?

Consider how happy and proud you'd feel if you did finish one of these novels. A small ray of sunshine would break through the cloud hovering over you. Choose the one with the most promise, and write the last two chapters. Then come up with a logical progression of events to connect the beginning to the end. And remember, Evil Editor and his minions believe in you.

That'll be $125.00

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Face-Lift 480

Guess the Plot

Dog Park

1. A scientist recreates an entire species from DNA gathered from the blood inside a frozen tick, and builds a theme park around the animals. When the animals turn on him, it's up to two children, a mathematician, and Miss Nevada to set things right. Also, a saber toothed weredingo.

2. When Sheila Abernathy built a "wilderness" dog park outside Cincinnati, she had no idea it would soon be swarming with Ohio's prostitutes, blackmailers, juvenile delinquents, and real estate speculators. Or did she? Ace homicide detective Zack Martinez has 3 gruesome murders to solve and 483 suspects . . . including Sheila.

3. There are already enough bars filled with high-maintenance bitches and horny wolves, so frat brothers Eric and Rob start a new chain of pick-up joints for fat, ugly people and call it "Dog Park." Over time they come to learn that fat, ugly people don't just exist to be exploited, and both men find love in the lunch-lady arms of double-bagger twins Velma and Thelma.

4. Dog Park; the overgrown tract of land where kids play in the rusted car wrecks, where you don't have to poop-scoop after your pet, and where ducks and humans can breed in privacy in the overgrown bushes. Now the council wants to clean it up. Can a bunch of mums and dogs, kids, junkies, fags and whores take down the fascist bastards?

5. In a moment of desperation secret agent Nick Armstrong tucks a flash drive in the jacket of a poodle in the elevator. Tiffy Jones strolls away with no idea the fate of Chicago is on her dog, Fluffkins. But Gus "Chicken-Face" Lombardi knows and he'll stop at nothing to get it. Can Nick do a Houdini from the thug-mobile and get to the dog park in time to save Tiffy and Fluffkins?

6. When terrorists release a plague inside the US, a Homeland Security intern and a hunky medical student may be the country's only hope of figuring out how the disease is being transmitted. When they stumble on the answer in a dog park, they are torn. Should they tell the president, knowing he will declare that to save human lives . . . all dogs must die?

Original Version

Dear Holder of My Future, Please Treat It Well:

Ivy Leaguer Samantha Carre is enjoying her summer internship with the Department of Homeland Security. That is, until something that looks like the plague on steroids starts killing people in New York, Virginia, and DC. [Let's see, who would want to wipe out literary agents, lovers, and lobbyists?] The superbug is resilient and fast-spreading. The evidence points to a bioweapon being mechanically released -- but by whom, by what vector, and where will it strike next?

Teamed with brilliant and handsome biomedical student Max Stein, Samantha sets to work interviewing victims and their families, [Interviewing victims of a plague?

Samantha: I understand you're a plague victim.


Samantha: Hellooooo?! I may be a summer intern, but this is serious government work. Have you eaten any raw seafood lately?]

looking for any common thread among them. But with a frightened country bringing travel to a standstill, the healthcare system on the verge of collapse, and a viable vaccine still months away, time is growing desperately short.

When Samantha and Max stumble on the answer in a neighborhood dog park, they become terrorist targets. Chased, shot at, and possibly exposed to the plague, they must rely on brains, brawn, and each other to stay alive long enough to alert authorities to their discovery.

But eluding terrorists is only their first challenge. Harder still will be convincing the Director of Homeland Security and the President that [Say no more. I think we're all agreed that there's no convincing the president of anything.] containing the outbreak doesn't mean wholesale slaughter of the vector used to carry the plague: not strays and discards, but a nation of dogs people care about and love. [Why a whole nation of dogs? If the terrorists are infecting dogs in dog parks, then it seems only dogs whose owners have taken them to dog parks would be potential plague carriers.]

DOG PARK, a thriller with romantic elements, is complete at 80,000 words. I look forward to sending you the manuscript.



I don't see how the superbug is "fast-spreading." I get the impression dogs are infected at the dog park and their owners later die. How does it spread beyond that? Do the dogs then get adopted into new homes whose owners die? Seems like if that were the case it wouldn't have taken an accidental stumbling-upon to determine the vector. Dog's family all die, dog's new family all die. Coincidence?

Why are these two people desperately searching for answers in a dog park in the first place? I could see Samantha maybe interviewing a family member in the dog park, but why would she and Max both be in the dog park, if, up to now, they don't suspect dogs?

Okay, okay, you've confessed that this novel doesn't really exist, so you don't have to answer the questions, and of course there aren't any correct answers anyway, unless this has actually all been thought through. Has it?

Q & A 128 What's branding? Is it painful?

Can you talk on the topic of branding?

When you buy a bottle of Pepsi, you know exactly what you're getting: a bottle of water with sugar and flavoring added that somehow costs less than a bottle of water with nothing added.

Let's start over.

When you buy a bottle of Pepsi, you know exactly what you're getting: your ticket to youth, vitality, fun, friends, and beach volleyball. You know this because you've seen people drinking Pepsi in advertisements, and they all looked happy. Also because you've drunk hundreds of Pepsis and even though you aren't happy like the people in the advertisements, that's only because they've drunk thousands of Pepsis.

Now let's examine branding of authors. What did you think when you saw that Evil Editor had put out Novel Deviation, volume 3? Did you think, Maybe I'll pick that up in Borders and read the back cover copy and see if there are any good reviews online? No. You thought, Screw that, I can read most of that for free on the idiot's blog.

Let's start over.

No. You thought, Hmm, volumes 1 and 2 were utterly hilarious. I can always count on EE to come through with a quality product. I'm ordering this, and extra copies for all my friends, as it's only eleven months till Christmas.

Similarly, when you visit EE's blog and see the photograph with the laser eyes, a feeling of comfort engulfs you. You're where you want to be. When you visit and find that weird creature dressed in lilac, scowling at what looks suspiciously like your manuscript, you think, What is that, some kind of lizard? I must be in the wrong place.

Have I made my point?

Now, you don't need to be an international star like John Grisham or Nora Roberts or Evil Editor to be "branded." You just need to build a fan base of readers who know what to expect when they buy your books. Obviously you won't be a brand after one book, but you might want to think about what your brand will be like if it ever exists, and try to fit your books into your brand. If your first three books are a mystery, a historical romance and an epic fantasy, or if your first romance is a rollicking laughfest and your second is a gut-wrenching tearjerker, your fans won't know what to expect. Instead of pre-ordering your books, they'll wait for the reviews, and there goes your career, straight into the toilet.

That's why Nora Roberts writes her mysteries under the name J. D. Robb, and why Evil Editor writes his horror stories under the name Stephen King. Oops. Forget I said that. Wait, it was a joke. Obviously He I would have deleted it if it were true.

Q & A 127 What the blog?

I wanted to ask your opinion about the uses a writer should have for his/her blog. Is a blog something useful for writers to have?

I'll tell you what my blog is good for: killing off eight or ten hours a day that I could be spending doing something useful. And that doesn't even include all the time I spend reading my minions' blogs to make sure they haven't said anything bad about me, and to make sure they've included Novel Deviations among their favorite books in their profiles.

Of course, I must admit that it's only due to the fame I've achieved through this blog that I was asked to be on next season's Dancing with the Stars. (I had to decline, as I took ballroom dance lessons for several years, only giving it up when my attempt to get more Cuban motion into my hips resulted in a tragic rumba injury.)

Good reasons to blog:

1. It's writing. The more you do it the better you get at it, just like bowling.

2. It's fun to go back and read it. To you, it's the most interesting reading there is. In fact, you find it astonishing that no one else seems to find your blog half as fascinating as you do.

3. If you ever become famous, people will visit your website once or twice, but since your blog has new material all the time, they'll visit that regularly, even if it's a boring blog, because people love to bask in your fame. This will give you the opportunity to suggest to them that they buy your latest book.

4. For instance: Get 'em before they're gone: Novel Deviations 3.

5. If you weren't blogging you'd be sitting in your underwear in front of the TV with a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other, watching reruns of Desperate Housewives on the Lifetime Network and wondering what Britney will do next.

New Beginning 440

On the planet of Zulaire, legend had it that to find the tracks of the fabled urabu in front of one would guarantee a year of good fortune. Urabu were majestic, long legged gazelle-like creatures, with three impossibly sweeping ebony horns, to whom were attributed all sorts of magical powers. Glimpsing the creature itself for even a second would be a stroke of luck or divine favor, or both, conferring at least a decade of blessings from the spirits. Urabu were rare, some even insisted extinct, or perhaps creatures of myth altogether.

To touch one was known to be impossible . . . for how does one touch what does not exist?

Andrianda Markriss, outworlder by birth, longtime resident of Zulaire, stood holding her breath in a forest clearing. Her entire concentration was on not disturbing the five creatures now ranged in front of her.

They were inworlders, natives of Zulaire, judging by the way they sucked in the poisonous miasma. Short and stumpy of leg, with clothes that were so last season as to be laughable, they were creatures of legendary boorishness. To see one was said to guarantee seven years of bad hair days. To touch one was inadvisable, for it would result in a severe rash that presented with blistering and subcutaneous lesions, requiring the application of expensive salves.

Andrianda remained motionless as a statue, still not doing anything that might spark a flame of interest in someone reading her story.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Mignon

Monday, January 28, 2008

Face-Lift 479

Guess the Plot

Stage Kiss

1. When "pre-engineering" geeks Watt and Wayne return to their dorm after watching EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX, they know the only way they'll ever get laid is to emulate Woody Allen and produce a play starring themselves. Any lawn will do for a stage, but do they need a script? Plus, three bimbos and a bomb squad.

2. Malcolm, gay & firmly in the closet, must convince his dying grandfather that he's found a bride. Michelle, a freelance writer, goes to interview Malcolm only to have him declare her perfect as a bride. How far will the charade go before Malcolm is unmasked or Michelle's estranged husband finds her?

3. Never-been-kissed Janna lands the lead in the college play, only to find that there's a kiss involved. She needs someone to practice on before rehearsal, so she doesn't embarrass herself. Fortunately stage manager Lizzie is only too happy to help Janna solve her problem.

4. On the stage line from Denver to Salt Lake, Butch is the driver, Tex rides shotgun, and Kitty is a beautiful passenger. When they get stuck in a snowstorm, Kitty makes a pass at Butch. Tex, jealous, makes his own play for Butch. What neither knows is that Butch is really a woman.

5. Kathy wasn't keen to join the Bendigo Amateur Dramatists. But then she met the dreamy Cliff Ravine and knew she just had to get a part in the BAD production of "Hello Dolly" - but who would play the sheep?

6. When Trudy Hench cast Mae Wong as Juliet, and aspiring rock star Joe Bowie as charming Romeo she had no idea how passionately they hated each other. This production will be a hideous flop unless she can get some chemistry going. What'll it take?

Original Version

Dear EE,

Janna Larson won the lead in her college’s freshmen-only production of The Music Man on the basis of her good-girl (let’s face it, bookworm-y) demeanor. But when the director tells her that he’s added a kiss to the choreography, she only has a week to experience her first kiss before the final dress rehearsals. [At least he didn't tell her he added a sex scene.]

Luckily, Janna’s love of reading has finally come in handy. She’s always heard that there are only seven unique stories, so all she has to do is set up and run through each scenario in the seven days left before the show.

The Unappreciated Best Friend, Until Suddenly Love Blooms
The Bitter Enemy whose Clever Sniping is Merely a Screen for Attraction
The Opposite in all Things whose Path Unexpectedly Crosses Hers
The Boy whose Public Bravado is Disguising his Inner Pain (which will Only be Resolved by Love)
The Long-held Crush
The Cynic who Yields in the Face of Love’s Potency
The Huckster with a Heart of Gold

[You forgot these other seven unique stories:

The Unappreciated Best Friend, Until Suddenly, fed up, he kills her
The Bitter Enemy whose Clever Sniping evolves into a coast-to-coast murder spree
The Opposite in all Things whose Path Unexpectedly Crosses Hers and continues on in a perpendicular direction
The Boy whose Public Bravado is Disguising an Inner Pain which will be Resolved only by a sensational murder/suicide)
The Long-held seething hatred that culminates in a fight to the death
The Cynic who laughs in the Face of Love’s Potency
The Huckster with no conscience]

Her partner in her quest is stage manager and science major [No one majors in science. Be more specific.] Lizzie Brennan, whose dislike of ‘romantic nonsense’ is outweighed by her love of grand (and strange) endeavors and her friendship with Janna. Together, the two use every approach from speed-dating, to ballroom dance, to frat parties, to a cappella for the cause of True Love. [Did they ever think of just kissing each other? Not only would it save them a lot of time and trouble, it would jazz up the book. It would jazz up The Music Man, for that matter.]

My humorous YA novel STAGE KISS is complete at 75,000 words. Enclosed please find a synopsis and the first five pages. Thank you for your consideration.


Problem: Freshman college girl wants to get kissed.
Solution: Walk up to any male college upperclassman--or professor--and suggest make-out session.

Maybe your list of the only seven plots should be made genre-specific. I don't see how such stories as the submarine crew trapped at the bottom of the ocean while being bombarded by depth charges, or the underdog basketball team winning the state championship, or the astronauts encountering a Klingon warbird, or the prison riot, or surviving a haunted house . . . fall into any of these categories.

Actually, I don't think it's clear what the list is all about. Is she planning to get kissed by enacting each scenario? Does she have a friend who doesn't appreciate her? Does she have a long-held crush? Does she know a huckster with a heart of gold? Does she have a bitter enemy she wants to be kissed by? Do the seven unique plots always end with the girl getting kissed within a few days?

I don't like the list being part of the query. I'd go with something more general, like Janna wants to experience kissing a boy before rehearsals start, so she tries to get into situations similar to those in romantic books she's read, hoping one of them will end up in a kiss. Hilarity ensues. Even if she somehow follows the specific list in the book, you don't need it in the query.

How do you go to a frat party with the goal of getting kissed and leave disappointed?

New Beginning 439

August 1822

“Go away!” Kincaid shouted at Joe. There wasn’t a need to turn in the saddle and look back. He was there. The sounds of creaking leather and the clip of hooves said so. He had been there for half a day since he come trottin’ up with the pack mule in tow. Like he was ready to go anywhere and stay out as long as need be, the mule was loaded so.

“I said ‘Go away’,” the young man shouted again.

“Thought you said I free,” Joe replied. “Thought you said I ain’t a slave no more. That Lerocque don’t own me, and you don’t own me.”

“I did!” Kincaid snapped.

“Then I free to ride where I want. Free to ride south like I doin’. Maybe go to Santa Fe and spend some time.”

“I don’t need no mammy!” Kincaid raised his voice more. Can’t that darky see I don’t want to be around no one? That bein’ alone and feelin’ the hurt was what a man needed after what Maria done.

"Don't need no mammy," Joe mumbled. "You a miserable man, Mr. Kincaid, you know dat?"

Kincaid heard Joe's horse shuffle to a stop, and then the sounds of a man dismounting.

"Okay, how 'bout dis," Joe shouted. With a sigh, Kincaid pulled the horse around and glowered at his second shadow, dancing with his hands on his hips and a wide grin. "Ooohh, de Camptown ladies sing dis song, Doo Dah--"


"Yes, sir?"

"Johnson, tell me again. Exactly how did you research this piece?"

Opening: Wes Redfield.....Continuation: Anonymous

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fake Query 17 (The Last One)

Twinkie Thompson thought his fortunes had changed the night old Mrs. Billiard traded a Holstein for his magic beans. He was so happy he ran to the Smith's and got engaged to Maryanne. But in the morning he discovered that beast in the barn was no banal bovine, but . . . a zombie cow. (One Wrong Move)

Dear EE,

I am seeking representation for Stalk: Tales of a Gremlin Milk Cow, my 86,000 word adaptation of the classic fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk, with a little bit of Gremlins and 24 thrown in for good measure.

When Twinkie (Jack) Thompson manages to trick old Mrs. Billiard into trading her prize-winning Holstein (Voodoo Baby) for a handful of dried beans he thinks he may soon be able to stop sleeping in the barn and build himself a real house. Jack barely listens to Mrs. Billiard when she says, “Never milk her after midnight, don’t ever let her get wet and always be sure to add the juice of three blood oranges to her mash each day.”

On the way home, a sudden summer rainstorm drenchs both Jack and the cow. Back home, Jack realizes that Baby is sorely in need of milking. Jack tugs and squeezes on the swollen teats. And even though he’s heard the tales, he’s surprised to count a dozen pails full of creamy golden milk. Unaware of the time, Jack climbs into the loft for some well-deserved sleep.

Before dawn, an eerie red glow permeates the barn and awakens Jack. His barn is filled with hundreds of strangely lathargic cows with glowing red eyes. He grabs a pitchfork and visciously stabs the nearest animal. Blood gushes and pools in the matted straw. Before he can attack again, an enormous bull with blood-red eyes emerges from the carcass of the dead cow. Desperate, Jack reaches deep into the pocket of his overalls and finds one last dried up seed. In his haste, he drops it into the coagulating pool of blood where it takes root, shooting skyward. Jack grabs ahold of a rubbery frond and heaves a momentary sigh of relief. But Jack’s troubles are just beginning. The next 24 hours of Jack’s life playout like a demented version of Disneyland meets the Island of Dr. Moreau. Jack battles demon crows and vampire geese, all the while pursued by a viscious pack of meerkats. Finally, Jack realizes that reality is just a state of mind. With a little luck and the seeds from his wet dream, he is able to return home and kill that old bitch Mrs. Billiard.

If you have any interest whatsoever in reading more of my novel, please contact me at your earliest convenience.



Fake Query 16

Alone in a world inhabited by Multiples, Al Fishton is bullied and teased at school, until the Dark Triplets descend and an ancient prophecy is uncovered. Now he must take up his destiny as . . . Singleton. (Singleton)

Dear Mr Evil,

Al Fishton was an only child, a fact that made his life miserable. You see, in the world of Doppelganger everyone has an indentical twin, twins that are psyhically linked to each other. For years Al was ridiculed in school for his lack of psychic talent. Many a day he spent ditching with fellow misfit, Jack Whiting, those twin was killed in a freak accident.

Mick, Mark and Matt were rare identical triplets. Hailed for their superior psychic abilities, the Darks where treated as royalty, a position thet decided to make permanent. By using their combined psychic link, they discovered they could enslave the town of Doublet and perhaps, the world.

Unaffected by their power and alone, Al uncovered an ancient prophecy that spoke of a single hero. Now Al believes he must find the courage and find a way to defeat the Darks and save Jack and the town.

Newbe Lurker

Fake Query 15

A former heroin addict inherits a tattoo parlor and a Cambodian love slave named Jade from a long lost uncle. (The Dragon and the Butterfly)

Dear Evil Editor,

A lawyer came to rehab yesterday. Seems I’m in my Uncle Badu’s will. I’ve never heard of Uncle Badu. And now, I have to leave rehab early in order to take possession of Badu Tattoo. Can I get methadone to go?

He’s picking me up this morning. Said he’s bringing plane tickets, luggage, everything I need to start my new life – in Cambodia. Drugs are easy to get there, aren’t they? My palms are sweating. What the hell am I thinking?

The envelope shakes in my hand as I tear it open. My Badu Tattoo inventory. I didn’t open it yesterday. Information overload. I smooth out the folds, pressing it hard into my lap. Needles, ink, furniture and jade. Is that a gem? Is it valuable? What are the words after jade? I’ve inherited a love slave? Is that legal?

The lawyer’s here. I get up and follow him out the door. One step at a time. Starting my new life. I think I’m going to puke. I clutch my bag of recovery books, take a deep breath and climb into the car for the first leg of my journey. Wish me luck. I need it.

The Dragon and The Butterfly is 65,000 words of a daily journal that follows Matt as he struggles to begin and maintain his sobriety in a new land, a new life, with a new companion. I have enclosed the first three chapters. Thank you for taking the time to read and respond.


Fake Query 14

When your yappy little dog shits on the neighbor’s carpet; after your mother-in-law says hello; right before the waitress brings the check. (A time to Say Goodbye)

Dear Illustrious Agent:

Ever since she was little, Sithandra had the power to predict absolute certainties concerning the future. Without fail, she would envisage an irksome close of moments and events. A TIME TO SAY GOODBYE is an 80,000 word chick-lit story following the life of a teenage girl who aspires to become a renowned psychic like her mom, Miss Cleo, but finds that she has an even greater impact on the world.

Growing up in a psychic family, Sithandra's ability wasn't unusual. Her spot-on predictions could have made her a legend, but the troubling finality of her visions discouraged her, making her voice largely unheard.

Governor Ted Lamartine, former FCC Chairman and proud Miss Cleo aficionado, learned of Sithandra's exact predictions. Mired in a deeply competitive race for president and hoping to find out the results beforehand, Governor Lamartine seeks out Sithandra after promising Miss Cleo a deal to reach more Americans television audience through his FCC connections.

Sithandra instantly envisages the election's outcome and its horrible impact on the United States and the world. She tries her best to hide the details from Governor Lamartine. Desperate not to live that certain future, she decides to change the election's outcome by any means necessary.

My mother was a psychic much like Professor Trelawney of the Harry Potter series – a bit kooky and demisable; yet when her predictions were correct, they were gravely important. I've picked up on her ability and routinely give readings. I am a professional astrologer for the Washington Post: Express and the Examiner. I am actively using my gift to pay my way through college. A synopsis is included as per your request.


Fake Query 13

Tilpin Alexander deeds his 600 acre island-getaway to his friends in a last-ditch effort to divest himself of assets before his avaricious wife, Nancy, divorces him and takes everything. (Friends in Deed)

Dear Evil Editor:

FRIENDS IN DEED is a darkly humorous contemporary horror/fantasy, set on an exotic, secluded island. It is complete at approximately 90,000 words.

Owning a tropical island sounds great, but for Tilpin Alexander it's just one more problem to deal with. Tilpin discovers his miserable, gold-digging wife Nancy has been "entertaining" half the men in town. No wonder she's always so tired.

Thanks to Community Property laws, if he divorces her she gets half of everything, and that's just not fair. Tilpin decides to deed his tropical paradise to five of his closest friends, thus protecting his assets. It seems like a good idea, until a freak storm knocks out communications and transport to and from the island. By the time help arrives, Tilpin's friend Simon has been brutally murdered and all that's left of him are bones. Tilpin's surviving friends claim they were possessed by evil pig-like spirits, but Tilpin doesn't know what to believe. So he takes Nancy out there for a weekend…hoping to either solve the mystery or rid himself of her once and for all.

I have, of course, highly impressive credentials, which include writing lots of books that sold a bunch of copies, and also I once saw Woody Harrelson in a bar. I'd be happy to send you the complete ms of Friends In Deed for your review.

Thanks for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.



Fake Query 12

Yvette Richardson needs some time away after her divorce. Even after extensive research on the Internet, she still can't decide between Mexico or Puerto Rico. Mysterious mail sent from a travel agency she's never heard of helps her decide, but will she meet the tight-abbed hunk on the front of the postcard, as promised? (The Postcard)

Dear Agent X,

I am seeking representation for my novel, The Postcard, a 70,000 word love story, with elements of mystery.

Yvette Richardson needs to get out of town after the trauma of her divorce. She’s been searching the Internet, looking for a faraway place to find some sand, some heat, and maybe somebody to help her move on from the loss of her husband the editor’s love.

A few weeks into her search, Yvette receives mail from a travel agency, with brochures from the One and Only Magical Resort in Cabo. As she pages through the brochure, a postcard wedged in the back pages falls to the floor. Yvette picks it up, and finds herself staring at a tight-abbed young hunk’s picture. Turning the card over, she finds a handwritten note on the back: “I can hardly wait to feel your tender, long fingers on my tight, toned abs, Yvette, my sweet.” The card is signed: The Troll.

Yvette books her flight and makes her hotel reservations, too titillated by thoughts of The Troll to wonder why she received the card and how he came by her name.

The Troll meets Yvette at the airport in Cabo. Or she thinks it’s him, anyway. He has a shirt on, so she’s not sure, but she’s about to find the answer to that, and to many other mysteries.

Please let me know if you would be interested in reading The Postcard. I have included a SASE.

Thank you for your time.


Robin S.

Fake Query 11

After their school is named "America's Most Uncool High School," Tiffany, Amber, and Josh take matters into their own hands--and one by one the dorks begin to disappear. (The Dork Squad)

Dear Evil Editor

I read your blog religiously and know that you represent Middle Grade fiction.

Tiffany, Amber and Josh, friends since forever, learn that MTV is giving special awards to high schools based on coolness. Confident that Middlebrook Academy will win its division, they persuede the pricipal to submit their entry.

Imagine their horror when they learn they've won an award, all right. They've just been crowned "America's Most Uncool High School".

They've got to fix that, pronto, if they ever want to go to the right college. How to do it? Eliminate the geeks and dorks that are dragging down the score!

"The Dork Squad" is a 65,000 word dark comedy for Middle Grade readers. May I send you the first chapters?

Thank you for your consideration.


Fake Query 10

When her beloved great-aunt Beulah dies, Holly Hollingsworth goes to the will reading with high expectations. But while her cousin Jarred gets the house, her sister gets the jewelry and her brother gets cash, Holly finds she's been given custody of Beulah's cremains. Now she's trying to discover what she did to deserve . . . A Legacy of Ashes. (A Legacy of Ashes)

Dear EE,

Grieving in the split-level ranch she shares with husband Bart and a six-month supply of pregancy tests (always negative), Holly could really use a dose of Great-aunt Beulah—the stories of her funny escapades, her latest colorful friends in distant places, and the bargains she always brings home that clash hilariously with Bart's idea of appropriate décor.

But Beulah is never coming back.

Actually, that's not entirely true. Beulah is back. Holly just never imagined her beloved aunt would return from Peru in a pale yellow ceramic pot that matches Holly and Bart's family room curtains perfectly.

Receiving Beulah's cremains is only the tip of the ice berg. Beulah left Holly six sealed envelopes, each full of instructions detailing the distribution of her ashes. And envelope number one clearly states that Holly be the one to follow the prescribed path, and that she do it alone. From a ballet dancing glacier guide's cabin in Alaska, to a medicine man's compound in Bali, to an ostrich farm in South Africa, Holly follows her aunt's instructions to the letter. Along the way, she discovers more sides of her aunt—and herself—than she'd dreamed possible. But Holly finds the instructions in the sixth envelope most formidable of all—to return to Bart and the split-level ranch and bury the last bits of Aunt Beulah in her own back yard.

A Legacy of Ashes is complete at 90,000 words. Two modified chapters have been published in "Amazing Words" magazine, including The Fourth Envelope, which was nominated for the Very Austere Award in Short Fiction.


Fake Query 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. (Chance Encounter)

Dear Evil Editor,

I'd like to submit my 80,000 word dark comedy 'Zombie! Zombie!' for your consideration.

Rex Dedly, a morgue lab assistant with a penchant for power, has decided to rule the world with an army of undead. Everything is going as planned - until he meets Tracey Robinson, the buxom blonde who turns the letters in 'Guess That Noun!' on Channel Five. When Rex runs into her at a rest stop, he knows it's fate, kismet, and his only chance at nabbing the girl of his dreams. So he nabs her and runs, intending to convince Tracey to become Queen of the World.

But Tracey isn't convinced. Having zombies wait on you is fine - until parts of them start falling into the soup. She might be blonde and she might be a bimbo - she's decided that the fate of the world depends on her. Tracey manages to thwart Rex's plans when she calls MUBI (the Mutant and Undead Bureau of Investigation), and enlists the help of their newest recruit, Fiona Tipple, ex vamp addict, now in charge of the zombie fraud section. Together, Tracey and Fiona single-handedly destroy the zombie horde and crush Rex Dedly’s dastardly plans of mass destruction.



Fake Query 8

Stan Milburn, heist-man extraordinaire, gets more than he bargained for after he steals the cursed black diamonds of Calcutta. (Bad Ice)

Dear EE:

If a sentient mineral told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it? Stan Milburn. master jewel thief, daredevil and quick wit, just might. When Stan steals the fabled black diamonds of Calcutta from a high-security museum in Houston, he knows they're supposed to be cursed. What he doesn't know is that they're possessed. A demon, long trapped in the necklace, is soon manipulating Stan's every move for its own dark purposes. Trouble is, the demon's rather charming, and Stan doesn't mind a bit planning caper after caper, releasing demons everywhere he goes. By the time he realizes he's being controlled, Stan can barely fight it.

On the run from the law, the diamonds talk Stan into arson, election-tampering and yes, jumping off a cliff, as the chase continues all across America. The only person who knows what Stan is up against is Lila, the museum guard secretly on his trail. It will take all Lila's strength and goodness to fight the power of the "bad ice" -- but first she must find Stan before the police do, and before the diamond demons can achieve their nefarious goal: changing the outcome of the Presidential election, and the future of the earth itself.

Bad Ice is a 75,000-word tongue-in-cheek paranormal adventure novel. I am a part-time minion and have personally been controlled by demons inhabiting black diamonds. Please let me know if you would like to see more of Bad Ice.


Fake Query 7

Hell just wasn't any fun. Sure it sounded good when Satan used that famous recruiting line: It's better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven. The trouble was, Satan was the only one who did any ruling. Everyone else suffered eternal torment. Can Elgin find that elusive chink in the brimstone that will allow him to escape? Also, a clock that runs backwards. (To Serve in Heaven)

Elgin Jones Smith wasn't in love with hell. With all the tormenting and complaining and overcooked food, it was like a really bad cruise. And all that propaganda about reigning there? Dead wrong.

In life, Elgin had been a professional poseur, pretending to be everything from librarian and jockey to casino dealer and Maytag repairman. It was during an unfortunate stint as an IRS accountant that he was murdered and unceremoniously dumped in hell. Now, Elgin is determined to find a chink in the brimstone and escape. Because with time ticking backward and refusing to run out, he's beginning to understand what an eternity of bad food really means.

But first, he has nine circles of hell to pose his way through. Then there's purgatory to contend with. And it looks like Satan may be catching on when the Devil's Brigade shows up in limbo, where Elgin is forced to pass as a fallen angel to escape their notice.

Still, the greatest test of his skill is yet to come: convincing Peter to open the gates of heaven to none other than the newly martyred Saint Elgin. God's in for a good laugh and heaven will never be the same.

Comedic literary novel SERVING BETTER FOOD IN HEAVEN is complete at 80,000 words. I've posed as the author of the wildly successful "Become a professional _____ in Just Two Weeks" series and "Divine Intervention: A 12-Step Program."

If you decide against representing my book, would you consider taking me on as an agent? I can start in two weeks.


Fake Query 6

Where do souls go when they aren't good enough for heaven, nor bad enough for hell? Deed, Montana. Trevor Montgomery just woke up in Deed, and he is about to begin the adventure of his after-life. (Friends in Deed)

Trevor Montgomery is, errr . . . was, a fifteen-year-old kid who recently got smashed by the tail end of Mr. Herbert’s pick-up truck.

The town didn’t blame Mr. Herbert for killing the irksome lad. Instead, they made him a hero and bought him a new truck. Trevor, on the other hand, received a variety of floral arrangements from Mrs. Herbert’s garden, a couple of Hail Mary’s, and a blanket of North Carolina’s finest soil.

When Trevor’s ghostly self appears next to a sign that reads Deed, Montana, he is surprised but makes the best of things. Trevor always wanted to be an invisible prankster. He doesn’t know that by terrorizing the kids at Deed Middle School, he’s poaching on some other ghost’s territory.

The two warring ghosts cannot see each other. Yet, they creatively battle for the screams of Deed Middle.

When the other ghost takes the pranks too far, Trevor must decide between protecting the kids at Deed Middle school or going back to North Carolina.

Church Lady

Fake Query 5

In the far-distant future, a genetically-engineered race of lion-human hybrids looks to the ancient world for inspiration in its battle against an insectile hive-mind. (The Last Lion of Sparta)

Snowball is a typical Kitton, a genetically engineered race of lion-human hybrids. Her quiet life as a pigeon whisperer is thrown into turmoil as killer termites sweep across Earth. Snowball takes refuge in an abandoned library during a termite attack. There she discovers the ancient wisdom of 'Spartan Tactics for Dummies'. Armed with her new knowledge, she starts to train her pigeons as Spartan warriors.

The pigeons win some local battles, but Snowball wants to send the tactics out to other Kittons. She meets Tiggs, an expert in ancient forms of communication. Soon the Spartan-pigeon tactics are being broadcast across the world in Morse code - a language so primitive that the termites won't be able to understand it.

The plan works and pigeon squads are deployed everywhere. Just as it looks like the Kittons are gaining ground, spies bring word of a termite plot. The termites plan to ignite the atmosphere, killing all life on Earth. Snowball leads 300 pigeon warriors against the base housing the atmospheric igniter. Meanwhile, Tiggs and a group of dove ninja assassins try to track down the termite queen. The fate of everyone on Earth depends on them.


Fake Query 4

Jack Steele never expected to be forced to go to work for his sister's lingerie company. Now, up to his neck in panties, he must deal with an all-woman office and a rival company that put the "hostile" in takeover. (Barely There)

Dear Mr. Editor:

Jack Steele graduated college with a collection of conquest trophies that would make Don Juan blush: three hundred thongs, nine crotchless panties, and two sets of false teeth. Four years later, his latest girlfriend has flung him into the street, and he realizes... he needs a job.

He calls on his sister, Brenda, the lingerie industry's hottest up-and-comer with her new company, "Laced". When Brenda offers him the graveyard shift packing panties in the company's basement warehouse, however, he balks... until she reminds him of his $40,000 in bad debts. Bitter and lonely, his night life ruined, Jack starts frequenting online chat rooms. When a self-described hottie named December Robin hits on him, he's eager to meet her.

He doesn't realize that December Robin is actually April Lark, CEO of Panties "R" Us. April seduces her way into Jack's warehouse, then steals Brenda's corporate secrets in order to take over. When Brenda investigates and finds Jack in the middle of it all, she has Jack and April arrested. Seeing Jack in handcuffs reminds April of their nights in the warehouse, and she realizes she's fallen in love with him. With her entire company and future at stake, can April get herself and Jack off?

"Barely There" is a chick-lit romantic fiction novel complete in 240,000 words. My story "The Grass Is Always Greener In Someone Else's Pipe" appeared in "Weed Words," and my poem "Go Shit on Somebody Else's Day, I'm on the Phone" appeared in the anthology "Vanity Poetry."



Fake Query 3

Todd has never been part of the Crisco crowd, opting for single partner sex . . . but when the hot new swingers club opens up on Pheelmore Avenue, Todd decides an “orgy” is in order. It isn’t until he pays the two hundred bucks and follows the circuitous underground tunnel that he discovers he’s in the orangutan cage of the city zoo. (The Nature Room)

Dear Agent,

On his 21st birthday, Barnaby Canley discovers his manservant is in reality his half-brother Tag; he spurns his aristocratic and privileged upbringing for the hardships of sailing and exploration. Together, the half-brothers travel to Africa in search of equality and adventure. In Africa they learn true equality when an accident forces them to renounce their humanity and return to civilization as beasts of the jungle.

Set against the backdrop of savage Africa and the slave trade, "The Nature Room" is a 100,000-word novel of Irish class structure in the early 19th century. A rich and privileged aristocrat and his low-class half-brother leave Scotland for the seafaring life of explorers. They quickly determine to seek equality in unexplored Africa. As they travel to the Congo and become the first Europeans to establish a station above the waterfalls and rapids of the Congo River. They struggle to maintain what the French and Americans embraced in their revolutions as Liberty, Equality and Fraternity in the face of slave trade, crooked chieftains, wild animals and insects. Disappointed and unable to change the world, Tag and Barnaby change their physical beings and join the lesser primates to achieve their dream of living together as equals. As modern society rejects them, they live out their lives at the first Zoo in Vienna.

I am as yet unpublished.

I've enclosed the first three pages of this novel. Thank you for your time and effort.

Dave F.

Fake Query 2

Half bear, half video game princess, Grizelda is torn between her loyalty to pixilated fantasy worlds and her love of scaring campers in national parks. /// Sick to death of all the "wicked witch" jokes, sixteen-year-old Grizelda Smitts decides she might as well take up witchcraft--and finds that she's surprisingly good at it. (Grizelda)

Dear Evil One,

Sixteen-year-old Grizelda Smitts believes what goes around comes around. Since kids make fun of her name and her green skin, she decides to show them what it feels like to walk a mile in her shoes. Beauty isn’t skin deep and it’s time these kids learned that lesson.

Rolling up her sleeves and diving into a book on witchcraft, Grizelda brews up the strongest potion she can find which promises to change the appearance of all who are in range when it comes to fruition. But there’s a difference between human time and witch time. The spell matures when Grizelda is the only one near it.

She wakes and smacks her lips. Talk about morning breath. It’s like she was asleep for months. She shuffles out of the cave and faints at the sight of a bear reflected in the nearby stream. When she comes to again, Grizelda looks in a mirror, and sees she’s beautiful with long blond hair, glowing yellow skin and a diamond studded tiara. But every step she takes pings and every move she makes pongs. And what is that music?

Is Grizelda doomed to live half her life crapping in the woods and the other half wishing for earplugs?

Grizelda, a 90,000 word non-fiction picture book, is based on my own experiences as a green teenage witch and the spell that went awry. My previous book, The Berries Diet, was published under the pseudonym of Beary White.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Face-Lift 478

Guess the Plot

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1. The instant longshoreman Joe Dentmore saw the dude and the dame in the white coats running toward his forklift, he figured -- mad scientists! And how right he was! They're attempting to take over the world with the aid of a woman whose outfits scandalously fall off at critical moments. Can Joe stop them, or must he call in Team X97Z -- the zombie axemen?

2. Prayers finds herself trapped in a tower after eloping with Eagle, a reckless warrior. She is rescued by a renowned gypsy adventuress (who has finally found in Sorgaard a man worthy of her attention). Meanwhile, Eagle is betrayed by Prayers's cousin, a mercenary in the employ of Alexey Nikolayevsky, who has a secret grudge to settle against Sorgaard. Okay, okay, none of that really happens.

3. Karen is trying to break up, but apparently for Todd, this does not compute. As she rants, he whaps himself upside the head and a small door creaks open, revealing a slot. He pops out the old disk, inserts a new one, and starts reformatting his brain. This is exactly what she was talking about! His needs always come before hers!

4. Despite legions of armed military, no beans can leave the coffee warehouses of Columbia. The Sisters of Platitude are saving the world from moral decrepitude, which Dr. Gus "Chicken Face" Lombardi proved is caused by coffee (his analysis produced a chi square statistic that was significant to the .04% level). This will be the worst day of General Rodriguez's life.

5. Technophobe Lulu Nelson goes crazy when her cell phone runs completely down, her PC crashes, her power is shut off, and her boyfriend tells her he's postponing their wedding. After being accused of taking part in a vicious crime spree, Lulu is arrested. But she falls in love with her bail bondsman, who turns out to be a video game addict.

6. Washington, DC madam Scarlett D'Onofrio loves her android employees. Indistinguishable from real girls, they don't get VD, they don't sleep or eat, and they always turn in 100% of the client fees. When Genevieve locks up during a routine wireless firmware update, however, Scarlett discovers her brothel has been hacked by the KGB, who've been listening in on Washington's most sensitive conversations.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

Please consider reviewing LOADING...PLEASE WAIT (98,124 words, co-authored), cutting-edge women's fiction layered over a fantasy romantic adventure.

More simply put, LOADING is the story of two women who share two worlds, told two ways. [Even more simply put: L = 2(3W).] [I can't help noticing that every time we simplify it, it gets harder to figure out what it means.]

In the virtual world of Epoch of Epics (story told in standard narrative), [I hate it when I'm lost before the first comma.] a young noblewoman named "Prayers" (Preces) [Why is Prayers in quotation marks and Preces in parentheses? Which one is her name?] finds herself abandoned in an unfamiliar tower after eloping with Eagle, a reckless warrior who has been living in her parents’ manor. [When your job title is "warrior," it's kind of wussy to be living on your girlfriend's father's manor. Though I suppose it's nice to have the butler bring you scones and tea every morning before you head off to battle barbarians.] She is rescued by her friend Lyres, a renowned gypsy adventuress who has finally found in the itinerant Sorgaard a man worthy of her sincere attention. Meanwhile, Eagle is betrayed by Preces’ [("Prayers'")] cousin Kent, a mercenary in the employ of the powerful Duke Alexey Nikolayevsky, who has a secret grudge to settle against Sorgaard. [I'm not making a chart this time. Get rid of some of these characters.]

In the real world (story told via email exchange), "Preces" is 42-year old Beth, [Damn. Looks like I need a chart after all.

Virtual World......Standard Narrative......."Prayers"......(Preces)
Real World...........Email Exchange............."Preces".........Beth]

[Nope, didn't help.] a chatty, soft-hearted executive wife in Virginia, whose virtual lover, "Eagle," [She has a virtual lover in the real world who has the same name as her real lover in the virtual world?] is her son's best friend. Linda, a successful Los Angeles attorney and lightly cynical single mom, is "Lyres," and her virtual flirtation with "Sorgaard" has provoked an invitation to meet his creator face-to-face, behind the back of her increasingly resentful non-player fiancé. At first neatly separated, their real and virtual relationships gradually tangle, dragging Beth and Linda into confrontations with addiction, denial, obsession and each other.

Electronic relationship is a subject about which I've published several academic papers (see my Auburn University faculty webpage, linked at the very bottom of this email), and in which there is an exponentially-growing interest. According to the Pew Internet Project, 70 percent of American adult women are online; [Did that project survey real women, or virtual women (most of whom I suspect are teenage boys)?] email correspondence with friends and family, like that between Beth and Linda, is the dominant use. [Unlike American adult men, whose dominant use is porn.] While the fantasy subplot is accessible to anyone with imagination, it offers a special hook for the 6-million-and-counting female gamers worldwide; stereotypes notwithstanding, women aged 35-49 are the single largest demographic in online gaming, and fully 60 percent of college women in 2003 were regular online role-players (Nielsen/Net Ratings). [Which explains why 60 percent of college men have to settle for porn these days.] A novel about women's interactions -- online, in the real world, and in the space between -- is cutting-edge now, but headed for the mainstream as computer-mediated communication increasingly becomes the norm.

When I am not teaching Auburn undergrads or indulging my new-found passion for fiction-writing (a prequel to LOADING is outlined and the first chapter complete), I'm engrossed in raising my nine children -- three of whom, incidentally, are active gamers. [In fact, Gary plays my studly masseur, Lance plays my buff tennis instructor, and little Joey plays Brad Pitt in my current game, Sim City 9: Rule of the Amazons.] Co-author ___________, a writer whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and other periodicals, teaches grant-writing at UCLA. Like Beth and Linda, we met in the context of an online role-playing game and have never spoken or met face-to-face; we like to imagine our first-time meeting as an Oprah-worthy promotional event. [And it will be, when it turns out that "Linda" is actually twelve-year-old Jimmy Landry and a few of his buddies.]

Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to sending you more of LOADING...PLEASE WAIT.



I believe that those who are into role playing would rather role play than read about the role-playing adventures dreamed up by fictional role players. Thus if a large portion of your book is the story of Sorgaard, Eagle and the Duke (Hey, that would make a catchy song title), we're in trouble.

Your story as I see it is about Linda (whose boyfriend is jealous of the time she spends in online role playing; to keep him from blowing his top, she doesn't tell him she's going off to Montana to meet a guy she met playing Epoch of Epics), and Beth, who's in the same E of E game, but unaware that her virtual lover, whom she's actually falling for, is her kid's best friend. These are the characters people want to read about. Those who want to read about Sorgaard and "Prayers" would rather you wrote a fantasy book about Sorgaard and "Prayers."

Dump the paragraph that isn't real, rework the one that is real so that it involves us in the conflicts of the characters (perhaps a paragraph about Beth's situation, a paragraph about Linda's, and a paragraph about the obsession/addiction/entanglement), and now you won't have to waste a huge paragraph convincing us there's a market for this. Unfortunately, I suspect too much of your plot exists only in the minds of Beth and Linda, and while fascinating to them, will be no more interesting to readers than the other ten million plots unfolding in online role playing games right now.

I could be wrong about that, but if not, it's not the end of the world; you'll just need to overhaul the book so that it focuses on the real world.

Writing Exercise

Here's your chance to practice writing a query letter, as suggested by Phoenix.

You'll need a random number between 1 and 477. You can get one here. Now get a number between 1 and 6.

Use the search feature or the archives to find the Face-Lift that goes with your first number. Now use your second number to find the fake plot of the book you'll be writing a query for. (If you happen to have the real plot, get a different number between 1 and 6.)

You have the option of doing just a synopsis of the book, or a complete query with credits and other incidentals. Either way, limit yourself to 250 words.

Submit the title, the fake plot you used, and the query. Deadline: Saturday, midnight eastern. Include a name if you want credit. After we read your query, we'll let you know if we think you should write the book.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Beginning 438

August 1821

Spanish Territory of Nuevo Mexico

Kincaid sat with the slave in a dry crick bed. The lad tucked his head and shoulders beneath the bank and hid from the withering sun. He cheated the burning rays, but he couldn’t escape the heat or his maddening thirst. A stiff breeze blew across the land gathering heat and drove the hot breath of the desert against his skin. It drew moisture from him and tormented his thirst. A man could loose his mind for want of water. Any would do. Cool sips from the spring behind the cabin back home or even slurps from a mud hole on the prairie.

Kincaid slowly looked over at Joe. They say slaves’ black skin and kinky hair made them suited for working in the heat and sun. That could be. Maybe Joe was having an easier time of it. But people say a heap of things about niggers that ain’t necessarily true.

"Hey Johnson."

"Yes sir?"

"This piece you wrote on New Mexico. You can't use that word. We're a respectable academic site. How can you think of writing something like this?"

"It's historically accurate. That's how people talked. Do you want me to whitewash -- ah, cosmetically dress -- the way . . . Fuck political correctness. It's bloody crazy!"

"I'm sorry, but we can't compromise on this, Johnson. You use the word "kinky" and we'll have every hairy-palmed pervert on the Internet visiting our site."

Opening: Wes Redfield.....Continuation: Anonymous

New Beginning 437

The Wileys birthed a zombie last week and tried to hide it. I'd known about the baby, of course. I could smell its nature during Elizabeth's rather skittish pregnancy-- when the Wileys had obviously suspected but hadn't had the amniocentesis done. A history of undead in the family was my guess, and either shame or hope kept them playing ostrich. I probably should have told them before the birth; but I kept my mouth shut, having a few things to hide myself.

It was Arthur Tanner who told me about the intervention yesterday. I'd been at work and hadn't heard about the social workers and cops descending on the neighborhood. Arthur is my neighbor, second house down across the road, and he likes to stop and chat in the mornings when he's out walking his dog and I'm outside, drinking coffee and trying to feel human. A bit of an ambulance chaser, our Arthur. Likes tragedy. Me, I try to keep off such topics and for good reason. But there's no stopping Arthur when there's juicy gossip-- juicy being the key word.

"You should have seen it, Meggie," he says to me as I sip my coffee. His pomeranian, Fitzi, busies himself licking his crotch. "Lizzie's screaming and crying, all the while that thing is snapping at the EMTs like a rabid dog. Took three guys to get it in the cage. Can you imagine what would have happened if the cops hadn't twigged before it sprouted fangs?"

"Mmmm," I say. "Would've been messy."

"They called for backup, you know. Just in case."

"Just in case?"

"In case the twigging didn't take."

"Well, they've got twigging down to a science. Birthing zombies ain't what it used to be. It's mostly clean now."

"You call this clean?" Arthur scoops something from his pocket and puts it under my nose.

"What the . . . ?"

"Zombie nature. Scooped me up a bunch so Fitzi would stop licking his crotch. Rubbed it all over his doggie dick. Hell, can't find nothing that'll work."

Arthur looks over at Fitzi licking away. "You need weredingo nature," he says. "You know anything about twigging weredingo birthlings?"

Opening: Writtenwyrdd.....Continuation: Church Lady

Evil Editor's 2nd Annual Oscar Awards Guess-the-Plot Quiz

There Will Be Blood

1. Hilarity ensues when a scheduling error forces the Human Pyramid Society to share convention center space with the American Association of Chainsaw Jugglers.

2. Vampire Joanie thinks she's being stalked by vampire hunters. Little does she know that the weird messages, flowers and phone calls are all from one man--Mark--who appreciates the immortality she gave him with her bite. Hilarity ensues.

3. Race car driver Will Belmonte can never say no to a challenge. So when he is mistaken for ace surgeon Dennis Carraway, Will's natural instinct is to call twin sister Jenny to cover for him on the circuit and go with the flow. Lectures are a breeze, lunch with eager medical students a blast and the nurses know what medicine the patients are supposed to take. But then comes the day that Jenny crashes the car Will should have been racing. Jenny is near death on the operating table and across the hospital the call goes out for the only surgeon who can help: Dennis Carraway. Is this one challenge to many for Will? Only one thing is certain: There will be blood.

4. With her days as a Playboy Playmate coming to an end, Brianna has enrolled at the community college. She's closer to her secret heart-throb, Skip Dillon, but she thought phlebotomy was the study of bumps on the head. She's squeamish, but if she drops the course, she'll lose Skip. Why didn't they tell her that . . . There Will Be Blood?

5. A prospector accidentally strikes oil and becomes rich, rich, rich. But rich isn't good enough. He ruthlessly seeks more and more oil and doesn't care whom he steps on to get it. But when he drills on Eli Sunday's property and tries to cheat Sunday out of his share of the profits, it's only a matter of time before . . . There Will Be Blood.

6. An animal rights activist moves to Chicago and begins looking for work. The only places hiring are the slaughterhouses. When she sees what she's expected to do to innocent animals, she goes berserk, butchering half of management before the police manage to subdue her.

7. A touching coming of age story as single parent John Singletary contends with raising his daughter, and has awkward moments finding the right words with which to explain the changes that will come over her body.

No Country for Old Men

1. The FDA bans Viagra and every man over the age of fifty heads for Canada. Hooters immediately moves its operations to the border. Hilarity ensues.

2. After an old hunter stumbles upon some dead bodies, a stash of heroin and more than $2 million in cash near the Rio Grande, he decides to see how many seedy motels he can stay at before running out of money. Unfortunately, someone else seems to think he has a better use for the money, and the hunter realizes this is . . . No Country for Old Men. Also, frat boys.

3. In 2098, overpopulation and pollution have forced drastic measures upon the world. People must voluntarily report for extermination by age 30. But Frank Miller has other ideas . . . and he's not afraid to try them.

4. When Sunshine Retirement Home decides on a 'lesbian-only' policy, the resident men need to find alternative accommodations. Follow the trials and tribulations of five of these men, as they travel the country in search of the home with the perfect applesauce. Also, odd uses for dentures.

5. After the pandemic, the sorority sisters knew that they held the key to restoring the human race. Holed up in a cabin in Northern Wisconsin, they have made a pact to sacrifice their youthful bodies to the ravages of procreation, for the good of all mankind. Any man wishing to participate must meet certain criteria. This cabin in the woods is . . . No Country For Old Men.

6. The descent into dementia is never pretty. Even less so when it's the President. The Secret Service attempt to keep the President's dignity intact in front of an unwitting populace, but scheming vice-president Victor Brook can't wait for nature to take its course. In the President's wife, Alice, he finds an ally, willing to do anything to preserve her position in the White House. Drugs, sex, murder - Alice is ready, willing and able to do all three - preferably at once.

7. In this 21st century update of the cult classic Logan's Run, a futuristic America has lowered the "legal age" to 21. Upon a citizen's 21st birthday, s/he is taken "drinking" and never seen again. When will these teens get a clue?


1. Juno decides to have sex with a member of her high school's track team. When she gets pregnant, she and her best friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby) decide to take control of the situation by browsing for prospective adoptive parents in the local Pennysaver newspaper. Hilarity ensues.

2. The life of Juno Jenkins, beat poet, actress, junkie, and voice of her generation, is explored in this innovative biopic. Portrayed at various stages of her life by Dakota Fanning, Cate Blanchette, Diane Keaton, Bill Murray and Flipper, the complexity reflects on her work.

3. Mossad agent Ariel Shalom fears that his cover has been blown. Hilarity ensues when he learns that the Puerto Rican guy at the coffee shop has not been saying "Jew, no?" but "You know?" Also, a nymphomaniac who calls herself Juno.

4. Juno is a young, quirky ISP with razor-sharp wit and a penchant for giving her services away for free. But when one of her limited-time offers results in an unexpected server farm crash, she has to decide if she wants to spend the rest of her life replacing hardware, or sell her soul to AOL.

5. A womens' commune in Juno, Alaska is infiltrated by men, desperate to find out why their wives left them. Fitting in is not easy, but with the help of a little judicious make-up and several boxes of tissues, the men achieve their aim. The film unites Dustin Hoffman, John Travolta and Eddie Murphy in a hilarious comedy that's anything but a drag.

6. In this modernization of The Aeneid, Juno is the vengeful mistress from hell, foiling the plans of New York City's new mayor to create a young and vibrant city on its crumbling foundation of corruption, pollution and crime.

7. When Juno the moon goddess is spurned by her husband Jupiter, in favor of a mere mortal, she vows to take revenge on all mortal women by inventing high heels, pantyhose and corsets.

Michael Clayton

1. He was a quiet man. That's what the neighbors said after the cops dug up seventy-four bodies in his cellar. Now Michael Clayton is on the run, and no one in New England is safe. Also, a discount carpet store.

2. The Westhaven Warriors are the worst team in the state. Michael, a gentle, savant retarded man, is recruited to coach. Will his words of wisdom inspire the team to succeed in the cutthroat world of beach volleyball?

3. Jeez, could the director not think of a more imaginative title for this one? Hey, if he's not going to put in the effort, neither am I. No plot for you, Mr. Director. The world's first plotless movie. Oh, hang on, no, not the first. It's sure to make millions.

4. Michael Clayton is a middle-aged man who has a lot less trouble solving problems for his law firm and its clients than he does solving his own personal problems. Which was okay when his personal problems were trivial crap like his divorce and his debts. Now that he's become the target of an assassination attempt can he put his job skills to work in his miserable home life?

5. Michael Payton used his Play-dough to make anatomically correct models of Miss Blodgett and Mr. Geary. He went too far when he made a Claymation cartoon and previewed it at the talent show. They call him Michael Clayton now, and he's the hero of the sophomore class. But will Miss Blodgett's sexual harassment lawsuit spell the end of Michael's college plans?

6. A speculative biopic based on the life of the legendary make-believe legal “fixer,” who may, at some point in the future, brutally slay George Clooney in order to wipe that friggin smirk off his face.

7. Mickey's back, and after three years "away," he's anxious to find out who missed him. But when Michael Clayton knocks at the door of what he thinks is still his family home, and Delia answers, Mickey finds out just how much things can change when you're camping out in the "big house."


1. Symphony conductor Max Power survives a life-threatening accident but wakes to find that he has a specific injury to his hearing---he only hears in a single tone. How can he move on?

2. A thirteen-year-old girl becomes jealous of her older sister's relationship with their housekeeper's son. Why should she have all the fun? So she accuses him of a crime he didn't commit. The authorities buy her story! With three lives changed, is there any chance for . . . Atonement?

3. For years, documentary filmmaker Mitchell Mass has traded on his tactics of stalking, editing and manipulation to anger & embarrass his enemies. But he went too far, and now faces trial for murder. Will he ever grasp the horror of what he did?

4. Someone will have to convert, or Hirschel and Heidi's marriage will fall apart. It's Yom Kippur versus Lent, but how can Hirschel prove that one day of Jewish atonement beats out forty days of Catholic guilt?

5. Using a photo of another man and a snappy moniker his mother made up, mild-mannered accountant Cecil Biggins runs a website critiquing the work of struggling writers. Nobody knows that his witty and incisive comments come not from the leather-lined office of a New York publishing company, but the fuzzy-paneled cubicle of an insurance company in Columbus, Ohio. Now, however, one of his writers is about to be published and she wants to meet him to thank him. Hilarity ensues.

6. A tattoo removal shop, Atonement, Inc., falls into a legal entrapment when they remove tattoos from an underage girl, who was a plant arranged by the Trenton, NJ tattoo mafia. However, the owner of Atonement is a tattoo reformer and former member of the Newark Harley Hellraisers. When the young girl turns up pregnant, fingers are pointing in all directions, and her Marine Corp sergeant father decides to bust heads.

7. Derek Bray, small-time con artist and bad boy around town has stretched the doctrine "repent and you shall be forgiven" to its limit. Father Moray, tired of handing out the same old Hail Marys, sets Derek a series of tasks that not only atone for his sins, but change his outlook on life.

Fake plots contributed by blogless_troll, McKoala, Mignon, Khazar-khum, Bill H., Church Lady, Precie, Sarah, Anonymous and EE.

Correct plots below:

Blood: 5
Old Men: 2
Juno: 1
Michael: 4
Atonement: 2

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Face-Lift 477

Guess the Plot

Bless the Dying

1. Bless the dying, it is said, for they make way for our children. "Fuck that," Oscar Munker says, and so begins his hilarious quest to find a way to cling to this mortal coil forever.

2. Dear old Father Gabriel spends his nights at the hospital, ministering to the terminally ill. But only Ian, the vampire who works in the lab, knows that 'Father Gabriel' is really a devil known as Gabron. Can Ian destroy Gabron before he harvests any more souls?

3. Afer a routine medical test, a cop checks into the hospital. He's been poisoned! His ex-lover suspects he's dying, so she says a little prayer for him. He dies anyway. She decides to solve the case.

4. When evil scientist Ray Winegast accidentally infects himself with homemade zombie microbes and starts an epidemic, it's up to Thor Jones and Bongo Mugwump to save voluptuous Screaming Mimi from the roof of Virus Central before the US Air Force flattens Pittsburgh.

5. Sally Bless has only one month in which to make her handicraft store show a profit, or the bank will seize all her assets. Then she meets Oliver Quilby, an aging hippie who shows her the forgotten art of tie dying. Suddenly a craze for tie-dying hits the USA and Sally finds herself richer than she ever dreamed. But will her new millions alienate the hippie she has grown to love?

6. Candace always wanted to see Africa. When a brutal coup occurs, though, hunky CIA agent Tom Thomas whisks her off to a secret resistance base in the jungle. Can she win his heart by going under cover as a nun into the new regime's hospitals and extract useful secrets from its soldiers while administering last rites?

Original Version

Dear XX: [Nothing assures a rejection like spelling the editor's name wrong. That's EE.]

When a policeman falls ill after taking a routine medical test, his former lover, head of public relations for the hospital where he’s been admitted, suspects the worst. [I have no idea what "the worst" is because the test and the illness aren't specific enough:

Routine Test....Illness........Diagnosis

Prostate Exam........Bug eyes..............Normal
Cholesterol test......Numbness........Tourniquet too tight
Steroids Test....... Gigantic Head.....Cantaloupe-sized tumor
AIDS test.................AIDS......Needle used to draw blood for test was infected
Eye exam...............blank stare..........Dead]

Was his poisoning an accident, or did someone prescribe the test knowing full well the outcome?

[Doctor: Where's Crampton?

Nurse: I sent him to the lab to have some blood drawn.

Doctor: Excellent. Mwaahhh ha ha! Soon he will be dying from a slow-acting poison administered by lab assistant Igor, and we can move on to the next phase of our diabolical plan.

Nurse: May God bless him.]

That’s the premise of a character-driven mystery I’ve written titled BLESS THE DYING.

When not writing fiction, I’m a feature writer for the Houston Chronicle. I spent ten years in health care public relations before becoming a journalist, and still have many contacts at the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register and other media outlets, which will prove helpful when publicizing the book.

My short stories have appeared in BorderSenses Literary Journal, Farfelu magazine, and Texas Magazine. A portion of BLESS THE DYING, which comes in at 65,000 words, was honored by the Florida First Coast Writer’s Festival in its annual competition.

Written in the vein of Irene Allen’s Elizabeth Elliott series, BLESS THE DYING is the first in a planned series of mysteries. The second novel follows the protagonist as she’s called upon to defend a physician accused of molestation. [BLESS THE MOLESTED will be followed by BLESS THE SNEEZING, in which the protagonist must deal with the aftereffects of pollen being released into the hospital allergy clinic. Accident, or Mother Nature's henchmen?]

Please feel free to phone or e-mail if you’d like to read BLESS THE DYING. Thank you for your time.


That's all we get? The premise and a bunch of stuff about you? If you tell us what he was being tested for and what his symptoms were, we'll have some grounding, but this being a mystery, I assume someone gets murdered. Is it the cop? He dies from the poison? Who wanted him dead? Who had opportunity? Get us interested in the mystery.

How do they know the routine test had anything to do with this? Obviously if you have your hearing tested and later get a stomach ache you aren't going to connect the two. Usually if you have an illness you assume it's caused by the usual suspects, not a medical test you had recently.

The cop's former lover is going to be your protagonist in a series of mysteries, and we don't even get her name? The only character named in the query is Elizabeth Elliott, and she's not even your character.

Come up with eight or ten sentences summarizing your plot. Your premise can be two of them.

If editors had to decide which manuscripts to request based on two-sentence premises, they'd have to request everything or nothing. I, for one, would go with the latter.