Monday, October 31, 2011

New Beginning 897

Bert was entering Dr. Carneival’s House of Freaks when he was snatched from behind. Now, he laid upon a surgical table surrounded by severed birds’ heads, pigs’ ears, and gators’ tails; the remainders of their bodies hung above his head. A lamp came on and glinted off jars of frozen eyes, while hands like chicken claws placed a row of knives and needles near his fingers. His trembling fingers stretched towards them, but his hand would not follow.

“No point tryin’,” an old voice laughed.

The hands clutched his eyes open and a woman’s face like melted candle wax appeared; eyes that poked sideways swiveled over his face, resting for a moment on his eyes.

“I don’t wanna die” He croaked.

“If you was gonna die, then you’d be dead.” The woman placed one of the jars beside the table. The eyes bobbed up and down in their gray liquid, each pupil burning a hole into his skin. She threaded the biggest needle and jabbed it into an eyeball, squishing gray liquid everywhere. He tried to sit up; he tried to run; but his head just rolled side-to-side.

“Don’t worry,” the woman patted his cheek. “I’ve done been through four jobs afore this one, and I can ‘sure you, this pain won’t be nothin’ to what you already feelin’.”

It was his own fault. Bert had been swayed by blind ambition, lured by Carneival's promises of riches; of never again having to beg for money. And his exit had been dramatic:

Today's show was brought to you by the letters "F" and "U", and the number two million dollars!

But no one walks away from PBS.

Bert heard a sound. A scuffle at the edge of his vision. A familiar figure approached the table.


"Yes, Bert, it's me. You can never leave, you know. And once Lydia here is finished, you'll never again be tempted to have some other guy's hand up your ass."

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

Witches and Warlocks!

The 2nd Witch Guess the Plot Quiz.

The following plots have appeared in the Guess the Plot feature, but not all of them were fakes. Can you remember which three were the actual plots of minions' novels?

1. Millie's mother was hung as a witch. Her aunt has been sheltering her ever since, trying to keep her from the prying eyes of the local law. But Millie can't stop playing with bones, cats and candles. Is she just a curious girl, or is she really her mother's daughter?

2. Nausicaa's motto is No stranger to danger. She's made it her mission to rescue witches from the executioner, but who is going to save her, now that her fellow freedom fighters are about to go to war with the oppressive government, and she's lost her memory? If only she could find the man of her dreams…

3. Thumbelina has been wandering the pathways of the Alderton Maze in search of a way out for seven hundred years, when at last she encounters the wizard-hedgeman with his magical clippers. It's spite at first sight, but they must work together to forge an exit before that wicked witch, Tiffany, returns from the hairdresser's -- or be lost forever.

4. Hoping to avoid looking fat in their graduation gowns, a coven of witches summon a demon who can freeze time and allow them a few extra personal training sessions before the ceremony.

5. When Rebecca Thompson realizes there is another dimension that mirrors earth, where our shadows live and breathe, she enlists the help of her best friend Gregory--a warlock--to transport her there. If Rebecca can steal her mother's shadow, she can use it to get her mother out of a coma. But Greg has other plans for his "best friend."

6. Potions don't come cheap. Meg has stayed young and beautiful for centuries by cheating mortals out of their hard earned cash. But when her used car business goes under, Meg is forced to take swindling to an even higher level: Infomercials.

7. In the sleepy English town of Swindle Witch, Postmistress Wendelin May sells eye of newt along with stamps and sweets. But when Sir Edward Fezziwig chokes to death on a newt eyeball, Wendelin must turn amateur sleuth to clear her name.

8. Octavia Bly, the last witch in Massachusetts, used to intoxicate people with love potions, poison their soup, fly around at night . . . old-fashioned stuff like that. She loves the 21st century. She's in overpriced real estate, tech companies that make only virtual products, and Internet dating sites. Which brings her to the attention of the Chinese Dragon Society -- a group of witches who want her dead.

9. When a creature kidnaps her parents and sister, Patricia's magic isn't strong enough to get them back. So she accepts an offer of help from a witch named Lillian. But this witch is also a liar and a murderer and a thief, so Patricia isn't sure she can trust her.

10. Investigative journalist Martha Jameson poses as a witch to infiltrate the local Wiccan group, whom she believes are manufacturing amphetamines. Imagine her surprise when they actually turn out to be vampires!

11. The village of Swindle, Massachusetts is known for never letting a wayfarer escape with his shillings. But when the problem comes to the attention of the Bay Colony authorities, the villagers all blame Strange Maggie. Can amateur sleuth Patience Goodbody keep them from stringing Maggie up?

12. 17-year-old Alanian and his sister Anneallan must steal the Sword of Azallyan from the Hall of Allazynan to save the Kingdom of Allazhean from destruction at the hands of evil Emperor Annazealhan. That is, if bumbling warlock Fred doesn't ruin everything first.

13. Frustrated bowler and evil-warlock-in-training, Hackasack, has fumbled a spell on the black light lamps at Bowling Land, causing a town-wide eclipse of the sun. Only a perfect game can break the spell. Can bowling wonder Rory save the town?

14. 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.

15. The boys' camp always won the Muddy Lake fishing contest. But this summer the girls have an advantage, as Wiccan counselor Kate Hecky adds enchantment to their fishing rods. But their lures attract a lake creature older and bigger than anyone expected. Can Kate and her novice witches send it back into the deeps?

16. The Garlia Elves call warlock Jarak Blackfist a vengeful tyrant. Indignant and outraged at their slander, he destroys their race, razes their cities to the ground, and salts their lands, figuring that'll teach 'em.

17. Selma Baker has kept her position as head secretary at Consolidated Megaplex Holdings, Inc. despite her unpleasant phone manner and poor typing because she's the only one who can get the office copier to work properly. But when friendly and efficient Tassie Jones fills in during Selma's bunion surgery and the copier doesn't jam once, Selma dusts off her cauldron and spellbooks in order to hang on to her job.

18. When the Midvale Book Club and Wiccan Circle miss a syllable in their incantation to the earth mother, the ladies reach the wrong deity and accidentally set loose Shiva, goddess of destruction. Can they appease the goddess before she smites them all?

19. Yet another hot teen witch enrolls at Crossland High School. It's getting so there's no room for bicycle parking anymore, with all the broomsticks.

20. A Wiccan wannabe sets out to train an orangutan to perform religious rites. Hilarity ensues when the ignorant ape guzzles the ceremonial ale and then starts grinding the ritual cakes into the derrieres of female attendees.

21. Practicing Witch Deirdre Connelly's reward for procuring the Star Stone is dinner with her crush, actor Rob Addison. Hilarity ensues when the Star Stone becomes permanently fused into Dierdre's hand, causing her to keep setting Rob on fire.

22. Vesta Marcotte knows there are only three ways to become a witch: innate talent, years of study, or paying someone from the occult black market to steal some witch's powers and transfer them to you. Having chosen the easy way, hilarity ensues as Vesta tries to master the powers of Allora, the most powerful witch in the western hemisphere.

Answers below

The actual plots are:

Numbers 2, 9 and 22

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Vampires appear frequently in fake plots, but they're also popular in actual fiction. As Evil Editor failed to create a vampire Guess the Plot Quiz last year, you have twice as many plots to consider. Do you remember which 10 of the following were minions' actual plots?

1. Doctor Lye tried to convince humanity that the upcoming solar eclipse was a plot by vampires to blot out the sun. He failed and eternal night engulfed the Earth. Now his son leads the underground resistance in adapting an amusement park attraction into a moon-destroying missile.

2. Sammy's mother was bitten by a vampire while pregnant with Sammy. At least, that's Sammy's excuse for not liking garlic, having fangs, and wanting to be a hemotologist.

3. Mankind ended the devastating vampire war long ago by stopping the rotation of the Earth and living on the bright side. But now the vampires have found a way to start the world spinning and humans who have never seen a vampire will have to face their first sundown.

4. She's your typical fifth-grader, with a dog, a cat, a Wii, and a vampire for a brother. And you'll want all the other books in the series, too.

5. When a duke confesses to killing his mistress's brothers, their affair is over. But he later realizes that he's in love with her, so he tells her he lied and her brothers were actually killed by a vampire. Turns out the duke and his mistress are also vampires. Pretty much everyone's a vampire.

6. Vampires! They don't turn into bats, sparkle or have fangs, and they do have reflections, but they will drink your blood! Oh, hang on, they're just highly organized, deranged serial killers! And they're after the protagonists, who are smoking hot and scantily clad!

7. 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.

8. Investigative journalist Martha Jameson poses as a witch to infiltrate the local Wiccan group, whom she believes are manufacturing amphetamines. Imagine her surprise when they actually turn out to be vampires!

9. Amy Williams is the world's most unusual vampire, but can she get a date? The beauty gene never even sniffed in her direction. Maybe it's time to head to the gym and set sights on brooding rogue cop Drake Heattrew. If he ever finds out she sucks sin out of mortals, he'll book 'er - but by then, Amy might just have reformed this bad boy.

10. Larry and Sam set out to be the best web designers in Milwaukee, but it all goes bad in a bout of rum-fueled madness in which Larry kisses their first and only client on the lips. Mistook him for a girl, somehow. Turned out he's a vampire. And now, so is Larry.

11. Private investigators Amar, Shiv and Chiranveen are quadruplets who communicate telepathically with their dead sister Yami in order to solve crimes in Kolkata. Which comes in handy when American vampires tire of hamburger-flavoured blood and set out to snack on Indian street food vendors.

12. On Halloween night, Ashley takes a shortcut through the graveyard and gets simultaneously bitten by both a vampire and a werewolf. Crap. This is going to put a crimp in her plan to snag All-American Josh Burrell as her prom date.

13. 6646 BC. Most of the human race died out two thousand years earlier under the reign of King Arvaker. Now, just as we're making a comeback, a new threat arrives: vampire orcs. Humans go underground and morph into dwarfs to await their savior, but when he finally shows up, he's kind of lazy.

14. At Seance High for the Supernatural, Julie wants more than anything to kiss a boy. Problem is, being a spirit, she's ethereal. But when a vampire hunk transfers to the school, his half-dead status means he might consider taking her to the prom. Can she scare off all the other spooks while she strives to possess his heart?

15. Grant, Sevars and Tony are in a 60's folk band stuck in the Summer of Love. Trouble is, they're vampires--and while neither they nor their music may have aged, the same can't be said of the fans. Also, lots of panty-tossing Boomers.

16. Carmen has finally met the boy of her dreams. As it happens, he's invisible. Also, a vampire. When Carmen gets trapped in a school fire, she fears no one can save her . . . unless . . . can a vampire go out in the daytime if he's invisible?

17. William Collier works in London designing the large suits of steam powered armour known as Steamsteel. With Steamsteel manufacturers across England turning up murdered, the mysterious Inspector Boyle offers to hide William from the spies thought to be responsible. But is it spies . . . or vampires?

18. Everyone in the tenth grade at Wharton Memorial High is a vampire. It's so last-decade. But when Steve Chance, a moody, glitterless boy from out west, moves to town, Chastity falls head-over-fangs for him. Trouble is, every other girl in the tenth grade wants a piece of him. Preferably, his jugular.

19. 17-year-old ocean lifeguard Kortney has Red Cross WSI certification, a stellar employment record, and a terrible secret. She's a vampire. And when a group of foster children on an outing gets caught in a rip tide, she has to make a difficult choice.

20. Jason wants to go to Six Flags ("More flags, more fun!") but his dad insists on Nine Worlds. Little do they know a ride-operating vampire will take control of the Vampire Bat Hellcoaster and roll them into the Tenth World at midnight.

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

22. Julia, 28 and lovely, is alone in the world after her parents die in a fire that left only a mound of ashes and two silver stakes. Rex Hamilton, the handsome executor of their wills, informs her that as the mortal child of two vampires, she must atone for every life they took or become a vampire herself. Horrified, Julia pleads for Rex's help -- but eventually she decides being a vampire is worth it. Could it be she saw Rex's billing rates?

23. Vampires Gabriel and Michael move to the little city of Oskaloosa to harvest blood from the unsuspecting--only to find their home besieged by vampire-crazed teenagers. Maybe they should have stayed at that retirement home on Key West.

24. After being dumped by “Ivan the Terrible” of Miami, Isabella and her friends plan a trip to Isabella’s dream destination—Transylvania. But when the ship is attacked by vampires, Isabella’s new date—Todd, a dentist—may have more work than he’d ever bargained for.

25. Can't a girl catch a break? It was bad enough getting murdered and waking up as a vampire. But now someone's ripped out one of Hannah's fangs and transported her back in time to medieval days where a hunky knight in shining armor is all that stands between her and an ancient bloodsucker who wants to make her his mindless slave.

26. Bensimon is a failure as a vampire--so bad Dracula broke off one of his fangs. Now he has to use a little silver dagger to feed. Trouble is, he gave it to Missy Stevens as a love token, and now she's dating hunky Jayden Saunders and won't return his calls. Does he swallow what's left of his pride and ask Dracula for help--or should he talk to Mr. Cobbs, the werewolf who teaches art?

27. Mikhail is humiliated when a broken fang sends him to Madeleine Schickelgruber, vampire dentist extraordinaire, for an implant. Madeleine thinks she's come up with an innovative new treatment...but then Mikhail comes around from the anesthesia and reminds her how vampires feel about silver. Malpractice suits ensue.

28. Brought to the dentist about a terrible case of upper canine overbite, a teenage girl devours the specialist when he refers her to an oral surgeon. A kindly hygienist then opines that Izzie might be a born bloodsucker. Mystery solved. They celebrate by feasting on the receptionist.

29. In the 41st century a World War breaks out between humans and Elytes. Elytes are vampires, but note that vampires is spelled with an "i" rather than a "y." On the other hand, Elytes is spelled with a "y" instead of an "i" so you probably all hate me anyway.

30. After the zombie apocalypse kills us all, Marley discovers that brains taste sweeter when he's shambling alongside Dixie Adams. But then the vampires show up and ruin everything.

31. David Taylor is a high school student, a vampire, and a pyromaniac. He plots a fiery death for his classmates, but a chance encounter with Lucy Ballentine sets his cold heart smoldering. Will Lucy fan his flames of desire or will the whole school end up . . . Embers?

32. In the war between the werewolves and the vampires the vamps have one great advantage. With all that howling and jaw chomping the wolves can't sneak up on ANYBODY, while silently the Vampires slink through the darkness, their jeans-clad thighs making no whisk-whisk sound.

33. 400 years of respectable human children--and then wham! Vampire. Ella's dad blames her mom's questionable ancestry--but it takes two to make the recessive gene appear, which spells out a family feud for Ella. Now Papa's out for Great-great-great-grandpa's blood via stake--and vice versa via fangs.

34. A brilliant scientist fuses the DNA of two vampires and a jaguar with a human embryo, creating the world's first human with vampire genes and spots. But the creature longs to be a normal human, so he looks into stem cell research for the answer.

35. Tom Fraser has problems. He's unpopular at high school, his parents have split up, he can't talk and he's a vampire. As Twilight mania sweeps his school, Tom hatches a plan to turn his vampirism into popularity. Tom works on his dark moody look and buffs up a little, but when he tells everyone he's a vampire he's still unpopular.

36. Vlad the Ruthless has a secret. Though by night he terrorizes New York, by day he does genetic research at Sloan Kettering...and he just may have discovered a cure for cancer. But will vampire hunter/nurse Michelle stop him before he can make the discovery known?

37. Third-grader Isabella is determined to show everyone how grown-up she is, but how can she when she doesn't have her fangs yet? Be careful what you wish for, Isabella. When she finally gets her fangs, she also gets a humiliating lisp!

38. On an island inhabited by warlocks, werecreatures, shapeshifters, witches, etc., Sarah's life is constantly in peril. How many times can she expect the strange angelic man who's actually a vampire to save her neck?

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

40. Cornered in his mountain hideaway, Dracula escapes by time traveling to 1942 to join forces with Hitler. But a secret government agency uses equipment discovered in Roswell, New Mexico to send a super-powered agent after Dracula.

Answers below

The actual plots are:

5, 13
, 16, 25, 29, 34, 37, 38, 39, 40

Friday, October 28, 2011

New Beginning 896

Winter broke late this year. Snow gave way to rain. Gray landscapes gave way to green leaves of hope. It was thus in Jules Stevens' heart, if not in the city as a whole. He rotated into the Central City's Equine Patrol an assignment heavy with community public relations; horseback riding for kids, scheduling the ball fields, hiring the lifeguards and shepherding the golfers. He picked out a handsome stallion for his mount; Chestnut, a Morgan named for its coloration.

The weather was still cold a week later when the Chief of Detectives called Stevens to his office where he paced back and forth like a man waiting for a chimpanzee to wax his testicles.

"Your buddy, the one with the funky name and weird friends on that society blog that the kids love and the mayor hates. Aubrey's it? Well, he's misbehaving again in our park," The Chief of D's said. He moved in jerks and spasms as if seeing insects, swatting at them and then not seeing them. Stevens recognized an obsession curse and it came from pictures attributed to Aubrey's Weekly Blog on the Chief's computer screen. The Weekly snitched to Stevens, his secret source, the best in the city.

"So, uh, what's Aubrey done?" said Stevens, shifting in his seat as if encouraging a leech on his right buttock to move on to the next boil.

It was the first week of April, the cruelest week, mixing squishy mud pies with half-chewed gummi bears dropped by toddlers who would have retrieved and eaten the gummi bears if they could have found them among the mud pies.

"Molested some golfers," the Chief replied, scratching himself as though he might find the Hope Diamond in his own scrotum, then not finding it but keeping on scratching anyway because it felt good. "I know everyone says golfers just wander around the meadow and take orders from dogs, but this time one of them complained about it. The molesting, I mean."

Stevens said, "OK, boss. I'll deal with it."

As Stevens swore quietly under his breath and headed to the door, the chimpanzee sat quietly to one side and mumbled, "You think you've got a tough job?"

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: John/Anon.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Face-Lift 965

Guess the Plot

Clear Cut

1. Nan loves Timmy, but she begins to doubt her choice when Bob Bigford comes to town and she sees the longest chainsaw in the world stowed in the back of his pickup.

2. Laid off by the FBI, Mary Hudson needs a new gig. What is an woman over 50 to do? The answer is clear-cut. She removes every trace of experience and education from her resume, dons her tallest shoes and shortest skirt, and gets hired as the receptionist at Mumford, Blackwell, Jones and Dupont, a law firm.

3. Forensic artist Sophie Langley has a great life. Great boyfriend, great job—even a consulting gig on a hit TV show. But when hunky actor Dirk Beefcake makes it clear he wants a relationship with Sophie and her boyfriend, her future becomes anything but . . . Clear Cut.

4. Finally Diana gets a station at exclusive Clear Cut, salon for Hollywood nobility. Maybe an agent will notice her. Or an actor? Either way, she needs to stop dyeing everyone's bangs green.

5. The rules are clear-cut. In order to reach her career goal, Nanoken Riverborne must first perform three impossible tasks. The first of which is to find some wiggle room in the word "impossible."

6. Everyone laughed when Dr. Adam Tandashian claimed to have perfected the invisible laser, a surgery technique so powerful it leaves no scars. Hollywood beckons, but first he wants to rid his pesky ex-wife of her brain.

Original Version

Dear Evil,

There are three impossible tasks in the world: helping the helpless, redeeming the irredeemable, and changing the unchangeable. [It's certainly not impossible to help the helpless. For instance, a person who's paralyzed might be called helpless, and you could help him by washing his feet or changing the channel on his television. "Helping the unhelp-able" is more in line with the rest of the list, but the list is silly. You may as well add to the list of impossible tasks: slicing the unsliceable, stabbing the unstabbable, painting the unpaintable, editing the uneditable, etc. They're impossible by definition. Also, your tasks are all vague. They aren't tasks, they're categories of tasks. Driving a car from New York to Bermuda in twenty minutes is a specific impossible task. It's easy to grasp. It doesn't seem to fall into any of your categories, however. If your list is not the only three impossible tasks, you need to provide some reason that these are the three you've chosen to list.] That's not supposed to stop priestesses. Just to finish her training, Nanoken Riverborne has to do something impossible. [When she reports that she did something impossible, won't her superiors say that it quite obviously wasn't impossible?] There's no way Ken will fail. She'll do anything to be a priestess. Her family owes priestesses everything. [Does her impossible task have to fall into one of the three categories you listed? If so, drop the first sentence and open something like: Nanoken Riverborne has been training most of her life to become a priestess. To complete her training, she must feed a starving child, reform Borgo the Disemboweler, and prove that pi = 4.] [Note that I've made the tasks more specific.]

Traveling across the continent to the purple pools proves a quester is worthy to be a priestess. [If the Purple Pools are worth crossing a continent for, they're worth capitalizing.] [If making it to the Purple Pools makes you worthy of being a priestess, why do you also have to do the impossible?] It's also a great way to encounter people in need of exorcisms, something only priestesses can do. [But she isn't a priestess.] That's one way to help the helpless. Some others include protecting the weak, small children, and the mentally ill, like Ken's mother. Ken will help the helpless, all of them she can find, even if it kills her. [First you claim helping the helpless is one of the three impossible tasks; then you list numerous ways to do it. Define "impossible."] [By the way, if I haven't made it clear yet, I recommend leaving the part where she has to do the impossible out of the query.]

Finishing her training also means choosing a bodyguard from convicted felons. Ken chooses Rafe after he pulls a rapist off her. [Whoa. She has to choose from convicted felons while she mingles with them at a party? How are these felons close enough to attack her?

Head Priestess: Here's a group of convicted felons. Get to know them, but you may not ask them what their crime was. Choose one as your bodyguard.

Ken: For starters, I'll eliminate the one who's currently raping me. Let's see . . .

[Why would the rapist attack her before knowing if she's going to choose him as a bodyguard? If he's chosen, he can wait till later and rape her when there's no one around to pull him off.]
It doesn't even matter that Ken's the only one in her class not allowed the juicy details of his crimes; he's just three years older than Ken and says she reminds him of his sister, tidbits that convince Ken he'll be easy to redeem. [If he's easy to redeem, he's not irredeemable. She needs to redeem the irredeemable, so she should choose the guy who's so irredeemable he rapes her during the bodyguard-choosing ceremony.]

Changing the unchangeable means freeing a slave. [Why don't you just say she has to free a slave instead of change the unchangeable?] Ken has no interest in that. Who wants to convince a lazy, conniving slave to walk across the continent, anyway? [Where I come from, a lazy conniving slave is a dead slave.] In a thousand years, no slave's completed the journey that dozens of questers make every year. Ken thinks they don't want to be free.

[Premise 1: To become a priestess you must free a slave and convince her to walk across the continent.
Premise 2: No slave has completed the journey for a thousand years.
Conclusion: There are no priestesses (unless they live more than 1000 years).]

One does. Saphron can't do simple math, has never ridden a horse, and her religious knowledge is so lacking she may as well be helpless. [I'm just wild about Saphron.] Ken can't not help the helpless; it's all she's ever wanted to do. That's a problem [because it's impossible]. Freeing slaves is supposed to stay impossible. Too bad Ken vowed otherwise before the priestesses told her.

Clear Cut is a complete YA fantasy at 110,000 words. It should appeal to fans of Graceling.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.



This is all setup. Is there a villain? Someone who doesn't want Ken to become a priestess? Or are the whole 110,000 words devoted to accomplishing three tasks? Dorothy travels to Oz and performs some tasks, but someone's out to get her. Does Ken have obstacles other than the fact that her tasks are "impossible"?

The Purple Pools just doesn't have the same ring to it as Mount Doom. No one would cross an entire continent to get to purple pools.

The title doesn't give any indication of what kind of book this is.

Start over. Keep the setup brief. To become a priestess, Ken must cross the continent with a freed slave and a convicted murderer while doing a, b and c. Then tell us the story. What happens? What if she fails? Who wants her to fail? What does she learn about herself, life, the world? The slave and felon may be what makes this different from other quest books. Make sure you mention how instrumental they are.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


The 6th Annual Zombie Guess the Plot Quiz

The following plots appeared in the Guess the Plot feature during the past year. Were they all fakes? Or was any of them the actual plot of a minion's novel?

1. On the cusp of her 100th birthday, Oya is chosen as the Peace Maker. But what can one woman do against a terrorist with an army of zombies? Shouldn't they have chosen a 17-year-old high school girl for this?

2. Takisha and Bud learn their credit cards have all been canceled, the phone goes dead, and the zombie who lives next door leaves a mess on their sidewalk. Bad luck comes in 4's, so . . . What's next?

3. Peopled by blood-splattered retirees, Dismal Key is the only remaining zombie habitat in the southeastern United States. And a Florida real estate developer has her eye on it.

4. 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.

5. It's 1793, and Captain Andrew MacDougall of HMS Relentless navigates dangerous seas as his crew dies off man by man of a mysterious illness. Then they all rise as mer-zombies and force his ship to sail to various hellholes that zombies like.

6. After the Zombie Non-Discrimination Act passes, Oliver Penworth sees an opportunity to expand his formaldehyde trade. But when he hires a few of the undead, he learns valuable lessons about tolerance, respect, and proper ventilation in the workplace.

7. The latest fashion at Swan's school; shiny. One little capsule and you'll glow in the dark for 24 hours. Everyone's doing it. Is it Swan's imagination, or do they get more and more zombie-like with each dose?

Answer below

#1 was someone's actual plot.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


In the past, our annual Guess the Plot Quizzes have appeared in December, when submissions tend to dwindle, but as we're down to 0 openings and 1 query (still needing fake plots) in the queues, and as it's Halloween week and most of the GTP Quizzes involve creatures of the night it's the perfect time for . . .

The 4th Were-Creature Guess the Plot Quiz

The following plots involving were-animals appeared in the Guess the Plot feature during the past year. But four of them turned out to be the actual plots of minions' novels. Which ones?

1. Someone is murdering teens in nearby towns, and suspicion falls upon Lily's school, where all the students are super-powered freaks. If Lily can't lead her team of future X-Men in solving the murders, the school may close. And Lily will never get a date with that really hot werewolf.

2. After 500 years, the slow rotation of the planet Ficksia is finally taking Lurhon City - and the last slice of land on the lit hemisphere - into the dark zone. If Ariadne and her ragtag team of werecats can't reverse the planet's spin by engineering a supervolcano explosion, it'll be sundown for everyone... forever.

3. Just as vampires overrun Valparaiso, a massive storm cuts it off from the outside world. Wolfsbane Joe, stuck in town after his werecheetah wife ran off with a waiter, is Valparaiso's only hope. But can one drunken ex-prizefighter werewolf take on a vampire army?

4. Chased by a werewolf named Simon, Rachel, a werewolf, ends up in Morgantown where she joins a local pack of werewolves and begins to wonder if it's really that bad to be a werewolf when pretty much everyone is a werewolf.

5. Harvey Jones has seen it all: fights, murders, sex, love gone bad. But that's pretty much what you get when you run a bar that caters to vampires and werewolves. Also, a silver dagger.

6. Aimee thinks she has the perfect solution to the animal instincts that overcome her when the moon is full and she becomes a werewolf: a cabin in the wilderness, fifty miles from civilization. And it works fine until the month she arrives at the cabin to find that a scout troop has set up camp nearby. Carnage ensues.

7. When Emily goes for her jog at Dume Park, she discovers all but a single trail are closed for maintenance. Determined to get her cardio at any cost, she follows the unfamiliar trail, soon realizing that something hungrily stalks her from the bushes. Suddenly that legend of the Dume Park Werewolf doesn't seem so silly.

8. Coyotes aren't the problem; the werewolves can keep the coyote population down. No, the problem is that Jo Redfox's mother has vanished and the only person who can find her won't--unless Jo lets him screw her on the hood of her truck. Hey, that's life, at . . . Camp Coyote.

9. On Halloween night, Ashley takes a shortcut through the graveyard and gets simultaneously bitten by both a vampire and a werewolf. Crap. This is going to put a crimp in her plan to snag All-American Josh Burrell as her prom date.

10. In a land where volcanic ash has blocked out the sun, an evil overlord with the ability to turn rabbits into bloodthirsty weredingos attempts to gain dominion over the puny people. Can 16-year-old Dara and her ragtag companions thwart Gurodun before he destroys the vessels containing the essences of their abilities? Or is everyone doomed?

11. Kat's new boyfriend carries a terrible burden: he's a werewolf. Kat has her own burden: a phobia of dogs. Their families hate each other. It's like Romeo and Juliet, only with werewolves.

Answers below

The actual plots are numbers:

1, 8, 10, and 11

Monday, October 24, 2011

New Beginning 895

Sergeant William Edward Blake, known in the Department as ‘Web’, looked at Lieutenant Rivera as they walked through the sprawling Loves Travel Stop building that housed the Greyhound terminal. Blonde eyebrows rose over blue eyes as he asked, “You really think he’ll be on the bus?”

Gray-haired Rivera was the oldest Lieutenant in the Department of Public Safety (DPS), Arizona’s state-level law enforcement agency. He popped a Tums, chewed it as he walked, looked at the thin young sergeant beside him and remembered what the Chief said when asked why he’d been saddled with the kid: “Web’s sharp; earned his stripes six months ago, already gained minor fame for some shrewd busts. Problem is, he’s still wet behind the ears; he’s gonna step on himself if we aren’t careful. I figure hitching him to a crusty old warhorse like you oughta fix that.”

The chief of Criminal Investigations Division was a man Rivera respected. The two had met in the Highway Patrol, worked their way up to CID. But Rivera refused promotion beyond Lieutenant, preferring to stay out in the field, while his friend rose to become the division chief.

The CID was the top echelon of the DPS, Governor Fallon's attempt to create a specialized unit not unlike the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) on his favorite TV show, Criminal Minds. Other departments of the DPS referred to the CID as Fallon's Folly.

Governor Fallon's rise to power had been fast, starting from city council in Sedona (later mayor) and then lieutenant governor in the scandal-ridden Colson administration.

Jimmy "the Bulgarian" Colson bought his election to the governorship with bribes and blackmail. It was Arizona's darkest hour, and Colson's inevitable impeachment was Fallon's good fortune.
Whether Fallon's connection to the Colson administration would hurt him in the next election remained to be seen.

Rivera popped another Tums and turned to Web. "Yeah, kid," he said. "I think he just might be on the bus."

Opening: Dixon.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Face-Lift 964

Guess the Plot


1. Gesundheit.

2. World-famous knitter Norma Knicker knows knots: slip knots, French knots, and purl knots. But when she comes across the Zeitnot, will it leave her needles gnarled? Also, a gnu.

3. German scientist Ernst Bloch has invented the perfect acne cream: “Zeitnot” guaranteed to clear up a virgin’s face! But now, neo-Nazis are after him for the formula. Seems they’ve dug up Hitler’s body, and are trying to get rid of the blemishes. Will Zeitnot become Zeitnaz, or can Ernst “Bloch” their acquisition?

4. Someone has killed the CEO of NuMagic and installed a mole in the company. But why? It's just a rinky-dink technology start-up. If Matthew, the other CEO of NuMagic, can't get to the bottom of this before it's too late, he could be the next victim.

5. Retired undercover cop Zeitnot takes up writing crime fiction based on the cases he put away. But a series of murders bearing the signature of the serial killer he put away ten years ago terrorizes the city, and the evidence points to Zeitnot. With the cops chasing him, he has to find the copycat who hacked into his files.

6. Time is running out for Louis Vlabinder. His girlfriend Natalie has long kept a secret. Two of them actually: Bob and Abernathy, her other boyfriends. Infidelity has been fun, but seriously, they're all over 40 now and if one of these cads doesn't find the inspiration to marry her by Christmas, she's going to dump them all and get someone from that matchmaker's catalog of Poles and Russians.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

I am sending the query for my novel ZEITNOT. The name refers to the fact that the protagonist is always pressed for time while making crucial decisions. [Though only chess enthusiasts and those who look up the word will get it. Is the word used in the book?] The course of events in the novel take place over 15 days.

Matthew, a CEO of NuMagic - a fast growing technology company, hires a private eye to investigate the circumstances of a sudden death [Murder. He was murdered, right? You don't need a private eye if he choked on a piece of ham.] of his partner and close friend. [I assume that's one person. Just call him partner.] At home, Matthew is facing marital issues and sickness of his children. His younger son Joshua is battling a hematological disorder. Older son David [What happened to the plot? I assumed the first sentence of this paragraph was the topic sentence, the one the rest of the paragraph builds on. You've swerved off the road and if you don't hit the brakes quickly you may drive off that cliff up ahead.] has an unusual gift masquerading as autism. Sickness of the children takes its toll on Matthew's wife Janice and strains their marriage. With a help from a doctor, Matthew finds out about David's true gift, which enables him to understand his son and save his marriage. [Screeeech! Aiiiiiieeeeeee!]

Investigation of partner's death uncovers a plot against NuMagic. [A plot to do what?] Matthew learns the identity of the mole. However, the mole himself is just a pawn in a bigger and more sinister game. [What are the stakes in this game?] Matthew is getting close to solving the puzzle. But ignoring David's warning [What warning?] puts him and his son [Which son?] in danger when the ruthless killer strikes again. [Maybe you should have stuck with the family. At least it was clear.]

ZEITNOT is Commercial Fiction and my first novel.
The complete manuscript of 55,000 words is available upon request.
Thank you for your time and consideration.



This is a mystery/thriller. You're devoting as much query space to Matthew's family life as to the main plot. Get rid of Joshua and Janice and the doctor. If David's only contribution to solving the crime is the warning that Matthew ignores, you can drop David too. If David's gift is instrumental in solving the crime, tell us what his gift is.

Focus on the crime:

Matthew Matthews, CEO of NuMagic, hires a private eye to look into the murder of his partner. The investigation reveals that there's a mole in NuMagic, a mole who's part of a sinister plot to bring down the world economy. There's no time to stop the plot . . . unless . . . Matthew calls upon his son David, the mutant superhero known as The Savant.

We need to know the goal of the sinister plot, and what NuMagic does that would make killing their executives and installing a mole useful. What will happen if Matthew fails to solve the "puzzle"?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Face-Lift 963

Guess the Plot

Death in Living Color

1. When a murder investigation leads to the Navajo Reservation, U.S. Marshall Graham Gray runs afoul of the tribal medicine man who predicted the murder with a sand painting. Things go from suspicious to spine-tingling when the medicine man uses the same technique to craft a painting of Gray's . . . death in living color.

2. When the body of beloved 50's sitcom star Lucy McGillicuddy is found in the charred husk of her Hollywood home, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, she was dead from a gunshot wound before the fire started, and two, redheads are really hot.

3. Tor Vlandingham loves “Death in Living Color!”— the newest reality TV show. But, when Tor finds himself trapped in a taxi with the next contestant, the idea of gladiators battling surprised civilians no longer seems so funny.

4. Thelma Foad, J.C. Dix's first client at his new law practice, hires him to recover a pornography film. Sounds intriguing, especially if he gets to see the film. But the next thing he knows, he's a murder suspect and gangsters are after him. Maybe he shoulda gone into corporate law.

5. Brenda thought she had a mouse problem so Dave set up a trap and his video camera, intending to film the carnage. In the morning the cheese is gone but where's the mouse? Dave checks the video and OMG, he killed an elf! Two other elves dragged the dead guy and the cheese away.

6. Justine wants to be a makeup artist for the movies. Thanks to the recession the only job she can find is preparing the dead for open casket events at the funeral parlor. Dullsville. Until she learns she must also subdue zombies and make them presentable. And who knew vampires could be so seductive!!??

Original Version

Dear Mr. Rubie:

I notice that you represent both military fiction and crime fiction. [Thus I thought you might be interested in my novel Saving Private Poirot.] Janet Hutchings, editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, called my short story Dancing in Mozambique (EQMM July, 2010) “… a harrowing portrait of war waged by mercenaries and the greed and pitilessness it breeds. I think it’s one of the best mysteries of the year…”

I am an ex-Special Forces Engineer Sergeant (Green Beret Explosives Expert), hold a BA in Journalism/Mass Communications from the Walter Cronkite School, and have sold fiction to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine ["...Mozambique"] and Boy’s Life, ["Bobby Disarms an IED with Just a Scout Knife and a Merit Badge"] as well as other magazines and anthologies.

Following a suggestion, in a very kind letter from Dean Koontz, I have shifted my writing focus from short stories to novels. [If Koontz spent half as much time revising his crap as he spends writing letters to random authors, he'd be Stephen King.] I now seek representation for my completed novel-length manuscript “Death in Living Color,” an 80,000-word mystery that mixes a veteran’s experiences into the mystery. [Change the second "mystery" to "plot" or "story."]

As America sends troops to the Korean Conflict, badly scarred WWII veteran Captain J.C. Dix moves to Scottsdale, Arizona to practice a nobler form of justice [Nobler than what?] —only to discover the dusty desert town needs another lawyer like it needs central heating. When Thelma Foad, wife of a powerful community leader, walks into Dix’s adobe law office, things seem to be looking up. But, Foad (who knows Dix won the Medal of Honor) doesn’t seek legal help. Instead, she hires him to recover an illicit pornographic film of her younger sister. [If I'm looking for someone to recover a porn film, I definitely want someone who's won the Medal of Honor.] Soon, Dix is threatened by gangsters, and implicated in theft and murder. With the County Sheriff threatening arrest, Dix struggles to keep from being disbarred, only to have a librarian-looking woman show up—begging him to investigate her over-sexed sister. [Is he a lawyer or a private eye? Not that either one would turn down a job investigating an over-sexed sister.] Learning that an anonymous benefactor sent the two clients to him, Dix worries he’s being used as a pawn. As the gangsters close in, he races to solve the case, [What is the case?] and unmask the mystery man. [The mystery man? You mean the anonymous benefactor? That's the case he's racing to solve, to find out who sent him his other two cases? Has he made any headway on the cases he's actually been hired to solve, the ones he'll get paid for? Or is he just trying to solve his own little mystery?] Before it’s over, he’ll need all the skills he learned in combat—as well as the Tommy Gun locked in his office—to fight for his life, and save the woman he’s come to love. [Which woman has he come to love? My guess is the librarian-looking woman. But usually when you love someone you call her by her name or sweetheart, rather than librarian-looking woman.] [Although, librarian-looking woman is starting to grow on me. In fact, I think you should call Thelma Foad "powerful community leader's wife-looking woman." It's a bit wordy, but trust me, if your name is Thelma Foad, you'd rather be called powerful community leader's wife-looking woman.]

I am a student of World War II, a Scottsdale native with connections to the historical society (though I don’t let historical minutia [minutiae] clog up the storyline), and I blog with several other successful authors at:

Following your website instructions, I pasted the first five pages of my manuscript below. I look forward to your reply.



This needs to be shortened. The Koontz sentence can go. You might open with: I am seeking representation for "Death in Living Color,” an 80,000-word mystery in which a WWII veteran sets up a law practice in Scottsdale, AZ, and soon finds himself entangled with gangsters and implicated in murder.

You don't need a bio at the beginning and the end. I'd combine the bio/credits into one paragraph at the end, something like:

I am an ex-Special Forces Engineer Sergeant (Green Beret Explosives Expert), hold a BA in Journalism/Mass Communications from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, and have sold fiction to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (Janet Hutchings, editor of EQMM, called my short story "Dancing in Mozambique" (July, 2010) “one of the best mysteries of the year…”).

That leaves us with the plot. I can do without Korean Conflict, nobler form of justice, adobe, Medal of Honor. Focus on Dix from beginning to end. And use paragraphs.

In 1950, badly scarred WWII veteran J.C. Dix moves to Scottsdale, Arizona to practice law—only to discover the dusty desert town needs another lawyer like it needs central heating. When Thelma Foad walks into Dix’s law office, things seem to be looking up. But Foad doesn’t seek legal help. She hires him to recover a pornographic film of her younger sister.

Now we need two short paragraphs that explain how recovering the film involves Dix in murder. (If the two are unrelated, drop Foad and the porn from the query. Murder is the focus of a mystery novel.) Who was murdered, and why is Dix a suspect? Frame job? Wrong place at the right time? What happened?

As it's not a romance, we may not need librarian-looking woman in the query. Basically, Dix sets up shop and suddenly his life goes kablooey and he has to solve a mystery or else . . . he'll land on death row? Gangsters will kill him? What's at stake? Do include that he'll need his combat skills to get through this.

New Beginning 894

They burned Master Harim’s body at dusk. I watched, hidden, my body wedged into a wide crack of the decaying yellow wall. Consul Dalric told me to stay put; Scholari were not allowed out after dark. But I had to come. I had to see.

I am to blame.

If the Masters discovered that a twelve-year old student – and a girl, no less – was to blame, then they would send me away from the Halo and away from the Academy forever.

My past reared its ugly head and a shudder cut my thoughts short. I recalled so few pleasant memories of before and none as pleasant as after.

This is my home. I will never go back. I will die first!

My stomach fluttered. Eleven dark-robed masters might tell me otherwise.

My ped slipped on a geo-lumpi, and peblie rained down, giving away my hiding spot.

Consul Dalric turned and saw me. Then, he raised one skeletal, black-robed arm, pointed his finger and screamed: “Scholari outa da dormitori!”

I fell at his feet, begging him not to send me away from Halo. He responded: “Your stomachi non flutteri, young Scholari. Thiso waso noto youro faulto, and weo know thato.”

But, then he added: “Deus Ex Machina!” And a large mechanical bird swept down, grabbing me in its talons—cutting short my pleasant memories of after.

Opening: Pam LaFollette.....Continuation: Dixon Hill

Monday, October 17, 2011

Face-Lift 962

Guess the Plot

The Rule of Three

1. Una has no idea she's one of the last three sirens in the world, a girl whose song can kill. Then she gets drunk and sings the Star Spangled Banner at a party, with disastrous results. Hey, at least she wasn't singing it at Yankee Stadium.

2. Linnie knows all the rules: third time's the charm, three strikes you're out, third date is the big one. When her third date with third baseman Manny Trio lands on the third, will she finally get lucky?

3. This triumvirate thing isn't working out so well for Juli C. but that's nothing a little politicking, backstabbing, and assassination can't fix. Also, a state-of-the-art trebuchet.

4. Nothing comes easily to Arnold Bitterbaum, but he usually does ok on the third attempt. That's fine for learning to scramble eggs, parallel park, and spell "thermodynamic," but when he joins the army, hilarity ensues.

5. Dewy drives himself nuts as an OCD autodidactic who can only function in moves of 3's, 6's and 9's. The discovery of irrational numbers turns him into a multiple personality with ADD. Then he discovers methylphenidate and shifts his focus.

6. Hagoria has three kings, and they're all insane. Can Walt, a plucky blacksmith's apprentice, find a cure for their madness in time to avert a revolution? Or is it a better idea to let the revolution happen? The author's not sure.

7. Three bears; three coins in a fountain; three girls with dragon tattoos. Let’s face it: Bad things come in threes. I’ve already been turned down by 2 editors. But, hey: Third Time’s the Charm! Right?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Seventeen-year-old Una Aspinall’s just gotten into college, and she’s more than ready to leave home. Skipping her senior year and going straight to Boddington College via early admittance will give her the freedom that her overbearing single mom won’t.

The first step towards independence is a party at her best friend Kylie’s house. Una’s always been the good girl. That night, vodka, pot, and an outfit of Kylie’s help Una lose her inhibitions. Getting wasted is fun, and the party games are awesome. Una’s first kiss ever happens with her crush Matt during Spin the Cell Phone. She’s so giddy that during Truth or Dare, Una sings the Star Spangled Banner in her underwear. But as she’s singing, Matt drops dead. [It was on the line "O'er the land of the freeeeeeee," right? My TV screen shattered once when Mariah Carey hit that note right before the Super Bowl. Haven't forgiven her yet.]

Una’s estranged father invites her to his family’s Nantucket house for the summer to help her recover. But instead of spending a relaxing summer on the beach, Una learns she’s a siren, [She learns it? By offing a few more people at a beach blanket sing-along?] one of only three in the world, able to breathe underwater and kill with her song. [Can she kill by singing underwater? If so, I recommend including a scene in which she's attacked by guys with spear guns like in the movie Thunderball. She defeats them by launching into a burbling rendition of "Blood in the Water."]

Her stepmother sucks, her dad’s never there, and her half-sister Dylan’s beyond irritating. However, her cousin Stellan is hot, brooding, and a challenge. When they finally get together, Una realizes she could actually get to like her new life. [College is her new life. A couple months at the beach is her vacation.]

Then her stepmother kicks her out for supposedly being a bad influence, [Obviously Stepmom isn't aware that Una can kill her softly with her song.] [If they make this into a musical, "Killing Me Softly" will be the stepmom's swan song.] ["Stepmom's swan song" is a great tongue twister. Say it five times fast.] breaking up Stellan and Una in the process. Una retaliates by telling the whole world that sirens are real. [I don't see how this is retaliation. What does her stepmother care if the world knows sirens are real?]

Now she’s got exactly the kind of attention she doesn’t need. The media is relentless, another siren family claims she belongs to them, and the merciless Board that governs them all needs to make Una pay. [There are three in the entire world, one of whom didn't even know she was one, and there's a Board that governs them? In what way did they govern Una before she knew she was a siren? Are there any sirens on the Board? If not, isn't that like the US congress having no Americans?] [If someone can kill me just by singing, I don't think I want to govern her. My governing would consist of saying things like, "Sure, do whatever you want," and "Una, you're looking lovely today, why don't you go shopping?"]

A young adult fantasy novel, THE RULE OF THREE is complete at 91,000 words. My work has been published in Quarterly West, and this is my first novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.



The main plot line is that Una's a siren. Let's shorten the setup and get Una's Sirenity into paragraph 1.

While visiting her estranged father in Nantucket, seventeen-year-old Una Aspinall learns that she's a siren, able to breathe underwater and kill with her song. Suddenly she has exactly the kind of attention she doesn’t want. The media is relentless, Una's sucky stepmother throws her out, and another siren family claims she belongs to them.

There's your setup. Now add two paragraphs in which you tell us what happens. Include the romantic angle if it's important, assuming readers won't find romance with a cousin yucky.

New Beginning 893

He slept fitfully, the way soldiers always sleep on rock mattresses against the surviving wall of a burnt out building. Spotlights of the searchers couldn't reach this flopspot and the walls were stable. There was a name for this war, Rattenkrieg; an old name from a century before when soldiers used lead bullets and not energy guns. Rat war named for one city not a world. Sniper, a man who shot real enemies not the faceless searchers that fell from the skies.

He slept in this burnt out rubble because it was away from his sniper lairs. He slept here because the rats fed elsewhere. Not that the rats mattered anymore. Rats liked fresh meat. He was no longer fresh or living. No one lived in these ruins. They died here but never lived. Like all snipers, he became one with the stone and the dirt, one with the scurrying rodents. Every few minutes, his eyes opened not awake but looking past the red glare of burning buildings and the ruins.

He dreamed of dancing and laughing to music in three-quarters time, a rainbow of colored skirts swirling to the elegant sweep of violins and cellos.

But the only music was the whining of mosquitoes and the dripping of the fetid water that pooled by his sleeping body and soaked through his clothes.

He slept like this, in this shithole, not through choice, but because he'd believed the propaganda, he'd ignored his better judgment and he'd gone to fucking

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Anon.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Face-Lift 961

Guess the Plot

Phantoms in Stone

1. The most exciting activity in Darren's day is skimming stones across the water for 3, 4, even 5 skips. He is delighted when he finds the perfect skimming stone -- it does TEN skips -- but when it turns and skips right back to him, he realizes he is his planet's only hope against the . . . Phantoms in Stone! Sometimes it sucks being eight years old.

2. When Miri is framed for murder, the villain escapes via a ring of monolithic stones . . . a time machine! Now Miri must choose: chase the villain into time and apprehend him, or stay and face a murder charge and lethal punishment. Sometimes it sucks being twelve years old.

3. It isn't easy being a ghost. Especially when you get stuck in a statue and must learn to animate it. Can Nella win the heart of hunky Dorian when she's inside a replica of Michaelangelo's David? Sometimes it sucks being fifteen.

4. According to legend, the boulders of Blacklow are home to King Arthur and his knights, who still undertake heroic missions. But how does a poor little waif inspire them to pop out and murder her evil stepfather? Sometimes it sucks being six.

5. Ghosts in the machine, spirits in the linoleum -- these were things Stephanie could take -- but could her demon whispering skills handle the new threat trying to cross the life-afterlife divide.....phantoms in stone? Sometimes it sucks being fourteen.

6. Stone, Arkansas is just a boring little town, until a clan of ghosts move in and enroll at Stone Central High. Two hawt phantom guys, Chance and Dearborn, are both crushing on 16-year-old Dakota Edwards. Dakota can't choose between them. Sometimes it sucks being sixteen.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

12-year old Miri wants to be a Master Instructor at the Academy.

But girls can’t be masters, or so her fellow male Scholars attest. [I know exactly where this is going. Miri works twice as hard as the boys and becomes the best Master Instructor of them all.]

Then a colleague frames her for murder and escapes through the Halo and into the Timestream. [What the--? Okay, I'm man enough to admit I didn't see that coming.]

Her choice is clear: make the Crossing into the Timestream and apprehend the real villain, and possibly die in the attempt, or suffer the lethal punishment the remaining Masters will impose. [Referring to the "remaining" Masters implies that the villain is a Master. When the villain was referred to as Miri's colleague, I assumed he was a Scholar. In any case, what powers does this 12-year-old girl have that would enable her to apprehend anyone in the Timestream?] [Wait, a lethal punishment for a 12-year-old girl?]

If she succeeds, then there is a high probability she can return to her Academic life. If she fails, then her rogue colleague will succeed in re-writing history, and white her out in the process. [If people don't regularly enter the Timestream, then it seems unlikely Miri would be worried about the villain rewriting history and whiting her out. More likely she'd assume he entered the Timestream just to hide.]

Her journey takes her to Eirinn, where Otherwordly travelers are legend but the fear of them is real. And her particular mathematical skills are not entirely welcomed by the natives. If she can’t come to terms with her reluctant guardian [When did she acquire a guardian?] she could be hanged for witchery. And then there are druids to avoid, a mythical stone of great power that might help her get home, and the usual pangs of growing up to manage. Even the self-reliant Miri comes to realize that every girl needs a hero. [This paragraph would be better used telling us how Miri plans to find and bring the villain home than in listing random stuff.]

Phantoms in Stone is a fantasy novel of 85,000 words. If you would like to read more of them, I am happy to send them along. Thank you for your time.


[The Academy is what is left of a dying world and the Halo is a time machine in the form of a ring of monolithic stones. No one has been able to use it for anything other than viewing specific time quanta through a portal, and the secret to its real function has been lost. Framed for murder, Miri must follow the real villian into the Timestream, where she discovers that some of the things she's been seeing - lush vegitation, warrior queens, and a mysterious man with green eyes - aren't just phantoms in a stonework frame.] [Good move, leaving the phrase "specific time quanta" out of the actual query.] [If everyone believes the things seen in the Halo are just phantoms, rather than scenes being played out at other times, why does the term "Timestream" even exist? If no one has been able to use the Halo for anything except viewing things through a portal, how is it the villain is able to use it to escape and Miri to follow him? Why hasn't anyone else stumbled upon how to use it?] [Not clear what you mean by The Academy is what is left of a dying world. Is it a school? It's all that's left of an entire world?]


Do we need to capitalize so many words? I can handle some of them, but "Academic," "Crossing," "Otherworldly," "Scholars"?

The first four paragraphs are each one sentence, wasting valuable space.

Wouldn't the fact that the person Miri says framed her has suddenly fled into the Timestream bolster her claim of innocence?

Entering the Timestream is like falling down the rabbit hole. Finding the way home seems enough of a challenge without having to apprehend a villain and bring him home with you. And bringing him back doesn't mean he's going to confess that it was a frame-up anyway. Why would someone frame a child for murder? Whose murder?

A Scholar at the Academy is believed to have committed a capital crime, and isn't incarcerated in some way?

I would start over. Something like: When Scholar Lloyd Lamamour is found murdered at the Academy, all evidence points to 12-year-old Miri. She knows it's a frame job, but when she chases down the real villain, Hannibal Lecter III, he vanishes into the Halo, a ring of monolithic stones that permits time travel. Now Miri must decide whether to follow Lecter III into the Timestream or return to the Academy where a lethal injection awaits her.

Then something about how she finds Lecter III and what obstacles may prevent her from bringing him home.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Guest Blogger!

Our guest blogger is Hannah Rogers, literary agent. Her website is here.

Hi! I'm Hannah. It's a thrill to talk to the famous "Evil Minions." I wish I had minions, although I wouldn't call them that. Maybe Hannah's Flunkies. I'd prefer something that rhymes, but all I can think of is Hannah's Bananas.

Anyway, I'm known as the first agent to accept manuscript submissions of only the first sentence. It's a big time saver. Not only does it save me reading time and you writing time, but I'm able to respond within hours, sometimes minutes. Depends on whether I'm at my computer when your sentence comes in or out to lunch with my unpaid intern, Chelsea.

I have a theory about writing. My theory is this: If you can come up with a fantastic first sentence, the book will practically write itself. That means your manuscript doesn't need to be complete to submit to me. In fact, all you need is one sentence.

Why write a whole book, only to have agents read the first sentence and reject it? I say there's a better way. Write the first sentence, submit it to me, and if I give you the go-ahead, write the book. If I don't, you've saved months of futile work.

Being a twenty-first-century agent, I'm into digital everything, including responding to submissions on my Twitter account. I post your sentence and tweet my reaction to it. Tweet tweet! What this means is that if your first sentence is more than 140 characters (For instance: The package that came in the mail contained the diary of a man I'd never heard of, but what intrigued me even more was the two missing pages.), it won't fit, and if it's much more than 100 characters, there may not be room for me to say something like, I love that sentence; please send me the complete manuscript now or whenever you finish the book. See, that was 97 characters. So Hemingway those first sentences, don't Tolstoy them.

You may be thinking, I'm not a twitterer, so how will I see your response? You can become a twitterer (tweep), which requires only a fake name and an email address.

You may also be thinking, Since when are "Hemingway" and "Tolstoy" verbs? That was my way of saying, If you make Hemingway and Tolstoy verbs on page 1 of your manuscript, most agents will reject you immediately, but not me, because I've done it myself.

You can submit your sentence as a comment to this post. I challenge every Evil Minion to send me one fantastic first sentence today. Who knows? I may be tweeting you a book contract tomorrow.

New Beginning 892

I was seventeen when death crossed my path. Before that, I’d only dreamt of twisted limbs and blood as bright as poppies. But late one night, death offered me an opportunity. She whispered dirty secrets in my ear and pulled back my eyelids with curling hands.

“There,” she said, and pointed.

I did not recognize her voice then. I did not know who was leading me in the darkness.

I followed.

Across the street, I watched the girl climb into the car of a stranger. Before I knew what I was doing, my wings had opened and I was chasing them. Down the lighted streets. Down the highway into forever. When the buck stepped out into a pool of yellow light, it did not strike me as a danger.

Then death whispered, “Now,” and I understood.

After the accident, I approached the vehicle with caution. A crack in the windshield spiraled out like a web. The girl’s skull had broken it on impact. Now she lay slumped against the door, eyes staring out.


Not so for the man in the driver’s seat.

I leapt, gossamer wings fanning the air, and landed lightly on the steering wheel.

His lip was cut and bruised and a tooth lay in the bloody mess. He gazed at me with glassy eyes.
I reached out and plucked the tooth from its gory resting place.

"Here." I handed him a silver dollar. "You're lucky it's not broken. I wouldn't give you a plugged nickel if it were."

I tucked the prize into my satchel with the eleven others collected this evening, then launched into the air again, my work finished.

Opening: Chelsea P.....Continuation: PLaF

Success Story

Dave reports:

This took a long time to get there, but New Beginning 246 ( turned into the opening of my short story "Thunderstorms and Thaumaturgy" which leads off Volume 2 of the three volume set HALLOWEEN FRIGHTS published by Pill Hill, Static Movement and Wicked East Press. (

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Face-Lift 960

Guess the Plot

Devil's Oil Painting

1. Taking a break from his demanding job of tempting mankind, Satan relaxes with a new hobby: capsizing oil tankers and using the ocean as his canvas.

2. When Petunia's art teacher vanishes, she discovers he sold his soul to Satan 700 years ago for the ability to paint . . . and now he wants Petunia to trade her soul for his so he can get back to his studio.

3. Despite having his own gallery in the best part of Manhattan, Satan's work isn't selling. He hires Jane Dumont to help with this marketing crisis, unaware she is an angel in disguise on a secret mission to inspire him to redeem himself.

4. Wannabe artist Nigel was never as talented as his brother Simon. In desperation he cuts a deal with Satan, selling his soul in return for the ability to paint with the Devil's own oils. He begins work on a picture he knows will be a masterpiece, not realizing that he is about to unleash Armageddon.

5. "The Cavalcade of Death" is a horrific painting from 1567 that depicts a world overrun by Hell. Some think it's evil incarnate. Only security guard Michael Angeles knows the truth: he's the angel sent to keep it from breaking out of its frame and wreaking havoc on the world. And he's getting bored.

6. When an online auction site offers for sale a poorly-executed landscape by failed art student Adolf Hitler, European countries with anti-Nazi laws threaten to shut the site down. Meanwhile, the Devil's Oil Painting goes for $1.32. Reserve not met.

7. The new company offers to paint houses for a song-- with a new oil paint that's guaranteed to last for eternity. But it turns out houses painted with Devil's Oil glow in the Netherworld, guiding demons up from the depths. Once they get into the woodwork, they're worse than termites. You might as well just move.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Petunia's best friend is her paint brushes. [Either "friend" should be plural or "brushes" should be singular.] She loves them every day. [I don't wanna say that sounds obscene, but it at least sounds kinda weird.] But it is not enough for a career. [What is not enough for a career?] Before she knows it, she's a broke realist artist, living on raman noodles and faded dreams. [Finally something concrete. Dump the first three sentences and begin: Artist Petunia Dali is living on ramen noodles and faded dreams when . . . ] Then a brilliant mid-career artist walks into her life, complete with luxurious life-style (he has a cook and a house cleaner and his canvases are the finest lead-primed linen...).

She falls hard for this dream teacher, George, yet he remains aloof. He shows her how to create great images, helps her to gain his discipline. She prospers, buys a car, gets famous. [Do we really need to know she buys a car?] But, she never understands him and never feels that he is really there.

Then, one day George vanishes. [Now she really feels he isn't there.] He doesn't appear at his major historical landscape retrospective. Petunia finds a note from him on her easel: "Try to rescue me, or I can never return."

She searches his studio, and finds a clue to who he really is. And it's not pretty. It's not artistic. [What does that mean?] But he is her teacher, and she must save him.

George, really Giotto di Bondone, offered his soul to the devil in return for the ability to paint, and now, seven hundred years later, the devil has claimed his prize. George trained Petunia so that she could give her soul for his, and he could return to his studio. [Nice guy. What makes him think the devil, after waiting 700 years for his soul, will take Petunia's instead? He could probably get Petunia's just by offering her the ability to paint.] When Petunia finds George immobile in a vat of blue paint in the devil's house [I realize the devil's house would probably not be decorated in Martha Stewart-approved fashion, but vats can be real space eaters. Is this the only vat of paint in the devil's house? If you're the devil, and you have a vat of paint in your house, wouldn't you go with red?] with the devil grinning at her, she finds herself in a quandary: help the teacher or stay alive.

She chooses both.

"Devil's Oil Painting," is 60,000 words and complete.

Thanks for your time.


Petunia? Really? Has anyone else noticed that once a name is attached to a cartoon pig, it quickly goes out of favor?

How does Petunia find the devil's house?

If the teacher wants to turn Petunia over to the devil, he doesn't deserve to be rescued. Does she know that was his plan? Because I'm not taking on the devil to rescue someone who wanted to turn me over to the devil.

I'm not sure what "mid-career" artist means, but if the guy's been painting 700 years and the devil is ready to take him, he sounds more like an end-of-career artist.

Perhaps after eliminating the vagueness in the first couple paragraphs, you'll have room to tell us how Petunia plans to get the best of the devil.

Shouldn't the title begin with "The"?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New Beginning 891

"Those particles that CERN scientists thought traveled faster than the speed of light didn't do any such thing, of course. But that experiment and what it lead to lead to the unexpected finding that particles are individual. This proton is not that proton is not any other proton in the universe. Frankly it would have been less devastating to the physics of the time if the particles had traveled faster than the speed of light." Liberty Cain accepted the wine that Cleopatra offered. "Nice."

"I don't understand what you mean by particles. Are these the atoms the philosophers talk about?"

Liberty found Cleopatra a pretty cluey woman. She didn't have a lot of the background for this but she was keeping up.

"Sort of. These are not the smallest of particles but they are close. We don't know if the quarks are individual like particles or not. It's a hot issue when I come from."

"But you said particles cannot travel faster than light and that means you can't travel through time?"

Cleopatra clapped her hands and slaves came up to fan the both of them to cool the midday heat. Other slaves with horsehair whips kept the flies away from the food. The room was not decorated in the garish manner Hollywood always suggested. They showed statues and decorations and ornate furniture. But Celopatra, in her private apartments, seemed to prefer a less garish elegance.

"A particle can't exist twice in the same time. But we can read the pattern of any object by knowing its individual particles, then use that pattern and duplicate it at any time. This body you see is made from particles of this time. The original me is in the future in a stasis chamber."

"Like a priest in a trace? The priests say they enter a trance to affect events far away or in the future."

"Something like that, yes."

"Liberty Cain," Cleopatra had some trouble with the unfamiliar name, "what have you come here to do?"

* * *

Professor Leverson, head of the committee, sighed and put the papers down. "Damn it, Tiverton," he said, "when we told you to make your masters thesis more engaging . . . "

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

Monday, October 10, 2011

Face-Lift 959

ItalicGuess the Plot

"Hey! There's a Dog In The Store!"

1. For fourteen years I've been listening to questions and comments about my guide dog from children and idiots. Now I can just hand them a copy of my book. Includes dog biographies.

2. Fifty-two pages of animals photographed in unusual places. Includes a cat in a washing machine and a pig in a mosque.

3. The last words spoken by the victim were a clue to who killed her. Sam spends five years tracking down the store, the dog, and the dog's owner, only to discover that he had misheard the phrase and in fact the victim had called out "Aaaaarrrrgh."

4. Bruce Rogers and his guide dog Stevie have to overcome customers' fears and stereotypes while struggling to launch their new business. Soon shoppers learn there's nothing strange about a blind businessman or even having a dog in the store. Like,'s a PET shop.

5. Ralph is in a grocery store trying to get some ice cream. When he asks at the counter for the Haagan Dazs vanilla chocolate chunk, he's told to go outside because "dogs aren't allowed." Ralph's owner, Liz Lutmuth, decides that enough is enough, and starts a doggy restaurant. Hilarity ensues.

6. At Miss Calico’s Spa, the upper feline class lines the walkway for their turn at pampering and grooming. Until one of the clients turns up dead. The only clues are a trail of catnip and a hairball. Things go from bad to worse when the detective assigned to the case turns out to be Mutt Jefferson, a mongrel with a nose for trouble--and Miss Calico’s ex-lover.

7. A stray dog gets into an organic supermarket near Washington, DC, and leads store employees on a merry chase, during which each of ten POV characters reflects on his or her past, roads taken and not taken, and the ultimate meaning of life. Includes index.

Original Version

Dear Evilness:

I am disabled. But I also have a tool to help me cope: I have a Service Dog. [I don't suppose you'd consider switching to a service monkey? I ask only because Hey, There's a Monkey in the Store is a funnier title.] [My research of this topic reveals that there are also service ducks, horses, goats, pigs, parrots and at least one kangaroo and one iguana. A Winston-Salem man was kicked out of a mall for bringing in his service ferret. I'm guessing there are stores you can't bring your service horse or goat or monkey into, so maybe you should forget the monkey and go with a duck. Surely no one would put up a stink about a service duck.

Madam, you can't bring a duck into this restaurant.

He's a service duck.

What service does he perform?

He sells insurance.]

"Hey! There's a Dog In The Store!" seeks to answer the many questions [Questions like, Hey, what's that dog doing in the store?] posed by all manner of people over the last 14 years. [That sentence was awkward. What happened 14 years ago? Is that when you got your dog? Started training service dogs? First got annoyed by questions about your dog? You could add "to me" after "posed," but I recommend changing the sentence to . . . seeks to answer such questions as: How are service dogs chosen, trained and paired with their human partners? and Do service dogs have the will power to not drop everything when the opportunity to sniff another dog's anus presents itself?] Aimed at younger readers, I describe [It's the book that's aimed at younger readers, not you.] the ways in which dogs are chosen, trained and paired with their human partners. What dogs can. and can't, do [Remove period and comma.] are explained with examples and photographs. Why and how the laws that protect Service Dogs came into being are outlined, with historic precedents from the Middle Ages to today.

The book includes interviews with noted trainers and breeders of Service Dogs, discussions with lawyers about the legal rights of Service Dogs, [Nothing about the legal rights of service ducks?] photos of dogs in action, and even some brief biographies of working dogs. [Pablo started life as a puppy . . . ]

As one of the first people to successfully train a working Seizure Alerter, [Probably no need to say both "successfully" and "working," as either implies the other.] and one of the few to have to defend my rights in court, I am in a unique position to tell this story. [You are highly qualified; as one of a few, your position isn't unique.] [Also, not sure I'd call this a story. Although . . . if you want to appeal to young readers, maybe you could work your knowledge into a story about a kid and a service dog.] At 60,000 words the manuscript is brief enough for children and adults seeking answers. [No need to mention that it's brief enough for adults, as adults can handle long books. Also, you already said the book is aimed at younger readers. Plus, the title seems more appealing to children than adults.]

Thank you for your consideration.

[Note to EE: The title is something I hear almost every time we go out. We also hear "Doggy! Mommy look! Wow-wow! Puppy! POODLE!" But that seemed a bit long for a title.]


Are you planning a Braille version?

It would be cool if someone whose disability left him unable to turn the pages of a book bought your book and his service dog turned the pages for him.

I assume there are books about service dogs on the market. Have you shown that they don't cover the topic as ____________ly as yours does?

The title seems aimed at young readers. But the interviews with noted trainers and breeders of Service Dogs, discussions with lawyers about the legal rights of Service Dogs, and historic precedents from the Middle Ages don't sound as appealing to young readers. Is it possible that you're trying to be too comprehensive, trying to appeal to everyone? My uninformed opinion is that kids will be interested in the choosing, training, matching up, photos of dogs in action, and cleverly worded bios. And that adults who want to know about service dogs will use the Internet.

I would focus the query on what appeals to young readers, and liven it up with fun stuff, maybe an anecdote or two. Right now it seems dry and listy.