Saturday, January 30, 2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

New Beginning 724

Leaning forward, Jane Fogg trained her Nikon on the scarlet tanager in the canopy of leaves. The songbird cocked its head. It would be a good photo. The muted light was perfect.

“Stay there, you little bastard,” she whispered. “Stay there, stay there.”

Branches cracked across the creek. Mouth open, the birder forgot about her shot. A black saucer-shaped craft flew through the sparse woods on a low trajectory toward the ground, mowing down thin green saplings and clumps of underbrush. The impossible craft grazed a huge oak. Spinning, the saucer veered off, skimmed the forest floor, bounced, came down hard, and crashed in the distance with a sickening metallic thud. Screaming birds flew up out of the trees.

Twenty seconds, and that was it.

“A plane crash,” the birder said in disbelief.

Somebody might be trapped in the wreckage. With a pounding heart, she slung the Nikon around her neck and slid down the overgrown embankment to the creek. It had to be a military aircraft.


The instructor stopped the film. "OK," he said. "Now, what was Ms. Fogg's worst mistake here?"

One student raised a hand. "Going alone into an unsecured danger area instead of calling for backup?"

"Pretty stupid, but not the worst. Anyone else?"

"Assuming the flying saucer is a military aircraft and not, well, a flying saucer?"

"No, though that's still pretty dumb. Next?"

"She didn't get any pictures," the third student said.

"Right! The camera's round her neck, not in her hand. No shots of the saucer, nothing on the screaming birds flying away - she didn't even get the goddamn tanager, for Christ's sake!" The instructor glared at Jane. "You call yourself a birder?"

Opening: H. Grant.....Continuation: Steve Wright

Cartoon 567

Caption: John

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Face-Lift 724

Guess the Plot

Playing Dead

1. Kaleena Shrapner, agent of the Midwest Regional Supernatural Control office, is dead . . . but only in the realm of the living. In the realm of the dead, she's alive. Which is highly annoying to those in the Realm of the Dead who are dead. Or undead.

2. Unlike all the other foxes, Eddie hates hunting and killing. Eddie enjoys the relaxed life of swimming in the pond and lounging in the sun. So, taking a cue from his possum friends, he plays dead in order to get everything he has ever wanted in life: to do nothing. But will he be happy?

3. Sick and tired of school bullies and his overbearing parents, 17-year-old Gus decides to start over by faking his own suicide - only to be shocked when his long time crush admits in her eulogy that she's always had a thing for him. Can he carry on a romance from beyond the grave?

4. After years of dinner theater and TV commercials, classically trained actor Jacob Foxworthy finally gets not one, but two chances at legitimate theatre. But which role should he take? The ghost of Hamlet's father, or Higgs in The Real Inspector Hound?

5. Eric Tripp wants everyone to be sorry, so he engineers his own suspicious disappearance. In front of the TV at the vacation cabin he's broken into, he sits back to enjoy the weeping and searching. Except there isn't any. After three weeks, he gives up and heads home--only to discover no one remembers him.

6. It's 1974 and Bob's dream has come true: front row for the Grateful Dead. When the keyboardist dies midway through "Truckin'," Jerry calls out, "Can anyone play piano?" Bob can, but getting on stage will tip off the IRS that he's been . . . Playing Dead.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

My name is Michelle Garrett, and I am [telling you this because I'm worried I'll forget to sign this letter. I am] seeking representation for my fantasy novel entitled Playing Dead, complete at approximately 120,000 words. Below is a very brief synopsis of a twisting and turning story. [Turning and Twisting. Alliterative synonyms should be listed alphabetically unless they also rhyme.] I have made significant progress on the sequel, yet to be named, and I plot material for additional novels in the same world as Playing Dead outlined. [Say what?]

Kaleena Marie Shrapner has just graduated with a degree in Supernatural Control. [Apparently you can get a degree in anything these days. I assume she attended Paranormal University?] Now, as one of the newest and fastest-learning agents at the Regional Supernatural Control office in the Midwest, she has been assigned the task of killing a notorious demon named Botis. [They send one green agent to kill a notorious demon? Who do they think is gonna win between Kareena Marie Shrapner and Botis the Notorious?] When the tables are turned and he kills her instead, [I don't wanna say I told ya so, but . . . ] the adventure really begins as she regains consciousness in the Realm of the Dead, fully functional and alive. [Also known as undead.] [We will assume she's fully functional and alive from the fact that she does stuff in the rest of the query.]

Wrapped up with the disintegrating barriers [Whaddaya mean, "wrapped up with"?] between the three realms, Living, Demonic, and Dead, Kaleena must learn what it is she has become: the newest Traveler. [From whom can she learn this? Is everyone in the Realm of the Dead alive?] To make matters worse, she’s the only Traveler and the only one who can heal the collapsing barrier separating the three realms … [Actually, she's not the only Traveler, as another one appeared in Face-Lift 305.]

… And the best resource she has for knowledge may be the very demon that killed her.

I've been writing for fun for about six years, and I've had a chance to really watch my writing develop and change. I've finished five novellas previously, and [Delete this paragraph up to here (if not entirely) and use the extra space to explain what happens if the barriers disintegrate.] I have been published as a co-author for a children‘s story called “The Lonely Monkey“ in the anthology The World is Our Home: A Collection of Short Stories, written for children in Rwanda learning English. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.



I suggest dumping the entire first paragraph and starting the last paragraph: Playing Dead is an urban fantasy, complete at 120,000 words.

There's not much here about what happens after "the adventure really begins." All we know is Kaleena will try to mend the barriers and it may or may not be useful to consult Botis the Notorious on the matter.

If there've been barriers separating the Demonic Realm from the other realms, how does anyone know Botis is notorious?

Has the barrier already disintegrated? If not, how can Kaleena get to Botis? If so, why haven't thousands of demons spilled into the Living Realm?

Out of curiosity, if the barriers disintegrate and Kaleena goes back into the Realm of the Living, will she be alive or dead?

They wouldn't call it the Regional Supernatural Control office of the Midwest. They'd call it the Midwest Supernatural Control office. Actually, they'd probably give it a name whose acronym is pronounceable, like Supernatural Control Alliance of the Midwest.

Cartoon 566

Caption: Anon.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Success Story

Bernita Harris reports that she has a story in the new anthology Weirdly, Volume III.

Synopsis 24

Ryan is a young boy, unhappy with his small-town life. He is, however, given the opportunity to see the world when a soldier rides into town and recruits him. Ryan demonstrates exceptional skill with the sword, and is made the squire to the most skilled knight in the realm, Armand. Unfortunately for Ryan, Armand doesn't want a squire, and resents that his superiors are forcing such a burden upon him. This resentment creates an escalating conflict between the two, which is reflected in the backdrop of war between the Kingdom and its rival, the kingdom of Triol. [The most skilled knight in the realm is seriously involved in an escalating conflict with a young boy? Over what, his bedtime?] [And you compare this escalating conflict to an actual war?] [One kingdom is called Triol and the other kingdom is called . . . the Kingdom?]
[According to Wikipedia, the typical duties of a squire included the following, which leads me to believe having a squire was not a burden, but a necessity:

  • Carrying the knight's armor, shield, and sword,
  • Holding any prisoners the knight takes,
  • Picking locks on fair maidens' chastity belts,
  • Rescuing the knight should the knight be taken prisoner,
  • Polishing the knight's lance . . . frequently,
  • Ensuring an honorable burial of the knight in the event of his death,
  • Replacing the knight's sword if it was broken or dropped,
  • Oiling the knight's knees and elbows after rainstorms,
  • Replacing the knight's horse should the horse be injured or killed,
  • Acting as the knight's human shield while facing a fire-breathing dragon,
  • Dressing the knight in his armour,
  • Reaching under the knight's armour to scratch his itches,
  • Carrying the knight's flag,
  • Arranging the knight's Round Table poker games,
  • Removing the knight's codpiece to allow urination without rust.]
Renek is a man who wakes in a monastery after having survived a great disease. [You seldom see "great" being used to describe a disease.

Knight 1: I just got over a great case of leprosy.
Knight 2: Big deal. I'm recovering from some fantastic scurvy.
Knight 3: That's nothing. I survived a sensational case of Black Death.]

He has the trappings of a soldier--an ancient sword and some serviceable, if simple, armor--and decides to travel to the war's front to seek his forgotten past. Like Ryan, Renek demonstrates finesse with the sword. Initially, upon meeting Renek, the commander distrusts him; however, Renek is too valuable an asset to the army, and so the commander allows him to participate.

Both Renek's and Ryan's units are told to search for the legendary Swords of the Ascendancy, swords made by gods. [You know how much the army values you when the big battle's approaching and they send you on a mission to find a legendary item. Sort of like when I was in the army and we were supposed to take an enemy camp, but before we made our final charge my sergeant took me aside and said, "Much as we'd like you fighting beside us, we need you to go search for the hammer of Thor."] Their similar stories intertwine as they track down the weapons' resting place. As they each separately enter the mountain where the swords hopefully lie, it becomes clear that they are doing so at different times; the mountain is the same, but Ryan enters a living mountain, [also known as a volcano,] with strange creatures guarding the swordchamber, [When you're looking for a sword and all you know is it's inside a mountain, it's always convenient to discover the mountain has a swordchamber.] whereas Renek enters a dead mountain, with dessicated bones instead of living beings.

Ryan finds one weapon where there should be two; Renek finds a broken chamber empty of swords. However, Renek does realize that the ancient sword that he has carried all along is one of the weapons that he sought. [Sort of like when you're searching for your glasses and you discover that you're wearing them.] [Which would be worse: spending weeks searching for a sword only to find it's in a room guarded by strange creatures, or spending weeks searching for a sword only to find it's hanging off your belt?] Both Ryan and Renek leave the mountain having discovered one of the weapons, and both return to the front of their war with the Triols.

At the front, Ryan's wielding of the sword shows great power--too much power for him to control. He struggles, but fails to contain the sword's power; it's release destroys most of both of the armies. [When you realize that your god-made sword is destroying your own army, you might consider trading it in for a non-turbo model.]

Renek, however, has no problems controlling his sword; it seems to have little power beyond what his arm can lend it. He struggles through superior strategy, but more limited resources, and the battle comes to a bitter ending, with only a few dozen soldiers left on each side. During the last few pages of the book, Renek's memory returns when he recognizes one of his boyhood friends. He realizes that he is, in fact, Ryan--somehow he has been given another chance to do things right. [But has failed, as both armies were wiped out again.] He stands up, renewed, determined to make the most of that chance.


Is Renek's sword the same one Ryan found at an earlier time? If so, how come it's no longer uncontrollable?

Renek realizes he's been given a chance to do things right, but what things? The army was wiped out the first time, and it's been wiped out the second time. What went wrong that's left to do right?

Apparently Renek's been given another chance through magic or time travel? How do we know he didn't just have amnesia?

As this synopsis is plot-only (no title, no genre), maybe you should stay with the plot consistently and not step out to make comments like "During the last few pages of the book," and " it becomes clear [to the reader] that . . . "

Cartoon 565

Caption: Anon.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Beginning 723

People became prisoners of many things. Love, money, and even time. Being bound to a pair of gloves never made it to Callen’s top ten list. Of course it was what the gloves represented that made them penitentiary status.

Standing at his locker, Callen shook those thoughts from his brain while scrupulously plucking a tan pair out of its package. These gloves were a lighter material to prepare for the impending spring weather and would provide respite for his sweaty palms. Besides, the others pair had seen their day.

He calculated that each pair lasts an average of two months. The fingertips were always the first to fray, followed by the edging along the palms. He was always surprised by how much use his hands got in any given day. He could probably develop a better prototype someday.

And make his life even more about the gloves? Screw that, he thought.

Callen glanced both ways making sure he was alone in the hallway. Every other sophomore was at lunch. He was excused to the bathroom. The lunch monitor, Mr. Stuckey, always took pity on him. Probably figured he needed more time, with the gloves on and all. Savoring this moment of freedom from the confines of his glove detention, he examined his skin in the flailing fluorescent lights. Mottled red bumps ran along the tops of his fingers and moved in jagged lines down his wrists.

He felt disgust.

* * *


"Yes, well, while we at Garrigan's Gloves were initially intrigued by the offer of 'subtle and subliminal' product placement in your novel, I'm afraid this isn't quite what we had in mind..."

Opening: Christina.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 564

Caption: Anon.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Face-Lift 723

Guess the Plot


1. Exiled from her village, Quill happens upon Fox, injured and lying in a ditch. They make a pact: Quill will Nurse Fox back to health and Fox will teach Quill to survive in the demon-filled forest. When they discover the demons' dastardly plans, which may include burning down the village, they must decide whether to issue a warning or to relax and enjoy the carnage.

2. Toni "Foxfire" Harris is the youngest pilot ever to be awarded her wings for SHEPARD - a super-secret branch of the Air Force. When the aliens attack, will her skill keep her in the air long enough to save the planet? And why do those alien boys have to be so gosh darn CUTE?

3. Alan is writing like a madman. Why? He's had a novel handed to him on a silver platter- in a dream, to be exact. After months of typing till his fingers bleed, lest he forget a plot twist, he has another dream: Joyce Carol Oates suing his ass for plagiarism.

4. When Jared and Jason's father is killed by a mysterious explosion at the Foxfire Lab, they know there's more involved than a simple gas leak. Can they find the culprit--or will they unleash a zombie apocalypse?

5. International superspy Jack Halligan is betrayed by his own side and framed for a crime he didn't commit. To clear his name, and prevent nuclear war, his one chance is to seduce the glamourous femme fatale known by the codename Foxfire. Given the circumstances, Jack will have to wait till next week to come out of the closet.

6. A black-ops unit investigating sudden radio silence from a nuclear command bunker discover a team of high school nerds have disabled America's nuclear arsenal. Is it a political statement, or just a way to impress girls?

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor

Nineteen year old orphan, Fox, lives alone in the forest, struggling day to day against hunger, isolation and the elements. [It's rough growing up an orphan, but when you reach the age of nineteen, it's time to consider leaving the forest and checking out civilization.]

Oh, and the Demons.

However it’s not the man-eating demons, but a fall, which puts Fox in jeopardy. He’d always thought he’d be devoured by the demons, not that he’d die because he didn’t watch his footing… like his father.

When her irresponsibility causes the death of a child, fifteen year old Quill is ousted from her village, sent to live alone in the forest amongst the demons. It’s not even the death sentence that angers Quill, but the knowledge that the village thought they’d be better off without her, despite her remarkable tracking skills. It’s those skills, however, which turn her condemnation into hope when she discovers Fox injured and trapped in a ditch. [All the important information from the first three paragraphs (there's a demon-filled forest and Fox is injured) is contained in this paragraph, so why not start the query with this paragraph?]

Surely they can’t trust each other; after all, it’s abandonment which brought them together in the first place. But a deal is made: Quill will help Fox recuperate if Fox teaches Quill the way to survive amidst the forest and the demons.

Their trust in each other grows until a demon attack reveals a shocking secret about the nature of the demons, their land and its residents [--a secret so shocking that to reveal it here might cause cardiopulmonary arrest in the reader].

Now Fox and Quill have to make a decision: do they stay complacent and suppress the secret, dooming their abandoners to death? [It would be most refreshing if that were their decision. I recommend rewriting the ending to make it so.] Or do they risk their lives in an attempt to expose the truth?

Foxfire is an 85,000 word fantasy novel. I have a BA in English with an emphasis in creative writing from the University of Minnesota and this is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


It may seem obvious to you (and to Evil Editor) that your main characters are a fox and a porcupine, but I suspect some readers will need this spelled out for them.

What's the secret?

How does exposing the truth risk their lives? The demons are already their enemies, and if the villagers would kill them for coming in with a warning, they can always find some other way to warn them. A letter nailed to a tree in the village square at 3 AM, for instance. Is there some reason Fox can't enter the village? I didn't get the impression he was an outcast, just an orphan.

Cartoon 563

Caption: Stacy

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

Face-Lift 722

Guess the Plot

Little Emergencies

1. When you simply have to have chocolate. When you spill lemonade on the front of your pants right before the debate with the other nominee. When you wake up in your sleeping bag and discover a boa constrictor wrapped around you.

2. When the condom breaks. When you find yourself pregnant with triplets. When your no-good louse of a husband leaves you in your eighth month. When you can't get a sitter on the day of your big presentation so you bring the kids to work knowing the only way to keep them quiet is to breast feed them.

3. When it's your first day at your new high school and your new classmates find out your name is Charmin. When your mother comes to your school and starts yelling at your math teacher . . . during your math class. When you're surfing the web and discover your kid brother secretly photographed you in your underwear and put the pic on

4. When the timer goes off signaling that your souffle needs to come out of the oven at the same time the dog is on the new carpet making pre-puking gag noises. When an alien nursery ship crash lands in North Dakota and lets loose forty species-worth of extraterrestrial infants.

5. When the most popular boy in high school falls in love with you . . . and you're a guy. When your own brother falls in love with you . . . and you're a guy. When your best friend Patrick is so jealous of the guys who are in love with you that he storms your school with a gun . . . and you're a guy.

6. When you see the most darling pair of sandals on sale, and your credit card is already maxed out. When your waitress turns out to be your ex and she's better looking than your date. When your hair is on fire.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am currently seeking representation for my YA novel, Little Emergencies. It clocks in at 69,000 words and, from your list of interests on your website, could be a good fit for you.

Zach Mulholland has drama on his plate like any other teen: [Actually, most teens have pizza on their plates.] pressure to settle down and conform, parents who just won’t get off his back, and Patrick, his best friend who doesn’t understand that they aren’t a couple. Then suddenly Zach meets Jonathan, the most beautiful and most popular boy in school, who somehow loves him back. Then there’s a hasty engagement to marry said popular boy, [Already? They just met. Wait, which one is pregnant?] [Now that we know his name, no need to refer to Jonathan as "said popular boy."] an engagement that has everyone raising their eyebrows – even Zach himself. [Even Evil Editor.] Then Zach has to deal with Patrick’s insane jealousy, becoming one half of the school’s ‘it’ couple when he’s used to blending into the scenery, and figuring out what he really wants out of all this. Oh yeah, and then his estranged brother just has to fall in love with him, [Seems like there should be a step or two between being estranged and being in love.] and Patrick just has to storm the school with a handgun...

Little Emergencies is a story about impetuousness and practicality, “wanting different things”, [Putting quotation marks around it doesn't make it less vague.] and how much high school sucks. But mostly, it’s a story about three kinds of love: unrequited love, fairytale love, and the kind you call the cops on [i.e. the kind where you need to borrow a set of handcuffs]. Its intended audience could be similar to the audience of such authors as Julie Anne Peters, David Levithan and Rachel Cohn.

I am a first-year university student majoring in Creative Writing. I have a few publishing credits with the local newspaper and high school newsletters. [That isn't gonna sway any decisions. Better to use the space telling us something that happens.]

I can be reached at [phone number] or [email]. I look forward to your response.



Why is everyone so crazy about this guy who tries to blend in with the scenery? Are there any girls in this school? Used to be girls complained that all the best boys were taken by the cheerleaders. Now they're all taken by the other boys.

There's a lot here about relationships--who loves, is engaged to, is jealous of whom--but not much plot. Is the storming of the school with a handgun the big climactic event everything's been moving toward? Does someone get shot? Is there a vampire? What are the driving forces that lead Zach to the conflict resolution? Hey, that gives me an idea for a better title: Mulholland Drive.

Cartoon 562

Caption: Steve Wright

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Beginning 722

I’m twelve. I’m a boy. My life is simple. I’m not in puberty yet, although the girls I go to school with are growing tits. I don’t care about that. I’d rather build models and fly my radio controlled airplanes. Do you know you can build a model of Billy Bishop’s Sopwith Camel and drive it into the Red Baron’s biplane for $15.98? Big money. My paper route pays for the models I love to crash.

My Dad had to deliver groceries when he was a kid. Dad says he was always tired as a teenager. He was riding around delivering groceries. I get to crash planes.

My life changed last week. My Mom, she teaches. I don’t know what is in her head, she has allergies. Well my Mom, she brought this thing home. Wizend face, taped ears for crying out loud, taped tail, my God. Marmaduke is a Boxer. This piece of misery, body parts loped off - three that I could count, well that was my new dog. I was afraid to touch him.

So I gave him a piece of my sandwich. PBJ are my favorite, but I like bratwurst too. That one was PBJ. The peanut butter stuck to his mouth and he slobbered all over the carpet, gross, slimy mouth like when Aunty Miriam kisses me at Thanksgiving. But Aunty Miriam doesn't like PBJ so I guess she always slobbers. Aunty Miriam was Dad's sister and she worked in the post office. She told me most of her job was about licking stamps, so I guess slobbering was kind of useful for her, really, but she never put the stamps straight 'cause she only had one eye, but that wasn't totally my fault, everyone said so. Anyway, I think I'm going to like it here at Longthorne Junior High. Any questions?

Good one. Yes, it's true, I'm twelve and I
seriously don't care about tits.

Opening: Bibi.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 561

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Face-Lift 721

Guess the Plot

Immortal Island

1. On an island inhabited by warlocks, werecreatures, shapeshifters, witches, etc., Sarah's life is constantly in peril. How many times can she expect the strange angelic man who's actually a vampire to save her neck?

2. Isla de Santa Susanna is not found on any maps. When fat, homely Isabel washes up on its beach after a plane crash, she's surprised to find a colony of people only too glad to welcome her. But are they normal . . . or vampires?

3. When a plane crash lands Marsha and her two friends on a strange island, they know they're in major trouble. But, they didn't expect that trouble to include hiding from a mad scientist intent on capturing them to use as subjects in his human immortality experiments. Are they fated to die in pursuit of eternal life?

4. 13-year-old Danny dreads the annual summer vacation on Immortal Island. But this year is going to be different, what with the rumors of buried treasure, disappearing gardeners, suspiciously smart dogs, and the help of a cute pyromaniac named Kimberly.

5. In an alternate-history 1970’s, a small island off the English coast becomes a haven for wannabe revolutionaries and small-time crooks. When an international arms incident catapults the island into the spotlight, thief Jerome and rabble-rouser David must choose between their ideals and their love for each other.

6. The network has spoken, and they've voted off survival reality show host Guy Sly. In a plot of cold revenge Guy orchestrates a mass kidnapping of network big wigs and plants them on an remote island full of immortal beings. Which fat cat will be dinner first? Will Guy redeem himself during sweeps week? Vampires, zombies and faeries galore!

Original Version

Dear Evil editor,

Please consider my mss that I have completed entitled, ‘IMMORTAL ISLAND - Spellbound/Midnight Masquerade’ first book is part one and two. [Your first sentence is a sure deal killer--and not just because it isn't a sentence. The title is three titles; choose one. We don't care about parts one and two. Ms. is the abbreviation for manuscript. My mss that I have completed would be more concise as my completed ms.] [The good news is that you've got an excellent shot at the Least Effective Opening Sentence Award (an Evil Editor coffee mug), though you're in a tight battle with Face-Lift 333.]

It is about a young woman named Sarah Daniels who discovers secrets about her friends and family that changes [change] her life forever.

Sarah begins having visions that she cannot explain. At first they appear as dreams, but when she has them while awake she realizes what they really are. [Which is?] The first vision she has is of the parents [her parents'] death, when they don't return from their vacation she goes to the town sheriff to report them missing. [The sheriff of her town or of the town where they went for vacation?] She meets a handsome yet mysterious Undersheriff



named Chase Gavenport, who she has a unique attraction to. Things slowly start to unravel every day that she spends on the island. [What island? Immortal Island? I had no idea they were on an island.] Then a strange man dressed in all black begins to stalk her while at her parents [parents'] place. (Zadkiel). [Zadkiel? Is that the name of her parents' place? The name of the stalker? An exclamation, like Gadzooks?] When he finally reveals himself to her he tries to kill her but Chase comes to her rescue. They become close and Chase eventually reveals to her that he is a vampire and also tells her what the man in black wants. [(Zounds).]

Sarah’s ex-boyfriend decide [decides] to complicate things even more by adding himself to the equation. He reveals that he is still in love with her and wants her back. [The word "reveals" appears more often in the last four sentences than it does in the entire book of Revelations.] Sarah is torn and can’t decide what she really wants. [No need to say the same thing twice in one sentence.] They [Who?] share a house just off campus [Campus? I had no idea they were on a campus.] with close friends and things start to really heat up. She must choose but who will it be, the vampire who brings with him a life filled with uncertainty or her best friend and ex-boyfriend who loves her for everything he thinks she is. [Which is what?]

But now preternatural beings of Sarah's new world seem to be drawn to her. Her life is in constant peril, she cannot turn to her human friends. With witches, warlocks, were-animals, shape-shifters, [zombies, sharks,] to name a few, come to claim, and the power that dwells inside her begins to grow. [That sentence made no sense to me, apparently because I'm unfamiliar with the expression "come to claim."] A power Sarah does not know how to control.

Now Chase has disappeared and no one will give her any answers as to his whereabouts. [When you ask someone where the vampire is, you seldom get a straight answer.] Who will keep her safe from the nightmare that has become her life. Wait a minute there is always a white knight…Right? Erick the strange angelic man. Who always seems to rise to the occasion mainly when she is in harm’s way? Three times he saves her but why, he is a vampire too. [Making your most compelling character a vampire is a mistake. I liked him better when he was just Erick the strange angelic man. In fact, my desire to read more about Erick the strange angelic man leads me to insert this week's writing exercise here. Write a scene involving Evil Editor and Erick the strange angelic man. Don't make Erick a vampire. 300 words max; deadline: Sunday, 10 AM eastern.]

Then one night after giving up all hope she receives a mysterious letter. A Midnight Masquerade ball? Being thrown by the vilest of creatures out there. He has no sympathy for human kind and would rather rid his world of them. [Naturally she accepts the invitation.] Sarah must do what she can to save her life and the life now inside her as she comes face to face with the man who will take her life…Chase? [You're asking me?]

Sarah survives the Masquerade but not before her unborn child or is it children are infected with vampire blood. Now it's a waiting game. To see whether or not her children will live and be vampires killing her in the process with their savage birth, or if they are healthy and unharmed by the blood that was so easily given to her by the same vampire who on many occasions attempted [to] take her life. Ambrose and Sarah will forever be connected from that day forward. [Ambrose? Who's Ambrose?] Now she must tell the father that his babies could be vampires. How will Jeff [Jeff? Who's Jeff?] take the news that vampires exist and that his unborn children may be one [two] of them?

Turns out that the twins are affected by the vampire virus yet in different ways. Alaina is half vampire and half human, she prefers to drink blood. Wyatt is human but has all the abilities a vampire has, [If you have all the abilities a vampire has, you're pretty much a vampire.] however he is more unique than they know... His blood is the key, the cure to vampirism.

This is four parts all together book two is complete but not ready for viewing just yet.

Please contact me if you would like to review my complete mss.

word count -> 84,328

Urban Fantasy fiction for YA or Adults. There are intimate scenes that can be altered to fit YA.



A query letter should fit on one page. Trash the whole thing, start over, limit your plot summary to ten sentences.

It's riddled with errors. This leads the reader to assume the book is also riddled with errors. Even if cleaning up the query got a request for the manuscript, no one will read far into a manuscript full of spelling, usage and grammar errors.

Your opening hook is that this is a book about a woman who discovers secrets about her friends and family that change her life forever. Her family isn't in the query at all as they disappear while on vacation and never get mentioned again, and the only friend in the query is her ex-boyfriend, and I didn't see any secrets about him.

The hook might be something like this: Pregnant with twins, Sarah Daniels attends a masquerade ball at which she is bitten by a vampire. The pregnancy, birth and aftermath sound like they could make an interesting story. The witches and werecreatures and island and parents and campus and man in black and Zadkiel are cluttering the query. And possibly the book.

Cartoon 560

Caption: Anon.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010


For the past couple months I'm getting dozens of spam comments every day, sent to random posts on the blog. I can continue reading and deleting them or I can use word verification or I can set it so only members of the blog can comment. The latter would require those who comment to become members, and I have no idea how one becomes a member.
Whaddaya think?

New Beginning 721

I could see no good was coming to my niece from finding that sword, nor to anyone else neither. If it was dangerous to the conquerors, I said to her, they wouldn’t of let you find it, would they, missie? They with their magic? Let me find it! she says with her chin up. Let me! I reckon they didn’t let me; I found it myself and brought it back out of the dark, and they couldn’t stop me; and they’ll find out what I can do with it, and it won’t suit them.

Wouldn’t any harm have come of it, maybe, if the others hadn’t flocked around like chickens on corn, gobbling up her look and her voice and the things she could do with that sword. It was better than a soldier, or an acrobat at the fair, the way she moved with it; and it had a music to it that even I could hear was mortal sweet, yet wounding too. Oh, I heard the hurt of it under the sweet, and I told her, get shut of it! She wouldn’t listen. Nor would the other young folks.

And then she teamed up with that boy, the one who had the spear he'd brought out of the forest; that spear that made the faintest high keening note when he danced with it. More of them flocked round her then, and soon there were others; the other girl with the knives that had their sweet plangent tones, and the big fella with the mace that made a deep, deep booming noise that you could hear in your bones.

Wouldn't any harm have come of it even then, though, if it hadn't been for that stranger who came into town. He had them pale, intent, far-traveled eyes that you knew they'd seen a lot. And he looked at our band, with the sword and the spear and the knives and the mace; and he looked at our soldiers, with their flutes and their violins and their combat harpsichords; and he said as he reckoned we were doin' it all wrong.

Opening: Joanna.....Continuation: Steve Wright

Cartoon 559

Caption: Anon.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Face-Lift 720

Guess the Plot

Superhero Cell Anomaly

1. Sheriff Carson can't understand it. Every time he arrests one of those pesky superheroes, they manage to break right out of jail.

2. When biologist Sara Abrams examines Arthur Curry's cell structure, she's quite surprised at the fish-shaped mitochondria. Is it possible? Could Arthur be . . . Aquaman?

3. Tex has developed a rare condition known as Superhero Cell Anomaly, which gives him super powers--until it kills him. Now he must decide whether to use his powers to prevent the threatened death of all mankind, or to spend his final weeks soaking up the sun in Florida.

4. After her third suicide attempt, fifteen-year-old Jana is sent to visit her genius-violinist cousin, whose own life is near the breaking point. A summer spent guerrilla gardening, staging a coup on a local soup kitchen, and forming a band called Superhero Cell Anomaly won’t fix everything . . . but it might help just enough.

5. In the year 2012 strange things are happening on the planet Earth. The magnetic poles have switched places, Nevada is oceanfront property, and suddenly everyone except thirteen-year-old Jason McGee is a superhero.

6. Martin's superpowers aren't the type to get written up in comic books. Nevertheless, being able to get cell phone coverage in the depths of New York's subway system has its advantages. But now the phone company has found out and wants answers--answers that Martin can't afford to give.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Tex is the charming, midnight pleasure you find in most women’s daydreams. [Whatever is in women's daydreams is found by them, not by me.] Unfortunately, age thirty-two will be the end of his life, due to a complex jinx in his genetics, giving him the rare condition dubbed the Superhero Cell Anomaly. It goes undetected until it strikes, causing the victim’s cells to burn up into pure energy at an accelerated rate, granting supernatural strength, speed, and awareness, [He's a combination of Superman, Flash and Spiderman. Also Aquaman if he can communicate with fish.] [Can he?] until there are simply no more cells to burn.

He flees for the hot Florida rays for his final months, [He flees? Who's chasing him?] [If my cells are burning up, I'm heading for Antarctica.] but he won’t find leisure there. An intimidating woman, of beauty, brawn, and brain, tracks him down, drudging [dredging] up one of his old cases from back when he was a cop, where he just happened to be in the right place at the right time, saving a little girl from getting run down by a van.

This woman needs to find that girl because it’s her beloved sister, and she has colossal powers that need to be controlled. The little girl lost her memory, so she cannot control her own powers, threatening all of existence. [Her powers are so great they threaten all existence, but she can't defeat a minivan?] Oh, and did Tex mention that the FBI took the girl into their custody, stashing her away in a secret location for experimentation? [Tex knows this, but the girl's sister doesn't? Why would Tex have kept up with the girl after the van incident?] That might make things difficult.

Uncharacteristically seduced by a beautiful woman in need, and testosterone-pumping adventure, Tex decides to help. He embarks on his last crusade, racing two clocks: the one of his death, and the one of the death of all mankind.

Superhero Cell Anomaly is complete at 90,000 words, ready and available at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.



What makes the woman think Tex knows where her sister is? How did the FBI know the girl had powers? How does the woman know Tex can help her? How is it the girl's powers can be controlled if she's with her sister but not if she's with the FBI's scientists? If the girl lost her memory, why would she trust Tex or her sister? You don't have to answer these questions, but you might want to simplify the query so these questions don't come up. For instance:

Ex-cop Tex Houston has a rare condition known as Superhero Cell Anomaly, which gives its victim temporary super powers . . . and then kills him. Tex has decided to live out his last few months catching rays on Miami Beach, but when beautiful Sydney Bristow asks him to help find her missing sister, Lucyliu--whose ability to make the sun go nova could wipe out mankind if it isn't held in check--Tex agrees to take on one last case.

Turns out Lucyliu is in the hands of the FBI's most diabolical scientists. Rescuing her won't be easy, but with boots, chaps, spurs, and a ten-gallon hat, Tex becomes . . . Cowboy, the superhero who dares to take on the Feds. Can Cowboy save Lucyliu before his cells burn up into pure energy . . . and before she wipes out all mankind?

I think you need to describe the girl's powers and how they threaten to eradicate all existence.

The first sentence isn't relevant to anything.

If the woman and girl have names, why not use them?

Cartoon 558

Caption: Anon.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Face-Lift 719

Guess the Plot

The Edge of Real

1. Assistant Medical Examiner Dr Selena Rodriguez had never seen anything like the body of the winged man in the morgue. Now her house has disappeared, her boss was murdered by a pizza delivery man, and a mysterious woman has ordered her to drive a Corvette to Las Vegas. What else will she find on . . . the Edge of Real?

2. When terrorists claim they've deployed a weapon capable of spreading the Ebola virus across America and beyond, everyone wonders if it's real. But when the army's response is to send three teenagers to deal with the situation, the whole world realizes we've fallen off . . . the Edge of Real.

3. Tired of being turned down when he gets brave enough to ask a girl out on a date, teen genius Corbin Bean decides to make his own perfect woman out of his engineer father’s spare parts in the garage.

4. Convinced that his 30th-story window ledge is the threshold to a fantasy universe, Rick Bumble decides to leave behind his miserable, jobless, girlfriendless life for the chance at otherwordly happiness. This book tells the stories of 29 neighbors glimpsed at high speed as Rick plummets past after stepping over . . . The Edge of Real.

5. Gloria Melano is a thirty-year-old ghost with a wacky family and a pretty good life--until her home is invaded by a ghost-hunting TV show. Now she's busy dodging the medium's surprisingly effective spirit-cleansing tactics. And worse, the show's diehard skeptic is proving to be the man of her dreams.

6. Lima and his best friend Leema have enjoyed countless years of hide and seek living on the Edge of Real. Never mind that Leema is a llama, who enjoys tea and biscuits. Or that Lima has 3 sets of hands. When Sarah Snuff and her dimension-blasting laser open a rift to the real world, can Lima and Leema snuff out Sarah's diabolical plans?

Original Version

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for my YA Thriller, The Edge of Real, complete at 75,000 words.

As the only teenage operatives in the Army’s classified Paranormal Resistance & International Surveillance Mission (PRISM), intrepid brothers Caleb, Kyle and Eli are pretty good at protecting the world from evil forces capable of controlling political leaders’ minds or infiltrating the military from thousands of miles away. So when word comes down that the Black Castle terrorist cell is active again security levels zing to red in countries across the globe and the Army calls in its most talented young agents to neutralize the threat.

But this time the danger is all too human: a biological weapon capable of spreading the Ebola virus across America and beyond and killing millions. [Get rid of two of the brothers and make the third one Jack Bauer as a teenager. I envision a long-running series.] Now Caleb, Kyle and Eli must team up with the daughter of a missing biologist, and patiently combine their extrasensory skills with her knowledge of dangerous viruses and the scientists that work with them to stop the terrorists. Time is running out [If time is running out, why are they working "patiently"? You wouldn't see Jack Bauer doing anything patiently with millions of lives on the line. He'd be torturing people night and day.] when they finally locate the terrorists but the dangerous device is already on its way to the target, worse yet - the bomb is alive. [I'd drop the last five words. When you say the bomb is on its way to its target, we don't wonder if it's a dud.]

In college I worked for the school newspaper as a reporter, winning two awards for my writing. More recently I wrote a monthly humor column for a local magazine and had a request for an option on one of my teleplays (Academics). [Needless to say, I turned down the request when they refused to grant me total creative control or to let me play the lead. As if this Clooney guy isn't totally washed up. Screw 'em.] Thank you for your time.

Best regards,


The query is okay, but if you made the team three teenage girls, it might appeal more to the only teenagers who actually read books. Also, the Ebola virus is pretty heavy for YA readers. If it were a computer virus that would make all cell phones stop working, teens would be more likely to see it as a doomsday scenario.

It's obvious you came up with PRISM first and then tried to find words that worked and settled for a mediocre "I" and "M." I recommend calling them the Paranormal Encounter Surveillance Team, which is more appropriate for what they do, and for any team of three teen-aged boys.

The whole point of telling us the acronym is PRISM is so the next time you mention it you won't have to write out the whole name. But you never mention them again.

If I ran an organization that dealt with evil forces, and a terrorist group was threatening to do what these guys are threatening, I wouldn't assign the mission to the only members of my group who were teenagers. If the boys fail and humanity is wiped out, I'm gonna have egg on my face.

You say, But this time the danger is all too human. But the danger is a virus. Are you saying the danger is human because the Black Castle cell are humans? Weren't they humans in the past?

If the point of sending the teens to deal with the terrorist cell is because of their paranormal abilities, why aren't they pulled off the mission when it's discovered that the danger isn't paranormal, and replaced with people qualified to handle this threat?

Cartoon 557

Caption: Anon.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

New Beginning 720

“What do you mean Rio's gone?” Barbed wire in Ella's gut twisted taught.

“Sold. He's loaded and gone.” Aaron's eyes, glinting cruel and deliberate, held satisfaction. Ella had the urge to skewer his face with her fingernails.

“You sold my horse and didn’t even tell me?” hissed out of her. Ella went toe to toe with him, tilting forward. Volcanic spray sparked off her splitting the black hole wide open that until this second stayed basted, stitched loose and impermanent between them.

“You sold Rio?”

“Got fifty thousand for him.”

Grateful she didn’t carry a gun, hands balled into fists, Ella tilted further at him struggling to control the breach of her absolute zero tolerance. Aaron wiped way the sweat over his eyebrows while Ella gained ground.

“Where’s the money?” her voice was low, upper lip tight. Her rage loaded the space between them, deep white hot, pure rage.


Ella turned purple. Her nose was almost touching Aaron's, and he could feel her spittle on his cheeks. "The money from Rio! You sold Rio for fifty K. That's my fifty K, you dipshit."

"No, no, no." Aaron chuckled. Bad idea. Sparks flew. Literally. "Not sold, exactly. More of a trade. Here -- I got fifty thousand of these."

Ella finally detonated as Aaron handed her a small pot of Elmer's White Glue.

Opening: Bibi.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 556

Caption: Khazar-khum

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Synopsis 23

Synopsis: Child of the Dark Court

Elora has spent the past decade of her life planning to overthrow the High Faerie Courts. She has gathered together the embittered servants of the Dark Court. [Where has she gathered them?] She’s even come up with a plan to bind her mother, the Dark Queen. But in order to put her plan into action, she needs the help of her mother’s loathed enemy, the Queen of the Bright Court.

The Bright Queen agrees to help Elora, on one condition: Elora must travel to the human world and gain the trust of a human. [The queen of one of the Faerie courts agrees to help Elora overthrow the Faerie courts? Elora, who's the daughter of her most loathed enemy? That's like Osama bin Laden's daughter asking President Obama for help in overthrowing the US government, and Obama says, "Okay, on one condition. Go to China and gain the trust of one person." Why would the Bright Queen agree to this? What does the Bright Queen care if Elora gains the trust of a human?] Elora is terrified; above all else, the Dark Faeries fear and despise humanity. But she cannot refuse the Bright Queen’s request if she hopes to lead her people to freedom. [She's the queen's daughter. Who are her people? The kitchen staff?] She agrees to go.

The first human Elora meets is seventeen-year-old Daren, a boy who has been suffering from problems of his own. Partially responsible for his younger brother’s death, he has spent the last three years living in the carriage house above his parents’ garage, to distance himself from his deteriorating family. When Elora hints that she has left her own family behind, he senses a kindred spirit, and feels compelled to take her in.

Elora agrees to Daren’s offer, for a time. She only needs to stay long enough to gain his trust. She even enrolls in his high school in an attempt to appear normal. And while she expects to hate every minute of the school day, she actually finds herself empathizing with humanity. Her feelings for Daren intensify every day. She begins to consider [In other words, she considers.] telling him who she really is. And when she befriends Kylie and Kevin, president and vice-president of the school’s gay/straight alliance, she discovers that the social inequality of high school closely resembles the social inequality in the Dark Court.

Soon she and Daren are gathering up the school’s outcasts, [Gathering people is her specialty.] reminding them of their collective power, and urging them to take control of the school. Her efforts come to fruition on prom night, when she leads a high school revolution against the students who tried to ban same-sex couples from the dance.

Suddenly the school’s carefully structured hierarchy is turned on its head. Kylie dances on stage with the prom queen. Elora reveals her true identity to Daren. [When you reveal to a friend that you aren't human, there's absolutely no chance you'll be believed. Try it sometime.] And strange creatures have infiltrated the dance, with incandescent skin and glaring red eyes. [Infiltrating requires a degree of stealth. It's almost impossible to infiltrate anything except a Halloween party when you have incandescent skin and glaring red eyes.]

Elora realizes she has been found. The Dark Lady’s courtiers have tracked her down, and within no time they capture Kylie and Kevin. Using the humans as bait, they lead Elora and Daren to a secret chamber hidden in the Dark Court. [Why didn't they just capture Elora?] Once there, the faeries battle, and Elora nearly loses her life. But just when she is about to fail, the humans spring into action, distracting her enemies long enough for her to escape [to Elora's cave].

Elora and the humans flee the Dark courtiers, only to find themselves wounded and alone in the Faerie wilderness. Book One ends with a servant of the Dark Court coming to their aid, leading them through a tunnel to safety, all the while proclaiming that the princess has returned and the revolution can begin.


Is this the same world of Faerie whose courts are usually known as Seelie and Unseelie rather than Bright and Dark?

I think the opening paragraphs need a brief description of the social inequality in Faerie; otherwise we don't know if overthrowing the Faerie courts is a good thing or a bad thing. There's always gonna be social inequality; what is it those on the bottom are enduring?

Has Elora gained Daren's trust by the end of the book? When he let her move in with him, I figured he trusted her. Now that she's dragged him into some other-worldly conflict and put him in peril, he may be rethinking the issue.

Cartoon 555

Caption: Anon.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Face-Lift 718

Guess the Plot

Lone Wilder

1. He thought he could get over his anxiety problems all by himself, but Stan Wilder is quickly realizing that he may be on his own forever, especially now that he can’t walk out his front door.

2. Eleven year-old Billy Keefer attempts to draw a new comic book hero called the Lone Wilder. But when the character leaps off the page - literally - and starts causing havoc in Billy's life, Billy realizes he's getting more than he bargained for.

3. Cornered in his mountain hideaway, Dracula escapes by time traveling to 1942 to join forces with Hitler. But a secret government agency uses equipment discovered in Roswell, New Mexico to send a super-powered agent after Dracula, an agent named . . . Lone Wilder.

4. No one wanted much to do with the stranger when he arrived in town. Pleasantville, Montana was a quiet place with no desire to host an ex-outlaw (or whatever he was--nobody was certain). But when the werewolves started showing up, only one man had the guts to deal with them: Lone Wilder.

5. After 7 years of partying with almost no effort at graduation, Van Wilder is forced to grow up and joins the Texas Rangers. But when he barely survives an ambush that kills five other Rangers, he decides to dig six graves and don a mask, leaving behind his original identity forever to become . . . the Lone Wilder.

6. Some folks thought the glory days of the old west were long gone, but cattle rustler Lone Wilder is back, and being six feet under for more than a hundred years has made him mighty grumpy.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor,

Lone Wilder emerges from thirteen years of self-imposed isolation [When your name is "Lone," you're pretty much doomed to isolation, self-imposed or not.] to enter into the secretive and unregulated agency, the New Technology Testing Center. He learns that a time-traveling fiend called Dracula is responsible for the deaths of his parents as well as other atrocities throughout time. However, this Dracula is not the “vampire” that legend has made him out to be. He is a product of human cloning from ten thousand years in the future and bent on protecting the fate of his society. [Protecting the fate of his society from what? What is the fate of his society?] [Not clear if he's a clone of the original Dracula.] [Is he a vampire in any way? Does he drink blood?] [Wait a minute, Dracula is a character in your book, and your title is some other character? One whose first name is, inexplicably, Lone? Would anyone have gone to the new Sherlock Holmes movie if it were titled Lord Blackwood? What's a better title, Mary or Bride of Frankenstein?]

The NTTC discovers Dracula in his mountain hideaway [The guy travels 10,000 years to the past and then hides away in a mountain? Shouldn't he be doing something?] and launches an attack against him. Lone, thinking that he can do better than the NTTC agents, defies orders and faces off against Dracula. When Lone realizes that he is no match for the creature, one of the NTTC scientists snatches him from certain death using an untested technology which alters Lone’s genetic code. Finding himself suddenly empowered with certain extraordinary abilities such as superior strength and speed, Lone now has not only the will to destroy Dracula but also the means.

When Dracula escapes to 1942 Germany in the hopes of joining forces with Hitler, [Now that's refreshing. A time traveler who isn't trying to kill Hitler.] [Suggested title: Dracula Versus Hitler. You'll have to change the plot so Dracula and Hitler are enemies, but it's worth it for that title. Also, I recommend editing Lone Wilder out of the book.] Ablikin, the mysterious and elusive head of the NTTC, sends Lone after him using the transportation technology discovered in Roswell, New Mexico. [How convenient. You're hopelessly outmatched by a villain with time-travel technology from 10,000 years in the future, and you happen upon your own time-travel technology.] [How do they know what year Dracula went to? How do they know he time traveled rather than became invisible?] During his journey, Lone realizes that his presence is a bigger part of history than he could have imagined. [Especially if he somehow manages to kill Hitler. It was too much to hope that no one would try to kill Hitler.] Finding himself now trapped in the past, Lone uncovers Ablikin’s startling secret.

LONE WILDER is a tale of adventure complete at 109,000 words. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to your ridicule and harsh comments (as well as those of the minnions!)



We need to know how your Dracula is related to the Dracula.

A fiend who travels through history committing atrocities should have better things to do than kill Lone Wilder's parents. Wait, did he kill Lone Wilder's parents so Lone Wilder would never exist because he knew Lone Wilder would one day be responsible for his demise, and because he found the name "Lone" highly annoying, only he got the date wrong and Lone had already been born? It's always better to go after the grandparents than the parents. You don't have to be as accurate with your time travel.

If you insist on naming the guy Lone, I suggest that after he gains his super powers, he take on a cool superhero name like Time Man or Superguy.

Cartoon 554

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Beginning 719

Raven sat under a young aspen in a grove on the Nuba River bank. He was just outside the city of Mora, a place that was not home. He just couldn’t bring himself to think of it as home, despite living in Mora’s outlands. This cluster of trees seemed more like home to him, and this tranquil, natural existence was the way life was supposed to be.

Peace of heart and mind. He felt it in the cool early autumn breeze, in the lyrical flow of the river, in the rustling of the aspen’s golden leaves. The new color that autumn had given it and its sisters had arrayed them like children of the sun. Maybe this was how his father felt about the whirling sands of his homeland of Vardica in the southern desert. Whenever he spoke of it, a light came into his eyes and a note of pride into his voice. But while Raven had inherited his father’s black skin, he had no such love for sand.

He much preferred trees, grass, and loam, all of which could be found where he was now. Every morning as the sun rose, his father gazed toward the southwest, vainly seeking a glimpse of Vardica’s red sands. But this was Anassia …. Raven glanced back at the city behind him, just visible through the trees. Its blue sandstone walls seemed less like beautiful, more like a mockery of the sky to him. Mora. Anassia. Cities. Hang them all. This was where he belonged, here among the swaying aspens. Somewhere among them, a nightingale was singing.

"Nevermore," it sang. "Neverrrrmoooooorrrrre!"

Raven reflected that the chief drawback to spending time in the aspens was the nightingales, who loved to mock Raven's name in relation to some hack writer. Well, that would come to an end today. He took out his gun and tracked the bird as it flew from one tree to another.

Poets. Nightingales. Boom.

Hang them all, he thought, and fired.

Opening: Brett Wade.....Continuation: Stacy

Cartoon 553

Caption: Anon.

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Friday, January 08, 2010

Success Story

*_Rachel_* reports that her short story, "Hide and Seek," has been published in an online magazine.

Face-Lift 717

Guess the Plot

Captain Kissy-Face

1. Hero apprentice Brian Wade learns the hard way why you should never offend the notary whose job is to assign your Superhero Name.

2. Captain Kissy-Face is the latest student to arrive at the school for superheroes. None of the other boys can figure out what his superpower is. The girls, on the other hand, all want him as their lab partner.

3. Every mini-skirted, wonderbra-ed space hottie Captain Kirk ever shagged - human, Vulcan or transdimensional energy being - is back for revenge. Revenge for broken hearts, for being dumped after each mission, and most of all for that nasty strain of Romulan herpes.

4. The crew of B17 'Lucky Lulu' aren't too happy when movie star Bill Rollins comes on board. He's always posing with the plane, blowing kisses to his fans. Tonight they're heading for Germany. Will they survive their run, or will the Luftwaffe make them all kiss their asses goodbye?

5. Miriam, nearing her 30th birthday, can't keep a boyfriend. After three potential Mr. Rights disappear without forwarding addresses, Miriam thinks they can't handle her 17 cats. But her suspicions change when she gets a message through her online dating site saying, "no mor boyz!!1! teh next captin kisy-face gonna die!!!!1!!1 lolz"

6. Felix Kissy-Face rose through the ranks from private to corporal to sergeant. But now he keeps getting passed over for promotions. Is there really a glass ceiling in the army? Or is it just that no one can respect a man with a name like Felix?

Original Version

I am seeking representation for my middle-grade novel Captain Kissy-Face, complete at approximately 25,000 words.

It takes more than superpowers to be a superhero. [True. It also takes a tolerance for latex and a secret identity. But don't overestimate the importance of the latter. Most superhero disguises wouldn't fool anyone with an IQ. Superman came up with the idea to put on a pair of glasses so he could mingle with lower beings. That it worked can only be attributed to the intellectual capacity of his circle of friends. Then there's Aquaman. He spent months coming up with his secret identity, but everyone knew it was him anyway, because he breathes through gills. It's a dead giveaway when you're out on a dinner date and you keep running over and sticking your head in the lobster tank. As for The Thing, here he is as a superhero:]

And here he is in his secret identity as an Elvis impersonator.
Didn't really fool anybody.
] [Superman disguising himself by wearing glasses is like Evil Editor disguising himself by wearing an ear stud.]

[Did you recognize me? Lois Lane wouldn't have.] Several newcomers have arrived on Red Cloak Island. The kitchen lady whose face is the same size, shape, color and texture as a basketball is unusual. The substitute teacher whose face is lost in shadow even when he stands beneath the light is bizarre. But the strangest of all is the new sixth-grade student who will come to be known as Captain Kissy-Face. He’s polite, smart, and a bit shy. He looks and acts like a completely normal boy. He introduces himself as Kevin McFarland, which is beyond weird. [I'm afraid I have to disagree with your assessment. Basketball-head is the strangest. Does she have a nose and mouth, or do they have to stick a needle in her valve to get her oxygen? I'll bet when she walks down the hall all the students torment her by blowing whistles and calling her for traveling.]

Secret from the world at large, unaffiliated with any nation, Red Cloak Island looks like a volcano rising out of the sea. Deep within, protected by a cleverly designed dome, is a school for superheroes. One girl has a tendency to raise her hand higher than anyone else – all the way to the ceiling, in fact. [They call her Bighand.]

[No one's figured out what good she'd be on a team of superheroes, but the Incredible Hulk insists on keeping her around.] One boy calls himself Invisible Max and likes to keep teachers guessing as to whether he’s actually in class or not. Others can fly or crush boulders or create tornadoes in the classroom. In the history of the school, Kevin is the only one who ever passed up the chance to show off his powers to his new classmates. [My money's on explosive kisses.] He hasn’t even given himself a super-cool hero nickname. [Flamethrower?]

Speculating about the new kid’s abilities and even trying to force him to reveal his secret power becomes the focus of half the sixth-grade class, until something more sinister steals their attention. An illness is spreading across the island, stripping students and teachers of their powers. Could polite, shy Kevin McFarland be to blame? [No need to tell us he's polite and shy a second time.] Why does the new substitute go to such great lengths to hide his appearance? And what secret of Red Cloak’s earliest days lies hidden in the books no one is allowed to remove from the library? [Has anyone tried reading them while in the library?]

Captain Kissy-Face was written as a standalone novel, but I’ve already begun working on related titles in what I’ve been calling the Sixth-Grade Superheroes series. I have included the first 10 pages below in the body of this email, and would love to send you the full manuscript to consider.

Thank you.


Sounds like a winner. I'd shorten it a bit. Get rid of: It takes more than superpowers to be a superhero. It's on an island with no transition into the next sentence.

There are several lists, and more set-up than plot, but that isn't so bothersome in this type of book. That said, you can do without Bighand.