Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New Beginning 657

Stuart Nash grasped the metal handrail with both hands, convulsed, and through streaming eyes watched the remains of his breakfast vanish into the churning waters of the North Atlantic. Another spasm ran through his slight frame, but there was nothing left in his stomach to come up. He spat, vainly trying to clear the foul burning taste from his mouth. Beneath him, the research vessel Waylander surged and rolled as the vast cold grey waves jostled her. Spray prickled across Stu's face and the backs of his hands, the only parts of him exposed to the elements. His grip on the rail tightened. Before him there was only an endless vista of wild iron-grey sea, clouds scudding across a sky only a few shades lighter. Stu looked weakly out across the sea, and hated every square foot of it.

There were footsteps on the deck behind him, and a warm voice said, "Oh, shit, Stu, not again, man?"

"Afraid so, Zack," Stuart moaned. "I told you at the start, I don't sail well. I wanna go home."

"I don't blame you, " Zack said. "But wouldn't that look bad? I mean, you are the captain."

Opening: Steve Wright.....Continuation: Faceless Minion (mostly)

New Beginning 656

It’s not easy to recognize a vampire. Forrest didn’t even recognize one when it fell out of the sky and landed at his feet. This happened at night, as most interesting things do, and this night Forrest was walking home. Home was an apartment (one of many) in a tall building, which rose (one of many) above dirty concrete and dirty grass in a housing project. Forrest, eleven, scrawny and mouselike, walked back to his mousehole, while above him pond-froth clouds swirled around the yellow moon. Coming home to a drunk-too-much father wasn’t something Forrest looked forward to, but he was used to it. The upside of the situation was that Forrest was never expected home on time. Forrest sometimes wondered if he was expected home at all. As he walked along the cracked sidewalk, a boy landed spread-eagle in front of him. Forrest stopped and stared, and eventually kicked the body.

"Ouch." The boy opened his blood-red eyes and saw Forrest standing over him.

"What's your problem?"

"Oh, I thought you were my brother. He likes to jump off the roofs of the (one of many) buildings at night. He's a douchebag," Forrest explained.

"Hasn't he killed himself yet?" The boy asked, getting up suddenly and dusting himself off. He stepped over (one of many) leaves on the pavement, and stood oddly close to Forrest.

"No, it's a little strange, isn't it?" Forrest mused, completely oblivious to the fact that this stranger was smelling his neck. "But Mama always said, life is like a box of...Hey!"

Opening: Zachary Hudson.....Continuation: Shoshana Beaubahna

Cartoon 418

Caption: anon.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

New Beginning 655

Sandy broke into a run, trying to catch the silhouettes as they moved further down the endless mirrored hallway. The faster he ran, the faster the shadows shrunk away. He feared what lay beyond his sight. Panic swept over him suffocating his cry for them to stop but they disappeared, beyond his reach. Then, as if he had crossed some invisible threshold, the mirrored hallway vanished and Sandy found himself standing in an enormous circular stone room with no visible ceiling.

The walls were covered in grotesque art, depicting pain stricken faces and tortured corpses trying to escape from their stone tomb. They rose to an unthinkable height before falling into darkness, but failed to open to the night sky. He ran to the middle of the room and his feet became lead, unmoving, as if stuck in quick sand. In a panic he searched for what was holding him in place. In the shadows he saw them, each in a separate cage against the wall to his right. Their mouths hung open and their bodies slumped in despair. They pleaded for rescue with their eyes, but he could not even speak their names.

He knew who they were, knew their names, knew their families, even the dreams they had for their children. But they had failed, and were now forever banished to this hellish dungeon where, inevitably, their flesh would rot and their souls turn to dust.

One icy hand clamped upon his ankle. Already it was too late; they were dragging him down, and before the sun rose he too would be reading slush for Evil Editor.

Opening: Jeffrey Baird.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

Face-Lift 648

Guess the Plot

Hybreed Rising

1. Geneticists create wolf/man hybrids. Also known as werewolves. One thing leads to another and soon an inter-species war looms, threatening to destroy all life on Earth. Also, the usual shadow organization with its own agenda.

2. The secrets of the industrial metal music neoplastic underworld are revealed with interviews and historical notes of some of its greatest contributors: Low Distortion Unit, In-Fused, Dual Proform, Skinny Puppy and Ooomph, as well as some up-and- coming new artists like Frequency Construct and Luser Dazed.

3. All the farmers around Oskaloosa Iowa told Frank he was crazy to let them put a chemical storage facility on his land, but with his vegetables dominating the fair circuit, it looks like Frank will get the last laugh . . . until the deer start growing fangs.

4. Four vikings set sail across the Atlantic hoping to establish their new strains of sweet peas in the new world. But when the manuscript containing their research falls into the hands of an Imperial agent, the last Roman legion rows out after them.

5. Geneticist Judith Fancher perfects the world's fastest growing yeast, but when she uses it in her chocolate souffle recipe, she--and the entire town--get an unpleasant surprise. Now it's up to the National Guard.

6. Mankind destroyed the world, but from the ashes and stew of chemicals and poisonous air rises a new breed, the hybreed...who will stop at nothing to search out and obliterate the remnants of man. Can one reporter from the Galaxy News Network save us from an army of mutants?

Original Version


I am seeking representation for my novel, Hybreed Rising, the first in a series called The Hybreed Chronicles. [I can tell you've formed a strong attachment to the word "hybreed," but if you can't somehow manage to break free of it, this project and your writing career are essentially doomed.]

By the 22nd century the American Empire has ruled the Earth for two hundred years, and now it is on the brink of a paradigm shift. [According to my calculations, this means that by the 20th century, the American Empire had started ruling the Earth. Which is pretty much how Americans see it, but not entirely accurate. So either the math is off, or this is planet Earth but with a completely different history--which makes it Rigel IV.] Christopher Hansen can do a little 'shifting' of his own, but he doesn’t know how or why. When he is forced to put aside his version of community service to find answers, help comes from a most unlikely source: Department 118 of the American Empire. With their aid Chris discovers an inner threat to the livelihood of his kind [His kind has a livelihood? I can think of many livelihoods shapeshifters (if that's what he is) would be good at: hitman, female impersonator . . . Elvis impersonator . . . but it's hard to believe all shapeshifters' have one livelihood.] and an outer threat to their very existence – both of which are set against him. What’s more, exposing the threats may lead to the destruction of life on Earth through inter-species war. Can Chris neutralize the dangers to his kind while keeping his life and values intact? [When the stakes include the elimination of all life on Earth, screw values.] What are the true intentions of Department 118 and the Empire toward his people? Will Chris ever find a place where he can belong? [And most importantly, will I ever clarify what the hell I'm talking about?]

Hybreed Rising is the first book of an epic tale wherein werewolves play an integral part, but don't be fooled: This is not part of the horror or paranormal genre. The story is set in the future where America is an empire, so it might be considered Commercial Fiction or Alternate Reality. [I've had the feeling I'm in an alternate reality for some time now.] It is told in two parts which correlate fluidly and offer further installments. Part One (38,364 words) sets the stage, introduces the main characters, and allows them to meet and overcome challenges. [This sounds like a new season of Survivor.] [Part Two is the Tribal Council, right?] Part Two (50,892 words) brings in lycanthropic cultures [Wait a minute . . . Did you say lycanthropic cultures?!] (you read it right: lycanthropic cultures), a shadow organization with its own agenda, and a grand battle between tribes of werewolves. [Survivor would be much more interesting if it had tribes of werewolves. Or maybe one tribe of werewolves and one tribe of zombies.] The story addresses moral and ethical issues, [Like, is it wrong to vote a tribemate off the island just because he tears out Jeff Probst's throat?] and also offers mystery, action, and humor (bad puns included). [Bad puns are never a selling point.] The full manuscript (97,615 words) [Part 1 + Part 2 = 89,000 words. Apparently this is one of those novels where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.] and a synopsis are available upon request. Novellas which explore the adventures of Chris and his comrades are also available, [as are flash fiction pieces and limericks,] and a novel-sized sequel is currently in development.

My name is ______________, but I use the pseudonym _______________. I’m nowhere near as interesting as this story. [Anyone more interesting than his story should trash the story and write his autobiography.] I believe wolves and werewolves are among the most misrepresented and misunderstood creatures in literature and cinema. [I might buy that about wolves, but werewolves? How do you misrepresent a werewolf?] My aspirations include discussing these subjects [You aspire to discuss the misrepresentation of werewolves?] and other related storylines, seeing my works published, and perhaps building a fan base. [For you or for werewolves?] One of the short stories based on this storyline appeared in the final issue of Fang, Claw and Steel, and another appears in beginning issues of Is this Reality? Magazine. [Hard to believe a magazine that publishes werewolf stories can't come up with a better name than Is this Reality?]

I posted queries and excerpts on internet forums to gain feedback on my innovative take on werewolves. Many readers commended my portrayal, which incorporates self-awareness, unique cultural aspects, and authentic wolf characteristics [like fangs, claws, lungs that can blow a house down, and an uncanny resemblance to Red Riding Hood's Grandma] into the creature. Hybreed Rising effectively re-envisions werewolves while telling an endearing, entertaining story with strong, relatable characters. Testimonies from readers are available upon request. [It's always helpful, when a query is too long, for it to have a paragraph like that one, where I can just say delete the whole thing.]

Further research proves audiences are tired of the same old 'Jekyll-and-Hyde' storyline forced upon the werewolf mythos. [If you think audiences are tired of it, you should hear what the werewolves have to say.] [It seems to me that if audiences are tired of the same old wolfmen, instead of giving them different wolfmen you might give them kangaroomen or cowmen. Maybe it's not the mythos people are tired of, maybe it's the fact that it's always a wolf. If you're reading about a hybreed, why must it be man/wolf?

Geneticist 1: We have the means to create a hybrid of a man and any animal in existence. Which animal should we use?]

Geneticist 2: How about a wolf?

Geneticist 1: That's what I was thinking, too.]

Fortunately, Hybreed Rising takes this classic back player of monster stories and brings them into the limelight from the direction of soft genetic science, addressing many never-answered questions of werewolf existence. [For instance, Q: Do werewolves exist? A: Yes.] Hybreed Rising investigates the coexistence of the dual natures such a creature would inherit, exploring what a merger between man and wolf might create under individual circumstances and life experiences.

I hope this short explanation [Short? My Masters thesis was shorter. (But hey, how much can you write about the religious symbolism in John Grisham's novels?)] captures your interest. I give my sincerest thanks for your time and attention, and stand ready to send my work at your request. I can be reached at _________ or __________ for your convenience.

Kindest Regards,


There's a pretty well-known Chris Hansen whose claim to fame is entrapping Internet sex predators and ID thieves for Dateline NBC.

Werewolves don't exist. Thus anyone can portray werewolves any way they want without fear that they are misrepresenting them. I'm sure you wouldn't like it if someone read your book and declared that you misrepresent werewolves.

The first long paragraph, which is your plot, is too vague. What is meant by paradigm shift? What is meant by "shifting"? What is meant by "his version of community service?" What is the inner threat? What is the outer threat? Tell us specifically what's going on. Focus on Chris. If he's a werewolf, say so.

Most of the rest is more likely to hurt your cause than help it. Get rid of everything that could be construed as bragging about your book. Every author thinks his book is innovative and original. An agent can't tell which ones really are until she reads them, so just make the plot sound intriguing/exciting/fun/whatever. That's the way to get her to want to read it. Not by declaring it great. The author is the last person she's gonna believe.

Cartoon 417

Caption: anon.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday Film Series

If you prefer the larger screen available at Youtube, click here.

Friday, June 26, 2009

New Beginning 654

More than anything, Poetry wished she had a button. Failing that, she would have settled for an out-of-the-way corner in which to pin her shirt closed. She had neither. What she did have was forty-odd students and a handful of passers-by, gawking at her and her lime green bra.

She could flee back into school for a bathroom. Of course, the sharks had already scented her blood. Just crossing her arms to cover her chest would be like opening a vein into the water. She was never going to live this down. Poetry stood up straight.

“Could I have your attention, please?”

She already had everyone’s attention; the gigglers, the whisperers, the nice kids cringing in sympathy. Even the man across the street was staring.

“Ladies and gentlemen, your attention, please.” Calmly, without looking down, she began working on her shirt. “Public viewing hours for Poetry Wu’s Wondrous Heaving Bosom are now over.”

It was then that she heard a popping noise from her waistband and felt a sudden draught round her legs. She rolled her eyes. The jeans had proved just as shoddy as the shirt, and now Poetry Wu's Amazing Jiggling Ass was open to the public.

One thing at a time, she thought. She concentrated on the shirt and tried to ignore the increasingly hysterical voice at the back of her mind - the one that kept reminding her she'd bought the underwear on special at Wal-Mart too.

Opening: Lianne.....Continuation: Steve

Cartoon 416

Caption: anon.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Little Pitchers Have Big Ears

EE, here's a news article you might find interesting. In short, research shows people are more amenable to ideas spoken into their right ear: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/scienceandtechnology/science/sciencenews/5612036/Want-to-get-something-done--talk-to-people-in-their-right-ear.html I extrapolate that to making agent pitches: If you're at a writers' conference and have a chance to pitch your story idea, pitch it into the agent's right ear. And if you're stuck on the agent's left side, just point off in a direction to her left and say, "Hey, it's Stephen King and he's looking for a new agent." When she turns her right ear to you, give her your pitch.

--Bill H

Clever, Bill. But according to the article, the evidence is the number of cigarettes bummed per ear, along with the fact that what goes in the right ear is processed by the logical side of the brain. But the way I see it, if someone tries to bum a cigarette, the logical side of your brain will assume that if you give him the cigarette he'll go away. If someone tries to pitch you a manuscript, the logical side of the brain will assume that if you buy the manuscript, you'll never be rid of him. Thus, a pitch should go to the left ear, where it will be processed by the illogical side of the brain, the only side that might consider buying it.

Face-Lift 647

Guess the Plot

From Hopkins to Homeless

1. College sophomore Donna Williams works backward through the encyclopedia to learn about life, love, and spelling -- and gets her first job: baking crumpets at the Mad Duchess, a surreal cafe frequented by passionate young men who all look like Che Guevera.

2. Tired of inspirational stories about homeless guys becoming concert violinists and CEOs? Then you'll love this story of a doctor who threw away a promising career. Prescription forgery, suicide attempts, drug addiction and car crashes take him from respected doctor to homeless guy, and then to rock bottom: homeless guy writing a book.

3. When Bailey Barron discovers she's adopted, she drops out of Baltimore's Johns Hopkins medical school to experience the world of her homeless biological father. What she finds is a world filled with danger, hunger, disrespect and filth. But hey, it's got interning beat by a mile.

4. The true story of Dr. Shereen Martin, who went from Assistant Professor of Wymyn's studies at Johns Hopkins to homeless when her jealous rivals for the attention of biologist Dr. Lynn Morgan exposed her groundbreaking work on the plight of lesbian opticians in Baltimore as a total fabrication.

5. Dr. Jonathan Rydell was a brilliant plastic surgeon whose life fell apart. Alcohol, gambling, and the loss of his medical license, friends and family, are followed by a fall into homeless despair. But when developers plan to bulldoze the shelter and put up a high-rise condo building, Rydell springs into action.

6. Ian Adams, fired from teaching at prestigious Johns Hopkins medical school in Baltimore, demonstrates that even hobos can perform brain surgery. But can he prove his former students aren't behind the recent kidney thefts?

Original Version

I am currently respectfully seeking representation for the publication of my autobiography, “From Hopkins to Homeless: My True Story of Drug Addiction”. This book addresses the disease of addiction and the process of recovery by providing a unique, thought provoking, and inspirational insight [through suffering, sacrifice, and redemption] [Those brackets should be parentheses; otherwise readers will think I put them there, and wonder what's so funny.] into the life cycle of addiction as experienced by a severe prescription addict [myself]. [Those brackets can stay, as that's pretty funny.] This book will have approximately 275 [8.5” x 5.5”] pages [Are you printing your manuscript on 8.5" x 5.5" paper, or have you already chosen the font and font size and book dimensions the publisher is to use?] divided into 12 chapters, 15 appendixes and 12 (if not cost prohibitive) pictures and illustrations. [When a former doctor offers to send me fifteen appendixes, I start to worry about where he's getting them.]

[Appendix 1: Possible side effects of taking six oxycontin tablets a day, including losing your job as a respected physician.

Appendix 2: Baltimore Restaurants with the best dumpster fare.

Appendix 3: Johns Hopkins nurses who put out when you're a doctor, but not when you're a homeless guy.

Appendix 4: Unrealistic things that have happened on House.

Appendix 5: My favorite bridges for sleeping under.

Appendix 6: Why killing other homeless guys and selling their organs isn't the best path back to respectability.

Appendix 7: How the hell did you come up with material for fifteen appendixes?

Appendix 8: Things doctors do with removed appendixes (includes recipes).

Appendix 9: Baltimore area pharmacists with lax ethics.

Appendix 10: Johns Hopkins doctors who are always high but haven't been caught yet.

Appendix 11: Why carjacking people as they pull away from the drive-thru at CVS is a bad idea.

Appendix 12: How you can get drugs to me.

Appendix 13: Heroin vs. aspirin: An ex-doctor's surprising perspective.

Appendix 14: Christ, it looks like I'm gonna make it to fifteen after all.

Appendix 15: Literary agents who refused to take me on just because I'm a homeless guy.]

Starting in my Doctorate program in Respiratory Medicine and ending homeless on the streets, addiction crept into my life [It wasn't addiction that was homeless; it was you. Try: ...in Respiratory Medicine, I ended up homeless on the streets when addiction crept into my life...] and took from me my possessions, my profession, my loved ones, and my sanity. [If addiction doesn't take your sanity, trying to make it as a writer surely will.] One day I was a respected well-known Senior Medicinal Aerosol Scientist lecturing all over the world, and next I was being arrested at a medical conference in Atlanta for forging a prescription earlier that day. [Signing another doc's name to a prescription is illegal; signing another doc's name to one of your prescriptions is stupid. But understandable if you were desperate for a fix.] The police waited until I finished my lecture, approached me, put me in handcuffs, and led me through the conference hall while all my colleagues were looking at me in utter disbelief.

[Cop 1: We should at least let him finish his lecture before we arrest him.

Cop 2: Are you kidding? If he goes on another five minutes we'll all be asleep dead.]

This book describes all of the incidents that I experienced, [All of them?] (some very dark and disturbing), during my 9 year journey/battle from addiction to sobriety and recovery. From 3 suicide attempts, [If you can't slit your wrists properly in three tries, I'm glad you never operated on me.] 2 roll over car crashes, 15 toxic overdoses [each of which is described in detail in its own appendix], having a gun put to my head and many more. It is amazing to me that I did not die. [I'm surprised the doctors didn't let you die after 20 trips to the emergency room and no way to pay for them.] I feel I still have something I need to accomplish. I have kept all supporting documents during my addiction to prove my book is an accurate and factual account of my life as an addict. I knew one day it would be a remarkable story and at the same time have great potential to provide hope, advice, guidance, and assistance [Those last three are pretty much all the same thing.] to other addicts seeking sobriety and long term recovery.

My credentials and qualifications for writing this book include:
Ø For nine years I experienced every aspect of being an addict trying to regain my sobriety in a system that is overworked, under funded, and not always a priority to assist those addicts who truly want help. [Not really a qualification for writing this or any book.]

Ø Being school orientated, for years I researched addiction aggressively to find an answer. I became very educated about this disease but realized there is no textbook answer and I was going to have to trust people I did not know to save my life. [That must have been almost as scary as trusting a drug-addicted respiratory doctor you don't know to save your life.]

Ø A Master’s degree and required thesis in respiratory medicine. [Maybe you can explain why it is I can hear the dog whimpering three rooms away when I'm asleep, but I can't hear myself snoring like a chainsaw cutting petrified wood.] 

Ø Nine peer reviewed publications in various medical journals.

Ø Fifty-five medical papers published and presented at the numerous medical conferences that took place every year.

Ø Contributing author, (in one chapter), in the book, “Inhalations Aerosols”, [Anagram: Heroin: Satan's lasso.] edited by Anthony Hickey.

To help you decide if you might be interested in representing my book, I can send the following immediately upon your request: My Promotion Plan, My Curriculum Vitae, My Competition Analysis, and a Proposal of a possible subsequent book taken from daily journals and experiences in my year long residential treatment. [What about the book? Can you send the book?]

Thank you for your generous time. I eagerly await your response and look forward to hearing from you soon. I have enclosed a SASE for your convenience.


It's too long. You don't need to tell the publisher the page count, paper size, number of chapters/appendixes. The word count will do.

You don't need to list your qualifications. You experienced the events in the book. That's what's important for the writing of an autobiography. Although . . .

I'm not sure I'd call it an autobiography, as it has a narrow focus.

You don't need documentation of your addiction in your book. You may need it to get on Oprah, as she's probably being careful about that stuff these days.

The query details your fall, but as you claim the book will aid other addicts (those who read books, anyway) you might want to tell us how far back you've come. Do you have a home, a job, a family? Do you help the homeless? Show that ultimately it's an inspirational story.

Cartoon 415

Caption: anon.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Beginning 653

Deep within the vaults of the celebrated Academy and Library of Anaran, a pale man fretfully muttered when the page he was reading crumbled to dust in his hand. The poor light of a single, fluttering candle and the scrawl on the ancient text made his eyes water with fatigue.

Etan, however, had many hours to go before he would give up for the night and steal a few hours of sleep. In the morning, he would return to his studies in the academy before sneaking down to the basement again to resume his surreptitious research.

The scholar’s subject, Tiruces, was one of the most influential scholars of history and a favorite subject of professors and students, and as such, was not a subject most kept secret. During his lifetime and even now he was renowned for his lectures and writings on government and virtues of man. He was also one of founding fathers of Anaran and it had been endlessly argued, and largely agreed upon, that without him the Republic would have never been born.

Zzzz...Zzzz...Hmm? What the--? I came here to write a continuation, but I must have dozed off. Let's see, where was I?

Though it was long postulated that the origins of Tiruces' erudite disquisitions lay in his draconian upbringing, contemporary academicians have recently advanced the hypothesisqzxqw ...Zzzz.

Opening: Vivian Whetham.....Continuation: Matthew

Cartoon 414

Caption: Anon.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Face-Lift 646

Guess the Plot

Don't Forget the Death Ray

1. A team of astronauts arrive in a new world, only to discover the atmosphere is full of poppy-gas that adversely affects their cognition and makes them vulnerable to kidnap by flying monkeys, green women, and singing midgets.

2. The ultimate reference work on how to write comic books. Includes invaluable advice like: Don't put an alien's third eye on the back of his head; Never make a spandex costume pink; and of course . . . Don't Forget the Death Ray.

3. All mad scientist Lysander Schultz wants to do is take over one, maybe two continents so his mother will finally stop complaining he's never accomplished anything. But then Mama Schultz gets wind of the plot and decides her baby boy can't possibly do it without her assistance...

4. What happens to megalomaniacal arch-villains whose powers fade as they proceed into their golden years and find they can no longer remember exactly what they were going to do with the world once they dominated it? This is the story of a most unusual assisted-care facility where, more often than not, weapons of mass destruction are found in the refrigerator rather than in that tray on the dresser where they belong.

5. Ironic hipster Lance McAllister's blog, "Don't Forget The Death-Ray," is a send-up of science fiction cliches and alien abductions. It's all fun and games, until the Reticulons show up and the anal probes start.

6. Zorpha Qv'naul has had to deal with one too many creeps who think, just because they paid for immersion in the nutrient vats, she should drop her carapace and become brood-host to their natal swarm. So she's written a handbook of practical advice for the single female tentaculoid playing the dating game on Eta Horologii IV.

Original Version

I'd like to sell a fun and informative book about how to write superhero novels and comic books. Don't Forget the Death-Ray! would be aimed at readers aged 13-18.

My main writing credential is that I run Superhero Nation, a writing advice website that has had 150,000 readers in the past two years. My superhero writing advice is credible and effective. [Evil Editor is a good name for a superhero who gives writing advice (though my advice is incredible and ineffective). And thanks to my laser vision I can also battle super villains. Here are my arch-enemies:]

In addition, I have three years of experience writing for college newspapers.

I am better-suited to reach teen readers than most of the authors currently writing in this field. Most of them are 40-something or 50-something comic book writers. They have experience that would be absolutely critical to older readers, but teen readers also value relatability. [Better to say you are well-suited because teens relate to you, than to say you are better-suited and then put down the forty-somethings. You may be sending this to someone who's not so young.] I believe that the success of my website is evidence of that. [Actually, it's evidence that the same twelve people visit your site 20 times every day. And I should know.] As a college senior myself, I relate to teens very easily. Additionally, the experience I have-- winning a grant to write a superhero novel manuscript-- is more relevant to young readers. I'm very familiar with the ground-level of the industry and how to succeed as a newcomer. [Did you succeed as a newcomer?] In contrast, most competing authors broke into the industry twenty or thirty years ago. [As shown in the following chart, old people are behind the times when it comes to superhero powers:

Old Superheroes (low relatability)

Superhero..................... Talent

Green Arrow ................. Good at archery
Aquaman .......................Can hold breath a long time
Batman ..........................None
Superman..................... Everything
Spiderman ....................Senses danger
Mr. Fantastic ............... Can stretch really far
Silver Surfer .................Can surf without water

New Superheroes (high relatability)


Mall Babe ....................Expert shopper
The Controller..............Really fast thumbs
Guitar Hero .................Really fast fingers
The Idol .......................Karaoke Master
Rapper .........................None
Tweeter ........................Conciseness
Textgirl ........................Cryptography

Please let me know if you would like me to send a proposal. I can be reached at [e-mail address] or [phone number.] [Asking if they want a proposal is inviting them to say no. A proposal is not so long that you shouldn't just send it. What is it, two or three chapters to give them an idea what your book is like? It's the least you can send, as your query letter tells them nothing about what your book is like.]

Thanks for your time and consideration.



There's nothing about your book in the letter. The entire thing is your credentials. And you don't have any.

If you don't have the credentials of others in your field, your strategy should not be to send a query that mainly states why your lack of credentials is actually a plus; your strategy should be to show that your book is so creative and original it shines above other works in the field. Give an example or two of your book relating to teens in a way that will make teens prefer your book to others.

A nonfiction book doesn't need to be finished, but unless you have credentials, you need to finish some of it and send it on to demonstrate that you've got the goods.

The number of thirteen-year-olds who can (and want to) write a decent novel, with or without your advice, is limited. Maybe you should just do comic books.

Cartoon 413

Caption: Whirlochre

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Monday, June 22, 2009

New Beginning 652

The black cane whapped against the counter in front of me and I dropped my bowl of cereal. At least it was sans milk.

“You’re next.” Marcus let the cane tip fall to the floor. “And you’re running out of time.”

I surveyed my older brother sitting there in his kitchen chair; acting like he ruled this family; and not apologizing one bit for the mess he created. “Marcus Willby, you are deranged.”

“Don’t call me that.” His lower lip pushed out beyond his wispy moustache. He shuttered his big brown eyes, and leaned his head back. His mouth creaked open. His breath rattled in the back of his throat.

That was it. Audience over. Begging on street corners had seriously mushed his brain. I shook my head and swept up the mess before Mom came down and added her bit to the insanity. Just because Marcus broke his leg – in thirteen places – when he turned thirteen didn’t mean I would do the same. I was not my brother. I glanced at him again. Nope. Not even close. The bowl shards and corn puffs tumbled into the trash can.

I thought about the past few years. Marcus had broken all ten fingers when he was ten, all eleven toes when he was eleven, and last year broke his hip in twelve places. Tomorrow he would turn fourteen and the curse would jump to me. That's what the old Gypsy woman had said.

I looked at Marcus sitting at the table, his big brown eyes, his mushy brain. I grabbed the cane from where he'd leant it against his chair. He was right. I was running out of time.

Opening: Sarah Laurenson.....Continuation: Freddie

Cartoon 412

Caption: Whirlochre

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday Film Series

I've put this film on YouTube. It has a bigger screen than Blogger, and can be converted to full-screen with one of the controls in the bottom right. You'll find it here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Face-Lift 645

Guess the Plot

Stolen from Heaven

1. Tired of stealing plots from mortals, a daring author sets off on a quest to find a plot really worth stealing.

2. When her father sends her on an errand, Minjee has no idea he's actually sending her to be sacrificed so a thief who stole power from the ancient gods can take over her body. Minjee vows that if she gets out of this, there'll be no Father's Day gift for dad this year.

3. Andrew conquers Hollywood--top film rolls, chicks, and best of all, the exquisite pearly gates at the entrance to his new mansion. But when the shady building contractor gets struck by lightning, Andrew begins to wonder if the gates may be stolen from someone even more powerful than Oprah.

4. Funeral home director Francis Finnebaker has had it with the cardiac surgeon in his small town. Dr. Robert Huebler is saving lives that could instead have been corpses in need of some costly embalming fluid. There's only one solution to this problem. Francis will have to murder the man who steals from Heaven.

5. The angels lose the Last Trumpet, and concoct a story of demonic theft so that God doesn't get mad. God assigns Laura, a junior angel, to find the Trumpet, which by now has migrated to the hands of a demon who is just not that good at being evil. Love blossoms.

6. When St. Peter wakes up after a night of binge drinking, he realizes that those weren't his car car keys he gave to the bartender last night--They were the keys to the pearly gates! When St. Pete returns to the bar, he discovers that some punk ran off with his keys. Can Peter find him before the line outside gets so long he has to work on the weekend?

Original Version

Attn: Evil Editor,

In ancient Korea, power was stolen from the gods. The culprits did not escape unscathed [Apparently they stole the wrong power. They should have stolen the power to run really fast or to become invisible.] and their restoration to this world hinges on the life of an innocent girl....

Little Minjee does not dare question why her father sends her on a dangerous, and seemingly trivial, journey to the north. Why should she? [Because she's three years old.] He is the village chief and it is hard enough to win his love and respect.

Alone, Minjee embarks on her first adventure and travels to San-Goong, a small and secluded kingdom. Upon arrival, she discovers that she was not sent there on an errand, but to be sacrificed!

One of the culprits [No query should include the word "culprits" more than once.] who stole heavenly power needs a new body and innocent, naïve Minjee is a perfect match--She was born with the rare ability to communicate with the gods in heaven and control ghosts on earth. This ability is a must for anyone wanting to wield godly power and that is why the culprits [No book should include the word "culprits" three times.] offered Minjee’s neglectful father untold power to betray his daughter and deliver her into their hands. [I think I could come up with a stronger adjective than "neglectful" for this guy.] [If I were trading my daughter for untold power, I wouldn't send her on a dangerous journey by herself. I'd hire an army of ruthless mercenary soldiers to escort her every step of the way and kill anyone who got within a mile of her.]

Minjee turns to strangers to rescue and hide her, but those who desire her sacrifice [AKA "the culprits."] are in relentless pursuit. In order to stop them, Minjee must seek the knowledge needed to utilize her untapped abilities. [When culprits are relentlessly pursuing you, you seldom have time to seek knowledge.]

STOLEN FROM HEAVEN is an 119,000 word fantasy and my first novel. In it, Minjee will have to unlock mysteries guarded by mythic beasts and discover how much of the darkness she is willing to embrace to save those who protected her.

Contact me by email at _____________________ or by phone at _______________.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Do the culprits summon the mythic beasts? If so, it sounds like they have a decent amount of power already. If they can pursue someone relentlessly, they don't seem to be confined to one place, so why didn't they just go kidnap Minjee instead of having her make a dangerous journey to them? She could've died on that journey.

What's Minjee gonna do if she gains the knowledge needed to tap her ability to communicate with the gods? Scream for help? You'd think the gods would have some idea what's going on without needing an SOS.

Does Minjee know she has untapped powers? Does her father know? I mean, when someone tells you they'll give you untold power in return for your daughter, you don't just say, Yeah, why not? You want to know why they want her and you want proof that they can give you untold power. You want a down payment on that untold power. Half now, half when you deliver the goods.

We need to know Minjee's age.

Cartoon 411

Caption: Anon.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Beginning 651

The priest dogs say God lives in the details. The government dogs say Revolution lives on the streets. The night before I died the first time, I found both.

“What was that?” I poked the Swissman in his ribs with my beer can, took a last swig and tossed it out the window, the clang of its fall punctuated by my belch.

"Didn’t see nothing.” Cole Swissler rapped his ringed fingers across the steering wheel and cut his eyes at me. Even in the dark I could tell he was sneering.

I twisted in my seat.

“Turn around.”

The Swissman gave me another glare, but he slowed, coasted a little onto the berm and braked. Our Mobi sighed a few times as it rolled to a stop, the pneumo tires adjusting to the uneven surface. “Turn around.”

“Party, you’re too radical.” He twisted backward over the seat and reached for another can of firewater. “Patrollers won’t be taking a piss break forever.” He located a swigger next to the road atlas and hefted it over the console. When he had the top popped, he took a long slow swallow and smacked his lips. “Now,” he said, “what are we turning around for?”

"Never mind, it's too late now." Sure enough, there were sirens flashing behind us.

We waited while a cop strolled up to the car and rapped on the driver side window. The Swissman rolled the window down. “Who are you?”
The guy wasn't dressed like any cop I'd ever seen.

“Literary police.”

Swissler sneered at the cop and took another swig of firewater. “Literary police? You can’t arrest me for drinking and driving.”

“No sir, but I can arrest you for writing a disjointed opening that needs to be read several times before it is fully understood and that fails to inspire a single decent continuation.”

Opening: J.E. Irvin.....Continuation: Matthew

Cartoon 410

Caption: Matthew

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Face-Lift 644

Guess the Plot


1. When Anastasia suddenly gains the magical power to summon fire, everyone in the city starts blaming her whenever something bad happens. You know, like people being burned alive.

2. Millions of people are entranced by the fairy simulation game "Mystica". But when 14-year-old Brad finds the game running, blood on the monitor, fairy wings on the floor and his parents missing, he realizes something is very, very wrong. Also, a jive-talking goblin.

3. Jane's daughter Sally spends all her time in her room reading epic fantasy and filling notebooks with scribbled fanfic novels. In 1967 this seemed infinitely better than having the girl run around getting high with every long-haired "Beatle" boy in the neighborhood, but now that Sally is in her 60's, Jane wonders if grounding her for life was a mistake.

4. As Reba drowsily toys with the antique bracelet Josh gave her just before he ran off with that bitch, Gwendolyn, and wishes she was in some really cool medieval nunnery instead of the sweltering burbs of Tucson, she dozes off. When she wakes up, she IS in a medieval nunnery -- and snow is blowing through the open window.

5. Mystica is Ellierose's dream: A store devoted to all things mystical and magical. When Avindar, a young faery prince, is hit by a car outside the shop, Ellierose takes care of him. But in doing so, she's angered Tratianna, queen of the Dark Fey. Can Ellierose and Avindar find true love, or will Tratianna destroy them all?

6. Mandy humors her son Timmy when he talks about imaginary playmates: the Knight, the King, the Princess and the Witch. But soon after Timmy starts talking about the Dragon, Mandy hears something in the basement and opens the door. A monstrous reptile runs up the stairs, pursued into the kitchen by an armor-clad man wielding a broadsword.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

MYSTICA is a completed 90,000 word YA fantasy tale where the strong heroine in A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY meets the suspense and conflict in CITY OF BONES. [Though I wouldn't even attempt to count the number of times I've advised authors against comparing their work to popular books (as they are invariably wrong, and even if they were right, the editor will assume they're self-deluded and reject), it does no good, so at least let me ask why we need to toss City of Bones into the mix when A Great and Terrible Beauty has plenty of suspense and conflict. Also, there are three (at least) well-known books titled City of Bones. What if I'm familiar only with the wrong Cities?]

Anastasia never believed in ghosts, though they have always haunted her glamorous city. But then she encounters Duncan Fae – a charming druid ordered to suicide for treason years ago. [When you consider how much money has been wasted on junk like electric chairs and guillotines, it's a wonder the idea of sentencing criminals to commit suicide isn't more widespread. "Here's a prescription for sleeping pills. Take the whole bottle and you better not call me in the morning."] When Duncan declares himself her birth father, a deep anger resurfaces from within Anastasia’s memory, enabling her to unlock a power that is more of a curse than a blessing. [What is she angry about?]

Commoners and nobles alike fear her unique ability to summon flames – as well as her inability to tame them – especially when nobles are murdered and orphans vanish without a trace. [Wouldn't there be a trace if she did it, like ashes or charred teeth and bones?] [Wait, I have a suggestion for a better title: City of Bones.] Unsure of whom to trust, yet desperate to save her city, [From what? A few murders and missing orphans doesn't mean the whole city is doomed.] Anastasia must venture into a labyrinth of class war and forbidden love, a world of haunted vaults, abandoned ruins, and extravagant palaces. [Why does she have to venture into these places?] Duncan Fae is willing to do anything for revenge, and murder is just the beginning of his plans. [If murder is just the beginning of your plans for me, I don't really care what you're planning after that.]

My magical realism story captured 1st place in the 2009 Joshua Weinzweig National Postcard Fiction Contest, [Is that a contest for fiction involving a postcard, or fiction written on a postcard?] [I'm considering changing my guidelines to make it mandatory to submit query letters on a postcard. Decisions on requesting manuscripts will be based entirely on whether I like the picture on the front.] [You've heard of NaNoWriMo? I'm starting NaNoPoMo: National Novel on a Postcard Month. Of course it'll be February. If you need 31 days to fill a postcard, you're just not trying.] while my speculative prose poem [Prose poem? Is that an oxymoron?] placed 3rd in the 2009 OddCon Speculative Fiction contest. For more information, please visit my writing blog: __________________________

Thank you for considering my query.



It sounds like it could be a good story, but you aren't telling us enough about . . . the story. Who's being murdered? Random people? People who wronged Duncan?

Are the people chasing Anastasia with torches and pitchforks? Is she in danger, or just investigating? Has her fire summoning caused any disasters? What is her plan to prevent more killing? What's this about forbidden love? In short, What happens in your book? All we know is after Anastasia meets a ghost who claims he's her father, she develops the ability to summon flames, and is suspected when orphans disappear. Does she have a motive for doing what she's suspected of?

Replace your credits, which aren't impressive, with more about your story.

Cartoon 409

Caption: Matthew

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Collective Minionoun

It has been suggested that there should be a collective noun for a group of Evil Editor's minions, as Miss Snark had a "devotion" of Snarklings.

Cast your vote for one of the following:

An affliction of minions
A deviation of minions
A malevolence of minions
A plague of minions

Note that the list has grown shorter, reflecting insufficient support for a few of the options.

New Beginning 650

A creep sort of float-walked across the coffee shop to Scar’s table and sat down. His head never moved from looking at Scar. He was wearing them dark sunglasses like that jerk in his underwear and socks sliding around on TV all the time. His baseball cap was whiter’n Tinkerbell’s butt and his teeth were black and white like a checkerboard.

“Too fucked up for this black man. Get your Czechsylvania ass away from me.”

He sat and Scar couldn’t let him show him up. “Fine, but palms on the flat.” It put its hands on the table. Ten rings of dull grey, fingers just a jerking all around.

He pinned a waitress with his index. “Hey, java bunny. Two. Black.” They sat not talking till she came back and gave ‘em each a mug and he had to grab the other one and tell her not to give his hot beverage away to no one never.

“Two coffees? That’s silly.”

He didn’t look at her. “Silly is the new cool.”

So she rolled her eyes and bunny-hopped away, and Scar sat there with a coffee in each hand not looking at her. He sipped from one cup and then the other and not-looked at the creep jerking on the other side of the table.

He gave himself one of them grins. He wasn't sure, yet, if this was meant to be some kinda noir, or urban fantasy, or some fucked-up futuristic cyberpunk shit, but he guessed it didn't matter.

Oh yeah, he said to himself, if we can go through the whole book like this, not-talking and not-looking and drinking two coffees, we're gonna make literary fiction for sure. We're talking Booker Prize for this black man.

Opening: Kelly Mitchell.....Continuation: Steve

Cartoon 408

Caption: Evil Editor

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Synopsis 15

STOP! If you haven't yet read the query for Redemption, it's just below this synopsis. If you read the synopsis first, or even just a few words of it, you won't be able to play "Guess the Plot."

On the other hand, you'll get it right for a change.

SYNOPSIS [for Redemption]

Ian Templeton, psychologist and profiler, is on the track of a killer with a conscience. People who walked away from abuse charges are dying in horrible “accidents”: trapped in a flood, falling onto sharp railings. [When someone gets trapped in a flood, it's seldom suspected that a serial killer is behind it. I'd stick with the homicidal dishwasher for my example.] First Ian needs to convince his colleague, Detective Inspector Alex Willard, that there IS a case and not just a series of coincidences. Even when she is willing to go along with him, they have to work outside the official rules [You need a more . . . official-sounding . . . term than "official rules." Something like "department protocol." It's not a softball game.] to find their evidence. Just one problem: they can’t find any.

Ian struggles to understand this killer, so different from the ones he usually works with. The killer tells us stories giving us the insight into their mind and motivations that Ian is slowly uncovering. [Terrible sentence.] Some of the stories are eerily similar to the ones Ian painfully trades with convicted killers for the leads which help him find the buried bones of their earlier victims. The personal cost of these conversations is worth it: they bring closure to families, and, more importantly to Ian, a deeper understanding of what drives these warped minds. [I don't think you even need this paragraph. The next one follows the first one more logically, and I'm not clear on what you mean by the killer telling us stories. Are we in the killer's POV?]

With no forensic proof of a murderer Alex and Ian develop a plan to bring the killer into the open. A newspaper report on new evidence in one of the abuse cases frightens the killer: they killed too quickly; they might not have done the right thing. [That last clause is vague. Do you mean: Maybe the killer's victim wasn't an abuser.?] Then Ian’s conference speech on his belief that serial killers can be redeemed finalises the killer’s fixation on Ian as the one person who can truly understand them. The press attack Ian: “Police Profiler says ‘serial killers should be saved’!”—and Alex’s Chief throws him off the team. [Hmm, maybe it is a softball game.]

Ian discovers that the killer has not one, but two patterns: the deaths that are the “day job” of doing the right thing and another, more sinister, pattern of killing during sex for personal fulfilment. [sp.] Literally. Alex calls in a favour with another police division and bingo – they get [five in a row, including the free space.] a call-in on a sexual killing that just might give them a lead on their murderer. Alex’s team unofficially work on the scene while Ian sets up a face to face meeting with the killer at a black tie event. What he doesn’t realise is the killer wants this confrontation even more than he does. This killer knows they are losing control again, and has Ian in their sights as the source of their redemption. [These plural pronouns are confusing. It makes it sound like the cops are losing control. If the killer has been telling us stories, shouldn't we know it's a she by now?]

Then the team finally get some evidence: the DNA at the sexual killing shows a link to a convicted serial killer: Morten. But he is already in jail, and the DNA belongs to a female. Alex discovers Morten has a niece – whose parents both died in “accidents” when she was young. Alex’s breath catches when she recognises her photo: it’s the woman Ian has just left with. [Just left where with? I thought Ian and Alex were in two different places. Did they leave the black tie event together? Ian was supposed to be meeting the killer at the black tie event, so doesn't he know he's with the killer?] She races to find him before he becomes the killer’s next victim.

And Ian and the killer are starting to make love. [Ian knows the killer kills during sex, yet he hops into the sack with her right after meeting her? Does he know he's with the killer? If not, He goes to a black tie event to meet with the killer, and walks out to go have sex with a stranger even though his meeting with the killer hasn't happened yet? As that makes no sense, there's some confusion about the time line.]

Face-Lift 643

Guess the Plot


1. Sarah McFrap has spent her life in the shadow of her mother's coupon clipping mania. Now, fatally ill and nearing death, Mother entrusts Sarah with her prize collection of coupons. Can Sarah redeem them--and herself, in her mother's eyes--before it's too late?

2. A series of bizarre deaths--someone drowns in a pile of barley, someone has a fatal encounter with a dishwasher, etc.--has the police thinking accidents, but one psychologist realizes there's a serial killer on the loose, one he might be able to lead down the rocky path to . . . Redemption.

3. When gorilla poacher Vitaly Potapenko breaks his leg and a shrewdness of apes nurse him back to health, he decides to seek out and free every gorilla he ever captured . . . if they're still alive.

4. In the summer of 1967 Jodi Nash stepped on a butterfly in Central Park, starting a cascade of unanticipated consequences that culminated in several foreign wars, the collapse of numerous international megacorporations, climate change, global economic blight, and decades of bad hair. Now Jodi seeks redemption by planting a butterfly garden behind her rest home. But is it too late?

5. When ex-navy seal and martial arts champion John Hawk dines in a fancy New York restaurant, he forgets to tip the waiter. A man of honor, Hawk realizes his mistake when he gets home and immediately returns to the restaurant. He gives the waiter five dollars and an awkward apology, and then goes back home without incident.

6. A soda bottle on its journey to be redeemed for a nickel deposit must survive encounters with vampires, werewolves, elves, lava, and a half-demon/half-angel who hates recycling.

7. Raoul Washington has been collecting coupons for almost all of his ninety-one years. When his doctors give him only six months to live, Raoul goes on a cashless spending spree that threatens to bankrupt the nation's retail outlets.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

A young girl kills her mother, makes herself a packed lunch and has a great day at school. The same girl sits and watches her father bleed to death instead of going for help... [Thus begins my children's picture book, Madeline's Revenge.]

When Dr Ian Templeton, psychologist and profiler, dumps a pile of newspaper cuttings on her table, newly promoted Inspector Alex Willard [has him arrested. Thus begins my green mystery, The Serial Litterer.] sees a lot of coincidences. Ian sees a serial killer. People who walk away from abuse charges are dying in eerily appropriate accidents: drowned in grain, crushed under a car, falling on a knife in a dishwasher. [By "appropriate" accidents, I assume you mean something like:

Detective: What was the cause of death?
Coroner: Drowned in a pile of oats.
Detective: Ironic. He used to make his kid eat oatmeal.
Coroner: Now that's what I call child abuse.

Detective: What was the cause of death?
Coroner: Killed by a knife in her dishwasher.
Detective: Ironic. She used to force her kid to load the dishwasher.
Coroner: Shoulda told the kid to put the knives in point-down.

In between getting inside the heads of convicted murderers to find their victims [I like a justice system where you convict someone of murder first, then look for a victim.] so other cases can be closed, Ian confronts his own painful past to understand this new killer. This is a killer who believes they are a good person, they are doing the right thing – and Ian can save them. [Who's "them"? The killer, or the killer's future victims? Apparently you're using "they" and "them" to avoid revealing the murderer's gender, which guarantees it's female. It wouldn't be the now-grown-up girl who appeared in the first paragraph of the query never to be mentioned again, would it?]

With little evidence to go on and no-one else believing there is a real case, Ian and Alex work outside the rules. [Alex is one of the ones who didn't think there was a case. And she was just promoted to inspector. And already she's working outside the rules?] Ian has to force the killer into the open, even though this could trigger more murders [like a toaster murder or a running with scissors "accident."]. When Ian is attacked by the press and kicked off the team it looks like game over: he will never get near this killer. [There's a team? I thought Ian was the only one who even thought there was a case. Is the team working on this case? If not, how does Ian being kicked off keep him from getting near the killer? Seems like he'd have more time to chase the killer if he no longer has to work on whatever the team is doing.]

But this killer has her own ideas and these involve getting very, very close to Ian. [Oh, now you don't mind revealing it's a woman. May as well reveal it earlier and avoid the awkward-sounding plural pronouns. Or change the earlier sentence to something like: This killer is no cold-blooded sociopath; this is a misguided person trying to make the world a better place . . . thus avoiding any pronouns.]

REDEMPTION is a 97,000 word psychological thriller, and, of course, I have the opening chapters ready and waiting to be sent to you on request – or we could just go straight to the full manuscript if you like. [Hell, let's skip that part too. Just email the manuscript to the printer.]

My previous published writing has been in the business world – I wrote the “organisational behaviour” chapter in the Wiley and sons series of books, the Fast Forward MBA. [As the term “organisational behaviour” is about as vague as it gets, change that sentence to: As for my previously published writing, perhaps you're familiar with chapter 14 in book 3 of The Fast Forward MBA? Yep, that was me.]

Thank you for your consideration


I'd leave off the kid who kills her parents at the beginning. It isn't connected well enough. All it does is make me wait for an explanation that never comes.

If I were a psychologist I'd be more interested in helping the people who were abused by the killer's victims than in helping the killer, who's sure to be locked up a long, long time.

Not clear what you mean by "eerily appropriate" accidents. It's appropriate that a person who was abusive and wasn't punished should drown in grain?

Is the killer trying to get close to Ian because he was an abuser who wasn't punished? Is he forcing her into the open by claiming to be an abuser who wasn't punished? If the latter, seems like it would be hard to get that information to the killer if he doesn't know who she is. If the former, not gonna make him the most sympathetic protagonist.

Cartoon 407

Caption: Evil Editor

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