Monday, August 31, 2009

Success Story

D Jason Cooper, author of numerous openings, several of which have been made into Evil Editor Films, reports: Ruthless Peoples Magazine has published my flash fiction, "Zombie Consciousness". It's free to download.

I'm sure the muttonchopped editor whose brains get eaten isn't based on anyone in particular.

New Beginning 679

July 1304

Bishop Lamberton grasped his squire by a shoulder, pushing him toward the open doors at the end of the long, high-arched hall. James twisted out of Lamberton's grasp and whirled to face him. A youth of sixteen, dark-eyed and slender as a knife, James flushed with anger.

“I won’t swear fealty to him."

Lamberton sighed. For an obedient lad, James was being amazingly difficult. "James, do you want your lands back? Your father's title?"

James drew himself up. "You know I do. I must have them.” He shoved shaking fingers through the black tumble of his hair. "My people need me, and it's where I belong. I've sworn to get back what was stolen from my father--a sacred oath."

"Then you must bend a knee to King Edward."

James reluctantly advanced. He knelt not on the crimson carpet directly in front of the King - as a mere squire he didn’t dare presume such an honor - but on the black stone floor slightly to the side. Even as his knee touched the cold granite, it occurred to him that from this position he could strike the King down with one thrust.

To the side of the hall stood silently Sir Crispin, an ally of James’s late father and like James, clad in the black livery of James’s house. If only James were already a knight like Sir Crispin, he would fight for his birthright rather than serving as a pawn in the struggles of the powerful.

The King rose from his throne, advanced to where James knelt, and raised his sword. But instead of accepting James’s oath, he lopped the young squire’s head off with a deft stroke. Sir Crispin, livid with outrage, moved two steps to the right and one ahead, his sword menacing the King and cutting off all escape.


Thus did Myron Finkbiner, for the third year in a row, retain his title as the Association of Historical Fiction Writers’ chess champion.

Opening: J.R. Tomlin.....Continuation: John

Cartoon 460

Caption: Whirlochre

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lie to Me 11

“How the hell does this lie-detector-shitting-thing work, anyway?”

“Rhetorical question?” An eyebrow goes up, a friendly kind of a smirk appears, but she doesn’t see it.

“Yes…” She looks up, semi-distracted and annoyed with herself, annoyed with him. “Hell yes, rhetorical. You didn’t actually expect me to expect you to tell me how to get the machine to work that would help me find out what the hell’s really going on with you, right? I mean, come on, give me some credit, Sparky.”

He smiles again. This time it looks genuine. Maybe.

“I do give you…some credit, as you say. But I’ve also known you long enough to know you have to be walked through anything technology-based.” He pauses, waits for memories to start whirring. “Remember learning to italicize in the comments? That took quite a walk-through, did it not?”

“Yes…” She doesn’t want to say it, but there you go. It’s the truth.

“And who walked you through that one?”

“You know damn well, it was you.”


“But that’s just it.” She fiddles with the straps and the gears until a fuckit and a frown, coming both from her and to her, stop her cold. But he’s still smiling. Dammit. Yah. He’s all happy. So she says: “Who the hell are you? I wouldn’t haveta mess with all these wires and clip deals and buttons…and who knows, one of them could shock you or something, and we couldn’t be having any of that.” She turns the machine off. “So just say it.”

He’s still smiling.

“Look. I’ve had more substantive conversations with you then I ever had with The Sperm Depositor a/k/a my ex, but these knowledge epiphanous ‘talks’ are feeling pretty pretend now. So….who are you?”

“Do any of us really know who we are?”

“Don’t try that shit on with me, Sparky.” She smacks her hands together. “That’s it. No more Googling. No more lie-detector crap. I’m goin’ for the masculine jugular. I’m gonna get in your pants.”

That eyebrow of his really shoots up this time, and she sees it, and this time, she’s the one smiling.

“Your ID’s gotta be in your wallet…in your back pocket. Am I right?”

--Robin S.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday Film Series

Writing Exercise

Tired of never knowing what's really going on, you've kidnapped Evil Editor and hooked him up to a lie detector. Once you complete your interview and publish the findings, the world will know the sordid truth about the publishing industry . . . and EE.

300 words max, deadline Sunday, 10 AM eastern.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Synopsis 21

In the year 2012, Satan rose from Hell to install his infernal kingdom on Earth, but mankind thwarted him with the help of Heaven't most powerful forces. Jesus Christ's second coming revealed the truth of Christianity, and a thousand years later there is no other religion on Earth. [Jesus is the Grover Cleveland of religious figures--he gets a second term years after his first term ended.] The world’s united government operates by means of two power-sharing entities: the Church, who rule the economy, [They volunteered.] and the Sword of God, the Earth’s holy army. [What does Earth's holy army do, now that there aren't any non-Christians to kill?]

In 2993, Earth is challenged by a hostile alien race called Perfirians. The Sword responds violently despite the Church's protestations. The resulting war sets the Church and the Sword irreperably at odds, and the Sword's conscription initiative causes a firestorm of discord between war supporters and peace advocates worldwide. [If the world has one united government and one religion, how big an army do they need? Aren't all wars caused by differences between governments and religions?]

Seraph begins by following a few conscription letters to their young addressees. Matthias, a poor boy in the slums of Lesser New York, vows to personally end the war so he can return to his ailing mother. Kenneth enlists to escape a criminal trial after killing a man in self-defense. [If anyone who is about to go on trial can get out of it by joining the holy army, the holy army must be full of serial killers and other sinners.] [Is killing in self-defense a crime in the future?] The scrappy urchin Sic [Anagram: Sin Church.] embraces the opportunity to flee poverty and boredom, and the once-celebrated pianist Kate reluctantly accepts her best career option in a world increasingly disenchanted with the arts. [Historically, Christianity has inspired great music and art almost as much as it's inspired war, murder and injustice, so I find it hard to believe the arts are out now that Christianity has no competition. Didn't Jesus, during his second term in office, say anything along the lines of, "Lay down your weapons and learn to play the organ."?] Clement, a brilliant scientist and Kate's fiancé, wants a first-hand look at the Perfirians, and Genny, a statuesque and haughty blueblood, foresees a glorious future in the military.

After their training, these six youths proceed to the space station Seraph and into frothing conflict, where they are joined by Tib, an enigmatic outsider with something to prove. Months of side-by-side danger and excitement draw Sic and Matthias closer together. [What is this frothing conflict? Battling the Perfirians? Their war ships haven't defeated our measly space station after months? Klingons they ain't.] Clement, far removed from the action on a Sword research station, [You said all six were on the Seraph station.] fears for Kate's life. He consequently makes feverish progress on a weapon powerful enough to conclude the war before it claims her. [Did Jesus sign off on the policy of making more powerful weapons? Why didn't he ordain that all disputes be settled with rock, paper, scissors? I guess he could have said, in 2012, keep that weapon research going, you're gonna need some big guns when the Perfirians show up in a thousand years.]

The seven soldiers meet the evil Perfirian generals, among them Diomedes, who seizes a Sword ship in an attempt to infiltrate Earth's atmosphere. [Infiltrate the atmosphere? If you're saying he needs a Sword ship so Earth will think he's one of them when he lands, I find it hard to believe that you can seize a ship without anyone on Earth knowing it. Even our primitive communications are good enough to prevent that deception.] Kenneth is captured in the ensuing battle. After neutralizing Diomedes on Earth, Tib is absorbed into the Sword’s excavation of a sacred relic, headed by Genny. There he learns that the Pope has organized his supporters into a rabid militia. [Is the Pope on the Sword side or the pacifist side?] It’s only a matter of time before the Church and the Sword descend into all-out war, but Genny obliviously digs on. [What should she be doing?] A supernatural force compels her to the prize buried beneath the site. [It's the ring of power.] [Too much going on in that paragraph. Change it to a paragraph about what Genny's doing, and mention no one else.]

Sic is killed rescuing Kenneth, and it takes the shock of her death for the devastated Matthias to realize how much he loved her. While undercover, Tib sees the Church supporters' mobilization firsthand, but his desperate calls to Genny go unanswered. He returns to the dig to find everything destroyed...and a terrifying demon flying off into the distance. Thinking Genny dead, he pursues the creature, which leads him across North America to the Gates of Hell. [California.]

In her tireless search for peace, Kate discovers a conspiracy: the Sword is actively perpetuating the war in order to preserve its livelihood [Did we learn nothing from Halliburton?] and curtail the Church's power. Kenneth is ordered to silence her, but he cannot countenance the heinous act, so he performs a mock assassination and sends her safely to Earth. Kate then meets up with Tib, and the two soldiers battle the demon to prevent the Gates' reopening. In vanquishing him, they learn the Perfirians' true purpose: infiltrate Hell to establish an unholy trinity with Satan, their god. With Earth on the brink of civil war, Kate and Tib must persuade the Pope that peace is not an option. [This is going on too long. It feels like a list of things that happen, with little focus on the thread that ties everything together. Maybe we need to know earlier what the enemy wants.] [The only thing shorter than an editor's attention span is an agent's, so cut, cut, cut.]

Unbeknownst to Tib, Genny returns to Seraph with a shard of the demon corrupting her soul. Clement has at last perfected a weapon capable of neutralizing the Perfirian fleet, but the demon (using Genny's body) attempts to murder him in order to subvert its activation. Clement destroys the demon, killing Genny in the process. With her dying breath, Genny thanks Clement for freeing her. Clement [, using the transporter,] then sends the vengeful Matthias into the Perfirian mothership bearing the weapon, and Matthias sacrifices himself to cripple the enemy. Sic is the last thing he sees before he dies. [Why didn't he transport out at the last second?] [Lemme guess . . . He tried, but the transporter malfunctioned again.]

With their generals killed and their mothership captured, the beleaguered alien army retreats. Kenneth and Clement cooperate to bring down the Sword's corrupt higher-ups. Kenneth then recovers Tib and leads a contingent to pursue the fleeing enemy, while Clement joins Kate on Earth in the arduous task of reuniting the human race. [This time they decide to try it with zero religions.] Seraph's epilogue summarizes their success, and the novel ends with their long-awaited wedding.


You'd think once there was concrete proof that heaven exists, sinning would be almost nonexistent, except for adultery. Yet Kenneth has to kill someone who's trying to murder him? How stupid do you have to be to attempt murder when you know there's a heaven?

On the other hand, since there are people who think the Holocaust never happened after only sixty years, how is it that everyone believes the second coming happened after a thousand years? I guarantee there'd be second coming deniers within a century.

If the militant Sword goes to war against the pacifist Church, isn't the war over in about ten minutes?

What did Jesus do after vanquishing Satan's demons? You'd think he would have stuck around a while and straightened people out. With the crime and weapons manufacture and slums and civil war, Earth doesn't seem any better. Guess we'll have to wait for the second coming of Buddha.

How do the aliens plan to infiltrate hell? Can you go there when you're alive now?

Cartoon 459

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

New Beginning 678

Across the river from stately downtown Lafayette, Purdue University’s bell tower rang out alone: five o’clock.

The elevator in the Agricultural Administration Building carried a man and two women from the first floor to the third floor, sank to the second floor, and carried three men down to the first floor, where they clattered down a half-flight of steps and out the door.

The elevator hefted itself up to the second floor to pick up a woman carrying her grandchild and took them to the third floor.

Two laughing young men jogged up the main stairway and disappeared behind a rarely-used door. Though nobody used the steps behind—they were 60 degrees from the horizontal—nobody had thought to turn the lock.

The air conditioning hummed and thrummed overhead as people locked their doors and walked past the unsightly demolition of St. Thomas Aquinas to the parking garage across the street.

The bell tower finished chiming its melodies and left the air silent and humid as before.

On the ground floor of the Ag Admin Building, Aliya pondered the coke machine. Coke, cherry coke, diet coke, coke zero. The only people she could hear left in the building were the janitors; she left the machine for the elevator.

The Coke machine shuddered and sighed. Sure, he could invite the chicks for a drink, but in the end, they always got high with, or went down on, the elevator. Lucky bastard.

Opening: _*Rachel*_.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 458

Caption: Anon.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Face-Lift 668

Guess the Plot

The Accident

1. The inner dichotomies of modern America and the intricate knotwork of complex exigencies at the heart of small-town life are explored in a story which begins in Tatum, New Mexico, with a fender-bender between two uninsured vehicles.

2. After a UFO crashes in Washington D.C., strange things start happening: one couple makes the inexplicable decision to move into a condominium. A young man finds himself unable to describe a door. Is the alien from the UFO responsible? Will things get worse before they get better?

3. John is a four year old trapped in the body of a man seven times his age. He's getting through the day all right, with help from his helicopter mother, but can he get through the big board meeting this afternoon without having . . . the accident?

4. Little Jimmy Hines is getting mighty tired of being called "the accident" by his mom and dad, so he convinces his seventeen older siblings that life would be much more fun without parents.

5. When David Butterfield learns, at the tender age of 11, that he, meaning his very corporeal existence on earth, was 'an accident', caused by some kind of mysterious botch-up by his wanker of a father on a day when his poor mother had drunk all the ale in the village, not only is his mood altered, but his entire outlook on life spins around, leading to unforeseeable circumstances of reckless activity, crime, drug addiction, and eventually a shocking revenge on evil Mrs. Piggott, the heartless gossip who spewed the 'truth'.

6. Erica hadn't meant to dribble meat juice all over her brother Joe's Levis. Or leave the door to the family pitbull's run open. Besides, it was Joey's own fault; he should have fed Fluffy last night. He forgot. Oh, no, hang on; it had been her turn. Oh well...

Original Version

Dear Agent:

I am writing to introduce you to my science fiction/fantasy novel THE ACCIDENT, which has a plot twist that has never appeared in any other novel or movie. [Say no more. I'm putting a six-figure contract in the mail at this exact moment, and if anyone offers more, I'll double it. I must have this book.] [Just kidding. Actually, all plot twists can be traced to The Game, Ender's Game, House of Games, or The Crying Game. I guarantee you subconsciously stole your twist from one of those.] [The only reason an agent would read beyond that sentence is in hopes that the query is a hoax and will be full of laughs.] The novel is complete at 87,500 words.

Three couples cross paths with a mysterious UFO that crashes in Washington, D.C.'s Rock Creek Park: a student, falling in love with a friend, discovers the UFO with her, but when her brother gets trapped inside the saucer, no one believes them; [Is the UFO still there? Because if someone tells me her brother's trapped in a flying saucer, once she shows me the flying saucer I'm not going to be all that skeptical about the brother part.] a bickering married couple move into a condominium with a strange neighbor; [What does that have to do with the UFO?] and a man keeps seeing a door in the sky, but doesn't know how to explain his vision to his fiancee. [I can explain it. He's watching a Twilight Zone marathon.] [Also, what does that have to do with the UFO? You were supposed to be telling how the couples crossed paths with the UFO.] While the alien adapts to the city with frightening consequences, [Apparently an alien survived the crash. I hate it when aliens pop up in the last sentence of the plot summary.] [Yes, even when, as in this case, the plot summary has only two sentences] one person stumbles upon the UFO's unique purpose.

I have enclosed an endorsement from award-winning writer XX, who read the novel and called it "wonderful." [Have you ever noticed that the more awards an author wins, the less talkative he is when describing anyone else's writing?] As for myself, my background is in advertising. I was born in Washington, D.C. and lived in the area where the novel takes place while I worked for a newspaper. Right now I am writing a sequel.

This is a simultaneous submission to several agents, but I hope to hear from you first because of your excellent reputation. [My other queries went to agents who, frankly, are likely to defraud me.] You represent the authors of several fine science fiction and fantasy novels set in ordinary cities on Earth, [It's worth noting that of the cities on Earth, Washington D.C. is among the least ordinary.] such as YY's [book title in italics] and ZZ[Top]'s [book title in italics]. Please let me know if I may send a partial or full manuscript. Thank you for your time.

Best regards,


Manuscript sample


Seeking an agent who represents books with a similarity to yours makes sense, but can you come up with a similarity more specific than it's set on Earth? It's a rare agent who hasn't represented a few such books.

Not only is your plot summary a mere two sentences; it's mostly just a list of characters. What's the story?

How many aliens were on that ship? One?

If a UFO crashed in D.C., there would be far more interesting goings-on than the ones you describe. Why are you focusing on these three couples?

Unless you've read all books and seen all movies, I don't see how you can claim your plot twist has never appeared anywhere. Wouldn't it be better to describe the plot twist and let the agent think, Wow, that plot twist has never been used? I mean, if you've come up with something truly unique to all literature, is that not your main selling point? Is that not the one thing that should be in your query above all else?

Start over from scratch. Tell us what happens. Leave out everything else.

Cartoon 457

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Beginning 677

It’s a long way from the gutter to the back seat of a limo, Chuck Mallory thought as he sat in the back of the stretch Lincoln. Recessed lights cast a discreet glow and a hint of sandalwood lurked in the climate-controlled air. It’s not my limo, but still, it’s a long way from the gutter.

Mallory looked at the two men sitting across from him. They were dressed in dark suits and wore serious faces. He didn’t know why he’d been asked -- summoned, really -- to meet Seth Davies, Chairman of the Board of the Port Authority, and Bill Donovan, a fellow board member. Or why he’d been instructed to make sure he wasn’t followed to the rendezvous point.

“This conversation is to be kept in the strictest confidence, Mr. Mallory,” Davies said. “We must have your word on that.”

“Mr. Davies, anything you choose to tell me will be treated with the utmost discretion,” Mallory said. “But you already knew that, or you wouldn’t have contacted me.”

The man stiffened. "How did you know my name?"

"Everyone knows who you are, sir." Mallory leaned back, making himself comfortable. "Your name's all over the papers, what with the . . . unfortunate allegations."

"Yes, well," Donovan huffed, cutting to the point with an admirable lack of bull. "That's why we're all here. This is a photograph of the detective in charge of the investigation. We need it to look like an accident."

And here it came, the familiar manila envelope that everybody seemed to use for these things. Mallory upended it, tactfully setting aside the cash to count later in favor of studying the photograph. An unpleasant frisson went down his back when he saw the familiar face staring up at him. The woman next to him must be the fabled wife.

"Is there a problem, Mr. Mallory?" snapped Davies.

"No, sir."

But as Chuck snapped the folder shut he knew two things: one, this was going to be the hardest hit of his career and two, ace homicide detective Zack Martinez's wife was actually pretty cute.

Opening: Wonderwood.....Continuation: Sarah from Hawthorne

Cartoon 456

Caption: Anon.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Face-Lift 667

Guess the Plot


1. Rafaeno is at last a seraph, a member of the highest caste of angels. But his skills grow rusty as he manages the cherubs, virtues, and principalities. When a chance comes, to be a guardian angel again, he takes it, if only to relieve the boredom. But can he handle a foul-mouthed ninja goth by the name of Trixie Morgan?

2. Thithariel, Angel of Lisps and Speech Impediments, is finding life hard as one of the Principalities, so he asks God for a transfer to another angelic order. Unfortunately, God's in a really pithy mood.

3. edtrs always want u 2 use font with seraphs. I mene, com on, they keep rjectin my qury bc i use arial. dude, mby u can hlp/

4. 2998. Ever since the return of Jesus a thousand years ago, Earth has been completely at peace. But now the perfidious Perfirians threaten to eradicate mankind, and it's up to a handful of humans to turn back these space invaders. Can they do it? What about if a seraph helps them?

5. The angel font is a new free download from Kingdom Come ltd. What no one realizes is that when the counter hits 666,666,666 the font isn't the only thing that will be downloaded -- as hacker Nero Williams is about to find out.

6. Jack thought he'd found a stress-free calling as chapel caretaker, where his narcolepsy attacks would cause minimal damage. Then, the statues start rearranging themselves and the pews whisper at night. Can Jack stay awake long enough to solve the mystery of the shuffling . . . Seraph?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Exterminating demons was hard enough back in 2012. In 2998, Earth has aliens to worry about. [I'm not sure this comparison is working for me. If it were the same people doing it, it would make sense, but with a thousand years between the demons and aliens, not so much. It's like a British soldier in 1944 saying, "Man it was hard enough fighting William the Conqueror back in 1066; now we have to take on Nazi Germany." I would probably begin: The year is 2998. After 1000 years of peaceful coexistence, mankind faces . . .] Now a septet of intrepid young recruits must risk their lives and souls to repel the extraterrestrial menace that threatens to eradicate the human race.

All Matthias wants is to end the war and return to his ailing family, and all Sic wants is Matthias. Kate and Clement must choose between their separate military careers and their future together. Tib, an outsider with something to prove, makes it his mission to stymie Genny, whose insatiable ambition sets her on a course to awaken a once-vanquished evil. The quintessential soldier Kenneth is Earth's best hope, but a loathsome conspiracy forces him to question his destiny. [Are you saying these seven people must defeat an alien invasion capable of eradicating the human race? If we're counting on seven people to save us, I propose that we dump everyone except Kenneth and start the recruitment process all over. This sounds like what would have happened if the Allies had relied on the cast of Big Brother to defeat the Axis powers.]

A thousand years ago, Jesus Christ joined forces with mankind to repel Satan and the legions of Hell. [If I were JC, I think I'd rather go it alone than join forces with mankind, who screw up everything they touch.] All of Earth is a bicameral Christian state. [All of Earth? As I find it hard to believe all Christians and Jews and atheists would become Muslims if Mohammed returned to Earth, I'm having trouble buying into everyone becoming Christian if Jesus returned.] The arrival of the rapacious Perfirians jeopardizes a millennium of world peace by spurring an ideological divide between the pacifist Church and the militant Sword of God. [Based on the adjectives "pacifist" and "militant," I would say there was an ideological divide before the Perfirians arrived.] For our heroes, the task at hand is not only to defeat the bad guys in space, but also to thwart the ones on Earth. [With Earth under attack by aliens, I can't tell whether the bad guys are the pacifists or the Sword.]

Seraph (160,000 words) merges Catholic dogma and deep space into a fast-paced and dynamic commercial fantasy. [Nothing that merges Catholic dogma with anything is fast-paced.] Game-changing revelations, stolen kisses, and jargon-laced one-liners abound. [That's too general to be helpful.] The full manuscript is available on request. I am seeking your representation because only the best editors are evil.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Even Christians would react poorly to a guy saying, "I'm Jesus, and I'm back. Yes the Jesus. What's so funny? Hey, where you taking me? Wait, watch, I'll turn water into wine." Cynical times. His best bet might be to become a stage magician.

Out of curiosity, how did Jesus dress when he returned? Flowing robes? Coat and tie? Jeans and T-shirt?

I'm not crazy about throwing away a whole paragraph to tell us the names and a tidbit about seven characters. If you have a main character or two, focus on them. Note the tagline from the movie Fellowship of the Ring and the summary of the book:

In a small village in the Shire a young Hobbit named Frodo has been entrusted with an ancient Ring. Now he must embark on an Epic quest to the Cracks of Doom in order to destroy it. (IMDB)

Frodo Baggins knew the Ringwraiths were searching for him—and the Ring of Power he bore that would enable Sauran to destroy all that was good in Middle-earth. Now it was up to Frodo and his faithful servant Sam to carry the Ring to where it could be destroyed—in the very center of Sauron's dark kingdom. (

No mention of the other hobbits, Gandalf, Legolas, etc. Just the two main characters and the enemy. Maybe Kenneth, Earth's best hope, should be the query's focus, especially if he's the group's leader. You can get specific about the loathsome conspiracy he's dealing with.

Now, if no character has a bigger role than the others, just talk about them as a group. Here are the short and long descriptions of The Big Chill. (IMDB)

A group of seven former college friends gather for a weekend reunion at a posh South Carolina winter house after the funeral of one of their friends.

A seminal Thirty-Something movie in which a group of old college friends who are now all grown up and hardened by the big wide world come together for the funeral of Alex, a barely glimpsed corpse, who was at one time the brightest and the best of them, and yet who never managed to achieve half as much as any of the others. The friends use the occasion to reacquaint themselves with each other and to speculate as to what happened to their idealism which had been abundant when they were younger.

No names, nothing specific about any one of them. A film closer in theme to your book, The Seven Samurai, is similarly described. We don't get each Samurai's name and something about him.

Without wasting that paragraph you'll have room to tell us why the fate of the world has been placed in the hands of this particular group of people. How can they hope to defeat the aliens? Do they have the backing of a seraph?

Cartoon 455

Caption: Whirlochre/EE

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Success Story

Robin reports the publication of her flash fiction piece "Strain Free" in Pittsburgh Flash Fiction Gazette. You can read it here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

New Beginning 676

Countess Velois fled as the Death neared Champagne. She sailed on the Count's fastest ship to London and hurried inland on horseback, eager to hide herself and her daughter, Elinore, in remote country. They lodged at Warwyck castle, as guests of the Earl and his wife. The Countess felt safe there. Surely no plague would find them in such a distant and splendid place. She busied herself with solemn pleasantries such as reading and prayers and making embroideries with the other ladies.

Pretty Elinore was too boisterous and spoiled to sew embroidery. She also failed at lessons and prayers. She was flighty as a sparrow. Her mother allowed her to flit about, but warned her to avoid milkmaids, travelers, kitchenmen, and most of all: the enchanted Arden. Of course the girl quickly grew desperate to wander the Arden, thanks to the Earl's cousin's wife, who told her of unicorns dwelling in that wild wood.


Evil looked up from his desk, irritated. 'Hey,' he called to Mrs. Varmighan, 'switch the goddamn hoover off. I got one with unicorns.'

'I thought you didn't go in for fantasy,' Mrs. V replied, pulling the plug.

'You kidding?' Evil waved the top page of the script. 'Two paragraphs in and we've had a Countess, some foreshadowing about vampire milkmaids — and it's set in Warwyck. That's England.'

Mrs. Varmighan folded her arms. 'I know where it is, stupid.'

'Anyway,' said EE, kicking back, 'I like it. Take the afternoon off.'

Mrs. Varmighan glowered at him, slighted as an aging football player left out of the Super Bowl. 'Let me see that,' she snapped, snatching the script from Evil's hand. 'Huh. "Flighty as a sparrow"? What the hell kind of imagery is that?'

'You trying to do my job?'

'Hell, no,' retorted Mrs Varmighan, her hairdo quivering with rage. 'But if that's all the thanks I get for trying to help, I quit.'

Evil watched her stomp past the weredingoes clustered by the door. Adjusting his pince-nez, he feigned resumed contentment and scanned down to paragraph three.

"Legend had it that Warwyck Woode was a tangled embroidery weaved long ago by giants—"

The sound of drooping muttonchops filled the office.

'Fetch me a squirrel and my Magnum revolver!' he barked into the intercom.

But she was gone.

Opening: Anon......Continuation: Whirlochre

Cartoon 454

Caption: anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Face-Lift 666

Guess the Plot

The Mermaid Virus

1. When a dead mermaid with open sores washes up on the beach it causes a media frenzy. Can Dr. Michaels stop the plague she carries from spreading to humanity--before Arnold Toole convinces everyone that eating mermaid flesh grants immortality?

2. In a village famous for its seafood and its smell, Kayla's scientist parents are studying a mysterious virus that kills one teen-aged girl per year. When her parents suddenly die, Kayla must finish their work before she becomes the next victim of . . . The Mermaid Virus. Also, Rastafarian surfers.

3. Kyle designed the Mermaid Virus to trail bubbles across random office monitors and to relieve boredom. But when the saucy fish-tail starts skimming the managers' accounts and transferring the money to orphanages, cancer research, and Save the Whales, Kyle isn't sure if he's created a monster or an angel.

4. For years, virologist Lyle Bodecker has been studying the "Mermaid Virus", a mysterious disease that transforms women into near-duplicates of Daryl Hannah during the filming of Splash. Now he's announced he's on the verge of finding a cure. Can he be stopped in time?

5. Navy SEAL Hank Deadle knows he and his badass comrades are the best of the best . . . until they start growing iridescent green tails. Could it have anything to do with that top-secret medical research project funded by Disney that they volunteered for?

6. When fishermen in Nova Scotia land a mermaid, they think they've hit the jackpot--until they're stricken with a mysterious illness that makes them unable to breathe except while underwater. Can fish pathologist Hank Walley decipher the genetic code of this nightmare virus and identify a cure in time to save himself? Or must he, too, soon be tanked?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Sandstone is an unusual village, not just because of its uncanny success in the seafood industry [despite its location 800 miles from the ocean,] or the mysterious virus that takes the life of one teenage girl every year, but because of its smell. [There's nothing unusual about a village that's famous for seafood also being famous for its smell.] The smell of Sandstone air is the first thing that strikes Kayla as unusual when she moves to the seaside village with her parents, scientists that are determined to discover the cure for the Mermaid Virus [thus saving 100 lives per century]. [I smell a Nobel Prize in medicine coming their way.]

Kayla is soon befriended by the mysterious and green-eyed Joseph [I'd rather know what's mysterious about him than what color his eyes are.] and a delinquent crew of Rastafarian surfers. When attacks from strange water creatures [Mermaids.] begin to take their toll on the surfers and fishermen alike, Kayla starts to realize that there is more to Sandstone's annual deaths than a “virus.” When her parents meet an untimely death at the verge of scientific breakthrough, she becomes sure of it. [It's the fact that one teen-aged girl per year dies that indicates "virus" should be in quotation marks, not the fact that sea creatures are trying to rid their waters of Rastafarian surfers, or that Kayla's parents, who aren't teenagers, died. What killed her parents?] Now, under the guardianship of a woman she does not trust, Kayla must continue the work that her parents began—discovering the cause of the Mermaid Virus—before she becomes its next victim, even as she struggles with her grief over her parent's [parents'] death, the unusual nature of her relationship with Joseph, [If you aren't going to tell us what's mysterious about Joseph or what's unusual about their relationship, why is he in the query?] and the dark secrets her surfing friends fail to keep hidden. [But that you have no trouble keeping hidden.]

The Mermaid Virus is complete at 67,000 words. I have spent several years on both the East and West coast and have become an avid reader of mermaid lore. I hold a BA in Literary Studies from Brigham Young University-Idaho. [BYU Idaho? That makes as much sense as MIT at Chicago.] My shorter creative work [A Haiku and a non-rhyming limerick.] has appeared in The Claremont Review and Bottle Rockets, and has earned several awards at my university's annual pre-professional conferences. I thought that this project may be suitable for you because of your interest in folklore, cannibalism, and obscure Asian history. Thank you for your time in reviewing this query. [For the record, my interest in cannibalism isn't literary in nature; I just like the flavor of a well-seasoned grilled human thigh.]



So what's so unusual about the smell of the air? If you're going to bring it up, you have to explain.

I don't see how scientists can be so convinced there's a virus that targets one teen girl per year, that they pack up their family and move to the scene of the deaths to find a cure. It sounds more like a case for amateur sleuth Amelia Pettipants.

On the other hand, if the villagers are sacrificing one girl per year to Aquaman, how did word that there was a mysterious virus reach Kayla's parents? Was it CSI Sandstone that originally determined that the annual deaths were caused by a virus?

How can a teen-aged girl just take over the work of her scientist parents? Doesn't this work require years of training?

Cartoon 453

Caption: Mother (Re)produces

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New Beginning 675

I almost lost my virginity last year. I was in Jeff Holbrook's basement on a Saturday at noon and one else was in the house but him and me. One rectangular window let in the filtered gray light of that pathetically unforgettable, autumn day. We dropped ourselves on a crappy old mattress stationed in the middle of the room and it was awkward right from the start. I was lying on my back stiff as a board and he was crushing the air out of me. I can't remember why I thought it would be a good idea to finally get busy on that particular day because I'd only been dating him for a month. Maybe it was all the teasing from my so-called friends about being the last one to do it. Whatever it was, the thing I remember most is the smell of musty concrete; I think it still lives in my nose. I was trying to smash my knees back together because I had a sudden lapse of bravery and realized I didn't want to be there anymore. Instead of panic, instead of shame, I struggled against him as best I could and I hoped. I prayed to the demon shadows around me that I would get out of there in one piece.

Jeff sighed and stared at the table in front of him. It was all true of course: the seedy basement, his lack of restraint, everything. There was no way he would escape this humiliation.

The judge looked at them both. "Well, it's a clear cut case," she said. "You, young lady, reneged on a promise. I find in favor of the defendant and award Mr. Holbrook the overdue loss of his virginity."

Jeff coughed and stared at the table again, though thrilled with the outcome. Judge Judy rocks!

"As you know," Judy continued, "the program takes care of the settlements. Mr. Holbrook -- to my chambers."

Opening: Aimee.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 452

Caption: Anon.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Face-Lift 665

Guess the Plot

Office Magic

1. He's the head of the company's IT department. She's the new girl in the office. He'll do anything to get her fired. She accuses him of plotting against her. If these two bitter enemies are going to take their relationship beyond incessant sex it's going to take a little . . . Office Magic.

2. There is blood, gore and mayhem as the tendrils of old black magic engulf a seemingly normal office environment. The unsuspecting coworkers band together in order to rid their cubicles of the evil influence of their dreaded manager, Mephistopheles McDonald, Jr.

3. Selma Baker has kept her position as head secretary at Consolidated Megaplex Holdings, Inc. despite her unpleasant phone manner and poor typing because she's the only one who can get the office copier to work properly. But when friendly and efficient Tassie Jones fills in during Selma's bunion surgery and the copier doesn't jam once, Selma dusts off her cauldron and spellbooks in order to hang on to her job.

4. During her lunch break Tammy the receptionist uses her connection to the firm's XXiQV8 computer to bring cartoon hero Chet Urskin, aka, Captain Laserhead, to life. After a passionate frolic in the supply closet, these miscreants hijack the XXiQV8 and embark on adventures of the fourth kind.

5. Desperate college dropout Lydia Johnson begins a crummy job as the receptionist at a shoebox factory, and is thrilled when hunky shipping lackey Heath Windsor invites her out for cheeseburgers and reveals his true identity as a wizard sent by the Blue Trinity to protect her from evil secretaries, vampires, and unscrupulous dry-cleaners as she prepares for a royal destiny.

6. Unappreciated secretary Krystal Barnett buys a witchy black dress at a thrift shop and finds a tarnished old ring in the pocket. It is, of course, the fabled Ring of Vibrissa. She embarks on a program to take over the company and soon dominates the entire world of hair products. But then Uthgar the Bald, former owner of the ring, finds her.

Original Version

Office Magic is completed at a bit more than 97,000 words. Manuscript and synopsis are available upon request.

The story has elements of the Contemporary, Mystery, and Fantasy genres. The sex scenes between the main two characters are explicit, [I like a query that puts the most important stuff up front. To hell with the plot; is the sex explicit?] [We need to see five or six unabridged examples before we can advise you.] and throughout the manuscript there are excerpts of a sexual nature from a book that the leading lady is reading. That book is also written by me, but [does not necessarily recount my own sexual experiences, and is] not published. [So what you're saying is, the only scenes in this book that don't involve the main characters having sex are sex scenes from your other book?]

Alexandra-Lexi-Adams has just started working for her step-father, Robert Pedelty. On a slow day at work, she discovers an online romance novel, the heroine of which is her spitting image and carries her childhood nickname, Xandra. Intrigued, she starts reading, and becomes enamoured with the leading man, Rex. The problem is, she soon discovers the site on which the novel is posted is only accessible by her work PC. [She tries to go there from her home computer, but keeps getting the same error message: Server not found. It may no longer exist or may be experiencing heavy traffic or may be reachable only from your work PC.]

Edmund, head of the IT department, is the only person appearing less than happy with Lexi working for the company. He wastes no chance to provoke her, and has told her step-father that she doesn't belong in her current position. [Which is what? If she's not in the IT dept., what does he care? And if she is in the IT dept., why doesn't he just tell her what she's doing wrong? Lexi's stepfather isn't going to fire her; he has to live with Lexi's mother.] He suspects she's slacking off and decides to find out what she does in front of her computer screen all day.

His surprise at what takes up her time is overshadowed by the fact that the novel's leading man shares his face and the name he used years ago, before Lexi's step-father saved him from himself. [What does that mean?] Thinking Lexi is enamored [2nd use of the word enamored, and 2nd spelling as well.] with him and has written the novel, he's forced to come to terms with his feelings for her; feelings he's been denying and hiding out of respect for her stepfather. [Hiding your feelings is one thing; he's been trying to get rid of her.]

Finally giving into his attraction to Lexi, he starts baiting her, [This makes it sound like baiting someone is a good thing.] but when she is convinced he's the one who created the site, she stops reading and accuses him of plotting against her at work. In an effort to win her over, Edmund assumes his Rex persona again, but Lexi has been hurt in the past and, even though she gives into him physically, she isn't willing to share more than her body. [You've been plotting against me at work, you bastard; I refuse to have anything to do with you. Except have frequent sex.]

Edmund won’t give up his pursuit of her, while Lexi’s best friend Angi nudges her his way. Angi is a Wiccan who is too shy to perform spells in public. She may have done something in private however, that was meant to show Lexi the way to her One True Love. [Has Angi even met Edmund?]

Thank you in advance for your consideration,


How is it that Lexi notices that the novel's heroine is her spitting image but doesn't notice that its hero is Edmund's spitting image? Is the novel illustrated, or are the characters just described?

If Angi is responsible for the novel, maybe she should be in the query earlier. I'm sure she appears in the book before the last chapter. Start with Lexi's love life is in the tank when she meets Edmund, the most annoying guy in the world. But her best friend, Wiccan Angi, knows they were meant for each other, so she writes a complete novel in which they have sex all the time and live happily ever after, and puts it online where they'll both see it. Unfortunately, they never read past the part where they have sex all the time.

This is a romance, right? With some witchcraft thrown in? We're more interested in the main genre than in what genres it has elements of. If the sex is ubiquitous you can call it erotica, but there's nothing unusual about a modern romance novel having a few explicit sex scenes. It's pretty much expected. Thus there's no need to open by describing the level of intensity of your sex scenes.

"Stepfather" isn't commonly hyphenated, which you didn't realize until the fourth time you used it.

Cartoon 451

Caption: Blogless_Troll

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Monday, August 17, 2009

The Zack Martinez Chronicles

As those who've been around here a long time (or have read the archives) know, amateur sleuth Miss Amelia Pettipants was once a frequent character in Guess the Plots. Miss Pettipants, created by Kate Thornton (who apparently doesn't visit us anymore), was so popular we spent a week compiling information about her for use in a writing exercise.

In recent months, homicide detective Zack Martinez (created by Khazar-khum) has made frequent GTP appearances. I suspect Miss Pettipants and Detective Martinez have each made dozens of blog appearances, but I've chosen ten of each for your enjoyment.

Ace Homicide Detective Zack Martinez

The letter pinned to the starlet's bikini said only "N." For Zack Martinez, homicide detective, this meant two things: those first thirteen murders were related, and he'd better stop off for take-home BBQ at Nairobi Bob's.

When the letters U and I turn up missing from alphabet soup cans at crime scenes, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: he's on the trail of a kleptomaniac serial killer who was traumatized by a childhood word guessing game; and he'd better remember to pick up his wife's Andy Warhol comforter from Hang's Dry Cleaning.

When heartthrob Justin Spears is killed on the set of his new movie "Drug Money", homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: the stunt gun was replaced by a real .45, and he'd better get an original picture of Spears if he doesn't want his wife to shoot him.

When the partially eaten body of celebrity photographer Marc Austin is discovered in Griffith Park, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: the cougars who stalked the handsome Austin aren't the type with fangs and claws; and he'd better not forget his son's birthday at the zoo on Wednesday.

Two AM. Dead husband. Pickles and curd rice on the counter. Half-melted peach ice cream in the bag. Homicide detective Zack Martinez has seen a lot of cases, but this one adds up to a pissed & pregnant wife. Or does it? Either way, he'd better get some rocky road on the way home, or his own pregnant wife will kill him.

When homicide Detective Zack Martinez is summoned to the Gem City, a huge wholesale jewelry building, he knows two things: he'll run into his ex-wife at her boutique, and he'd better bring his new wife some earrings.

When Carl Saperstein, owner of top 3-year-old Fortune's Fool, is shot dead outside his store in LA's Garment District, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: finding the perp is a long shot, and he'd better bring his new wife some of that silk dupioni.

When peace activist and actress Angelica is found at the bottom of her pool, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: One, the lawyer who helped her adopt her posse of adopted kids is somehow involved, and two, if he doesn't bring home an autographed picture of Angelica's hunky hubby Tad his new wife will put him at the bottom of the pool.

When the body of fashion guru Roberto Garibaldi is discovered in his plush Beverly Hills home, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: Garibaldi didn't sever his own carotid artery with pinking shears, and he'd better get his wife a new pair of scissors to replace the ones he wrecked gutting fish last weekend.

When the plush velvet curtains of the Pantages part to reveal the corpse of actress Dame Catherine Holt lying in a gory heap, LA homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: he's going to be pulling serious overtime, and he'd better get his new wife orchestra seating to "Wicked" to make up for this fiasco.

Miss Amelia Pettipants

When gardeners plow up what might be an old cemetery on the grounds of Catalpa Hall, Boring-0n-End's oldest building, amateur sleuth and all-around busybody, Amelia Pettipants, suspects the Illuminati are at it again.

When sexy spinster Amelia Pettipants goes undercover in a lingerie factory, she discovers a frightening plot to blow up the southbound Chunnel using explosives hidden in corset-boning. Can she prevent a rapid British population decline? Or will France be forced to digest the influx of British cuisine?

Village snoop Amelia Pettipants discovers the body of Lady Bulgrim stuffed into the red phone box at the end of the lane, a Eurorail Pass flattened across her nose. Both the village doctor and Miss Nasale, the French teacher, have disappeared. Will the busybody sleuth discover the murderer before the next train to Calais?

Becoming a demon master wasn't on the agenda for bridge night, but it's in the cards when intrepid Amelia Pettipants finds a gateway to Hell burgeoning in her basement. Will the bridge mix hold up to the heat?

Colonel Huffelrump's insatiable appetite for spicy curry has led to digestive problems, but it's his daughter, Lady Martita Gasbag, who is found in poisoned gastric distress. Before expiring, she leaves a cryptic clue. The air is thick with suspicion and it is up to nosy spinster Amelia Pettipants to sniff out the culprit.

Persnickety spinster Amelia Pettipants returns to Boring-on-End to discover her tiny cottage in a mess. Partridge, her char, has disappeared, leaving only a dirty mop bucket as a cryptic message. Can the busybody sleuth find her maid before the Vicar's visit? Or will dust and spotty teacups once again spell murder?

Vicar Cy Loutly in the the quaint village of Boring-on-End is justifiably proud of his collection of Staffordshire porcelain. But will pride go before a fall when spinster detective Amelia Pettipants discovers a priceless Staffordshire spaniel in the lifeless hands of the village barmaid, Rosie Bottoms?

In this latest book in the series, plucky spinster Amelia Pettipants leaves her charming village, Boring-on-End, and travels to Paris. But a devil with spray paint has been at work, vandalizing the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Can Amelia find the culprit before the tour guide herds them to the next desecration?

Nosy spinster detective Amelia Pettipants, on a cooking vacation in Spain, discovers it isn't all flamenco and flan. Rummaging through the pantry looking for boullion de pollo, she finds a Basque separatist's cache of bullion instead. And tomorrow they are making iced bombe!

A sour-tongued minion wearing a tan coat, some type of eyewear, a hood, a strange cap and a disturbingly pleasant smile is dragged from her home by Canadian mounties during a blizzard. Her crime? a stream of ascerbic, hostile blog replies. For the next 15-20 years she is forced to edit the complete set of Amelia Pettipants posts and comments -- a fate . . . Worse Than Death.

We'll be doing a writing exercise featuring Zack Martinez, but first we need to gather information so that our scenes don't contradict each other. So, anything you happen to know about the man, send as a comment. But first read the comments that have already come in so you don't contradict them. Don't submit more than three facts in any one-hour period. Note that the GTPs above indicate he lives in Los Angeles and is on at least his second wife.

New Beginning 674

What the fuck? That bastard just tried to kill me. This was the first thought that popped into my head when I regained consciousness. I pushed myself upright from the ground and wiped the dirt from my face. It was dark, and very hard to make out where I was. I could smell and feel the earth beneath me, I had to be outside. I looked up, but couldn’t see the stars, something was obscuring their light. It is night - isn’t it?

I wrung my hands together, trying to stop them from shaking, and felt the gritty batter-like consistency of mud. Oh Jesus, am I bleeding? I looked down to my hands, but couldn’t make out if it was sweat or blood that had mixed with the dirt. The ground wasn’t wet, that much I could ascertain even in the dark. I stood up, wobbling a little, like I was drunk. My clothes felt stiff and hollow, like they were frozen, and my body rattled around inside them as I stumbled through the dark. I patted myself down, like a guard checking a prisoner, making sure I wasn’t injured. Nothing hurt to the touch, thank God, but the unpleasant wetness seemed to be all over my body, and my clothes were beginning to chafe at my skin.

Remarkably, though, my feet were dry. Just as well, given the five mile hike to the nearest outpost of civilization.

J. Peterman hiking boots. $149.00. Because we all have those "What The Fuck?" moments.

Opening: Stacey.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 450

Caption: Anon.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Writing Exercise Results . . .

. . . are in the posts below. The task was to write a query letter focused on one (and only one) standard (or substandard) aspect of query letters, that aspect not being the book's plot.

Bad Query 15

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for my novel, complete at 107,832 words, according to the word counter on Microsoft Word. However, I've checked it with two other online word counters, and they've given different values, of 108,011 words and 107,943 words.

I thought the inconsistency could be down to the way the different counters deal with hyphenated words - I have one character who stutters, saying things like "p-p-plastering", so that might be the problem. However, replacing that character's dialogue with complete words yielded different results: 107,534, 107,945 and 107,841.

Another character mutters, which I've rendered by running words into each other, like "notbloodylikely". Changing that character's dialogue to normal word spacing upped the word count to 109,307, 109,788 and 109,411. Changing the mutterer's dialogue and the stutterer's gave me word counts of 109,023, 109,624, and 109,307.

This gives a mean word count, across all four variations and three counters, of 108,630.5. However, I notice, we also have a modal word count of 109,307. Since this is within one standard deviation (805.9653115) of the mean value, I intend to accept this modal value as the definitive word count, subject to further statistical sampling.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

--Steve Wright

Bad Query 14

Dear Agent Of My Dreams,

My novel makes Henry Miller’s work look like a sexual wannabe out on a new angle hunt. Makes the Kama Sutra look like (and I do mean look like, since it’s, as you may know, a picture book and all) the very visual daydreams of a bunch of newbies with pretzely ideas about how to do, you know…IT. (Plus their outfits, or piece of outfits, anyway, are nothing short of highly overdone, whereas I prefer the pictures in my reader’s minds to go straight to the buck-naked point.) My novel makes D. H. Lawrence read like the underlying prude he undoubtedly was, and as for this genre called erotica that people are talking about now, I mean, COME ON, you’ve gotta be kidding, right? Have you read any of those? Most of the people writing that schlock read like the only sex they’ve ever really had was in their own beds, lights out, covers tucked up to their chins, and they were in bed all alone, know what I mean?

--Robin S.

Bad Query 13

Dear Agent:

Let's cut to the chase. I'm considered a good-looking guy. Very good looking. And if you know anything about publicity and the entertainment world, you know that looks is everything. Attractive people have an advantage in this world. How else do you explain the crowds who watch Anna Kournikova play tennis? Or that Keanu Reeves is a movie star? Why do the highest-paying modeling jobs always seem to go to good-looking people?

This phenomenon applies as well to the writing world. Good-looking authors draw bigger crowds at book signings. They get more invitations to speak at conventions. They have an angelic aura about them that makes people want to read their books. That's how it always has been and always will be. People love to bask in the beauty of beautiful people.

I remember one time I read a great review of a book and ordered it from When it came I discovered that the back-cover flap had a photograph of the author, who looked, to put it kindly, like Thurston Howell III from Gilligan's Island. I couldn't read it. Just knowing that photograph was there soured it for me. If I'd picked it up in a bookstore I never would have bought it.

Think about the handsomest men you've ever seen. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Fabio... I make them all look like the Elephant Man. Women will buy my book, Crossing Broad, just so they can gaze at my photograph on the back cover. Men will buy it in hopes that some of my allure will rub off on them.

May I send some head-shots?

--Evil Editor

Bad Query 12

Dear Evil Editor,

Here is my novel Lions and Butterflies for you to publish. I'm sure you'll want to publish it because everyone who's read it agrees that it's strong, moving and literary with a hint of raciness and intrigue while being unafraid to tackle the major issues of the day such as cloning, genetic modification and graffiti.

Here are just some of the awesome comments I've received:

"It's wonderful, darling" (my mother).

"Yes, yes, OK, it's great" (my sister).

The leader of the East Sussex and North Worthing Critique Group, who has had poems published by Lulu, said "I have never read any book quite like yours."

My clarinet teacher said he would read it but he hasn't come back to me yet and he isn't returning my calls. I think he must be on holiday. The postman hasn't read it yet either although he keeps promising he will. They both said that they were very excited about reading it.

Let me know when I can expect my first advance.

Yours sincerely,

--Fairy Hedgehog (Miss)

Bad Query 11

Dear Evil Editor

Please consider representing my novel, The Choice to Change. You may wonder why this novel is set in a casino in Reno, rather than in one of the many worthwhile and often shiny casinos run by Native Americans, or even in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. There are so many potential settings for a casino novel that I vacillated for a long time before finally settling on Reno, which offers many advantages to the novelist, not least that it hasn't appeared in nearly so many films and tv shows as its competitors. If you ever watched CSI, you would know that it's got Las Vegas all over it, and who can compete with that? If I even tried to put my fictional Galloping Ghost Slots casino in Las Vegas, lots of readers might point out that there's no room for it. And while my mother always said that she was one-fifty-first Cherokee, I have reservations about whether that gives me sufficient insight into Native American culture to venture, even fictitiously, into one of their casinos. So Reno it is--insufficiently famous to trip me up and white enough for me to write about!

Thank you for your time and have a game of blackjack on me.


Bad Query 10

Dear Evil Editor,

Our novel, Murderer Among the Mourners, shows how much better my co-author and I are at crafting a suspenseful romance than any other authors within the genre. We know that our writing and craft is so spot-on, we would ultimately outsell Mary Higgins Clark, Jodi Picoult, Johanna Lindsey, Judith Krantz, and Catherine Coulter. This having been said, one could call our excellence at romance a Mary Picoult Krantz Coulter-Lindsey production.

My co-author and I have poured over many a great literary suspense and mystery-based story in order to write our novel. Because it involves someone who has died and the mystery behind his death, we have also read and researched about every book written by Agatha Christie, the greatest female mystery novelist of all time in our esteemed opinion. Also, in focusing on sleuthing female main characters, we used The China Bayles Mysteries by Susan Wittig Albert to further our deathly research. Believe you us; those mysteries are nowhere near as good as ours.

To research suspense, we watched all of Alfred Hitchcock’s films and documentaries on the greatness that he was. Our novel truly shows that we have transferred that on-screen suspense, for which Hitchcock is so well known, to the written word. What would be the better way to portray suspense to the viewer: as some outlying thing observed or within the mind or imagination?

No need to answer. Our query has done that for you. Be confident that we are much better.


Authors Greatness and Perfection


Bad Query 9

Dear Evil Editor,

What do the words exigent, flagrant, and pharisaic have in common?

They were all used to describe my 700,000-word suspense novel, "The Minotaur and the Ho."

In absolute veracity, Abe Wilson, the ex-collator from 1996, pointed out that "ho" was not permitted under the 1982 Chatauqua Convention, invalidating not only the title but the entire pivotal scene between Lenore and Walter. But Zenon Parks, the 1973 collator, countered that, since the novel’s setting clearly replicates the 1981 DairyWorld Scrabble Tournament in Milquetoast, Wisconsin, the title could stand as written.

Zenon further described the psychological tension of Walter's hesitation over playing "ho" or "he" as "a desperate man's tumescent conflict versus ennui and inertia," an opinion overwhelmingly endorsed by semi-finalists in the Greater Pittsville Jalopy Motors Regional Scrabble Championships. Mr. Jalopy himself offered to put up the first two printed copies of my novel as a prize for the couples winners in the Over-Sixty category of the Jalopy Championships in 2010, if it is published by then.

You wouldn't want to disappoint Mr. Jalopy or deprive the Over-Sixty Couples Champions of this insightful psychological drama, so I'm sure you'll be delighted when I tell you I have already shipped the full manuscript (COD Express) to your office. The Pittsville Fed-Ex deliveryperson is a charter member of the Greater Pittsville Regional Scrabble Club, and assures me that it won't cost more than a few hundred dollars for this unique opportunity.

Yours most sincerely,

Walter J. Sackwash, widower