Friday, April 30, 2010

Face-Lift 763

Guess the Plot

The Emperor's Edge

1. The citizens are revolting. Seriously. To regain their respect, the emperor will have to rely on something never before seen in Sphereland.

2. What good is being an emperor if you can't have your own private tailor, your own private mistress, and your own private assassin? And, you save money if they're all the same person.

3. Tony Spagnolo owns the world's third largest razor company. He sets out with a daring plan to steal a fantastic new blade design from The Emperor Shaving Company. Can he beat the high tech security system and get . . . The Emperor's Edge?

4. For centuries the god-emperors of Dagot have ruled their kingdom with their unstoppable fighting style - until a humble street orphan stumbles onto their secret. All he has to do now is publish it before they can kill him. Of course, first he'll need . . . a query letter.

5. Idealist Jorian Vangnor sets out to compete in the Sacred Games. The victor becomes absolute ruler of the Sycrovian Empire for the next five years. Little does he know that the current Emperor has already marked the cards, shaved the dice, and gimmicked the roulette wheel.

6. Amaranthe Lokdon is supposed to be protecting the emperor with her blade, but she has her own problems: everybody in the city is trying to kill her, and her actual weapon of choice is a coffee canister. At least she's prepared if she needs a caffeine fix.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Imperial law enforcer, Amaranthe Lokdon, is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when an arson [arsonist] destroys a giant kiln, [Fire destroying a kiln is like a rainstorm destroying a swimming pool. In the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the entire downtown was destroyed; the only thing left was a kiln.] a mysterious creature ravages innocent citizens, and a secret coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed. [I'd remove the kiln from the list of stuff that's overwhelming her. Right now it's like saying a secret service agent is overwhelmed because terrorists are attacking the White House, Klingons are destroying Washington and his toaster is malfunctioning.] Matters get worse when her investigations annoy the wrong person, and a bounty lands on her head. Soon gangsters, assassins, and even co-workers are trying to kill her. [Why would anyone want to be an imperial law enforcer in a world where if an imperial law enforcer annoys you, you can put a bounty on her head and everyone will try to kill her? Instead of having imperial law enforcers they should just put bounties on all criminals.]

The only person not attempting to cash in is the most infamous criminal in the city, an assassin named Sicarius. He has an inexplicable interest in keeping the emperor alive, which makes him the perfect ally, [If everyone's trying to kill me, my perfect ally is gonna be someone with an inexplicable interest in keeping me alive, not the emperor. Screw the emperor.] [In any case, if there are 30,001 people in this city, and 30,000 of them are trying to kill me, I'm not teaming up with the other one; I'm getting out of Dodge.] in a dear-ancestors-sometimes-he’s-more-evil-than-the-villains kind of way. [Not clear what "dear ancestors" is doing there. Is it like Oh my God? I'd get rid of it. Or change it to Oh my God. And get rid of the comma after ally.] His coldhearted indifference to humanity chills Amaranthe, but she finds herself awed by his deadly athleticism, intrigued by the past he won’t speak about, and tickled that he actually listens to her crazy schemes. Together they might have a chance to thwart the ringleaders and save the emperor, but when her curiosity drives her to unearth Sicarius’s secrets, the revelation could start a civil war....

The Emperor's Edge is a fantasy novel, complete at 105k words. I would be pleased to send it for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration.



As you focus the query on protecting the emperor with no further mention of the mysterious creature, I'd leave out the creature entirely. Unless Sicarius's secret is that he's responsible for the creature's killing spree, in which case the last plot sentence might read: Together they might have a chance to thwart the ringleaders and save the emperor, but when she discovers that the mysterious creature that's been killing people is actually Sicarius in a bear costume, the revelation could start a civil war.....

If Sicarius is a wolfman, we need to know that.

Cartoon 632

Caption: Stacy

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Face-Lift 762

Guess the Plot

Courage of Story

1. An autobiographical tale of a life spent pushing fiction to increasingly hostile, and sometimes violent publishers.

2. The truth is revealed as the cowardly lion documents what really happened after his fateful encounter with a young girl from Kansas. Also, a recipe for stew using a tin pot and straw tinder.

3. A simple girl, a king and a mage have a story to tell, but first they must find someone who has the courage to listen. Do you? What about you?

4. Eighteen year old Tom Story cuts a dashing figure in his WWII uniform. At home, he uses a sob story and the uniform to bag hot nurses, but once he hits the front-lines everybody will see . . . the courage of Story.

5. Google Random Title Generator. Click on the top Googlition. Click on Give me some titles! Do you like the third one down? If not, request more titles. Do you like the third one down now?

6. When an editor receives a query letter for a book whose title seems to have been created with a random word generator, he soon realizes that he will have to write most of the fake plots. Can he get past the bad mood this is sure to put him in before he reads the letter, or is the author doomed to endure a scathing critique?

Original Version

Dearest Evil Editor,

Many people can speak without fear, but how many can listen? [Actually, almost everyone can listen without fear. Unless what they're listening to is the dentist's drill or the footsteps of an obsessed serial killer coming up the creaky stairs. Or a shark.] [Do sharks make sounds? I've never heard one, but that may be because the sounds were drowned out by the screams of the people the sharks were devouring.] [Opening with a vague rhetorical question is bad enough, but:

1. A primary feature of a rhetorical question is that the answer is obvious.
2. You apparently believe the obvious answer to your rhetorical question is Very few people.
3. The actual answer is Everybody.

You're better off not asking the question and starting with the next paragraph.]

Raven is a formidable mage with a very gloomy outlook on life. Thani is the youngest, but also wisest, king his realm has yet seen. [Which, considering that he's fifteen, doesn't say much for the wisdom of the previous kings of Loonyland.] And Syvrus is a relatively simple girl with a relatively simple wish: to become immortal. [No point modifying everything with "relatively," unless you explain what they're relative to.] Together, these three characters tell a tale of power, of love, and most of all, of the courage to listen. [I don't even know what that means. This is the part of the query where you're supposed to summarize the tale. All you've done is list three characters. What do the characters do? Who tries to stop them from attaining their goals?]

Courage of Story [The title is bland. I got a couple decent ones from the random title generator: Wizard of Words and Thief of Silence. Even knowing nothing about what happens in your book, I recommend these titles over Courage of Story.] is a fantasy novel (directed at young adults) about a world of mythical creatures and incredible mysteries, and can be compared to other fantasy works such as “Eragon” or the “His Dark Materials” trilogy. However, unlike these novels, Courage of Story is not about a fight of good vs. evil. Rather, it is about the destruction of [evil] despotic traditional powers [by the forces of good], as well as sudden and powerful disillusionment. [This is all vague. What, specifically happens in the book?] This novel is completed and 135,000 words in length.

My name is _________________, and I am a second-year student at McGill University – with an avid interest in fantasy writing, directed at young adults. I have written a proposal for my novel entitled, Courage of Story. I would like to invite you to review my proposal (or my manuscript itself) and consider representing me. [Get rid of that paragraph.]

I noticed your impressive credentials during my search for a literary agent. I would be honored to have you represent me. If you are interested in my novel, please contact me as soon as possible. [You haven't said anything about your plot; how can I be interested?] I will be showing my proposal (or manuscript) to only one agent at a time. You can reach me at ______ or by email at __________. [That paragraph can go too.]

Yours truly,


Start over. Write an 8- to 10-sentence plot summary focusing on your main character's goal, problem, solution. Make it specific, and make it sound so interesting we just have to read the book. Then just say ___________ is a 135,000-word YA fantasy that can't be much worse than Eragon.

Cartoon 631

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Face-Lift 761

Guess the Plot

The Eraser

1. Has Pencil Man finally met his match in The Sharpener? Or will his new girlfriend turn out to be someone who can make all his mistakes disappear?

2. A bitter story of rejection and disappointment from inside the pencil case when little Timmy starts writing in ink.

3. Jason has his heart set on an NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but when no team drafts him it looks like he'll be selling used cars. Then a professional wrestling promoter spots him and offers him a contract to wrestle as . . . The Eraser.

4. Nina struggles to teach her 4th grade students to love writing but her arch nemesis, The Eraser, destroys their papers with smudge marks and tears. The final, epic showdown comes during the state achievement tests.

5. It starts when Freddie throws his lucky eraser at Magda. She ducks, the eraser hits Mrs. Pomerantz, and Freddie gets sent to the principal's office. So begins a long streak of misfortune that will end only if Freddie, through keen detective work, is able to recover . . . The Eraser.

6. High school student Clara falls for her classmate Edgar, but romance takes a back seat when Clara dredges up repressed memories of when she was three years old: going to the park with her mommy; playing horsie with her daddy; and the day her parents were kidnapped by a brutal Chilean police torture squad charged with erasing all opponents of the Pinochet dictatorship and all evidence of its massive human rights violations.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Pretty, popular [, punctual] and privileged, fifteen-year-old Clara Vargas Leighton is the picture of young, aristocratic, propriety in Chile during the 1980s. [Remove "young, aristocratic" so the "p" alliteration is continued: the picture of propriety in President Pinochet's . . . ] [In fact, why not change the country to Peru and change Clara's name to Pepper Papanicolaou?]

But Clara was born with a questioning nature that defies the authoritarian traditions of her adoptive parents and of Chilean society during [under?] Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. Coupled with [Haunted by? Troubled by?] traumatic, reoccurring memories of her early childhood, she embarks on an investigative journey. Her classmate Edwin, the black sheep son of one of Chile’s most prominent families, serves as her guide. Clara and Edwin grow closer to each other as they explore the world outside their exclusive enclave of Santiago’s Vitacura neighborhood. Clara’s hunger for the truth about her country is satiated as she hears too many stories of police brutality and crippling poverty, only a few of the many terrible side effects produced by the dictatorship, unknown to her until now. [I don't think "satiated" is the best word, and "side-effects" doesn't seem strong enough. How about: As Clara seeks the truth about her country, she hears too many stories of police brutality and crippling poverty.]

Clara pieces together her foggy memories with her newfound macabre knowledge. [I tend to think of "macabre" as referring to supernatural horrors. In any case, it's not the knowledge that's macabre.] She concludes that her biological parents did not die in a car accident, like [as] her adoptive parents tell [told] her. Instead, they were both left-wing opponents of the dictatorship who disappeared when Clara was three years old. [That's a pretty elaborate conclusion to reach from a foggy memory.]

Inspired by her latest discovery, Clara juggles her detective work with the mind-numbing obligations of her starchy, Catholic high school. She attempts to learn the definitive fate of her parents and how exactly she got into the hands of a colonel and his socialite wife. As Clara investigates further, she grows increasingly sickened by her patrician surroundings and their indifference to and not so tacit support for the horrors committed by the dictatorship.

THE ERASER is a 74,000 word novel for a mature young adult audience.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Revised Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Fifteen-year-old Clara Vargas Leighton is the picture of young, aristocratic propriety in Chile during the 1980s. But Clara was born with a questioning nature that defies the authoritarian traditions of her adoptive parents and of Chilean society under Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. Puzzled by traumatic memories of her early childhood, she embarks on an investigative journey.

Exploring the world outside her exclusive Santiago neighborhood, Clara hears stories of police brutality, torture and unexplained disappearances. Soon her foggy memories crystallize. She realizes that her biological parents did not die in a car accident as her adoptive parents told her; they were kidnapped.

As Clara tries to learn the definitive fate of her parents and how exactly she got into the hands of a colonel and his socialite wife, she grows increasingly sickened by her patrician surroundings and by her adoptive parents' indifference to the horrors committed by the dictatorship.

THE ERASER is a 74,000 word novel for a mature young adult audience.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


That's shorter, but it's mostly the same info in the same voice. Edwin is obviously important in the book, but not so much in the query. Same with juggling her school obligations.There's still room for a sentence or two telling us what eventually happens. Does she run away? Lead a coup? Devote her life to helping the poor?

There's no need to use complex vocabulary; simple and clear will get you where you're going without potholes.

Cartoon 630

Caption: Angie

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Minor Blog Changes

I've taken advantage of the "Pages" feature to put three things that used to be at Evil Editor's Gallimaufry over here (three things that no one comments on).

This makes it easier to navigate that site, and reduces the number of links on this site. I've also combined "Queries Waiting" and "Submit a Guess the Plot" into one list, so if you want to submit a fake plot or find out how close your query is to the top, click "Query Queue."

New Beginning 747

Ah, the Druggie Class…I love these twisted, stoned, turned upside down clowns. Man. This is the easiest class ever. We just groove, they grin, their stoned faces slack and loose, the tension oozes out of me just looking at them. I sit and relaaaaax… The joint I hooted before class helps me with relaaaax. They laugh, chuckle, corn hole each other as only Thai boys can and I can feel the "just clean fun" aspect running around the room reminding me of a fresh breeze from Canada. Boys will be boys.

I don’t have to whip the Stoners. I don’t have grab any ears or get in any faces and scream "Shut up! Any questions Einstein?" I don’t pinch or hit them. This is the only class I don’t beat on. No need, they are the "beat" generation of Thailand. Beat as in the beat goes on, and on, and where was I? The beat works well with the substance abuse they, I, we they enjoy. Am I making sense?

They are something, so today I freaked out when Tittiporn Wasawdeaboom (he goes by the nickname "Wasa" much to my regret). Wasa, who should be nicknamed Titti, Tits or Porn, he grabbed his junk and said to me, "President Obama, please show your respect to the delegation from Thailand."

I laughed and slid off my chair. Some burnout in a suit picked me up and whispered in my ear, "You promised you wouldn't use in office."

I rubbed his shoulder. "Relax, bro; I don't remember half the promises I make when I'm baked."

I hate it when people ruin my vibe with all that "keep your word" noise. Man, fuck healthcare or whatever.

Opening: Bibi.....Continuation: Matthew

Cartoon 629

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Face-Lift 760

Guess the Plot

Nothing Is What It Seems

1. . . . including this book. Nestled inside the cut-out pages is a Colt .45, two seven-round magazines and a roll of hundred dollar bills. I'm Ben Darkley, literary private eye, and I know how to handle overly aggressive wannabe writers.

2. When Debbie Ryman starts work on a new account, she doesn't know her world is about to turn upside down. Turns out her client is a secret society out to conquer the world, her new husband is a CIA agent working to stop them, and her mother-in-law is a demonic, soul-sucking hell-beast. (Well, technically, that last one is exactly what it seems.)

3. First Maya goes to her husband's funeral, but there's no body in the casket. Then her new boyfriend turns out to be a rogue FBI agent hunting her "dead" husband, whose name "just happens" to be an anagram of Evil Satan. It's all par for the course in a town where . . . Nothing is what it seems.

4. Millie thought she was buying a book. What she was buying was a brain washing program designed by the shadowy organization that secretly controls every government in the world. Fortunately, she's a conspiracy theorist.

5. Down is up! Cats are dogs! Mice are toasters! Exclamation points are question marks! Can Emilio escape from this Bizarro world with his priceless violin intact, or will he be trapped forever as a sousaphonist?

6. Pigs flying on dragons and lipstick tubes offering cosmetic advice and that's not all Dannie encounters after falling through a manhole cover in New York City. If only she can get out before Man Croc, ruler of the underground cesspool, forces her to become his bride.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

An empty casket funeral entwines the lives of a relieved widow, a grieving child, a rogue FBI agent, and a badass loan shark with a penchant for shooting people. [Shooting people who owe you money is counterproductive.] In the small Texan town of Hill’s Creek, everyone has secrets . . . but some secrets are worth killing for. [Or so it seems. But nothing is what it seems.]

Bent on avenging his sister’s death, Agent Jonah White is on a vigilante quest to track down Eli Savant, con artist-turned-killer, and the fifty thousand dollars he allegedly stole. Instead, Eli’s widow, and possible accomplice, tumbles into Jonah’s arms, and right into his heart. [Or so it seems. But nothing is what it seems.] One look in Maya’s eyes and one impish smile from her 5-year-old daughter, Lily, and a smitten Jonah is willing to do anything to gain her trust. Their budding romance, and Jonah’s secret investigation, is threatened however when a dead body implicates him in murder and an old acquaintance warns Maya of impending danger. [Move the two commas in that sentence so that they surround "however." And change "is" to "are."] When Eli resurfaces, very much alive, everything spirals out of control: Jonah’s lies are exposed, Lily is abducted and Maya loses faith. To win back Maya’s love and save Lily from certain death, Jonah must trust Eli, the one man responsible for everything. In the end, it all comes down to who you trust because nothing is what it seems. [That's what I was gonna say.] One will die, and one will save the day. But who will win back Maya’s love? [My money's on the one who saves the day.]

NOTHING IS WHAT IT SEEMS (79,000 words) is a completed work of romantic suspense. Thank you for considering my book for representation.



I'm pretty sure that something is what it seems.

I don't think we need the loan shark in the first sentence.

How long has Eli been missing when they decide to have his funeral? Usually when there's no body they assume the guy ran off to Vegas with his mistress.

How can you claim Jonah is "willing to do anything to gain her trust" when he doesn't even tell her who he is?

There seem to be a lot of absolutes here. Everyone has secrets. Jonah is willing to do anything. Everything spirals out of control. Certain death. The one man responsible for everything. Nothing is what it seems. Aren't there any gray areas in this town?

Paragraphing would be nice in the long plot section. A new paragraph in the first two places I put blue words. Also, I think I'd drop the last two sentences of the plot.

Cartoon 628

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010


Some of the Evil Minions have arranged an anniversary event for today, the 4th anniversary of this blog. Here's the address.

And for something else to do, here are three amusing posts from the archives worth revisiting:

Evil Jr. helps critique a query on Bring Your Kid to Work Day

Continuation Writing Made Simple

Minions Being Their usual Helpful and Funny Selves in a Typical Comment Trail

Cartoon 627

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Beginning 746

There was an article in the paper that morning, about the man who killed his double. He got off: you don’t prosecute people for removing a faulty body part, even if the body part is shaped like a human.

I read it while I waited for the bus. Front page.

Daria would read it, too, when she and her hangover finally woke up, but she wouldn’t pay much attention until they told her I left. Then she’d load her gun and start looking.

New York was on the horizon and coming closer. I pressed my face to the bus window and watched the streets, where blank-faced doubles trailed behind their confident firsts. Clones, photocopies, doppelgangers. People.

Once off the bus, I pushed my way down the crowded sidewalks. Everywhere we went, Daria always had a driver.

There was a busker on a street near Central Park, strumming his guitar, enjoying his music whether the crowd did or not. I stopped nearby and watched, though nobody else did.

He noticed me first, my guitar case second, and smiled. “Want to join me?” he called when the song ended.

I walked over. “Sure. But I don’t have a permit.”

He shrugged.

I looked closer, the guy's face was blank now that he wasn't singing. So . . . he was a double. His first was lounging, foot cocked against the rail fence, grinning.

Crap, here came Daria, her driver skidding to a halt as she tucked and rolled in drama queen style to a flat body pose on the cement, aiming her gun back and forth at the first and the double.

I froze her in a bubble and the first and I jammed for about an hour while the double went limp to recharge. These doubles and double bubbles with their street begging and busking were seriously starting to interfere with life on planet Earth. Ah well, a volcanic ash cloud, earthquakes, asteroids . . . Earth was toast anyway. Figured I might as well speed up the process, prevent riots at Wal-mart. I freeze-shrank the Earth, shoved it my pocket and went home to Mirvbal. Now that's a planet.

Opening: Rachel.....Continuation: Bibi

Cartoon 626

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Success Story

Molly Burkhart, known hereabouts as Gutterball, and author of several openings/continuations/writing exercises in years past, reports that her novel, My Gigolo, comes out May 11 as an e-book, and in print in about 10 months. Some of the dialogue in the novel morphed from this writing exercise.

The publisher's page for the book is here. No word on whether that's Molly on the cover.

Face-Lift 759

Guess the Plot

Zombies in Love

1. High school's tough for everyone, but while other kids have to worry about locking braces when they kiss, Francie and Chad have to worry about their lips falling off.

2. After the zombie apocalypse kills us all, Marley discovers that brains taste sweeter when he's shambling alongside Dixie Adams. But then the vampires show up and ruin everything.

3. Soon after Jack starts working in Lisa's pizza parlor, romance blossoms. Should he tell her he's a zombie now, or let her find out the hard way, when customers complain that fingers weren't among the toppings they ordered?

4. Melissa has grown tired of dating men who are interested only in her body. Eventually she meets George, a man who actually wants her for her braaaaaaaaaiiins.

5. John's beloved zombie bride Marsha has been kidnapped. Can he lead his fellow rotting corpses through the city and rescue her before she ends up as fertilizer?

6. Marla Higginson falls asleep watching TV only to awaken in a Zombiefied version of her favorite soap. Will she escape Zombism or, since her lover Brendan is now undead, will she convert for him? Tune in tomorrow when…

Original Version

“I am seeking representation for my humorous paranormal romance novel, Zombies in Love, complete at 68,000 words long.

When he was alive, Jack Kershaw's laziness and untrustworthiness nearly destroyed the family business. Now that he's a zombie, Jack has two simple goals: to hold on to his new job at Lisa Alioto's pizza parlor, and to keep his murderous cousin from realizing that he's not entirely deceased. But that's before he realizes that Lisa's delicious body may be even less attractive than her generosity and integrity, [What I think you're trying to say is: But that's before he realizes that Lisa's generosity and integrity are even more attractive than her delicious body. Trust me, no woman wants her body described as "even less attractive than" . . . anything.] and he begins to wonder-- has he found the love of his life after he's already dead?

Lisa Alioto has always lived the life her parents planned out for her, supporting her family and working diligently at Alioto's Pizza. [If you're gonna plan out your kid's life, always include a section on how she should support you.] But when handsome, charming Jack comes into her life, she remembers the wild young girl she used to be. [You just said she has always lived the life her parents planned out for her. When was she a wild thing?] Could a romance with Jack be the adventure she's always wanted?

But Jack and Lisa are in serious danger. Jack's second chance at life is the inadvertent result of a lab experiment by two graduate students, and Winthrop University-- a school with plenty of sinister secrets-- will do anything to conceal that someone on its campus raised the dead. [Winthrop University is your villain? What happened to Jack's murderous cousin? Why was he even brought up if he's not the villain?] [Are you sure Winthrop is on board with you claiming they have sinister secrets? You can always make up a college name.] After Jack inadvertently infects Lisa, she is equally at risk. [Technically, don't you have to be dead before you can be a zombie?] The two of them must find strengths they never knew they had if they want to gain happiness together. [A vague and blah last sentence. What, specifically, do they have to do?]

The academic sections of this novel are partly based on my experiences earning a PhD in the History of American Civilization at Harvard University [but I used Winthrop instead of Harvard because Winthrop doesn't have a secret slush fund for having slandering alumni murdered]. As an independent historian, I have published academic essays on the American middle class [, which certainly qualifies me to write about zombies,] and on merchants in Charleston during the Revolutionary Era. I have also edited and co-written _________________. Under my fiction-writing pen name, ______________, I have published several short stories such as "_____________, and the novella_____________, available as an e-book from Drollerie Press. “



Not sure why the entire body of the letter is enclosed in quotation marks.

If someone told me they'd inadvertently made me a zombie, I probably wouldn't believe them. Until I started craving brain pizza. In any case, I don't think I'd take it well.

When you say the "academic sections" of the novel are based on Harvard, do you mean the sections in which grad students create a zombie? Or is it the part where the students come into the pizza parlor, get drunk, destroy the place, kill someone for laughs, and get off with a slap on the wrist because their parents know a Kennedy?

When you open by saying Jack nearly destroyed the family business when he was alive, I expect him to save the business as a zombie. Just like I expect more about the murderous cousin. As neither gets mentioned again, let's leave them out and open something like:

Jack Kershaw has two simple goals: to hold on to his new job at Lisa Alioto's pizza parlor, and to keep Lisa from finding out that he's a zombie.

Lisa is bored with
her life, but when handsome, charming Jack comes along, she remembers the wild young girl she used to be, how she's long dreamed of having a romantic adventure . . . though admittedly with someone who was alive.

Now you have more space to give us some detail about the serious danger they're in and what they plan to do about it.

Cartoon 625

Caption: anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! ink in sidebar.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New Beginning 745

Nina read the words on the pale green card for the last time. Name: Nina Krenkel. Birthdate: 07-08-1924. Birthplace: Vienna. Hair: brown. Eyes: green. Race: JEW.
Then she opened the furnace door, and put it in. The flames flared and ate the words in long licks. It was a ghost-card of curled ash, the words still visible for a moment, slowly fluttering apart in the wind of the fire's burning. Nina watched, transfixed, as her name fell away into flakes on the glowing coals.

“Nina! You did it?”

She whirled to face her younger brother. “I promised. And you promised too.”

“But we never got the fake ones!”

“He said we had to do it anyway. We have to, Gustav. We have to do everything he says.” Her eyes burned. She stood, pulling herself up by her crutches. “You want to go up there and tell him we're not doing it? And let him die knowing that?”

“But Nina—Uncle Samuel—”

“Uncle Samuel is WRONG!” she shouted. “Did you hear what he said? He said crazy. Is he crazy, Gustav? Tell me.” She looked him in the eye. “Do you honestly think Father is crazy?”

Gustav looked at her, his brown eyes wide. “I—” He shut his mouth, and looked down at his shoes. Shoes that Father had made him. “No,” he whispered. “He's not crazy.”

“I know it's scary, Gustav. I'm scared too. But he knows.” Just look in his eyes. Did you ever wonder if dying people can see the future? It scares me, Gustav, it scares me so bad, what he looks like he knows. “He says we're safer if we go. He knows. So we're going.” She stood leaning on her crutches, looking at him; then she held out her hand. He looked back at her for a long time, put his hand in his pocket, and pulled out a pale green card. She took it, and bent again to the furnace door.


She pulled her hand back from the flames and looked up toward the voice.

"Nina. What have I told you about coming down here? And Gustav, too. You should be ashamed!"

Nina stared at the floor. "Sorry, Uncle Samuel."

"Doctor Samuel, if you please. Now come back up to your rooms."

"Where is Father?" Nina asked.

"If, by Father, you are referring to Johann, he has locked himself in the ladies room again. Now come on."

The old lady pushed herself up on her crutches and headed toward the steps. Gustav, bent-backed, shuffled along behind her, the tissue boxes on his feet scratching along the cold basement floor.

Opening: Heather Munn.....Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 624

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Face-Lift 758

Guess the Plot


1. They don't stop. They drone on and on. They nitpick and complain and harangue and argue and drive Simone bonkers. Oddly enough, she's deaf. Also, a hot otologist.

2. With his homeland in chaos and the Inquisition on his tail, Ethan turns to his only weapon: his own voice as he reads his captivating poetry. As he says, A broadsword will quite often kill, but nothing's worse than listening to verse.

3. Telephone operator Doris Spellman is put out of work by a computer. When her son sends her a laptop for her fifty-eighth birthday, Doris vents her frustration on the laptop, which coughs up information on the machines' plot to destroy mankind. Can Doris save us all or will she be sent to a mental institution for hearing . . . Voices?

4. Uber-wealthy oil heiress Stephanie Barron has been deaf since infancy. But when the brilliant and handsome surgeon Karl Weidman says he'll restore her hearing if she'll marry him, she says yes... and discovers, post-surgery, that her new husband sounds like PeeWee Herman on helium.

5. A collection of essays taken from interviews with whoever would give the author the time of day.

6. Annoyed by arguments in the apartment above her, Deb Winkler investigates, only to find the loft deserted. One night she hears a violent fight break out and cowers in her apartment . . . until she hears cries for help coming from above—in her own voice.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Ethan is a poet with a rare gift. His poetry [actually rhymes.] can do more than captivate audiences: it can command thoughts, or even alter reality itself. As Ethan struggles to control his new abilities, he stumbles upon the grisly slaying of an Inquisition Operative. [We need to know what the Inquisition is, or else we're gonna think Spanish Inquisition. (If it is the Spanish Inquisition, change "operative" to God's Torture Squad.)] Sent to retrieve a dangerous artifact from a hidden shrine, the murdered agent was betrayed by his partner, and now the artifact is missing. [Actually, I'm pretty sure the partner has it, so it's not exactly "missing."] Without the artifact, Ethan's home, once a safe haven from the bustle and pollution of the city, is suddenly filled with misfortune and chaos. [Ethan's home was always without the artifact. It was in the shrine. Perhaps you mean Ethan's village or homeland. If you name his home it'll be easier to talk about it.] [Similarly, if you'd tell us what the artifact is, you wouldn't have to keep using the word "artifact." All I think of when I hear "artifact" is an old thing. Try reading the previous two sentences substituting "old thing" for "artifact": Sent to retrieve a dangerous old thing from a hidden shrine, yada yada, and now the old thing is missing. Without the old thing . . . See, it gets annoying.] At first trying to avoid trouble and stay out of the hands of the Inquisition, Ethan seeks only to further his poetry career. [You can make a career out of poetry? What kind of twisted world is this?] But with his friends kidnapped by a deranged criminal and Ethan pursued by the Inquisition, he can no longer remain uninvolved. [This seems to contradict the previous sentence to a degree. Trying to stay out of the Inquisition's hands, he focuses on poetry. But pursued by the Inquisition he can't stay uninvolved. In both cases the Inquisition is after him, so what changed?] Forced to confront his own cowardice Ethan must make a choice: continue to hide in coffee shops and gin dens, or learn to control his gift and find the stolen artifact before the home he loves is torn apart. [If you're hanging out in coffee shops, are you technically "hiding"?] [He was already struggling to control his abilities back in sentence 3, so how can you imply that only now must he decide whether to learn to control his gift?]

My novel VOICES, is a 100,000-word SteamPunk-Fantasy that will appeal to readers of both China Mielville [If you're gonna mention him, may as well spell his name right.] and Bruce Sterling.

Thank you considering my submission, the manuscript is available upon request.



Your story starts when Ethan decides he must spring into action. But we get nothing about what happens after that. Less setup, more plot.

Recovering the artifact would be a bigger challenge if it were in the possession of the Inquisition rather than one guy.

Why is the Inquisition chasing a poet instead of their traitorous member? Do they think Ethan has the artifact?

It's not clear what you mean by his poetry can command thoughts and alter reality. What, exactly, can he do? Change history? Make every member of the Inquisition think, I must commit suicide immediately? How does he know his poetry has these powers?

We don't need the friends who've been kidnapped, as they're not mentioned anywhere else.

Paragraphing would help. After the 2nd sentence and after "chaos."

Maybe you should start from scratch: When the Jade Scarab is stolen from Numbville's sacred shrine, the village plunges into chaos, and only cowardly poet Ethan Milktoast can halt the descent. To do so means taking on the Inquisition, an organization dedicated to the eradication of rhyme.

Ethan's poetry can command thoughts, or even alter reality itself. But before he can use it to take down the diabolical Inquisition, he must learn to control it. He must learn when to attack with blank verse and when to defend with a rhyming couplet. He must learn the risks of reciting a Haiku and accidentally using the wrong number of syllables. And that no matter how perilous his situation, he must never, never attack with a Limerick.

That pretty much covers your setup, and still leaves room to tell us about the climactic poetry slam.

Photoplay Challenge Results

The task was to write a dialogue scene using any or all of six provided photographs. I chose the submission below to display with speech bubbles. The other two submissions are in the comments. This one is by Whirlochre:

Cartoon 623

Caption: Angie

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fake Query 5

Face-Lift 454: Stellar

Dear Editor,

The iguana says your breath stinks, but I don’t like the iguana and so I thought it’d be a good idea to query you with my 300,000 word autobiography about Aunt Marge’s alien abduction.

I think the iguana is really an alien, but I don’t know for sure. It’s a really good liar. We always thought Aunt Marge was the liar, always cracking these jokes about a talking lizard in her backyard and a spaceship in her barn. It turns out she kept a straight face because she wasn’t joking.

When she disappeared, I flew out to Orlando to see if I could find anything. I’ve always been good about finding things, but finding Aunt Marge has been hard. I haven’t found her yet, but I figured I’d write this all down better if I did it right away. So there’ll be a sequel once I find her.

It could be the aliens who her, because of the spaceship in her barn and the oil stains on the grass. But the iguana says it wasn’t the aliens. I think either the aliens that left the spaceship got her or the iguana ate her. So, when you call me up with an offer, I’d like some advice: if I eat the iguana, is it cannibalism?




Fake Query 4

Face-Lift 366: Mysteries and Cemeteries

When ace homicide detective Bob Bungle discovers that everyone in the Eternal Rest cemetery is dead, he knows two things: there must be a crazed serial killer on the loose, and he won't need to stop at the florist shop to bring his wife flowers tonight. Bungle has one clue: the killer is an anal organization freak, having taken the trouble of labeling each corpse, putting their names and dates of death on stone tablets like butterflies in a display box.

In an obvious effort to taunt Bungle, the killer also buried each of his victims under several feet of earth. Bungle hires a night work crew to dig up the bodies and bust open the boxes in which the killer concealed them. Unfortunately, most of the victims have been dead several decades, leaving behind little or no forensic evidence, like when a body is burned and the ashes are thrown into sulfuric acid, but not that bad.

Bob Bungle specializes in digging into cold cases, and this one's spent ages buried in the homicide vaults like pirate booty. But when Bungle discovers that Eternal Rest isn't the only killing field, that they're spread all over town like Starbucks but without WiFi, he realizes he may finally be in over his head.

Mysteries and Cemeteries is the fifth in a series of unpublished Bob Bungle mysteries. Thank you.

--Evil Editor

Fake Query 3

Face Lift 168: Over Their Heads

OVER THEIR HEADS is a 100K novel about a couple searching for acceptance in a cold, cruel dystopia that rejects its past as politically incorrect.

Hearkening back to big game hunters of the Nineteenth century Carol and Tim invite their friends to share in the bounty of the beasts they've killed in an ambience worthy of the great hunters; Tarzan, Mandingo, Wily Coyote and Zulu. As Tim says; me like game, me like big gun: boom-boom, bang-bang. But there is a catch, while most people bury their dead relatives in the cemetery or keep the ashes in urns on mantles, Carol and Tim shrink and mount their dead relative's heads to display in the dining room for the admiration of their guests. As Carol says -- aren't our relatives as exciting as your stamp collection, or a fine piece of art, or bronzed baby shoes, or prized bull semen.

When Carol and Ted unveil their B&B in the bucolic community of Deadhorse, Alaska, they struggle with their friends, their neighbors, the local police, the FBI, the CIA, Interpol. They have that hopey-changey thing going and they can see Grandpa Horace from their porch, but can they convince their dinner guests that deceased relatives deserve a place of honor? Or will they be doomed to eat alone in dark, dank prison cells? Will this query pass muster with EE or will it die in giggling terror; mocked, escoffiered, scorned and defenestrated? Inquiring minds want to know.

Thank you,

Bob and Alice

--Dave F.

Fake Query 2

Facelift 14: Trevor's Song

What happens when a boy who is as awkward as a drunken giraffe on roller skates accidentally sets the heart of a lonely lady on fire?

Trevor is 12, socially inept, pimply, and basically failing his way through 7th grade. Not academically failing, mind you--just failing in every way that society deems worse than falling off the Empire State Building with a bag of pianos. Girls ignore him, jocks stomp him, and his only friend is his dog. And even she bites sometimes.

But beneath his thick glasses & nerd clothes the heart of a poet beats true. He crafts a sonnet, a paean to passion, and like a true hero in an internet novella he spams it to the world. Maybe, he hopes, someone won't kick in his door and beat him like a baby seal.

Cora is a lonely, plump, forty-three year old secretary who has never known the joy of love. Oh, she's had flings, but those ended faster than a bad tweet. Something about all her cats. Anyway, one fateful day as she dispiritedly opens her increasingly pointless email, she discovers Trevor's sonnet.

Someone Cares. And that someone knows her well enough to tell her story in verse, painting a loving picture of the woman she is inside.

Can Cora and Trevor ever meet? Will it all collapse into a domino pile of misunderstanding, pain and heartache? Will she be arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a minor? Or can these two crazy outcasts find true, real love in an increasingly cynical and soulless world?

Trevor's Song is complete at 256,879 words. I am a journalism major at West Des Moines College of the Woods at Raccoon River. I look forward to hearing from you.


Fake Query 1

Face-Lift 184: The Naked World

Dear Evil Editor,

Attached you will find the entirety of my zero-word, 500-page fiction novel, THE NAKED WORLD. This groundbreaking new novel is an exact re-telling of “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” except instead of being exactly the same it’s all modernized and the Emperor is really the President and the protagonist is also the antagonist, a guy named Mr. Lillian who convinces the President to go around the world naked (hence the title).

But here’s the catch that will make this an instant classic: there are no words in the novel! What better way to illustrate the main theme of the story? Don’t stress yourself out trying to answer that, it’s a rhetorical question. There isn’t a better way to illustrate the point.

All we need is one good review, and then people will read the book and rave about it, even though it has no words in it! It’s like eating a meal of pure air, but with less chewing. It would be like an emperor walking around naked, thinking he was all decked out! Get it? We’re lucky George Lucas didn’t think of that first, he had an awesome Emperor character. Oh well, his loss.

Cheers, to our never-ending success and countless riches,

--Rick Daley

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Saturday Film Series

Writing Exercise

Step 1. Use this random number generator to get one integer between 1 and 756.

Step 2. Search the blog for the Face-Lift with that number. That gets you your title.

Step 3. Choose one of the fake plots and write a query letter for a book with that plot.

Extra credit for including three bad analogies in your plot summary.

Deadline: Sunday, 10 AM eastern. 250 words max.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Photoplay Challenge

Below are six photographs. Create a scene by putting the photos in any order and providing dialogue for as many characters as you wish in each scene. You do not need to use all six photos. Submit the photo number and identify the people as she, he-G, and he-NG, (Glasses/No Glasses)







Face-Lift 757

Guess the Plot


1. The story of Basil the Foolhardy, the world's least successful dragon slayer.

2. When Karla LeMerrick's job takes her across the globe, she assumes she has seen the last of her arrogant lover. But when he shows up on her doorstep in Istanbul, embers turn to flames. Will grease fire ensue?

3. Lenka Pelakova has a secret: by night she transforms into an enormous burning phoenix, engaging in fiery rampages that leave the town in embers. She'd like to rein in her bird side, but if she does, she'll have no defense against other strange women who can transform into other legendary birds.

4. David Taylor is a high school student, a vampire, and a pyromaniac. He plots a fiery death for his classmates, but a chance encounter with Lucy Ballentine sets his cold heart smoldering. Will Lucy fan his flames of desire or will the whole school end up . . . Embers?

5. Smokey the Bear's son Embers acts out his resentment of his father's pressure to follow in his footsteps by starting a series of forest fires. Eventually, Smokey realizes he must accept Embers and respect his choices. In a touching closing scene, father and son, arm in arm, contemplate the smoldering remains of Yosemite National Park.

6. When Hollywood dance club Embers is firebombed, killing dozens, Homicide Detective Zack Martinez knows two things: the name was a little too ironic, and if he doesn't bring home some blackened catfish from Gumbo Street, his wife will be burning mad.

Original Version

Dear Agent:

A machinist’s apprentice in the mountain town of Inavael, Lenka Pelakova has been hiding a secret from those around her: she transforms into an enormous, burning phoenix on a regular basis and paints the night sky with colour and beauty. [I guess that's okay, although the part about the sky being painted isn't a secret, so maybe the secret should be: she is the enormous burning phoenix that's been painting the night sky with colour and beauty.]

But her phoenix half is as cruel and vain as it is beautiful, and has begun to resent its subservience to a mere human. [I find it insulting that the word "human" is almost always preceded by the word "mere."] [Humans are second only to sharks on the food chain, and second only to squirrels in intelligence. And while we rank low in likability by other species, we do rate higher than ticks.] As it steadily asserts control over Lenka’s will, Lenka finds herself unable--and to her own horror, sometimes unwilling--to control her transformations and the phoenix’s subsequent fiery rampages. Realising she is a threat to everyone around her, Lenka hitches a ride with two merchants to the kingdom’s grand halls of learning in the hopes that the wizards there will be able to rein in the phoenix’s madness. [If your conscience is bothering you because you're a threat to everyone around you, maybe you shouldn't be asking a couple merchants to take you on a long journey.]

But it isn’t that easy. A strange woman tails Lenka’s every step, intent on bringing Lenka to justice for the death and sorrow she has unwillingly sown. She, too, can transform into a bird of legend-- [Foghorn Leghorn--] and is backed by another purpose, one stronger than Lenka could ever imagine…

…For the only way to release this woman’s dearest friend from undeath is to destroy the phoenix--and Lenka along with it. [Undeath? Is she a zombie? Vampire? Does getting released from undeath make you dead or alive?] [How come this woman knows what killing the phoenix will do for her friend, but Lenka could never imagine it?]

At 92,000 words, EMBERS is a fantasy novel with traces of steampunk. I am a student at the National University of Singapore studying chemical engineering.

Thank you for your consideration.


It's amazing what a high percentage of characters in this book are able to transform into birds of legend.

Most of this is the situation. Woman with split personality struggling to keep her other self, who happens to be an enormous burning bird, from becoming dominant. I assume the plot is mainly the part with the other woman and the wizards, so if we could have more of that while condensing the setup, we'd have a better idea of what happens in the book.

Cartoon 622

Caption: John

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Face-Lift 756

Guess the Plot

A Vampire's Silent Genes

1. In the war between the werewolves and the vampires the vamps have one great advantage. With all that howling and jaw chomping the wolves can't sneak up on ANYBODY, while silently the Vampires slink through the darkness, their jeans-clad thighs making no whisk-whisk sound.

2. Sammy's mother was bitten by a vampire while pregnant with Sammy. At least, that's Sammy's excuse for not liking garlic, having fangs, and wanting to be a hemotologist.

3. A brilliant scientist fuses the DNA of two vampires and a jaguar with a human embryo, creating the world's first human with vampire genes and spots. But the creature longs to be a normal human, so he looks into stem cell research for the answer.

4. Tom Fraser has problems. He's unpopular at high school, his parents have split up, he can't talk and he's a vampire. As Twilight mania sweeps his school, Tom hatches a plan to turn his vampirism into popularity. Tom works on his dark moody look and buffs up a little, but when he tells everyone he's a vampire he's still unpopular.

5. Vlad the Ruthless has a secret. Though by night he terrorizes New York, by day he does genetic research at Sloan Kettering...and he just may have discovered a cure for cancer. But will vampire hunter/nurse Michelle stop him before he can make the discovery known?

6. 400 years of respectable human children--and then wham! vampire. Ella's dad blames her mom's questionable ancestry--but it takes two to make the recessive gene appear, which spells out a family feud for Ella. Now Papa's out for Great-great-great-grandpa's blood via stake--and vice versa via fangs.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Dr. Kyle Montach is cursed. Time is ticking and he’s fated to become what he fears the most, one of his kin, a vampire. [It sounds like you mean he's fated to become one of his relatives. It also sounds like you're saying he fears vampires, rather than becoming a vampire. The easiest fix is to dump the entire sentence and start the next sentence: Unless he can halt his . . . ] Unless he finds a cure to halt his vampire transformation, his soul, along with his humanity, will be lost forever. In this 120,500 word paranormal epic romance novel, A Vampire’s Silent Genes, [Now that you've gotten us interested in the plot, don't interrupt with the title, word count and genre; move those to the last paragraph. And get rid of "epic."] life for Kyle and his soul mate, Sarah Whitaker, revolves around stem cells; only the controversy doesn’t end there. [Dump the entire sentence. Sarah and stem cells can come in later.]

Unknown to humans, Kyle is a cybrid; a three dimensional being created to evolve over time. [Excellent. You have no idea how dull it is reading about two dimensional beings. They're such flat characters.] [Dump the entire sentence. Everyone is three-dimensional and evolves over time, and you work in your pet word "cybrid" in the next paragraph (put quotation marks around it there.)]

He’s a scientific anomaly; one damned by his mother, Margaret Montach. She’s a powerful vampire and brilliant scientist, who for centuries wanted to be a mother in the flesh, not just in blood. After thousands of attempts, she formulated a cybrid by taking a human embryo and fusing hers and her husband’s, Oswin, [husband Oswin's] vampire DNA, and for divinity purposes, the DNA of a jaguar. [You gotta have that jaguar DNA. It's the secret ingredient, the honey in the barbecue sauce.] [What does "for divinity purposes" mean? If it means what I think it does, how do I get some jaguar DNA?] Becoming obsessed with her maternal quest, she invoked a Mayan god of the Underworld to bless her creation. [You gotta have that invocation of a Mayan god of the Underworld's blessing. It's the vanilla in the tapioca pudding.] [By the way, the Mayan god of the Underworld was originally known as Ah Puch, but this led to some embarrassing typos, so he changed his name to Yum Cimil. Trivia you can use.] And the result was Kyle, the first ever [cross between a werejaguar and a] human born with vampire genes. [After mixing the DNA of the embryo's mother and father with her own DNA and Oswin's DNA and a jaguar's DNA, Marge is lucky Kyle wasn't the creature from the black lagoon.] [I'm sure the jaguar and Ah Phuch . . . oops . . . work fine in the book, but in the query they sound wacko. Dump them.]

Fifty five years later, Kyle, not looking a day over thirty and grasping onto what little humanity he has left, leaves his vampire family compound in London and relocates to Florida. As an avid researcher, he believes that stem cells are the key to unlocking the mystery behind silencing his vampire genes. [We know what keys do; just say stem cells are the key to silencing his vampire genes.] In the midst of his personal discovery, Kyle meets widow and mother, Sarah, and undergoes insurmountable changes, unlike anything he ever expected. He learns about life, love and finds the strength to pursue a human life with Sarah, the woman of his dreams. [It doesn't sound like his changes were insurmountable. What did you mean by that?] [I think we've cut enough that you now have room to tell us a bit more about Sarah and what happens with the stem cells. Is that what caused his changes? It sounded like they were caused by meeting Sarah.]

This is my first novel. Although I’ve never been published, I’ve been in marketing and communications for the last 14 years, and most recently worked for a stem cell company. [If I paid you to get me some stem cells, would I be able to clone myself? I'm thinking I could have my clone do the blog while I lie on the couch watching TV.] Thank you in advance for your consideration.


Wouldn't a brilliant scientist need a scientific basis for trying jaguar DNA and a Mayan god's blessing in any formula? Does she just think, What the hell, I've tried everything else, might as well try invoking the blessing of a Mayan god and putting some jaguar DNA in this embryo I stole? It could work.

Invoking the blessing of a god sounds more like something you'd do for divinity purposes than using jaguar DNA, which sounds like it would screw up the experiment.

"Cybrid" makes me think there's something robotic about Kyle. Why is the word "hybrid" not applicable?

Cartoon 621

Caption: Stacy

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Query Revisions

Because many writers resend their queries, and because Evil Editor usually just posts the revisions in the comments without actually commenting on them, I've entered into an experimental partnership with Phoenix, whose new blog is devoted to queries on Wednesdays, and possibly sometimes on Mondays, and possibly other days if she can squeeze it in to her schedule.

Phoenix often comments on revised queries on this blog, sometimes rewriting them so brilliantly you'd think she knows more about the book than the author.

So if, after reading Evil Editor's comments and those of his minions, and then revising your query, you still don't feel confident it's fully risen from the ashes, you may send it to Phoenix's blog or send it here and I'll forward it. Evil Minions will no doubt want to visit Phoenix's blog to comment on the revised versions.