Saturday, May 31, 2008

New Beginning 507

I killed for the first time when I was fifteen. I could have done nothing to prevent it, except die myself. A shadow fell in step to me on the street and ten minutes later I was in the ring, the same cold, dirt-floored pen they used for the dogs, one hand tied behind my back and the other holding a knife. I had to kill or be killed. Not much of a choice, although I didn't know it then. I didn't know it for a long time, in fact. Because whether or not it was against my will is irrelevant. I've done other kinds of killing since then: mercy, revenge. Downright murder, even. It all feels the same, if you ask me. Taking another man's life is a little like taking your own. You still die. It's just slower.

"Uh, you were right all along, pal. You were here first. My mistake. Please, do take that last Danish."

Opening: freddie.....Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 126

Caption: anon.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

New Beginning 506

The nurse blows a puff of smoke over Johnny’s head, then tosses the burnt nub into the parking lot. “You may have a drag,” she tells Johnny, “after you’ve been cleaned up, stitched up, and paid up.” She squeezes his cheek and deposits him at the paperwork counter. Johnny thinks this squeeze is friendly. Friendly isn’t too far from sexy, so he decides to skip the paperwork.

Johnny limps back into the parking lot and sees the nurse smoking a cigarette with another woman. They are passing it back and forth. He wonders what else they share. As he walks over, he feels their eyes all over him. He stands between them and takes off his jacket.

“Your shirt is all wet,” the nurse’s friend says. She rubs her hand down the length of his arm.

"The ditch was wet," Johnny replies. "Great vacation, huh?" He laughs.

"You poor thing," the nurse calls him, and blows smoke from the corner of her mouth. Johnny likes the contrast of the gray against her lipstick. She puts her hand on his thigh. "And you must also get that leg fixed."

The nurse and her friend take an arm each and guide him back inside. "Let the doctors take care of you first," the friend says.

The nurse lights a cigarette and says: "Then we take care of you. We make sure everything is working, yes?" And she winks.

"Jesus," Johnny thinks. "No wonder the French healthcare system is the envy of the world."

"Alors! You have a fracture of the skull." The doctor sniffs, glances at his watch and crushes out his cigarette. "Come back tomorrow. Now it is already five o'clock and I am finished for the day."

Opening: Chris Eldin.....Continuation: anon

Cartoon 125

Caption: anon.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Face-Lift 531

Guess the Plot

A Thief's Honour

1. Infamous cat burglar, Kitty 'Meaow' Felinski, vows to make amends for her life's misdeeds by returning all her stolen treasures. Donning her leathers and clutching her swag bag, she heads for the Louvre. But can she still swing it at the age of 77?

2. Czaretta Zigellva is on trial for her life. Her crime? Deflowering a young man, who happened to be the son of Dragbah's crime lord. Can she convince the judge she's blameless--without resorting to seduction?

3. Allan Smithee is an Internet plagiarist, his crimes too minor to attract attention--until he hacks into the British MI6 cryptography mainframe and copies a top secret encoded message. Now he must contend with counterintelligence operatives disguised as grammarians, a librarian with Nazi sympathies, and the vagaries of British spelling while trying to crack the code.

4. Master cat burglar Danny DeWilted can sneak into anyone's bedroom undetected and purloin whatever takes his fancy. But slipping into the boudoir of the hefty Eve Lavavoom to steal her pearls might prove a fatal mistake. Will his honour be tested by the pulchritudinous Eve? Or by her shotgun-wielding father?

5. "I wouldn't dream of keeping it," Nigel Codswallop declares as he flings back all the stolen swag from his burglaries. After all, that's what Catch and Release is all about.

6. After twenty years in prison, a master thief gets out and takes a job as a police adviser. When his daughter is kidnapped by someone who wants him to pull an impossible heist, he must risk his future--and his honour--to keep her alive.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor

Jenn was a master thief, unstoppable, uncatchable, until [he was stopped and caught.] a friend betrayed him. Now, after twenty years hard labour, Jenn wants revenge.

However, that former friend, Roland, is now a powerful lord who is not adverse [averse] to getting rid of people who annoy him, including a broken down ex-thief. [You've been in prison twenty years. You finally get out and someone you've never wronged wants you dead because you annoy him? If someone who hasn't seen me in twenty years still finds me so annoying he's willing to kill me, I'm resolving to stop ice chewing, knuckle cracking, and toenail clipping in public.] Jenn bides his time, rebuilding a life for himself by becoming a police advisor, [Jenn's job interview with the Police Human Resources Manager:

PHRM: Tell me about your recent job history.

Jenn: I've been working in laundry and license plate manufacture for 20 years.]

which brings him into Roland's social circle. [A powerful lord socializes with the cops?] It also brings him into contact with a young lord, who wants Jenn to help him with a burglary. Jenn agrees, believing it's the best way to keep his new friend out of trouble,

[Young lord: Life as a young lord isn't exciting enough. I've decided to become a criminal.

Jenn: If you get caught you'll spend 20 years at hard labor.

Young lord: But if I don't get caught, I'll possess someone else's property.

Jenn: Mind if I tag along?]

but their break-in attempt goes wrong, and Jenn finds himself facing trial for burglary and maybe murder.

[You're under arrest for burglary and maybe murder.

Maybe murder?

Depending on if that guy on the floor is sleeping with his eyes open or dead.]

He fingers the real culprit, Roland, [How does Jenn know Roland is involved?] who retaliates by abducting Jenn's daughter. Roland is a reasonable man though, he'll let her go, if Jenn does a little job for him -- break into impenetrable Haven, the one place that defied Jenn when he was young and able [and unstoppable except by Haven].

If Jenn refuses, he loses his daughter. If he tries, he could lose his freedom, his new friends, and everything he has worked to regain. [He could have lost all that for helping the young lord commit burglary, but he wasn't deterred.] And either way, his enemy benefits, unless Jenn can find [a way] to turn the situation to his own benefit.

A Thief's Honour is a Fantasy novel, complete at 100,000 words. Thank you for the taking the time to consider this. I look forward to hearing from you.


Why didn't Roland just abduct Jenn's daughter in the first place, instead of setting up the robbery?

It seems there should be something in your plot description to show what makes this a fantasy. Is there a character with magical powers? A fantastical creature? Something about your setting that isn't normal?

It doesn't seem reasonable that after 20 years of hard labor a guy who has gotten his life on track and is obsessed with revenge, would risk his future and his revenge to assist in a burglary that he doesn't care about. What are they trying to steal?

New Beginning 505

Thirty feet below the art gallery parking lot, Lacey McCrae pressed her back flat against the cement wall while a half tonne of steel cage rolled past her face. Trapped in a space barely wider than her hips, she looked out through rigid metal mesh at Wayne, the ex-Mountie who paid her to take these risks so he wouldn’t have to.

“Get in at that sensor,” he said. “I want to finish up and be out of here.”

Claustrophobic, she suspected. He didn’t like working in this underground vault, with its single exit and electronically self-locking elevator shaft. He liked narrow spaces even less. That’s why Lacey was the one in the cage.

Her elbows scraped against the walls as she struggled to get her arms up and reached for the motion sensor.

"That's it," Wayne told her. "Snap the cover off and pull the black wire." Lacey did as instructed. "Great. Now pull back the grille."

Sweat beaded on Lacey's forehead as she forced her fingernail into the edge of the ceiling air grille and pried it back. Dust scratched at her eyes and a small piece of card stock drifted to the floor.

"That's it!" Wayne said. "We're done. Hand me that card."

Lacey wriggled around and used her fingertip to hook the card.

"Perfect!" He reached out his hand. "It's sixty bucks to get your car out if you lose the ticket."

Opening: jeb.....Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 124

Caption: writtenwyrdd

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Beginning 504

I wish I didn’t have to tell my story in the first-person. To be honest, I wish I didn’t have to tell my story at all. My one hope is that my tale will somehow reach you. When it does, please don’t judge me. I am not crazy, paranoid, nor manic. I am simply a twelve year-old girl about to be executed for a crime that I did not commit.

I have been convicted of Murder in the First-degree. Yes, my killings were deliberate and premeditated. Yes, I feel no remorse for killing them. Yes, I would kill them all over again.

There is one problem; however, murder is defined as killing a human being. The Monroes were not human, they were vampires. But the prosecutor didn’t care about that. He had my fingerprints, my motive, and most important of all, my confession.

You might ask yourself, “How did they give the death sentence to a child?” Well, there’s sort of this “Technicality” as I like to call it. You see, I was born in 1896, officially making me 112 years old.

My name is Cleo. I am a vampire and a vampire hunter. This is my story.

Saffron stared despondently at the collection of pressed flowers on her desk. Oh, why did she always get assigned show and tell on the same day as Cleo the Overachiever?

Opening: R. Lyle Wolfe.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 123

Caption: ril

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Face-Lift 530

Guess the Plot

Weird Tattoos and Low IQs

1. Amateur sleuth Benny Collins has Down's Syndrome, but that doesn't stop him from taking on murder cases that have the police stumped. Also, weird tattoos.

2. A funny, poignant memoir which focuses on my teenaged sister's dating habits.

3. Why do so many young women get lower back tattoos? Why would a man have anime characters permanently inked onto his arm? And why do people choose tattoos in languages they don't speak? Homicide detective Zack Martinez ponders these questions and more while investigating the death of star basketball player Mkembe Balawa.

4. Mindy "Razor Mouth" Huggins details her descent into the hell of Mall Goth, a bizarre world in which a parent's credit card and no concept of appropriate attire are only the beginnings of extreme peer conformity.

5. Tattoo artist Truck Parker makes his living off the stupidity of youth. But when a busload of mentally challenged prison escapees arrives, all wanting tattoos of Einstein, Truck drives them across the Mexican border where tattoos are cheap--and human life is cheaper.

6. The only clues are the woman's tattoos: ostriches battling each other with swords. Can Bo Bumble, The Dense Detective, figure out where his teacher disappeared to before the bell rings, ending fifth period?

Dear Agent,

WEIRD TATTOOS AND LOW IQS, a 65,000 word Young Adult mystery, features Benny Cooper, an amateur sleuth with Down's Syndrome, whose disability outfits him with a unique perspective on solving crime. [What a dilemma. Normally I would mock this idea with exaggerated examples and sample dialogue from the book, but that wouldn't be PC. Or would those with Down Syndrome be more offended by my not giving them mockery equality?]

Benny loves "Wheel of Fortune," does a great Fonzi impression, and has dance moves that rival his idol, John Travolta's. [So far he's just like Evil Editor.] [These days, Travolta's lucky if he can squeeze through the door of a dance studio.] One thing he isn't, however, is a private detective—at least not until Benny's dysfunctional parents accuse him of his beloved MiMa's murder following his discovery of her severed foot.

[Benny: Mom, look, I found a foot.

Mom: Murderer!]

While the police seem to be stuck in a quagmire of paperwork and bogus leads, Benny takes an online quiz that tells him he is most like TV detective Dave Starsky and decides that he can and must find MiMa's killer. [According to an Internet description, Dave Starsky, was loud, brash, enjoyed street life and ate a diet of junk food. To me, this calls the validity of Benny's quiz results into question.]

At Siesta's Home for the Elderly and the Active, Benny delves into the dark underbelly of South Florida's retirement community where he befriends MiMa's secret lover, Henry. Confused but certain he is doing the right thing; Benny falsely accuses Henry and thus unwittingly ruins the relationship between Henry and his lifelong companion, Rose. Now, the police won't listen to a thing Benny has to say. [Now they won't listen?

Cop: This case is nothing but dead ends.

Captain: I guess it's time to bring in Benny Cooper.

Cop: Apparently you haven't heard. Benny broke up Henry and Rose at Siesta's Home for the Elderly and the Active.]

Captain: Damn. How about a psychic?]

What's more, Benny must learn to waltz, try to cope with his little sister's first boyfriend, track down a thieving cabbie, and keep his first secret all within a matter of months. [Three items per list, please. No more, no fewer.] Despite some bungling, [He's more like Inspector Clouseau than Starsky.] it is Benny's disarming demeanor that allows him to obtain secret information and turn his supposed disabilities into his greatest source of ability.

[Killer 1: We did it. We robbed the bank, murdered MiMa, cut off her foot, and got away with it.

Killer 2: Hey, shut up! There's a guy right there listening!

Benny: I've always had a thing for blondes. Like you said, Feldman: Everybody deserves a second chance. Hutch do you got any more questions?

Killer 2: Whew. Okay, continue your boasting.]

WIERD TATTOOS AND LOW IQS seeks to give people with mental disabilities and their loved ones a protagonist with whom they can identify without examining societal implications. [You might put "without examining societal implications" at the front of the sentence so it clearly modifies the book rather than "identify." Also, it wouldn't be overly immodest to say "gives" instead of "seeks to give."] Like Benny Cooper, I am from South Florida where I worked with people with mental disabilities through the Special Olympics and a pen pal program. [No need for "Like Benny Cooper."]



Certainly there is plenty of fiction featuring people with various disabilities making good. And certainly Down Syndrome isn't rare. And it's fiction, so even if it's unlikely Benny could solve a crime, who cares? However, while I know there's a wide variance in the cognitive abilities of those with Down Syndrome, I'm in the dark as to what percentage are young adults who could handle a detective novel. That would be the main concern: is the market big enough? And in the likely case that it is big enough, can you convince an editor that it is? If you're querying editors who aren't necessarily in the know, maybe a couple stats are in order.

Cartoon 122

Caption: Evil Editor

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Proud Father

Cartoon 121

Caption: writtenwyrdd

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Book trailer auction

The one-day auction of a book trailer created by EE got underway just after midnight, eastern time. As EE has no credentials other than the book trailers he created for his own books, this may not reach astronomical numbers. It's at this address.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cartoon 120

Caption: Anon.

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Cartoon 119

Caption: Kiersten

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Cartoon 118

Caption: Anon.

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Cartoon 117

Caption: WO

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Cartoon 116

Caption: anon.

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Cartoon 115

Caption: Evil Editor

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cartoon 114

Caption: Evil Editor

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Cartoon 113

Caption: Anon.

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New Beginning 503

"You must get a lot of last minute customers?" Kyle blushed. It was 7:30 pm and his party was at 8:00. He looked around the costume shop. Nothing but plain brown boxes filled the shelves from the front to the back of the store.

"I can stay late to accommodate. Customer service in my fate." Multicolored, Day-Glo smiley-faces decorated the clerk's shirt. With its Peter Pan collar, voluminous sleeves and polyester sheen, neither Stevie Wonder nor Andrea Bocelli could miss seeing it. Ugly letters on his nametag screamed "Argyle." Harlequin costumes fill the flatscreen of the store's POS computer.

"Um, Argyle? I'd prefer black."

"You and Johnny Cash! I'm not Argyle. My name is Salvatore Gian-Carlo Benvenuti, Duncan for short." He reached under the counter and picked up a Groucho Marx nose, glasses and moustache.

"Say da magic woid and win a prize; black shall be your costume tonight."

"I'd prefer black, please."

"That's not it."

"If you please."

"That's three words."

Kyle glared at Duncan and sighed. "Abracadabra."




"I've heard enough, Counselor." Judge Brandon Meredith cleared his throat. "Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, this case is dismissed. Based on today's testimony and the evidence put before me, it is clear that any reasonable man would have throttled the annoying bastard. "Mr. Kyle, you are free to go."

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: anon./ril

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cartoon 112

Caption: Evil Editor

Writing Exercise

I have to do some traveling this weekend. As I'm not sure how much time I'll get on the Internet, I'm making certain arrangements for my minions. For starters, I have several cartoons I keep setting aside because I like others better. It's time to set them free, so I'll be future-dating them so that they appear every 12 hours while I'm gone. (8 AM and 8 PM daily, Friday morning through Monday morning). Also, I can arrange for any writing exercise submissions to automatically post over the weekend if I have them by Thursday night. The deadline will be Saturday at 8 PM, but I can't guarantee I'll post those sent Friday and Saturday until Monday (though I'll probably manage to get to them). I should be able to get online to publish comments two or three times a day.

You're the last person to board a packed airplane. You make your way to your row, stow your bag, and slip into the middle seat, discovering that Evil Editor occupies the window seat. He's at your mercy for the next six hours. Should be a fascinating conversation, but you get to tell us only 300 words of it. Don't forget to include your name if you want credit.

Cartoon 111

Caption: anon.

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Face-Lift 529

Guess the Plot

Angel's Art

1. Turned down by the Met, The Frick, the Carnegie . . . even the Corcoran, for crying out loud . . . desperate artist Angel does what she must to survive and joins the slave army in the Thomas Kinkaid dungeon.

2. Angel's brain is half computer thanks to an operation that saved her life. Now she feels no emotions--until one day in art class her emotions return. Also, a half-cheetah.

3. All she is supposed to do is paint by numbers in the lines. But Lurael, the newest angel on world-creating duty, wants to do more. When she flexes her creative wings, will she get an okay from the Big Guy, or be clipped forever?

4. 45 years ago, Michael Angelo O'Reilly's mother gave birth to her darling son in front of Michaelangelo's Pieta at the New York Worlds Fair. Today, Mikey's unique shotgun/paintball splatter designs command the highest price, but his reputation will never rival that of Michaelangelo. He is so depressed.

5. All of the students at Little Angels Art School are just that . . . little well-behaved, good-hearted angels. Only little Johnny knows it's because Miss Gabrielle puts Valium in their Kool-Aid. When the Color-Inside-The-Lines art competition is announced, little Johnny knows he has to get rid of Miss Gabrielle. On the other hand, being on Valium feels pretty damn good.

6. John Tigotheles inherits the "paintbrushes" used by his famous artist great-grandfather, each a single feather of intense softness and unidentifiable species. When John tries to paint with the feathers, he produces masterpieces in the same heaven-themed style as his famous ancestor, but he suffers terrible nightmares about tormented children who say only John can save them.

Original Version

Dear Editor:

Science fiction draws in readers with worlds that are fantastic and yet plausible. Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game still remains a popular read more than twenty years after its creation. [If, as I suspect, you're sending this to editors who handle science fiction, you're not telling them anything they don't know.] My 60,000 word young adult novel, Angel's Art, takes the science fiction element into a familiar realm for young readers, the classroom.

Angel Morgan is a genius thanks to her half-computerized brain. But the novel operation that saved her life has also deprived her of emotions. That is, until she starts attending pubic school for the first time. [Pubic school? Did you do that on purpose just to make Evil Editor happy? Here we go.] [Pubic school: All Sex education all the time.] [Pubic school: it's where you go when you can't afford privates school.] [Mom: What are you studying in pubic school? Jane: The Vagina Monologues.] [I Googled pubic school. You wouldn't believe how many hits, and most of them accidents.] [On a whim I tried using Google to see if any universities had schools of pubic health. The Yale University School of Public Health website has a page devoted to alumni awards. Two excerpts: "Established by the AYAPH Board of Directors in 2006, this award honors an individual in public health practice or academic pubic health . . ." and "Determination of the final nominee is based on EMAC’s evaluation of candidates on the following criteria: 1. Leadership in the field of health disparities, cultural competency or diversity in pubic health.] [Googling pubic library gets a few hits and led me to this article. Note that this list of New Jersey libraries involved with the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian program includes the Carteret Pubic Library. (Of course, you'd expect a library program named after Bush to be a pubic library. Da dum ching.)] [How does stuff like this stay online? Doesn't anyone ever visit these sites?] Between human-animal chimeras and English-impeded robots, Angel is almost overwhelmed with discovery. Imagine the worlds of J.K. Rowling and Isaac Asimov molded into one. [It's amazing how many Asimov titles sound intriguing when attached to Rowling's stock opening: Harry Potter and the Sensuous Dirty Old Man, Harry Potter and Still More Lecherous Limericks, Harry Potter and Space Garbage.]

Just as Angel is beginning to make friends and possibly feel her emotions again, her parents start talking about moving her to a private cyborg school. [As opposed to a pubic cyborg school. Ba dum ching.] At first, Angel wants no part of it, but soon she begins to develop suspicions that one of the students is somehow being controlled through illegal experimentation. [That word "but" suggests that you're about to say she eventually warms to the idea. Instead you follow it with something that has no obvious connection to the clause preceding the "but."] With her best friends, a human and a half-cheetah, at her side, [Is the other half of the half-cheetah human? Is it a human head on a cheetah body, or a cheetah head on a human body? I would rather have a cheetah body than a cheetah head. But that's me.] Angel is determined to discover what is going on, even if it puts her at risk of being deprogrammed.

I graduated from North Valley University in 2006 with a minor in creative writing. My debut story, Innocent Secrets, recently appeared in True Confessions magazine. I have enclosed a SASE, along with a synopsis and the first two chapters. I look forward to hearing from you.


[The title comes from the fact that Angel's emotions return to her during an art class.]


Let's hope this hasn't already gone out with the spelling error.

It's mostly the situation. It seems to me that the actual plot is dealing with the illegal experimentation. Yet that is given just a brief mention at the very end. Who's experimenting on whom and why does Angel suspect? If you get rid of the first two sentences and the one about Rowling/Asimov, you'll have plenty of room to tell us what happens in your book.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cartoon 110

Caption: Evil Editor

New Beginning 502


The watchman guarding the gate--in between drinking and dicing with his friends--told me horses were forbidden the city. And then denied I had a place at the officers' school.

I showed him the letter, and he smeared it with greasy palms. While he puzzled, head bent, over the words, a youth in uniform, and leading two bay horses, approached. Where had he sprung from? I'd checked everyone leaving the Hippolita train to see if Della were among them; I couldn't have overlooked those covetable horses. They scented the air and stepped out lively. My horse's head hung low in defeat. Travel had begrimed the colours of the Aquilla in its mane, and they dangled like the flaccid fingers of drowned men.

The watchman shoved the letter back at me. "S'pose it's all right."

Why should anyone's word count for more than mine? Let the fellow mind the gate; that was his business.

"Till your brother finds out," the watchman added, with a snort.

“What’s all this?” A huge barrel of a man rolled up to us, his finger almost to the second knuckle inside his nose; only Zeus knows what he was mining for. Behind him trotted a wizened little runt with a short man’s scowl.

“Fella has a place at the officers’ school. Has papers.”

The barrel snatched the letter from my hands, smearing it with runny snot. “I don’t know,” he said. “Writing’s smudged bad, paper's greasy. Could be forged.” He turned to the scowl. “What do you think?”

Scowl took hold of the sheet and muttered, “Looks all right.”

I turned back to the watchman. “Then can I--”

“Be right back.” Scowl began to walk toward the gate.

“My letter!” I took a step toward him, but barrel blocked my way.

“I need it,” Scowl said. "You'll get it back."

“Where are you taking it?”

“Right over there," he sniffed. "I got to take a crap.”

Opening: BuffySquirrel.....Continuation: ril

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cartoon 109

Caption: anon.

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Face-Lift 528

Guess the Plot

Flight of Faith

1. After Sherrie and Pierre witness a Shrimpocalyps, they have to face "Four-Eyes", the head prawn with flying surfboards, shrimp forks and lobster hammers. Can they make sushi out of the invaders? Or will Earth sail into galactic domination by crusty demons.

2. During a pre-Armageddon warm-up bout with the demon Azazel above Roswell, the angel Gabriel develops severe acrophobia. Grounded and pretending to be human, he must face his fears and soar back to heaven before the seraphim destroy the Earth searching for him. When he encounters a beautiful UFOlogist he realizes he's going to need more than a wing and a prayer to get back home.

3. A disillusioned young English woman heedlessly roams the lands of Europe and Asia trying to discover the spirituality within herself. But can she escape the arms of Jonathan Miller, who will follow her to the ends of the Earth for her hand in marriage? Does she even want to?

4. When an army of soul-eating demons is unleashed on a gardener, she heads for the hills, not realizing that the forces of primordial evil will find her wherever she goes. Is her faith enough to sustain her in her battle to save civilization from the entity known as . . . the Keeper?

5. Seth always trusted his mischievous brothers: Wibur and Orville. One day they brought Seth to the edge of a cliff and explained, "It's simple physics: You run fast, jump off the cliff, and flap your arms as fast as you can." Seth never achieved flight. In this Alternative History Novel I document the murder trial of Wibur and Orville Wright. Will their act of fratricide alter the course of human history, or will their wiley lawyer prove that Seth "Deserved what he got"?

6. A priest, a rabbi, and a Buddhist monk are the only passengers on a small airplane. When the engine fails, the pilot bails out. There are only 2 parachutes left. Hilarity ensues.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

If faith in a higher power gives much of civilization a reason to get out of bed in the morning, then what would happen if someone – or something – could extinguish it?

In FLIGHT OF FAITH, when a local man known for his devout faith denounces the church, Lia Danovin pays him a visit. In return, he tries to hill her. [To hill her? I think you mean to mount her.] And he’s not alone. [Every guy in town wants to mount Lia.] After a well-timed letter offers means of escape, Lia is forced to flee her quiet life as a gardener when the Keeper, tired of life in the underworld, unleashes his protégé and an army of soul-eating demons. [Unleashes them on Lia? Unleashing your army of soul-eating demons on Lia the gardener may seem like a good way to build their confidence, but if they succeed, big deal, and if they somehow fail, they'll never live down the humiliation. It's a no-win situation, like the New York Yankees taking on a T-ball team.]

As a fugitive, Lia meets Delina, an eccentric vagabond-warrior, and Tavoris, a demoted soldier, who lead her on a frantic search for guidance. [Hi guys. There's an army of soul-eating demons hot on my trail. Care to join me?] While the earth quakes, cities riot and citizens vanish, Lia must unite with four strangers against the primordial evil that somehow finds her wherever she hides. But even as the ancient powers of the world awaken to guide her, her four allies begin to crumble. [I think I can speak for Lia when I say, As long as you ancient powers of the world are awake, how about instead of offering me guidance you crush the primordial evil that keeps finding me?] Without them, Lia’s odds diminish - [Her odds of survival? Or of defeating the primordial evil? Is she trying to defeat the evil or just trying to escape?] and as she begins to question her own long-held faith, she unwittingly threatens the very bonds between civilization and its Maker.

FLIGHT OF FAITH, my first novel, is a completed, 85,000-word fantasy that explores the intricacies of faith, friendship and how the inexorable desire for love can backfire. The manuscript is available for your review upon request. Thank you for your consideration.


What was Lia's purpose in visiting the guy who renounced his faith?

I don't get a good idea of why Lia is so important to the Keeper or what the stakes are.

Does the Keeper play a role after unleashing his minions? He seems to disappear from the query, even though he's the coolest character.

I'd either elaborate on the "well-timed letter" or leave it out.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Cartoon 108

Caption: R. Lyle Wolfe

Saturday, May 17, 2008

New Beginning 501

We all witnessed the kidnappings. No one truly saw them take the children away, but we knew whom to blame. All our towns' children, ages ten to thirteen, vanished in a blink's time. No one had that power but the witches in the south. Those evil magicians manipulated the heavens rode down on us under cover of cloud.

Lightning struck our lands, and thunder crashed above us, shaking the earth. The clouds grew darker and heavier, but not one drop of water fell from them. We first watched in amazement. Never before had we witnessed a storm without rain. Then those despicable witches poured down from the clouds in effortless flight.

They returned our children to us, confirming our suspicions. We scooped up the returned and fled to our homes. Back to their clouds and to the south, the sorcerers left without a word. Celebrations consumed us until the food ran short and our rejoicing grew tiring. We returned to our homes once again and finally had a chance for a contented rest.

The next morning we woke to a horror. Our youngest had begun vanishing, fading away before our eyes. Laughter erupted from the skies, and clouds to the south roiled without rainfall. This time the sorcerers forced us to witness their thievery.

Constable Sprackett finished reading the statement. He chewed thoughtfully and swallowed. "Let's run through the facts one more time, shall we?" he said. "A mysterious gang, consisting of magicians, witches and sorcerers, descended from a -- let me see -- laughing sky, and took away all the children. Just like that?"

"Yes, constable."

"Are you sure about this? Witches and all?"

"Yes, constable."

"Sign at the bottom, Mrs. Todd; we'll be in touch." He brushed crumbs off the table and slid the papers across. "These are delicious pies by the way; what's in them?"

Opening: Xiexie.....Continuation: ril

Cartoon 107

Caption: Kiersten

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Face-Lift 527

Guess the Plot

Lizbah: Genesis Revelation

1. With the help of an oak tree, Lisbah sets out to disrupt the Circle of Time, in which the world is continually created and thus destroyed.

2. Lizbah's painstaking research leads her to a stunning realization: Cain didn't kill Abel! The real murderer is still out there, and only shy, stuttering Lizbah can stop him before he kills again.

3. All her life, Cornelia Lizbah has envied John Grisham's fame. Her literary endeavors, however, have been limited to the occasional rant in the letters pages of her local newspaper. Then she hits on a truly marketable concept: a severely abridged Bible for worshippers with ADD.

4. Forget Eve and Lilith--Lizbah is the true first wife of Adam, and she's determined everyone will know it, even if she has to travel back in time, defeat God, and rewrite scripture from scratch.

5. While reading Genesis, Lizbah, a precocious eleven-year-old girl, has a revelation: she was meant to be Eve. But starting a "Garden of Eden" club at school won't be easy. And choosing her Adam from amongst the obnoxious, gassy boys in her class will be even harder.

6. When Lizbah decides to read the Bible straight from Genesis to Revelation, she thinks she'll learn about God. What she learns is far more shocking, as she discovers that King James himself put a code into the scriptures, leading her to a secret too terrible to imagine.

Original Version

Dear E.E. McGhee,

Lizbah: Genesis Revelation

Destined to be a god, determined not to become one, and damned no matter which path she chooses: Lizbah sets out with four friends (one of which she created herself [A marionette.] ) to disrupt the Circle of Time. The Circle of Time is a perpetually repeating series of events in which the world is created, and thus destroyed in the end. [It's like the movie Groundhog Day, except that instead of every day being repeated, it's every twenty billion years. Apparently living through the same twenty billion years over and over gets really monotonous.]

With the help of an ancient Oak . . . Lizbah and her friends just might succeed in disrupting the Circle of Time. [You've already said they're out to disrupt the Circle of Time. This paragraph adds nothing except that they're being aided by a tree. And I'm not sure admitting that one of your heroes is a tree is a good thing.]

Complete with witches, warlocks, and warriors; the story of Lizbah will change how we view our past, present, and future. [A bold statement, but can you back it up with any evidence?]

Lizbah: Genesis Revelation is a completed 95,000 word fantasy novel. At your request; either a partial, or a complete manuscript will be immediately forwarded to you.



What is meant by the "world"? The Earth? The universe?

Why do they want to disrupt the Circle of Time? What happens if they fail?

Start over. Give us nine or ten sentences of the plot. Focus most or all of them on Lisbah. Who is she, what does she want, what's keeping her from getting it, why should we care?

Cartoon 106

Caption: ril

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Cartoon 105

Caption: anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

New Beginning 500!!

The knight knelt alone in the cold light of dawn, waiting for the voice of God. Waiting for guidance. Waiting for forgiveness.

"I failed you, my king." His whispered words cut as deeply as any sword. The truth of them cut deeper.

Still he waited in the silence of the warrior's chapel. A shaft of sunlight, knifing through one of the narrow windows brought the only warmth as the sun rose higher. With the warmth came his message.

Your king lives.

Tears flowed freely down his cheeks as he choked back a sob of relief. "Show me, Divine One."

You will know before the day is done.

He bowed his head in thanks. Aegis, last of the king's personal guard wept openly as he began to pray.

"Grant me honor in life. Honor in battle. Let me vanquish my enemies. If I must die today, let my spirit dwell with my fathers in the Hall of Champions this night."

Hidden behind the curtain, Dwight bugged his eyes out at the reaction of the man in the aluminum foil armor.

"Who is this guy?" he whispered to his friend Tommy.

"Beats me," Tommy replied. "Whenever I see him approach the photo booth, I duck back here and say whatever comes into my head. Watch."

Eat Spaghettios tonight.

"Yea, divine one, I shall eateth Spaghettios."

"See?" Tommy whispered. "He'll do whatever you say. You try."

"Okay," Dwight whispered, and then in a louder voice spoke:

Submit your opening to Evil Editor. It will be good for you.

There was a pause in the booth until a troubled voice said, "Shit. Okay, who is this?"

Opening: Anonymous.....
Continuation: Pacatrue

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mrs. V. auditions

It's been suggested that the cartoon captions be explained for those who don't get them. And that Mrs. V. be made a recurring character. But in what role? For her first audition, she tries explaining a caption:

Face-Lift 526

Guess the Plot

Slow Burn

1. A renegade demon messed with the heat controls in the afterlife. Now heaven is doing a slow burn. Can archangel Damia and damned furnace repairman Hector Blunt restore order before hell freezes over?

2. The idea was inspiring: clone Robbie Burns, the Scots' most famous incoherent poet. But the pubs of Aberdeen are no place for genetics, and what the patrons of the Lang Syne end up with is a lager-soaked, semi-retarded homunculus. Their only hope to have their achievement recognized is to run him for Parliament. First, though, they'll have to teach him to pluralize correctly.

3. It's taken Nancy fifteen years to get up a head of anger against her unfaithful husband, but now that her fuse is lit, she's on the rampage. Will Detective Crusoe work out that the women burning on upside-down crosses aren't the work of the local Satanists?

4. To heck with Beano and unpronounceable Mexican herbs: Zelda had found a secret ingredient for her 5-alarm chili that would prevent esophageal meltdown. But the disappearance of asbestos wrap from the wiring in abandoned factories across Elmville has made City Health Inspector Hamlin very suspicious.

5. Memoirs of a career fireman, focusing on the numerous people who've died in his arms at the scenes of vehicle accidents and house fires. Also, a dead man opens his eyes: resurrection or zombie?

6. When Yvonne, a struggling bartender, invents a hot new drink, she finds herself a hit among the club scene in Las Vegas. But her sudden success takes a strange turn when she learns an aerobics mogul plans to sue her for 'stealing' his title Slow Burn. It's all a lawyer thing until they actually meet, and Yvonne lets the hunky mogul teach her a thing or two about what that phrase really means.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

My 66,500 word memoir, Slow Burn; The Personal and Professional Evolution of a Firefighter and Paramedic, is the story of my growth as a person and public servant. Sixteen years as a firefighter and paramedic can rattle a person to his core.

As an 18-year-old, timid EMT student, I froze in awe and watched a dead man open his eyes after being blasted with a cardiac defibrillator. [Immediately I reached over and closed his eyes, as I'd seen done to dead people on TV numerous times.] Instantly, I knew I had found the career for me [, a career as the guy they call in to close the eyes of dead people. Hey, every city's got one]. [While we're on the subject, maybe you can tell me: is it as easy to close the eyes of a dead guy as it looks on TV? They just sort of put their hand over the dead guy's eyes, make a slight downward motion and the eyes close, and I'm thinking, I'll bet that's just an actor and he's actually alive and he closed his eyes himself. Possibly in real life you would have to grab hold of the guy's eyelashes and pull them down like a roller shade that you let go of and it went all the way up. Or is it easier, more like using one of those sliding dimmer switches?]

By 22, I question whether I am cut out for this kind of work. On a dark, slippery road, a young woman loses control of her pickup truck and is hurled from the cab. [I would put that sentence in past tense unless you were present when she lost control.] As I frantically provide her valuable air, the image of my fiancée’s face flashes before me and sucks my own breath away. [Quickly I snatch the woman's oxygen mask away and put it on my own face, and as a result I survive, but...]This young lady dies and as it eats away at me, I realize I need to be a stronger, harder person.

Just before dawn a few years later, a flashover from a house fire engulfs my partner and me. The lens of my SCBA mask distorts, melting from the scorching heat. I clutch the nozzle with both hands and roll onto my back. [Because if you're about to die anyway, you might as well spend your last few moments clutching the nozzle.] With only seconds to escape, I blast the ceiling with water. The flames vanish, only temporarily, and I scramble to find my missing partner. My screams of his name go unanswered and I fear he is dead.

A confident, seasoned firefighter at age 31, I walk into a house where a 15-year-old has delivered a lifeless baby onto a cold, cement floor in a dark, dingy basement. It barely fazes me anymore.

I fear I have lost my compassion forever by the time I reach 34 years of age. Then I hold the broken body of a six-year-old boy in my arms and watch the life leave his eyes. [No offense, but does anyone you come in contact with ever survive?] The shattered plastic, metal and glass of his family’s mini-van lie scattered across the highway as his parents hover and pray beside us. I want to cry. I hate myself for not being able to save him. This little boy’s violent death pulls me from a dark place and shows me I still care. [Interesting. I would have expected you to be pulled from your dark place by some rewarding experience, finally saving a life perhaps. Instead you're pulled out by putting the kiss of death on yet another victim.]

I am still an active firefighter today and live with my wife of 12 years and our 3-year-old son.

Thank you for your consideration.



I like that you've given specific examples, but I feel you need to tie it all together with a general description of the book. It's the story of a man whose experiences with tragedy leave him cynical and empty, but who grows to realize whatever it is you grow to realize.

I assume there were at least a few occasions on which you failed to kill someone. Possibly you could mention one of them in the query. Possibly you could lie and claim it was one such event that made you realize that while you can't save everyone, saving anyone makes it all worthwhile. Otherwise, make it more clear why the other deaths left you jaded and unfazed, but the boy's death showed you still care. What was different this time? It sounds like more of the same.

Cartoon 104

Caption: Whirlochre

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Evil Ads, Final Batch

...are below. Click on the ad for an enlargement. If you produced and sent an ad and it hasn't yet appeared, let me know.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Cartoon 103

Caption: writtenwyrdd

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

New Beginning 499

Josiah wolfed down a sandwich, then worked his way through a bag of chips, staring absent-mindedly at the bottom half of the pyramid visible from the open tent. He glanced up, noticing for the first time the two girls that had come in for lunch as well. They were college students, lucky enough to be working with his uncle for a few months. Smiling at him, they turned back to each other.

“So handsome! He looks just like a little Dr. Keeper.”

“Oh, and those eyes! He’s going to be a lady killer, I can see it already.”

Josiah blushed furiously as the two moved out of hearing range. He hated the way adults had of talking about you like you were an idiot and couldn’t hear them. From behind him came a sing-song voice. He rolled his eyes.

“There once was a young man named Josie; his cheeks were delightfully rosy. When’er he went by, the girls would all sigh, and toss him a beautiful posy.”

“Hi, Darah,” Josiah said with a sigh. “Your dad was looking for you.”

“Of course,” she continued, ignoring his greeting, “posies wouldn’t really be all that flattering. After all, they were used to cover up the stench of dead bodies during the plague. But Josie is a hard rhyme, now, isn’t it? Why couldn’t you have an easy name, like Frank, or Tom?”

“Well, my name isn’t actually Josie. And you didn’t answer my question.”

She posed with her hands under her chin, blinked exaggeratedly at him, as if flapping her eyelashes the way some moms did when he walked past, and said, “This character Josie is dense. The things that he says make no sense. Wants answers to questions, he hasn't yet mentioned, which leaves all the readers incensed.”

Opening: Kiersten.....Continuation: BuffySquirrel

Tuesday ads

...are below. Don't forget that you can enlarge the ads by clicking directly on them.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cartoon 102

Caption: anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Cartoon 101

Caption: R. Lyle Wolfe

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Face-Lift 525

Guess the Plot

15 Minutes

1. Johnnny Gunz doesn't want to be a one hit wonder. So when he stumbles upon a brilliant songwriter, Johnny kills him and claims all of the songwriter's compositions as his own. Just as his second album becomes a hit, Johnny's loved ones begin to die one by one. Is it a coincidence? Karma? Or a vengeful ghost?

2. Dr. Emile Steinner has learned about a plot to assassinate a U.S. senator, but a bizarre supercollider accident has accelerated him to 35,000 times normal human speed. Now Steinner has fifteen minutes to save the senator from certain death, but those fifteen minutes may be the longest year of his life.

3. When superstar Anthony Harris collapses, poisoned, at the hot dog stall in the mall, Disco Dog assistant manager Rebecca has the fame she has longed for. But can she parlay her fifteen minutes into something more? Perhaps a job as full manager?

4. Geri doesn't want fame, but she does want fortune. So she settles for a live-in job as the personal assistant for socialite Cora Delaney. Living the high life second hand is pretty good--until Cora dies and the cops hang the murder on Geri.

5. Demiel the arch-incubus has a terrible problem: he only lasts 15 minutes. Among incubi, that's comparable to a human male who only lasts 5 seconds. Demiel seeks out the multiverse's most competent sex instructor, but a series of mistakes cause him to be trapped in a commune full of elderly bisexual hippies. Also, panties that grant wishes, but only in the way you didn't mean.

6. Controversial game show "15 Minutes" offers contestants the best 15 minutes of their lives--provided they're also the last 15 minutes. But socialite Nancy Cochrane, armed with charm, money and stilettos, thinks she can beat the system.

Original Version

Dear Wonderful Agent,

I've very much enjoyed reading your blog and having read BOOKX that you represent, I decided to contact you about my novel, 15 Minutes.

All Rebecca wanted was to be famous - despite that niggling little issue that she didn’t have a good reason. She wasn’t pretty enough to be an it-girl and not talented enough to lead a rock band. She didn’t know anyone who could give her a big break and her family socialized with accountants and librarians instead of movie moguls. [When you say she didn't have a good reason, we assume you mean a good reason for wanting to be famous. What you mean is she didn't have a chance in hell. You can say it that way, or you can delete "didn’t have a good reason. She".] Trying to get noticed took up all of her time - her mother insisted that if she put that much effort into anything else, she wouldn’t be stuck in a dead-end job as assistant manager of the Disco Dog food-stall at the Buena Park Mall. [At first I thought you meant a stall where they sell dog food. Sort of an upscale Taco Bell.] But she was convinced there was a solution to her dilemma.

It finally seemed she found it when she recognized hot teen super-star Anthony Harris and waved him over to her. [Hey, big boy, how about a foot-long, all the way?] She’d just made him a double-onion mustard dog when he collapsed at the counter. She rang the long-since memorised phone number of the local gossip mag and then an ambulance, convinced she was finally at the right place at the right time. But when it turned out he had been poisoned, [If he ate a mall hot dog, of course he's been poisoned.] Rebecca found herself a lot less happy about being in the limelight. And then the death-threats began...

15 Minutes is 90,000 word YA novel. I am a freelance writer with a monthly column in Piper Flyer. My short stories have been published in and Dark Tales Magazine. This is my first full-length novel.


When you wave a superstar over to your hot dog stand, do his bodyguards and entourage actually let him go?

What does a superstar think when a hot dog seller waves him over to her stall? Hmm, that woman seems to want something. It could be important. I'd better check it out. Or...Note to self: have bothersome hot dog chick killed after leaving mall.

It sounds like he collapses before eating the hot dog, in which case why the death threats? If he eats and then collapses, that could be made clear.

Usually the plot sounds better in present tense than past.

I could do with less set-up and more plot. Do we need an explanation of why a woman working in a mall hot dog stall isn't famous? Even with looks and talent and connections most people don't achieve fame.

You might see how it sounds beginning the query when the guy collapses and working in more of the aftermath. Or at least shorten the set-up to something like All Rebecca James wanted was to be famous - but without looks, talent or connections, it seems she's destined to languish in her job as assistant manager of Disco Dog. Then she gets her big break: teen super-star Anthony Harris dies after eating one of Rebecca's hot dogs, and the face of the "Disco Dog Killer" is plastered on newspapers and magazines worldwide.

The Monday Evil Ads

...are below. Remember to click on the ad itself for an enlarged version.

It has been mentioned that daily ads could be a regular feature of the blog. I'm happy to have an additional feature, but I'm forced to consider that I reject a large percentage of cartoon captions, continuations and fake plots. This isn't too disturbing to the authors, as they seldom spend much time on them, but if I'm rejecting an ad you spent an hour creating, you might get pissed. I would expect a featured ad to look pretty much like a professional ad, to have some wit, and to not be too similar to one that's already appeared. Can artists handle rejection as well as writers?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Cartoon 100!!

Caption: ril

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Cartoon 99

Caption: Whirlochre

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

New Beginning 498

"Forty denir, a full healing, and you get me transportation to the next town after I give you the stone." Kailis leaned against a rough stone wall, her blue-grey eyes locked on the heavily cloaked figure in the shadows.

"Twenty, and I transport you outside the city walls," the figure rumbled. The city walls were very high, and the gates were guarded by intense men, who might recognize Kailis as a thief.

"Look--do you want that altar-jewel, or not? I," she tapped her budding chest, "am the best thief in town. I can get it for you. Someone else? Good luck."

The wizard arched a manicured eyebrow at her. She continued, "Remember, a few weeks ago, when someone robbed that rich trader from Nakan? That was me. And, trust me, he guarded his little treasury like it held his soul, his heir, and his balls." She ran a hand through her dark, raggedly cropped hair in annoyance.

"You, child?"

"Yes." The street-rat sighed audibly, and continued, "Thirty five, transportation to the next town, and a full healing."

"Twenty-five, I cure that rash and you can borrow my horse."

"Thirty. You take me to the Halfway Inn and a full healing. Try getting that stone without me."

"Twenty-seven fifty and I take you to the roadhouse, and an unexplained partial remission."

"Final offer. Twenty-nine, you take me to the roadhouse on your motorbike, and I get better myself."

The wizard grunted. There was a long pause; then the robed figure chuckled. He waved his hand and held it out to the girl; in it was the Altar stone, glinting in the sunlight. "Can you believe it?" he said. "I almost forgot I'm a wizard. I don't even need you!"

Opening: anon......Continuation: anon.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Cartoon 98

Caption: Evil Editor

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Cartoon 97

Caption: Roger Eschbacher

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

New Beginning 497

Why There Are Moles in the Bathing Chamber

While Bradamante relaxed in the bathing pool, the pile of moles slumbered in the corner, except for the half-grown pup left on sentinel duty. Suddenly he spotted an eye peering through the keyhole and squealed an alarm: "Eyedropper alert! Eyedropper alert!"

The moles sprang to their feet and assumed a well-practiced formation. To their leader's cry of "Hup! Hup! Hup!" they formed a cheerleader-style pyramid. Kiku, the mole who had chosen to companion Sun-Tzu, she with the black belt in Py Thon Do, swarmed to the top of the pyramid, hooked a forepaw around the doorknob, and thrust her stiffened, fully extended vibrissae through the keyhole.

There was a scream from the other side of the door, and the sound of stumbling footsteps fleeing down the stairs....

After a round of high-fiving each other, the moles resumed their slumber...but not before the senior mole had explained to the young sentry that the correct term was either "Peeping Tom” or "Eavesdropper."

Why There Are Coyotes in the Bidet

The moles were curled up into a ball, with Sun-Tzu compacted into the center. Bradamante snored lightly; Kiku covered her ears and tried to doze. Then the sentry called out: "Doggie alert! Doggie alert!"

With much giggling, the moles anticipated a nuzzling from a wet canine nose, an affectionate game that brought respite from their duties.

There was a scream from the leading edge of the mole mass as sharp incisors sliced into juicy mole flesh. The defenseless creatures were savaged brutally, but not before Sun-Tzu turned to the young sentry and explained that the correct term was either "Run! Coyotes!" or "We're about to be eaten by coyotes!"

Opening: Tal.....Continuation: Mignon

Writing Exercise

The trouble with this blog is that it has no advertising. A universally known face like that of Evil Editor could sell any product or service. (Also, the day on which we did our previous graphic exercise, with book covers and movie posters, got more hits than any other day in months.) So, create a print ad involving Evil Editor selling or promoting or endorsing something. If you don't have the tools, write the ad copy and let me know what you envision on the page graphically. Together we'll come up with something. Deadline: Saturday at midnight eastern. Do as many as you like. Don't submit anonymously if you want credit.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Cartoon 96

Caption: Anonymous

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Cartoon 95

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Face-Lift 524

Guess the Plot


1. Shanna Grier was killed in an alley. Now she seeks justice for her killer, but can she manage it in her new incarnation as the killer's shadow?

2. Overcrowding in the city of P'ertad is causing developers to build taller and taller buildings. But in the world of Talkinnon, demons can rise from Hell through shadows that linger in one place too long. One young mage thinks he has a solution: giant mirrors. But will the vampire king allow it?

3. In the ultra-competitive world of professional shadow puppetry, Lance Darkly was the best. But when a new player comes to town, boasting impossibly complex shadow puppets, Darkly must decide--how far will he go to defend his title?

4. Insubstantial. Hidden. Destroyed by direct light. It's not easy being a shadow. But when Bronwen and Clive bump into each other on the street and accidentally exchange shadows, it gets a whole lot harder. Disoriented and picking up bits of each-other's personalities, they must reverse the exchange before their shadows take on lives of their own.

5. When shadows unionize and go on strike, the total lack of shade leads to a massive global warming disaster. The planet seems doomed -- until scab clouds show up and save the day.

6. Jon was transformed into ghost ninety years ago, but he's hung around Earth performing secret missions in his shadow existence. When a chance to become a human again arises, he is thrilled--until he realizes his ghostness is needed to end a dispute.

Original Version

Dear Super Agent,

Jonathan Clarke has everything a seventeen-year-old boy could want—except for a beating heart.

Transformed against his will, Jon has endured ninety years on Earth as a ghost, performing secret missions, advancing his magical skills, and staying close to the human side of things. When he meets Annie and discovers she can touch him, his dull existence [If I had magical powers and went on secret missions I wouldn't consider my existence dull.] is turned upside down. Annie has the power to change him back into a human, something Jon desperately wants.

His transformation is put on hold when a centuries-old rebellion escalates [A centuries-old rebellion? Listen, if you've been rebelling for centuries and you've gotten nowhere, it's time to give up and pay the tax or whatever. Also, if you're in charge and some entity rebels against you, and you're incapable of quashing the rebellion over a period of centuries, your military forces suck. Boxer Rebellion: over in two years. Whisky Rebellion: three. American Civil War: four. And your rebellion's been going on for centuries? And now it's escalating?!

Rebel 1: We've been rebelling for three and a half centuries. I think it's time.

Rebel 2: Time to give up?

Rebel 1: Time for a troop surge.]

and Jon's ghostly powers are needed to stop it. [Why didn't he use his ghostly powers to stop it 90 years ago? Do other ghosts have the same powers? What can a ghost do that a wizard can't?] He's recruited by both sides; [Why have they waited ninety years to recruit him?] Annie wavers in her decision to help him, and his closest friends may be his biggest enemies. If Jon can't find a way to overcome the dissenters, [Who are the dissenters?] he may never become human—because he won't exist at all. [Why won't he exist? What are his ghostly powers? Who's dissenting about what? Who are his closest friends? Give us some specific information instead of hinting at this and that.]

Be prepared to think of ghosts in a completely new way [As wizards.] in SHADOWS, a young adult urban fantasy novel, complete at 100,000 words.

If you would like to consider SHADOWS, I'd be happy to forward the manuscript to you.

Thank you,


It's not clear what is meant by Jon has everything a 17-yr.-old boy could want. Like what? What's he got?

For whom has Jon been performing secret missions? One of the two sides in the rebellion fiasco?

It feels like you're trying for a hook with every sentence instead of telling us a story.