Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Last Day of Brenda Novak Auction

If you're a bargain hunter, there's not much that hasn't been picked over, but you can find a few items at a good price. I noticed that several copies of a book called Kiyo's Story are available in hardback (free shipping); it's in the nonfiction section under "For Readers" and currently the high bid on some copies is $2.00. I saw a few other $2.00 books as well. If you're not so interested in bargains, it's a good cause, so place a bid on something. Even if you don't get it, you'll force someone else to donate more.

Evil Editor editing your entire novel has averaged over $2000 the last four years, and looks like it's going to be a bargain this year (although I did see one evaluation of a proposal shoot up from $850 to $2050 in its last hour last night, so you never know).

New Beginning 860

Most nights, the Lawman Billy Shane, as he liked to be called, took to slaying fire-breathing dragons, fighting epic battles with demons from Hell and occasionally repulsing alien invaders from outer space. Tonight, he sat in the police cruiser in the parking lot of De And R's Rib House, training Rusty Prestwick his new deputy.

"You can't get into a pattern when you do foot patrols at night. Patterns make it easy for a perp to be where you're not," Shane said.

"I understand that but just how much night crime do we have out here in the middle of Dawes County, Nebraska. The crime stats indicate there's more trouble from older students and twenty-somethings at the community college. That's not real crime." Prestwick's answer reflected his impractical and naive book learning. Too much philosophy and not enough practical experience, thought Shane.

"Oh there's real crime. You just have to be attentive to the subtext. There's more things in heaven and earth than mere drunks and bad boys if I can paraphrase Shakespeare," Shane said. "D&D is a catchall that fits most of the dumb things that happen." Banging and hollering from the back of the Rib House interrupted.

Before either of the cops could react, their cruiser was bathed in bright lights. A bullhorn voice boomed out, "This is Agent Carl Pretzler of the FBI. I'm recently divorced and I was dragged away from my monthly access visit with my mildly autistic son to instruct you to step out of the car. Now."

"We're police officers!" Lawman Billy Shane hollered through the open window.

"I know," Pretzler yelled back. "I can tell from your 1996 Crown Victoria cruiser. However, you're under arrest. Your use of backstory and 'as you know' dialogue -- that's a crime on this blog."

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 917

Caption: anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Happy Memorial Day. We don't get as big a crowd on holidays, so I'm going with another query featuring a book that's in print, even though the author didn't bother to inform us, and probably didn't even dedicate the book to us.

I'm starting to think half the authors who send their queries here ultimately get their books published. The title is Devil's Gold. The book was nominated for Best Romantic Suspense of 2009 by the Romantic Times Book Review.

Guess the Plot

Devil's Gold

1. Bert Blott knows that the shiny stuff on the wall of Mr. Popek's garden wall is really just fool's gold. But when he finds a bar of real gold in the same garden, he is delighted--until the owner shows up.

2. The Prince of the Underworld has no need for earthly riches - until he meets the American Princess from Hell.

3. Spinster detective Amelia Pettipants is back to solve another case. This time, when the Vicar drops dead at the village cake baking contest, the secret ingredient in the devil's food cake entries makes the recipes pure gold.

4. Deep in the Yukon, part-time prospector Dave Mercey strikes what he thinks is the motherlode. But when the men working the mine start turning into flesh-eating zombies he realizes that some things are better left underground.

5. Glen made a deal with the Devil: His soul for Olympic Gold. He's won his four races and is hailed as the "fastest man in the world," but now he wants out of the bargain.

6. An oil company discovers a bottomless well of "black gold," and conspires to commit genocide in order to ensure no one else "horns" in on their find.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Devil's Gold is a completed 117,000 word commercial novel that I would like to offer you for consideration of representation. [End the sentence after "novel," or say "for which I'm seeking representation." You don't want the agent thinking the book is as wordy as that sentence.]

The biggest gold rush of the twenty-first century…some call it terrorism, others call it survival. [I don't know what that means. How is terrorism or survival a gold rush?] Endless burning gas flares, rivers poisoned by oil, bloodbaths inflicted by corrupt Nigerian militia -- this is zoologist Cassidy Lowell's fight. [This sounds like a fight for Red Adair, Greenpeace, and the United Nations, but if they've already failed, it is time to call in Cassidy Lowell.] From the heart of the Niger Delta to the serene ambiance of Yellowstone National Park, Lowell along with undercover agent Jake Anderson, [He's an undercover agent for what organization?] race against time to prevent New World Petroleum from committing genocide and stealing a bottomless source of oil. [You toss around terms like "endless" and "bottomless" pretty freely. Stealing a bottomless source of oil would be tricky. It would require an endless supply of bottomless oil tankers.]

Chastised for not cooperating with the oil industry, Cassidy is reassigned to the serene ambiance of Yellowstone National Park. [Chastised? Are you saying her transfer from Nigeria to Yellowstone is a punishment? That's like a soldier stationed in Afghanistan talking back to his sergeant, and getting shipped to Hawaii as his punishment.] Jake is selected as her biologist for this assignment. [Selected by whom?] His mission is to determine the nature of the menacing connection between Cassidy's employer, ZEBRA (Zoological Ecological Biological Research Agency) [Actually, zoological would be a subset of biological, so you should replace biological with botanical. You still get to call it ZEBRA.] and New World Petroleum. [And he's going to determine this in Yellowstone?]

Discovering an alarming genetic mutation of the parvo virus [parvovirus--one word] that appears to transfer from canine to human, [I smell a werewolf book here.] Cassidy and Jake pursue its origin before it spreads beyond the greater Yellowstone region, [They discover this genetic mutation? Don't they alert the Center for Disease Control? Or at least ZEBRA? Aren't these organizations better equipped to find the origin than Cassidy and Jake (who's an undercover agent, not even a real biologist?)] [Yellowstone Park is bigger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, and the greater Yellowstone region is several times that. Two people are going to keep the virus from spreading beyond this region? Let's face it, we're doomed. Doomed, I tell you.] their relationship taking a slight detour from professional to personal. [If Jake doesn't become a werewolf at some point, you've missed a golden opportunity.] The media strikes at Cassidy, accusing her of transferring a biological weapon from the Niger Delta to Yellowstone. [Someone in Montana gets parvovirus, and the media immediately decide it was brought from Nigeria by Cassidy?] She's been set-up by New World Petroleum who is preparing to release the mutated virus on a vast scale and commit genocide within the Niger Delta, opening the door for unmonitored mass production of oil pushing New World Petroleum to the forefront as the most powerful oil conglomerate in the world. [If they commit genocide, who's gonna do all the labor involved in pumping the oil? Wait, they can import slaves.]

Cassidy and Jake arrive off the coast of West Africa to uncover what is driving New World Petroleum's actions, salvage her career and protect the Niger Delta region from more environmental damage. Cassidy is betrayed by one of her own [Her own what?] and infected with the virus. Jake undertakes a successful search and destroy mission, bringing down New World Petroleum and saving the woman who now ranks No. 1 on his "most important" list. [Is this a romance?] [One guy brings down New World Petroleum? That's as believable as a cow destroying the city of Chicago.] [How does he save Cassidy from the virus? New World Petroleum was using the virus to commit genocide, yet Jake can cure it?]

I have previously been represented by Madame X of The YZ Literary Agency. Ms. X submitted this manuscript to MIRA. [Mira Books? Or Mira Sorvino?] In addition, the movie rights were optioned through July of 2006 and garnered interest from George Lopez [George Lopez? Too bad it wasn't George Lucas.] in conjunction with Clint Eastwood. The script was also submitted to Bruce Willis in June of 2005 [With all this name dropping, I'm beginning to think it was Mira Sorvino.] where it met with favorable interest but ultimately there was concern that the locale was too similar to Mr. Willis' Tears of the Sun. [More likely there was concern that the box office gross would be too similar to that of Tears of the Sun.] As far as I know, the script has not been returned or officially rejected. [Apparently film producers are just as slack as publishers about sending out rejection slips.]

Thank you for your time and consideration of this query.

Revised Version

When zoologist Cassidy Lowell's work in Nigeria comes into conflict with the interests of New World Petroleum, she is transferred to Yellowstone National Park. There, working with biologist Jake Anderson, she discovers an alarming genetic mutation of parvovirus that transfers from canine to human. The virus appears to have originated in Nigeria, and Cassidy is accused in the media of bringing it to the US.

She's been set-up by New World Petroleum who are preparing to release the mutated virus on a vast scale and commit genocide within the Niger Delta, opening the door for unmonitored production from newly discovered oil fields, and making New World the most powerful oil conglomerate in the world. Jake reveals that he's actually an undercover CIA agent, assigned to investigate the connection between Cassidy's employer, ZEBRA (Zoological Ecological Bio-Research Agency) and New World Petroleum.

Cassidy and Jake arrive off the coast of West Africa seeking to salvage her career and protect the Niger Delta region from environmental catastrophe. When Cassidy is infected with the virus, Jake has only a few days to sabotage New World Petroleum's operations and to save the woman he has come to love.

Devil's Gold is a completed 117,000 word commercial novel. I would be delighted to provide the full manuscript or a partial and synopsis. Thank you for your time and consideration.


I didn't see mentioning Bruce Willis as a selling point. Publish my book because Bruce Willis doesn't want to star in the movie?

The screenplay will be about 120 pages, while the novel will be more like 400. That means you have to fill in all the glaring plot holes that will exist in the ridiculous summer blockbuster.

My plot probably isn't quite yours, but it might give you a blueprint for a more cohesive query.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


This query was purport- edly from an author who was familiar with the story of an unethical priest. But this blog post would seem to show that the query came from the unethical priest himself. In any case, the book has been published.

Guess the Plot


1. When little Tommy Mupler named his dog "Snitch" he didn't know the dog could talk. Now Susie next door is too embarrassed to go to school, Tommy's mother is on the warpath . . . and Snitch is in the doghouse.

2. After inmate Roy Smith admits in confession that he murdered someone, he warns the priest not to blab. Will the good Father keep quiet, or will he snitch . . . in order to reduce his own sentence?

3. Ratso Rizzo had a life before Midnight Cowboy. He's on the police payroll and the Family has found out.

4. Herbert Koober wants to be a cop, but he doesn't meet the height requirements. He does, however, have big ears and a big mouth.

5. A would-be young witch juggles middle school with the Middle Ages as she tries to find a spell to keep her from blurting out her best friends' secrets.

6. A reporter goes undercover at a maximum-security prison to try to befriend the inmates and pry out their secrets . . . and grabs the scoop of the century.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

SNITCH: a nasty word. [Although not as nasty as "snatch."] So what does it have to do with an Old Catholic priest, the pastor of a California church? He sells his parsonage and buys a $102,000 dollar black BMW. He’s also married to one woman and engaged to another. When the authorities catch on to his money-laundering and pandering, our good priest [Good priest? Oh, you mean compared to all the other priests we've been reading about.] is arrested and tossed into jail. His life will change forever when he meets Roy G. Smith, twice convicted, high-risk pedophile presently being held for murder in one of California’s highest profile cases. [The pedophile isn't the priest? Nice twist.]

Roy, over the course of months, confesses the murder of a 45 year old woman to our unethical priest. [Over the course of months? How long does it take to say you killed a 45-year-old woman?

Week 1: There was this woman. She was 45.
Week 2: She's dead.
Week 3: Got any smokes?
Week 4: They found her with multiple stab wounds.
Week 5: What is it with the cooks in this place? Everything's too salty.
Week 6: I mean seriously, salt in fruit cocktail?
Week 7: You don't think I had anything to do with it?
Week 8: I see no way a wolf could blow down a house made of sticks.
Week 9: Okay, okay, I killed her. But she had it coming.]

When Roy realizes he has divulged too much, he warns the priest to keep the information on the low down – or else. [Week 10: By the way, that was all off the record.] Will the priest snitch, thus reducing his own sentence, or will he quietly go on with his jail time, and live with the knowledge of the murder, a weight on his mind which will eat away at him like a maggot feasting on garbage? [That's the kind of simile you use when you're mocking writers who use too many similes.]

The reader will explore the very timely topics of priesthood, jail (a prismatic subculture) [I think you mean a cultural prism.] and murder within a cocoon of murderers, [Huh?] chomos (child molesters) [Why isn't that chimos? Just asking.], homosexual prostitutes [promos)], [arson within a termite mound of] arsonists, supreme white power dudes (Pure Boys, Nazi-Low Riders, Nor-Cal Woods), [Are you under the impression that the stuff inside all these parentheses is making this more clear?] paranoid schizophrenics, and gang-bangers (Nortenos, Sorenos, Crips and Bloods). [Lists tend to get boring the longer they go on. Especially when most of the items being listed need explanations. It would be more interesting to choose a couple of the more important items on the list and elaborate on them.]

Snitch is a non-fiction, [Nonfiction? Why didn't you say so earlier? I wouldn't have mocked it for being preposterous if I'd known it was true.] true-crime memoir written by the author of The Sound of Meat, [The sequel to The Sound of Music, in which the von Trapp family all have jobs frying bacon.] an e-book published by Cool Publications of Great Britain, and the essay, Snitch, soon to be published by Hillary Carlip on Fresh Yarn. [The cool thing about publishing on fresh yarn is that after the reader is finished reading, she can knit a sweater. I'm not sure it's important that the yarn be fresh, actually.] At your request, I will send you a writing sample and a book proposal. [I thought this was a book proposal.] Please feel free to contact me at the address below.

Thank You,


It sounded like an interesting story when I thought it was a novel. I think you need to scrap it and come at it from a new angle, one that points out that it's the true story of whoever, and why his story is so interesting. Or make it a novel.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Success Story

Sara Creasy (finally) reports that her novel Song of Scarabaeus (Face-Lift 131, reprinted in the post below) was published in 2010, and Children of Scarabaeus was published earlier this year. Song of Scarabaeus was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and the Aurealis Award for best science fiction novel.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Face-Lift 911

Guess the Plot


1. Meow Mix again? Fuggedaboutit! Get me Fancy Feast unless you want me to crap in your Manolos again, beeeitch.

2. He's the coolest cat ever, but when his human marries a chick with a snooty cat and a puppy, Jack's style is cramped. He tries to get the intruders kicked out, but when the three of them get lost, he realizes they must work together to find their way home. Then he can get them kicked out.

3. Tired of the owners who bestowed such stupid names on them, Midnight, Snowball, and Miss Fancy Whiskers set in motion a plan of violent and hilarious death. Only stray Geddowdamiyard! can save the humans - but does he really want to?

4. When Jeff Grant goes to work on a simple Internet upgrade for DARPA, he accidentally uncovers the horrifying truth: The Internet really is run by cats. Gopher heads, dead birds and mangled mice appear at his doorstep, catnip-filled envelopes are mailed to him, and when he picks up the phone all he hears is a loud purr. Can he escape his fate?

5. Meet Kitty Debenham, the humiliated socialite. With a wayward husband, a fortune to waste on extravagance, and self-esteem so low it could be a subterranean parking garage, Kitty turns to the best person she knows for advice on how to win her husband and her pride back – Jocelyn Wildenstein.

6. Chauncey organizes the biggest prison break in the history of Angora County. They haven't made the prison that can hold this cat burglar. Or should I say the kennel?

Original Version

Dear EE,

Jack, champion climber and mouser, knows he’s the coolest cat ever. Life was fine until Max, his human, got married. Suddenly, a snooty Siamese and a puppy called Bo take over his house. And a bossy lady who blames him for upsetting her pets.

Jack plots to get the others kicked back to wherever they came from. But getting them into trouble backfires, and the three creatures are banished to the backyard. Great! The only way to some peace from Bo’s constant yapping was [is] to make a deal: if he can be quiet Jack will teach him to climb. Jack figures he’ll never have to repay [pay off? Settle up? Make good?] because the dog can’t be quiet for more than a minute, but at least it’s a minute’s break.

But [No need for the word "But." You could just delete it or change it to "After" or "When" and let it flow into the next sentence.] New Year’s Eve fireworks terrify them down into the dark, smelly drains. Soon the trio are lost and face rats, hunger and wet fur. The only way to stay warm, safe and fed is to cooperate, and Jack starts to appreciate the others as more than nuisances. Bo follows the trail back to where they first entered the drains, but Jack is the only one who can climb out. Bo is devastated when he learns that Jack lied about teaching him to climb. Now Jack needs to use his superior intellect to rescue the others. Or will he abandon them and go back to a quiet house?

CATTITUDE is a 10,000-word MG novel.

Thank you for your consideration.


Based on the number of words per page in the two kids' books I happen to have handy (Holes and The Higher Power of Lucky), your book will be 30 to 40 pages, which translates to 15 to 20 sheets of paper. Unless it's loaded with illustrations. It does sound like a good candidate for artwork, but it wouldn't hurt to seamlessly expand it to fifteen or twenty thousand words.

Bo has an annoying bark, and a strong nose. What does the Siamese cat do that annoys Jack? What does the Siamese contribute to their staying safe when they're lost? Without knowing this, we may wonder why it's not just Jack and Bo in the story.

Once Bo leads them back, why does the Siamese need rescuing? Can't it get out the same way Jack does? If it can't climb because it's been declawed, then it would still need rescuing even if Jack taught Bo to climb. In other words, while the query is fine as it is, the climbing promise isn't that important, and could be replaced with answers to the questions in the previous note.

Cartoon 916

Caption: Whirlochre

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Beginning 859

She had fifteen minutes to get home before the Serafim took to the streets. Peering out the window, Davey swiped her ID card, hopping in agitation at the three second delay in the building's electronic mechanism. She did not want to be caught on the street by the red-masked Serafs; government issue goons keeping citizens in check.

Identity approved and work-hours logged, she hurried onto the pavement. The wind was cold, whipping her braids across her face. With a shiver, she dodged the last of the cars buzzing along the street and entered the network of alleys leading her down-town.

As glass topped corporate towers gave way to crumbling apartment blocks, Davey's hand slipped into the pocket of her coat, her fingers gripping the can of pepper spray. Atlantis was disintegrating. The city was rotten, its citizens divided into those with money and power, and those desperate to eke out a living in the effluvial haze.

Like Boz.

The starving vagrant sluiced from the fog of stinking cess like a ghost. "Hold your fire, bleachling. I have speak."

Boz was always want want want, a shade of filth and hunger whose begging repulsed her, but he had an ear for the street and his knowledge of the city's underbelly had saved her life on more than one occasion.

Davey tossed a mermaid scale into the sludge. "Today, but not again. Do you understand?"

"I understand perfectly." The wretch grinned and dragged himself over to her feet, eyes fixed on the glow of her white skin. "Tomorrow, the Serafim will not come."

Davey's neck dropped — a reflex stoop she thought she'd fixed. "What? What the fuck are you talking about?"

"Stay indoors," Boz continued, his voice a gurgle of spittle. "Stay high. Tenth floor. Get supplies."

Davey threw back her shoulders, fixed him with a status glare. "The Serafim always come. Why should tomorrow be different?"

"Tomorrow, Atlantis falls." Head bowed low from a spasm of servitude, Boz slithered back into the shadows. Davey cursed. To bid him return would court guilt even she couldn't afford to cover.

In the sludge at her feet, the mermaid scale glistened in the dim light from the overhead towers. With the latest trades, this was food for a month, drugs for a day, sex with some desperate kid. The Boz she knew would have snatched it as it fell if he could.

But this was not the Boz she knew.

She pulled her coat tight around her generous curves and sped on through the shanty sprawl as the wind, ferocious now, tore at all hope of shelter rooftop by rooftop.

Nothing had been the same since Reagan took office.

Opening: Suzanne van Rooyen.....Continuation: Whirlochre.....Punchline: Bill

Cartoon 915

Caption: Evil Editor

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Face-Lift 910

Guess the Plot

The Dragon's Children

1. Within a week, the school was razed to the ground and the staff and students were eaten or had fled. She should have gone with home schooling.

2. When Sir George slew the dragon, he didn't realize its nest was already full of eggs -- eggs that would soon hatch, producing 27 hungry babies. They are now big enough to chase down and devour slow horses and small cattle. Can Sir George find and slay all these monsters, or is Britain doomed?

3. He's not an actual dragon, he's the vile man in charge of the orphanage, and is only called 'the dragon' behind his back. And those are not his actual children, as in offspring, they're just the random orphans who ended up in residence. But why do they all seem bug-eyed and identical? When Anita Bendire begins her new job as the cook she soon realizes something sinister is going on. Something that threatens the future of all mankind.

4. Lizzie and Andy always wondered about their scaly skin and habit of breathing fire whenever they hiccupped, but Mama's revelation about a brief liaison with a dragon leaves them stunned. Particularly when they find out that their deadbeat Dad has a huge treasure trove. Armed with a lance and a lawyer, the kids go on a quest.

5. Belinda is having the best summer ever. She's been out on two whole dates with Drew – so hot with his crooked smile – and he even loves her prominent nose. Date number three is this weekend and she just might get her first kiss. The only problem is hay fever season is starting and well . . . her sneezes can get a little "fiery".

6. Bored with spending their time watching clouds, two teens who were adopted by a dragon leave home to see the world. But they encounter bandits and princes and thieves. Oh my. Can they make it back to Papa Dragon before the universe ends?

Original Version

Dear Editor,

Garan and Eira, adopted siblings in the fantastical land of Trian, know a lot about living on an island. They know how to gather mussels and watch the clouds and how to tell themselves stories to cut through the monotony of everyday life. [If everyday life is monotonous, why is this place described as fantastical? Maybe the first sentence should say "in the tedious land of Trian." Usually we try to hook the reader with something intriguing; opening with your main characters gathering mussels and watching clouds risks the editor falling asleep, conking his head on his desk, breaking his pince-nez and blaming you. ] To the dragon who looks over [looks after?] them, they appear content – until Eira’s seventeenth birthday, when all their anger comes rushing out at once. [What are they angry about?]

Spurred by rage, the dragon [What's the dragon angry about?] complies with their wishes [You've made me so angry I'm going to give you a triple serving of ice cream.] and sends the adopted siblings off the island they’ve nearly never left and into the world that they know only from books and stories. [Get rid of "they've nearly never left."] At first in awe by the newness of it all, [Get rid of "At first"; it's understood. Change "in awe by" to "awed by." Change "the newness of it all" to something less vague.] Garan and Eira soon find that it is not all what they imagined [What did they imagine, and what is "it" really like?] and that for all they know about the island, they know very little about the real world. [We know very little about the real world. Is it our world, but with dragons and mussels? Are Garan and Eira human?] After deciding to break the dragon’s command and leave each other to make their own way, both struggle to learn how to survive, amidst the strangeness of learning of life and love. [Get rid of "learn how to." Replace "amidst the strangeness of learning of life and love" with something less vague.]

On their own, they meet princes and bandits, fortunetellers and thieves, all the while experiencing the wonders of emotions for the first time [As I recall, they experienced a rush of emotion on Eira's seventeenth birthday.] and having the adventures they never expected. [What adventures? Why were they so anxious to leave if they didn't expect to have adventures?] But will they remember the dragon’s command to return within a year or will they disobey him again, breaking more than just their lives apart? [What does that mean? What happens if they don't return?]

An 80,000 word YA Fantasy, THE DRAGON’S CHILDREN is refreshing and new, [What is it, a soft drink?] [If editors listened to authors' opinions of their own work, nothing would get rejected.] exploring exactly what humans will sacrifice to gain control. [I can't say that that theme came across in the plot description. Who sacrificed what, and what do they now control?]


Start over. Paragraph 1: The setup. Kids? adopted by a dragon decide they want to make their way in the world. Dragon says Be careful what you wish for and sends them off, warning that they must return within a year or their coach will turn into a pumpkin. Paragraph 2: Some specific things that happen to them, especially bad things. Paragraph 3: The deadline approaching, they're in danger, something threatens to prevent them from getting home in time. Presumably the dragon swoops in and saves them and they realize there's no place like home, but you don't have to reveal that if you don't want to.

I know there are dragon books even for adults, but somehow I feel like when there's a dragon it's for kids, and if you want to call it YA you need to show why it would appeal more to, say, a fifteen-year-old than a ten-year-old.

Is Garan older or younger than Eira? It seems like the elder sibling would not let the younger one go off alone in the dangerous new world.

Cartoon 914

Caption: Whirlochre

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New Beginning 858

I could not believe it. Strong hands had shoved me into a cage. Before I could do anything, the door clanged shut behind me. The nerve of some people!

“Hey!” I yelled, banging against the wire door. “Lemme out. You can’t do this. Come back or I’ll rip your ears off and scratch your eyes and –” But the footsteps faded away. Too chicken to take me on. I was trapped. The stench of bleach would have made a creature weaker than me heave, so it’s lucky I’m as strong as ten lions. Sure, I could have forced my way out, but I didn’t want to mess my fur. I yelled a few more times, in case the dog-brained person realized what a stupid mistake he’d made.

“Ah, stop your whining.”

The voice came from a Siamese in a cage next to mine. Beyond that was another cage, and another after that. More cages than I could count stretched out in a long row.

“Is this a jail? How dare that human–?” I started, but the voice cut me off.

“He’ll come back soon enough.”

I could see her face through the mesh. She was rolling her blue eyes. What a know-it-all. She was small enough to beat in a fight, but right now I needed information.

“What is this place?”

The Persian on my other side purred, “They call it the asylum.”

She was a sexy broad, too bad these bars were between us. Just then the human returned all decked out in white. He called himself Dr. Jones.

“You all know why you’re here, right?” Dr. Jones asked. I did my best to act like I wasn’t listening.

“Look,” the so-called Doctor said, “you guys had a good run, but Broadway isn’t as popular as it used to be. It’s time to take off the costumes, the show's been canceled.”

Opening: anon......Continuation: Bill

Cartoon 913

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Face-Lift 909

Guess the Plot


1. Anonymous, snarky commenter on a writing blog by day, at night Susan Semple turns into the caped avenger known as . . . Da Minion!

2. An ancient war rages in rural Kentucky. On one side: a steel mill. On the other side: the last remaining descendants of Noah, who still have dominion over animals.

3. Carlos is king of the jungle gym. At least he was until Sarah usurped his throne. Now he will do anything to win back his rightful place as the ruler of the playground.

4. Getting kidnapped by aliens is the best thing that ever happened to struggling trout farmer Gordon Bent, as it leads to his rise from experiment subject to Supreme Emperor of the New Galactic Order.

5. Canada,1867. The problem: what to call the country. The Kingdom of Canada? The Yankees would freak out. The Constitutional Monarchy of ... too long... Join in the fun as a couple of dozen bearded white guys come up with a title everybody can live with.

6. When the owners of the popular S&M nightclub Dominion extend the basement, they inadvertently open a portal to Hell. The demons stream in to inflict the usual torture, but how will they react when they realize the patrons like it?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Nova McDonough’s father has always been a mystery. Despite their estrangement, when sixteen-year-old Nova relocates to small town Kentucky to live with her father, the McDonough family secrets bubble to the surface one by one. [The first sentence is vague. Drop it and start with the second sentence. Except drop "Despite their estrangement" and call him her estranged father.]

Nova learns she has a remarkable gift with animals, a secret six local families share. [Does that mean six families know Nova's secret, or six families also have gifts with animals?] [Lots of people have gifts with animals. Dog trainers, Tarzan, snake handlers, Aquaman, Birdmen of Alcatraz . . . Assuming Nova's gift goes beyond theirs, maybe you could give an example of what she can do.] She learns there’s a temple in the forest symbolizing the core of their power over which an ancient war rages. [I can't tell if the war is raging over the temple or their power.] [Where, exactly, is this war raging?] On one side are those like her, descendants of Biblical Noah, [Thanks for specifying that it's Biblical Noah, so we wouldn't think it was descendants of Yannick Noah.] who yet wield dominion over animals. On the other side is the seemingly innocuous local corporation, Providence Steel. Choosing one side means protecting her mystical birthright, while choosing to protect the innocents on the other could make Nova a target. [Is the seemingly innocuous steel mill the innocents? What do they need protection from? Animals?] [Here's my guess at the plot. The birds and fish complain to the descendants of Noah that the steel mill is polluting the lake. So the Noahns summon an army of wolves and mountain lions for a battle of biblical proportions. The steel mill quickly converts the sheet metal department to sword manufacture. Now if only the Noahns had a fire-breathing dragon who could melt swords, it would be a perfect metaphor for the arms race. Tell me there's a dragon.]

As events unfold, Nova finds the struggle to fit in at her new school is the least of her worries. [It must be, as it hasn't even been mentioned yet.] Instead, she must juggle her growing fondness for local boy Robert Blevins, a practitioner of dominion [What is dominion? A religion? A sport?] who already has a beautiful girlfriend, uncover her father’s mysterious past, and contend with the other Sons of Noah, who have the deadly dragon, Leviathan, at their disposal. [Yes!]

Even when newcomer Brody Clark enters the mix, shamelessly flirting and offering to even the odds, in the end there is blood. [I'm not sure what happens when Brody Clark enters the mix in the book, but if he wasn't worth mentioning until now, he shouldn't enter the mix in the query.]

DOMINION is a Young Adult Fantasy about Christian teens. It is complete at 74,000 words and is potentially the first book in a trilogy.


Considering how long Noah lived, and assuming he passed along his genes, his current descendants are probably his grandchildren.

Why didn't Nova already know she had a remarkable gift with animals?

Do the Noahns' animals always attacks in pairs?

If this is being submitted as a Christian book, you might want to make it more obvious that the Noahns are the good guys. Preferably by telling us what the bad guys are doing that's bad.

In other words, we need to know what this raging war is all about. Big-armed steelworkers taking on people who can order wild boars to attack sounds exciting, but we need to know what they're fighting about. Why would a local steel mill be on one side of a war that's described as "ancient"?

I suppose the fact that sporting events are often described in military terms should preclude me from complaining that six families versus a seemingly innocuous corporation isn't exactly a raging war.

Cartoon 912

Caption: anon.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Success Story

The first installment of D Jason Cooper's Something Wicked is up at MetahumanPress.com.

The opening appeared here a while back. (New Beginning 701)

Face-Lift 908

Guess the Plot

The Crystal Vault

1. Zorpax the Dreadful was voted best up-and-coming super villain. Now all he needs to attain world domination is the world's largest man-made diamond, the Heart of Velour. To get it he must break into the Crystal Vault. But will he still want to conquer the world when love gets in the way?

2. Aging billionaire William Green is terrified of dying. After years of searching he’s found the Garden of Eden. Within the garden the fountain of youth is kept inside a huge crystal vault. But the garden is guarded by Angels with fiery swords. Can his mismatched team of scientists and mercenaries retrieve the water and get out alive?

3. Fifteen-year-old gymnast Gnadia has sacrificed everything - boys, cheeseburgers, even menstruation - for her dream of winning an Olympic gold medal. Unfortunately the host country has introduced an even higher medal - crystal. Can Nadia suppress her infatuation with Slobotnian pentathlete Zdcenkvo long enough to perform . . . The Crystal Vault?

4. After a long string of failures, Ernest Makeworthy comes up with an invention sure to sell like hotcakes--a bank vault made of crystal. Now the money can be counted without entering the vault! But it's hammers that are selling like hotcakes.

5. Dalli Fontana discovers an ancient Mesopotamian civilization was curing its citizens of cancer over 2,000 years ago. The drug's formula was stored in a vault of heat-resistant crystals, at the base of an unnamed volcano. Now she just has to avoid causing an international incident and dodge pharmaceutical assassins trying to protect their cash cow.

6. A teenager stumbles upon a strange realm of elves and terrifying beings. Immediately she is declared the chosen one upon whose magical abilities the fate of the entire world depends. But she seems to have lost her magical abilities if she ever had them. So she embarks on a journey into the wilderness in hopes of finding them there. Also, a crystal vault.

Original Version

When Leyna, an orphan raised by the Duke and Duchess of Turothrím, runs away from her home because a strange man from her dreams tells her to do so, she begins questioning her sanity until she stumbles not only into the very arms of the man she imagined, but into an oppressed world laced with danger, prophesy, and magic. [At which point she stops questioning her sanity? I think you may have this backwards.]

A marriage proposal should be an exciting prospect for any seventeen-year-old Lady of Court. But when two young noblemen begin a desperate fight for her hand, Leyna feels trapped and fearful of what her future holds. So when the attractive man from her odd dreams pleads with her to run away from the only home she has ever known, she sees it as her only opportunity and flees. [Her only opportunity to avoid a situation in which she's fearful of what the future holds is to flee the sheltered comfort of her home for the outside, unknown world?] Unwittingly, she stumbles into the realm of the elves, creatures believed to be pure myth to the humans. And to her astonishment, they are not the only non-human beings to inhabit the lands of Lusorya. [If she's never been to the land of Lusorya, and when she gets there she finds it inhabited by non-human beings, why would she be astonished to find there are other non-human beings? If Martians landed on Earth and the first creatures they saw were wildebeests, I doubt they'd be astonished to find that there are other non-Martian creatures here besides wildebeests.]

A prophesy [prophecy] from ages past entrenches Leyna in a world fraught with peril when it is revealed that she is something other than human herself- [If she's a wildebeest, that should be revealed earlier.] a being that can see the future through her dreams . [So why didn't she see herself stumbling into the realm of the elves in her dreams?] But this prophesy [prophecy!] indicates that the world’s future rests squarely on a decision she must make. [By "the world's" future do you mean the realm of the elves or all of Earth or the universe?] Will she oppose the High King of Lusorya and the terrifying beings who serve him, or will she join him and help solidify his reign? Hounded for her decision by the elves and the King’s most vicious minion, [Is the King an elf?] Leyna’s world changes abruptly when confrontations turn deadly.

Now not only is her own life in danger, but the lives of her family and her new friends. [I didn't know she had new friends.] To protect them all, Leyna must embark on a journey into the wilderness to find a way to reclaim her magic. [I didn't know she'd lost her magic. Is it her ability to dream the future that she's lost? Have any of her dreams about the future come true since she got to Lusorya?] With the truth of her dreams being called into question, [She shows up in this realm and they tell her that she is a being who can see the future in her dreams, and then they complain to her that her dreams aren't coming true?] she must find a way to convince the man from her dreams that she knows where her magic is being kept and survive the trip there and back. [I don't see why she needs to convince him. Who is he?]

THE CRYSTAL VAULT (122,000 words), is a fantasy novel of magic, danger, and romance for young adults. The book is designed as the first in a series.


Get rid of the first paragraph. We don't need to know about the Duke and Duchess of Turothrím, and everything else in that paragraph is repeated in the next paragraph, but with more specificity.

How come no other humans have unwittingly stumbled into the realm of the elves? Can Leyna stumble back out and go home, or is this some kind of alternate universe?

Usually the "oracle" is someone the main character must contend with. Possibly that's because foretelling the future isn't that useful. Either you're always right, in which case it doesn't matter what anyone does, or you're sometimes wrong, in which case the hero can alter his destiny, at which point the oracle will claim that her prediction was misinterpreted. Here the oracle is the main character, but it's not clear how her power is used by her or anyone else to save the world. Has she ever been right about anything? Did she have a particular dream that has everyone worried about Armageddon?

Why does it seem that characters who can see the future are so often in the dark about their own future?

Cartoon 911

Caption: anon.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cartoon 910

Caption: Anon.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Face-Lift 907

Guess the Plot

Trials of a Mathe- matician

1. Liza Hewson is blessed -- or plagued -- by a genius for math. She has done the calculations, and concluded that she will be happier living single. But she didn't factor in artist Guy D'Amboise, the "variable" who spoils her formula for a life of blissful spinsterhood.

2. When Earth’s computer overlords prohibit humans from practicing mathematics, few mourn the loss of the arcane discipline. Then one brave teacher starts a clandestine math club. Armed with ancient slide rules, pencils, and graph paper, Martin Streck and his misfit students fight to reclaim numbers for humankind, one equation at a time.

3. The story of probability theory, as discovered by Octavius Aesop, whose brilliant dice trials revealed that some little ivory cubes produce random results, while, strangely, others do not. Plus, his wife's discovery of a wee garden elf who can be persuaded to influence falling coins and dice.

4. Herkimer B. Wallaby isn't any great shakes as a defense attorney. His clients keep getting sentenced to death. Fortunately they always win their appeals when they point out that their court-appointed attorney was incompetent. Herk doesn't care. His main worry is that someone will find out that he never actually went to law school, although he does have a Ph.D. in Pure Mathematics.

5. Exponentially. That’s how mathematician Candace Burke’s troubles have increased since she discovered that her landlord is the King of Faerie…and infatuated with her. It turns out that fairies crave logic as much as humans crave magic. But who’d have guessed King Aurun’s appetite for mathematical proof could be so voracious?

6. A math teacher finds her chosen career unsatisfying, and goes looking for a new start as an epidemiologist. But does she have the language skills to compose a cover letter that will get her into a top public health school? Also a cholera outbreak.

Original Version

Some of you may have noticed this request among the comments recently:

I am currently preparing a statement of purpose for admission to a graduate program. It's sort of stunning how much this feels like writing a query letter. So, do you think people might be interested in reviewing it since we're a touch low on submissions at the moment? I could make up a title for the GTP part... :)

As it happens, we have zero queries and zero openings (hint, hint) waiting in the queues, so here's the "query letter."

Dear Evil Editor & Minions:

In reviewing my materials, I am sure it did not escape your notice that I have a Ph.D. in Mathematics. [However, even though I am, as I said, sure that my
Ph.D. in Mathematics did not escape your notice, allow me to emphasize the fact that I have a Ph.D. in Mathematics, just in case it escaped your notice.] I love math for its complexity and challenge. Nothing compares to sifting through information that seems only loosely related and finally finding the common thread. Unfortunately, math itself does not fill me with burning questions that I am compelled to answer. So, by the time I finished my degree, I knew that a career as an academic mathematician was not for me. [Thus I am seeking another field in which I can sift through information that seems only loosely related and finally find the common thread.] The natural alternative was to focus on teaching, and I did so for some time. But after a few years, it became clear that teaching math does not share the same kind of challenges that math itself does. I began to search for a career that would exercise my analytical skills, ignite my curiosity, and have some real practical value. [Thus, please accept my application for the position of literary agent.]

First, I defined some of my interests (e.g. AIDS research and intervention) [You defined them?] [I can't tell if that means AIDS research and AIDS intervention, or if intervention is a field all by itself. Whether it's AIDS intervention or just intervention, in what way do you intervene?] and then I interviewed people in those fields about their work and how someone with my experiences and education would fit in. [Mathematicians never fit in anywhere. Sad but true.] Public health and epidemiology came up repeatedly. I didn’t know much about either, but the more I learned, the more enthusiastic I became. Not only are the problems being solved important, but the solutions themselves are often amazing. For example, I read about John Snow determining in the 1850’s that an outbreak of Cholera originated from a single public pump and I thought “I want to be able to do that!” [That's nothing compared to the problems Charlie has solved on Numb3rs.] I also want to know more about how the methods of epidemiology might be applied to things that are not actual diseases: the spread of drugs and violence, the proliferation of computer viruses, and well, who doesn’t want to know how those youtube videos go viral? [I don't.] [Also, your desire to learn how they go viral probably isn't a selling point.]

I find the program at UNTHSC particularly appealing because of the emphasis on methods. After attending a preview day and speaking with some of the faculty, I feel confident that, once I complete my degree, I will have the tools needed to handle all kinds of problems in epidemiology, no matter my ultimate focus. [At which point I will finally realize that epidemiology is not the field for me and become a celebrity chef.]

I am looking forward to applying my experience and education in starting a new and exciting career. Thank you for your time and consideration,


I know nothing about statements of purpose, but perhaps some of the minions have experience with them. Off hand, I'd say you could shorten this to something like:

I'm the kind of person who is capable of spending eight years going after a math PhD only to realize math just doesn't do it for me, so now I'd like to fill one of the highly sought-after spots in your degree program for a few years because it can't be any more life-sapping than teaching high school math.

If it's common for mathematicians to go into epidemiology, then I see no reason to devote so much of this to your math degree. Everyone who applies will have a reasonable math background, whether they studied chemistry or statistics or biology.

If it's not so common, then I still don't think I'd open with the math stuff, as it seems to me that your enthusiasm for epidemiology is more important to stress than your lack of enthusiasm for the career you've just abandoned.

Cartoon 909

Caption: Evil Editor

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Face-Lift 906

Guess the Plot


1. Aaiiee thinks she is just an ordinary high school student, till she learns she is a Lifeweaver and must untangle the threads of her best friend and boyfriend, before they sneak off together and conceive the demon baby that will destroy the earth.

2. The Lifeweaver has the ability to shift injuries and diseases from one person to another. Among those who have injuries and diseases, he's quite popular. Among the rest of the people, eh, not so much.

3. Reeling from her recent divorce, Jasmine rebrands herself a “Lifeweaver” and finds solace ghostwriting memoirs for senior citizens. But when the threads of a charming octogenarian’s story defy time and space to alter her own history, Jasmine fears the ghostwriter is being ghostwritten. Could Elmer be the true Lifeweaver?

4. It was supposed to be an extra credit project for Home Ec. But now 13-year-old Rowena has pixies dogging her footsteps, water sprites popping up in cans of soda, and one cranky elven knight in shining armor claiming that her tapestry-weaving skills have marked her as the heiress to a fairy kingdom. Maybe she should have chosen choir as her elective.

5. 17-year-old Delden is a journeyman Lifeweaver. One day, he will be a plotter of people's life stories, designing the events and significant others they will encounter. But the skills that have made him a budding star have also led him to disquieting discoveries about the profession. Why does the Lifeweavers Guild have a secret prison? And what stories are locked away in the Library of the Damned?

6. In ancient times a young Chinese witch learns to weave silk ribbons that can change fate, a skill she vows to use for only good. But she is forced to marry an evil emperor and must decide whether to serve and obey him like a good wife, or magically bind his life to the fate of a chicken.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

After two murders, an abduction, and the complete loss of control over his life, Talyn's family blessing is starting to look more like a curse.

When Talyn became the lifeweaver – a man capable of shifting injury, disease, even death from one person to another – he thought he'd be helping people. [He is helping people: the people he shifts injury, disease and death from. The people he shifts them to probably see things differently.] Instead, the nobility hoard his abilities, [Is he their prisoner?] and the church forces him to punish criminals with their own violent sins. When the king uses him to fake an assassination and spark a war, [I want to start a war by assassinating someone, but I certainly don't want anyone to die, so I need you to help me fake the assassination.] Talyn can no longer stand the suffering his blessings cause, and starts down a treasonous path of unveiling the conspiracy. [Who is conspiring with whom? Are the nobility and the church and the king all working together? Can they force Talyn to do their bidding? Personally, I'd be reluctant to make too many demands of someone who can switch other people's injuries, diseases and deaths onto me.]

But Talyn is not the only one fighting injustice. Serra Taciess, after striving for years to become a holy warrior like her father, finally faces an obstacle she cannot overcome with brute strength: being framed for murder. [Even the world's strongest men encounter obstacles they cannot overcome with brute strength.] [I don't see what Serra and Talyn are dealing with as comparable. You claim they're both fighting injustice, but Superman fights injustice. Serra is enduring injustice. Talyn is being used, but I wouldn't call it injustice. Perhaps you should open this paragraph with something vague like: But Talyn is not the only one with problems.] Abandoned even by the father she idolizes, the dejected girl has nowhere to turn until a faceless benefactor offers to help her escape. As payment, she commits an act that will draw the ire of an entire kingdom: abducting the lifeweaver. [Actually, if I were in this kingdom and I were completely healthy, I'd be happy to see the lifeweaver gone.]

With the lying king's war fast approaching, Talyn needs to escape quickly. [Why? Whose side is he gonna be on in this war?] But Serra's employer has his own plans for exploiting the lifeweaver, both to save his people and exact vengeance on the kingdom that wronged them. [Is it Talyn's kingdom that wronged them?] To stop both embroiling conflicts, Talyn will have to sacrifice everything, [That's pretty vague.] and enlist the help of the same convicted murderer who put a knife to his throat. [Why is this convicted murderer/knife to the throat incident being tossed out as if we know all about it?]

I am seeking representation for Lifeweaver, a fantasy complete at 149,000 words. [That's a lot of words. How many of them can you do without?] I have appended the first chapter of my novel to the end of this email for your consideration. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.



Who framed Serra for murder, and why?

Do we need Serra in the query? I think this would hold together better if it focused on Talyn. You can say that just when Talyn is about to blow the whistle on the conspiracy, he's abducted by people with their own agenda. We don't need to know who or why. We just need to know what will happen if he doesn't get back in time.

Cartoon 908

Caption: anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Face-Lift 905

Guess the Plot

Kindar's Cure

1. Kindar, a quadriplegic, is miraculously cured by an angel and becomes a pro football player. Handicapped and chronically ill people who are sick to bloody death of "miracle cure" novels show up at the author's house with pitchforks.

2. Kindar has found a cure for vampirism. Now he has a posse of seriously pissed-off vampire fiction writers wanting him dead and the cure lost forever. But Kindar has zombies as allies. After all, they want writers to portray them as romantic souls, too.

3. The cancer in Lloyd Kindar's brain will kill him, according to Dr. Jones, who doesn't even want to try operating. So it's all up to Lloyd. As usual. He goes to the store and gets several mirrors, a power drill and a mini-vacuum cleaner, sets things up in the shed out back and does his own surgery, removing a seemingly insignificant lobe from above his left eye. Hilarity ensues.

4. Kindar is the chosen one who is supposed to save her people, except she has a disease that's slowly killing her. Her one hope is a novice wizard, but she's lucky if she survives his attempt to get her to his lair, much less his cure. It's beginning to look like Kindar's sister is actually the chosen one.

5. Having made a bundle on his patent medicine, a fragrant cure-all and hair restorer, Dr. Kindar pays off the elf who sold him the formula, builds the biggest house west of Chicago, begins his quest for a bride, and falls hopelessly in love with Jane -- an abolitionist who thinks patent medicines are the work of the devil. Can he convince her a few drops of the Kindar Cure never hurt anyone?

6. Castaway James Kindar ekes out a miserable existence on a desert island where he eats mostly shellfish and has nothing to live for except a slow demise from leprosy -- until the day he wades into a tidepool in search of oysters and is shocked by an electric eel. He crawls ashore half dead, but by sundown his leprosy is cured! But can he catch the eel and get it to the leper colony at Melbourne in time to save Elvira?

Original Version

Dear EE:

Princess Kindar Stefanous has the wits to prove she deserves to inherit her mother’s throne, [The heir to the throne is determined in a battle of wits?] but the gods have other ideas. They mark her as flawed by inflicting her with a wasting disease of cough and slow suffocation. With cutting jeers, the empress pushes her aside in favor of her two sisters.

Yet soothsayers have long predicted an empress would produce three daughters, [And after hundreds of years, it finally happened, proving the soothsayers were right on the money.] [I predict that at some point in the future, the queen will have a child, and that child will one day become queen!] foretelling one would rise to become the savior of her people. [From what do they need saving?] For Kindar, that nonsense isn’t in the realm of possibility. After all, the kingdom is healthy—unlike her.

When her elder sister is murdered, the killer hides behind magic and leaves a clue to implicate Kindar. [Her inhaler.] In one night, she loses a sister and moves from worthless to suspect. ["From sicko to suspect" sounds better. Also, I prefer "changes" or "goes" to "moves."] [If they think she's a murderer anyway, she might as well kill the other sister and her mother.]

Arrest and banishment loom over Kindar, but after eighteen years of fighting for life and place, she isn’t about to surrender now. A novice wizard, Maladonis Bin, approaches with his vision of a cure if she can manage the journey through rebel territory and survive his attempts to protect her. Along the way, they discover the kingdom isn’t as healthy as Kindar thought. Serious plots to undermine the throne are in motion, starting with her sister’s murder. [Are we talking about the sister who's already been killed? Because that plot is no longer in motion.] [When there's an actual place called rebel territory, you can assume plots to undermine the throne were in motion before Sis's murder.]

With prophecy calling and the killer at large, Kindar must rally her strength for a fight, not only for life and throne, but respect.

Kindar’s Cure is an [a] 114,000 word epic fantasy. It can stand alone or has series potential. [In fact, I've nearly completed Kindar's Relapse, and have outlined Kindar's Remission.]

Thank you for your consideration.


Just because the prophecy said one of three sisters would be the savior doesn't mean the one is Kindar. How does she know she's the one?

How old is Kindar? You claim she's had eighteen years of fighting for life and place. Does that mean she's had this slow suffocation disease for eighteen years? When it comes to the passage of time, eighteen minutes is glacial if you're suffocating. It reads like she got the disease after reaching the point of having the wits to prove she deserves the throne.

Is her mother dying? Who's heir to the throne isn't a big deal if the empress is going to live another eighty years. (See Great Britain.)

I can't tell if the rebels are bad guys or good guys. I can't tell if Kindar's sisters are good or bad.

Cartoon 907

Caption: Anon.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

New Beginning 857

Jack dug through his pack and counted cans.

“Damn” He whispered, wiping the sweat from his forehead.

Four days of food left if he restricted his calories more than he already was. Getting hungry would mean getting desperate and he would end up dead. It seemed everything in this new world meant death was close all the time. He hated the thought of leaving the farmhouse for supplies but he knew he couldn’t stay here forever. Two weeks holed up in this farmhouse, somewhere in western Virginia, was wearing on his nerves. Everyday the house felt smaller and the dying cornfields around it more menacing.

The house belonged to the only other people he’d seen since he came here, the farmer and his wife. They were at peace now and buried in the front lawn. Jack felt bad about burying them in the same hole, probably worse than he felt about killing them, but the dry soil made digging tough work and besides the noise could have drawn more of them.

Every damn day it seemed like there were more of the bastards wandering around in their straw hats and overalls, their faces hidden behind fluffy beards and corncob pipes.

A sudden tapping at the window made him jump. Christ, there was one at the kitchen window.
"GO BACK TO HELL FROM WHENCE YOU CAME YOU FILTHY BEAST!" Jack said, pulling out his shotgun.

One blast and it was dead. The noise might attract others, but there was still room in the hole for a few more.

Things could have been different, of course. The senseless killing could have been avoided. If he had just scanned the radio frequencies, or even flicked through the stations on the old TV in the corner of their living room, he would have known. This was no killer zombie death plague. Turns out, that's just how people from western Virginia are.

Opening: Bill Collins.....Continuation: Jon Marable/Anon.

Cartoon 906

Caption: anon.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Synopsis 28


He knows this is not the end. [For he has just picked up the synopsis. He adjusts his pince-nez, downs two Valiums, and begins reading.]

Deep inside an unexplored stretch of jungle in Borneo, nature photographer LEE MERRICK is in over his head. Attacked by a swarm of bees closing in for the kill, he’s left with only one chance: run like hell and dive for the nearest body of water. [Ah, so he's literally in over his head.] Lee still isn’t safe. The river carries him swiftly to the edge of a waterfall. [This is sounding suspiciously like the plot of a Yogi Bear cartoon I once saw.] Before plunging over the edge, he experiences a vision of a half-seen lady in glowing white. [Except Yogi experiences a vision of a picnic basket.]


Lee recalls seeing the same woman a decade before in a series of mysterious dreams the summer of his final year in college. [Is he recalling this as he plummets to his death?] Now, as a photojournalist for Beachways magazine, the thirty year old Lee travels to exotic shorelines around the world, where he encounters further paranormal hints of the Lady in White as she visits the innermost reaches of his mind. In visions and dreams, she tells him that, above all, she is not an illusion. But nobody else sees her, and Lee can’t prove he’s not just imagining a perfect mate to fulfill the prophecy given in his teens that, one day, he would meet “Her” along a beach.

Now he’s not sure what to think. Yet her ethereal hands caress his at the piano to play a Chopin prelude he never knew. Something he can no longer dismiss begins to haunt him. [Begins to haunt him? I thought this started back when he was in college.] ["Yet" isn't the right word. Try something like: When her ethereal hands caress his at the piano to play a Chopin prelude he never knew, he can no longer dismiss his visions as hallucinations.] [Then again, maybe he hallucinated playing the Chopin prelude.]

The enigma deepens with each apparition of her along the beaches of the world.

As she raises her hand, he is bedazzled by moonbeams illuminating her ring of a silvery bird, which he later also crafts for himself. But nothing prepares him for the astral embrace of their two spirits upon the lunar Sea of Serenity, with their innermost thoughts laid bare to one another in a union more intimate than he’d ever imagined possible. [Has schizophrenia been considered? I'm not talking about the character; I'm talking about the author.]

Unable to find full-time work after losing his job and its access to further mystical places where he’d hoped to further connect with her, Lee’s despair sinks to the lowest elements of the material plane— settling for quick physical gratification in momentary pleasures of the flesh from all the wrong places in town and its seedier women. [Finally something mystical and profound is actually happening.] In the process, he eventually loses all contact with her. After two lost years, he replenishes his faith to resume his search for her—only to be confronted by disbelieving relatives. Leading the pack is his mother, who harbors the dark secret of receiving a prophecy that her beloved husband will suffer a fatal disease far too young. She refuses to accept this fate, and therefore that the future may be foretold. This newfound denial rules her unconscious compulsion to disavow her own past mystical training and never to allow the prophecy Lee received from that same prophet to be fulfilled—to the point of threatening to commit him to the psychiatric ward his own father runs. [My 30-year-old son believes the same crap I did when I was his age. Lock him up in a padded cell.] But it’s too late for them: Lee no longer needs to seek validation from parents and peers, having learned to focus on self-validation in seeking to find himself—and her. His faith is further bolstered as he researches the possibility of soulmates at the London Library. On a sojourn to Merlin’s Cave in Tintagel, Lee hears for the first time the angelic voice of his silent visions, entrancing him more deeply into uncovering the mystery of her being. Their spiritual encounters intersect with life-threatening scenes, from his near-drowning, to being held hostage by armed gunmen at a bank robbery, where each time her words guide him to safety. ["Get outta the water, idiot!" "Get the fuck outta the bank!"]

Through it all, Lee is faced with his greatest challenge: overcoming the remnants of any doubts that along with the reality of her spirit, there breathes the body of a real woman—and that he will never be complete until he finds her—his other half. Repeatedly challenged with physical, emotional and spiritual survival in the face of hostile circumstances, he gains the sense that his inner growth, mirrored by his outer struggles, is the true key to his life’s quest. [Now if he could only figure out what that means...]

After a decade-long journey forging his soul, Lee is, at last, sure that she is real. [I thought he was the one person who did believe she was real.] As their paths converge, he looks up to see a woman wearing the same seagull ring he’d seen in his visions worn by her—now physically standing before him, along his very own beach, [He has his own beach? He shoulda been hanging out there the whole time.] uniting his outer and inner realities to make him whole. [I know this is not the end.]


I guess if the book is mainly metaphysical, spiritual mumbo jumbo, there's no point in completely hiding this fact. But you might want to give us more of the concrete things that happen and less of the New Age mysticism, just so we'll know there's a story with a beginning, middle and end. Does Lee realize how he can find the woman and put his plan in motion, or does he just go to beach after beach until suddenly there she is?

Do they live happily ever after? If he spends the whole book looking for her, I want to know what happens when he finds her. Surely just finding her isn't enough. Who is she?