Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dragon Tattoo

I saw the Swedish film tonight, made from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (our June Book Chat book), and I thought it was better than the book. The story was clearer, the casting was excellent, and the dialogue was sparse enough that it was easy to read the subtitles without missing the video. No reason to believe Hollywood will do any better, and good reason to believe they'll screw it up. Check it out if you can.

Saturday Film Series

Friday, July 30, 2010

Success Story

Steve Prosapio reports that his novel Dream War (Face-Lift 127), available as an e-book at, has been flying through the ether ever since it was featured at this sci-fi review site, as people flock to see how many of the book's ideas were stolen by the recently released film, Inception.

New Beginning 771

It was the fault of the wind, but on Xenos it often is. The wind scours Xenos's surface, stirring up the storms of dust, tearing off anything not sealed down, throwing itself against the domed skylights that light the underground cities. It batters the sensors around those hub cities, and the sensors whirl and scream their own storm of warnings into the hub networks. From this seething storm of warnings, the network processors pull their data and send it rapid fire to the exit terminals to show as a simple, coded warning.

That morning, at the south west exit Hub 4, the warnings from the sensors, the three that hadn't been torn off by the wind, showed as a bar of orange on the very edge of the red. The accompanying key flashed "Access by Essential Personnel Only".

An apprentice food technician was not Essential Personnel so Chev Layman swung his bag back onto his shoulder and left the exit room.

In the supply room outside Hub 6, he unloaded the bag, putting the rare spices in the lock-box and the dragonfish in the refrigeration unit. Ramsay came in and said, "What the fuck?"

"It's like a never-ending tornado out there," Chev replied. "Maybe we should bring everyone inside."

"Shit, no," Ramsay said. "Maybe now we'll find out how well the chefs on Hell's Kitchen: Xenos can fucking improvise."

Opening: Xenith.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Cartoon 698

Caption: Evil Editor

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Face-Lift 802

Guess the Plot

Book of the Baba Yaga

1. Dmitri's family died in the Holocaust. All he has is a battered copy of "The Book of the Baba Yaga" to guide him to his Russian roots. Can Svetlana from the library help him--or is she trying to thwart him?

2. Young Baba was sent by her parents to learn magic with the local witch. But when famine strikes, the witch declares her intent to eat Baba to survive. With the help of another captive, a handsome boy, Baba must use what little magic she's learned to trick the witch and escape before she's turned into brisket.

3. 13-year-old Samantha is invited to attend Dr. Xenon's Olympic archery training facility, which is also the tree-dwelling Baba Yaga's home. Xenon is responsible for making the Olympic medals, using gold he creates from souls in hell. When Sam discovers her friend Jonah, who's been missing two years, is in hell, she heads off to rescue him. Think Dante's Inferno for the middle school crowd.

4. Tessa wants to be Prom Queen but she's short, plump, and homely--until she finds a mysterious book of beauty secrets that really work. The first time she uses it, her complexion clears but her best friend is covered in zits. She tries the spells for glossy hair and a slimmer waist; other friends get bald and fat, confirming that not only do the beauty tips work, each comes with an unexpected bonus.

5. It wasn't enough that David's brother became Oxford's youngest ever linguistics professor, admired for his abstract ravings. Now the little toddler has a book contract. Will David expose his parents' intention to replace the English language with gibberish before publication?

6. To read the book of Baba Yaga is to have your eyes opened--quite literally--to every ghoul and spirit visiting our plane. But to survive the experience you must not only finish the book, you must pass it on to the next unsuspecting soul. When Father Gregory happens upon the book he must decide whether to die or damn another to his fate.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for my middle reader fantasy, BOOK OF THE BABA YAGA. In this story of alchemy, wealth and mystery, thirteen-year-old Samantha Liffey must cross a forbidden Gate and journey through Hell – literally – to save a friend from losing his soul.

Thirteen-year-old uber-archer Sam [Are you going to tell us her age every time you mention her? She's 13. We got it.] is super excited when she qualifies for top-secret, exclusive Xenith Academy, where the world’s leading young athletes train for the Olympics. [How can a place remain top-secret, if the world’s leading young athletes regularly go there?] From the moment she arrives in the Baba Yaga’s treetop cabin with a talking doll as her guide, she's engulfed in a world like nothing she ever imagined. [I can't tell if you've jumped ahead three chapters or if it's the normal chain of events for someone going to Xenith Academy to be guided to the Baba Yaga's treetop cabin by a talking doll. Also, you might want to identify the Baba Yaga for those who never heard the name. You throw it in like you expect us to know who/what the Baba Yaga is and why Sam is in the Baba Yaga's cabin. What you need is to start that sentence with a transitional phrase that lets us know you haven't switched to a different novel. Something like: But instead of the Academy, her guide whisks her off to the treetop cabin of the evil witch known as . . . the Baba Yaga!] [Or: Arriving on the Academy campus, Sam is taken to her archery instructor, a strict disciplinarian who lives in a tree and is known only by the terror-inducing name . . . Baba Yaga!] [Note that in both cases I left out the part about her guide being a talking doll.] [Although now that I think about it, Baba Yaga does sound like something a talking doll would say.] [Baba Yaga being introduced to Lady Gaga by Lady Gaga's daughter: "Baba Yaga, Mama Gaga. Mama Gaga, Baba Yaga."]

Dr. Xenon, president of the Academy, has a remarkable skill: he makes gold using soul energy, or qi, in the land beyond a forbidden Gate. [If you don't want people going through your Gate, you probably shouldn't keep capitalizing the word "Gate." Human nature dictates that people who would totally ignore a gate will do anything in their power to pass through a Gate.] That’s where Olympic medals come from, [Does qi also make silver and bronze?] and there’s plenty left over to make the Academy extremely wealthy. But Sam’s dreams of Olympic gold begin to crumble when she’s sucked into the search for her childhood friend Jonah, who vanished after sneaking into Dr. Xenon’s laboratory two years ago. [Did Sam know about this all along?] With the help of her friends, she figures out how to get through the Gate, only to discover it leads to Hell. [How can she tell where it leads? Is there a sign? A road paved with good intentions?] Inside, soul eating monsters are on the prowl. They steal qi from anyone brave enough – or stupid enough – to enter. Sam’s journey grows more difficult when Hell turns out to be as psychological as it is physical. [Drop that sentence or give a specific example.] Even Sam’s own sister turns out to be a far different person than the girl Sam thought she knew. [Where did that come from? What's her sister doing in this top-secret place?] Sam must find a way to rescue Jonah [Did she happen to bring her bow and arrows when she went through the Gate?] without losing those she loves, all the while struggling to accept painful truths about herself and her family. [Sis and family haven't even been in the query, and now they're brought in like they're of vital importance. Get rid of them.]

Loosely based on Dante’s Inferno and Slavic mythology, BOOK OF THE BABA YAGA is complete at 63,000 words. I would be delighted to send you a partial or a full manuscript should you be interested.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


First of all, the opening paragraph is a waste of space. There's nothing in it that you don't repeat later on. Get rid of it.

The International Olympic Committee is extremely touchy about things like claiming their medals are forged in hell. Maybe Sam should be looking into the World Junior Archery Championships.

It sounds like the main plot is rescuing Jonah. If Sam accepted the invitation to the Academy knowing that Jonah vanished from it two years earlier, and hoping to solve the mystery, make that clear early on.

What was Jonah doing in Xenon's lab two years ago? The place is top-secret. Was he an aspiring Olympic athlete too? I don't see how a world-class athlete could vanish forever from Xenith Academy, and the place still be top-secret. It should have been in the news for weeks.

Is it called Book of the Baba Yaga because there's an important book involved, or just because it is a book?

Can anyone remember the last time we had a query that wasn't set partially in hell?

Cartoon 697

Caption: Evil Editor

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Hannah Rogers Literary Agency Website . . .

is up and running. You'll find it here.

Cartoon 696

Caption: Anon.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Face-Lift 801

Guess the Plot

Stairway to Hell

1. Evangeline is banished to hell for something she didn't do, as God screws up for the first time ever. There, she is nominated to become the next Satan. Hey, it's better than working at Starbucks.

2. There's a long, dark stairway descending to Hell, and a bright, quick escalator ascending to Heaven. Now a venerable and ravishingly handsome editor is ready to face his eternal reward. But for some reason, these stairs aren't moving.

3. Every day for thirty years Bob Henshaw has climbed the stairs to his desk at McMurty and Sons. Every day, that is, through last Friday, when they laid him off. It's Monday, Bob's climbing the stairs, and he has an AK47.

4. Peter Miff, once a prominent real-estate developer, decides to undertake mankind's greatest project: an escalator to the moon. He soon goes broke, his investors back out and he has three months to complete the project or lose everything. Think Moby Dick but with stairs instead of a whale.

5. Ringo is a frustrated drummer. Labeled “derivative” after attempts to produce his songs “Stairway to Heaven” and “Highway to Hell,” he meets two blokes (John & Paul) who promise stardom. But when they fail to get Spanish guitarist Jorge to change his name and join them, obscurity ensues.

6. The time was long overdue. The fans increasingly demanded it. The producers insisted it could not be done. But one garage band insists on heading the wrong way, on playing the ultimate sequel, on braving the . . . Stairway To Hell.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Banished from Heaven after her teammate broke a couple rules too many, an ex-stellar angel has had to resign herself to living in Satan's world. [Whattaya mean, her teammate? Are we talking about the Los Angeles Angels? Because I don't think the baseball rules specifically prohibit stuff that would warrant a one-way trip to hell.] She hates it there, [As I understand it, that's pretty much the idea behind hell.] but that doesn't mean she wants to die. [I thought being dead was one of the prerequisites for getting in.] Unfortunately for her, it looks like she won't have much of a say in that.

When fourteen-year-old Evangeline Faure learns that she has only three years until the curse set on all Hell-based angels kills her, [She's currently alive.] she decides to live life at the fullest. [She's currently alive.] That includes admitting that what she feels for a certain war commander isn't just platonic friendship, accepting that the war against Heaven is justified, and dealing with the fact that she has been lied to her whole life. [She's currently alive.] Uh, death. [She's dead? I missed it! You've been talking about her as if she's alive. Has she been dead the whole time?]

But she only understands the true meaning of life and death when her cherished commander is murdered, and suddenly everyone expects her to avenge him. Evangeline has never killed before, unless you count picking four-leaf clovers – which the demons in Hell apparently don't. [I don't see what this clover sentence is adding. No one considers picking clover killing.] So it comes as a surprise to her when she is nominated to become the next Satan, and an even bigger one when the friend who got her into this mess comes back [Comes back to hell? Has he been here before?] and tries to claim the title for himself. Then, as though her life wasn't complicated enough as it was, [She's alive.] the murderer comes after her.

Her life... starts now. [She wasn't alive?] [What does Her life... starts now. mean?]

STAIRWAY TO HELL is a 70,000-word young adult fantasy novel and the first book of a planned series, though it can stand alone.

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


It's not clear enough to me. I'd leave out the war commander. Tell us exactly what happened to get Eva banished to hell. Then skip to getting nominated as the next Satan. What are her goals, what's standing between her and her goals, and what does she plan to do about it?

What is hell like? Are those in hell alive? What's the incentive to murder someone if you're both in hell? Give us a taste of the setting.

Cartoon 695

Caption: Evil Editor

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Monday, July 26, 2010

New Beginning 770

The war ended when the sky exploded like a month of sunrises, turning from blues and yellows to violets and poisonous greens. A second sun shone before the blast wave hit, bending the trees, shaking the ground.

His instruments glitched as the magnetics swirled outward from the imploding FTL drive. Sammy shut down, disconnected his power cell and curled his armor around him like an old-earth armadillo. Life or death, regardless, he'd know in a few minutes. The shadow of Tobald the Warrior intruded.

"You want to meet Death, Tobald?" Sammy asked.

"You will meet Death before I do, earthman."

"Death just appeared in your sky and he's going to reach down and take you and me both," Sammy eyed the giant lizard. Tobald pulled the trigger. The gun sputtered and burnt his hand.

"What sort of earth magic is this?"

"Not magic, science. Your rockets destroyed the battleship's shell but the heart of the battleship, the FTL, is imploding. When you burn the heart of a sky warrior, it burns the sky."

"And so you curl up to die."

“Technically,” Sammy said, “I'm curling up to live. Feel free to meet the blast wave head-on like a warrior, though. I'm sure your ancestors will be impressed.”

Tobald turned away, staring up at the neon stormcloud of the exploding warship. “Your Death-magic is puny. I feel nothing.”

“What you're not feeling is neutron radiation. Give it a minute.” Sammy found the seldom-used manual control switch inside his left gauntlet. He clicked it two positions down, thought about the sequence he'd memorized years ago in boot camp, then moved it one more notch. He raised his arm.

Tobald's laughter was a guttural clacking. “Typical earthman warfare. Noise and light. You have no--”

To his credit, Tobald didn't cry out when the synthetic neutronium round from the slugthrower on Sammy's left forearm punched through his chitin armor. The bipedal lizard stumbled forward with a grunt, falling through a cloud of his own blood as he toppled into the knee-high alien sward.

Sammy strained up onto his feet, fighting the sluggish artificial musculature of his armor that was only just starting to come back to life after the EMP burst. The slugger was an effective antipersonnel weapon in a pinch, but with his suit's electronic fire control suite knocked offline by the battleship's electromagnetic death throes, it was only good for one shot against a close, stationary target--a tribal warrior who turned his back on a live threat and looked up at pretty lights in the the sky, for instance.

“Been nice talking to you, Tobald,” Sammy said to the still form in the flattened grass. “But where I come from, we call that a Close Encounter of the Twenty Millimeter Kind.”

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Sean

Cartoon 694

Caption: Angie

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

Face-Lift 800!!

Guess the Plot


1. It's the same old Prodigal Son story, only this time the hero is gay and seeking acceptance from his black redneck family and it's about as naked a play for Literary Merit as you can make.

2. It says buy 1 tin of sardines, get 111 free. Don't give her any lip about misprints. Even if Ethel has to get her bumbling hitman grandson to whack everyone at Rite-Mart, she is going to redeem this coupon!

3. Holy visions appearing in the sky. Miraculous cures. Global warming eliminated. Turns out, Satan's teenage daughter is going through a rebellious phase. But when her good deeds actually earn her a ticket to the Pearly Gates, can she win the cute angel's heart before Heaven changes its mind?

4. Bane is destined to become a demon. Rayleigh owns the world's only sanctuary-from-demons zone. They meet and fall in love. But can either of them survive in the other's world? Can Bane join his soul mate by finding . . . Redemption?

5. When Harry was 17, his girlfriend fell off a bridge and drowned because he didn't know how to swim and couldn't save her. Now a professional lifeguard, he spends his days soothing his haunted conscience, making sure it never happens to anyone else. But what will happen when his new girlfriend convinces him to try skydiving?

6. Crooked stock trader Perry Jones is being haunted by a word: Redemption. Billboards, magazines, websites, he sees it everywhere, and treats it as a series of disturbing deja vus--until wee critters with red eyes and pitchforks start dogging him, and his Monday morning cappuccino has 'Redemption' written in the foam.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Reighlyn Anderson accepts the necessary dangers of loving Bane Thomas, even if with his cursed soul, he can’t promise her eternity. [The main problem with loving this guy is that even if it works out, he'll still be the Bane of her existence. Ba dum ching.]

When Bane Thomas learns of an Armistice Zone, [Once you've told us a character's first and last names, there's no need to use both again.] [Although in this case it does convince us that his name really is Bane Thomas and not Thomas Bane.] an area of land where Demons and The Fallen can do no harm, he knows it’s his one chance to protect his family. [This Zone better be the size of Asia, because there's gonna be six billion people trying to squeeze into it.] [Can you really trust demons to stay out of some arbitrarily designated zone? I'm sure when the idea of the Zone was proposed, the demons wouldn't have agreed unless . . .

Human Negotiator: Look, things aren't working out, we need a special zone where you guys aren't allowed to torment us.

Demon Negotiator: Yeah, right, the minute we agree to this zone, you'll all flock into it, and then who are we supposed to torment, cows?

Human Negotiator: Okay, okay, we'll keep the zone secret. Only I will know where it is.

Demon Negotiator: Fine, where will it be?

Human Negotiator: It'll be the area surrounding my property.]

While pursuing the land, he encounters a problem: Miss Reighlyn Anderson. In hopes of persuading her to sell, [To sell the Armistice Zone? She owns it?] Bane becomes the financial backer to her Crisis Center for Domestic Violence. While working with her he learns two things: selling is not in her vocabulary, and she’s undoubtedly penetrated his emotional wall of defense. [Can you come up with a less-clinical way of saying he's smitten?]

Unaware that her financial backer is also the despised developer after her land, Reighlyn soon realizes she’s falling for Bane, but determines there is something different about him after witnessing things beyond her explanation. [Like what?] Then, after revealing his special abilities during a crisis, [What special abilities? What crisis?] Bane’s compelled [Compelled by whom?] to tell her portions of his secret. [Which is that his soul is cursed? What portion of that does he tell her?] Soon after, Reighlyn struggles with the discovery that Bane’s not only her financial backer, but much more: the developer after her land, and to her surprise, a direct descendant of The Watchers, cursed to become what he despises most: a demon. [If you put this part about becoming a demon up front, this paragraph will be down to: Unaware that her financial backer is also the developer after her land, Reighlyn soon realizes she’s falling for Bane. Soon after, Reighlyn struggles with the discovery that Bane’s not only her financial backer, but the developer after her land. At this point you realize that's a lot of wordy repetition and just delete it.]

They accept the necessary risks to be together, [Odd that I can so easily accept the existence of Watchers and Demons and a demon-free zone, but I find it hard to accept that a woman who discovers that the guy she's fallen for has been hiding the fact that he's the despised developer who's been trying to get her property wouldn't toss him out on his ass.] but Bane fears he’s put her in more danger than he once believed possible when a punished demon arrives. [Are they together on her land, the Armistice Zone? If so, they're safe, right? If not, they're TSTL anyway.] Desperate to prevent his own sentencing, the demon attempts to create a gift for Satan. A gift of pure hate dwelling within Bane; hate so overwhelming he’ll beg to die, thus permitting Satan to capture him into servitude.

[Demon: Desperate to prevent my sentencing, I offer you the gift of a new servant: Bane Thomas.

Satan: Another servant? I got a billion servants already. I got a servant who massages my ass. I got a servant who wipes my ass. I got a servant who waxes my ass. Hell, my ass has more servants than the queen of England. You wanna give me a gift, find me some ice cream that doesn't melt in two seconds in this dump.]

The problem is, the demon plans on using Reighlyn’s death as the currency in which to purchase this gift. [I had a feeling some form of capitalism was the chosen economic system in hell.] Which leaves Bane on a race against time to rescue the one person he never thought could exist: his soul mate.

Redemption is a complete 93,000-word paranormal romance. I’d like to thank you for your time and your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.



Redemption is a popular title. Amazon lists over a half dozen books called Redemption. It was also the title of the books in Face-Lifts 690 and 643.

Who are the "family" Bane wants to protect by moving to the Zone? His parents and siblings? They're all descendants of the Watchers, right? Is he trying to protect them from himself? From demon hunters?

Is Bane the only person who knows Rayleigh's land is the Armistice Zone?

There's too much information here. Bane is destined to become a demon. Trying to buy the magical land where demons are benign, he falls in love with the landowner, Rayleigh. She loves him too, but when she sees him flying through the air with a glowing pitchfork she demands an explanation. (Romantic conflict.) He explains that he will become a demon unless he can live on her land. They move in together. (Conflict seemingly resolved.) Just when it looks like they'll live happily ever after, a demon shows up planning to kill Rayleigh to get in good with Satan. (Major obstacle that threatens happiness and expands word count by 20,000.) Focus on the romantic conflict and the obstacles. Leave out what's not essential to that.

Cartoon 693

Caption: Roger Eschbacher

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Face-Lift 799

Guess the Plot

The Rain Legacy

1. Wet ground. Dirty cars. Floods. Weeds. And that unmistakable scent of ozone. But on the other hand: Fertile crops. Cool temperatures. A luscious array of flowers. And the billion-dollar umbrella industry. Want to read the book?

2. Lynette is only thirteen, and her father's been murdered and she doesn't know how to swing a sword, while the villain she faces has an army and 600 years of experience killing people and plundering kingdoms, but it's up to Lynette to save the world, and . . . Hey, it could be worse. Could be raining.

3. Emily watched her father, super villain Thundero, fail at a hundred different schemes to take over Sioux City with his rain-controlling powers. Now she's inherited his powers and his loser reputation. But she's setting her sights on a bigger prize: the Gobi desert.

4. What good is it, being the one true descendant of the last real rain dancer when you promised your mother you would never use your powers under any circumstances? Especially when every farmer in the Midwest pledges money, and their daughters, to break the twenty-year drought over their fields? Harry Red-Wolf is finding out.

5. The constant rain in the Lake District is supposedly orographic precipitation...but Henry knows it's really an ancient legacy from a misguided desert tribesman. As he races to destroy the legacy and save his sun-dried tomato business, can he outsmart the meteorologists, who don't want to return to work?

6. May Jean Whistler longs to leave her tiny Wyoming town, but ancient law says her family's presence is the only thing that guarantees the ranchers rainfall each year. Then a stranger rolls into town on a thunderstorm and says he can free her--for a price.

Original Version

Overlord of Evil Editing,

Nothing good has ever come of Lynette always breaking her continent’s rules-- until she eavesdrops on a conversation regarding a plot to murder her family. [Eavesdropping on a conversation about your family being murdered is against the rules of the continent?] [It seems to me that if there were rules that applied to entire continents they would have to be really general. I mean, if the French tried to make a rule that everyone in Europe had to speak French, the Italians would have a fit. So Europe's only rule would be No Americans allowed, unless you're here to spend lots of money or to save our asses.] [Actually, that would be the only rule of every continent. Except that Australia has some rule about not stealing kangaroos.] It may be too late for her dead father, [If you're gonna murder a family, it's easier if you choose one in which the father's already dead.] but it’s not too late for Lynette. She takes her sister and a sword, and steals away to escape the same fate.

But Lynette can’t run forever. Due to her ancestry, Lynette must take up the hero’s mantle and defend the Goddess Arydne’s land. Never mind she’s thirteen. Never mind she doesn’t know how to swing a sword. Never mind the murderer is a high-standing nobleman, or he’s got the royal army backing him. And never mind he has six hundred years of experience, because Lynette's going to bring a higher power into play- and get revenge while she’s at it.

[Lynette vs. army: Army wins.
Lynette + goddess vs. army: Army loses.
Goddess vs. army while Lynette goes to the mall: ????
In short, what does Lynette bring to the table?]

If the Goddess expects miracles from Lynette, the expectation goes both ways.

THE RAIN LEGACY is a 40,000-word middle grade fantasy novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.



You've set up the situation. I want more about the plot than Lynette calls on the goddess for aid. Does the army have a chance of defeating the goddess? If so, does Lynette have any skills that could turn the tide? What's the plan Lynette + goddess hatch to defeat megalomaniac + army? What could cause them to lose? How do they plan to overcome this stumbling block?

Cartoon 692

Caption: Anon.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New Beginning 769

Opening: Bibi.....Continuation: Ellie

Cartoon 691

Caption: anon.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Beginning 768

I woke up naked.

But that was only half my problem.

I was laying naked outside, in a corn field, freezing. I could feel the cold, hard ground beneath me; my body felt as though every bone in it had been broken, at least twice. The taste of blood in my mouth nearly rivaled all my physical pains, but my brain was going through its own form of torture trying to remember why I was outside, without a stitch on in the middle of November in northern Illinois.

I cracked my eyes open. My breath came out in frosty clouds as I strove to pull cold air into my lungs as if for the first time after waking up from being pronounced dead. Above me, I could see the crisp midnight-blue sky, stars glittering coldly, like indifferent specks, making me feel more alien than I had ever felt my entire twenty-one years. I knew what had happened—the reason for all this—but I couldn't remember what I had been doing for the last several hours. I knew time had passed because the stars were in a different configuration above me. And I didn't see the moon, full and bright, as I knew it had been when the transformation came over me.

I was experiencing a terrible death and rebirth and I was in my birthday suit. Death by cliche and rebirth from that terrible knowledge. How could I have fallen into the trap that I had set for myself? I had bitten my tongue and made it bleed when I should have bitten my fingernails because those guardians of the fingers that hit the keys, should've suffered for producing those awful phrases we've heard a million times before. I was naked, exposed on the site forever following a dark and stormy night that would stay with me and my cliches forever. Bare naked with my shame.

Opening: Lorelei Bell.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 690

Caption: Evil Editor

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Face-Lift 798

Guess the Plot


1. When Death takes a holiday, he leaves his scythe in a safe place behind the dresser. But Elizabeth, the put-upon perfectionist cleaning lady, finds it and goes on a "holiday" of her own. Can Death get his job back?

2. Elizabeth is having one lousy fifteenth birthday, mostly because of the hitman who killed her. Now she's awakened in the morgue, and the hitman wants to turn her from the living dead to the dead dead. It's beginning to look like she won't make it to her senior prom.

3. Thirteen years after the night Eliza found both her parents murdered, she's come back to her home town to witness the execution of the murderer. But when she contacts her dead parents via ouija board and they claim to have been killed by someone else, Eliza suddenly finds herself fighting for the freedom of the convicted killer.

4. Countless biographers have recounted the life and times of Queen Elizabeth. I'm the one you want to pay attention to, however. Only I maintain the proper history of the vampire herself, who, in the proper circles, was known only as Elizadeath. But as I translate the records from vampiri to English my own life becomes threatened.

5. Elizadeath is sick of her classmates’ cruel jokes—-her parents’ dyslexia is no laughing matter. But when new kids Warren, Fammy and Penelopestilence move in next door, Elizadeath finally makes some friends. As all hell breaks loose, will Elizadeath choose to save her repentant classmates from their impending doom?

6. As soon as they turn 18, sisters Elizadeath, Ebola Gay, and Eleamorgue plot to revenge themselves on their parents for giving them such morbid names by legally changing them to Daisy, Buttercup, and Rosebud...until one of them notices that with a last name like von Fatal, they're still screwed. Hasty marriages to guys named Smith, Johnson, and Baker ensue.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Waking up in the morgue is just the icing on the cake. [Icing on cake is a good thing. The idea is that cake is good and icing makes it even better. For instance, if Evil Editor buys your manuscript, you're thrilled even if he pays you nothing, and if he offers you a seven-figure advance, that's the icing on the cake. Your situation is a bad thing topped off by one more bad thing. Sort of like:

Of course, you probably don't want to say, Waking up in the morgue is just the sudden downpour on the body snatching excursion, but you could call it the final indignity.] Elizabeth is having a rough day. [First she uses the wrong cliche, and then--the final indignity--Evil Editor mocks her query.] It’s certainly not how she envisioned her fifteenth birthday would end. She wishes she could comfort her grieving parents, but she can’t speak…yet. She would run away from the hitmen sent to dispose of her, if her legs could move. And she would tell her boyfriend everything was okay, [but she can't speak...yet.] if she hadn’t died two hours ago. Or did she?

Welcome to the strange new world of Elizabeth Davis. If she thought she had self-esteem issues before, becoming the living dead isn’t going to help. Rigor mortis, dull hair, and cloudy eyes are NOT cute. She’s not sure why this is happening, she doesn’t know who is after her or why, and she can’t BELIEVE how pale she’s become- “it’s so gross”.

Follow Elizabeth on her mysterious journey to find out what happened to her, [I've got a better idea. Tell us what happened to her.] how she can get her life back and whether she’ll ever make it to senior prom- if you can stand the smell. [Senior prom? Isn't she a little young to be thinking about that?] ELIZADEATH is a middle grade novel standing at approximately 38,000 words. Sample pages available upon request. I hope to hear from you soon.


It's good to put some voice into the query, but some of the voice is falling flat. "It's so gross," for instance, and "If you can stand the smell." The phrases immediately preceding these have the voice you want, so just drop these.

Once you've done that, the "Welcome..." paragraph isn't bad. The opening paragraph would be better if it were examples of how Liz is having a rough day. Something like:

Elizabeth is having a rough fifteenth birthday. First her boyfriend calls to say he can't make her party, then her mom pukes on the cake right in front of Liz's friends, and then the final indignity: she gets murdered by a hitman.

I wouldn't mind a few sentences about what happens after she wakes up in the morgue: Being dead is inconvenient, but Liz is determined it won't keep her from making it to the prom. First she'll have to deal with the hitman, though. He was hired to turn her into a corpse, not a zombie, and he's still on the job.

Cartoon 689

Caption: Khazar-khum

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Face-Lift 797

Guess the Plot


1. Melody Manson's superpower sucks. She reincarnates dying people as animals. In a jealous rage she kills all the cooler superheroes, hoping they'll be reincarnated as vermin. When they come back as bunnies, she softens and releases them into the forest. The problem? 1400 angry superbunnies a year later.

2. Jeanne is perfectly happy with her life in New Orleans. But it turns out she's the reincarnation of Joan of Arc. Technically that makes her a saint, but she doesn't feel all that saintly, especially since she's an atheist. And then there's the fact that the guy who had her burned at the stake has also been reincarnated, and wants to do it again.

3. The Elves of Varsooli celebrate the vanquishing of Geg the Destroyer and his race of trolls every winter, but as a dark presence begins burning forests to the West, the High Council begins to believe Geg has been reborn . . . as one of the Varsooli.

4. The old witch died before telling Kerian her reincarnation formula. Now the poor girl has to dig through 749 years' worth of old newspapers, busted furniture, and other junk hoarded over the centuries. Also, a drunk skeleton.

5. Detective Sassy McRedd investigates a rash of mysterious killings in Nochance City. The clues lead her to the meat cases of area grocery stores, where the pork chops, rump roasts, chicken breasts, beef livers, etc. are reassembling themselves into Frankenanimals and wreaking havoc.

6. Ten simple steps you can take to ensure that you come back as something really cool like a dolphin or an otter or a millionaire, not a cockroach or some slob in a third world country where you get nasty diseases from the water. Including seven real-life success stories!

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Heaven hath no fury like a saint reborn—even if that saint is atheist Jeanne Delacey.

Being the reincarnation of Jeanne d’Arc is no picnic. [Agreed. I tossed her out of my body after only three days.] Sure, she now has a divinely empowered bracelet that turns into a sword, and Luca Griffith—tall, dark, and definitely hiding something—to guard her, but she’s going to need, well, a hell of a lot more. Especially since she’s also inherited nightmares of burning to death, a centuries old arch-nemesis, one Pierre Cauchon, who’s been reincarnated as well, and—oh yeah, there’s that pesky business of an impending war between Heaven and Hell.

Soul aside, [Soul aside?] Jeanne doesn’t believe she has what it takes to be a saint. Torn between anger and fear, she falls back on her usual method for dealing with problems: ignoring them. But as demonic attacks grow more frequent, drawing her friends and family into danger, she realizes she’ll have to find the courage to fight. Cauchon sent her to the stake in her past life; he’s more than willing to do it again. [Times have been hard in New Orleans. Burning people at the stake might be just the thing to bring back the tourists.] And this time, the entire world will burn with her.

REINCARNATE is an 82,000 word adult urban fantasy set in modern day New Orleans.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



This isn't bad as is, so take or leave my comments:

It's not necessary to have a one-sentence opening grabber in a query. Which I mention because Jeanne prefers to ignore her problems and when she can no longer do so she has to find the courage to fight. None of which sounds like fury the likes of which heaven has never seen.

If you do drop the first sentence you can work Jeanne's name into the next sentence: no picnic for Jeanne Delacey.

And in the next paragraph you can say Jeanne doesn’t believe she has what it takes to be a saint, not least because she's a devout atheist.

Another approach you might consider is to open: Hell hath no fury like a woman reborn—especially if that woman is Saint Jeanne d'Arc. Then focus the query on the threat from demons of hell and leave the fact that Jeanne prefers to ignore her problems out of the query.

I'm not much bothered by the fact that this is mostly setup, but if you can do so without straining credulity, you might want to mention how Jeanne, with just a magical sword, plans to defeat an enemy capable of destroying the entire world. I assume there's a plan.

Sure, she "now" has a divinely empowered bracelet... suggests that Jeanne has recently become Jeanne d'Arc reincarnated, that she wasn't born that way. So suddenly Saint Joan inhabits her body but Jeanne D. is still in control? Do they both have control? Do they communicate?

Cartoon 688

Caption: Anon.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

New Beginning 767

I knew what I was getting into. At least, I knew what it was supposed to be; several people had told me, and plainly they believed what they said. But equally plainly they had never gone inside to see for themselves.

The building over the stairhead, with its white clapboard walls and open door, certainly didn’t look like an entrance to Hell. They told me the look would change quickly enough once I was inside.

“Will the door close behind me?” I asked. “Have you ever seen it shut?’ They couldn’t or wouldn’t answer me. I was tired of them, their habits and their fears. I set my hand against the wide white door. It didn’t stir. I put my foot on the threshold. Still no movement. I stepped through, balancing on my toes, ready to leap back if the door showed signs of slamming. It didn’t move. Looking back through it, I saw an empty field; they had left me to my folly, or I had left them to theirs, whichever way you cared to think of it.

I inched my way down the long hallway toward the only door, which was at the far end. If this was truly the way into Hell, there was still no sign of it. No screaming, no smoke . . . heck, it wasn't even hot.

Finally reaching the door, I pulled it open, ever so slowly, as if--despite my skepticism--I feared a backdraft from the lake of fire would blow it off its hinges. Inside was a desk behind which sat a horrible horned demon. His skin was red, his eyes glowed, his feet--cloven hooves--were crossed on top of his desk as he leaned back reading a copy of O magazine.

"Are you . . . him?" I asked.

"Him?" he said. "Oh, you mean . . . No, no, I'm just the receptionist. He's in there." He pointed to an iron door twice my height. "Go right in; he's expecting you."

I'd come this far, and who knew if turning back was even an option? The door opened with a screech and I entered. I spoke immediately, before I could lose my courage: "Greetings, EE. Her Love Slave is a 60,000-word romance about a . . . "

Opening: Joanna Hoyt.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Cartoon 687

Caption: Anon.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Face-Lift 796

Guess the Plot

The Mapmaker of Merivale

1. Jealous over his cousin Giochino's success with the 'Barber of Seville', Lorenzo Rossini tries to create a competing opera. Threatened with murder after a disastrous opening night, he wonders why he listened to that drunk cat singing outside his window.

2. He gets up around seven, has a piece of toast and then gets into the office by nine, where he drafts in the morning and inks after lunch. Oh, and there's a one-eyed unicorn pirate, but that's not really as interesting.

3. Glenda is a human girl living in the final days of planet Earth as the continents crumble one by one into the black seas. Be-mot is planet Merivale's finest mapmaker, born with the ability to draw landforms which become reality. A wish on a shooting star opens the portal between their worlds. Only Glenda can rescue Be-mot from slavery. Only Be-Mot can rescue the Earth from oblivion.

4. Being a teenager is rough enough, but being a teenager when the Spanish Inquisition is hunting you down is the pits. Mathias boards a ship to make his escape, and lands on the continent Merivale, where he becomes a mapmaker. Can Mathias justify the people's faith in him by completing an accurate map?

5. Every sixth-grader at Merivale Elementary has to make a map to scale, and Scott thinks, why not map the school? But his tape measure reveals an unexplained space between two classrooms. Curiosity leads him to a coven of math teachers and a plot too horrible to imagine.

6. Antonio makes the most beautiful maps in existence. Problem is, he never leaves Merivale, so his maps are highly inaccurate. People who do leave Merivale with one of Antonio's maps seldom return. Can the mayor convince him to become a fantasy artist before the population dwindles to one?

Original Version

Dear Agent-I’ve-researched-extensively,

During the early 16th century in Spain, when maps still showed sea monsters swimming in the seven seas and suggested ships would fall off the edge of a flat world, Mathias Pellanore is eighteen and wants three things: to learn how to swim [(necessary if he falls off his boat)], a sense of direction [(necessary to navigate his boat)] and [...] his own boat (necessary for impressing senoritas). [The Spanish still thought ships could fall off the edge of the world in the 16th century, even though Columbus didn't in the 15th century?]

When the Spanish Inquisition persecutes his magical family, [The Pellanores were the Blackstones of the 16th century.] Mathias unknowingly sets off a chain of events that kick-starts his own adventure—only it looks nothing like he’s ever dreamed. For one thing, he’s running for his life and as for the other—his family didn’t make it out of Spain alive and it was entirely his fault. Now he hears the rescue ship he’s on is taking him to Merivale, [Anagram: Evil Realm.] a continent he’s never heard of or seen on a map.

To make matters more confusing, Mathias learns he does have family in Merivale. Only, he can’t meet them since they’ve been dead for 103 years. [Are they vampires? Or are they zombies? It's crucial that we know which.] Mathias’ bright idea is to offer his services as a mapmaker (despite never knowing what direction North is) to learn more about Merivale and his hidden ancestry, all while coping with the guilt and grief over the loss of his family. [Wouldn't it be easier to be a librarian or a historian? Is he mapping the whole continent?]

As the people of Merivale await his return, Mathias wonders if he’ll be worthy enough to finish the quest he signed up for. [Doesn't matter if he finishes. Magellan attacked a tribe in the Philippines because their chief refused to pay him tribute, and got killed. What an idiot. And yet we still remember him as the first to make it around the world, while forgetting about the few members of his crew who actually did make it.] [It suddenly occurs to me that Neil Armstrong may not have been the first man to set foot on the moon. Maybe he died on the way up and they threw his corpse out the airlock but he still gets all the credit. Of course if he was murdered by Buzz Aldrin, who actually did the first moon walk, I'm okay with it, but if he just died of fright or something . . . ] [Interestingly, more people watched Buzz Aldrin on Dancing with the Stars than watched his moon walk.]

THE MAPMAKER OF MERIVALE is a 76,000 Young Adult Fantasy. Please let me know if you would be interested in reading part or all of the manuscript.

I graduated from the University of Central Florida with degrees in Creative Writing and History. [Specializing in the history of lost continents.] Since then, I’ve worked as a baby/house/dog sitter, [Your book isn't quite right for my list, but if you're available, I might be able to use you next time I go on vacation.] a high school soccer coach and as an editorial assistant at a regional Florida magazine where I’ve published articles.

Thank you for your consideration.



Your backstory about running from the Inquisition sounds more exciting than your main plot line, which is making a map. He wonders if he'll be worthy enough to finish his quest is your boffo grabber? His quest is to make a map. You need to convince us mapping Merivale is dangerous and thrilling.

You might consider dropping the first paragraph and the credits, leaving you with plenty of room to tell us about Mathias's adventure. I assume lots of exciting stuff happens as he makes his map. I assume he doesn't just travel around measuring rivers and asking villagers about his ancestors. If that's the whole plot, I suggest you have him sail off the edge of the world.

Cartoon 686

Caption: Anon.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Success Story

John reports that his short story, "Whole Lada Love," tied for first place in the Foreign Service Journal's annual fiction contest. The FSJ is the magazine of the professional association of the U.S. foreign service.

Here's a link to the page where the story starts: Whole Lada Love. You can fiddle with the page number gizmo at the top to read to the end.

John's query for The Crane's Beak appeared here recently.

New Beginning 766

“Can I help you, mother?” I asked the old woman coming out of the department store.

“Thank you, dear girl,” she warbled from behind the stack of purchases. She was bent forward with age and backward with the weight of her cargo, turning her into a wobbly Z-shape in a shawl. I snatched off the top few packages and slung them under one arm. This revealed me in her field of vision, and she glowered, clearly thinking she’d been tricked into accepting my help. Which she had.

Rojo didn’t have anything for us today, and Cardo and I wanted to eat, so we were trying to go Smooth for the afternoon. We’d both bathed and I’d put on the cleaner of my two dresses, and Cardo had found a half-glove to hide the T branded on the back of his right hand, not that the glove was fooling anybody.

I smiled my sweetest smile and scooped a few more packages under my other arm, hoping that her old-fashioned etiquette would triumph and she’d give me a tip no matter who I was.

We wandered down the block, finally turning down a narrow alley. The woman pulled her key from a pocket and let us into a dark room. As I set down her packages and waited for my tip I heard a ferocious growling behind me. I turned to see a huge werewolf, its fangs dripping saliva.

"Here's a tip," said the old woman. "Don't follow strangers home. Don't you know how expensive pet food is these days?"

Opening: Ellie.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

Cartoon 685

Caption: Anon.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Face-Lift 795

Guess the Plot

Love Like the French

1. Hot sticky buns dripping with white sauce from a well packed sausage amidst the moans of “ooooh”, “ahhhh”, and “oo la la”; the smells and sound of Rococo delight permeating throughout the entire hall. Nobody knows food love like the French!

2. Celie La Belle has sold millions of books about her life in a little French town. But when a disgruntled ex decides to expose her as Sherry Brewster of Dayton, well, c'est la merde.

3. Dana is obsessed with romance, foreign movies, and Paris. When she gets a shot at studying abroad, she's determined to fall in love - but quickly discovers none of the French boys has any idea what a proper courtship should look like.

4. Cate's life is perfectly sensible compared with the French, who are all wack-jobs. But when she falls for the hunky Monsieur Brousseau, she learns there's a lot about the French she didn't know--like the real reason French women don't get fat.

5. Jean-Claude and Henri are both in love with Isabelle but she burns with love for Anne-Marie who is enamored of Laurent. When Isabelle organizes a surprise party for the friends, alcohol and swimming lead to tragedy and all of their lives are changed. Especially Henri because he's dead.

6. Klutzy Francophile Sally Merton has the best of all worlds until a witch puts a mix-up curse on her. Now she's eating like the English, loving like the Germans, and dressing like the Russians. Kill me now, she thinks.

Original Version

Dear Mr. / Ms. Agent,

Cate has been wearing her G-string back-to-front all day. She hasn’t felt especially uncomfortable. [You wanna know uncomfortable? I once wore my shoes front to back all day.] No more than usual anyway. But she’s had a lot on her mind lately.

It’s not just that her husband is dead. That happened two years ago. It’s mostly just the day-to-day chaos of her life. This week alone her brown-nosing colleague has been defaming her at work, her flatmate has turned her spare room into some kind of hostel, and of course, there was that sweaty indiscretion with the office mail-clerk… [We don't need to know that Cate isn't any more uncomfortable than usual, or that her husband being dead isn't what's mostly been on her mind. That's wasted space. Combine the first two paragraphs into something like:

Cate has been wearing her G-string back-to-front all day. Forgive her; she’s had a lot on her mind lately. This week alone her brown-nosing colleague has been defaming her at work, her flatmate has turned her spare room into some kind of hostel, and of course, there was that sweaty indiscretion with the office mail-clerk…

All that leaves out is the dead husband, but you tell us she has a dead husband later on.]

If only she’d gone to St. Marc earlier, Cate would have felt much better about things. [What is St Marc? A spa? A bed and breakfast? Google thinks it's a city in Haiti. Also various churches, cafes, etc. If you go to later Google pages you can find St. Marc la Blanc, St. Marc sur Mer, etc. If we know what St. Marc is, we might have some idea why going there earlier would have made her feel better about things, but that's such a vague statement, it probably wouldn't matter.] Because the French are truly nutty. In comparison, her life is downright sensible and orderly. [I'm pretty much lost. You're saying Cate would feel better about the chaos in her life if she had discovered earlier that the French are nutty?] But when a steamy affair begins with the dreamy Jerome Brousseau, Cate embraces the joys of Gallic lunacy, and learns the real reason French women don’t get fat.

Cate has a secret though, and it is a doozy. That burny feeling in her sternum is not indigestion, it is guilt. And it is something to do with her dead husband. When the residents of St. Marc find out what Cate is hiding, they begin to wonder if the British are, in fact, the crazy ones. [You might have mentioned earlier that Cate is British.]

My women’s fiction manuscript Love Like the French (85,000 words) plays upon the amusing disparity between the French and the English, when it comes to passion, fidelity and love.

I am an Arts graduate, freelance journalist and blogger in Melbourne, Australia ( I am currently working on my second novel.

Thank you for considering Love Like the French. The full manuscript is available on request.



What, exactly, specifically, in detail, is Cate hiding? It seems to be the whole crux of your story, assuming you have one. It's what the query should be built around. And you keep it secret?

Is Cate now living in St. Marc? Is she there on vacation?

Here's your plot as far as I can tell: British woman with chaotic life goes to St. Marc, gets romantically involved with sexy French guy, but then her secret secret comes out. And this revelation affects her life in some way. What's the secret, and what happens? You need to have a story, not just a character.

We don't need to know you're a blogger. Everyone's a blogger.

Cartoon 684

Caption: John

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Friday, July 09, 2010

Face-Lift 794

Guess the Plot

Eduardo's Parakeets

1. Eduardo has been with the circus for years; his love of parakeets enables them to perform the most amazing tricks. When his great aunt buys the circus and shuts it down, he runs away with his beloved birds. Also, a street-smart crow.

2. Ever since he discovered that the Aborigine name for parakeet meant ‘tasty snack’, Eduardo’s restaurant was the hottest place in town, with its new French ‘mini pigeon’ dish. However, the parakeets are going to teach him why ‘tasty snack’ is not the main course.

3. Since losing his brother three years ago, seventeen year old Eduardo relies on his parakeets for companionship. But when he meets Suzie, a spunky girl diagnosed with cancer who refuses to allow her fear of dying to run her life, Eduardo realizes that there's more to living than just remembering the dead.

4. When Eduardo Sanchez is murdered the Miami Police can't find a single clue, leaving his young niece Anna with nightmares about his killer being on the loose. Anna inherits Lulu and Bob, Eduardo's parakeets. Soon Lulu and Bob, the only witnesses to the crime, are helping Anna become the sleuth the PD need to put away a cold-blooded killer.

5. In the daytime Eduardo's parakeets chirp and flutter in their cages. At night, though, the little blue and green birds begin to talk. Now Papa is dead, Hortencia is missing, and Zack Martinez is on the case. And he knows his daughter can kiss any hope of having parakeets goodbye.

6. When ornithologist Derek Sarastro decodes some parakeets' warblings, he finds their song reveals secrets of a former Auschwitz guard living in South America. Sarastro threatens to sell the story to the tabloids, but Germany threatens to withhold Bolivia's IMF funding if the story comes out. Parakeet breeder Eduardo is in the ICU and unavailable for comment.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Ann Haibel[1], Holocaust chronicler Nathan Vogelmann's[2] editor, is stunned to discover Nathan may have had an affair with an Auschwitz[A] guard[3].

Nathan collapsed when he heard one of Eduardo's[4] Parakeets warble a song in German. The song unlocks Nathan's past as an undercover agent in Buenos Aires[B] in 1944, and evidence of an affair with escaped guard, Edalina Haselbeck[5].

The parakeets are supposedly bred by the shadowy "Eduardo" in Bolivia[C], but only Edalina could have encoded the song. Ann's conscience won't let her hide Nathan's secret. She can't expose him, though, without knowing the truth. Nathan is in the ICU. Ann can't press him.

Ornithologist Derek Sarastro's[6] futile searches for Eduardo have landed him in hock with a loan shark[7]. He unscrambles the song and threatens to sell Nathan's past to the tabloids. While Ann parries with Sarastro, Bolivian government official Hector Merino[8] arrives.

This is 1991, and reunited Germany[D] doesn't want its Nazi past sullying its new image. Berlin warns La Paz it will withhold IMF funding if La Paz doesn't bury all traces of Edalina. Merino assumes Ann will keep quiet to protect Nathan, but he must silence Sarastro.

Ann won't countenance bloodshed, and she has to know the truth. She demands Merino take her and Sarastro to the nesting grounds[E], where she will confront Edalina. If Merino refuses, Ann will blow the story apart--Nathan, Germany, and Bolivia be damned.

Merino relents. In Bolivia, the nesting grounds glimmer deep, deep in the jungle. Merino carries weapons.

My novel, Eduardo's Parakeets, is complete at 97,000 words. You can read the first five pages at ___________________________.

¿Está usted interesado? [Hey, how come my keyboard doesn't have an upside-down question mark?]

Gracias por usted tiempo y consideración.


It's a bit complex for the minions, so I've provided a key:

1 2's Editor, demands 8 take her and 6 to E to confront 5
2 Holocaust chronicler, former undercover agent in B, currently in ICU.
3 Worked in A, had affair with 2 in B, now in E
4 Breeds parakeets in C. Somehow got name in book's title even though he does nothing. Shadowy.
5 Former guard at A, now in C (same person as #3, presumably), taught parakeets coded song?
6 Ornithlologist, can't find Eduardo, can translate parakeet warblings, needs money to pay back 7, so threatens to sell translated warblings to tabloids
7 Lent money to 6
8 Government official in C, assumes 1 will protect 2, but must silence 6
A Concentration camp in D, former employer of 3
B Site of affair between 2, 3
C Site of E, D's lackey
D Image-conscious, warns C to bury all traces of 5
E Deep in jungle, glimmering

The song unlocks Nathan's past as an undercover agent in Buenos Aires in 1944, and evidence of an affair with escaped guard, Edalina Haselbeck. That's a lot of stuff to be locked in a parakeet's song. Why was it locked there? As parakeets live 15 to 18 years, there's got to be a more permanent way to preserve the info than training a bird to sing it in code. Writing it down and putting it in a safe deposit box, for instance. Or at least use a parrot. What if the bird decides he'd rather sing a different song after a few weeks? What if the bird dies of jungle rot next week?

I'm no ornithologist, but if I hear a parakeet singing a song that sounds different from other parakeet songs, my first inclination isn't going to be to try to translate it into German or Spanish. What made the ornithologist decide the parakeets' song had a message in it?

This is mostly a list of stuff that happens in your book. Start over, and limit yourself to ten sentences and three characters. Focus on the main character. What does this person want, what's standing in the way of getting it, what's the plan, what's at stake if he/she fails? Answer these questions while maintaining a logical flow, one event leading to another.