Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Guess the Plot
1. Come to where the boys are: Rose Lodge, the home of the anatomically correct mannequin maker, Rose Cowry. Also, haunted sewing machines and weeping bloody walls.
2. When Laurel buys a lodge in Oregon, she's not looking for romance, but it's not long before the carpenter she hires to restore the place falls for her. Then the carpenter gets murdered, and other attacks convince Laurel the lodge is haunted by the malignant spirits of a secret society. Will she survive living in . . . Rose Lodge?
3. All the kids in town are sure the ruined Rose Lodge is haunted by the ghost of a teenaged girl murdered by twin brothers in 1897. Twin brothers Dave and Darren decide to investigate. Will they find the truth . . . or only death?
4. Henry Dreadlock falls in love the moment he lays eyes on the woman of his dreams, Valerie. Except she resides at Rose Lodge, one of Rose City's oldest hotels and one rumored to be haunted. Soon Henry is wondering why Valerie is always dressed in medieval garb and will never let him spend the night.
5. It was supposed to be a happy weekend of singing and cookie-baking, but when Bootsie Campbell arrives at the family reunion, an eerie wail from the forest signals that they must, again, contend with the banshee.
6. Jenny and Rick are booked into Rose Lodge for their honeymoon, but the place is nothing like its brochure. Not only is it a dump; they have to share a bathroom with the adjoining room, which is occupied by an annoying couple who spend more time in the bathtub than in their room. Can Jenny's marriage survive the honeymoon from hell?
Dear Perceptive Agent:
Rose Lodge is a 100,000-word contemporary romantic suspense story.
Acquitted of the stabbing murders of her husband and his mistress, Laurel White flees notoriety and suspicion in Seattle and buys Rose Lodge, a derelict inn deep in the coastal mountains of Oregon. She's looking for community and trust, not romance, but soon two men vie for her attention. One is an engaging carpenter hired to restore the lodge, the other is her neighbor Davis Odenkirk, a widowed geologist who opposes her living in Rose Lodge, for reasons he will not name. [But which may have something to do with the effect on property values of having a serial killer living next door.]
When mysterious attacks against Laurel escalate, she has reason to suspect everyone close to her. [When you just moved deep into the mountains in a new state, it doesn't seem like you'd be that close to anyone.] Even the lodge itself seems to be trying to harm her. Then the carpenter is murdered, Laurel's handywoman is viciously assaulted, and Laurel's best friend vanishes. [Her best friend in the Oregon mountains, or her best friend forever?] The attacks cease and Laurel believes the perpetrator has been stopped--but by whom? [What do the police believe? I assume they're investigating the murder, if not the other attacks.]
Laurel finds a hidden cellar [Hidden in the attic, the last place anyone would look for a cellar.] containing a trunk holding clues to the inn's troubled past. The clues lead to a labyrinthine lava tube, which she learns was the "place of spirit" of a shamanist secret society. During the chaos of a hurricane-force windstorm Laurel is kidnapped by her best friend, who insists that Davis committed the Seattle murders and plans to kill Laurel by the same brutal method. [Let me get this straight. Her friend wants her to believe that the person who killed her husband in Seattle happens to be the same guy who lives next door to the lodge she bought deep in the Oregon mountains, bought after the murder of her husband? No one would expect someone to buy that. Have you held back some key information that makes this somehow reasonable?] Laurel escapes to the unexplored and unstable caves. Fighting for her life, she must decide whom to trust: her friend [from whom she escaped after being kidnapped,] or the man she loves [who tried to convince her not to live in Death Lodge]. [Tough decision.]
Davis uses science to uncover the secret of Rose Lodge's strange power while Laurel takes a spiritual approach and opens the caves to the shamans' descendants. Together they lay to rest the house's malignant influence. Laurel creates a place for herself in her new community, and she and Davis open themselves to love.
I have sold romance stories to True Story and True Romance. For many years, I lived on the Oregon coast, where I survived more than one hurricane-force windstorm.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
This has several similarities to The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer. In that book the house is called Rose Red, rather than Rose Lodge. The place is under construction, it's in Seattle, built on a native American burial ground, has a life of its own. The heroine has a cheating husband. Gruesome murders occur in the house. It might be worth having Laurel start in California instead of Seattle, and giving the lodge a different name to reduce the similarities.
As he gets murdered anyway, we don't need to know the carpenter has a romantic interest in Laurel. On the other hand, you might mention her attraction to Davis earlier, as this is a romance to some extent, and it's a little jolting to describe him near the end as the man she loves, when all we know about him up to then is that he didn't want her in his neighborhood, and he might be a murderer.
The plot portion could be made shorter by leaving out some of the information that inspires questions, questions that may not come up when reading the book:
Acquitted of the stabbing murders of her husband and his mistress, Laurel White flees notoriety and suspicion in San Francisco and buys Doom Lodge, a derelict inn deep in the coastal mountains of Oregon. She's looking for community and trust, not romance, but soon finds herself attracted to Davis Odenkirk, a widowed geologist who lives nearby.
When the carpenter restoring the lodge is murdered, Laurel's handywoman is viciously assaulted, and mysterious attacks against Laurel escalate, Laurel begins to think the lodge itself is trying to harm her. She finds an old trunk holding clues to the inn's troubled past, and learns that the lodge is built over a maze of caves that were once the "place of spirit" of a shamanist secret society. Suddenly the idea that the lodge is haunted doesn't seem far-fetched.
Davis uses science to uncover the secret of Doom Lodge's strange power while Laurel takes a spiritual approach and opens the caves to the shamans' descendants. Together they lay to rest the house's malignant influence. Laurel creates a place for herself in her new community, and she and Davis open themselves to love.
Monday, September 29, 2008
New Beginning 556
The cashier thumbed through the money. "All singles?"
"Girlfriend's a stripper." He grinned at the explanation, but the cashier had already ducked her head and begun counting rapid-fire, laying the bills into short piles. As she silently mouthed each ten count, Mikey caught tantalizing glimpses of the wet, inner part of her lower lip.
"I change her tips because she don't like bringing a bunch of crumpled little bills to the bank. Thinks it makes people stare at her." He worked a toothpick from one corner of his mouth to the other. "Which is funny, seeing as that's what she gets paid for, right?"
The cashier kept counting.
Mikey leaned into the counter. The bars of the cage blocked most of his view, but he was able to sneak a peek down the front of her turquoise blouse. He thought he saw a bit of lace down there.
"You know," he said slowly. "You could be."
"Could be what, sir?"
Somewhere behind him bells rang, and a woman squealed in delight.
Mikey turned around and let his eyes wander across the huge room. He expected to see one of the slot machines flashing and churning out quarters, but what he saw was a middle-aged woman with a piece of paper, shrieking and jumping in the air.
"What's with the dame?" he asked, turning back to the cage.
The cashier stopped counting and looked up at Mikey, her professional demeanor hiding her distaste. "Kasino Kreep Keno," she said, glancing past him. "Apparently your stripper line just won her the ten grand jackpot."
Opening: Benwah.....Continuation: Anon.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Saturday Film Series
Friday, September 26, 2008
Guess the Plot
Nick Rossi and the Real Piece of Work
1. In this light-hearted romance, ambulance driver Nick Rossi is enjoying a day off at the beach, when who should collapse unconscious on the sand nearby, but Amy Winehose?
2. That he's been chosen to mentor a toy doll in her transformation to human form is bad enough, but Nick Rossi discovers that the doll is a bubble gum-popping shopaholic. Before he can even ditch the doll, she's kidnapped by a life-sized wax figure. Will Nick bother trying to rescue his charge? Also, an inflatable yard Santa, a clipboard-toting cricket and a demented CPR dummy.
3. Nick Rossi invests the modern way -- blindfolded. Tactile vibes from annual reports tell him what to buy and sell. But where will all the money go when secretary Bootsi Campbell slips him a deck of mickies to choose from? Plus: three poodles, 12 red roses, a hunky motorcycle cop, and sixteen karate thugs.
4. Nick Rossi grew up in his dad's vermouth factory. Now he oversees production, shipping, foreign markets and the budget. Unfortunately, the public's penchant for extra dry martinis, not to mention that dirty olive juice concoction, means he has to work hard convincing everyone that vermouth is a necessary part of the drink.
5. Jeannie Glob is a piece of work, all right. Beautiful and vicious, with a streak of stupid right down the middle, she spots Nick at Rossi's Pizza Parlor. But she learns the hard way she's no match for a real piece of work when Nick's sister, mob hitwoman "Messy Tessy" Rossi, finds out about the lunch money scam.
6. Nick's day started out badly. Every one of the samples of so-called genuine Bruges lace from China, guaranteed to make him millions on a certain television shopping channel, looked like a doily from a Russian mobster's Zil. His only hope is to shop the real piece of work to another sweatshop and hope for the best. One more failure and he'll have to apologise to Dave Martini and beg for his old job back.
Like pretty much every other guy on the planet, fourteen-year-old Nick Rossi assumes he started out as a real boy. He couldn't be more wrong.
When a clipboard-toting cricket hops onto his nightstand and tells him he's been selected as a mentor for TUT – Toys Undergoing Transition – Nick figures there's a locked, padded room in his future. The cricket abandons Nick to a nightmarish fate: Melanie, an eight-inch-high, bubble-gum popping doll. Nick is supposed to be mentoring her toward Real Girlhood, but all Melanie wants to learn is how to online shop and which reality TV star is the hottest. She has all the makings of a real girl all right. A real annoying girl.
Then Mad Dog Marshall, a life-sized animated wax figure and cricket-experiment-gone-wrong, kidnaps Melanie. Marshall thinks Nick's got the secret to becoming fully real, and Melanie is his bait. Nick's tempted to ditch the dumb doll, but as he wrestles with the truth of his own unlikely beginnings, he decides a mentor's got to do what a mentor's got to do. Armed with the world's puniest pocketknife and a Google map, Nick launches his rescue mission. [When entering the lair of a wax figure, the weapon of choice is a flamethrower.] His goal is simple: find Marshall's lair and put the smackdown on the wax figure and [his] henchman freaks – a group that includes an inflatable yard Santa and a demented CPR dummy. But before Nick can defeat the bad guys and rescue Melanie, he's got to figure out just what this secret is he's supposed to have. [Why can't he figure it out after the rescue?]
NICK ROSSI AND THE REAL PIECE OF WORK is a 38,000 word middle grade novel that addresses the burning question on everyone's mind: whatever [what ever] happened to that Pinocchio kid, anyway? Thank you for your consideration, and I hope for the opportunity to speak with you further about this project.
Very nice. Some minor suggestions:
Change "supposed to be mentoring" to "supposed to mentor." Or "assigned to mentor."
Change "wants to learn " to "cares about."
Delete "on everyone's mind."
I assume there's a reason "that Pinocchio kid" assumes he started out as a real boy? Like he's blocked out Gepetto and the Blue Fairy and his donkey days as an emotional defense mechanism?
Thursday, September 25, 2008
New Beginning 555
"I saw some bums in brown... some boobs in beige and some bootylicious butt cheeks in almost-translucent pink spandex, but no man in black Dude, no sir, no man in black." Wyatt slid his ballcap up the back of his head and over his eyes. Ben huffed, made fists, made pounding movements with his hands and stomped; so ready to break into a hissy fit.
"Over there. You looked right at him." Ben watched for any sign of recognition on Wyatt's face. Nothing. He tried again. "Broad-rim hat, gray bandana, coal-black pants, dusty boots." Wyatt's eyes opened wide. His eyebrows nearly touched the top of his forehead.
"Jeez, dude, that's him!" Wyatt shouted.
The man by the news stand turned toward them and his eyes widened in startled recognition. In a flash, before they could move, Jacques DuQuene, jewel thief and murderer, disappeared into the crowd.
"Dammit!" said Ben. He looked in exasperation at Wyatt's tee-shirt. Dammit again. If they had to go undercover as mall-rat music fans, why did his partner's favorite band have to be The Police?
Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Anon
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
New Beginning 554
The agent put the manuscript down. "It's a little different from your other stuff, Thomas. So. They're lesbians, then?"
"Well, that's not really the--"
"Interesting. Interesting. Do they explore the sensual mystery of each other's--"
"That's not-- I mean, it's more metaphorical. It's about--"
"Pictures? This isn't--" Pynchon shook his head. Penguin's merger with Penthouse wasn't going well.
"This could make a truckload of money."
On the other hand, maybe he could get some pictures.
Opening: hepkath.....Continuation: Anon.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Guess the Plot
1. When rocker Davy Spanks dies, Spanks imitator Elroy attempts the ultimate tribute show – and gets mistaken for Davy, accused of faking his own death. Now Elroy must lead Davy's mercurial girlfriend and bickering bandmates on their reunion tour. Even worse, Elroy is beginning to suspect that Davy did fake his own death.
2. In this light-hearted mystery for the picture book set, Silly Chicken dodges falling acorns and thinks the world is ending, but ace detective Shamrock Holmes, the cleverest frog in Ireland, suspects a certain rascally squirrel is responsible. But how can he prove it?
3. Tina Spark sends her poodle out to pee just as the giant Space Globe descends from a cloud and hovers over the back yard. Thousands of tiny parachutes pop out of hatches in the Globe and float down to earth. By the time Tina opens the door to call Fluff in, the grass is teeming with squeaky little blue creatures. Is it wrong to let the dog eat them?
4. It's up to homicide detective Zack Martinez to unmask the culprit responsible for the horrors at Baskerville Manor. He decides to channel Sherlock Holmes and heads to Reggie's Pipe 'N Tweed for a new outfit, where he is nearly taken prisoner by scheming socialite Pamela Bassett. Can his new butler keep this wonton creature occupied long enough for Zack to solve the murder? Or will wedding bells soon be ringing?
5. Every year the Fodellan people sacrifice one of their unmarried youth to the god Ban-Har-Gran. Zula has been selected, and so prepares to meet her god. But Jamaris loves her, and the thought of her death is to much for him to bear. Will he rescue Zula, condemning their people to doom?
6. Alexandra escapes Jezebel and the bad crowd she'd become a part of, and forms bonds of friendship with a new group, joining their struggling band. When one of their own dies, the band plays a song in tribute. Hey, they had to do something . . . but was the Chicken Dance really the most appropriate song?
When sarcastic firebrand Alexandra Laurence joins up with the wrong crowd of kids, she hardly notices the path of destruction her rebellion instigates.
Life changes dramatically for Alex, however, when the gang of defiant teenagers demands retribution for the school's expulsion of one of their members. Alex chafes under the control of her volatile leader, Jezebel Collins, while acting as an unwilling puppet in the plot for revenge. When a violent betrayal shatters her existing world, [It takes no more words to say, "When Jezebel's goons murder Alex's best friend," thus providing us with specific information.] Alex finds herself in a new environment, new school, and a new life. [Finds herself? Did her family move? Was she beamed in the Star Trek transporter? Tell us.] [Topic for discussion: Which is more likely to malfunction: the transporter or the holodeck?] It takes a faulty reinvention of her identity, [What does that mean?] a struggling band, and the reentrance of Jake Garrison, one night’s bad memory, before Alex decides to try and find herself once again. [She just found herself in the last sentence.] In the process, she determines her true identify [Identity. I'm starting to wonder if she really was beamed to her new world in a transporter, one that stole her memory.] and discovers a group of friends with a similar passion for music and devotion to the people they love. Together, Alex and her peers face the harsh reality and angst of modern high school life while forging a bond that proves strong enough to survive even the most painful of experiences: the death of one of their own. [
Many novels emphasize the hyperboles of teenage life, but in actuality the bookstores are becoming devoid of works depicting the true reality of today's high school generation. [If this agent needs you to tell her what's in bookstores, she's the wrong agent.] This 130,000-word work, mainstream young adult fiction, covers the trials, emotions, and events that comprise today's high school experiences while examining the stereotypes and clichés that apply to an age group in constant motion and grasping for independence.
My own teenage years have been spent growing up in a materialistic, commanding, and judgmental society, which has given me firsthand experience to incorporate into this work. [Translation: I am uniquely qualified to write about teenagers because I am one. I suggest keeping that to yourself for the time being.] While not yet published, I have attended multiple workshops and received excellent reviews on this piece from teachers, peers, and aspiring writers. I have also completed two other books and am in the process of writing a sequel to this work, a planned series of four. [If it's 130,000 words, you've already written the sequel.]
Please let me know if you are interested in reading Tribute or receiving a more descriptive synopsis. I have enclosed a SASE for your convenience.
[Note to EE (not part of the query; got it minions? NOT part of the query.): The title of the novel comes into play in the last chapter, which involves the group playing a song as a kind of accolade (or tribute) to their friend, which is hinted on within the query, but not fully expressed.]
Your first sentence is set off from the rest of the query as if it's the main hook. Yet it seems this is just setup, and the story really begins after Alex somehow gets to her new world, in which case there's no reason the sentence needs a paragraph to itself.
Terms like path of destruction, volatile leader, violent betrayal, unwilling puppet are better suited to a political thriller than a book about high school angst. If you want to convince an agent you are the person to write about high school kids, talk like a high school kid. And not the one who always aces his vocab tests.
Even if a large part of the book takes place in Alex's original world, a brief mention is plenty. Something like:
When Alexandra Laurence's family move to Charleston, Alex sees it as a chance to start her high school life over, this time avoiding the clique of terrorists she fell in with in Atlanta.
When sarcastic firebrand Alexandra Laurence awakens one morning to find herself in an alternate universe, she decides it's the perfect time to join a rock band.
I'm assuming the main plot isn't Alex versus Jezebel, as moving away would not be a good way to resolve things. I'm assuming the main plot is Alex starting over, so concentrate on that. Is there a villain in that part? Is there conflict? Is it the story of how these kids handle the death? Was the dead kid's blood drained? Because with the Twilight series over, the bookstores are becoming devoid of works depicting the true reality of today's high school vampire generation. Focus on the most important part of the plot. And ditch the biography.
Monday, September 22, 2008
New Beginning 553
The highest number recorded that night was 483. At levels above four hundred, the brainstem usually throws its hands in the air and gives up, leading to a loss of respiratory function, coma, and rapidly approaching death. This threshold applies to most people who land in the ER with alcohol poisoning, like keg-standing frat boys or bored housewives who go a bit overboard with their mid-afternoon martinis and Vicodin. But for guys who make serious drinking a lifelong occupation, the ones whose hearts don't so much pump blood as sluggishly marinate in it, such stratospheric quantities of liquor in the blood can be compatible with life.
These men are the ER doctors, pickled and stewed but still on their feet, diagnosing and treating those who try to reach their heights but fail every time. In the world of competitive drinking, they are unmatched, reaching blood alcohol levels that would drop a horse. How do they achieve such numbers?
Find out tonight, as 20/20 investigates.
Opening: Benwah.....Continuation: Mignon
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Saturday Film Series
Friday, September 19, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Guess the Plot
1. Trying to find a place where she fits in, Autumn leaves Planet Sun and ends up on Planet Fall. She loves the remarkable beauty of leaves forever in oranges and reds, and is at peace. But when the frosts come unanounced and unwelcome, she must confront the witches of winter if she is going to protect her perfect world.
2. Emma is enjoying her time on the planet Jellybean, because it gets her away from men. Men. They're such bastards. Then she learns that the Jellies plan to castrate every man on Earth. Emma thinks that wouldn't be so bad. Should she warn Earth that sex is in danger of becoming a distant memory?
3. Goldie tries Planet Winter but it's too cold. She tries Planet Summer but it's too hot. Planet Spring reminds her too much of California because it attracts the preternaturally young and beautifully superficial from throughout the Cosmos. But Goldie strikes, well, gold on Planet Fall. Also strange EZF’s (Evil Zombie Females).
4. When his interstellar space car breaks down, Thor Jones drinks tea with mystic wise guy Obi Chobi Gobi, until an army of giant ants swarms over the horizon and carries Screaming Mimi away. Can Thor and his new sidekick, the barking space rat Whiskers, follow the trail of frayed bikini scraps and find the anthill in time to save her from certain doom at the mandibles of these diabolical insects?
5. Jillian is hoping her new boutique, Planet Fall, will be a showcase for her classic designs. Honore is a gay jewelry designer whose elegant creations have become a hallmark for Jillian. Ned is their bisexual lover--and landlord. Can they all find happiness?
6. High above an Earth ravaged by pollution and disease, refugees of the human race live in clusters of space stations. Julia Sky has lived all her life looking down at the once blue planet. But while playing hooky from her astronomy class, she tumbles to a secret that may allow this tiny community to survive the trip back down the gravity well to the planet's surface. Also, a robot dog.
Dear Evil Editor,
All Emma wants is to be alone and far from men but when she finds out that aliens plan to castrate every man on Earth [Bells and whistles and red flags fill the air as Evil Editor starts to consider whether this might be a hoax query letter.] she has to choose between preserving her precious solitude and saving mankind. [Is this really that tough a decision? Ice cream or cake is a tough decision. Save mankind or don't seems pretty easy.] My science-fiction novel Planet Fall is 75,000 words long.
Emma is on Jellybean [We've just shot up from fifty percent possibility it's a hoax to ninety percent.] studying the colour/gesture language of the friendly natives and enjoying the distance between her and the rest of the human race, especially the male part of it. That is, until David is sent to assist her. [When you send someone to Jellybean, how long is it before he actually gets there?] Through him the Jellies find out about the Earth's war-torn history [Blabbermouth.] and they decide to help out. Their solution is to engineer a virus that will interfere with the production of testosterone in humans; then they will release it into Earth's atmosphere. [What? What about the Prime Directive? True, we never obey it, but that's because our bodies are coursing with testosterone.]
David is horrified. If the virus is released then sex will cease; the human drive to explore will vanish; [the porn industry will be in ruins, destroying the world economy;] and human societies based on the subjugation of women will be turned upside down. [Horrors.] Emma thinks that's not all bad until she discovers that the Jellies have already infected her and David without their knowledge. [Apparently it took them twenty minutes to engineer the virus.] Now it's not just men that she doesn't trust. [It's also Jelly.] Communications with Earth have gone down so it is up to her and David to find a way to stop the Jellies from releasing the plague onto the Earth.
The problem is that if they succeed then the Jellies will send them back home. And they are infected. [A minor problem compared to if they fail.]
Please let me know if you would like to see [whatever I'm not enclosing, depending on the publisher's guidelines]. Thank you for your time and consideration.
I was hoping it was a hoax so I wouldn't have to do any work, but no such luck.
"Jellybean" sounds like a planet in a book for people who wouldn't normally be reading about castration, because they're six years old. Once we've learned to communicate with the Jellies, wouldn't we ask them what they call their planet?
What do Jellies look like? The blob?
So, Emma thinks it might not be so bad to infect the entire Earth without telling anyone, but when they infect her without telling her, she's ready to go to war. Or she would be, if she had any testosterone in her.
Being infected doesn't destroy her drive to save humanity by thwarting the Jellies' plan?
I note that you withhold the reason Emma is down on men. We might be more sympathetic if we knew what happened.
The communication/transportation between Jellybean and Earth suggests they aren't far apart. Just where is Jellybean?
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
New Beginning 552
Located miles from the nearest town on a small farm-to-market road a mile or so from a main highway, that orange glow made passing motorists uneasy even before they saw the lighted billboards warning drivers that stopping, or even slowing, would result in a ticket.
Motorists who turned off the farm to market road into the prison's two-lane driveway were confronted by a new string of ominous yellow warnings. Not only would carrying firearms or tobacco into the prison result in criminal prosecution, but anyone who passed that point would now be subject to strip searches.
Officer Mark Clotell gave a sardonic glance at the ever-increasing speedometer as his flashing brights shattered like rubies off the rear light clusters of the Cadillac in front of--
Murdoch picked up the phone and dialed. "Dammit, Merril, whose freaking idea was it to get Bill Shatner to voice-over the new series of America's Worst Offenders?" --anon.
Opening: Reb Bacchus.....Continuation: Anon.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Guess the Plot
1. Jackie is known as 'Miss Midas' at the brokerage because so many of her stock picks are profitable. She has a secret--a time traveller from 2017 who gives her the annual reports. Can she prevent the Great Depression of 2015 while maintaining her own net worth?
2. Transferring to a new alchemy school in the middle of the term is tough on Carrie Nickel. She's got no chemistry with her classmates and all of her experiments fizzle. In an attempt to win friends, she cooks up a plot to win the homecoming title of Miss Midas. But when it comes to melting the leaden heart of the golden boy quarterback, will she learn that all it takes is a simple touch?
3. Leila brings golden luck to everyone she meets, but her own life is a wreck. When she escapes to a secluded cottage, her gift transforms her wacky, unhappy neighbors' lives. But can she win over Pablo, the hunky gardener, before her Midas touch reunites him with his long-lost sweetheart?
4. Desperate to win the heart of Brandon, Jane wishes for supernatural help . . . and gets it. Now any guy she touches falls head over heels for her. But Jane happens to touch a lot of guys besides Brandon, and they'll go to any lengths to get her. Can Jane learn to control her power before it costs her the one guy she wants?
5. She divorced him after he killed the kids by turning them into gold statuary. Remarried to a slacker, the impoverished former Queen of Pessinus is down to her kids’ last gold toenails, with no other source of income on the horizon. Dare she admit that she might...Miss Midas?
6. No woman has ever entered the Mr. Midas Contest, a grueling competition sponsored by a national chain of muffler and brake shops. Enter Julie, the target of ceaseless harassment as the only female mechanic in her uncle's franchise. Can she prove that her brake lines are as impressive as her bustline?
All Jane Mitchell wanted was a way to win Brandon Drake’s heart—she never intended for it to be as effortless as a single touch. [It's always that effortless, if you choose the right place to touch.] Especially not when Brandon isn’t the only one who falls head over heels in love, but every guy her hands come in contact with. [An awkward sentence, and an unneeded one.] Complete at 64,000 words, Miss Midas is a contemporary YA novel with a touch of magic.
Jane is proudly entrenched in the "Middle" social strata at Avery High School. But when glamorous Caralina Guererro of the Top Strata lures Brandon into her world, the Middle is suddenly a very bad place to be. Distraught by her failed attempts to win Brandon, Jane makes a desperate wish for some supernatural help in catching a guy’s heart.
Jane gets her man all right, but she quickly realizes that, with her new Midas touch, any and every guy could fall for her. [She immediately thinks, What am I doing hanging around this cow town? and heads for Hollywood to seek out George Clooney.] However, Caralina isn’t giving up on Brandon so easily. When her tactics get dirty, Jane decides to use her powers to dethrone Caralina once and for all. And, as if things weren’t complicated enough, all those guys Jane has touched have plans of their own, and they’re willing to go to great lengths to get her. [And this is a bad thing how?] Jane must somehow control her power, and her life, before she loses the one thing she wanted in the first place: Brandon Drake.
(Personalized agent info.) I would be happy to send you the manuscript at your request. Thank you so much for your time.
I like the idea. It would work for an adult romance novel as well, I think. The query is a bit disorganized; I think the plot reads better as follows:
All Jane Mitchell wanted was to win Brandon Drake’s heart—but she never dreamed it would be as effortless as a single touch. Complete at 64,000 words, Miss Midas is a contemporary YA novel with a "touch" of magic.
Jane is happily entrenched in the "Middle" social strata at Avery High School--until glamorous Caralina Guererro of the Top strata lures Brandon into her world. Suddenly the Middle is a gloomy, lonely place. Distraught by her failed attempts to win Brandon, Jane makes a desperate wish for supernatural help.
Jane gets her wish all right, but she quickly realizes that with her new "Midas touch," every guy she comes in contact with will go to any lengths to get her. Not quite what she wanted. And what's worse, Caralina isn’t giving up on Brandon. When her tactics turn dirty, Jane decides to dethrone Caralina once and for all, before losing the one thing she wanted in the first place: Brandon Drake.
That's a bit short; you might want to include a specific example of Caralina's dirty tactics and/or an example of the hilarity that ensues when every guy in the school wants Jane.
I'm not sure whether Jane learns a valuable lesson or whether it's expected in YA that the main character should do so, but beyond the Be careful what you wish for lesson, It's not clear Jane has the right to complain about Caralina's dirty tactics when her own tactics involve a magic spell. And considering that Brandon is the type who is attracted to the glamorous Caralina while ignoring the more grounded and more deserving Jane, who needs him anyway? If she succeeds in dethroning Caralina, great, but if her Midas touch wins her Brandon and she's happy with a guy who's with her only because of magic, maybe not so great.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Guess the Plot
Cliquing on Time
1. Susan hates her high school, where everyone is organized into cliques. But in Dateline High, the clicks are organized by time, and somehow she got stuck with the 2 AM crowd, which means they are always, always asleep. But Susan has her sights set on high noon, and she won't stop until she's clawed her way out of the sleepers and into the lunch date crowd.
2. The popular girls torment Andrea about her relentless punctuality. Cute geek Dan breaks out in hives whenever she's near. High school is tough for an android. When a disaster hits, can Andrea save the day, put the cliques in their place, and win the love of a boy with a metal allergy?
3. Detective Morris Night of the Minneapolis Police Department has been handed a crucial assignment: find out why local teenagers are suddenly disappearing in droves. Night uncovers a new, memory-erasing designer drug, street-named "Time." In a troubled city, can Night stop Time before time runs out?
4. Unpopular band geek, Hermitrude, obsessed with cuckoo clocks and stopwatches, schemes and murders to secure herself a place in the popular clique at her elementary school.
5. At the Texas maximum security prison, the men doing hard time have formed cliques: murderers, rapists, drug dealers, gang members . . . Now they've suddenly found themselves on a raw new world where their survival depends on cooperation. Can these societal misfits choose a leader and work together, or will chaos reign?
6. Twelve-year-old Mefistia Wrench downloads an Internet computer game, Tiempo No Molestame. She and her girlfriends start playing the game together online, but each girl's world changes with each move. The game then announces that only one can return home. Will Mefistia return to her proper time? And what of her friends?
No one at the Texas maximum security prison knew what happened in the small hours of New Year's Day as their regimented world spun into chaos. Murderers, rapists, gang members, drug dealers, and "freeworlders" collided with each other and with nature on a raw, new world. [Whattaya mean, a raw new world? Have they gone back in time to one million B.C. ? Or was there an earthquake that killed the guards and left the place in rubble? Tell us where they are.]
[Rapist: Where the hell are we?
Drug dealer: I don't know, but it smells bad, and there are strange noises emanating from that canyon.
Murderer: Isn't it obvious? We've somehow been transported to Uranus.]
Community would be redefined by the antisocial. Slowly, order, and even romance, emerged, stumbling amid dire setbacks in the tragicomedy of life. [Huh?]
Ultimately, does survival depend more on overcoming the brutality of nature or overcoming the nature of the brutal? [Trying too hard to be clever, I think. "Overcoming the nature of the brutal" is clunky.]
During my thirteen years as a volunteer in a Texas maximum security prison, [When you're doing twenty to life and you ask them to let you work in the prison library, does that make you a volunteer?] I have made a number of close friends; most, I pray will never come visit me. [Sounds kinda like me and my minions.] I have used composites of my friends to create characters who have captivated even skeptical readers. In showing these characters struggling to survive on an empty clone of Earth, I portrayed them positively but also realistically and honestly.
The positive responses to my first book surprised me. Looking for feedback from the maximum number of readers, I submitted it to Baen Book's unofficial slush pile. The response was so positive that mine was the first and perhaps the only unofficial submission to make it to Mr. Bean's desk. [Mr. Bean's desk?] [Thanks a lot. I just blew two hours watching Mr. Bean pantomime skits on Youtube.] He had asked to see the second book in my series before he would commit, but he died before I finished editing it. [Yep, that sounds like a Mr. Bean plot.] With Mr. Baen gone, I'm unwilling to submit the over 330K word series to anyone without an agent. [Are you saying your willingness to submit to a publisher was dependent on Mr. Baen's survival? Intriguing. But not as intriguing as if your willingness to submit to a publisher was dependent on Mr. Bean's survival.]
One last personal note: "a man's got to know his limitations," and I know that any competent agent could write a better query than I. I've researched you carefully; I understand and value the talents an agent of your caliber provides for a storyteller.
Thank you for your time and careful consideration.
Instead of concluding with a note about how your query sucks, why not improve it? You're writing a business letter to an agent. It needs to include a clear description of your book's plot. Your premise is that the inmates in a maximum security prison find themselves on an empty clone of Earth. I assume there's an explanation, so what is it?
Which prisoner is the main bad guy, the one who prevents anything from getting done? In what way is nature brutal here? Describe the hardships the "good guys" have to overcome with a couple specific examples.
An agent is unlikely to care that your book once made it out of an unofficial slush pile.
Drop the Baen paragraph and the following one and you'll have plenty of room to tell us what happens in your book in the plain language you would use if we were sitting on opposite sides of a bulletproof window on visitors day. What's the situation, who are the key characters, what's keeping them from attaining their goal?
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Saturday Film Series
Today it's a double feature of film-noir detective movies. Same price as always, but twice the pleasure you usually find in Evil Editor's Shorts.
Friday, September 12, 2008
New Beginning 551
Chipping Camden, being West Roxbury’s fattest and loudest mouse, screamed a thunderous scream and rolled all over the sidewalk on his beachball-shaped belly.
“I’m injured! I’m injured!” cried the pudgy mouse, holding up his flattened tail.
“He’s injured! He’s injured!” cried the sticky children, pointing at the mouse’s tail.
“Ssshhh! Ssshhh!” cried the fancy businessman, rubbing mouse fur off his right front tire.
Crowds gathered and fingers wagged. Somebody calling himself Mister Esquire came dashing over with a mouse-sized wooden cane. The businessman had to escape from the embarrassment of it all.
“I’ll make you a deal,” the businessman whispered to the mouse. “If you stop crying and screaming, I’ll give you this map I bought yesterday. It says it’s magical.”
Mr. Esquire ran up to Chipping, huffing mouse-sized huffs and puffing mouse-sized puffs. “Take no deal from an obviously dangerous and careless citizen without first consulting a personal injury lawyer.” Mr. Esquire looked at the businessman's clothing and jewelry and nearly had an embolism. “I see you're very seriously injured,” Mr. Esquire said to Chipping, whacking him in the knee with his cane.
“I'm in chapter 7 bankruptcy,” said the businessman.
“I see,” said Mr. Esquire. "Hmm. How much damage do you think this vandal did to your car?”
Opening: Chris Eldin.....Continuation: Bill H.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
GUD, Issue 3 . . .
is now available. And it includes a story by Evil Editor. Whether they printed the story because they liked it or because they assumed the minions were more likely to buy the magazine with EE in it, I can't say. The important point is that you need to go to their site and check out how much material you get if you buy it. You can buy a PDF version, or you can order a print version, in which case you also get the pdf. Or you can just buy EE's story. Chances are if you buy the whole magazine, you'll end up subscribing.
Coincidentally, the opening to my story appears in New Beginning 550, just below this post.
New Beginning 550
“Hmm?” Mrs. Benkelstein said, looking up from her book.
“Why, this’ll cut a full ten minutes off our trip easily,” he went on. “Let's see, that’s twenty minutes round trip, and since we visit your mother once a month, twelve times a year--twelve too many, I might add-–we should--”
“I’m not listening,” Mrs. Benkelstein said. She went back to reading 101 Ways to Slice a Batard.
Benkelstein pressed on the accelerator as he mentally calculated the number of years it would take this new short cut to save him a full twenty-four hours behind the wheel.
Fifty yards in, Benkelstein passed the new road’s first sign. "840," it read, and below that, the word "Future."
"Geese cackle , feathers tickle, beets pickle . . . " he sang. "No, that's not it . . . "
Mrs. Benkelstein turned the page. "If you don't look where you're going, we'll be pickled."
Benkelstein took no notice. He was calculating how much time he'd save by exceeding the speed limit in increments of both five and ten miles per hour.
The SUV roared up a hill, and flew into the air when it reached the top.
Hmm, Benkelstein thought, maybe I-840 isn't finished after all.
Opening: Evil Editor.....Continuation: BuffySquirrel
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Guess the Plot
The Seven Gates
1. Antique book dealer Jack Crusoe rescues a woman's shoe from the mud and she invites him up to her hilltop castle to see THE SEVEN GATES, a book she found in a niche in the dungeon. Is the book a previously unknown masterpiece? A supernatural message? Or just a ruse to lure Jack into her dangerous lair?
2. Gate seven gives you power over magic. Gate six gives you power over time. Gate five gives you power over women. And so on. Can Bram Lockheart, a chartered accountant from Sussex, beat the odds?
3. Each of the seven gates in the valley opens into a different world, a world whose inhabitants have wondrous powers. Sechra may sample a world once and stay or return. Will she find a world she wants to live in forever, or will she come to realize, There's no place like home?
4. There are six gates into the world's largest beauty/nail/tanning salon and one into Hell. Can game show contestant Mark Potash avoid choosing the wrong gate? Or is this game rigged? Also, an elderly aunt with a sentient mollusk living in her brain.
5. Outside the city of Kashka-Du are seven gates. Only one leads to the city; the rest go to mazes guarded by hellbeasts. Crysalla and her friends must reach the Temple and seize the throne. Can they negotiate the gates . . . and live?
6. When Ginral returns from berry picking to discover her entire village has been wiped out, the shy 12-yr.-old girl is faced with a difficult choice -- stay in the village or seek the aid of a powerful being who can only be reached by passing through The Seven Gates -- a dangerous pilgrimage from which few have returned.
Sechra isn’t responsible for saving the world; she just has to choose her world and her place in it. That is difficult and dangerous enough.
Sechra helps with her aunt Rena’s farm work with all her strength and about half her mind. She hopes desperately to be accepted by her aunt’s family and by her neighbors, the farmers and tradesmen of Dunlin village, in spite having inherited her absent father’s foreign looks and her dead mother’s discontent. And she dreams of a different world, a place of quests and perils and enchantments where she will be wise and strong and brave and fully at home. When the enchanted valley first opens to her, she thinks her dreams have come true.
Seven gates open from the valley into other worlds. Their inhabitants have powers such as Sechra has only dreamed of, and are willing to teach them to Sechra...with very mixed motives. Sechra’s dreams never warned her that in the enchanted lands she would have no courage or skill beyond what she has learned in Dunlin. [If the inhabitants are willing to teach their powers to Sechra, how can you say she would have no skill beyond what she had in Dunlin? She would have super swimming skills like Aquaman, or archery skills like Green Arrow.] Nor had they shown her that each [world's] gift comes at a terrible price. [For instance, in the world where she has X-Ray vision, all the boys are ugly under their clothes.]
Magister has gained endless life and mastery over his own will and the wills of others, but he has paid for it with his memories, his name, everything that made him human. [Give me mastery over the wills of others, especially the Olsen twins, and I'll happily give up my memories and name.] The Watcher has chosen the ability to see, hear and understand across great distances of space and time, and lost the power to intervene in any of the situations he sees. [It's just like watching TV. Hey, they should call me the Watcher.] The Weavers have learned to shape the fate of their world to their own intricate and lovely pattern, but they have lost the ability to see the individual lives and deaths that the pattern requires. [Whatever that means.]
Sechra can pass through each gate once and decide whether its world’s gift is worth the price. [Does someone tell her what the gifts and prices are, or does she have to figure all that out?] If she refuses the gift and manages to return safely to her own world, [Do they try to stop her?] the gate to the world she left will close behind her forever.
As Sechra passes and returns her eyes are opened and her own world grows richer and more painful. She has to face the tangled love, grief and resentment that bind her to Rena; her mother’s legacy of discontent; and, finally, the shadows in her own soul.
The Seven Gates, complete at 50,000 words, follows Sechra’s struggles and learnings in Dunlin and the worlds beyond the gates as she chooses the gift that is truly hers and the price she is willing to pay.
Thank you for taking time to read and consider this query.
Shorter would be better. For the query, not the book. Drop the second sentence of the first long paragraph, and just say She dreams of a different . . . Then drop the paragraph in which you give specific examples of how gifts backfire. The first and third ones are vague and the second one doesn't matter, since I assume the Watcher couldn't intervene in situations across space and time to begin with.
We need to know Sechra's age and the age range of those you expect to read the book.
How many of the gates does she go through? If it's all seven, 50,000 words seems pretty short. Assuming a few thousand words spent on Dunlin, that means you devote maybe 5000 words to each new world. Which means she walks through the gate, and it goes,
Stranger: Stay with us and you will have super strength and the ability to fly and heat vision.
Stranger: Don't you wanna hear about the Kryptonite?
and she's off to Gate #2. Does she have adventures in each world? Are there dangers involved in returning? I'd want to know about that.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Guess the Plot
Flowers of Peshavar
1. Peshavar has always dreamed of opening his own telemarketing business in New Delhi, and is thrilled when his first customer, a flower shop in Sheboygan, gives him business. However, flowers aren't the only thing blooming, and he finds himself falling deeper and deeper in love with Miss Kristen, the flower shop's owner.
2. It's said that Peshavar grows flowers with a scent so potent it drives all who smell it insane with lust. Can Bay "Farting" Fargas get some of those petals for himself, or will he spread only his own 'perfume'?
3. Abducted as a child and drafted into the KGB, Peshavar’s only memory from her early life is wandering a field of daisies with her mother. Now a reluctant assassin for the government that kidnapped her, she escapes to return to her hometown and the field of flowers where her innocence died.
4. A rose, a violet and a marigold, the last of the Sentient Flowers, embark on a quest. Together they must overcome their differences, discover their magical powers, and fulfill an ancient prophecy by ridding Peshavar of its evil human invaders.
5. Sent east, the flowers of Peshavar impassion hearts. Sent west, hearts are turned stony. Sent north, the flowers bring love to mind, and to the south, power. Will Morthane Bora use his inherited flower shop, the only one of it kind, to win Aleshia? Or the throne?
6. Lea is sent to the planet Peshavar, where all the women have flower names, to find out who's selling secrets to to the rival Casseopeans. Can she prevent the Cold War from erupting into interplanetary disaster?
Dear Evil Editor,
Flowers of Peshavar is a 120,000 word science fiction novel.
Failing to play well with others isn't a big problem for an Imperial Agent. Bodyguards work with one person at a time, spies can manage alone, and assassins don't need good people skills. Lea's latest assignment comes with a warning: learn to keep her temper or all her missions will be solo ones. As a test, Lea's boss sends her to Peshavar, a mining planet run by two people and hundreds of robots. Two people shouldn't be a problem. [One person shouldn't be a problem. Two people are always a problem.] [Are they running the planet, or the mining facilities? I mean, even if Earth were nothing but a mining planet, it's hard to envision two people running the whole planet. And while hundreds of robots is a lot in one factory, let's see what it amounts to on a planet: While the robots mining Liechtenstein are sitting pretty, how long do you think the Russian robots are going to put up with this? And that's just for a planet the size of Earth. Imagine what it's like on Peshavar, which is the size of Uranus!] [By the way, word is, it's impossible to find any species in the galaxy willing to explore Uranus.]
She just has to find out who's selling military secrets to the Empire's enemies without losing her temper -- secrets that originated on Peshavar. [It doesn't matter where they originated, now that Peshavar has the Internet. By now everyone in the universe knows.] The engineer who runs the planet is either victim or conspirator; Lea needs to find out which without killing his bodyguard. [Or, more likely, getting killed by his bodyguard. It's a pretty lousy bodyguard who lets the new person on the planet anywhere near the central offices.] Then there's the handsome Cassiopean ambassador whose rival government suspiciously got their hands on Imperial supplies. If he weren't on the wrong side of a cold war, he'd be one of the good guys.
Thank you for your time in considering my submission,
[Author's note: The women on the planet Peshavar have floral names. The bodyguard is Chrysanthemum, the late wife is Lily, daughter is Rosa.]
I don't get the point of the first two sentences. Is Lea an Imperial Agent? A spy, assassin or bodyguard? If so, she doesn't need people skills, and now she's being sent on a solo mission, so why is she being warned to keep her temper? And why is she being theatened with working solo, if she has a job that normally works solo anyway? I would just open with:
Imperial Agent Lea Lastname'a latest assignment has her on Peshavar, a mining planet run by two people and hundreds of robots. Her mission: find out--without losing her notorious temper --who's selling military secrets to the Empire's enemies.
Now there's plenty of room to tell us about the suspects, motives, Cold War issues, etc. That's what we really wanted to know all along.
Monday, September 08, 2008
New Beginning 549
So I said something like sorry about that, then she said that was all right, because it turned out, she said, masturbation feels a lot better than he ever did anyway, and I'm watching her mouth move, and I know she's the one saying the words, but right then I'm noticing her lips look wide and really colorful like a duck's bill against her pale, pale face, and I'm wondering if that's why her husband left, because he couldn't stand to look at her once he'd maybe looked down at her one time when he was up on top of her and he noticed that part about her lips looking like a duck's bill. You have to admit, that would be a hard one to get over.
And when she smiled, that made it even worse.
Still, choosy I'm not, and she pretty well had me at that masturbation line because a chick like that, a chick that would toss out a line like that to a stranger, is a hard find in this city; so I put my prejudices aside and suggested we break bread together. She was the kind to take what she could get, that was obvious, and while she kept her distance at first, soon she was eating out of my hand, which felt good and I liked it. We went back to her place that night, let nature take it's course, and I soon forgot about her duck face; and it was when I was there, my trousers around my ankles and my pumps primed, that all hell broke loose, as all hell will do given half a chance. And that's when it hit me--it wasn't carpets she advertised on TV, it was AFLAC.
And I'm not allowed in the park anymore.
Opening: Robin.....Continuation: ril
Demotivational Posters, Final batch
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Saturday Film Series
Another work week out of the way.
Another day to relax and forget your worries.
And, of course, another chance to check out what's going on in Evil Editor's Shorts.
Dave F. Reports:
Remember this exercise: http://evileditor.blogspot.com/2008/02/writing-exercise-result-7.html ? [The Write Like Cassie Edwards Exercise.]
Well, the completed version is now published on THE TINY GLOBULE at http://www.thetinyglobule.com/pages/horror/fragments_midnight.html .
My first I hope of many stories published.
Friday, September 05, 2008
Demotivational Posters 3
Guess the Plot
1. Denise hopes to make Shadow into a top dressage horse. Can the little buckskin mule with the long ears and hearty bray really compete with the big warmbloods?
2. When a car accident forces the amputation of both of Elise's legs, her dream of becoming a ballerina is over. Or is it? Fitted with two prosthetic legs with unnatural spring, Elise is able to perform ballottés and jetés that take her higher than a pole vaulter. But will Miss Grunbar allow her to perform the lead in Kangaroo Lake?
3. Melissa's the new kid in town, and Jade's the self-proclaimed ballet queen. The Karate Kid meets The Turning Point as the underdog tries to dethrone the bully and win the coveted dance studio solo.
4. When Bianca Delune's dream of becoming a prima ballerina is dashed by carping critics, unappreciative audiences and a backstabbing corps de ballet, she assumes a megalomaniacal muttonchopped male avatar and makes money by mercilessly nailing newbie novelists. Three years later a letter arrives offering her a starring dance role. Is it a plot by insulted authors, or will Bianca's dreams come true?
5. The men in Akio's family have been champion sumo wrestlers for generations, and his father and uncles are eager to feed him up and train him. Only problem is, he wants to be a ballet dancer. Also, a tone-deaf conductor.
6. Natasha's mother was a star ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet - until her involvement in a plot to assassinate Kruschev sent her to Siberia. Natasha, herself training to be a dancer, knows nothing of this until a mysterious man arrives at the barre with a letter allegedly from her mother. Will Natasha give up her role as Aurora to seek the mother she believes is a traitor?
Dear Evil Editor,
(Fawning, pleading for representation, etc.)
My 40,000-word middle grade novel, Ballet Dreams, is aimed at youngsters who love dance or study it. In the United States, there are a minimum of 200,000 such students (20,000 studios x 100 students each), with a possible 2 million, plus their friends and families. [What is this, a Wikipedia article? Just insert "the two million American" in front of "youngsters" in sentence one and drop sentence two. No need to convince me that dance is popular. Especially as your math is way off. 20,000 times 100 is two million for your minimum. Which means your "possible 2 million" just became a possible 20 million. Which means possibly one of every fifteen people in the U.S. is a youngster who loves or studies dance. "Plus their friends and families" means the only people who aren't your audience are a couple hermits in Idaho.]
New dance studio, new school, a new life confronts aspiring ballerina Melissa after her family moves to Southern California from Nebraska. Now Jade, the self-proclaimed queen of ballet, keeps tripping Melissa in class, while bullies at school mock Melissa and her newfound friends, calling them "cow" and "spaz." Can Melissa successfully dethrone Jade by winning a coveted solo and gain acceptance with her school mates by thrashing the bullies? [Can you give us better examples than name-calling of the torment brought upon Melissa by the bullies? I'm thinking if the authorities find you standing over a bruised and bloodied kid you just thrashed, "She called me spaz," isn't going to fly as an explanation.]
I studied ballet and other dance forms for 20 years, plus I currently write for the online publication, Ballet-Dance Magazine (http://www.ballet-dance.com/).
Thank you for your consideration.
Your plot is three sentences. That's no more than three of the minions devoted to their fake plots. And it doesn't provide me enough material to mock.
The underdog formula has been used in every imaginable field (probably including ballet) because it works, but since it's so common you want to tell us what sets your version apart. Does your technical expertise bring more realism to the table, allowing you to breathe life into the dance studio scenes?
Is Melissa better than Jade, or does she have to work twice as hard to have any chance of winning the solo because the version of ballet being taught in Nebraska is called hoe-down?
Is Melissa eleven? Fifteen? The more information you provide, the better. As long as you don't make us read more than a page.
You might want to leave out the bullies and focus entirely on the Jade/Melissa competition. In view of the title, the bullies sound like a subplot that has nothing to do with the main plot. Is there a connection? I assume Jade isn't one of the bullies? Her frequent tripping of Melissa in dance class seems more likely to lead to a thrashing than the bullies' calling Melissa's friends "cow."