Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Beginning 866

McCord giggled from the cockpit of the "skyboat." His bony hands were a flurry of shifting levers and twisting dials. The engines groaned almost sarcastically at their pilot's pointless antics; nothing would knock this craft off its course short of divine intervention, and that was amusingly unlikely given the circumstances.

The craft shuddered as it breached the cloud ring that surrounded the Rise. McCord paused to squeal giddily at the turbulence before returning to his controls with even greater enthusiasm.

The awful silhouette of the Rise loomed through the clouds: a jagged, unmoving snake of black crystal, half a mile in diameter, erupted from the ocean’s surface and terminated in a perfect hemisphere. The image was lost on its sole observer, whose vacant expression suggested an incapacity for dread. In fairness, if McCord’s shattered mind had been whole and capable of comprehending what he saw, it probably would have shattered anyway.

“Bumpy bump bump!” said McCord.

The crystal formation now hardened into a rigid cylindrical structure aimed directly at McCord's skyboat. From an opening in the perfect hemisphere erupted a mucilaginous fluid that engulfed the craft, blinding McCord and clogging the air intake valves. The engine sputtered and died.

If McCord's shattered mind had not been mercifully incapable of appreciating that he was plummeting to his doom, it might have thought, Ah, so
that's why they call this "Poseidon's Penis."

"Bumpy bu--"

Opening: Evil Jr......Continuation: Evil Editor

Cartoon 939

Caption: anon.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Face-Lift 921

Guess the Plot 

  The After Burn 

 1. Jacob can make fire with rhymes. Of course, not rhyming can be difficult, so he frequently burns stuff down. Like his bedroom. Evicted by his parents, his life in ashes, Jacob tries to forge a new life on the red-hot anvil of his incendiary past. 

 2. Horribly scarred in a welding accident, former beauty queen Arlia Parker must choose between spending her settlement money on reconstructive plastic surgery or building a home for some pitiful orphans. 

 3. Firefighter Lou Chance is almost killed due to a faulty suit. Now he is angry and disfigured, his melted suit clinging to his skin, a painful reminder of the accident that ruined his life. So he becomes a serial arsonist. But is he getting revenge or just burning bridges? 

 4. Steve thinks he's a total stud when he scores with the hottest girl in his dorm. But a few days later it feels like there's a 400-degree jalapeno cactus in his shorts - and his girlfriend returns from study abroad next week. Can the campus clinic cure . . . the after burn? 

5. Can a top-notch jet jockey eat Jack-in-the-Box at 3:00 am, without suffering acid reflux so bad it knocks him off the flight list? That’s the bet Jim “Night Train” Snakewood staked his life savings on. If he wins, he can buy his mom that cruise she’s literally dying to take. But, if he loses, his squadron commander will eat him a new one—and we ain’t talking cheeseburgers here! 

 6. Jack can't believe his luck: the Fairy Queen wants him to impregnate her and save the species! It's a night of bliss with an incredible queen. Only one thing--why are they building a huge bonfire with his name on it next door? 

  Original Version 

 Dear [Agent Name], When Jacob learns to burn, fire consumes his family ties, fire sweeps the stages of all his crimes, fire eats flesh off his best friend's hand, the blaze atoning the betrayal. Fire forges a throne under the hot city lights. [If this were an actual submission to Evil Editor, fire would now be consuming the query letter.] 

He reigns as smoldering king of Opi Eight, his safe place, his club-scene circus where he drowns the flames in drinks and dramas. It's all a fine time until the soured love of estranged friends and family send [sends] him to burn again. [I'm hoping that eventually we'll reach a paragraph that sounds like a reasonable way to start a business letter.] The After Burn is told from the perspective of Jacob Ravensway, a young man able to make fire with rhymes and his mind: a talent that appears every other generation on his mother's side. 

As a child, Jacob's mother resorts to wild abuse and discourages his hot skills. His father is indifferent. Jacob's not sure what his sister thinks; Nina has problems of her own. At sixteen, when he sets fire to his bedroom, Jacob is sent away from home to reside at Bristol Place, a house he inherits from his dead grandmother. [Does she die after he moves there?] [Is she his grandmother on his mother's side? Because this place won't last a day with two pyro-poets in residence.] He finds a new family in three homeless youth he befriends, and they make a home of the old, drafty place, funding their lives with petty theft, and eventually a criminal enterprise that ends in blood and bullets. 

 His life in ashes, Jacob begins again as the proprietor of a bar where he juggles bottles, broads, and the bomb of his incindiary [sp.] history. The faces of his criminal youth resurface, [Apparently the blood and bullets were their bullets and someone else's blood.] and in the ensuing immolation, there arises a chance for love refined in fire. At 70,000 words, The After Burn is an urban-fantasy/suspense novel about a young man forging a new life on the red-hot anvil of his past. 

The book is written to appeal to young adult and adult audiences 17 and older. A full version of the manuscript is available at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration. 

 Very Best Regards, 


 You've made the book sound like literary fiction instead of urban fantasy/suspense. By which I imply not that this would be a good query if the book were literary fiction, but that a query for an urban fantasy should tell us what happens in the book. (This element may, of course, be dispensed with in literary fiction, where it's a given that nothing happens.) 

 Start over. Resist peppering the query with words like smoldering, ashes, anvil, bomb, forge, flames, incendiary, immolation. Summarize the plot using language you would use if a stranger in a bar asked you what your book's about. And I don't mean a stranger with cloven hooves drinking flaming absinthe shots. 

 First the set-up. Jacob starts fires. Always intentionally, i.e. he's in control of his power? Or accidentally when he happens to say things that rhyme? He burns his bedroom, parents throw him out. What horrible thing happens next because he starts a fire? Who's this love interest? How does he plan to resolve his problem in order to make a life for himself? Does he become a superhero, using his power for good like The Human Torch? 

 This is more of an outline: Jacob lives with parents until he is sent to his grandmother's, then he hooks up with some homeless kids, then he opens a bar, then he meets his true love and lives happily ever after until the night he asks her to make him a mai tai and she bursts into flames. 

Focus on the main story line. Presumably this involves Jacob's redemption, which is barely mentioned in the query. We're not going to want to read about Jacob if all we know about is his arson and other crimes. Make us care about him. Urban fantasy nowadays is all about female MC's with kick-ass attitude. You may want to call this dark fantasy. Like the query letter, the book should be written in clear prose. If it sounds anything like the first two paragraphs of the query, you have a lot of work ahead of you.

Cartoon 938

Caption: anon.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Face-Lift 920

Guess the Plot

Daze and Knights

1. Whoa, like, you mean other people see dragons when they eat, uh, brownies, too? Whoa. Whoa. Whoa man. Whoa. Dudes, let's write a book about that dragon, Florgbottom, and a knight and their cool adventures and see can we make some bread! Then we can buy more... uh... stuff.

2. Dr. Ebonicus Right, famed physician to King Arthur’s Court, has stumbled upon an early medical notion: Repeatedly being struck in the head by a lance can cause permanent confusion and memory loss. Can he restore the Knights of the Round Table to their former mental prowess before Jethob the dragon returns for his annual village-fry?

3. When Sir Poppinfresh, the comic relief knight at the Long Beach Renaissance Festival, is killed jousting, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: the breakaway lance wasn't; and he'd better bring a turkey leg home to his wife.

4. When Jessica awakens to find herself on the wrong end of a medieval knight's sword, she thinks it's one of her daydreams. But no, she's stuck in Crazy Medieval Land, where she must try to find a way home while avoiding Lord Pervy's wandering hands.

5. Petty thief Junius Ninian falls through an accidental rift in space-time and lands in a world with knights riding armored horses and wielding laser swords. Can he handle the transition from boozing and thieving to battling dragons and saving damsels or will he simply be dazed all Knight?

6. Athletic prodigy Geoffrey is a favorite to win the jousting event. The morning of the tournament his muscles give out and his vision is blurry and spotted. Has a jealous contender poisoned him? His dreams of glory dashed, Geoffrey is torn between seeking revenge or finding greatness while trapped in a failing body.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am seeking representation for my YA novel Daze and Knights.

Sixteen-year-old Jessica Jacobs is a super spy, a famous actress, and a princess.

Okay, not really, but she likes to daydream she’s all of those things and more. So when she wakes up with a medieval knight pointing his sword at her throat, Jessica thinks it’s just another daydream. Until she realizes that, 1- dude is actually causing her neck to bleed, 2- her dress is so hideous she never would have daydreamed herself into it, and 3- Zac Efron is nowhere in sight. [If you're gonna number items on a list, it looks better to
1. Put the numbers on the left side.
2. Follow the numbers with periods rather than hyphens.

However, in this case, I don't think you need the list format:
Until she realizes that the dude is causing her neck to bleed, and that she never would have daydreamed herself into such a hideous dress. I left Zac Efron off the list because she's 16 and he's almost 24 and by the time this gets published she'll still be 16 but he'll be 26. Eww. Go with Justin Bieber if you must have a third item, though I think it's better without.]

After pondering her sanity at length (while being hauled into a town called Hampshire), Jessica is left with only one option: ride out her time in crazy medieval land until she can figure out a way home. Unfortunately, riding it out means working for the Count’s slutty daughter and doing her best to avoid Lord Pervy’s wandering hands. It sucks being the peon instead of the princess.

Enter Lord Alric, AKA: knight-in-freaking-hot-armor. [Another lord? Why isn't he Sir Alric?] It would be easy to let him protect her, but Jessica refuses to be a damsel-in-distress. She convinces him to teach her to swordfight, and amidst her inner pleas for him to take his shirt off, she falls for his selflessness and playful smile. Could time have brought them together? And if so, why are there so many things conspiring to keep them apart? Like Lord Alric’s parents who betroth him to another. Or Lord Pervy who decides that if he can’t have Jessica, then no one will. [I prefer Why are so many people conspiring...]

Then Jessica uncovers a plot to take over Hampshire and kill Lord Alric in the process. Saving the day is so much easier in her daydreams. Is Jessica willing to risk her life to protect her new home and the man she loves before her time runs out? [When does her time run out? When Pervy kills her? When she is thrust back into her own world?] [I don't think you need this paragraph. It ups the stakes, but I was happier when the stakes were getting home/true love.] [If you drop this paragraph, you could tack "Happily ever after was so much easier in her daydreams." onto the previous paragraph if you want to end the plot summary on a lighter note.] [Also, if you drop this paragraph, you can drop "(while being hauled into a town called Hampshire)."]

Daze and Knights is an 87,000-word YA novel about an average girl finding the courage to face the kind of adventures she always imagined. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Excellent tone/voice. Sounds like a winner.

I personally would go with "an average girl facing the kind of adventure she always imagined." I tend to think of "finding the courage" as a selling point for YA when we're talking about, say, fighting peer pressure. When applied to medieval adventure, it seems a bit heavy.

You might consider capitalizing Crazy Medieval Land. I realize there's no such place in the book, but it's a little funnier that way in the query.

Cartoon 937

Caption: anon.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

New Beginning 865

By the time I pulled into the farmyard, it was getting on toward ten in the morning so I expected to see people hustling around.

They weren’t.

To my right, the farmhouse creaked quietly in the heat. Across from the house, the dusty orange grove squatted, mute, whitewashed trunks resting in shade cast by thick branches.

In front of me, the barn doors stood wide open. The arc light desert sun behind the barn cast the interior in deep, black shadow—a shadow that spread sharp-edged across the gravel dooryard out front. That old mottled-green International Harvester pickup sat off to one side, split windshield and the last remaining strips of radiator chrome baking in the summer heat.

I didn’t like that. The boy had parked it in the barn when I’d been out the day before. He’d put it away carefully, like hanging up an expensive tool after use.

A cold reality clutched at the pit of my stomach as I looked around. There was no livestock; the crops were withered and brown; the tractor was old and rusted; and the boy, the only other soul I had met here, was gone. I had nothing. My investment was worthless.

I cursed myself. I never should have signed up for the
Myspace version of Farmville.

Opening: Dixon Hill.....Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 936

Caption: Mother (Re)produces

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Success Story

Dave Fragments reports:

"What started out as TANG STORY #3 at became the story "THE TOADS CROAKED AT MIDNIGHT" on THE WIFILES -- I never let anything go to waste on my hard drive."

Friday, June 24, 2011

New Beginning 864

“Councilor, you seem to be arguing that this man's appeal can be dispensed with because failure to do so will slow down the courts. Let me make my position on this perfectly clear: I don't give a shit. That's right, I said shit and I'm the judge, so you'd better fucking listen.

“If the courts have to be unfair in order to operate, it is better they stop. There are thousands of decisions the courts could make to speed up processes. Instead they let themselves get bogged down with procedure and detail and then ignore it all because it makes it too hard to kill someone.

“Councilor Burgess, if you want to argue that this man should be executed, fine. But don't try that argument. Now, I'm going to use another one of those procedural delays which are so abused, and order a recess for two days. Come up with a new argument in the mean time.”

Victor Burgess put his notes into his briefcase, looking like all he either wished he had more than four months experience under his belt or he wanted to go back and help his father run the pet shop.

Burgess watched the defendant being taken back to prison. Two days. How the hell was he going to be ready on time? A whole new argument. Maybe the words the judge used would give him a clue, except shit and fucking, of course. Burgess approached the court stenographer.

“Hey, Charlie, can you email the court transcripts ...”

“Already did, Victor. It should already be in your folder.” Charlie looked up. “I sent you a copy, too, Ben.”

“Thanks Charlie,” said Ben Reeves. Then, to Burgess, “Shit of a day at work, eh?”

"I'll say. I was a lot happier floating around in Grisham's head than I am on this page."

Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 935

Caption: Evil Editor

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Face-Lift 919

Guess the Plot


1. A secret weapon is being prepared in the of Kitchens of Hades, a cross between ammunition and remoulade. Is it Judgment Day for crab cakes in Paris or will haute cuisine survive the ass salt of the demons?

2. Remution. Sangroil. Phletilortic. Call the NEA; we have a mutiny on our hands. Sick of useless, test-oriented schooling, 42 million students crash offices and businesses all over the US with one objective: find an adult--any adult--that actually uses these crap SAT words.

3. They chopped up the world's sheep and assembled the remains into a golem the size of Africa. Now mankind's scientists send their brainchild into battle against the Grafto-Pig from WTF-979.

4. Vee is tired of her loved ones disappearing because of other people's time traveling "remutions." Enter the Liar, a messenger from the future who wants to eliminate time travel. Can Vee trust the Liar? And more importantly, will readers get pissed when everything that happens in the book gets remuted?

5. Snatched out of the 18th century and plopped down into the body of a modern-day high school English teacher, eminent author and biographer Samuel Johnson has only one hope of escaping a nightmarish existence of e-mails, LOLs, and school district/teacher union battles: becoming the superhero known as Man-Of-Letters!

6. The Old West is brand new to Stieg Johannson. When he winds up on a cattle ranch in Texas, he can’t even get a decent mount; the other ranch hands easily catch the best horses during the morning "remution"—leaving the dregs for Steig. Will he find his way to cowboy freedom and guitar solos, or will he bite the dust when Big Ben Parker gets annoyed by the funny way he speaks?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Enclosed please find the query letter for my novel. Some particular problems with it that I'd love advice on (though I imagine the things you spot that I don't know about will be even more useful) are;

1) The query is too long, but I don't know how to shorten it without it becoming incoherent.
2) At 135,000 words, the book shares this problem. I've cut it a lot, but I feel like cutting it any more will remove crucial plot points. Is it total doom to send out a query letter with a word-count this high?
2) The title. (Which, by the way, is the word for "sending your mind back in time to a previous point in your life to change your past (and so your present)." Verb: to remute; adjective: remuted; noun: remution.)

Many thanks for your help!

Dear Agent Name,

In a world where traveling through time is as easy as thought, Vee Colk is one of the few who can’t. As a vigiler—a leader who receives complicated messages from the future, whether technological advances or advice about her people’s love lives—[Those two items don't sound like they belong on the same list.] she’s responsible for keeping track of the many shifting realities created by people’s constant revisions (“remutions”) of the past. [That seems impossible. For instance, if she records that Bob just went into the past to kill Hitler's mother, and Bob succeeds, then there is no Hitler, and thus Bob can't go into the past to kill Hitler's mother, so this record of what Bob did would vanish or have no meaning.] Her life is a chaos of events, places, and loved ones being abruptly wiped out of existence, and she’s barely holding on to sanity. When she learns that a future invention will soon make her family’s work (and so her family) obsolete, she faces the choice between dutifully destroying her home, or… well, she’s not sure what the other option is, but she can’t believe there isn’t one.

Remution, a completed, 135,000 word science-fiction novel, follows Vee as she struggles to find some way to survive with both her family and her self-respect intact. Unfortunately, living in a world where all mistakes can be corrected and most decisions are made by one’s future self means that Vee doesn’t have much skill at independent planning. On impulse, she leaves home to follow Saed, a traveling entertainer who uses his nanotechnological shape-shifting abilities to put on performances for families about themselves. [For my next impression, I'd like to do Dad watching television.] Vee learns that hers isn’t the only family with problems when she meets the Liar, a messenger from the future who seems to be trying to stop the forward progress of technologies. [Is that how the Liar introduces herself? Hi, I'm the Liar? Because I would immediately suspect that wasn't her name.] [You need another character called the Truthteller. Then you can have a scene like that puzzle where you're locked in a room with the Liar and the Truthteller, and you get to ask one question, and you need to figure out which person is the Liar from the answer or you die. When you look up the solution in the back of the book, the question always turns out to be something like If I were to ask the other person whether he's the Liar and he were to say No, would he be telling the truth? I always take their word that it works, because I have better things to do than test it out.] Investigating the Liar leads Vee to Laisa, a mysterious woman who asks such bizarre questions as “are you okay?” and “can I help?”—both nonsensical ideas for people who can simply undo everything that’s gone wrong in their lives, [Everything? You mean if I went back in time to the day Vicky Johnson turned me down when I asked her to go to bed with me, she would say Yes?] but strangely welcome to Vee.

Despite Saed’s ironic detachment, Laisa’s uncertainty and sorrow, and Vee’s jumpiness, snappishness, and constant drinking—not to mention the fact that Vee’s family annoyed at her desertion, repeatedly remutes everything that’s happened in the book so far-- [If I get to chapter 14 and suddenly all the characters have vanished and I'm now reading a romance novel set during the Crimean War, I'm going to be annoyed.] she, Laisa, and Saed fall in love, and slowly begin to help each other deal with their past losses. Laisa’s losses pose particular problems, as Vee discovers that both Laisa and the Liar come from a very different reality [Did she learn this from Laisa or from the Liar?] —one in which no-one can time-travel at all—and that the Liar’s goal is to return the universe to that state. [Or so she claims.] [Is it sexist that I find it hard to think of a character called the Liar as a she?] [If the Liar prefers to live where time travel doesn't exist, why did she leave her own reality, where . . . time travel doesn't exist?] [If everything that's happened in the book so far has been remuted, how is it that the Liar and Laisa are still around?] It will unmake everyone living now, but it will protect those who remain from the constant risk of being casually erased. [If it unmakes everyone, no one remains.] More importantly to the Liar, it will force people to live with their mistakes and so learn the compassion and wisdom she sees as sorely lacking from Vee’s world. [I get the impression everyone believes everything the Liar says. Don't they even suspect she might be lying?] With help from Laisa and Saed, Vee comes up with a plan which will restore all the people who have been erased, [They must go back in time and kill the grandparents of everyone who ever remuted.] and persuades the Liar’s most important ally—her sentient translation AI—to switch sides and to help them put it into practice. Though this will change many things—and won’t stop Vee’s family from being made obsolete—she realizes that with the strength she has gained from her journey, she just might be able to face whatever changes come. [Unless she would have died in a plane crash six years ago if not for some random remution.]

I can be reached either with the enclosed SASE, at, or at ____________. Thank you very much for your consideration of my work, and I look forward to hearing from you.



1. The query is too long. The good news is, I think by shortening it it'll become less incoherent.

2. The book is pretty long, although you can get away with more length when a book isn't set on Earth because you need time to describe your world. Your book has about 550 pages. If you cut 20 words from each page, you're down 11,000 without cutting any of your scenes. And admit it, you don't really need Chapter 7.

3. A Stitch in Time. Time Will Tell. The Time Travelers' Strife. Actually, it's not the title that bothers me, it's the name Vee Colk.

There are too many characters in the query. You need Vee and you need someone who helps her accomplish her goal. I vote for the Liar, because she has the same goal, and seems to have some idea how to go about it. Also, she has the coolest name. Although, if I were named the Liar, and I moved into a new reality where no one knew me, I might consider changing my name to Frank Virtue.

Here's your setup:

In a world where time travel is as easy as thought, all mistakes can be corrected and most decisions are made by one’s future self. But is this progress? Vee Colk wants to live where people learn from their mistakes and so gain the compassion and wisdom sorely lacking from her world.

Enter the Liar, a messenger from the future who wants to stop the forward progress of technologies.

At this point you can tell us what the Liar knows. Presumably she has seen the inevitable result of constant remutions (dwindling population, all students getting 100% on all tests, etc.), and knows what's at stake. What's their plan? Must they deal with remution addicts trying to stop them by going back in time and killing their ancestors?

I find I'm more interested in the horrifying ramifications of time travel than I am in whether Vee's job becomes obsolete or she falls in love with Laisa and Saed. Can this one woman save us from ourselves? I'd focus on that, especially as you're trying to sell to a science fiction publisher.

If loved ones are constantly disappearing because of time travel, I find it hard to believe there aren't at least as many people trying to ban it as there are doing it.

Cartoon 934

Caption: Whirlochre

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New Beginning 863

Quinton breathed a sigh of relief as the door closed, cutting off the shrieking and giggling of his nieces. He loved visiting his sister and her family, and did so whenever his trading ventures gave him opportunity, but the noise! The tension in his shoulders unwound as he headed to the kitchen to wash the dishes. He’d promised to straighten up the house and, after that, he needed to finish preparing for his trip tomorrow.

As he set the last mug on the sideboard to drain, knocking interrupted the pleasant stillness. The two men on the stoop were the last thing he expected to see.

“May we come in?”

“Ah. Certainly. The sitting room is through the door on the left,” he stepped aside, gesturing. After they passed, he shut the door and stood a moment, staring unseeing at the grain of the wood. Had they come for him? Impossible.

He followed them into the sitting room, where his youngest niece stood, still laughing and shrieking. The two men began to fit a white jacket around her writhing form, started fastening the straps.

Thank God, breathed Quinton. It was not I for whom they came.

His sister roared into the room then. “No! No, not her. She’s acting that way because she’s six. He’s the one!” Quinton tensed when he saw her finger point at him. “He’s the nut with OCD. He’s washed the dishes four times since dinner. And I swear to God! If he straightens up the house one more time—I’ll kill him!”

Quinton didn’t care for the men’s approach, though he did appreciate the pleasant silence of their steps on the soft carpet.

Opening: Ryoryo.....Continuation: Dixon

Cartoon 933

Caption: Redstar

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Face-Lift 918

Guess the Plot


1. Suppose you've hit puberty and your body has developed the ability to switch genders. You can't control it; it happens whenever you see somebody hot. Now suppose 'Bouncing' Debbie Hawkins and Joe 'The Horse' Smyth are both in your gym class...

2. Twins Anna and Tina like to switch places to liven things up. Partners are off limits, of course, or so Anna thinks, until Tina decides she'd rather have Anna's life . . . and her husband. So Tina imprisons Anna. Fooling Anna's hubby is no problem, but can Tina also fool Anna's secret lover?

3. Master Dick Dangerfield is the king of the New York S&M scene, but he’s feeling a dull been-there, done-her ennui, and wondering whether maybe he’d have more fun on the other side of the whip. Is inexperienced (but scrappy!) new sub Justine the right person to show him the ropes?

4. London, 1665 and Fellscratch is undisputed king of the Harrow rats. Fellscratch longs for a quieter, less violent life, however, and when he meets Longwhisker, a somewhat dim rat that could be his double, he decides to switch lives. Also a plague.

5. It's that little white thing on the wall in twelve year-old Stevie's bedroom. Yesterday it opened a passage to the water world and pirates, lots of them. Can Stevie discover the Island of Lost Boys or is he doomed to sail the seas of the Pirate Planet for the rest of his life?

6. Beneath the frozen lands of Siberia lies a secret bunker, its location known only to ex-Soviet scientist Yuri Kosovich. Now retired, his life is simple, until he’s kidnapped by terrorists seeking the bunker’s stash of nuclear weapons. Yuri risks everything by leading them astray, for he knows the destruction that could be unleashed by a single flip of the . . . Switch.

Original Version

Twins Anna and Tina sometimes play their childhood game of swapping identities, just to see how many people they could [can] fool. Boring meetings, too-long parties – switching livened things up. There was just one condition: each other’s partners were off limits. Or so Anna thought. But she occasionally awakened with a massive headache, never realising that Tina put her nursing skills to use and sedated her to seduce her husband. [There's no reason this paragraph should switch from present tense to past tense. Unless . . . is that why it's called Switch?] [You don't need nursing skills to sedate someone. Unless she's sedating her with a hypodermic needle, which would be difficult to pull off in secret.]

The years go on, and Tina’s [Tina] becomes obsessed with her own infertility, and her resentment at Anna’s three beautiful children grows daily. So she switches with Anna – for good. She imprisons Anna in a semi-drugged state and lives Anna’s life instead. For a while she has fun playing the role of perfect wife and Mom, but her bullying style of discipline starts to take its toll on the family.

The twins’ mother Maria is desperate with worry for missing “Tina”, and is shocked when “Anna’s” tears for her twin start to sound hollow. [I've never known tears to make any kind of sound. Unless they're falling into a bucket of water, in which case they would sound like a leaky faucet. Sort of a "ploop." Or if it's an empty metal bucket, it would sound like "plaink."] Only Anna’s lover, Marcus, whom she had kept secret from Tina, guesses the truth [when "Anna" suddenly can't remember his name].

Marcus and Maria need to put their mutual loathing aside [Anna told her mother about Marcus, but not her sister?] [Why does Marcus loathe Maria? I'm surprised he's even met her.] and team-up to trap Tina to rescue Anna, before time runs out. [When does time run out?]

SWITCH is a 90,000-word thriller, with an adult twist on “Parent Trap”. [I wonder if it's better to declare your book is an adult twist on a movie or an adult twist on the book the movie was based on.] [Actually, as the twins in The Parent Trap conspired together, I don't see how this bears any relation except that there are twins. Of the hundreds of movies involving twins, this plot seems to most resemble a 1993 A&E movie called Thicker than Water, and two Bette Davis films called A Stolen Life and Dead Ringers. Switch doesn't sound any more like The Parent Trap than Twins, starring Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger.] I am an unpublished writer, and very happy to send a partial or a full. Thanks for your consideration.


If I've taken over my twin's life, I'm gonna keep him more than semi-drugged. I'm keeping him mega-drugged. In fact, I'm killing him, because otherwise he'll kill me once this charade is over.

It sounds like the only likable character spends most of the book chained to a bed in a drug-induced stupor.

It's not easy looking exactly like your twin after having three children. You have to admire how Anna's kept her figure.

I suspect Anna's husband noticed that Tina had switched with Anna. But Tina put out more often, so he saw no reason to complain.

Once Maria believes that Anna is actually Tina, why doesn't she tell Anna's husband, instead of letting Tina continue the deception? Seems like Anna's husband would make a better ally than Marcus.

Cartoon 932

Caption: Evil Editor

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Cartoon 931

Caption: anon.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Cartoon 930

Caption: Evil Editor

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cartoon 929

Caption: Evil Editor

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cartoon 928

Caption: Whirlochre

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cartoon 927

Caption: Mother (Re)produces

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Success Story

Dear Evilest of Editors,

I want to report a Success Story!!! Thanks to the help of you and your
minions my novel "The S-Word" (Face-Lift 855 and New Beginning 824) is
now represented by Sandy Lu of the L. Perkins Agency! I can't possibly
express how much you've all helped me over the years but please know I
am eternally grateful.

Sincerely yours,

Chelsea Pitcher

Monday, June 13, 2011

Face-Lift 917

Guess the Plot

Legend of the Phoenix

1. She's funny, generous with her time and critiques, writes excellent Arthurian romances and her query revisions are legendary. But who is the mysterious farm-girl who calls herself Phoenix?

2. A homophobic arsonist sentenced to a ward for three months finds himself burning with desire for the devastatingly handsome Dr. Phoenix. When a session ends in an outpouring of emotion neither can deny and the doctor’s family is destroyed in a house fire, can he prove he did not set it? Or is it all part of the doctor’s plan to start again?

3. A lone boy -- thought to be immortal -- holds the key to survival for a post-apocalyptic world populated exclusively by women. All the birds and animals on the planet are after him so they can quarantine him before he restarts the human versions of "hunting" and "mating."

4. 16-year-old Ethan accidentally releases the nymph queen from the Phoenix Sword, which could cause the destruction of the world--unless Ethan can do something to stop it. So he springs into action, recruiting his friend Anna to destroy the nymph queen. Then he takes credit for his resourcefulness.

5. Phoenixes are supposed to be colorful, beautiful, immortal creatures that go through a symbolic death every 500 years. Not so for Arisa Cantu. Her bird form is as drab, gray, and ugly as her human one and from all indications, will be dying for real in three months time. Her only hope lies in discovering the truth behind the legend of the first phoenix.

6. Cuban artist Miguel Cardova's family has kept their Chevrolet running for 70 years, but now his great granddaughter Marla has crashed it into a tree. Can this old car be fixed again, or is it time to load the bits and parts onto a donkey cart and haul them to Havana where they can be used to create a revolution-inspiring sculpture depicting mankind's universal yearning to travel?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Heroes are brave and selfless. Ethan Saunter lacks both these qualities, yet [I have chosen him as my main character, knowing it dooms my chances. Besides,] he knows he will become a hero because it has been foreseen. Unfortunately, for Ethan, the fairy who foresaw the prophecy [Actually, it was the event that the fairy foresaw, not the prophecy.] was actually a drug addict having a hallucination. [Have this fairy's prophecies come true in the past? Or are all prophecies believed, no matter who makes them?]

According to the fairy’s [drug addict's] prophecy, [If it was the fairy's prophecy, then perhaps you should say Ethan's heroism has been foretold rather than foreseen.] Ethan will defeat the deadly dragon Ranook on his 16th birthday, [Ranook's 16th birthday or Ethan's?] but on that special day, Ethan begins his journey (without any training or even a sword) only to quickly discover someone else has beaten him to slaying Ranook. [He doesn't leave until his birthday? Where's the dragon? On the next block?] [Ranook sounds too much like Nanook. It's how Scooby Doo would pronounce Nanook.] [I suggest trimming the last clause to: Ethan discovers someone else has already slain Ranook.] Ethan becomes desperate. All his life he dreamed of the day he would become a hero, but now that it has been snatched away from him, he must come up with a quick fix. He learns of a centuries old legendary blade called the Phoenix Sword that is hidden away and decides to steal it. [How did he know where it was hidden?] Unfortunately, his first swing of the massive blade breaks it in two, [What a piece of junk.] releasing the evil nymph queen Dahlia whose only wish is to destroy the world. [If you can't even get out of a sword without the help of some bumbling doofus, I doubt you have the power to destroy the world.]

Ethan takes this as proof that he is supposed to become a hero by defeating Dahlia, but Ethan is wrong. Attempting to reach his goal, Ethan haphazardly leads his friends Alexia, Anna, Seraphine and Samson into a dangerous battle filled with fairies, nymphs, not so wise old men and a queen and king strung out on drugs. As the group moves [move] closer to finding Dahlia, Ethan soon realizes he is not strong enough to defeat anyone let alone someone as powerful as Dahlia. [And the reader realizes that someone else should have been the main character.] [But who? Who is strong enough to defeat Dahlia?]

However, Ethan’s friend Anna, the trouble making young princess, is strong enough. [Aha!] As the descendant of the legendary phoenix, Anna has the ability to use the Phoenix Sword correctly despite its broken state. Rather than attacking Dahlia with it, she plunges the tip into her own chest, sacrificing herself and becoming a phoenix that can defeat Dahlia with its magical flame. [What would have happened if Ethan had used the sword correctly?]

Although Ethan does not defeat Dahlia himself, he realizes that heroism is not something prophesied or reached by shortcuts, and there is never only one hero in a story. [What about Rambo? Didn't you see Rambo?] Everyone has their own worthy talents, and everyone helps reach the end. [Everyone except Ethan. He didn't do anything except cause the problem in the first place.] [Actually, I don't see that anyone except Anna did anything useful. Why isn't Anna the star?]

Legend of the Phoenix is a 95,000 word Young Adult Fantasy novel.

I am an unpublished author looking for a home for my manuscript, and I feel that the Such and Such Agency would make an excellent fit for my story and I [me]. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Hyphens are needed between words that, together, form adjectives. For instance, centuries-old, not-so-wise, trouble-making, 95,000-word.

This is too long. A lot of it is taken up by the quest to kill the dragon, which never comes off. I assume the percentage of the book devoted to killing the dragon isn't so high.

Ethan really needs to do something besides release the nymph queen and learn his lesson about heroism. Most people would rather read about the girl who saved the world than the boy who didn't.

Cartoon 926

Caption: anon.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Evil Editor's Vacation

I'll be away next week. I never leave my minions in the dark when I'm away, so I'll be filling the whole week with Evil Editor Classics if necessary. New cartoons should be no problem, as long as I have five good captions before I leave, Monday morning. There is an opening and a query waiting for a continuation and fake plots respectively, so if those come in before I leave they can be posted instead of Classics. It would, of course, be nice if a healthy supply of openings and queries built up in my absence.

Auction Winner's Video

In the Brenda Novak auction, the winning bidder for product placement of their book in an Evil Editor Film was D Jason Cooper. Although he got this prize for a song, I will be declaring its value to be $400,000 when I list charitable contributions on my tax form next year.

Click to view.

Cartoon 925

Caption: Mother (Re)produces

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Face-Lift 916

Guess the Plot

Finding the Path

1. After a night of drunken forest debauchery, Todd wakes up at noon in a blackberry thicket, naked. Who were those chicks and why did they lead him here? Which way is home? And what happened to his frigging glasses? He can't see a thing without them.

2. 1941 Scotland. Sent to live in the country for safety, fifteen-year-old Mary and her brother Philip are bored and lonely. When the old gardener tells them about a secret pathway near the bridge, they decide to have a look. But will they find a trail--or something more sinister? Also, a ghostly fox.

3. A tribe of rabbits must find a new home when bulldozers arrive to turn their meadow into a parking lot.

4. Hansel and Gretel, aka 'House' and 'Grit,' have been abandoned halfway between Texas and Washington, DC by their crack-head mother. Can they find their way home to dad? Will he even realize they're missing, unless he runs out of beer?

5. Englebert lives in a bewitched forest. He eats roots, berries, and slow-moving varmints, sleeps in the hollow of a tree and dreams about a path that leads to the castle where the evil wizard who turned beautiful Naomi to glass now keeps her locked in a tower. Englebert wants to save the damsel, but he can't actually find that path without the help of a certain uncooperative elf.

6. Flip Miller develops telepathic powers after a nuclear blast and uses them to start a horse training business that doesn't require any whispering. Then the sheriff rides into town and asks Flip to use her powers to find some missing persons--including her grandmother. Can Flip ascertain "Which way did they go?" or do her powers just work on the equine crowd?

Original Version

Dear Prospective Agent,

Life isn’t easy in the aftermath of a psionic nuke, [My Googling of "psionic nuke" turns up pages of video game-related responses. This leads me to wonder if you learned the term from your obsession with Starcraft II.] and a tiny fraction of the survivors have discovered new mental abilities within themselves even as they band together into small communities to ward off predators. ["Even as" implies that one wouldn't expect the development of new mental abilities from people banding together to ward off predators. I don't see that one has anything to do with the other.] ["Developed" is a tighter way of saying "discovered within themselves."]

Horse trainer Philippa Miller doesn’t whisper to horses; with her telepathic connection, she doesn’t have to. [Is it a telepathic connection just with horses?] But when the sheriff of the territory comes to find out if her gift can help him discover what is happening to the growing number of missing persons [discovering their whereabouts would take priority over discovering what's happening to them.] and her own grandmother vanishes, Flip finds herself up against the challenge of her life. [I would call surviving in the aftermath of a psionic nuke a bigger challenge. Either her gift can help the sheriff or it can't.] And she finds her abilities tested by an evil beyond her worst nightmares [An evil even worse than the aftermath of a psionic nuke?] even as she awakens to the possibility of a love beyond her wildest dreams. [With the sheriff?] [That's the second time you've used "even as" as a connector. It seems to work better here, although we have no idea what you mean by "an evil beyond her worst nightmares."]

FINDING THE PATH is an 81,000 word urban fantasy. I believe it will appeal to readers of Patricia Briggs, Rachel Caine and Faith Hunter. Following the old adage of 'write what you know', I raised and trained horses for many years and my husband [is an evil beyond my worst nightmares.] and children believe I'm telepathic. [Let's find out if you're telepathic. What am I going to say about your query?]

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



An evil beyond her worst nightmares/a love beyond her wildest dreams may seem like a clever contrast, but to me it's where the query comes splashing down in a pool of vagueness, even as it reaches its conclusion.

Is there a war going on, or did just one psionic nuke go off, thanks to terrorists or an accident? If it's the latter, can't the survivors go somewhere else instead of banding together to ward off predators? It sounds like the nuke incident occurred in the middle of nowhere. Was this territory an urban setting before the psionic nuke?

As no one else's mental powers are mentioned, and nothing is made of the predators, you might want to open with the focus on Flip:

In the aftermath of a psionic nuke, horse trainer Philippa Miller has developed a telepathic connection with her animals. When Sheriff Chad Massive drops by "Flip's" ranch to ask if her abilities might be useful in finding a string of missing persons, she hesitates--until she learns that her grandmother is the latest to go missing.

Start with something like that, and take us through the search and the evil and the romance even as you bombard us with specific fascinating details.

Cartoon 924

Caption: Mother (Re)produces

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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

New Beginning 862

If farting was an Olympic sport, my dad would get a gold medal. He let long, loud and smelly ones rip all day, every day. I’d hate to meet the person who could beat him.

I usually went to his garage after school. All the mechanics who worked there wore gas-masks. His stink was so strong, it cut across the odor of grease and oil. The deal was that I did homework in his office. But he was too busy to notice that I was really playing on-line games. I was the only one who ever went in there – nobody else would have survived the stench. My nose had gotten used to it after living with him for ten years. Customers had been known to faint when they stepped in to pay their bill.

When I walked in, he was loosening some wheel-nuts. The drill made a loud whzz-whzz, but not loud enough to hide his phhrttt.

“Hey Dad, think of all the money you’d save if you stopped using compressed air and powered your tools with farts instead!” I always said that instead of “hello”.

“I’d get as more mileage if I used your hot air, Mart,” he grinned back.

"I brought someone to meet you," I told him. "He was a guest speaker at school today. May I present Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee."

"Mart told me all about you," Mr. Rogge said, shaking Dad's hand. "That's how I got the idea. We've been trying for years to come up with a new event that Americans might actually be good at."

Opening: anon......Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 923

Caption: John

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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Face-Lift 915

Guess the Plot

Raise the Bar

1. It's the worst thing to happen on the Isle of Fergus since Cromwell leveled the church. Lenny's Barge, the only pub, sank. The secret agent MI5 sent from London is determined to find out why, but he can't get any cooperation -- the locals only want to raise the wreckage and refurbish the bar in time for Fiona's birthday.

2. With the world limbo championships fast approaching, all star Javier Rios suffers a horrific back injury. Can physiotherapist Nola Green get Javier back in shape before the contest with her unorthodox and highly erotic techniques? Also a grilled cheese sandwich spirit guide.

3. Disgusted by the smut his minions submit to his blog on a daily basis, Evil Editor decides to take a stand. He bans openings featuring blow jobs and flatulent mechanics, and restricts the blog to literary fiction . . . unaware that one mild mannered minion doubles as TrashMan, vigilante against good taste.

4. Understudy Natalie wants the lead role in Giselle, so she secretly raises the ballet bar an inch every day, hoping Vera will become flustered and quit. But Vera, convinced that she's shrinking, commits suicide. So it all works out for the best.

5. Helen Androvsky, the most ruthless defense attorney in the bar association, specializes in getting off parents accused of child abuse. But when Helen is herself accused of child abuse, she must decide whether to fight in court to keep her baby or drown her sorrows in another kind of bar.

6. Kent's dream has long been to win the all-around gymnastics gold medal. But ever since he belly-flopped the dismount on his high bar routine, he's been afraid to practice his signature double twisting triple somersault release. Will he have the guts to try it in the finals?

Original Version

Dear EE

I am submitting my query for a thriller, RAISE THE BAR. [As you provide the title and genre at the end, no need for this sentence.]

There are two kinds of bars Helen Androvsky is familiar with. As a star defence lawyer for parents accused of abuse or neglect of their children, she has a formidable reputation for utterly decimating the Child Welfare case in court.

But she has a fondness for the other type of bar, silencing her conscience [A lawyer with a conscience? Are you sure this is a thriller and not high fantasy?] with single malt whiskey. [As the topic sentence of the previous paragraph states that there are two kinds, I see no reason both kinds shouldn't be named in that paragraph. And because we're listing the two kinds, "and" is the conjunction we want, not "but." Also, I would change "silencing her conscience with" to "the type that serves."] [Okay, that's a big improvement, but I still don't like it. First of all, everyone's familiar with those two kinds of bar, so the first plot sentence is wasted. Assuming you are in love with the idea of spelling out the two kinds of bar for those readers who don't notice the clever dual meaning in the title, I think we want something like the following, which also allows you to keep your "but":

Helen Androvsky, a specialist in defending parents accused of child abuse, has earned a reputation as the most ruthless defence attorney in the bar association. But there's another kind of bar Helen has been known to frequent, the kind that serves single malt whiskey.]

[Note that I spelled "defence" with a "c" as you did, making the assumption this is intended for someone in the British empire.]

When she wins a high profile case returning a child to a fallen celebrity once accused of using child pornography, she starts to receive [Helen receives] threats and fears for her own infant daughter’s safety.

The welfare agency accuses her of child neglect on the strength of a babysitter’s false evidence, ["She's an effing lawyer and she pays me less than minimum wage! Obviously she's an unfit mother."] and footage of her stumbling around drunkenly is made public. [There's no transition into this paragraph. First add some specific elaboration to the previous paragraph to give it some closure. What kind of threats? Then you can open this paragraph with some cliche-ish phrase like "Just when Helen thinks circumstances can't get any worse..." or "Things go from bad to worse when..."]

Helen must fight to clear her own name and win custody of [her] baby, while her stalker seems to be getting closer and more threatening. [She has a stalker? Maybe that could be worked into the paragraph where she's getting threats.]

RAISE THE BAR is a 70,000-word thriller. I have a background in Child Welfare services.


Was the footage of Helen stumbling around drunkenly taken long ago, before she was a mother? If so, say so, so we don't suspect she is neglectful.

One assumes from the comment about Helen's conscience that some of the clients she gets off are guilty. This makes her a highly unsympathetic character, and I suspect that even if her baby were kidnapped readers would be thinking, Good, serves her right, maybe she'll learn her lesson the hard way. Unless you want readers cheering for the stalker, maybe Helen's clients should all be falsely accused. Do something to make us like her.

It doesn't feel like a thriller. It's the threats and the stalker that make it a thriller, but we don't know what the threats are, and saying the stalker "seems" to be getting closer and more threatening only makes me suspect that he isn't.

The summary needs to progress logically, just as the book does. All these one-sentence paragraphs make it sound like you're just listing a few events rather than telling a story. And each paragraph needs internal cohesion, with information building on other information, not so easy with one-sentence paragraphs.

I feel like the story arc would seem more logical (and salable) and the query would feel better organized if it went in this order: Helen, who normally defends people she thinks are innocent gets off someone she thinks is guilty. She goes to a bar to soothe her conscience; someone films her stumbling out drunk. Child Protective Services accuse her of neglect when the film goes public and the babysitter comes forward. Then the threats/stalker stuff starts.

Cartoon 922

Caption: Mother (Re)produces

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Monday, June 06, 2011

Face-Lift 914

Guess the Plot


1. They say home is where the heart is. But when Candace moves into her new home and finds a human heart in the refrigerator, she determines to have a little talk with the realtor. Especially after she notices that the heart is still beating.

2. When their home planet is threatened by a rogue asteroid, the dying Queen Finella sends her only daughter, Shirel to lead their people to colonize a new planet. But evil prince Blihat takes this chance to seize power by sabotaging her ship.

3. Janine Blacklow's father sent the girl away to be raised by relatives. Years later, a lawyer announces she has inherited her father's home, a ramshackle mansion with hidden doors and walls that talk. Literally. At night voices of the past repeat things said long ago, revealing the terrible crimes and sinister secrets Mr. Blacklow thought would never come to light. Or is Janine losing her mind?

4. When a man named Home drifts into town with a violin, no one pays much attention. But when Home plays the violin, the listeners are all transformed into animals. And when Home tries to reverse the spell, he discovers that the violin will no longer play! Can he remedy the situation in time to save the town from approaching war?

5. Deaths aren't uncommon in nursing homes, but the last six people to die in Heartland Grove Rest Home were completely drained of blood. Detective Steve Thingy is beginning to suspect there's more going on here than just old people kicking the bucket.

6. Seventeen-year-old Raina has been accepted at prestigious Williams College, but her domineering mother sees Raina as free maid service if she can convince Raina to stay home and attend Pitt County Community College. Will Raina believe Mom's claim that she's dying of cancer, and give up her dream of escaping Pittsfield?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

At the cost of one man's happiness, the town of Geschlos [That sounds like Gestapo. Everyone named Hitler changed their name, and I suspect Geschlos is now Godville. ] is protected by magic from the terrors that plague the rest of the world.

While Kazi loves her peaceful hometown, [Kazi looks like Nazi. I'm sensing a theme. Have you been watching the History Channel?] she is also drawn to the outside world, and when a strangely attractive legendary man [named Neville Chamberlain] arrives, she takes the opportunity to leave, knowing this chance would [will] not come again for fifty years. [How does she know this? Is that the legend? No one can leave town unless they slip out through the portal that opens up when this legendary guy shows up every fifty years?]

At first Home is an enigma, a drifter with no home to call his own and only his violin – and now Kazi – for company. [Whoa. I thought Kazi took the opportunity to leave when Home arrived. So how are they suddenly together? Are they in town or out?] However, the violin is no ordinary instrument, and Kazi soon learns what terrible power it possesses. In a fit of anger Home plays a dark song that transformers [transforms] the listeners, including Kazi, into animals. [Who are the other listeners?]

Regretting what he has done, Home tries to reverse the spell, but his violin will no longer play. In order to restore both the violin and Kazi to their former selves, Home will have to revisit the dark places of his past, [How does he know this? If my guitar suddenly wouldn't play, I wouldn't revisit the dark places of my past.] and he does not have much time. Geschlos's barrier is already weakening and without Home's ability to reinforce it, the war spreading across the world could very well destroy the town once and for all.



Wild guess: Home shows up every fifty years to reinforce the magic barrier that protects the town from terrors and to let those who wish to leave get out. Presumably Home is the man referred to in the first sentence, so keeping the town safe makes him unhappy. (Personally, if I had to work only one week out of every fifty years I'd be ecstatic.)

Why doesn't Home just stay in town? Where does he go for fifty years? Wild guess: He'd like to stay in town, but he has to go recharge his magic violin and it takes twenty-five years to get to the charging center.

I would think that if Home is legendary, Kazi would know a lot about him. Yet she seems to have known nothing about his violin. And calling him "strangely attractive" sounds like she had no idea what he looked like.

This is nothing but a plot summary. You need a paragraph at the beginning or end telling us the title, word count, genre. I can't tell if Kazi is 8, 18, or 40, so I can't tell if it's for kids, teens or adults.

When you get turned into an animal, do you have your human intelligence and memories? If so, does anyone get turned into a parrot? It would be cool if someone got turned into a parrot and said, "Hey, WTF?!!!"

I think I'd start by clearly stating the legend, assuming the legendary man is legendary because he's associated with a legend. (Whether I should call it a legend when it actually happens, and often enough that people can remember the last time it happened, is open to discussion.) Then bring in Kazi. If Kazi and Home never leave the town, there's no need to mention that Kazi wants to. Focus on the danger and the plan to avert it.

I think Home is the title, as it was the subject line of the email when this was sent in. It's a pretty bland title. It's also a pretty bland name for the character. Maybe you should call him Stradivarius.

Cartoon 921

Caption: Khazar-khum

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Sunday, June 05, 2011


Here's another query that appeared here (12/20/07) and whose book, The Spirit Thief, (and two sequels plus another on the way) was published without our knowledge! Not only that, but the "Look Inside" feature at Amazon allowed me to see the book's Acknowledgments page, and there's no mention of the Evil Minions! What gives?

Fomi alerted me to this one. The Spirit Thief got a starred review from Booklist.

Guess the Plot

The Spirit Thief

1. When a soul-sucking witch is picked for the cheerleading squad, it's up to cheerleader/amateur sleuth Allie Jones to uncover her identity before all the oomph goes out of her fellow cheerleaders.

2. Master thief Kadie will accept any commission if the pay--and the challenge--are enough. But when she "reallocates" the sealed jar on the altar of the crocodile god Sebek, the question becomes, Can she put something back before the world ends?

3. He's Eli, a charming wizard and the greatest thief in the world. She's Miranda, the wizardess hired to hunt him down. But when a more powerful wizard shows up and snatches the kingdom's throne, can Eli and Miranda team up to prevent him from also stealing the souls of inanimate objects?

4. One by one, the cheerleaders at Central High are succumbing to depression. The homecoming pep rally resembles a funeral. When quarterback Jack Van Helsing discovers that the new kid at school is more than a mere Goth/emo weirdo, can he stop The Spirit Thief before everyone starts dressing in black and wearing a lot of make-up?

5. Mrs. Mary Muffleton can't get through a day without a sip or two of hard spirits. When she finds her whiskey flask mysteriously drained, even teetotaling Mr. Muffleton gets involved in the hunt for the culprit. Strange noises in the basement, a blunt axe and a mismatched pair of shoes are the only clues to the identity of . . . The Spirit Thief.

6. When ghosts start disappearing, Trevor the poltergeist hopes that heaven has lowered its standards. But then he discovers the truth: the spirits are being systematically abducted by high-tech mercenaries, led by a nefarious scientist named Egon. In order to free his people, Trevor will pick off his foes one by one, possess a health inspector, and if he's lucky, get people to stop calling him 'Slimer'.

Original Version

Dear (agent-name-spelled-right),

In a world where everything has a soul, [Everything? Do people feel guilty about sending their trash to a landfill, knowing it deserves a proper burial?] and magic is as much about fast talking as raw power, Eli Monpress is a wizard who can charm a door off its hinges. [Does charming a door off its hinges affect the door's soul?] He's also the age's most famous thief, with a price on his head large enough to fund a small war. But that's not nearly enough for Eli, he has a higher goal, a greater purpose: earn a bounty of one million gold, or die trying. Of course, "die trying" is exactly what Miranda Lyonet, the wizardess with the impossible job [It's impossible?] of catching Eli before he ruins the reputation of wizards everywhere, would prefer he did. My fantasy novel, The Spirit Thief, complete at 75,000 words, is about what happens when magic, money, and a royal kidnapping gone wrong change the rules in the old game of cat and cat.

When Eli talks his way out of jail

[Eli: Guard!

Guard: What now?

Eli: Funniest thing. You're not gonna believe this, but . . . I'm innocent.

Guard: You're right, I don't . . . Hey, what's your cell door doing off its hinges?]

and steals the king of Mellinor, [Actually, we have a special word for stealing a person.] a country that has forbidden magic since its founding, there's nothing the nobles can do. [Well, they could send their armies after Eli, but his fast-talking skills would easily thwart them.

General: We've found you at last, Eli. Turn over our king or die.

Eli: Funniest thing. He escaped days ago. He should be back in Melanoma by now.

General: I don't want to believe you, but you're so damn charming.]

Fortunately for them, Miranda arrives right on Eli's heels. She offers to rescue the king, and catch Eli in the process, [Isn't catching Eli impossible? I know I heard that somewhere.] if Mellinor will rethink its ban on wizards. The nobles reluctantly agree, and Miranda begins the dangerous business of tracking down the self-proclaimed "greatest thief in the world." [Begins? I thought she was already tracking him down. Remember? To keep him from ruining the reputation of wizards everywhere?] But things get complicated when the kidnapped king's older brother, Renaud, himself a wizard banished by Mellinor's law, takes advantage of the confusion to make his triumphant return. Happy to have any prince, wizard or no, the nobles rush to follow his orders, but Miranda is suspicious. Can a banished prince really be willing to [Would a banished prince] stick his neck out for the younger brother who took his throne?

She gets her answer when Renaud sabotages the king's rescue, cheating Eli out of his ransom money and framing Miranda for the true king's death. [The true king? Isn't the true king the kidnapped younger brother? Since when is he dead?] To clear her name, and get out of the country alive, Miranda has to face the traitorous prince. But Renaud proves to be a more powerful wizard than she suspected, and it soon becomes clear she's going to need help. Unfortunately, "help" means swallowing her pride and teaming up with the thief who started this whole mess. But even Miranda and Eli together might not be enough to stop the plan Renaud has been hatching since he lost his birthright, and the price of failure could be much higher than Mellinor's throne. [The price of failure is the key. It's your query's Maltese Falcon. Its Ring of Power. Excalibur. The Grail . . . What is it?]

(Closing comments specific to each agent – not to exceed 25 words),

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


Revised Version

In a world where magic is as much about fast talking as raw power, Eli Monpress is a wizard who can charm a door off its hinges. He's also the age's most famous thief, but that's not enough for Eli; he vows to earn a bounty of one million gold, or die trying. When Eli talks his way out of jail and kidnaps the king of Mellinor, a country that has forbidden magic since its founding, there's nothing the nobles can do.

Enter Miranda Lyonet, a wizardess who arrives on Eli's heels. She offers to rescue the king and catch Eli in the process, if Mellinor will rethink its ban on wizards. But things get complicated when the kidnapped king's older brother Renaud, himself a wizard, takes advantage of the confusion to make his triumphant return. Miranda is suspicious. Would a banished prince really stick his neck out for the younger brother who took his throne?

She gets her answer when Renaud sabotages the king's rescue, cheating Eli out of his ransom and framing Miranda for the former king's death. To clear her name, Miranda must take on the traitorous prince, and for that she'll need help. Unfortunately, "help" means swallowing her pride and teaming up with the thief who started this whole mess--and the price of failure could be the universal destruction of Cocoa Puffs.

The Spirit Thief, complete at 75,000 words, is about what happens when magic, money, and a royal kidnapping gone wrong change the rules in the old game of cat and cat.

Thank you.


How come when a wizard kidnaps the king there's nothing the nobles can do, but when a wizardess is framed for killing the king, she can't get out of the country alive? Are wizards that much more powerful than wizardesses?

I recommend calling the kingdom Melanoma. It has a nice ring to it.

I liked the query, but it seemed too long for one page. The shorter version probably doesn't include the real price of failure, as I don't know it, but if it's something really terrible, you might want to work it in.