Thursday, May 31, 2012

Amusing Excerpt 4

Actual (or not) amusing (or not) excerpts from (or not from) minions' WIPs. If you have constructive criticism or unadulterated praise, feel free to comment.

I stood in front of the mirror dressed in my dad’s best button up shirt and pants, wishing my brother were here to save me the trouble of having to kick my own ass.

Gus stepped into the room and dropped the keys to his Lincoln on my dresser. “Don’t even think about bringin’ her back empty.” Then he looked me up and down with his eyebrows raised. “Well now, don’t you look spiffy!”

“Spiffy? Seriously Gus is that even a word?”

“Sure it is. It means…well now, I don’t know what it means. You look good is what I’m tryin’ to say.”

“Thanks.” I picked up the keys and my wallet and slid them into my pocket.

“So who are you bringin’ to this shindig?” Gus asked.

I let the word “shindig” go and answered him. “So far it’s Jeb, his sister Bekka and her friend Morgan.” I still held out hope for Sarah, praying that Spenser would drop dead before the dance due to some humiliating accident involving his tights.

Gus rubbed the back of his neck and looked like he might be sick. “Have a seat son. There’s somethin’ I’ve been meanin’ to talk to you about.”

I sat on the end of the bed as my mind ran down every ailment he’d ever complained about and assigned each one a terminal illness. “Whatever it is, just tell me straight out. I can take it.”

He sat down next to me and put his hand on my knee. “Son…there comes a time in every young man’s life when he finds himself alone with a girl—” 


Amusing Excerpt 3

Actual (or not) amusing (or not) excerpts from (or not from) minions' WIPs. If you have constructive criticism or unadulterated praise, feel free to comment.

Setup: Here's my protagonist at the height of his affability.

“I don’t know.” I wasn’t sure what the topic of conversation was. “I really couldn’t say.”

I was sitting in a restaurant somewhere in the United States with two people I didn’t recognize. There was a guy and a girl. The guy was wearing a black tie and the girl opened her mouth for no good reason.

“Do you even recognize this guy? Doesn’t he look great?”

“Sure,” I said. “You look the way I remember you.”

“But I mean it’s been fifteen years, doesn’t he look great?”

“I didn’t mean to insult,” I lied. “He looks the same.”

It was now the guy’s turn to blow some wind.

“Well, I’m physically weaker, mentally stronger and emotionally dead. You know—I’m thirty.”

“That’s great,” I hypothesized. “Listen, I’m gonna go throw up and then I’m going home to kill myself. We’ll continue this conversation another time.”

“I’ll come with you,” he said.

“Really though,” I said. “Suicide is a solitary activity.”

“Only if you’re a loner.”

I gestured as though I was about to sneeze, I held the pose for a moment and then I ran. He chased me down; my lungs weren’t as reliable as they used to be.

“Come on,” he pleaded. “I’ve never seen a suicide up close.”

“Have you ever seen a homicide?”

He didn’t catch the drift of my question.

“So how are you gonna do it?”

“How do you think?” I said. “I’m going to shoot myself in the face.” 

--Gil Wachstock 

Amusing Excerpt 2

Actual (or not) amusing (or not) excerpts from (or not from) minions' WIPs. If you have constructive criticism or unadulterated praise, feel free to comment.

Setup: Our protagonist, his invisible Dog, and a little girl who's also a bird, all on a train. Our protag, who's recently lost his name, has just noticed that a piece of the train's wall is trying hard to convince him not to look at it. (the italics are telepathic speech.)

Curious that a bit of wooden panelling should have an opinion.
Dog, is someone there?
Dog seemed to think there was. He could smell them.
Anyone we know?
Nobody I know. But I only know one Nobody.
He followed that sally up with a dog laugh.
"You can't hide from my Dog," I told the panelling. But it seemed to think it could. "We won't hurt you, anyway."
I could bite them. Like Jade.
Dog, what did I just say?
No answer. Unless he was sticking his tongue out at me and I couldn't tell.
If you were a masking bird, maybe the sudden arrival of an invisible Dog was enough to send you into hiding. But when someone offered you peaceful terms, you ought to show yourself.
I sat down next to Dog and concentrated. This person couldn't know me very well. Maybe I could force them to show themselves.
Then I wondered if that was kind. Maybe they really were frightened.
Or maybe they were sticking their tongue out at me. I couldn't tell.
"Come on, show yourself. I know you're there. Dog knows you're there, too."
"I won't," said a girl's voice. "And you can't make me."
I looked down at Dog, who may have been looking up at me. "A girl, Dog."
"You'll get bored before I do."
I lobbed the ball at the appropriate panel. "Catch!"
Flickering into view, the girl hurled the ball back at me. "You cheated!"
"We cheated," I told Dog. "And so we won."


Amusing Excerpt 1

Actual (or not) amusing (or not) excerpts from (or not from) minions' WIPs. If you have constructive criticism or unadulterated praise, feel free to comment.

SETUP: Our protagonists are having a cookout during the calm before the storm when a comet hits the moon and turns it blood red...

"In the suburbs of Armpit, USA, time is not measured by days or weeks but by the number of mosquitoes that die flaming deaths in Tucker's torches," Ethan said, taking a drink.

"It's not the bugs. Tucker built a landing strip for the comet aliens. Just follow the torches," Noah teased, flipping hamburgers on the grill. Emma, his dewy-eyed date, held plates with potato salad and buns.

"Back on the farm, I used to spend the summer counting 18-wheelers rolling past on a road way off on the horizon. We never had mosquitoes the size of baseballs." Tucker closed the circle of fire with the last torch, lit it, and joined Ashley, his date.

"The most boring place in the country. Flat. Flat. Flat," Emma said between delicate bites of corn on the cob. Ethan fished a soda out of the ice and handed it to his girlfriend.

"Why I used to count hobos under the Raised Highway. Once a week or so, we used to stop one of those drivers and throw all his food out to the masses. They was so hungry they'd even eat the driver if he carried something silly like cellphones or tampons or Twinkies," Ethan said, with a grin as broad as the full moon overhead.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New Beginning 951

I’d never been to Adam’s place before; it wasn’t the sort of neighbourhood I usually visited.

I’d been given keys to his apartment; since I was all he had left it was up to me to take care of everything. His lease was due at the end of the month so I had to get all his stuff out. I don’t know what I was supposed to do with it.

When I opened the door I made the decision to hire a Skip bin. I wondered whether the place looked better before whoever it was had ransacked it. It certainly couldn’t have been clean. Jesus, was I going to have to clean it as well?

I guess that was kind of thoughtless of me.

My brother’s dead and all I can think about is whether I have to clean his place. The hell with that though. The landlord could use his security deposit and hire a cleaner. I didn’t want his deposit anyway. What would I do with it?

Though the place was a mess – everything had been dumped on the floor and trodden on – and it was pretty dirty, it kind of had a homey feel to it. I immediately felt comfortable.


I could imagine living there.


I'm in. Sure the place is a wreck, and it stinks to high heaven, but it's a step up from the refrigerator box I've been sleeping in the past few months. The landlord was unexpectedly amenable to my staying after I agreed to clean it out.

First things first, now. I'd better get Adam's body out of the bathroom and into the Skip bin.

Opening: Belinda Rees.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Face-Lift 1032

Guess the Plot


1. Moto the car can't seem to get his speed over ten miles per hour. If his owner notices, he'll be sent to the junkyard for sure. But wait! No wonder! The idiot's been so busy yacking on his cell phone he hasn't . . . Shifted.

2. When an accident at Oak Ridge nuclear plant threatens a meltdown, Dr. Jack Johnson bravely volunteers to pitch in, receiving what should have been a fatal dose of Gamma radiation. Instead, a shift has occurred. On NASCAR race days, the mild mannered doc becomes the champion avenger of all things rural, the superhero known as . . . the HICK!

3. Stephenie Meyer addict Zoe Dewson always thought it would be cool to be a shape-shifter -- to become an animal that is large and crafty. When she awakens one day to find she shares the fate of Gregor Samsa instead of Jacob Black, her life and her views change.

4. Drake Langdon hates his job mining coal but he loves the chief's daughter Lily. Chief Randal puts Drake on a swing shift in order to keep the lovers apart. When an earthquake traps him a mile below the hills of West Virginia, the only way out is through a condemned mine shaft. But has the trembling earth shifted the shaft?

5. As soon as teenager Kaia arrives in Paris she's arrested as a terrorist. Fortunately, a team of superheroes who have the ability to shift elements want Kaia for her ability to shatter glass. They kidnap her from the police and she joins the team. But will she use her power to shatter the Louvre's glass pyramid?.

6. When a team of shapeshifters all change to look like the president during a White House tour, it's up to tour guide and amateur sleuth Prissy Figbottom to prove which woman is the real president and which ones are imposters. Luckily, Prissy is the one person who knows about the president's new tattoo.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Kaia Davis: Painfully shy high school student. Suspected terrorist. And unknowing wielder of an elemental power that could turn the White House into an outhouse. [That outhouse would be big enough for Godzilla. Although I question whether Godzilla would use an outhouse rather than just take a dump in the street.] [On the other hand, maybe the fact that you never see Godzilla dropping logs indicates that he does like a little privacy.] [Then again, whether you like privacy or not, when you discover you're under attack by King Ghidorah and the entire Japanese army, who wouldn't shit their pants? Plus, dropping logs the size of actual logs would be an effective weapon]

Kaia's Monday starts out pretty good. [That sentence would be okay, if a bit blah, if this were the opening of the query, but once you've introduced terrorism and super powers, there's no turning back.] Leaving Pennsylvania for Paris on a foreign exchange program? Terrifying, but exciting, especially when it means getting away from an unloving foster family. Being arrested as a terrorist upon arrival, though, will bring anyone down. Getting rescued by a cute (but cocky) British boy who can control the wind itself? Weird, yes, but an improvement. However, Kaia's day is finally, completely ruined when he drugs and kidnaps her.

Kaia wakes up to find she's been dragged into a covert group made up of teenagers from around the world, all of whom possess the ability to manipulate the elements themselves [Adding "herself," "yourself," etc after a word rarely does anything useful, or at least I, myself, don't think so.] – "shifting" them from gas to liquid [Condensation Boy], altering their structure [Alchem-Miss], or just moving them around really fast and whacking people with them [The Nunchuks Kid].

At first, Kaia feels (for some odd reason) a little out of place. Until, that is, she discovers a silicon-based power of her own which lets her do little things like shatter glass with her mind. [Every team of superheroes needs a member who can shatter glass. Otherwise criminals would be safe hiding in buildings with windows.] [Wait, shattering glass can turn the White House into an outhouse?] [Presumably she has a more useful power than shattering glass. Doing it with your mind may be amazing, but doing it with a brick is equally effective.]

While it sounds kind of cool to join them and become a real-life superhero, Kaia hasn't yet realized there's more to this world than having fun and saving the day. Powerful people have their hands [ladles] in the pot and are cooking up a dangerous soup of [spicy] intrigue, [fishy] conspiracies, and [cheesy] action, laced with a dash of death and a pinch of betrayal to taste. Kaia will have to break out of her [clam] shell – and maybe break some windows [eggs] too – if she's going to [avoid this recipe for disaster.] make it out alive. [An abundance of cooking cliches might be cute if you were trying to sell Murder at Le Cordon Bleu, but here it seems misplaced.] [Also, this is a vague way to tell us about the villains and the danger Kaia faces. It's like opening a menu and reading: 

Entree 1: Ingredients are combined lovingly and cooked to perfection, then spooned onto a plate and served.

Entree 2: A medley of items from our kitchen prepared stovetop by our chef and brought to your table.

Entree 3: Stuff, cooked.

Some specifics about these powerful people: who they are, what they want, what happens if they get it, how the superheroes plan to stop them, would be helpful.]  

Fortunately, she has some powerful new friends on her side, including her original rescuer, Connor – that cocky, irritating, sarcastic [windbag] Brit… who also happens to be annoyingly attractive when he risks life and limb to protect those he cares about. [For instance, the time he protected his best friend from being mugged outside the Louvre by causing a tornado, he looked annoyingly like Brad Pitt.] [On the bright side, the tornado destroyed the glass pyramid.]

SHIFTED is a YA sci-fi novel with a multicultural cast, complete at 115,000 words. It stands alone but is the first of a planned series of three books.

I am a legal assistant/graphic designer/resident IT… Jill-of-all-trades at a small law firm in Atlanta, Georgia, but I have finally decided not to let my Literature degree and all those Creative Writing courses go to waste. This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



I don't see the need for Kaia being arrested as a terrorist in the query. The kidnapping gets her to the superhero team quickly without raising questions that you don't answer.

You could combine the first two paragraphs into:

Painfully shy high school student Kaia Davis is thrilled to leave behind her unloving foster family for a foreign exchange program in Paris--until she's kidnapped outside Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport by a cocky (but cute) British boy named Connor.

This has the added advantage of telling us Connor's name so that when you mention his name in paragraph 6 you don't have to explain who he is.

Apparently the team know about Kaia's power even though she doesn't?

Just make the part about what happens after the kidnapping as specific as the setup and this'll be 100% better.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Film Noir Friday

Double Feature. A classic from the vault followed by a film noir.

Face-Lift 1031

Guess the Plot

All the Queen's Horses

1. In this latest Buckingham Palace tell-all, a former chief groom shovels the shit.

2. Canada's "Queen’s Plate" boasts a field of 17 hopeful three-year-olds and a purse of $1,000,000 –  enough for Josie Callighan to save the family farm--if she can find a horse. When she borrows one from the matronly lady in the big house next door, she learns just what a royal pain this business is.

3. Lars Sekkin, seneschal to the Queen, is given the task of finding out who pushed Humpty Dumpty off of the wall and why they would frame the Queen and her retinue.

4. Rodney is the riding master of the Queen’s Royal Stables and a closet gay involved with the Queen’s youngest son, Prince Stephen. Princess Gloria, unaware of Rodney’s proclivities, uses account irregularities to blackmail him into a liaison. Rodney sends his look-alike half-brother Frederick to her boudoir after dark. When Gloria is found murdered, can Rodney solve the case without implicating Frederick or revealing his and Stephen’s affair?

5. When Gerald's prize stallion wins a big cup race, Queen Elizabeth wants it. But Gerald already agreed to sell the horse to a rich American. Thus begins a battle of wills that threatens to escalate into the 2nd Revolutionary War.

6. Chess grand master Raul Sitzky manages to get all of his pawns to the eighth rank, and promotes each of them to a knight, giving him ten knights. While considering his next move, Sitzky's opponent's head explodes.

Original Version

Dear Agent:

When Gerald MacGrath wins the 1962 Enderton Cup, turning his horse into a national treasure, he has no idea he's stepping from the winner’s circle into a showdown between the horse’s new American owner and Queen Elizabeth II of England.

In dire need of money to clear debts he inherited along with the family farm, Gerald agrees right before the big win to sell his prize stallion to an American breeder. After the win, Elizabeth II, determined to keep the horse properly British, offers up a better deal. The honorable choice is for Gerald to close the sale with the American -- [Honor shmonor. If there's a signed contract, the horse goes to the American. If there isn't, it goes to whomever Gerald chooses.] but that means saying no to a very powerful and very stubborn queen. [Careful, Gerald, you know what happened to Lady Di when she said no to the queen. Wait, it's 1962, so Gerald doesn't know how ruthless the queen is. Poor Gerald.]

The American proves just as stubborn, [Just as stubborn as Queen Elizabeth II? It's now fifty years later and she's still living, just to keep Charles from becoming king. Now that's stubborn.] and as negotiations stall, Gerald's urgent need for cash escalates when his live in housekeeper reveals she's pregnant with his child. [That sounds more like a drop in the bucket than an escalation.] His life in crisis, Gerald’s hold on honor begins to crumble.

When intercession by the UK Prime Minister fails it looks like the fate of a dying breed hangs in the balance on a point of honor. Not only does Gerald's future hang on Gerald's next move, one of the last purebred Cleveland Bays in Britain is heading to America. [Tough. If the queen wanted all her precious Cleveland Bays in England she should have lobbied Parliament to pass a law making it illegal to sell them to foreigners. It's not like the queen has anything better to do.] [The first half of that sentence suggests that Gerald hasn't decided what his next move is; the last half suggests he's already made his move.]

All the Queen's Horses is historical fiction based on the actual events of 1962. I look forward to sending you the manuscript, complete at 80,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Brits are so . . . British. You don't see Russia putting up a stink when an American-owned Wolfhound wins a dog show.

If winning this race turns a horse into a national treasure, Gerald should have had some idea what he was in for. You could change the first paragraph to: When Gerald MacGrath wins the 1962 Enderton Cup, he has no idea he's stepping from the winner’s circle into a showdown between the horse’s new American owner and Queen Elizabeth II, who declares the horse a national treasure that should belong to the British people, specifically herself.

Maybe leaving off the last nine words.

It's not like getting this horse guarantees the American riches and glory. The queen can afford to offer the American a huge profit to sell the horse to her. Hell, the queen can afford to buy Kentucky and every horse in it.

The query's not bad. But you'll have to find a publisher who doesn't believe that those in the horse world would prefer a nonfiction account of this historic event, while those outside the horse world would rather read about more significant historic events.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

New Beginning 950

As Sora Finch huddled in the frame of her bedroom window, the white lights of Cumulus City blinked once and then died. All citizens were inside the Apartment Tower now, curled up in front of wall-sized television sets, safe and sound. As her mother watched a boring news cast from Headquarters in the next room, Sora, preferring more dangerous forms of entertainment, took a deep breath and jumped from the window. She landed in the center of the sky bridge that rested one story below, crouching low to gain her balance. The wind yanked strands of copper hair loose from her ballerina bun as she performed a cartwheel, a huge grin on her face. The tunneled bridge connected to the Education Tower, where Sora took her lessons each morning. As the moon and stars above shaded the eight silver towers in a sickly hue, Sora felt the creatures stir below. She couldn't hear or see them, they were 800 feet below the city after all, but somehow she sensed the presence of the Strays like a second pulse beating within her. The creatures were hungry tonight.

And no one else would feed them; it was against the laws of the Towers. Hang the laws, Sora thought.

She slowly stripped off her school uniform, revealing the mismatched sweater and skirt underneath. Rolling down her knee highs and pulling more hair from her bun, she felt herself changing into another creature of the night, her alter ego: Crazy Cat Lady. All cats - strays or not - deserved a few cat treats now and then.

Opening: Lisa Aldin.....Continuation: Stacy

Happy 129th Birthday

From the film vault: A tribute to the Brooklyn Bridge on its 129th birthday.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Face-Lift 1030

Guess the Plot

Headless at the House of Tiki

1. Three days before the annual Elks Banquet at the House of Tiki, the head waiter disappears. Can the remaining crew serve the Elks adequately without embarrassing their employer?

2. Private eye Malachi Woombat investigates a series of beheadings at the House of Tiki, a voodoo-themed coffee shop in the French Quarter of Depression-era New Orleans.

3. Tiki Bob just wants to chill out and carve his tikis, but when his ex-girlfriend's headless body turns up in his locked backyard he becomes prime suspect numero uno. Do they even let you have chisels in prison?

4. Homicide detective Lars Sekkin gets called into an abandoned Trader Vic's restaurant to investigate a headless corpse surrounded by tiki statues.

5. Lowly clerk John Bash decides to transform his place of employment, the House of Tiki, from a crap furniture store to a major chain with his new invention, a methane-sucking Energy Chair that burns farts to power a lamp.

6. Yasmin sees Barry for the first time while she's a waitress at a theme restaurant; the second time, as a theme stripper. They hit it off. But how will Barry take it when she tells him that the big tiki mask she wears is her actual head?

Original Version

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for HEADLESS AT THE HOUSE OF TIKI, an 86,000 word whodunit mystery novel.

Bob MacMillan - dubbed Tiki Bob by his friends, clients, and admirers - has a problem. The body of his ex-girlfriend has turned up under a massive pile of sawdust in his locked backyard, and the local police have given him a new nickname - Prime Suspect Number One. [We don't need to know the backyard was locked. It only leads us to wonder how you can lock a yard. Yes, I'm familiar with fences and walls, but if orcs were smart enough to bring ladders to Helm's Deep . . . ]

Cat O'Donnell, total surfer chick and possessor of a third degree black belt in kung-fu, investigates insurance fraud, not murder. When Bob's teen-age daughter pleads for Cat's help in protecting her father from what the girl believes may be a lengthy prison sentence unless the real killer is unmasked, Cat can't resist the plea. She's been in a bit of a rut lately and welcomes the chance for a change. [I know nothing gets me out of a rut like inserting myself into a murder investigation.] So, the fraud investigator delves into the Pacific Groves' tiki culture where she encounters the tattooed, cocktail-sipping, burlesque-loving crowd of her Southern California beach town.

But Cat's not sure if she's up to the task. She's quite adept at exposing supposed car accident victims attempting to bilk insurance companies of large money payouts for fake injuries. It's quite another matter to find a murderer who's doing his or her best not to be found. [This paragraph can go; I already inferred everything in it.]

Tha [The] main suspects are colorful: a contestant for the local Tiki Queen title who owns a mobile dog grooming service; a perpetually stoned surfer with a history of anger issues; a fantasy/erotica author posing as a textbook writer; his drunken ex-softball-champion wife; and the victim's sommelier boyfriend who denies any romantic relationship with the now headless girl. [I'm more interested in why these people are suspects than in these tidbits you're providing about them. For instance I'd prefer: A contestant for the local Tiki Queen title who may have wanted to eliminate her top competition; a married erotica author with whom the victim was having a torrid affair; the author's wife, of course; and the victim's sommelier boyfriend, whom she'd threatened to expose as a Thunderbird junkie.] Not to mention Bob himself, who doesn't seem to understand his own precarious position. He just want to be left alone to carve some bitchin' tikis.

Cat also contends with an old friend who wants to be more, a good detective with a bad attitude, and a district attorney who's determined to add another conviction to his record, with or without all the facts on his side.

What's a girl have to do to keep a good man out of prison? In this case, it may come down to an old-fashioned ass-kicking, and, if Cat has anything to say about it, she'll be on the foot end of the spanking. [Not clear whose ass Cat plans to kick or spank or why she thinks it'll come down to an ass-kicking or a spanking. Usually these things come down to figuring out whodunnit, not spanking a confession out of someone.]

Thank you for your time and consideration,


If this is a one and done project, okay, but if Cat is going to appear in future books, assuming this one sells, you might want to open the query with Cat rather than Bob. Something like:  

Surfer chick Cat O'Donnell investigates insurance fraud in Pacific Groves, a Southern California beach town. But when a teenage girl pleads for Cat's help solving a murder in which the girl's father, Robert "Tiki Bob" MacMillan, is the chief suspect, Cat can't resist. She's been in a bit of a rut lately and could use a change. 

If Cat knows Tiki Bob or the daughter, their relationship could be mentioned there as well. If she doesn't know either of them, why is the daughter going to Cat for help?

I know "headless" is in the title, but maybe the victim's "headless body" should turn up under the sawdust. Otherwise we don't know if anyone is literally headless until the query is almost over and you say, Oh, did I mention the victim had no head?

If you use something like the above opening, you could continue:

The murder victim, who was Tiki Bob's ex-girlfriend, turned up under a massive pile of sawdust in Bob's backyard. Missing her head. Now Cat's on the prowl for anyone else who had a motive for the murder. And there's no shortage.

That pretty much eliminates the need for your opening paragraph about Bob, and leads into your suspect list. Possibly that's enough condensing and deleting so that this is now standard query length.

The drunken ex-softball-champion wife did it, but don't worry, most agents won't have my deductive skills.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New Beginning 949

The house at the end of the street stood alone. The paint was gray and peeling, the shutters rundown, the grass unkempt. Flowers didn't bloom there, nor did trees bear fruit. The birds made no nests, the bees no hives. Durango Agonistes was pasted to his mailbox above the unfortunate street number 666. I rarely saw him, nearly the perfect neighbor by some accounts, but he kept the kid's baseballs and footballs when they fell behind his wrought iron fence.

A month before the astronomers spotted the comet, I knocked on his door. "Mister Agonistes, You took Billy and Bobby's ball again."

"No I didn't. Go away," he yelled from behind the door.

"But I saw you take it. Just give it to me. The kids didn't intend to throw it in your yard, you know." I knocked again.

"No I don't know that." He opened the front door with the ball in hand, eyes flashing anger, and clenched teeth. He was twenty years younger than I imagined with broad shoulders, black hair, and a muscular, knotted forehead. I stood speechless and quizzical.

"Keep your kids in your yard not the street." He slammed the door.

* * *

Twelve years after the astronomers spotted the comet, it was all over the news. I would've known that face anywhere. Durango Agonistes stared out at me from every newspaper and every TV station. That same black hair, now flecked with gray, that same forehead, still inexplicably tied in a knot.

Everyone wanted to know how it had happened. Everyone wanted to know what started it all; how could a man like him do something like this? But he wasn't talking. Durango Agonistes just sat back and celebrated the mega-IPO of the Agonistes Ball Company and smiled, perhaps for the first time ever.

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

Friday, May 18, 2012

Face-Lift 1029

Guess the Plot

Don't Date a Bro

1. In the grim darkness of the future, an attempt to carbon-date the last member of the Sigma Epsilon Chi fraternity goes horribly awry, loosing a horde of dread demons upon the world.

2. Number seven in Leon "Ladies' Man" Phelps's advice series: Dating Rules for Straight Bros.

3. Gayree Gayun goes gargantuan when looking for love by way of the newly developed Random Reality Transcendentalizer. That's when he learns, the hard way, that bro isn't a condensed form of the word brother ... in Brontosaurus Land.

4. When Leila realizes after three months of dating Jackson that he's an alcoholic, sexist, belligerant, narcissistic asshole (aka a bro), she decides to dump him. But is her new boyfriend a step up or a step down?

5. This rhyming picture book explains the hazards of incest with cheerful, upbeat color illustrations.

6. When the body of Z-list actor/singer/dancer/model Chad Hunkley (real name:Ralph Snodgrass) turns up in the dumpster outside a gay bar in Northridge, detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, this kid is a looong way from Oskaloosa, and two, the frat boys at CSUN are getting a little too randy.

Original Version

Dear _________,

Thank you for taking the time to consider my work. Don't Date a Bro; is a 47,000 word young adult novel that follows the sarcastic and slightly awkward Leila Jayne, an acclaimed soccer player and GPA whiz, who realizes after dating her popular baseball player boyfriend for three months that she is dating a Bro. [To aid those unfamiliar with the term "bro," I've spent a few hours on Urban Dictionary and Google compiling traits of a bro: An alpha male idiot. White, 16-25, inarticulate, belligerent, talks about nothing but chicks and beer, drives a jacked up truck that’s plastered with stickers, lives off his rich parents, constantly uses the word "chill" (as a noun, verb or adjective), wears wife beaters or no shirt, constantly smokes weed and drinks and parties with his fellow bros, so sexist you'd think he's exaggerating normal sexist guys to be satirical except he's not being satirical, he's that sexist, thinks women are good for nothing except making sandwiches for bros and providing bros with "dome," which is oral sex; for instance, a bro might brag, "Today I was getting road dome from a chick and her parents gave me a dirty look from the back seat but I told them it was chill."] [Also, dating a guy for three months and then realizing he's a bro is like taking three months to realize you're dating a warthog.] The problem is that she's not exactly the Bro type - she hates parties, likes to read, and enjoys "me" time - but has been faking it to fit in. To add insult to injury, her best friend has abandoned her for spending too much time with her boyfriend Jackson.

When Jackson's not be as interested in her as when they first started dating, [Suddenly you're talking like a bro.] Leila thinks it's because of her Catholic guilt and her desire to not want to have sex with him anymore. [That would do it. Also, I'm guessing she's refusing to make him sandwiches. Or to chill.] It isn't until [a] new senior boy arrives at her Catholic prep school who actually interests her – an atheist, an intellectual, [If this atheist is so intellectual, why can't he find a school that's not affiliated with a religion?] and a self-proclaimed loner – [A self-proclaimed loner is several steps up from a bro, but can't she find a boy who actually wants her around?] that Leila embraces what makes her unique and accepts that she must  break up with her boyfriend. And when they kiss one night, even though she's still dating her Jackson, [Actually, she's dating his Johnson. That's the way it works with bros.] she has to make things right, come clean, [chill,] and ditch the Bro for the guy nobody seems to notice.

Thanks again for considering my novel, and please feel free to contact me if you would like to see more from me.



The whole plot is: girl realizes she's dating a bro, and decides she'd be better off with the new kid in town? Where's the conflict? Dumping a bro is an obvious choice if you have any self-respect. Most women would dump a bro faster than they'd dump a serial killer. In fact, consider making the new kid a known serial killer, so that when Jackson gets dumped for him, it's a bigger blow.

This is all setup. We know Leila Jayne's situation. Now we want to know what she does about it and what goes wrong, and what she does about that. Does Jackson do anything when Leila breaks it off? Besides chill? Give us a reason to care about Leila. If you have an interesting story, show us.

Film Noir Friday

One colorized film noir, preceded by a short subject.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

New Beginning 948

They were saying from porch to sidewalk and across property fences and in the aisles of the grocery store: have you seen her? Her long red hair? They passed on winding roads and leaned out the windows of their trucks: red hair. Young girl, college girl. You know? She was heading up to the church. Dammit, I knew one of them would turn up. And they called for Pastor Claire.

After Claire hung up she put her cell phone in the turtle-shell bowl where she always kept it. Truth be told, she'd known one of them would turn up some day too. She got in her file drawer and found the right folder and took out her notes. She made a copy of them, returned them, and took another pre-copied piece of paper from another folder. At least, she thought, Sunday's sermon is going to be an easy one.


"Friends," pastor Claire began, "the Lord sayeth Love thy neighbor. The Lord sayeth, Do unto others yada yada. The Lord sayeth Thou shalt not kill. And we are all the Lord's children. But the Lord never had a redhead move next door to him in Jerusalem.

"After the service, gather ye some stones from the sacred rock pile out back; we'll meet in front of the witch's room at the Motel 6 at two P.M. Now turn in your hymnals to page 168, O Jesus, Lord Of Heavenly Grace."

Opening: 150.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Success Story

I just finished reading a YA book titled Across the Universe, by Beth Revis. Only when I finished did I realize we'd done the query here, and only when I searched for it on the blog did I realize I'd already done a Success Story post. In any case, now that I've read it, I highly recommend it, It's up there with my other favorite YAs, The Marbury Lens, Anna Dressed in Blood and Anna's sequel, Girl of Nightmares).

Face-Lift 1028

Guess the Plot

Snap: Memoir of a Paparazza

1. Geraldine has shot over 50 starlets. She'd have shot more, but there were always these guys with cameras hanging around.

2. Crackle and Pop may have been content to lounge around in bowls of sweetened milk, but I, Snap, took the pictures that showed the world all those fancy TV chefs eating Lucky Charms for breakfast.

3. Just as finger-snapping virtuoso Pietro Paparazza finally wins fame and fortune--and recognition for snapping as an art form--his career is tragically cut short by a crippling case of carpal tunnel syndrome.

4. The candid memoir of Hollywood’s most successful paparazza and her hilarious encounters with such superstars as Adrian Grenier and Zac Efron. Includes the infamous Seal Bitchslap and the Cameron Diaz elevator ride.

5. At six, Jenna’s dad gave her her first camera. At seven, her mother took it away. Now sixty, the lead photographer for Scandalous Magazine looks back on a life lived peering through lenses and peeping through windows for the shot that everyone wants but few dare to take.

6. Angelina's crazy jealous over Brad and Jennifer, Britney's looking chubby again, and Kim bought a new shirt that almost covers her boobs! An exclusive tell-all from one woman willing to stop at nothing to uncover the news that really matters.

Original Version

Dear Mr./ Ms. Evil Editor,

The candid memoir of Jennifer Buhl, Hollywood’s most successful paparaaza. [For the correct spelling of that word, see your title in your following sentence.] [The incomprehensible Italian language provides four correct spellings, depending on gender and quantity: paparazzi, paparazzo, paparazza, and paparazze. They all refer to the people Queen Elizabeth II hired to kill sweet Lady Di.]

Chock-full of celebrity anecdotes, Snap: Memoir of a Paparazza, gives a never-before look inside the paparazzi with detailed accounts of interactions with the world’s most famous. [For instance, a detailed account of Lady Di's moans as she lay dying with cameras flashing in her face.] [Ah, Di, if only you'd met me before you met Charles.] As well, the book is an Idiot’s Guide – How-to be a paparazzi; How-to be a celebrity; How-to get famous; How-to get less famous [; How to get the famous killed; Which doctors to see to have a camera removed from your rectum after trying to photograph Russell Crowe.] And it’s all weaved [woven] through the story of a girl in her mid-thirties looking for love, babies… and adrenaline.

As Jennifer struggles to gain acceptance in an industry full of men and a profession marked with ugliness, her personal stories of embarrassment, harassment, and ridicule (the Cameron Diaz elevator ride; Seal and the bitchslap, Mathew [Matthew] McConaughey’s beach fight…) are combined with hysterical, compelling and delicious ones (running from Tori Spelling, swimming with Adrian Grenier, Kristen Stewart smoking pot, roses for Zac Efron, and many more). [It's clear that you feel the draw of the book is the celebrities' names. Maybe it is. If I listed the highlights of a book as running, swimming, riding an elevator, etc, you wouldn't be interested. Better than these lists, to me, would be a couple elaborated examples of personal anecdotes. Good ones that make me want to see what else you've got.] All the while, Jennifer’s plans for a baby – husband or not – unfold with candor.

Working as an L.A. paparazza from 2006 to 2009 and previously as a CNN guest producer (“booker”), I am a media-genic expert in my field. Appearances and interviews include: CNN’s Larry King Live, CNN Headline News, an L.A. news station,, NPR, LA Times, [You're more famous than half the celebrities in your book.] and Michael Smerconish’s syndicated radio show. [The Michael Smerconish?!] My work has appeared frequently in magazines, blogs and TV shows such as People, TMZ, and Access Hollywood. [Not only that, I was the first and only paparazza to photograph Julia Roberts in her home taking a shower.] As a freelance photographer, I own the copyright to (and the right to reprint) all of my photos. [Are you the one who took that shot of Evil Editor and Tom Cruise in the hot tub? Because that was totally innocent.] [Also, can you send me an 8 by 10 glossy of it?]

My industry contacts comprise celebrity blogs [such as Evil Editor] and magazines, as well as a celebrity “friend” or two who have agreed to write a back book blurb. ["Friend" in quotation marks meaning not really a friend, just someone who has to do anything you ask or you'll release scandalous photos of them with Mel Gibson?] But perhaps, most importantly, I know how to get Snap into the hands of current celebrities with paps eagerly poised to photograph “what they’re reading [on the john].”

Thank you Mr./Ms. Evil Editor for your time and consideration. The tell-all book is complete and available upon request. I am including sample chapters of Snap below for your review.

Sincerely Yours,


If you want an editor to publish your book, spend less time working on your query letter and more time photoshopping shots of him committing crimes against nature.

There's still time to bid on Evil Editor editing your book in the Brenda Novak auction. Not that I'm all that interested in all that celebrity dirt and the photos of Amanda Peet and meeting all the celebs who'll be at the book signings I'll accompany you to, just saying...

Okay, so a little research reveals that this is an actual memoir. The query doesn't make it clear that Jennifer is not a fictional character. Possibly the problem is that you refer to Jennifer in the third person. The third paragraph sounds like it's describing a novel.

What we have here is a little of this and a little of a lot of other stuff. Which could sell if the celebrities are a big enough draw. But if people want to read about celebrities, they have a million options, so maybe you should stress what makes your book different, namely you. The paparazza who made it to the top of the world and then bagged it all to pursue her dream. You could try converting your book into a novel about a paparazza who just wants to move to Colorado and photograph babies, including her own. If you turn it into fiction, you can embellish the anecdotes to make them even funnier. Although you'd have to use fictional celebrity names. But readers will have fun guessing which celebrities are which.

Your credits are too long. Larry King, NPR, People, TMZ and Access Hollywood are plenty. The "contacts" paragraph can go. That leaves you some room to expand on the third paragraph, which you'll want to do if the book is written in 3rd person and has a plot. (Include an example of one of these hysterical anecdotes Jennifer was involved in.) If the book is basically a list of things that have happened to you, which could be put in any order, I don't see why it isn't written in 1st person. Or is it?

I'm not crazy about the Idiot's Guides unless they're appendixes in the back of the book. Are they actual guides, or are you just saying the reader will absorb these things by reading the story?

Are you available to follow me around a writers convention getting candid shots so my minions can see me in action? Also, can you get me on Dancing with the Stars?

Monday, May 14, 2012

One-Day Auction of Evil Editor Underway

This is the day I'm auctioning myself off in the Brenda Novak Auction. After 14 hours the bidding has reached $2.00. That's not bad, but I think we can do better.

I attribute the lack of bidding to all of the following:

1. It's Monday. Agents work Tuesday through Thursday. How did my auction get stuck on a Monday?

2. Agents are thinking, Sure, EE has a bigger platform than all my clients combined, but his minions are cheapskates who won't buy his books.

3. Agents are thinking, If I wanna donate to the Brenda Novak auction, I'd rather donate a service like reading some idiot's proposal than any of the money I earned last week by mailing stuff.

4. Agents are thinking, Publishing has seen enough changes that threaten my job lately. The last thing we need is for agents to bid on a client and this starts a trend, and next thing you know I'm spending more time monitoring client auctions than on my real duties like making phone calls and mailing stuff.

5. Agents are thinking, If I had a client as big as Evil Editor (and I'm not talking about his girth) and I couldn't even sell his books, I'd be the laughingstock of the publishing world. It would be worse than getting Stephen King as a client and not being able to sell his next book.

6. Agents are thinking, If I bid now it'll just drive up the price. If I wait till the auction's over I might be able to get EE for free, and if that means diabetes doesn't get cured this year, well, so be it.

7. Agents are thinking, If I spend $7.00 to get EE as a client, that's $7.00 I could have spent bidding on an autographed copy of The Duchess and the Gardener.

8. Agents are thinking, I know nothing about this auction, as I don't follow Evil Editor's blog or Tweets, and never heard of Evil Editor or Brenda Novak, and have no idea why I'm thinking this.

9. Agents are thinking, If I bid on EE my fellow agents will think I'm desperate for clients and they'll all be snickering at me. Sure, I could bid anonymously, but what if EE goes on The Daily Show to promote his book and reveals that I bid on him? I wouldn't be able to show my face at Sardi's.

10. Agents are thinking, He's the world's most famous editor. He won't listen to any of my suggestions, and this will annoy me even though he'll be right all the time. If there's anything worse than a man who thinks he's right all the time, it's a man who is right all the time.

Bonus Reason: The Agent Code forbids raiding another agent's client list. Someone already placed a bid. To outbid that person would be like breaking the Prime Directive.

Face-Lift 1027

Guess the Plot

Damsel to the Rescue

1. Terri doesn't want to rescue princes; she wants to garden. Then her mother offers her the garden she's always wanted if she'll rescue the prince from the Dark Lord, so Terri sets out on her first mission. But can she beat all the other prince-rescuing damsels to the prince?

2. Felicity spends her time acting helpless to snare men, though these relationships are always short-lived. When her current boyfriend gets lost hiking the Adirondacks, Felicity makes a decision: No more damsel in distress. It's Felicity to the rescue.

3. Everyone always teased Gary Damsel about his name. It didn’t help that he was a scrawny germaphobic nerd, either. But when the big game against a rival middle school comes around, and Gary has the only basketball-playing dog in town, it’s...Damsel to the Rescue!

4. Yolanda leads a double life. Damsel by day and dragon rescuer at night. Soon all the kingdoms dragons are hidden in her sanctuary, but can she keep them secret from her fiancé, the most prolific dragon slayer of them all? Particularly when she needs his gold to feed them?

5. Damsel Lynette has just been rescued from Malcontusion the Dragon by foppish Sir Gordon . Now Malcontusion is sore, bruised, and looking for revenge. When he kidnaps Lynette's secret true love, Chester the bootblack, Lynette steals Gordon's sword and rides to the rescue!

6. Princess Ursula is heir to the throne of Albegesnia . . . if she tames a noble and unique steed. She settles on the dragon Corla, but Corla is held as part of a circus run by handsome but cruel Lord Alcomb. Will she save Corla from Alcomb's clutches, or redeem Alcomb and say to heck with the throne?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

I thought you might be interested in DAMSEL TO THE RESCUE, a gender-role-bending YA fantasy adventure. [Once we eliminate what's unnecessary here ("I thought you might be interested in," "role," and either "fantasy" or "adventure"), there's so little left that it may as well be added to the first sentence of the last paragraph: DAMSEL TO THE RESCUE is a gender-bending YA adventure complete at 83,000 words.] [Now we can start with something I actually might be interested in.]

Terrilyn Darkhorse comes [hails?] from a long line of successful, prince-rescuing damsels. Now that she’s sixteen, she’s expected to uphold the family tradition. But Terri dreams of being a gardener and would rather remain at home, tending her garden, perfecting her plant magic, and staying far away from the highly competitive world of damsels. [That last sentence could be shortened to: But Terri would rather tend her beautiful garden than enter the world of competitive damseling.] [Yes, "damseling" is a word . . . now.]

Then the local prince is kidnapped and Terri’s mother makes her an offer: Beat the other damsels and be the one to rescue the prince, and Terri can have the family’s second estate, Trellis, to turn into her own gardens. [I'd drop "Beat the other damsels and be the one to" from that sentence.] Terri has wanted Trellis since she was a little girl, so she sets out with her best friend Rune as her official sidekick, hoping to avoid the other damsels altogether. [I'd change the last five words to "out-damsel the other damsels."] [Yes, "out-damsel" is a word. If Michael Chabon can make up words, so can you.]

Before long, Terri and Rune are set upon by hordes of trolls and find themselves rescuing rival damsels from man-eating trees. As the onslaught of enemies grows, [Drop that phrase; it's not the onslaught that grows.] Terri learns to rely on her magic and an unexpected source of aid—her rivals—to conquer each challenge. Because she is determined to succeed, even if it means coping with snotty elf princesses, chainmail bikinis, and the most powerful Dark Lord the world has seen in five-hundred years. [The Dark Lord deserves his own sentence (or two), not a spot on a list that includes snotty elf princesses and chainmail bikinis. Dump the bikinis and put the snotty elves up with the trolls and trees. Even if it's not exactly true, you could start this paragraph: But rescuing the prince won't be easy, not when Terri is spending most of her time rescuing rival damsels from man-eating trees and evil trolls.] [And she needs to defeat the Dark Lord, not cope with him.]

DAMSEL TO THE RESCUE is complete at 83,000 words. It will appeal to readers who appreciate Tamora Pierce’s strong heroines and Patricia C. Wrede’s quirky sense of humor. [Never heard of either of them, but I lead a reclusive life.]

Included are the materials you request in your submission guidelines. Thank you very much for your time.


I like the title, the concept and the voice. And now that it's been shortened a bit, you may have room to tell us what the Dark Lord wants with the prince and how the world will change if he isn't rescued. Or how a 16-year-old gardener plans to defeat the most powerful Dark Lord the world has seen in five-hundred years.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Film Noir Friday

Double Feature! A film noir preceded by a classic film from the vault.

Click here.

New Beginning 946

We buried my brother Tesha with the games-disk in his hand, his knuckles curled around the rim, now stiff as stone. We'd had to pose him while he was very newly dead, while his fingers could still bend. But we did it. Now he'd have his wish, and never have to let go of his game.

My wish, to never have to let go of my brother, went unfulfilled.

After the funeral I leaned against the games-pole to watch the villagers living out the day the way our family couldn't--the way Tesha couldn't. It was passive-aggressive, I knew: anyone who wanted to play, today of all days, would have to move me. I felt like I was guarding the goal for Tesha. Holding his spot. So what if he'd never come to claim it? That was his job, not mine. I just had to stand here.

And stand here I did, even when the Steel City Marauders, who had apparently reserved the field for their practice, showed up and started hurling their discuses my way. 

Hey, it could have been worse. They could have been throwing javelins.

Opening: 150.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Fake Plots Are Needed

. . . for all titles in the query queue.

Success Story

Whirlochre, frequent contributor to the now- discontinued writing exercises and the now- discontinued cartoon caption contests and the still-going-on New Beginnings feature, (not to mention major contributor to Evil Editor Teaches School) announces that he has . . . Well, let him tell you all about it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

New Beginning 945

The day began with portents: that's never a good sign.

As I was brushing my teeth, one fell out. I caught it as it clinked against the porcelain of the sink, skittering down to the black ring of the drain. "Not so fast," I said, and put the tooth in my pocket to plant in the garden later.

With a mug of yesterday's coffee in my hands, thin steam breathing from its troubled surface, I stepped out onto the porch. A seagull swaggered along the railing towards me, pompous as a pigeon with its message. I miss the doves. They were always so earnest and apologetic. Seagulls are much too full of themselves, but I suppose they have an easier time of it flapping out to the islands, and they're better at fighting off the cats.

The gull gave me a one-eyed once-over, and opened its hooky beak. "On the morning ferry," it squawked. "Be there."

It was clearly a sign, but what did it mean? I had never been good at solving riddles. My answer to the riddle of the sphinx had been a unicyclist with training wheels.

I looked up bird omens on the Internet and learned that birds flying on your left indicate bad luck, birds flying on the right are a fortunate sign, and birds flying above you mean you will soon be washing your hair.

My bird wasn't flying at all. Further research showed that seeing a gull means don't worry, you will adapt to whatever situation you're in. My situation was that I hadn't had breakfast yet, and there was nothing in the refrigerator. Who knew fried seagull could be so tasty?

Opening: B M L Gordon.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Face-Lift 1026

Guess the Plot

Hunting Trouble

1. When the blind falls over. When the dog runs away. When your shotgun accidentally takes out your mother-in-law. Oh wait. That was a good day.

2. The haunting and chilling memoir of a man who pushed his friendship too far and criticised Dick Cheney.

3. On a hunting trip upon the Mimsy Borogroves, Carol Lewis is in search of the mighty Jabberwock. However, upon finding the eviscerated body of her companion, Beaujean Snarkh, Carol finds herself hunted, as well as hunter.

4. It's the first day of deer season, and the gals at Buck Country Beer Store who are trying to keep the shelves stocked for the guys heading to deer camp have just one message for anyone who might venture into the woods: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

5. Two perennial adversaries find themselves stalked by a predator in a remote woodland. Will a battle of wits determine the survivor of the encounter, or will it be a simple deus ex machina?

6. Leo Rogan has a thriving business hunting down runaway slaves and returning them to their owners. Then James Reynard shows up and starts claiming that all the slaves Leo captures are actually his servants. This kind of trouble can kill a business. A slave hunter has nothing without his reputation.

Original Version

Dear sir,

Leo Rogan is determined to be a land owner. Under the laws of Sarkine, he has a chance to buy his father's fief from Sir Egan, thus fulfilling his father's deathbed wish. Sir Egan gives him a year to come up with the money; if Leo fails, all of his profits will go to Egan's coffers and Leo himself will be trapped as Egan's servant.

The fastest way to earn money is tracking down runaway faery slaves. Leo, a skilled hunter, uses his abilities to establish a thriving slave-catching business. The work is difficult, but Leo perseveres.

Until he meets the Reynards.

James Reynard, an abolitionist who poses as a slave-owner, claims that the runaways are his servants. Leo suspects that he's actually smuggling them to the Faery Realm. With nothing more than the real owner's description to base his claim on, Leo has to give up his prey. [Isn't returning runaway faery slaves to their owners the way Leo makes money? If Reynard claims a captured runaway faery slave is his, he should pay Leo. Who pays slave-catchers if not the slave owners?] But giving up doesn't mean giving in. Instead, he finds a way to expose Reynard as a thief and send him to prison.

With Reynard imprisoned, his faery wife Zara is auctioned off. Out of pity, Leo buys her, intending to set her free. [Why isn't she free? She was a landowner's wife, not a slave.] But Zara refuses to leave her husband. She threatens to undermine Leo's reputation as a slave-catcher by claiming she escaped from him. [But she isn't a slave, is she? People know she's Reynard's wife.] To save his business, Leo reluctantly agrees to let Zara stay with him until her husband is freed.

Living with a faery causes Leo to look more sympathetically at the slaves he tracks. It's a sympathy he can't afford, though, for the year is drawing to a close and he still doesn't have Egan's fee. [Maybe if he didn't blow all that money buying Zara he'd have enough.] Worse, he is beginning to fall in love with Zara.

Hunting Trouble is a fantasy novel in progress. [No need to include that sentence, as you won't be sending the query anywhere until the novel is complete.] Thank you for your time and criticism. [No need to thank me for criticizing you. Criticizing people is my pleasure.]

Yours sincerely,


You say, "With nothing more than the real owner's description to base his claim on, Leo has to give up his prey." If Leo captures a runaway who meets the real owner's description, what more does he need? DNA tests? Doesn't the real owner get a chance to identify the captured slave as his own before Leo just accepts Reynard's claim that it's his servant?

How do faeries differ from humans? I assume they don't look like Tinkerbell if Reynard married one. Do they have magical abilities?

The fief workers already work the land and give all their profits to the landowners. And the landowners have servants. So what do the landowners need faery slaves for?

Tracking slaves is the fastest way to make money, and Leo's business was thriving. If he doesn't have the money, how does anyone ever manage to buy a fief? If the price is too high, isn't there any land for sale besides his father's fief? He can start his own business, but he can't leave town and buy land somewhere else?

I'd combine the first two paragraphs, which have some unnecessary info, into something like:

Under the laws of Sarkine, Leo Rogan can buy his late father's fief from Sir Egan--if Leo can come up with the money within a year. The fastest way to earn money is tracking down runaway faery slaves, so Leo, a skilled hunter, uses his abilities to establish a thriving slave-catching business.

It seems out of character for landowners to accept a law that requires them to sell their land to the children of their deceased fief workers. With enough deaths they might no longer be landowners.

The plot description is well-written, but I'd like some of the issues I brought up dealt with.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

New Beginning 944

Norma had a pot of soup going: mostly turnips and tough frog meat, though they'd finally all figured out how to make it soft enough to pass for chicken. Ramona Raine, who had Cajun relatives, had even figured out that if you threw the fatty skins on a cookie sheet, they crisped up nice enough to snack on. The resulting fake pork rinds were hell on digestion but a huge relief nonetheless: it was better than burning it all with the rest of the remains. Better to keep that stench in the kitchen, where it could be managed.

It hadn't rained in three days. Norma thanked God and touched the ceramic four-leafed clover by her kitchen sink and prayed to both that it wouldn't rain for another three. Not until she canned all this soup.

Norma labeled the cans "Consommé." Strictly speaking, it wasn't consommé, but the European air was popular and the tourists were many ever since her small town had twinned itself with Elpòine in Burgundy. Her small shop guarded the only through-road and invariably this was where the lost would pause to get their bearings.

A knock at the door.

"Get that, Clyde!" Norma shouted as she gummed the last of the labels.

She heard hinges creak and the muffled pidgin of "Excusez-moi, can yoo tell mee ze way to--" cut off by a scream and a thud.

"Put the pot back on Norma," Clyde called to her, "and sharpen the knives. We got us another one o' them frogs."

Opening: 150.....Continuation: Anon.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Advertising 101

Supposedly it takes seven viewings of an ad before the viewer succumbs and purchases a product he doesn't want. I've just completed the second go-round of "Today's Ad." Each cycle takes about three months. So theoretically, in about fifteen months there should be a sudden run on Evil Editor's store.

Face-Lift 1025

Guess the Plot

Threads of Control

1. Saylor dreams of being a fashion designer, but to break in she must untangle the cords of cronyism, unzip the bags of investor cash, and cut through the layers of bullshit. Is Saylor's dream sewn up, or will she be trimmed?

2. When the Puppetmaster threatens to wipe out the human trees on the planet Ulfitron, Earth teenager Jimmy Ranfaz is chosen as their savior.

3. When the body of fashion mogul Jonny Street is found under a mountain of bolts at his Downtown LA sweatshop, detective Zack Martinez knows two things: One, this year's fashions are damned ugly, and two, Jonny wasn't simply killed by a bolt from the blue.

4. Needlework expert Alice Bobbin only wanted to see if that new craft store in town had embroidery floss in Dusky Rose. Little did she know that the sign meant a different kind of "craft." Now her cross stitches of houses and flowers have the power to harvest souls.

5. Jane is a seamstress who tailors clothes for her husband Dan. But when she notices Dan ogling her best friend, she secretly cinches the crotch of Dan's pants tighter and tighter.

6. All Janet wanted was to open a nice little quilting store. But monolithic sewing chain SewItUp! will not tolerate any competition. Sabotage, arson, and murder ensue.

7. Mayhem breaks out at Mary's Merry Marionette Show when her wooden puppets rebel, massacring three puppeteers and half the attendees of the Kanoma County Fair.

Original Version

Dear [Literary Agent],

AVERAGE – the word burned him. Superpowers had not changed the one thing he hated; Jimmy Ranfaz [, alias Aquaman,] was still average.

Jimmy, a daydreaming teenager from Earth, thinks he has been given a new lease of [on] life when the tree-descendant humans from Ulfitron [Hang on. They're humans whose ancestors were trees? Just because they have limbs doesn't make them humans.] pick him to be their new saviour from a returning nemesis [, the supervillain known as . . . Lumberjack]. But his training in cranial abilities [He's being trained by trees? When you're choosing a champion to lead you against your arch nemesis, it's a good idea to choose someone who's already smarter than a tree.] is rudely interrupted by an attack which also wipes out everyone he knows on the planet, [How many people did he know on the planet? He just got there.] all except Juvall Spelding – a powerful native whose determination to save his race is only outstripped by his disdain of Jimmy’s powers. [So . . . Jimmy is Aqualad?] [It's bad enough when you're a kid who wants to be a superhero and you get your wish, except you get stuck with the same powers as Aquaman. But to make it even more humiliating, instead of Shark or Barracuda, they call you Aqualad.] [I suppose Robin was always a little pissed that Batman didn't give him a cool name like Condor or Raven.]

Outmatched by the might of their foe, their only hope of saving Ulfitron lies in tracking down a legendary source of knowledge. [Unfortunately, this source of knowledge is a book and its owner refuses to give it up, believing it's his grandfather.]  But within the journey lies a deception so deep, it rocks the very beliefs of the Ulfitronians about the previous battle and also questions Jimmy’s own true origins. With limitless power within his grasp, Jimmy must decide where his priorities lie; the heroism in saving countless people or finally emerging from the shadows of mediocrity he has always been consigned to. [I don't see how that's an either/or decision. Saving countless people leaves him in the shadow of mediocrity?]

EVOLUTION: THREADS OF CONTROL is a 90,000 word YA high fantasy novel with a scientific flavour.

The complete manuscript is available on request. [I have attached the first five pages for your perusal.]

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

Kind Regards,

Author's note: The title is chosen because of the nature of the MC's journey and the hidden puppetmaster.


If Jimmy fails the willows will never stop weeping. If he succeeds he'll be the most poplar person on Ulfitron.

There's too much vagueness. Who is the nemesis? Why is Jimmy chosen as the savior? What are Jimmy's powers? What is this deep deception? What is this legendary source of knowledge? What is Jimmy's superhero name? (I suggest Treehugger.)

Who is this hidden puppetmaster? Is he the nemesis? "Puppetmaster" is a cooler-sounding name for the villain than "returning nemesis."

It's not clear why Jimmy is still considered average after he has superpowers. Or why using his superpowers to save countless people still leaves him average. What does he have to do to be above average?

What's with the title? Is Evolution part of the book's title, or is that the series name? I don't like anything about the title.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Film Noir Friday

New Beginning 943

The man on the corner had been on fire for five days. Daniel walked past quickly, with his head down and his hands in his pockets, so he didn't have to catch the burning man's eye. The burning man waved his arms, wobbled in the patch of molten rubber that used to be his shoes, shrieked:


Daniel skipped up the stairs to his office building.

"BEAUTIFUL AND WISE!" shrieked the burning man. "BEAUTIFUL AND--"

He fell abruptly silent. Daniel, with his hand on the door handle, turned against his better judgment.

The man was lying on the ground mumbling.

It's sad, Daniel thought, any time senility strikes a superhero, but Ghost Rider's case is the worst I've ever seen.

Opening: 150.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Face-Lift 1024

Guess the Plot

The Forest Avengers

1. Hans Volak has an enormous green problem. Specifically, the carnivorous forest bordering on his property has begun to encroach upon his pastureland, threatening to eat his prized livestock.

2. The wish-granting butterflies thought they were safe in the magical Forest Zone, but someone is out to capture them all, which will screw up the ecosystem. But there's still hope if 12-year-old Jason can conquer his cowardice and act the part of a superhero.

3. In the land of Sylvinia the trees of the Forest Mossling were exposed to a radioactive meteorite. Now they all have super powers and fight crime as . . . The Forest Avengers!

4. It's good anonymice gone bad! Revenge time! Dissed by a squirrel named Buffy, they're gonna gnaw their nuts and ... well, maybe just gnaw their nuts.

5. When 5th grader Kirti starts an environmental club, she thinks they'll plant some trees, go on hikes, stuff like that. But then the FBI mistakes them for domestic terrorists.

6. Forced into a ceasefire nobody wants, warring Middle Eastern nations come up with a diabolical alternative--sending terrorist foresters across the border to aggressively plant trees in each other's territory. Can plucky teenagers Jasmin and Ibrahim destroy the stealth irrigation systems and save the day?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Like most twelve-year-olds, Jason didn’t believe in magic. Of course, that was before a bear chased him into the magical Forest Zone; the only safe haven left for threatened animal species. Jason must save the endangered Blue Karner butterfly family from the poaching Lady of the Lake. [That sentence is out of place. I'm expecting you to tell me what makes him suddenly believe in magic; instead you're claiming he is responsible for saving these butterflies, and not providing any explanation for why he has to do this.] You see, each butterfly will grant one wish to the person who catches it first. The Lady plans on stealing them all. [Do you mean capturing them all? From whom would she be stealing them?] [Can't she capture one butterfly and wish that all the others were inside her home?] [In any case, remove "threatened species" from the query and focus on the butterflies.]

Helping the butterflies seems like a no-brainer. There’s only one problem. Jason is an adventure phobic scaredy-cat. His friends know it. His sister taunts him about it. Together with his cousins, Jason makes a wary decision to band together and avenge the rights of the butterfly family. [It's not "rights" that one avenges. He can avenge the butterflies, assuming they've already been wronged. Or he can protect their rights.] [What rights are we talking about? The right to not be used as wish granters? Do the butterflies care to whom they grant wishes?] Little does he know that acting the superhero is much scarier than pretend.

When their plans go wrong and the Lady catches them trying to free her collection of butterflies, [Sounds like the plan is to free the butterflies, not avenge them.] she kidnaps Jason’s cousin and tricks him into leading her to the Forest Zone. ["Hey kid, I'm trying to find Baskin Robbins. Where is it in relation to the Forest Zone, which I already know where is?"] Chaos breaks out when the Lady learns that the all-powerful Queen Karner butterfly is an even better catch. She can bestow the ultimate prize—unlimited wishes. [I don't see why this would cause chaos to break out.] To make matters worse, Jason has to keep an eye on his smart-mouthed sister who thinks there’s no harm done if she makes a wish…or two. [There isn't, if she wishes the Lady would drown in the lake.]

Protecting both the Queen and his own coveted secret [What secret are we talking about?] from the Lady’s clutches, Jason soon discovers what bravery really is as he tries to stop the Lady of the Lake before the butterflies become extinct and the forest’s ecosystem falls apart.

THE FOREST AVENGERS is a middle grade adventure novel. It includes magical realism and is complete at 35,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.



The Lady of the Lake is a familiar "name" in fantasy, poetry, opera, and ships. Does she have a real name? Is she a person or some kind of ethereal being? I would find it annoying to read a book in which a main character was always referred to as The Lady of the Lake. It would be like reading a comic book in which the villain was always referred to as The Bald Guy Obsessed with Killing Superman.

The Lady of the Lake has no need to keep or kill a butterfly that's already granted its one wish, so why would they become extinct? She should release them so they can procreate, providing new wish-granting butterflies.

If the Lady of the Lake didn't even know where the Forest Zone was, the butterflies were in no danger of extinction until Jason's cousin blabbed. They should have just stayed out of it and let nature take its course.

Freeing the Lady's collection of butterflies doesn't prevent her from going to the Forest Zone and getting more, or getting the queen. They have to murder her.

Start over. The setup is: The wish-granting Blue Karner butterflies are in danger of extinction if Cruella de Moth finds out where their safe haven, the magical Forest Zone is. 12-year-old coward Jason wants to protect the butterflies, so he recruits his cousins for a mission to thwart Cruella. But when one of Jason's idiot cousins gives away the location, it's time to enact Plan B. If only they had a Plan B.

Take it from there.