Thursday, September 30, 2010

New Beginning 788

"Alex, it's time for dinner."

"In a minute, mom. I want to see the parade."

"It's not a parade, Alex, as I've told you before, it's a funeral procession. They go by your window nearly every day, do you have to watch every one?"

Alexander's second story bedroom faced the Dead Road, the dirt path from town center to the necropolis. Long, loud processions passed his window every day, and Alexander did not understand them.

His parents told him; he was from Earth, these people were different. He could see that. They said; he was only eleven, lots of time to understand things. Maybe.

The grievers went first, crying and wailing and catching their tears in little vases. Then came the musicians, playing on pipes, horns, stringed instruments, and drums. After them came the liturgists, reading from holy books and making sermons out of the passages. Then came the family and friends. Last came the problem.

The body and spirit. That wasn't a metaphor. For some reason, on this planet, the spirit was visible and it stayed with the body. With the spirit were the spirit tamers, which is to say thugs of the religion, carrying magic-imbued chains with which they whipped the spirit of the dead.

"Come on, Alex!" His mother appeared behind him, urging him to dinner.

"But Mom!" he whined. "It's the bodies."
They could both see through the window the wagons carrying the distended, gray corpses, each with a twisted, writhing spirit floating above.

Mom turned away and headed back to the kitchen. Why had they moved to this God-forsaken planet, and why had she believed the realtor who told her this was the quietest road in town?

She opened the liquor cabinet and stared inside. She had some spirits of her own to tame.

Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 742

Caption: Anon.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Face-Lift 827

Guess the Plot


1. After forty-nine years of beak-nosed mayhem in the pages of Mad Magazine, the "Spy Vs. Spy" rivalry ends in a bloody total victory... but for which Spy?

2. Hillbilly boy genius Buddy Boone and his sidekick Howie find a pigeon behind the shed. The bird has a computer chip tied to its leg. Buddy hacks the chip using a decoder app on his iPhone and discovers a plot to wipe out mankind and turn the world over to a dog and some monkeys! What faceless fiend is behind this scheme? The boys must go undercover and snoop around until they find out!

3. He's got the gadgets, the black leather bag full of unmarked hundreds, the fake passports--and no memory of whose side he's on . . . except for a faint recollection of a woman wearing jasmine perfume.

4. Ferris Samson runs a counter-intelligence unit in Southern California. After his best operative turns up dead, a parcel arrives containing a children's picture book. Can he find the clues in the images before something BAD happens?

5. The newest member of the spy ring known as Spies Serving Society is also the only adult in the ring. Not only that, he's Black Dragon: the world's greatest spy. But before he even has time to settle in, Black Dragon is captured. Should the SSS try to rescue him? Do they really want to hang out with a big person?

6. When Finnegan is assigned the dangerous task of infiltrating the mob, he knows that one wrong move means he'll be sleeping with the fishes. So when the Don drops in unexpectedly and Finnegan is dining on Fettuccini Alfredo, he must think fast. Luckily he has a jar of Emeril's Kicked-up Tomato sauce in the pantry.

Original Version

Dear Editor,

When the spy ring known as Spies Serving Society gain a new member, they are surprised to find that he is not only the first adult in their small group, but also the infamous Black Dragon, the best stealth master in the business. At first delighted, they soon become worried when their base comes under attack. [Their base? Oh, you mean their clubhouse. Is their clubhouse in a tree?] [When you're under attack, you usually have a stronger reaction than becoming worried. You usually have to fight off the attackers.] Dragon explains that his former leader, General Ursa, did not want him to leave her ring, and the SSS agree to help him, despite their misgivings. [The world's greatest spy becomes a free agent and decides to join a spy ring that's all kids? Would James Bond leave MI-6 to join the Baker Street Irregulars? Hypothetically; I realize he couldn't, because the Baker Street Irregulars are fictional.]

But when Dragon is captured by the nefarious General Ursa, [He's the best stealth master in the business and he's captured five minutes after he gets there?] the SSS's loyalty is put to the test. [Loyalty to a guy who just got there and who immediately brought their base under attack?] [Side note: Black Dragon sounds like the worst stealth master in the business.] They can rescue him – risking imprisonment or death – or leave him to his fate. [Tough choice. Imprisonment and death or . . . nothing.] The choice is theirs, but it may not be as simple as they think, thanks to a traitor in their midst.

At 60,000 words, Spy is a futuristic adventure novel for mid- to late teens.

Thank you for considering my work.



The only characters who get named are the villain and the superspy who gets captured minutes after joining the SSS. Is there a main character (for instance, the leader of the SSS) you can focus on, or does everyone in the SSS get equal billing?

An actual spy ring with no adults sounds like it would be an easier sell to a middle grade audience.

You have room on the page for another two or three sentences of plot. Something about what happens after Black Dragon is captured. Maybe something about who the SSS spies on and spies for. Spy rings usually serve a country or a big organization. In what way do these spies serve society?

Cartoon 741

Caption: arhooley

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Face-Lift 826

Guess the Plot

Hypes: The Last Legacy

1. 30 years after the apocalypse, the small town of Hypes, Arkansas has a treasure the whole Disunited States would like to get its hands on: the last functioning Subaru.

2. Karen Hypes uses her cover as babysitter to the stars to smuggle information between the US and its secretly funded armies in Third World countries. Then her boyfriend Wendell discovers she's a spy and threatens to blow the whistle. Can she convince him to let her finish her most important mission?

3. The psychic teenagers attending a "gifted and talented" program at their local high school think they're being trained to catch terrorists. In fact, they're about to launch the most elaborate product placement campaign in history--beaming beverage advertisements directly into their friends' minds. Can one girl slip her hunky handler and expose the truth about Hypes Soda?

4. Fourteen year old Cassie hates her life: she lives in Alabama; the guys at school ignore her; and her mom's a beauty queen. Sent to retrieve the Christmas lights from the attic, she stumbles on a strange box that glows. Opening it reveals a tiny man who tells her she's the princess of Faerie. Adventure ensues.

5. Cobalt the Lightning Lawman has just been promoted to team leader of a group of superheroes who spend more time bickering with each other than fighting villains. Can Cobalt mold these misfits into a cohesive team in time to prevent the latest evil overlord from conquering the world?

6. In a world where sorcerers have all the power, Khor, the lone descendant of an ancient king, secretly gathers an army in hopes of bringing sanity back to the land. But can his men storm the castle without being turned into newts?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor;

In a world full of superheroes, Nick Lawton is a rising star. [He's known as Elevator Man.] As Cobalt, the 'Lightning Lawman', he's built his reputation by defeating supervillains, rescuing imperiled citizens, and protecting his city from natural disasters. He's even getting endorsement deals, and when Cobalt action figures-- complete with 'realistic sparking action'-- hit toy store shelves, Nick knows he's made it to the big leagues. Not bad for a guy who just turned 18.

A surprise promotion to team leader means that Nick has to mentor rookie hero Alexa Franklyn. She's stubborn, impetuous, beautiful, and, worst of all, more powerful than him. He's also been saddled with a rival crimefighter who's disgruntled about being made second-in-command, two bickering junior sidekicks, and a pushy public relations manager who insists on televising their every move.

Nick's got to turn this collection of misfits into a team that'll battle the forces of evil, instead of each other. He also has to deal with his growing attraction to Alexa, who might just have the same feelings-- for his rival.

Nick has to figure it all out fast, because Alexa is being stalked by a sinister mastermind with plans of his own for her. World-conquering plans, of course. With a high-tech private army at his disposal, the [this] fiend isn't about to see [let] his schemes [be] thwarted by some [a] bunch of reality-show heroes. But if there's one thing the Lightning Lawman is good at, it's giving supervillains a shock.

HYPES: THE LAST LEGACY is a YA science fiction novel, complete at 90,000 words. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.



Sounds entertaining. The title sucks. In the first place it sounds too serious, and in the second we don't know what the word "Hypes" means here, or what is meant by last legacy. If the team has a cool or funny name you could give the book the same name.

I'd call it a superhero novel instead of science fiction. I think there are enough of them around now (including Devil's Cape, which was a Book Chat book last year, and was enjoyed by all of us.) that it's a genre.

Are all the heroes on the team teens? I'm not sure I'd call it YA if there are only a couple teens, even if the main character is one of them.

Instead of calling the team's members a crimefighter, junior sidekicks, rookie hero, you might want to identify them by their powers or their hero names. Same with the villain. What's his name, what's his power? It doesn't feel like a world full of superheroes otherwise.

Cartoon 740

Caption: Anon.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

New Beginning 787

In retrospect, Thomas Kidd decided, they shouldn't have followed the ghost to the strip club.

They'd been tracking Aubrey Littleton for just under a week. In life the guy had been a real-estate developer, not a master criminal, so he made the classic fugitive mistake of contacting family members. He had called his daughter, which Kidd learned by stealing her cellphone from a gym locker, dumping the 'recent calls' list, and returning it before she'd finished Pilates.

The list showed a fourteen minute call from a payphone. Littleton probably thought that was clever, but it was actually pretty stupid. In the twenty-first century, when everybody walked around with a phone in their pocket, payphones had become as rare as pinball machines. And, like pinball, they'd somehow become objects of nostalgia. There were websites where people listed the numbers and locations of the few remaining public telephones, appended with little notes about them ('lots of graffiti'; 'classic aluminum booth'; 'handset smells like piss'). Maybe they even had annual conventions.

Kidd thought it was silly and a little sad, but the sites were occasionally useful. An aficionado named 'Crunchwhistle 2600' had pinpointed Littleton's payphone ('coin-return lever broken') to a gas station in Kent, a small town about sixty miles north of New York City. The phone was within walking distance of a motel, where two twenty dollar bills bought them Littleton's room number and the license plate of the car he was using. The car wasn't there, but the counter clerk, still happy from his $40 windfall, told them that Littleton frequented a titty bar down the road in Mahopac, the next town over. And that's where the trouble began.

Now, it shouldn't be hard to find a titty bar in a place the size of Mahopec. You just drive down the main drag until you spot a place that's open at night and has a parking lot full of semi-trucks and cop cars. But Kidd was that rare male who refused to use his instincts and intuition for directions; he wanted a road map. Trouble was, in the twenty-first century, when everyone drove around with a GPS in their car, road maps had become as rare as video cassettes. But as luck would have it, there were websites where people listed the numbers and locations of the few remaining gas stations that stocked road maps, along with the usual notes ('bathroom smells like an outhouse'; 'still carries Pixi Stix'; 'condom machine broken').

MapGeek2006 had pinpointed an Exxon station that still had road maps and still had its Esso sign. Kidd made his way there, but all they had were maps of West Virginia and Ohio. The owner said there was no demand for road maps of the local area because the only people who stopped at the station were locals and they already knew their way around, but some of them had family in West Virginia and Ohio, so they would buy maps when they were going visiting. Anyway, Kidd bought himself some Pixi Stix and walked out, and that's when they met the ghost, who said he'd lead them to the titty bar, the one where, as I mentioned, the trouble began.

Opening: Sean McCluskey.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Cartoon 739

Caption: Marissa Doyle

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Feature 6

Too much work to re-post the books here, so you'll have to go to the Hannah Rogers Literary Agency site and click on "Our Books." Sorry I couldn't use everything that came in, but some people didn't include descriptions, some were hard to find graphics for, and cover design proved too time-consuming. Possibly some that weren't used will be added to the page in the future. Here are the credits for the titles that were used, in the order they appear at the HRLA site:

1. AA
2. LSimon
3. fairyhedgehog
4. Dave F.
5. Polenth
6. Rachel
7. Whirlochre

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

New Beginning 786

The crew sat on Harlan Wither’s porch rocking in faded white chairs, the season of a long hot day, damp in the pits of their shirts, dotted in beads on their foreheads. Cyrus McIntyre, one of Harlan’s two best friends, sunburned and plump like a Christmas pig suited in light blue seer sucker, tipped back his glass of lemonade—a libation freshly squeezed by Harlan’s new woman, not the old ball and chain who, god forgive Uncle Harlan, finally upped and died, but the cute little kitten, Jolene Johnson, thirty years Harlan’s junior. The whole bunch sat and rocked and passed the time drinking sweet cold lemonade, but Cyrus’ glass packed a particular punch that evening, having a “dribble or two” of corn squeezin’s from his flask.

“I must say,” Cyrus drew out all of his words, long and slow, as if his mouth were a pen and his audience the paper. “That sweet, little filly of yours sure knows how to make a fine lemonade.”

Harlan, arms crossed against his chest, tipped his head in a languid manner, one long low drop to acknowledge that he agreed tonight’s lemonade was particularly tasty, cool, and refreshing. Uncle Harlan was more a man of ears, than words. Usually for him there wasn’t much to say, so there wasn’t much point in sayin’ it.

Ol' Ben, Harlan's other best friend, happened to have turned ninety-nine last Sunday, an occasion he celebrated by learnin' a new word (a tradition he started when he was twelve years old and the only word he knew was sugar tittie, 'cus his Momma was still, well you know). Ol' Ben said, "Yep, not too tart," then paused ten minutes to catch his breath and added, "not too sweet."

Harlan's pupils dilated a millimeter, confirming that he agreed with Ol' Ben's assessment.

On the other side of the county, an army of space aliens were disembarking from their ship with ray guns. But the crew didn't know nothin' 'bout that, and if they did, they wouldnta cared. Cyrus said, slow like a tree growin', "Nope, not too sweet."

Opening: Angela Robbins.....Continuation: anon./EE

The Hannah Rogers Literary Agency . . .

. . . needs a few books. Hannah has noticed that other literary agencies' web sites include pages called "Our Books," or "Latest Releases." She's thinking the better writers send their manuscripts to agencies that have these pages. She's thinking when she goes to these pages on other agencies' web sites, she's never heard of any of the books or authors, so they're probably all made up. Her staff members Chelsea and Gollum are busy, so she needs you to come up with some titles and two- or three-sentence descriptions of books. And she needs them by Sunday at 10 AM.

Cartoon 738

Caption: Paul Penna

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Beginning 785

Considering all the obnoxious byproducts of humankind in the last millennia, you'd think the worst of them would have been discarded centuries ago. I glared at the tin in my hand, stamped on both sides with the legend 'Spam'.

I sighed and tossed the ration can to Tetze, who caught it with his deft mouth tentacles. Sometimes I envy his flexible digits, both the number of clusters he has on his face, head and limbs, and the speed with which he can employ them; although his skin resembling upchucked sperm rat...not so much.

He kicked my ass in basic during the offensive hand-to-hand module with just his face clusters. A couple duties later some wet end recruit irritated him; he heaved a power lifter over his head, all two tons of it, and threw it at the guy.

You could say I respect him.

I know it's a good thing we salvaged the ration stores and field gear from the wreckage of our escape craft, but every night around chow time it pisses me off again. I hate Spam. I snapped the portable field stove open, and set it on my footlocker.

"Only two cans left," my bunkmate Rrrril hissed through his beak as we all sat down to eat.

"Don't worry," grunted Tetze. "Are other options."

I paused mid-bite. Around the circle everyone was intent on their food: super fast Qzetl with his elongated legs, telepathic supergenius Gini with her over sized brain, Rrrril with his wings perfect for aerial surveillance, and then the mighty Tetze, casting a rapacious eyestalk at plain old vanilla human me.

"Think I'll go check out the crash site again," I said. "There may be a few more cases of Spam we missed."

Opening: S. Smart.....Continuation: Sarah from Hawthorne

Cartoon 737

Caption: Anon.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Face-Lift 825

Guess the Plot


1. He was a lumberjack with a lisp, trapped in the woodth with a killer. And he had only one weapon to defend himself.

2. Audrey froze when her mother died, but then she meets Ben and melts. Ben thinks it's a match made in heaven--until law-enforcing angels descend and try to kill him.

3. When an alluring door-to-door saleswoman cuts Tom Kremenchi a deal, he spends $500 on frozen steaks. But when Tom’s freezer conks out and he’s left with 100 pounds of thawing meat, he makes a grisly discovery. The packages contain human flesh. And now Tom’s on the meat hook… for murder.

4. 2012. The glaciers have melted, freeing bacteria frozen since the last Ice Age. Only Dr. Laura Griffith and her team can stop ancient diseases from "plaguing" humanity. But will Big Pharma prevent them from giving away their life-saving discovery?

5. Global warming is a disaster-- for everyone except the happy hamlet of Fugenfroozen in Greenland. They are excited about finally opening their fancy new beach resort. But the people of Aruba aren't happy about their tourists going away. Will Fugenfroozen survive the war after the . . . Thaw?

6. The mysterious Freeze of 2050 drove human beings underground for decades. Now the temperatures are rising again, and people are poking their heads above ground. The "mystery" is now explained -- and mankind's new overlords await.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Audrey Scott thought that after a car wreck claimed her mother’s life, the grief would keep her frozen forever. Her life became nothing but a series of blurry images, masking emotions too severe to expose.

Life threatens to get worse when a bank robber shoots her friend and then turns the gun on her. [Life isn't threatening to get worse, it's already gotten worse. It's threatening to end.] This near death experience puts the illusive Ben Tyler right in the middle of everything- and Audrey begins to melt. ["Everything" is vague. Does Ben show up before the guy pulls the trigger, and save Audrey's life? Does the robber spare Audrey and Ben shows up later?] [What does "melt" mean? That she stops grieving for her mother? That the blurry images her life had become clear up? That she falls for hunky Ben?]

What is it about Ben that changes Audrey so deeply? [I'm all for a quiz to test whether we've been paying attention, but unless the quiz comes at the end of the query, I think it should be multiple choice. Something like:
He's only half human.
He's her guardian angel.
c. He's a reformed serial killer.
d. He's a pimp with a heart of gold.
e. He's Morgan Freeman.]

He’s a Nephalim: Half Fallen Angel, Half Human. And when Ben reveals this to Audrey, [she says, "Look pal, if you wanna get into my pants, at least come up with a line that's semi-believable.] he inadvertently places them in a conflict as old as time. [Now that's old.] Law enforcing Angels descend, desperate to keep their immense secret, [What secret?] while opportunistic Fallen rise to recruit Ben at all costs. [Recruit him to do what?]

Will Ben be able to survive the Angels, [Survive? They're trying to kill him?] run from the Fallen, protect Audrey, [From what?] and discover what side he's truly fighting for?

Thaw: The Warming of Audrey Scott, [The subtitle doesn't thrill me. Are you worried readers need it to understand why it's called Thaw?] is my completed 37,000 word Young Adult novel. Told from both Audrey and Ben’s point of view, Thaw gives you personal insight into their battle for love and truth, and will interest fans of Stephenie Meyer and Maggie Steifvater. [I before E except after C. It's never good to cite an author while spelling her name wrong. I know the correct spelling because Ms. Stiefvater is an Evil Minion.] [You know you've made it when writers think dropping your name will help get them a contract.] [I wonder if anyone's ever submitted a query claiming their book would appeal to fans of Evil Editor.] I have worked personally with children and teens for the last 7 years, during which I interned with a Youth Ministry, writing various manuals and worksheets for them. At the moment I maintain a technical writing job at [for] a construction news report.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration, and I look forward to your reply.



Does Audrey do anything besides freeze and thaw? Is she useful in fighting angel cops?

Is there a romantic angle? How old are Audrey and Ben?

If you're more specific it'll be more clear. And the four-part question at the end of the plot is a waste of space. Find a better wrap-up.

Cartoon 736

Caption: Evil Editor

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Face-Lift 824

Guess the Plot


1. Josh examines the foibles and challenges of life via the metaphor of surfing, analogizing the ebb and flow of the waves to the internal struggles we all experience within, like totally.

2. "Romantic walks on moonlit beaches," says his personal ad. But who -- or what -- is he? Night after night, he magically melts into the sand and drags his date into the surf! He's the evil super villain known as . . . Undertow.

3. When you've been sent to an island reform school, and you wake up to discover everyone's been kidnapped except you and Logan, it's a bit disconcerting, until you realize Logan is hot hot hot. But then you realize you're the daughter of the American president, so the kidnappers will probably come back for you, but if you try to swim away, you're sure to get caught in the undertow and drown. Maybe if you lock yourself in the janitor's closet with Logan you'll be safe.

4. 17-year-old ocean lifeguard Kortney has Red Cross WSI certification, a stellar employment record, and a terrible secret. She's a vampire. And when a group of foster children on an outing gets caught in a rip tide, she has to make a difficult choice.

5. Newlyweds Spencer and Emily Harris embark on their honeymoon-- a trek across the US in their RV. When they get a flat in the New Mexico desert, a mysterious tow truck driver comes to their rescue, pulling them into a seemingly inescapable horror. Maybe they should have taken that left at Albuquerque.

6. In a flooded dystopian future, the roughnecks of Undertow Inc. eke out a living salvaging the wreckage of Earth's industrial past. But when a routine job uncovers a terrifying secret, the blue-collar submariners find themselves in the middle of a conflict between ruthless pirates and mysterious government agents, over a prize that defies imagination.

Original Version

Dear EE,

Seventeen-year-old Kat has all the attention in the world, except her father's. Maybe that's why she pushed someone through a window, why she's shipped off to some elite island reform school. It hardly seems fair, but then a slap on the wrist just won't do for the President's daughter. [It won't do because the people will assume she's getting preferential treatment. But it sounds like the people aren't being told what her punishment is. In which case they probably assume she's getting preferential treatment.]

With a new identity and no Secret Service stiffs glued to her side she might finally get a whiff of normality. [I don't see being sent to a school full of delinquents normality.] But nothing's normal when you wake to find everyone's gone, everyone except Logan--the school's hottest property. [The word "property" may not be conveying the idea you want. Try "beefstud."]

Unable to contact the mainland, Kat's drowning in questions over the disappearance as feelings develop for the boy by her side. He's not buying her kick-your-ass exterior, senses she's freaking out. But it might be for good reason.

Kidnappers, responsible for the disappearance, have just worked out who Kat really is. [I don't see how they could work this out.

Kidnapper 1: We've loaded forty kids and teachers in the boat, but I don't think we can squeeze these last two in.

Kidnapper 2: Okay, leave 'em behind. The ransom we get for these forty should set us up for life.


Kidnapper 1: It occurs to me that that girl we left behind was the daughter of the president.

Kidnapper 2: Let's go back and get her. If we're gonna have the FBI after us, we might as well invite the Secret Service and the military to join the party.]
They're coming back for her, and anyone nearby's bound to cop a bullet. [I've heard of copping a plea and copping a feel. I'm not sure how cop works with bullet. Perhaps use "take." Interestingly, "cop" and "take" can each mean "steal," but Logan won't be stealing a bullet.]

If freedom means throwing every scumbag from the highest window, she'll damn well do it. [If the kidnappers have the numbers and/or weapons needed to abduct everyone in the school, how is a seventeen-year-old girl going to handle them?] If she doesn't, Logan's dead, she'll be caught, and Daddy Dearest might just have to release every terrorist in US custody. [What makes her think the kidnappers are interested in getting terrorists released? If I discovered everyone in my school had vanished, I'd be thinking X-Files or practical joke. Not mass kidnapping with the kidnappers planning to return for me.] And that's the problem. If the choice is country or child, Kat's not sure she'll survive.

UNDERTOW is a young-adult mystery complete at 70,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.



If the kidnappers actually want to release terrorists, you'd think their goal would be to get the president's daughter, not everyone except her. You'd think they would be targeting this school because they know the president's daughter is there, and that they would know what she looks like.

I would pluralize both uses of "disappearance."

If everyone disappeared except me, and I decided they were kidnapped, I would assume I wasn't wanted. I wouldn't assume I was left behind as an oversight and they were coming back for me.

Hard to believe there aren't any cell phones available. As everyone was probably asleep when the abductions occurred, making sure no one leaves behind a phone would have been next to impossible. I can't believe the president's daughter would be sent to a place where she couldn't phone home.

Cartoon 735

Caption: Paul Penna

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Face-Lift 823

Guess the Plot

The Green Tower

1. Professional assassin Lianne heads off on vacation, only to have the airship she's on crash. Her investigation leads to a megalomaniac in a green tower who wants to destroy the energy infrastructure of the empire. Looks like her next job will be a freebie; no one ruins her vacation. Also, exploding appliances.

2. A lonely stretch of Michigan highway. A moonless night. A teenager's Ford breaks down. She's uses her cell phone to summon help. Soon flashing yellow lights appear in the darkness. Will all be well, or will she become the next victim of... The Green Tower?

3. Savvy campaign manager Sasha Stevens prides herself on her ability to whip any idiot into a polished political candidate. Until she's approached by stubborn - yet sexy - environmental activist Landon Davis, who wants her to turn him into the next senator of Texas. Can she heat up his image without melting the polar ice caps of her heart?

4. Manny watches every day while people enter and leave the big green glass skyscraper across the street. With no emblem or name anywhere on the building, he's sure it contains an alien breeding farm. He has to get someone to believe him before it's too late. But how can he get these idiot doctors and nurses to listen?

5. Robinette was supposed to be the next Rapunzel. Unfortunately her hair, lovely as it is, simply refuses to grow past the middle of her back. Lucky for Rob she's got a green thumb and a couple potted plants... Also, fertilizer.

6. Belinda is a liberated princess--at least, mentally. As she tries to scheme her way out of her dragon-guarded tower, she realizes she can change the world from where she is. Goodbye, crackling fires and sputtering torches, hello solar panels and fluorescent lighting! This tower's going green!

7.The fae folk of Navga'ron draw their strength and magic from the Green Tower built in the olden times by the ancient Roth. Now the descendants of Roth seek to destroy the tower to retake the magic. The fae folk must find their queen, who was sent into protective exile as an infant. Sure enough, she's in an American high school.

Original Version

Dear Mighty Evil Editor,

Lianne Stracker, professional assassin, needs a holiday. [That's the good thing about being self-employed. You can get away whenever you need to.] But when the airship she’s on crashes near a small mountain town, its engines the victim of magical sabotage, she turns her pleasure cruise into a working vacation.

Her investigations into the causes of the crash [Is everyone who survived the crash conducting their own investigation, or just Lianne?] lead her to an ancient green tower that appears to be the source of the malfunctions, and on to uncover a plot masterminded by a dissident retired researcher. He is intent on destroying her homeland’s energy infrastructure, convinced the entire political system is corrupt and that violence is the only way to force societal change. [She seems to know a lot about this guy's motivation.] [Frankly, I don't care why my TV and microwave don't work, just get the frigging power back on.]

Killing people without payment is generally frowned upon as unprofessional, [That's why you never see the term "professional serial killer."] and besides, perhaps this dissident has a point; Lianne knows first-hand that the Empire she lives in is far from squeaky clean. [For instance, it seems to be crawling with professional assassins.] But with generators failing all over, airfields reduced to ashes and daily appliances exploding [I assume daily appliances are the ones you use every day, as opposed to the food processor and George Foreman grill, which you use twice and then store away in that cabinet no one ever opens.] [You could move "daily" after "exploding," but then you have to worry that people will think there's a blender that explodes every day. Thus I recommend deleting "daily."] in puddles of corrosive ooze, Lianne sees little choice but to write herself a commission for this man. Not only is the killing of innocents and general breakdown of society bad for business, but no one’s getting away with ruining her vacation. [You've devoted the whole query to setting up Lianne's situation, with nothing about the obstacles to carrying out her plan. Surely she doesn't just go shoot the guy.]

THE GREEN TOWER is a fantasy/steampunk novel complete at 100,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration,


I can do without the part about the dissident possibly being right.

I suppose that unlike most people, a professional assassin might not be so rattled after experiencing an airship crash that she's emotionally unable to launch her own personal investigation. But most assassins probably aren't qualified to determine the source of energy malfunctions. Assuming it all makes sense in the book, you could open: Lianne Stracker, molecular physicist and professional assassin, needs a holiday.

Or you can leave the first paragraph alone but eliminate the part about her investigation, and your second paragraph might read:

When she learns the crash was caused by a dissident researcher intent on destroying her homeland’s energy infrastructure, Lianne sees little choice but to write herself a commission for this man. Not only is the general breakdown of society bad for business, but no one gets away with ruining her vacation.

Now you can put together a third paragraph that moves the plot forward a bit. Lianne Googles her quarry's name, finds he lives in an ancient green tower, and heads there to finish him off. But getting across the empire is no easy task, with engines failing, airfields in ashes, and electric toothbrushes spinning counterclockwise. And if she does reach the tower, can she be sure her rifle will even work?

Cartoon 734

Caption: Anon.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saturday Film Series

Captions are easier to read if you maximize the screen (though artwork becomes blurry).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Store Expansion

I was digging through the archives, and I came across some fake ads for products I now feel would make an excellent addition to the Evil Editor Store. Books and DVDs aren't bringing in the kind of profits Evil Editor needs in order to retire a disgustingly wealthy man. Let me know which ones you want and if the demand is high enough I'll start production. (Some of the ads get bigger when you click on them.)

ePod ad created by Blogless_Troll

Cartoon 733

Caption: arhooley

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Face-Lift 822

Guess the Plot

Sisters Across the Sea

1. Twins are usually close, but Anna and Hannah Kensun are closer than most. They spent the first 18 years of their life literally joined at the hip. But now Hannah got a job in London and Anna’s business in Boston is taking off. Can two people used to being one step apart deal with an ocean between them?

2. Savvy waitress Loretta Muldoon sends Iggy the busboy to answer the phone in the basement of Bud's Diner. It's Bud's sister Nancy; she and Janet are being held by terrorists in Yemen who will sell them to pirates unless Bud deposits $10,000 ransom. Too bad Bud's in a coma! Can Iggy and Loretta save these hapless teens from a fate worse than death?

3. Young and beautiful Gwyn has undertaken to retrieve the talisman that can destroy the cursed zombie army of Francis the Furious from the nunnery at Ammanpur. With the aid of a handsome seaman, Gwyn crosses the ocean only to find the nunnery surrounded and besieged. Can she retrieve the Amulet of Ammanpur and save the . . . sisters across the sea?

4. Shoplifter Todd Wallace is horrified! Christmas is coming and he just realized -- his girlfriend in Liverpool is the sister of his girlfriend in Dublin!

5. Ai-ting, Carmencita, and Gbodi. Three girls from three cultures. None knows about the others. Yet they are sisters, and somehow they must meet and bond or the world will be lost.

6. Nikki flies from the US to India. There she meets an Indian woman who turns out to be her sister. Nikki also meets Rick, an American, and falls in love with him. But both Rick and sis have secrets, secrets that could destroy Nikki's new-found family, secrets worth killing for. Maybe she should have vacationed in Orlando.

Original Version

I would like to query you for my romantic women’s fiction novel titled Sisters Across the Sea.

Nikki Kashyap [Anagram: khaki yakskin.] is a completely Americanized twenty-eight-year-old who has rejected her Indian roots and disapproving Indian relatives.

Soon after her father mysteriously disappears, she learns she has a mother and sister alive in India. [Who and where are the disapproving Indian relatives? If it's Nikki's Americanization they disapprove of, I would think they would have mentioned her mother and sister to her at some point, as examples of people who haven't rejected their Indian roots. Does everyone think they're dead?] She flies there hoping to form the family bonds and connection she never had. [While I don't see the desire to fly to India and form family bonds as contradicting the completely Americanized/rejected her Indian roots description, maybe we don't need to know she's rejected her roots.]

Her sister is welcoming; her mother is not. Even as Nikki grows closer to her sister, the cultural differences between them lead to unbridgeable [Unresolvable?] conflicts.

As Nikki probes [into] the reason for her mother's hostility, she realizes there are family secrets associated with her birth; secrets someone is willing to kill to keep.

Nikki finds herself mixed up in mystery and murder. [What's the mystery? Who gets murdered?] To complicate matters, she meets an American, Rick Harper, who is supposedly here on a spiritual quest. As Nikki falls in love with him, she learns he is hiding some secrets of his own, and has an agenda that could destroy her family. [I can live with characters who hide secrets; it's when the author hides secrets that I get annoyed. Wouldn't we have a better idea of how exciting/suspenseful/intriguing the book is if we knew the secret that could destroy Nikki's family? I'm not gonna read your book just to find out what the secrets are, but I might read it to find out how Nikki deals with them.]


Nikki's father can mysteriously disappear from the query, as his mysterious disappearance in the book is never elaborated upon.

This is mainly the setup. Try combining the first four plot paragraphs into something like:

When Nikki Kashyap, an Americanized twenty-eight-year-old, learns she has a mother and sister alive in India, she flies there hoping to form the family bonds she never had. But while her sister is welcoming, her mother is not. Behind her mother's hostility are family secrets associated with Nikki's birth--secrets someone is willing to kill to keep.

Now you can introduce the romantic element: While in India Nikki meets an American, Rick Harper, who is supposedly here on a spiritual quest. But as Nikki falls in love with him, she learns he is actually a CIA agent whose mission is to assassinate the Indian prime minister and frame Nikki's sister for the deed.

And then a closing paragraph in which you tell us what Nikki plans to do about this. We don't want to know just her situation; we want to know how she handles it.

That said, the title suggests that the focus of the book is on the sisters; if that's true, you might want to give the sister a name and say something about how they work together to solve the murder or to make the family whole or resolve their unresolvable conflicts.

Cartoon 732

Caption: Whirlochre
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Face-Lift 821

Guess the Plot


1. There's a robot, a pretty girl, flying saucers, and mad scientists! It's "The Tempest" in space! Whaddya mean, it's been done?

2. Raven-haired and temperamental, she storms across the land in search of some object that will save the king. Gypsies, fae armies, oracles, and mages hamper or assist her. Accordingly, the king turns out to be a villain, or not.

3. Janelle just found out she's a "Tempest": a human hurricane. In fact, she's the strongest tempest in the world, destined to become the scariest hurricane ever. Plus, she's been kidnapped by the evil Tempest High Leader and taken to an island to be trained to kill without mercy when she becomes a hurricane. She will be the main weapon in a war against all mankind. And you thought you were having a bad day.

4. No one knows exactly what inspired Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest. Now on a trip to England 15 year old Miranda discovers the truth about the play, Shakespeare and her family’s own dark secret. Could she really be descended from the magical Duke of Milan?

5. Hillbilly boy genius Buddy Boone applies his iPhone ohmmeter app to an experiment inspired by Benjamin Franklin's kite-in-a-lightning-storm trick -- and accidentally makes contact with seven very hungry aliens from Star XQI3 who land their spaceship behind the shed and launch a deadly bid to take over the world.

6. Restaurant-owner Joe is known around town for his screaming matches with the wife. As he walks into the restaurant, he trips over her body, a steak knife in her chest. He has a few ideas who might want to frame him for murder . . . and he's determined to show them the true meaning of rage before the cops can lock him up.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Life blows for sixteen-year-old Janelle. Literally. She just found out she’s a human hurricane, a Tempest. That’s what the stupid gray spiral on her arm means. Just touching the ocean will make her turn into her stormy, deadly self. No wonder her dad seemed so nervous when he tried to tell her. [If your father informs you you're a human hurricane, you're not going to be worried about the day you ravage the Caribbean, killing thousands; you're going to be wondering how your father became delusional so fast.]

As if things aren’t bad enough, the evil Tempest High Leader, Andrina, just kidnapped her. Now Janelle has to attend Morgen Institute, Andrina’s boarding school for Tempest kids. But it’s no tropical paradise on this Caribbean island. Behind the perfect beaches and dorm parties lies the ugly truth Janelle’s dad hid her from all her life. Morgen Institute trains Tempests [to] kill without mercy when they become hurricanes. Whether they like it or not. [I don't think I'd let my students anywhere near a perfect beach if their touching the ocean would unleash a hurricane. My boarding school would be in western Mongolia.] [It sounds like you're saying the ugly truth her dad hid from her all her life is that Morgen Institute trains Tempests to kill without mercy. The ugly truth he hid from her is that she's a Tempest. Thus I'd change "the ugly truth Janelle’s dad hid her from all her life." to a colon.]

No way in hell is Janelle going to kill people. But Andrina won’t let her go. Because Janelle’s the strongest Tempest in the world, destined to become the scariest hurricane ever and kill thousands. [That's not enough people. If she kills 7000 people, that's about one of every million people on Earth.] Now she's the main weapon in Andrina's war against mankind. [That's like a pitchfork being your main weapon in a war against the United States. Can you make Andrina's war be against Aruba instead of mankind?]

Time’s running out. In order to escape, Janelle has to face the truth about herself…and what it really means to be a Tempest.

TEMPEST is a 67,000 word young adult fantasy. It may be the first book of a series.


So, are all hurricanes former Tempests? Or are the Tempests extra hurricanes thrown into the mix?

Not to downplay the destructive force of a hurricane, but if you're at war with mankind, you might be better off training human earthquakes to strike dams and nuclear power plants. More people die from taking aspirin than from hurricanes.

Something about this feels more middle grade than YA. Maybe it's that younger kids are more likely to buy into the human hurricane idea. Or maybe it's that phrases like "The stupid gray spiral," "the evil Tempest High Leader," "The strongest Tempest in the world," and "scariest hurricane ever" sound like they'd appeal more to a less mature crowd. Adjectives that aren't so general and overblown might help. Or calling it middle grade.

Cartoon 731

Caption: Anon.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Beginning 784


November 17 1996

Dear Diary. This is the first time I've written in one of these things. I'm not much of a writer, but I want to try and make this good.

Today is my birthday. My sister Mysty gave me a blouse and my little sister Amber gave me this diary to write in. Mysty is 15 and Amber is 12. I'm 18 now. Mom and Mike gave me a big cake and Mike said I'm a woman now and Mom got mad at him. Mikes a jerk. They fight a lot since we've been out here. I don't like California.

When Mom and Mike said we were going to California I thought we'd be like on the beach or something, instead of in the middle of nowhere. Well we didn't go near the beach at all, except a couple times when we had to drive for hours to get there.

Now we live in a apartment in this city called Riverside. There's nothing to do here. It's hot and smoggy all the time. We haven't gone to school here yet cause we've only been in these apartments a month and mom says we'll wait till next year. I don't think I'll go.

Mom doesn't like it when I say that. She thinks if I don't graduate I'll end up working in Dairy Queen pregnant to some gas station grease monkey, or on drugs or some other big, dirty embarrassment, just like my brother, Skid.

Mike said I can work with him at the garage and I said I don't know nothing about being a mechanic. So Mike said don't worry, there's nothing to it, come upstairs and he'll show me how to loosen a couple of nuts. Now Mom's
really mad at him. But the cake was good.

October 14, 2002

Dear Diary. Well this is the
second time I've written in one of these things. Mom says if I don't go back to school I might never graduate fifth grade and get a job at Dairy Queen. Mike said there were other ways for a woman like me to make a living. Mom got mad at him as usual. Anyway, I want to work at Hooters like Mysty 'cos the tips are better there. Mike said it's not the tips that are better. Hes such a jerk.

September 14, 2010 (Like I said, I'm not much of a writer.)

Dear Diary. Mom's being thrown out of the latest rest home I dumped her in. Can't blame them; the only thing that comes out of her mouth are screaming obscenities. She's been like that since she had her stroke, way back in 2003. That was just after she found out that Mike and me had run off together.

Well, gotta run. I'm home-schooling the twins, so I better make sure they're learning whatever.

--Khazar-khum.....Continuation: Anon./Paul Penna

Cartoon 730

Caption: Anon.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Face-Lift 820

Guess the Plot

Retired Shadows

1. When occlusions get old they're forced to retire and go live in the "old shadow's home," to be looked after by the occlusions of sexy nurses. Tavila is an old retired gypsy shadow that holds seances for passed-on shadows, and constantly reminds the retired shadows, "don't go into the light."

2. After you die, what becomes of your shadow? Enter the world of Blakemore Cthoth, Keeper of the Shadow-Souls. It's a gloomy domain--until the day Blakemore falls for Sunny, a naive cheerleader.

3. When someone dies, it severs the mysterious link between them and their shadow. The treacherous shadowhunter YooKoo has made it his mission to hunt down these retired shadows and give them a fate worse than death. Enter burger flipper Chris, who has made it his mission to thwart YooKoo at every turn--until Chris's own shadow gets kidnapped!

4. When people die, their shadows have to go somewhere; that's where Fier's Shady Rest Home comes in. When Ken Carmichael mistakes it for somewhere to send his aged mother-in-law, chaos ensues.

5. Michael Benson used to be one of the best in the business. He could follow someone anywhere and not be seen. Now he's retired. But when his old partner asks for help taking down the mobsters chasing his son, Michael wonders if h'es capable of shadowing anyone while driving his electric scooter.

6. There's only one thing Wendell Hume hates about being a retired CIA agent: active or not you can’t talk about what you know. When events start to remind him of an old case, and no one will investigate it, its up to him and 4 of his friends who are also retired operatives to stop a terrorist attack.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Chris Ayala talks to shadows. Thanks to an unlucky incident involving a black cat, Chris can hear shadows talking back. [Is black cat what they call it now? In my day we called it purple haze, yellow sunshine, pink panther and golden dragon.] Elow, the retired shadow of a dead girl, lives in hiding amongst the tombstones of Oak Creek Cemetery, where she first met Chris [who was there scoring some orange cupcakes]. Elow’s days are focused upon not being seen and not becoming mistaken for a ghost. Her nights are spent evading YooKoo, the treacherous, winged shadow hunter, whose sole intention is capturing and dooming all retired shadows to a fate much worse than the deaths their humans have undergone, the deaths which sever the mysterious link between people and their shadows. [YooKoo may be treacherous, but if does his shadow hunting at night, he's also an idiot. Everyone knows shadows are hard to see when it's dark.]

Because Elow is Chris’s favorite conversationalist, the recent High School graduate becomes bent upon thwarting YooKoo’s plans whenever he’s not dishing out burgers and fries at his summer job. [So that's why YooKoo hunts at night: he has a day job at McDonalds.] [If I walked into McDonalds and the guy behind the counter had wings, I think I'd head for Burger King.] In the curious world of retired shadows, however, one victory leads to the kidnapping of Chris’s own shadow; one that shouldn’t be accessible to the enemy while Chris is still alive. [When you're working a summer job at McDonalds, are you really alive?]

RETIRED SHADOWS is a middle grade fantasy complete at just over 23,000 words. It spotlights multicultural characters, [A normal kid, a shadow, and a winged creature. That's as multicultural as it gets.] the paranormal, and the beauty of the Southern United States. [Where the fast food joints have golden arches!]


YooKoo sounds like a character in a 1st grade book. A treacherous hunter would want a name that strikes fear into his victims. A name like Euku.

23,000 words is a skinny book. The kind of kid who prefers his books skinny is probably the kind who also doesn't want the plot interrupted with descriptions of the beautiful South.

Why is Yewk so obsessed with torturing shadows? Are shadows dangerous? Did a shadow kill his father? Is he a serial shadow killer? We need character motivation.

If Elow is Chris's favorite conversationalist, I assume he spends a lot of his free time in the Oak Creek cemetery. What's that all about? When his parents ask him where he's going every night after dinner, does he say he's going down to the cemetery to hang out?

If there's a retired shadow for every dead person, it doesn't seem like Elow would have to devote her nights to hiding from Yuke, when he has millions of other potential victims. Is he specifically after her?

Does Chris talk to shadows of living people? Because I can see how that would lead to some embarrassing situations.

Perhaps you could work in what happened with the black cat by opening: Ever since that black cat crossed his path 13 times, Chris Ayala has been able to chat with shadows.

Cartoon 729

Caption: Faceless Minion

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Feature 5

Cartoons for the Sub- Intellectual Masses

Caption: Evil Editor

Caption: Faceless Minion

Caption: Evil Editor

Caption: Faceless Minion

Caption: Evil Editor

Caption: Marissa Doyle

Caption: Evil Editor

Caption: Evil Editor