Monday, May 31, 2010

Face-Lift 777

Guess the Plot

Alamandine's Song

1. Alamandine has a beautiful soft voice. Unfortunately, the opera house only accepts singers who can be heard by those in back of the upper balconies. Can a creepy mask-wearing stalker teach her to scream loud enough to be heard?

2. When promising three-year-old filly Alamandine's Song disappears from her stall at Santa Anita, detective Zack Martinez knows two things: the filly didn't shoot the guard and drive herself away, and he'd better pick up some almond milk for his wife's new diet.

3. Alamandine is mute from birth, and also possesses a perfect ear for music. When a wandering mystic offers her the chance to finally sing, what price will she be willing to pay?

4. World cup fever has swept the world (except the US) and Brazilian playboy and superstar Alamandine is wild on and off the field. But the night before the big final he is visited by an angel who tells him he must mend his sinful ways and give up soccer to become a choir singer.

5. Alamandine never really could sing; she's mute. But one day she notices a song she's been composing at the back of her mind being played and sung, and realizes that the voice is her voice and the guitar is that of a handsome street performer. You can guess the rest.

6. Alamandine has nothing more important to worry about than what to wear to her tenth high school reunion--until she learns that her father was murdered, and goes on a quest to find his killer, armed with a sword forged by a dragon. When her quest is complete, her brother performs a song about it.

Original Version

I am seeking a publisher for a finished 92,000 word Urban Fantasy manuscript called Alamandine's Song. It is a story about a woman caught in the middle of Faery politics, and her learning that growing up doesn't stop at eighteen. [Boil this paragraph down to: Alamandine's Song is a 92,000-word Urban Fantasy about a woman caught up in the tangled web of Faery politics. And move it to the end of the query.]

At twenty seven, Alamandine “Mandi” Croach doesn't know a lot of things. She doesn't know that her mother is alive, that she has a younger brother, that her father's drowning was a murder, [I'm starting to think it would be faster to list what she does know.] or that she is in line for the Star Court's crown. She is about to find out, and with love and life on the line, she learns what being a Faery Princess really means. [Boil this paragraph down to: At twenty seven, Alamandine “Mandi” Croach doesn't know that she has a younger brother, that her father's drowning was a murder, or that she is in line for the Star Court's crown. She is about to get a crash course in what it means to be a Faery Princess.]

From her high school reunion to the fields of Faelyn, Mandi has to face her own demons as well as more than a few beings that are trying to kill her. [Not clear whether the beings who want to kill her are monsters or Fae or women at her reunion who've put on more weight than she has.] [That sentence can go somewhere else or away. It doesn't lead into the next one.] With help from her fairy guard, and armed with a blade forged for her by a dragon, she goes on a quest to find out who murdered her father. [If more than a few beings were trying to kill me, I think I'd put off finding out who killed my father for a while.] [Finding a murderer sounds more like an investigation than a quest with a sword. Quests are for epic fantasies.] When it becomes clear that her half-brother's kidnapping and her father's murder are connected, she decides that in the tangled web of politics that she finds herself in, having the prince might give her some leverage. [Not clear whether the prince is the brother she didn't know she had or the half-brother who was kidnapped.] [Also not clear whether "having the prince" means having him on her side or having him as a prisoner.] [Also not clear against whom she wants leverage. When you have a sword forged by a dragon, do you really need any more leverage?] [Get rid of "in the tangled web of politics that she finds herself in,"]

Adding to the action is a complicated love story, pitting Mandi's long time infatuation with her gorgeous, but distant, fairy guard against a new flame. Can Mandi trust her heart to someone she has known practically all her life, when she learns that he has been keeping secrets? [Is the fact that he's her fairy guard one of the secrets? Did she know he was her guard, in which case, what did she think he was guarding her against, or did she think he was this handsome guy who's been stalking her for twenty-five years?] Is the chance at love worth putting an innocent man in danger by getting him involved in politics he can know nothing about?

Thank you for your consideration.

Note from author (not part of query): The title comes from the faery tradition of having a person's story told by singing it. At the end of the book, her brother sings her song for the Court.


I see that we have Faery politics and Faery Princess. If this is the world of the Fae, isn't it spelled Faerie? And what about the fairy guard? Is the guard Fae? Or just a fairy?

It's not clear whether Mandi has always known she's Fae but didn't know what happened to her family, or whether she believes she's a normal human until she's twenty-seven. If the latter, it seems like if a guy you've known forever shows up one day and says, "Guess what, I'm your fairy guard, here's a sword forged for you by a dragon, let's go on a quest," that you would not take him seriously.

Either eliminate the high school reunion and the new flame, making this all about the quest, or give us a little more about the life Mandi is leaving behind.

Political intrigue, assassins, a murder investigation, seem like they belong in urban fantasy; fighting off beings with a sword forged by a dragon seems like it belongs in a different genre.

Mandi seeks her father's killer. Someone doesn't want her to find him. Focus on that. What's at stake? What happens if she succeeds, and what happens if she fails?

Cartoon 653

Caption: Anon.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Face-Lift 776

Guess the Plot

Third Rainbow

1. Abstract painter Jefferson Polak's creation Third Rainbow sells for a cool million, but when it's revealed that his medium was excrement produced on a diet of Skittles, he drinks himself into oblivion before he ever reaches his pot of gold.

2. Madeline hasn't had much luck with the kittens her single father has been buying her. Rainbow I got run over; Rainbow II died of sudden respiratory failure. Will Madeline find out about her father's crush on pretty pet store owner Helen before the same fate befalls the . . . Third Rainbow?

3. Sophomore Amy cares for her alcoholic mother, tries out unsuccessfully for school plays, and secretly crushes on uber-popular Madison. She feels invisible--until an assignment to write a letter to the local paper thrusts her into the gay rights spotlight, and she finds that being heard can be even harder than being ignored.

4. Enshaya is in an uproar. The unicorns' legendary Third Rainbow soccer championship has gotten so out of hand (what with the scandals, gorings and rioting) that the Queen might cancel it altogether! Their solution: kidnap shy, sports-hating Patrick from Earth to referee the game. And they thought things couldn't get any worse?

5. The first time a wolf pup whined, a rainbow was created between the north star and Earth. The first time a kitten meowed, a rainbow formed between Earth and the big dipper. Now another rainbow has formed after the first cry of a penguin chick. No one knows where it leads . . . or what will come to Earth.

6. Three rainbows appear in the corner of a man's vision, rainbows that only he can see. They slowly stretch across the sky. Years pass. The man takes a wife, they have a child, and still the rainbows slowly stretch further across the sky. The man can't help but wonder, What will happen next?

Original Version

Dear Evil Ed,

I am sending you this query letter because I hear you are evil, much like my best friend Ed, so I figure this must be fate, which just happens to be what my novel is about. So here's my query:

The Narrator’s first memories are of hell, of being transformed into a demon, made into a slave, living life from one beating to the next. This all changes when Raven appears in his life. She awakens in the Narrator [I see we're capitalizing "Narrator." Is that because his real name is never revealed and he's referred to in the book as "the Narrator"? Wait, is the Narrator a superhero or villain, like The Punisher or The Joker or The Wayfarer? My first memories are of hell, of being transformed into a demon, made into a slave, living life from one beating to the next. Now I battle the forces of evil to protect mankind from the fate I endured. I am . . . the Narrator!] a desire for something more, however vague that sense of something may be, and together they devise their plan to escape hell.

The Narrator is forced to escape on his own when Raven’s preserved head ends up strategically placed on the floor of his cave. [Maybe it's just me, but when I find a severed head on my floor, I never consider whether its placement is strategic.] Now he has one demon chasing him across hell and another planning to crucify him.

In another world, Beta is plagued by nightmares – nightmares of demons chasing each other through hell. He has written a program to stop his dreams, but the program isn’t working any more. [Guess he should have done more Beta testing. Ba dum ching.] [Sometimes you people make this job too easy.] He tries seeing a doctor. The doctor helps, until the demons start appearing in his waking life. When Beta’s friends end up dead he has to go into hiding.

Three rainbows appear in the corner of Beta’s vision, rainbows that only he can see. They slowly stretch across the sky. Years pass as Beta spends his life in hiding. He has a wife, a newborn child, a home. But still the rainbows stretch across the sky. Soon they will have completed their journey. [This part of the book where rainbows take years to stretch across the sky doesn't sound as exciting as the part with demons. Is there some way we can speed up the rainbows so they spread across the sky instantaneously?] What will happen then, Beta can’t help but wonder. [Possibly nothing will happen then. Didja ever think of that?]

THIRD RAINBOW is a completed, 97,000 word science fiction novel about man-made demons and time travel. [Time travel? If it's about time travel, maybe time travel should be mentioned in the plot.]

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Why isn't it called Three Rainbows? Is there something special about the third rainbow?

What happened to the Narrator? I was looking forward to his battles with the demons of hell. Although I think he needs a better name. Son O' God is already taken, but how about The Redeemer? Or Deliveryman?

Is Beta the Narrator and the part about being in hell was one of his nightmares? Opening with a dream sequence is bad enough, but opening with six chapters battling out of hell and then declaring it a dream is a nightmare. Especially when reality turns out to be six chapters of rainbows slowly stretching across the sky over the course of a decade.

In other words, don't expect us to figure out what's going on. Spell out how your two worlds are connected. And if the only cliffhanger you've got is What will happen when the rainbows finally stretch all the way across the sky, I recommend just telling us what will happen.

Cartoon 652

Caption: Anon.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Face-Lift 775

Guess the Plot

The Nightmare Dragon

1. A lesser-known nocturnal legend vies for popularity with the Tooth Fairy.

2. Vanessa's new pillow allows her to physically enter the dream realm where a sulking dragon threatens to turn all dreams into nightmares unless someone gives it a pony.

3. As a dragonling Billy was teased unmercifully by the other dragonlings at Waverly School for Dragons. Now he's grown up to be Bilrazbullah, Lord of Nightmares, and those other little bastards are gonna pay.

4. High school freshman Jennifer learns that she is the chosen one who must save the world from a great evil. Knowing she cannot go into battle alone, she recruits Nikki and Naomi, the twin girls she used to babysit. We're pretty much doomed.

5. Nightmare and his middle school classmates love to frolic in the autumn mist. But when their good friend Puff is accused of dealing narcotics, the band of immature dragons must grow up . . . and quick. Puberty ensues.

6. Dragon's life is bad enough; then he mysteriously turns into an actual dragon one day. Dragons are hated by the people of his village so much that he can't even set foot in his home. He travels the world searching for some way to turn back into a griffin. I never said he was originally a human.

Original Version

Jennifer Moraine was a semi-average girl [As may be seen clearly in the chart below, neither boys nor girls come in "semi-average." And if they did, we wouldn't know whether that was on the average/below average border or the average/above average border.]

that only had to deal with visions given to her by a necklace that was passed down in her family for millennia. [Are these unpleasant visions? Because it seems like someone would have pawned the necklace by now if they are.] That is she was until her first day of high school, where she met a mysterious boy by the name of Abasi. Now she's learned that she has to save the world from a great evil that happens to be in the form of Abasi's cousin, Jibade. Along with the twin girls, Nikki and Naomi, she used to babysit and Abasi, she travels the world, preparing for a battle against Jibade and her entire family. [If they know where Jibade is, why don't they go directly there instead of traveling the world? And if they don't know, how likely is it they'll happen upon her while traveling the world?] [What means of transportation do these children use to travel the world?] Things can't get much worse for her. [How do the parents of Nikki and Naomi feel about their children traveling the world with a high school freshman, and preparing to do battle with a great evil?]


That's it? I'll assume this is just the plot portion of the letter, but even so, there's plenty of room to expand on this. What kind of visions does Jennifer have? Does she learn that she must save the world in a vision, and if not, how does she learn this? Why Jennifer? And if it's because she has the necklace, why didn't any of the previous necklace possessors take out Jibade? Is Jibade a dragon? How can these kids possibly defeat Jibade?

Cartoon 651

Caption: Whirlochre

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Face-Lift 774

Guess the Plot

Beauty for Ashes

1. John's faith in God was unshakable until God let John's beautiful wife burn to death. Now John has a new religion based on alcohol, gambling, and sex with strangers. Can anything save this man's soul?

2. Carlo Frumi is a student archeologist working at Pompeii. When he pours plaster into an ash mold of a former citizen, the woman whose face emerges from the past haunts him. But is she also visiting him in his room?

3. Norma Jean Walker, white trash stage mother extraordinaire, becomes the prime suspect in a string of arson cases involving the homes of rival child beauty pageant contestants. Can Norma Jean elude the police long enough for her little baby to reach the Little Miss Sweet Corn crowning?

4. On a world where death is as curable as your common hangnail, it's not your body up for judgment, but your urn. To win enough money for "permanent resurrection", Lavidia Clomesty must survive the beauty pageant of the dead. Too bad her murderer also happens to be the chief judge.

5. Elke has always been unattractive, so when Satan offers to make her beautiful if she'll burn down a nunnery, she agrees. Hey, she's not even Catholic. But when she discovers that her long-lost twin sister is living in the nunnery, will she go through with the deal or try to con Satan into letting her renege?

6. Sculptor Christobal's latest project is an enormous statue of Aphrodite made entirely from cigarette ashes. But anti-smoking campaigns have limited his raw materials, so he moves to Greece, which has the highest per-capita smoking rate in the world. Will the real Aphrodite take kindly to being portrayed in ash?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Jonathon Douglas’ future looked bright- he had a beautiful young wife, a job he loved, and a faith in God that couldn’t be shaken- what more could he want? [A smoke alarm.] But his life goes into a tailspin when a deadly fire claims the lives of his wife and infant daughter.

Stripped of everything he ever held dear, he turns his back on the God who betrayed him and embraces a life of sin, [Perhaps you'd like to go back and rephrase your earlier claim that his faith in God couldn't be shaken?] turning to alcohol to escape his pain. Jonathon hits bottom in the seedy underbelly of the Las Vegas strip, when he wakes up in the bed of a stranger. Broken and repentant, he finds that the Lord had been with him all along. [Wait, you're saying he woke up in the Lord's bed?]

[If I woke up with a hangover in the bed of a stranger, I wouldn't conclude that the Lord has been with me all along. What really clues Jon in to this fact?]

John begins to rebuild his life and discover a new future in California, where he meets and falls in love with Jenni, a young Christian woman. But his days of hard living catch up with him in the form of a very pregnant April, his one-night-stand from Vegas. Will his faith crumble again [I'm starting to think this man's faith is about as unshakable as a James Bond martini in a paint shaker.] and can his relationship with Jenni survive? Everything good in his life is threatened once again, but this time he chooses to cling to his faith and trust in God to carry him through. [Thus when God cometh to him in a vision and telleth him April must be killed and buried in the woods, he doth.]

John must be willing to give up everything to do what is right- and perhaps a soul will be saved in the process. [I hope "what is right" isn't getting married to a crack-addicted prostitute he's known for a few hours and who's pregnant with a baby that might be his, so the child can be raised by two idiots who'll resent each other for the next twenty years.]

Beauty For Ashes is a Christian Fiction novel complete at 93,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.



It sounds weird to say he falls in love with a Christian woman. If she were another religion it would be worthy of remark, given his faith--which is shakable only occasionally, like when God is letting his wife and daughter burn to death--but in this case you could be more subtle and say he falls in love with a woman he meets at a church potluck dinner.

I'm thinking a character losing faith in God in the face of tragedy is standard fare in inspirational books, and perhaps seeking solace in sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll is too. But when that fails, why not try Buddhism or marathon running or the Peace Corps? In other words, tell us what brings John back to the God who betrayed him.

Cartoon 650

Caption: Anon.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Beginning 754

When my mother was a kid her older sister used to tell her, “For somebody so smart, you sure are dumb.” My mother would tell me about that at particular times; it wasn’t really like her calling me dumb, but I took the point. She didn’t say that when I told her about that week at summer camp. She didn’t have to; I’d already told myself, when I first realized the difference between what I meant to do about Anna and Sheila and James and what I had actually done.

It’s been five years now, and it’s getting harder to remember what it was like to be that gangly earnest thirteen-year-old, full of ideas about being a hero and without a clue about what that really meant. I don’t feel nearly as angry with her as she was with herself. If I had her here to talk to, like a scrappy younger sister, I don’t know what I could tell her. She’d read books that said all of it better than I could say it now. The rest I guess she had to learn by living through it. Of course, she’d have hated that answer.

But then again, she really did seem overjoyed when I turned up on our doorstep; her "dead" son, miraculously reborn. She made me grilled cheese and PB-n-Js with the crusts cut off. She sat on the sofa with me watching the midnight movie. Things were just peachy . . . until she had to go snooping around the backyard shed.

To say the least she was disappointed in her young man when she found my goalie mask spattered with entrails and the brand new Husqvarna 240e, its blade caked with the congealed blood of Anna and Sheila and James. And I think that’s when she realized I wasn't exactly resurrected with some divine purpose in mind.

At first she was shocked, but then she thought about it, and hugged me and said, "You're kind of smart for someone so dumb." I guess she agreed with me . . . that's what those counselors deserved for playing hide the salami in the cabin instead of manning the lifeguard station at the lake.

Opening: Joanna Hoyt.....Continuation: Angie

Cartoon 649

Caption: Anon.

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Success Story

Stacia Kane's novel Unholy Ghosts should be hitting bookstore shelves today. Minions may remember the query from Face-Lift 469.

Ms. Kane, known here as December Quinn (Deece for short), has contributed several openings and continuations to this blog (including this opening to her now-published novel, Personal Demons). Most impressively, she's one of a select few authors to have material in all three volumes of Novel Deviations.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Face-Lift 773

Guess the Plot

Genevieve, Return to Aefre

1. Genevieve was totally psyched to finally be inducted into the ways of the mind speakers. Until she realized that her mother now had an infallible way to tell her to come home for dinner.

2. Orphaned Genevieve was taken in and raised by the nuns of Aefre Convent. She ran away at thirteen, dreaming of lipstick, iPods and boys. Now sixteen and living on the streets of Las Vegas, she has rediscovered God. But is it too late?

3. Nuclear winter and despair have besieged the planet Aefre for 20 years, but Daniel has hope now that the space rocket Genevieve has returned with the crew promising a cure for the planet. The only catch: providing a daily human sacrifice to the alien deity they brought with them.

4. In a post apocalyptic world, Aefre, the center of the remainder of human civilization, has degenerated into lawlessness. Genevieve, the last sheriff to uphold the old law wanders the wastelands, hunting for outlaws. The time has come: Genevieve, Return to Aefir.

5. Starship Captain Rick Weathers intercepts a cryptic intergalactic message. Who is Genevieve, and why would anyone return to Aefre, a godforsaken lifeless planet of constant meteor storms? The mystery deepens as Weathers begins to suspect that he is Genevieve, and that someone has tampered with his memory...among other things.

6. Destin finds a book that could make him the most powerful magikian. The book is named Genevieve (Jenny for short). Destin wants to test his new abilities at the wizard duel tournament in Aefre, but can he protect Genevieve from those who would steal her?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When Genevieve, an 800 year-old potions book, happens into the hands of a non-magikal man, Destin Darious, [Is Genevieve the book's title or the name Destin uses when he introduces the book to his friends?] the joining sets in motion a group of events that bring Destin to a place of power and thrill. Although the book, thought to be a myth, will place him in the gravest of danger. [That last sentence would be an actual sentence if you removed "although."] [Although, a better idea would be to dump the sentence and change "power and thrill" to "power . . . and grave danger."]

Destin lived a straightforward life, until [he began] experimenting with a home remedy book that brought forth the truth that magik exists. With a whole realm of practitioners and magikal users resting just beyond a thin veil of protection, keeping it hidden from everyone. [No need to say "keeping it hidden from everyone; that's what we assume the veil does.] [Is the distinction between "practitioners" and "magical users" so important that both must be mentioned?] [If that was supposed to be a sentence, it lacked a verb. If it was supposed to be a fragment, it's too long for that. By the time we get to the comma, we assume there's an independent clause coming. You could change the period after the previous sentence to a dash.] [How does this book bring forth the truth that there's a whole realm of hidden practitioners of magik? Does it have an introduction that reads: Congratulations! By purchasing this book, you have joined a whole realm of hidden practitioners of magik?] His book wields unknown power granting abilities of magik; abilities that any practitioner, powerful or frail, could only dream of controlling. [I would condense this paragraph to: Destin is living a straightforward life until he begins experimenting with a home remedy book he found on a dusty shelf in Bookstore of the Occult. The book grants him magikal powers beyond those of even the most powerful practitioners.]

After an attempt on Destin’s life occurs [No need to say "occurs"; it's assumed.] he is escorted by Frank Dune, [Is that an homage to Frank Herbert, author of Dune? Whether it is or not, I'd change it.] a Nerian Inquisitor (magikal cop), to the magikal practicing realm of Aefre, [If you must spell "magic" with a "k", try not to use the word a hundred times.] where he encounters all manners of the unreal. ["All manners of the unreal" tells us nothing. What does he encounter?] His experiences are marred by a growing, unknown threat and random attacks; [Vague. And I doubt the attacks are random.] with one practitioner seeking to steal and possess Genevieve. [No need to say "and possess." That's assumed from "steal."] With a budding romance, new friendships, and an upcoming wizard duel tournament close at hand, Destin must seek to understand his new powers and learn about his surroundings without giving away the one secret that could destroy the balance between the magikal and non-magikal realms.

“Genevieve, Return to Aefre” is an 88,000 word, contemporary fantasy, set between the realms of non-magik/true reality and the unbelievable world of Aefre. [Don't advertise your inability to make a world you've created believable.] [It was my impression the story was set in Aefre and in our world, not between these two places.] This is the first installment of a planned trilogy.

I have had various novel excerpts, and poems rated in the top 10% of their individual creative writing categories on [This is not worth mentioning.] This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


The name Destin and spelling magic with a "k" might appeal to a younger audience--and might annoy the audience you're after.

Your description of Aefre (unknown threats, random attacks) doesn't lead one to expect Destin has time for a budding romance and new friendships.

What is Destin's goal? Does he want to get back to reality? Is he planning to live in Aefre? What would happen if the balance between the magikal and non-magikal realms were destroyed? Why is Destin the only one who knows the secret that could destroy this balance? We need to know what's at stake.

Cartoon 648

Caption: Anon.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

Face-Lift 772

Guess the Plot

A House Divided

1. Conjoined twins Johnny and Billy have always found it amusing that the Mason-Dixon Line runs smack under the middle of their bedroom. But it isn't so funny the day the fateful news comes from Fort Sumter.

2. The Robertsons' messy divorce gets even messier when their lawyers convince them both to demand the house in the settlement. The situation is at a standstill -- until George buys the Acme M-3600 chainsaw.

3. As the end of the world draws nigh, miracles are on the rise. So when Jesus Reyes’ modest two-story colonial shows the ability to do long division, a skill long lost to the general populace, no one takes notice. How can they, with zombies wreaking havoc on the town?

4. Jeremy Thatchett is in love with his black servant in a world where the South won the Civil War, splitting up Jeremy's family. His two cousins live in the Republic of Texas and the North. And a mad scientist is plotting to destroy the world. Actually, he may have the right idea.

5. Cassi can't get into her own home, because she was turned into a vampire so she can't enter unless someone invites her, but her family is in a huge fight and no one will leave their bedroom and Cassi knows if she doesn't do something her parents will get a divorce, but what can she do if she can't get inside?

6. They've hired the divorce lawyers, they've filed the papers, they've split up their assets. But when Sue and Graham can't sell their house, they decide to do the next best thing - turn it into a duplex. Hilarity ensues.

Original Version

Your Evilness,

Growing up in a 21st-century Confederate States of America, Jeremy Thatchett believes that his only problems lie in his dwindling [deteriorating?] relationship with Alyshea, his colored servant and childhood friend. That is, until his free-wheeling cousin from an estranged Texan branch of the family appears to show him how wrong he is…

My first novel, A House Divided, is a YA alternate history about three cousins whose family was separated when the Confederacy won independence in the American Civil War. When Teresa, from the recently-reformed Republic of Texas, uncovers an out-of-place scientist’s apparent plot to destroy the world, ["Out-of-place" is a good description.] she hops borders and social boundaries to escape her pursuer [Who's pursuing her?] and enlist her cousins’ help.

Her presence forces Jeremy, already uncertain about his dictated place in Southern society, to come face-to-face with the social injustices that threaten [to] consume his beloved Alyshea. [What does Teresa's presence have to do with Jeremy's problem?

Teresa: Help, I'm your estranged cousin, and I'm on the run from a mad scientist who wants to destroy the world.

Jeremy: In that case, I have no choice but to address the social injustices threatening to consume this other woman, Alyshea.]

A civil rights rally gone horribly wrong sets them on the run as well. When they finally arrive in the US, their northern cousin Kyle, a recent high-school graduate already dedicated to his dream of flying in the US air force, must decide where his loyalties lie: with his family, or with the devious Benjamin Acker, an ally of Teresa’s mad scientist, who holds sway over Kyle’s entire future? [Teresa, in the Republic of Texas, uncovers a mad scientist's plot and runs to her cousin in the United States, only to find that his future is tied to the mad scientist's ally? Can you make that sound less like a billion-to-one coincidence?]

The recent success of other YA novels in this genre, [the genre of science fiction thriller/family saga/civil rights novel,] especially Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan, inspired me and instilled the confidence that alternate history can work in teen-oriented fiction. Though my novel is less fantastical than his, [it's almost as ridiculous, and] I believe the strong teenage main characters and their struggle to realize themselves in a complicated world will resonate with readers.

A House Divided is complete at 75,000 words. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


Too many characters have been deemed important enough to make it into the query. Jeremy, Alyshea, Teresa, Kyle, Benjamin, the mad scientist. Cut two or three of them. The mad scientist plotting to destroy the world seems out of place in the query (if not the novel).

If a family is separated after the Civil War, and it's now the 21st century, it's hard to believe members of the separated families consider themselves cousins. My cousins are the children of my parents' siblings. Is that the relationship of your cousins? Because it feels like they're related only because they're descendants of the family that separated 150 years earlier.

Unless your Civil War lasted until the 21st century, I'd minimize that aspect of the query. Just say, In a world where the American Civil War was won by the South, and slavery has endured into the 21st century, three cousins . . . This should also guard against readers missing the 21st-century line and thinking the story is set in 1865.

It's not clear whether the main plot is the attempt to prevent the mad scientist from destroying the world, or Jeremy and Alyshea trying to make it in the Confederacy. Even if they're equal plot threads, you might want to focus on one of them in the query, as they don't blend together seamlessly. You also might focus the query on one character. It's easier to make us care about someone if you concentrate on that person.

Cartoon 647

Caption: Evil Editor

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Beginning 753

My father drove me to camp. My mother couldn’t drive, and someone had to stay home with Pete and Sarah. And it was easier going with my father. He didn’t notice that I was nervous, so I could tell myself that nobody else would notice. We drove past a marsh with twisted cedar trees growing in it and a bird soaring over it, high and lonesome—an osprey, probably, because of the long wings. That was a good sign.

“It’s good to see you looking so pleased.” my father said. “Some people would be nervous, but you’re always been so confident. Just like your mother.”

“It sounds like fun.” I said. “Hiking, and canoeing, and fern identification, and other people who want to learn about nature...” I sounded fake too, like a dumbed-down version of the Conservation Leadership Camp brochure. He didn’t seem to notice.

We got there five minutes before registration opened. That suited me. For one thing, there was just time for me to get my stuff out of the car before my father’s favorite news-quiz show came on the radio, so he would probably be willing to say good-bye quickly and then drive home.

As I threw my rucksack onto my back, I noticed a girl running towards us. She was perhaps two years older than me, with long, tanned legs in cutaway shorts and a cute, tight-fitting camp tee shirt. I noticed my dad staring, open-mouthed.

"Hi!" she shouted, out of breath, as she reached the car. "I'm one of the camp counselors." She tucked a strand of soft, blond hair behind one ear and smiled. "Don't worry, sir, I'll be taking real good care of your son." She bent over and picked up my heavy duffel bag, then grabbed my hand. "Come on, let's find a bed for you. My name's Fern."

I was identifying already.

Opening: Joanna Hoyt.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 646

Caption: EE, inspired by several submitters

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Face-Lift 771

Guess the Plot

Vampyre Guardian

1. Pasty, brooding Edwin becomes even more melodramatic when his girlfriend Betty develops a too-close-for-comfort relationship with a rather hairy boy named Jeremy. Did I mention this has vampyres and werewolves and I totally did not camp onto the Twilight phenomenon?

2. Marco cares for the kilometer-wide garden surrounding the castle of Countess Alexia who has forsworn blood in favor of devouring the essence of flowers. When the local villagers form a stake-wielding mob, they'll have to get past Marco and his army of award-winning hybrid man-eating roses.

3. Agatha, an angel-obsessed teen, searches for a miracle that will save her dying father. What she finds is Patch, a vampyre who will save her father from his illness--if she promises to help him win back the vampyress of his dreams.

4. Lord Bavlov's life is perfect, he has a swinging bachelor's castle with a sweet party coffin and a bevy of young goth girls begging to be bitten. Yep, it's pretty fang-tastic. But all that changes when Molly, his young light-loving sister dies and Bavlov finds himself entrusted with the care of young Mallory, his six year old niece.

5. High school student Damira is the one person who can stop Vampyre Israith from becoming all-powerful and destroying the world, but to do so she must travel to the mountains of India and kill Israith at midnight on her 18th birthday. Maybe her Vampyre guardian will help. But is it worth missing her birthday party?

6. Gina is tired of being the membership recruitment officer for SPAS--Society for the Preservation of Archaic Spelling--and is thrilled when new member Vlad offers to take over her job. But she can't help feeling concerned when local spelling bees start turning cut-throat . . . literally.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Damira is a seventeen year old girl with a destiny. She must find the Vampyre, Israith, and kill him at midnight on her eighteenth birthday. [If she knows she must do this, I'd call it a mission rather than her destiny. If she doesn't know, why would she even look for Israith?] See, in her world, Vampyres are there to protect their human Charges and Israith broke the most sacred rule of all, he killed his Charge, Illyria.

One day after school, Damira is walking home when she is accidentally hit by a mysterious biker. She finds out his name is Zelimir and he is a Vampyre without a Charge. Aside from the way he sort of creeps her out, she realizes that she’s falling for his charm. [He's sort of like Hannibal Lecter. A charming guy, but you wish he'd kill his victims before eating them.]

Soon, though, she starts having disturbing dreams that predict Zelimir’s death [Are you saying her dreams normally come true?] and she pushes him away for his own safety. [Is she his Charge at this point? Was she already another Vampyre's Charge? How many people have Vampyre guardians?] Of course he doesn’t stay away, enrolling in her school and practically stalking her. [Do all Vampyres whose Charges are in high school enroll, or do some of them just drop their Charges off in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon?] He even saves her life from a would-be assassin Vampyre. [So Vampyres are there to protect their human Charges . . . from Vampyres?] [Bully to wimpy kid: Meet me in the parking lot after school. My Vampyre's gonna beat your Vampyre to a pulp.]

She gives up trying to push him away and they Bind themselves to each other (basically a sharing of blood between the Vampyre and human that creates a psychic link between them).

Things are peaceful then for a few weeks until Damira begins having more visions, but this time they’re of the past, no the future; and in them, Zelimir’s not the good guy. So, Damira tricks him into telling her about his past and what she discovers startles her.

Zelimir was an agent of Israith’s all along! [She knows who Israith is? Does that mean she knows about her destiny to kill him?] This time when she pushes him away, she uses a gun. Later that night, another assassin attacks, a Vampyre named Ivee, and Damira just barely escapes with her life. [These Vampyre assassins really need to find a different line of work.]

She flees to Europe where she is still being stalked and having more ‘memory visions’. She makes it to India before the Vampyre assassins find her again. There, in the middle of a marketplace, Zelimir catches and sedates her and locks her in the trunk of a car going on a one way trip to Israith’s hideout in the mountains. [Does she flee to India because she knows Israith is there, or is it coincidence?]

There, she must battle murderous Vampyres who all await her eighteenth birthday, the day Israith will seal his pact with ancient demons that will grant him incredible and unstoppable power. Can Damira save the world, or will she die trying? [Clearly she will die trying unless she has powers you haven't told us about. How can a 17-year-old girl defeat murderous Vampyres? I don't even see how she escaped from the trunk of the car.]

Vampyre Guardian is a 50,000 word young adult romanticy actionventure [?] and I'm looking for representation. Thank you for your time.



If Israith becomes all-powerful on Damira's 18th birthday, wouldn't it be better to kill him before her 18th birthday instead of on it?

Humans have Vampyre guardians to protect them from other Vampyres, but I don't see what the Vampyre guardians get out of the arrangement. Do Vampyre guardians drink human blood? Are Vampyres villains to everyone except their Charges?

Why are "Vampyre" and "Charge" capitalized?

The murderous Vampyres seem to know Israith becomes all-powerful on Damira's 18th birthday. Does that mean they also know she is the one destined to kill him? Why would Vampyres chase Damira to India where Israith has his hideout? If they just left her alone in school she'd have been nowhere near him on her 18th birthday. If Israith needs Damira to be present in order to become SuperVampyre, say so.

Why does Israith become SuperVamp on Damira's 18th birthday? Why not on his own x birthday? As it is, your setup is: Israith will become the king of the Vampyres on the day one specific high school girl on the other side of the planet turns eighteen. That's too random. There has to be some link between Damira and Israith.

You have eight paragraphs of plot. That's way too much detail. Cut it to three. A paragraph of setup: Israith will become SuperV if he drinks the blood of his maker's descendant on her 18th birthday. A paragraph about how Demira lands in India, which just happens to be Israith's location, and a paragraph about how she saves the world.

You can leave out Zelimir if it turns out he's a villain. I assume he's the hero, however, so there ought to be something about him being heroic in India, like he battles alongside Demira against the murderous Vampyres.

Cartoon 645

Caption: Anon.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Beginning 752

I don’t really know how I was able to be Zara’s sister. We were different as day and night, light and dark. And, if you were making that comparison… I would be the dark. When Zara bounced into the room with a spring in her step, it was as if the world lightened, just a fraction. Because, really, Zara was light.

Zara was everything that I’m not… brave, outgoing, talkative. When she entered a room, everyone in it hushed up to hear what she had to say. I followed her everywhere she went, like a shadow or a particularly bland piece of wallpaper.

Whenever people saw Zara and me together, they always asked the same question. They didn’t understand how two such different girls could be twins. After all, Zara had curly, golden hair, smooth and sleek no matter what she did with it. I usually put my hair – black, like a raven’s wings – into a braid.

Still, Zara and I were inseparable. I remember Gram joking that we were joined at the hip – and I guess it was true. Zara was bread and butter to me, as necessary as air. The first time we went to school, I cried and cried because the principal put us in different classes. I don’t know if Zara cried, too, but I doubt it. Even in kindergarten, Zara wasn’t that kind of girl.

Hmm? That's nice dear. Now finish your homework.

Zara, put that silly essay away. Mummy saw a delightful little dress at the mall today that would be just darling for you. Come on, hurry now, Daddy's waiting in the car.

Mary-Jane, don't play with the scissors, that's a goo--

Opening: Kelly Fitzpatrick.....Continuation: anon.

The 1st Annual Evil Editor Charity Auction

After seeing how successful the Brenda Novak Auction is, I've decided to have my own auction. I'm starting small, but if this takes off, I'll have more items next year.

EE in Oil.

Self-portrait. As good as the crap you see in places like the Louvre. By the time your kids inherit it, it'll be worth twenty million.

Current Bid: $220,000
Minimum Bid: $230,000
Reserve not met.

An Evaluation of your First Paragraph

by Agent Hannah Rogers. Does not guarantee representation.

Current Bid: $950
Minimum Bid: $1,000
Reserve met.

The Lindbergh Baby

I've had this fellow in my cellar since 1932. He's really become a drain on me, so maybe someone else can take on the responsibility.

Current Bid: $48,000
Minimum Bid: $50,000
Reserve not met.

Evil Editor's "Throne"

It's like giving up an old friend. I've spent so much time sitting here my ass has worn an impression into the seat. Autographed.

Current Bid: $1140
Minimum Bid: $1240
Reserve not met.

The Gulf of Mexico

I shoulda dumped this a while back. It's a fixer-upper, so you can probably get it dirt cheap.

Current Bid: $8,000
Minimum Bid: $9,000
Reserve met.

Frozen Foot of a Hobo

Right foot.

Current Bid: $20
Minimum Bid: $25
Reserve met.

Everything in Evil Editor's Attic Storage Room

Winning bidder will need to bring a truck, boxes and a few workers. Contents of room includes half ton of unopened slush.

Current Bid: $209
Minimum Bid: $219
Reserve met.

An Evaluation of Your First Sentence

by Evil Editor. More manuscripts get rejected after the first sentence than any other sentence. Find out why no one has ever seen your second sentence.

Current Bid: $800
Minimum Bid: $850
Reserve met.

Cartoon 644

Caption: Evil Editor

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Face-Lift 770

Guess the Plot

The Crane's Beak

1. Tired of all the picky eaters, Aunt Vessa tells her family the first one to guess the secret ingredient in her stew will inherit her fortune.

2. Celia loves and cares for all the delicate wetland creatures, and she'll do whatever it takes to protect them--including committing assault, arson, and eventually a triple homicide.

3. The old Japanese mystic down the street tells Anna that she can save her mother’s life if she folds one thousand paper cranes, but Anna’s trembling hands make it almost impossible to make even the simplest of folds: the crane’s beak.

4. Industrial forensic engineer Kelly McIntire is called in when a freak crane accident kills several workers. McIntire confirms that it was a freak accident--it was caused by a sideshow freak whose nose looks like the beak of a crane.

5. You know how when a shrimp gets plucked from the bottom of a marsh and sees sunlight, he thinks he's in paradise even though he's actually in a crane's beak, about to be eaten alive? That's how Eric feels when he gets to battle enemy agents and save his mommy.

6. People are always wanting elephants' tusks for the ivory, but does anyone care at all about a crane's beak? One doctor discovers that the beak of a crane has cancer-curing properties. But before he can tell the world, he gets trampled by elephants.

Original Version

Dear agent,

While his friends learn the ropes of middle school, Eric McCoy is seeing the world. His mother jets from country to country on business, and he tags along, home schooling in hotel rooms and exploring foreign cities while she’s at work. Exotic cultures and freaky cuisines don’t faze Eric. In Japan his only worry is sneaking a naughty manga past Mom. Well, that and covering up the mini-bar sake bottle he broke, because of course she’d think he chugged it. Which he, like, totally didn’t, okay?

But a chance discovery scrambles Eric’s adolescent universe. For the last twelve years it seems Mom neglected to mention that her boring ol’ consultant job is all a fake. She’s a spy. Eric thrills at sharing her secret life – and unwittingly blows her cover. He may not have his mother’s spy training – or her dirty fighting skills – but Eric sleuths out one little fact she missed: that she’s being lured to her death, thanks to him.

He’s alone. In Japan. He can’t so much as ask directions or read a street sign, Based on a few images I saw after Googling "Tokyo street signs," Eric should be able to read some street signs, as some have English words accompanying those strange pictograms that no one could possibly understand. Also, I'll bet there are plenty of English-speaking people in Tokyo of whom he could ask directions. Contestants on The Amazing Race manage to find English speakers even when they're out in the middle of nowhere.] and even if he spoke perfect Japanese, who would believe his story? His only hope lies in his own brains, guts, and world-traveler savvy as he tracks down his mother through the urban vastness of Tokyo. Then comes the hard part: scrawny twelve-year-old versus desperate enemy agents in a running battle for his mother’s life, and his own.

The Crane’s Beak is 68,000 words and could stand as a single title or could anchor a series in which Eric’s survival hangs on his ability to navigate various cultures. I lived in Japan nine years and learned the language, and I had a blast painting an American kid’s-eye view of that fascinating country. I have included the opening pages below. Thanks for your consideration.


[Title explanation (not part of query): While reading up on Japan before his trip, Eric comes across a Buddhist parable about a shrimp who gets plucked up from the slimy bottom of a marsh and sees flowers and sunlight. The shrimp thinks he's in paradise, but actually is in a crane's beak about to be eaten. This of course parallels Eric's excitement on entering the world of espionage and then his terror when he and his mother face death. Also, Eric uses a crane, the mechanical kind, to sneak aboard a container ship where his mother is trapped.] [Reading up on Japan is a good idea, but if your guidebook gets into Buddhist parables, you might want a thinner one, especially if you're 12.]


This is well-written and ought to get some positive responses as is. It's mostly setup, but that doesn't bother me as much in a kids book. Still, if you want to work in something about what happens when Eric takes on the enemy agents (your actual plot), you could reduce the first paragraph to: Eric McCoy is seeing the world. While his mother jets from country to country on business, he tags along, home schooling in hotel rooms and exploring foreign cities when she’s at work. Telling us his friends are learning the ropes of middle school serves no purpose, as you later give us his exact age, and the rest of that paragraph is there for voice, but I think the voice comes across fine without the trivial manga/sake details.

The title seems like what you'd cleverly use if it were literary fiction for adults. Kids are more likely to be drawn to Eric McCoy and the League of Secret Agents or How Eric McCoy saved his Mom (and Tokyo).

Cartoon 643

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Face-Lift 769

Guess the Plot

Beyond the Dreams

1. For generations the women of Tili Aramir's family have been dreamweavers, holding the kingdom together through their all-powerful magic. But what Tili really wants to do is dance...

2. Mazie would have preferred Peter Pan kidnap her than face "Growing Up". When she's kidnaped by Pan (not Peter) she begins to think even reality might be better than monotonous pipe music and running from half-goats.

3. Kimberly is going to be Miss America. She is ONLY Miss Wisconsin right now. As she drives to the Miss America Pageant HQ, she gets into an accident and loses an ear. Surely Miss America can't be one-eared . . . or can she?

4. Axia never dreamed she would one day have her freedom. She thought she'd spend her whole life doing the one thing she knew: fighting to the death. Can this killing machine find love and acceptance outside the gladiator ring?

5. Tara is haunted by dreams of battles between supernatural beings. But when she tries to wake herself up, she becomes caught in a never ending lucid dream war between the giant moth people and the fish with hands.

6. Since he was little, Jojo wanted it all: the big salary, the big house, the big car and the Barbie wife. Now at 40, he finally has it . . . or does he? When the pay cuts come through, the car gets repossessed and his wife runs off with his boss, Jojo needs more than dreams, he needs revenge!

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am seeking your representation for BEYOND THE DREAMS, a completed science-fiction novel of 55,000 words.

Life or death, it’s all part of the show. [If you're gonna start with a one-sentence hook, it's usually better to make it the first sentence of the query. In this case, I'd just drop it, as the next sentence says the same thing, but with specificity.]

In a world where death is entertainment, Axia is meant to die for the pleasure of others. A genetically and physically enhanced gladiator, she has been trained since birth to survive as many fights as possible. [Aren't all gladiators motivated to survive as many fights as possible?] [Also, how do you train someone who was just born to survive fights?] When her master, Malit, betrays her, sending her to an arranged death, the needles and blades implanted in her limbs barely save her. [What's gained by arranging the death of your meal ticket?]

In the wake of the emotional betrayal, several new abilities atypical to her race surface, stemming from dormant genes no one knew she had.

Axia is now illegal in the arena ["Illegal" makes it sound like Axia is a criminal act or a performance-enhancing drug rather than a person. She's barred/banned from the arena.] and could cause Malit’s death as well as her own if discovered. [If discovered doing what? Fighting in the arena? Why would Malit risk death by sending a banned gladiator into the arena? Besides, wouldn't she be recognized?] Malit doesn't know who tampered with Axia's genes and only has one solution; one she never even dreamed was possible: he will set her free. [What is this the only solution to? Can't he just make her his bodyguard or mistress or laundress?]

Away from the arena and from calculated death, Axia learns about the world. Love and acceptance help her deal with emotions she had been taught to repress.

But her freedom is short-lived. Her creator comes after her, wanting to revive the illegal project to which she is the key; and in the outside world, she is fair game. [I'd rather be fair game in the outside world than literal game in the gladiator ring.]

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


It seems to me that Axia's creator and his project are the main plot, but they're barely mentioned. You could condense most of your summary to: On a world where death is entertainment, Axia has survived the gladiator arena and been granted her freedom. That leaves lots of room to tell us about the real plot.

If it's legal to genetically and physically enhance gladiators, why is Axia banned? It's like making steroids legal in the Olympics, and then blackballing anyone who uses them.

It could be argued that fighting, not death, is the entertainment. Otherwise, why spend so much time training people to survive? Just kill 'em.

Didn't her creator know she had these dormant genes? I ask only because you said no one knew.

If Axia's the key to her creator's project, how did Malit get her?

Are deaths in the arena really "arranged" and "calculated"? This makes me think they're rigged, but it would be hard to get a gladiator to throw a fight in which the loser dies.

Cartoon 642

Caption: Anon.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Beginning 751

Memories - one of the few things no one can take from you. Sometimes you wish someone would. And yet, the best way to get over memories is to acquire more memories.

Stepping from these pages, subtlety still intact...or not...

Often it's not the story but who you were, how you were, during it - and we can all become someone else quicker than we'd like to admit. Some persona last months, some last hours. A song heard while grocery shopping can sink one into certain melancholia while a well-timed surprise gift can give one the confidence to face whatever comes for a week. But when it's not what happened but how it felt when it happened - that's what makes the difference. For example: once I spent a over a week in Cancun with two of my cousins and that was fantastic and once You and I spent an early spring Friday night in a park for a couple of hours. I can still feel the mud swishing beneath my feet while You and I sat on the swings talking...

But enough of that. We move on. The world, it moves on. I'm ready for new memories, more memories, bigger memories. We had our good time. You were with me when I needed you, always . But now I have to let you go, and take everything you know of me. It's the end for us. Forget about me, my old friend: The 64Gb iPhone just came out and I simply can't be seen with an old Motorola Razr anymore...

Opening: Kstyrose.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 641

Caption: Marissa Doyle

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In memoriam

Word has reached me of the passing of minion Bevie James.

I can think of no better sendoff than his own words:

PirateSpeak Sermon 1

“Gar, I be in charge of this voyage now, and ye be bowing ye heads now as a token of respect for our good friend and matey who be taken now by the sawbones, until he return to reclaim his place amongst the noble and fine, such as you are.

“So what have ye then? What manner of swabs be ye that come to hear the words which will spare ye from the tempest to come? Be ye the salt of the sea, or not? For knowest ye not that should ye lose the salt, ye be no better than a scurvy wretch laying in the bilge. Ye shall be cast adrift into the sea.

“So take ye heed to the swells which the sea rages against all sailors, fair and foul alike. Have the courage to climb the mast, untie the sheets and let your sails billow in the wind. For ahead is the course and behind only water. For the Captain of All does cover our misdeeds as the sea covers its dead. He marks the course, but ye must navigate it at the wheel. Keep your hand steady that ye may steer a true course through the channel, else ye be washed up against the rocks and dashed asunder by the sea’s angry fury. For the sea is not concerned about neither rocks nor shore. The sea is forever, and we must abide it as best we can. When the tide be high we sail fine and true, but when the tide be low, the rocks threaten the hull, and the shoals to stay the voyage.

“There be no assurance save to trust in the Captain. So man the decks and heed the orders. Our course is set.

“And now, it be time to collect the treasure.”


Type "Bevie" into the blog search feature for a few more of Bevie's contributions. His earlier contributions can be found by searching "BBJD." Fairyhedgehog has more information.