Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

National Book Award Guess the Plot

Below are the five titles short-listed for the National Book Award. Your job is to guess which of the plot descriptions is the real plot of the book.

Bleeding Edge

1. Carl Hollowell studies the newest body modification craze amongst teenagers with daddy issues. Also, militant protests in 1980s Beverly Hills.

2. Seth goes from comfortable home to the mean streets after his parents are killed in a drive-by. Now Seth fights for cash to survive day-to-day. Getting by is the best one can do on the . . . Bleeding Edge.

3. Hilarious murder mystery set against the backdrop of the 9/11 attacks.

4. Think of Tippi Tamponeera as a “00” agent for the feminine hygiene company Shieldies. She has a license to wreak havoc on competitive companies, especially Shieldies’ toughest competition Angelica Safety Wings, which promises protection against sideward leakage. For Tippi, it is a simple matter of factory sabotage to clip an angel’s wings. For Angelica’s customers, it’s ... the Bleeding Edge.

5. A serial killer barber uses his razor to behead customers. Cops get on to him when a routine traffic stop uncovers a van filled with human heads, all with recent haircuts.

6. Occam’s razor was so dull it was easier to tell which hairs weren’t cut. In a fit of pique he swore if he couldn’t get a close shave, he’d slit his own throat. The next day, Occam’s evil twin was found in a pool of blood, his throat a wreck and Occam’s razor in his hand. The authorities want to know who wrote the word “parse” in blood with the razor’s edge and how Occam will figure it out. He doesn’t have a clue.

Tenth of December

1. Three days after Pearl Harbor, Navy recruit Jack Donohue escorts his cousin to the Army recruitment center in Dallas. Once they see him, they want him. Can he ever leave, or will he be forced to resort to desperate tactics to escape? Also, militant protests in 1940s Japan.

2. A misfit boy on an imaginary mission meets up with a dying man on a frozen pond. Also, living lawn ornaments and sadistic neurological experiments.

3. Yet another pregnancy diary by a woman who thinks she's the first in the world to give birth. And even though her name's Eve, it ain't the case. Will her infant be one of the minority who actually arrive on the due date, you guessed it, the tenth of Dec?

4. Three days ago the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor. Today, Special operative James MacInerney arrives in Japan. His mission? Take out Hirohito.

5. The last fire was finally extinguished and the first tears of the dead rose from the Arizona. A giant shakes loose, sits up, and peers around the world. It has been decades since his last appearance. It's time to get down to business. He turns to his minions, and says, “Let’s roll!”

6. ‘Twas fifteen days till Christmas, and in the Senate and House,
the Capital Hillers played, again, cat and mouse.
Deals offered were tempting, as if baited with cheese,
but for those who liked Tea, no cheese would appease.
So the Economy wondered, “Does another debt crisis loom?
Will Nonessentials, again, be deemed essentially doomed?”
Oh, and that girl’s face on the website of Obamacare that fled:
was she a casualty of the uninsureds’ cyber-dread?
Still, one thing is certain, and of this never fear:
taxes are due April 15th next year.

The Flamethrowers

1. A motorcycle racer moves to New York for the art scene and falls in with the heir to a motorcycle company. Together they decide to "make art" by racing motorcycles on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Also, militant protests in 1970s Italy.

2. Beatrice lives in a society in which almost everyone has been implanted with gimmicky microchips. Her least favorite is the one that makes rude people classy. She and her gang throw flaming dildos at these people, until Sam, the classiest guy in the world, introduces himself to her.

3. A scientist thinks comes up with a way to keep so many trees in the rainforests from being cut down to make all that toilet paper women use. He’s invented tiny flamethrowers that attach inside of toilet bowls and act as blow-dryers. And to make them even more eco-friendly, these in-bowl dryers are fueled entirely by the user’s own gaseous emissions! But he didn't count on the 7-Bean With Cabbage Diet that had just become the latest health-conscious rage. Whoa, talk about flamethrowers!

4. In this hard-hitting expose, journalist Nate Goddard dissects the lives of the basement-bound community of neckbeards called Internet Trolls.

5. The pope orders thousands of non-Catholics burned at the stake in 15th-century Europe. It just seems like the Christian thing to do.

6. Martin and Gus pack their favorite copy of “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” their best frocks and depart for Sydney. Their agent said it would be a convention of hot, Australian men. Perfect for two middle-aged, burlesque actors from San Francisco. Turns out they're booked to perform for 2000 firemen. Too bad none of them is gay.

The Lowland

1. Inseparable brothers separate. One gets killed. The other marries his dead brother's pregnant wife. It's his good deed, and of course it doesn't go unpunished. Also, militant protests in 1960's India.

2. Seamus, a Highland farmer, can't keep up with Edinburgh's fast pace-- until he meets Celesta. This modern gal has everything going, but a love she treasures. Can they forge a technologically-savvy future together?

3. All Digit wanted was to get off the mountain. Sure, the living was easy--sleeping in trees, picking nits and killing an occasional rival was fun, but the lowland was where living began. He hated his life until Diane arrived from the valley. She was pale, weak, and couldn’t screech worth a damn, but he loved her. Now he needed to protect her from the poachers and move to the lowland before it was too late.

4. PJ McGillicutty is a lonely in Amazonica. Despite being the only male, the females will have nothing to do with him, until the volcano starts to groan to life. Can he convince the Shebeba that exercising his mojo will prevent catastrophe? And, more importantly...can it?

5. In post apocalyptic Netherlands a small band of teenagers eke out a living, defending their compound against werewolves mutated into zombies crossed with vampires. 

6. Lives and loves are torn apart by a teen seductress, her father, and a pit bull in a Nashville trailer park.

The Good Lord Bird

1. They call it that because when you see it you say, "Good Lord!" Also, militant protests in 1860s America.

2. Winney Elfsie captures a photo of what looks like Jesus Christ in the clouds. But what is he doing with his middle finger?

3. Sam thought a raised middle finger was a friendly greeting. When he waves it around Meeting his family is shunned. Can Sam overcome the ire of the LDS before his father loses his position as Stakeholder?

4. Graham takes in Great Aunt Sheila's pet honoring her last wish. Sheldon, the African grey parrot, has trouble adjusting to his new home in Graham's music studio. Also, turns out Great Aunt Shiela swore like a drunken trucker. Will Graham turn out the cursing wretch, or lose all his Kindermusik students?

5. A bird continuously flies into a window until it can no longer fly, somehow setting off a series of events including two suicides during a family road trip to California.

6. Randall Peltzer bought the Good Lord Bird in Chinatown. Back home, the bird molts, its cast-off feathers producing offspring which terrorize the town.

Answers below

Fake plots by Khazar-khum, kregger, Veronica Rundell, EE, James, CavalierdeNuit, Anon.

The correct plots are:


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Face-Lift 1163

Guess the Plot

Metamorphosis of the Meek

1. 16-year-old Rhynn awakens with super powers! Well, not that super. She's faster and more flexible than she used to be. Can she use her powers to buy her way off this miserable planet?

2. Shy, fat, nerdy Jeremy was always friendzoned by girls he liked. He was ready to crawl off and die--until a desperately hungry vampire bit him. Now he's read all those PUA books, he's got a fedora, and he's gonna take the bar scene chicks by storm.

3. Bob was looking forward to the day the meek inherited the Earth. But two days before Armageddon he gets elected US president thanks to write-in votes, becoming the most powerful man on Earth. Man, nothing's going right.

4. The Metamorphosis potion was supposed to give the spineless a complete makeover. Apparently it works in both directions, as Ed discovers when he turns into a jellyfish.

5.The Milquetoasts Anonymous meeting was late getting started, as no one present had the courage to call the meeting to order. Finally one brave soul stood up, took a deep breath, and said, Hi, I'm George and I'm a milquetoast . . . but I'm taking the last doughnut! Unless anyone else wants it."

6. Selica's boss constantly takes advantage of her. One day she decides she's had enough and kills the lecherous bastard. I hope that's where the book ends instead of with Selica getting in trouble, because the guy had it coming.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

On the planet of Xorra, sixteen-year-old Rhynn rots in prison. She is waiting to die. Rhynn’s always been a scrawny twit who lives in a crater and illegally sells shoddy antigravity boots to pay rent. [The only reason to live in a crater is to avoid paying rent.] [She's 16 years old and she's always lived in a crater selling antigravity boots?] And when the lethal dose of asteroid dust is shoved down her throat, Rhynn figures that’s all she’ll ever be. [I can't tell if the lethal dose is shoved down her throat in prison or before she was imprisoned. I assume rotting in prison comes after living in a crater, so perhaps they should be in that order in the query.]

Until something goes awry, and Rhynn jolts awake in the criminal’s graveyard- a swamp filled with carnivorous plants- to find she’s light as air and super flexible. And when she runs? She’s like a shooting star stuck on land. [She's a combination of the Flash and Mr. Fantastic and . . . I can't think of a superhero who's as light as air. Possibly because I can't think of how being light as air would be useful in the fight against crime. You could ride the wind like a leaf but if the wind shifts unexpectedly you could get blown into a raging forest fire. Maybe she should be lighter than air, allowing her to hover over criminals like the helium-filled Underdog balloon in the Macy's parade. Then when she wants to drop onto the criminal she punctures her foot with a pin and shoots downward.]

Rhynn manages to slip away, with an insane idea. [Sell asteroid dust as "the weight-loss drug that makes you light as air." A week later she's a millionaire.] A steely-furred beast has been roaming the planet, [How big is this planet?] ripping apart buildings and killing anyone who gets in its way. With her new powers, Rhynn decides she’s got a shot at slaying the monster, and nabbing the reward that comes with it. [I'm light as air and flexible; I should be able to take down a beast that can rip apart buildings.]

With the money, Rhynn could get off Xorra and travel the galaxy. She’ll feast on planetary delicacies. She’ll visit stars to take silly tourist photos, [Photo tip: when taking pictures on a star, use the .00000000000000000000000000001 shutter speed to minimize overexposure.] and do whatever she wants, whenever she wants.

She might be mauled to death. [There's always a catch.] If her true identity leaks, she will be hunted as a criminal. But it’s worth the risk, until the same powers that could save her make her a target. Turns out someone would kill to keep the beast running wild. And he wants her out of the way.

METAMORPHOSIS OF THE MEEK is a young adult superhero story set in space, complete at 65,000 words. I’m querying you because...Thank you for your time and consideration.



Most superheroes are in it to help humanity. Are we going to get behind a career criminal who accidentally acquires super powers and uses them to finance a vacation?

I would organize it something like this:

Sixteen-year-old Rhynn is having a bad week. First she was arrested for selling shoddy antigravity boots, then she was tossed into prison without a trial, and now a guard has shoved a lethal dose of asteroid dust down her throat.

By all rights she should be dead. Instead, she wakes up in the criminals' graveyard to find she’s light as air and super flexible. And when she runs? She’s like a shooting star stuck on land. This could be her ticket off of Xorra, especially if she can use her new powers to destroy the steely-haired beast that's been terrorizing the planet. The reward's enough to get her halfway across the galaxy.

But there's a catch. (Isn't there always?) Turns out someone wants to keep the beast running wild. And he wants Rhynn out of the way.

That leaves enough room for you to insert some information you think is vital, like why we should care whether Rhynn gets off Xorra.

Monday, October 28, 2013


Below are most of the fake plots involving vampires that have appeared here since the last time we did a vampire Guess the Plot quiz. But wait! Four of them turned out to be the actual plots of minions' novels. Which four?

1. It's been 875 years, and Ian MacNeil is ready to retire from an active life of blood-sucking to Hawaii, where an endless supply of young bodies awaits and he can admire his massive collection of velvet Elvis paintings in peace. All he has to do now is survive the roast his fellow vampires want to give him. It's just a few hours of jokes...isn't it?

2. When Bubbe, the senior center queen, became a late night snack for the undead it put an end to her days of the senior special. But not sleeping all night made her the number one buyer on the shopping channels. How much kitsch can one vampire have?

3. Gus fakes his death and attends his funeral in disguise. There he learns that Brigette had a crush on him. To win her he must return from the dead so he fakes being a vampire. But now he finds himself dealing with actual vampire hunters with their cheap crosses and stakes. Plus, Brigette wants him to turn her so they can spend eternity together.

4. Two vampires buy a gift shop at Myrtle Beach. It's the perfect spot to hunt victims, but Vlad loves being surrounded by plastic mermaids and coffee mugs, while Ramon wants to convert the place into a fine dining establishment. Talk about your odd couple.

5. Sent away to live in exile with other surly teens, Niko soon realizes something sinister lurks in the shadows. Vampires? But unlike the ones on TV they all look hideously dead and smell worse. Maybe they're zombies? No, they are Zombires, a new kind of biting monster that really is impossible to kill.

6. High school has been divided into factions since forever. Now Janie, a vampire, and her best friend Lisa, a soft-spoken mummy, plan to change all that.

7. As Josh Booth camps in the north woods, vampires capture him, binding him to a tree. He escapes and warns authorities but Detective Abby Lincoln says he’s crazy. When bodies--drained of blood--are found bound to other trees in the woods, Lincoln thinks Booth is the serial killer.

8. Archeologist Len Bianchi, exploring Rome’s oldest catacombs dating from the third century B.C., opens a crypt releasing Illuvica, the demigod vampire of felines. The Romans sealed her off over two thousand years ago. Now she’s really pissed--especially about that stupid dog thing--and wants revenge on all Italy.

9. Bored with the other vampires in the nest, Lisle goes hunting for fresh companions. Soon she's swarmed by hipsters and wanna-be's. Will she have to bite them all to find the one she wants to keep--forever?

10. Vampires hijack a space shuttle and fly it to the dark side of the moon where they won't have to spend sixteen hours a day in their coffins. But it turns out the dark side isn't always dark when you're on it, and there's no one there whose blood they can drink. Also, there's no air to breathe.

11. After siring four new vampires for Lorenzo, Kaia is entitled to her freedom. At least that's what the Hematophagy Council says. But Lorenzo won't release her unless she comes up with millions of dollars in tribute. If you can't trust a 1000-year-old vampire, who can you trust?

12. 32 year-old Jennie Rogers lied about her age to land a part on TV's "The Rose", a vampire musical dramedy aimed at teens. When hunky production assistant Gabriel Lopez threatens to expose her ruse to the director, Jennie has to decide whether to sleep with him or kill him.

13. Phoebus the vampire would have an easier time wiping out his former clan if he had an ally who was a wivern. Unfortunately, he turned the only wivern in town into a human. And then fell in love with him. Maybe they should just move to Manitoba together and get married.

14. Carels is a venomous vampire whose kiss kills instantly. Hessa is a were-cane toad whose skin secretes poison. Can they make each other happy, or will Hessa's Australian accent and mannerisms hopelessly offend Carels' haughty Silesian family?

15. Gabriel, Prince of Vampires, must find a young bride to bear his heir or his line will die, so he chooses 16-year-old Amy and Jesus H Christ I already hate this book.

16. When Gwyn learns that her childhood necklace, "the Phoenix," is the only thing keeping the sun burning in the sky, she realizes it was possibly a mistake to give it to a vampire who wants to extinguish the sun so it'll always be night.

17. Two vampires undertake an experiment in their night school science class to discover what is thicker than blood. Answer: custard.

18. For 200 years vampire Basil quietly lived in his secluded Colorado castle. When he rescues some college girls from a bear, he is instantly attracted to one of them and screw it, I'm as sick of crappy vampire novels as everyone else. Why can't he just bite a bitch and be done with it?

19. He rules . . . in the night. He's probably a vampire. And vampire books sell really, really well, so . . . he's a vampire. Yeah. That's it. A book about a vampire. Oooooo!

20. Byron Wedderburn, 18th century playboy, is bitten, rendered immortal and forced to drink toxic blood. He sleeps 250 years and awakens in Los Angeles, where he continues his hedonistic lifestyle until he runs into his old girlfriend Lenore, who's still alive because she's actually a goddess.

21. Oliver's position as supreme sovereign over the Vampire High Council is jeopardized when his rival learns Oliver's darkest secret: his human lover. Now Oliver must fight the legions to save his unborn child.

22. Ava Stanton asks President Lincoln to free all indentured vampires. The vampires don't want to be freed. They like their hours, their pensions and the blood they suck from witless citizens. They drain Ava's vital fluids, but Ava persists, even after death. It's time to call in the werewolves.

23.Vampire Joann runs an auction house auctioning orphaned children to vampires. They feed on the children’s blood. But new government regulations require daycare. It’s expensive. Then Dr. Vlad opens a phlebotomy lab across the street, selling cheap biohazard blood. Bids for children plummet. Can Joann make ends meet by taking a night job at the convenience store?

Answers below

The actual plots are numbers

11, 13, 16, 20.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Title (Halloween edition)

Below are descriptions of 8 books available at Your job is to guess which title goes with each book. The other five are fakes submitted by the Evil Minions.

1. TV reporter Delilah Street used to cover the small-town bogeyman beat back in Kansas, but now, in high-octane Las Vegas - which is run by a werewolf mob - she finds herself holding back the gates of Hell itself. But at least she has a hot new guy and one big bad wolfhound to help her out...

Casino Lycanos
Delilah trims Vegas
Handsome and Delilah
Dancing with Werewolves
What Spawns in Vegas Stays in Vegas
Larry, I've a Feeling We're Not in Kansas Anymore

2. The Queen of the Undead discovers that even Queens have to pay their bills, and vampire queens are no exception.

Undead and Unemployed
The Taxman is Succumbing
The Repo Man Wears Garlic
"Blood Banks Don't Make Loans"
You’re Dead to Me: Final Notice III – The Gasman Cometh

3. A patchwork anthology of 13 new vampire stories in which writers with serious vamp credentials craft stories around the concept of birthdays for bloodsuckers.

Many Bloody Returns
Fangs for the Memories
The Gift That Keeps on Taking
Suck it Up: Birthday Feasts for the Undead
Nutrient-Rich Hemoglobin for the Super-centenarian's Soul

4. The Ultimate Guide to Saving Mankind from Vampires, Zombies, Hellhounds, and Other Mythical Beasts.

The Bible
Stake Saucy
Monster Slaying for Dummies
The Monster Hunter's Handbook
The Book of Cain: Being Marked by God Ain't All That Bad
High School Girls’ Sleepovers from Hell: A Bitch’s Guide to Turning Back the Zombie Tide

5. As two witches prepare to host their annual monster bash, they decide to restrict the guest list.

Witches Only
No Zombies Allowed
The Unkindest Cut of All
Drawing the Line at Michael Jackson
Glinda and Gruntilda’s Spook Soiree
I Don't Care What it Says on That Card, We Didn't Invite No Weredingos

6. Zombies have devoured mankind. And the few survivors would be better off dead because a clan of vampires, bloodthirsty and vicious, have captured the remnants of humanity for livestock. In an apartment building barricaded with wrecked cars, concrete rubble, and snarls of barbed wire, the vampires breed lobotomized amputees.

Crypts Versus Bloods
Only the Dead Survive
The True Story of Walter Reed
The Bush Administration: Term 3
Roses of Blood on Barbwire Vines
One Flew Over the Vampire's Roost

7. To teach their obnoxious cousin Mabel a lesson, two boys convince her the statues in Central Park are people who were turned to stone by a zombie's breath, which smells like cheese.

Mabel's Marble Fable
The Listerine Chronicles
The Limburger Zombie Hoax
Gorgonzola Zombies in the Park
Liederkranz and Camembert are Dead
Gouda Night, Mabel; Don't Let the Muensters Get You

8. Lou Kipinski seems to have it all. But beauty is only skin deep-and sometimes Lou's porcelain complexion can get a bit hairy.

Kibble and Kipinski
I’m Too Sexy For My Pelt
Confessions of a Werewolf Supermodel
I'd Love To, But I Don't Date During a Full Moon
Pardon Me, But You Seem to Have Turned Into a Leopard
I Wish I Could Marry You, But I Can't Afford Your Vet Bills

Correct answers below

Fake titles were provided by Chro, Dave, Paul Penna, McKoala, Robin S., blogless_troll, Khazar-khum, Ylimemmy, Precie and EE.

Actual titles:

Dancing with Werewolves
Undead and Unemployed
Many Bloody Returns
The Monster Hunter's Handbook
Roses of Blood on Barbwire Vines
No Zombies Allowed
Gorgonzola Zombies in the Park
Confessions of a Werewolf Supermodel

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Success Story

Dixon Hill reports the following regarding Face-Lift 963:

Thanks for all the great advice, gang! I used it, and did a little more homework concerning the agent I was targeting. I sent the query below on Monday morning, and received a request for the rest of the manuscript.

Dear Mr. ------:

I am seeking representation for "Death in Living Color,” a completed 83,000-word historical mystery set in 1951.

A decorated WWII veteran, badly scarred J.C. Dix just wants to forget the war and straighten out his life. He moves to Scottsdale, Arizona to practice law. But when he finally lands a client, he finds himself on the trail of hardened gangsters who spike women’s drinks then film them in sex acts, using a brand new color process, as part of a scheme to provide color porn movies for L.A. mob backers. After Dix spirits away the films, the gangsters go on a killing spree to recover them. As the bodies stack up, he tries to protect his client, but the county sheriff targets Dix as the prime suspect. Dix thinks he’s placated the sheriff. When he cracks the case, however—ready to name names and turn over the evidence—he finds he’s been hung out to dry. Meanwhile, the killers learn Dix has the films, and they’re coming for him. Before he can clear his name, Dix is forced to employ all his combat skills in a climactic shoot-out against the gangsters.

A life-long history buff, and member of the Scottsdale Historical Society, I carefully researched the 1950’s Phoenix area, but employed poetic license where historic detail inhibited story flow. Patrick Millikin, editor of Phoenix Noir (Akashic, 2009), described my manuscript as, “Chandler-esque—in a good way. A damn good way!”

I am a combat veteran (Special Forces Explosives Expert), hold a BA in Journalism/Mass Communications from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, have worked as a reporter, and have sold short fiction to anthologies, and magazines such as Boy’s Life (“Buffalo Smoke”, April 2013) and 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…”. I also blog with several other successful writers at:

A synopsis and the first 50 pages of the manuscript are attached to this email.


Thanks again – to the Great EE! And, to my fellow minions!


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Synopsis 38

Guess the Plot

1. In the not-too-distant future, Young Adult novelists have been hired by the World Government to create a set of templates for all humans' lives. Gavin is stuck with Synopsis 38, which means he is the secret Prince of the Fae. He would much rather be a were-zebra, so he must hack into the central computer and do some editing.

2. It was the most riveting synopsis EE had ever read. He should not have told his recently fired intern to print a copy and archive the email because now it's lost in the sewers of New York. Thank goodness EE still has his wader from twenty summers ago.

3. Stuff happens.

Original Version
Avalyn and her father, Nolan, are servants at an inn, but occasionally are called upon to entertain for the lord of their manor. Although it seems a prestigious job, Avalyn detests working at the lord’s manor because his youngest daughter abuses Avalyn every chance she gets.

There are few who would befriend a girl in such low circumstances, but one boy, Dylan, from the local monastery, finds her companionship irresistible. [Does he live at the monastery? Is he an aspiring monk? With permission to date?] Not only is she blossoming into a beautiful woman, but she is also a bit of an enigma. Though she should have the simplest mind in town, [Why is that?] Avalyn is brighter than any girl he has met. Dylan cannot help but fall for her.

A newcomer to town, Teague, immediately notices Avalyn and vies for her attention. He would love to pursue her, but when he is suddenly raised to a position of nobility, his chances with her become slim. [A newcomer walks into town and before he even has time to ask Avalyn out, he's been promoted to nobleman? What's his title?] He now has a clear future with the lord’s daughter. Through it all, he cannot put Avalyn out of his mind.

Avalyn has a secret. She is a child of a Celtic shaman bloodline [descendant of a Celtic shaman], and under the instruction of her father she is training in the ancient art of ritual sacrifice… But not as one might imagine. In turn, Avalyn sacrifices each of her senses for a period of time, only to have them return with a ferocity she could never imagine. [Not necessarily a good thing, especially if there's a hog farm in the village.]

The sacrifices and renewal allow her mind to reach beyond its former confines, but it also releases her capacity for desire. She eventually falls for Dylan.

One evening when she has sacrificed her sense of touch, she causes a fire that takes the lives of both her father and Dylan. She is left doubting all she has ever believed in. [Not clear how the sense of touch would prevent her from starting a fire.]

Years later Avalyn plods through a listless life. Though she has become an entrepreneur [Can you be more specific than "entrepreneur"?] and bought her way out of servitude, she still allows her life decisions to be made by those around her. [Who are those around her, and what are these decisions they are making for her?] She feels that left to her own decisions, tragedy may strike again.

The lord’s daughter was left disfigured by the fire [Did she burn down the lord's home? That plus disfiguring his daughter, and I'm surprised she wasn't burned at the stake.] and placed in a nunnery, so Teague, now a knight, is in a position where he can marry Avalyn instead.

After the wedding, Avalyn moves to Teague’s manor. One night a dream of her lost love, Dylan, awakens her former passions.

Pregnant and alone while Teague is off fighting the King’s battles, she begins to realize her husband’s love for her. While kindling a love she never thought possible, another crisis occurs. There is an attack on their manor, cultivated [Organized? Arranged?] by the begrudging daughter of Avalyn’s former lord. Avalyn escapes to the forest, only to stumble into the Celtic Otherworld. Here she finds Dylan alive and well. She learns that the child she carries in her womb to belongs to him. The child is an essential link between the two worlds. [He impregnated her years after his death? When she dreamed about him? Until I see the DNA test results, the kid is Teague's. And when Teague gets back from the war, I don't recommend telling him any different.]

The journey to the Otherworld has brought her old sacrifices to their full potential. She dallies in a world of bliss with Dylan, but she is soon thrust back into the life she left. [By what?] Upon her return she finds herself at a crossroads. Should she live in a world where her newfound abilities can be useful? Or a world where she can live in Utopia with the man she has always known to be her true heart’s companion [love].

In the end, after using her powers to save a life, she chooses the world of Teague. But the child she bears is a child of the Otherworld. Might there be a chance for more? [More children of the Otherworld?]


Like all synopses, it's not too exciting (which explains why no agent who asks for a synopsis ever requests the manuscript).

She feels that left to her own decisions, tragedy may strike again. It wasn't my impression that the first tragedy was caused by her decision. It was her father's idea that she should sacrifice her senses, and apparently her lack of sense of touch that caused the fire. What did she decide that caused tragedy? If my father decided I should become Wonder Woman, and as a result I burned him and my true love to death, I would start making my own decisions.

When a guy you haven't seen in years tells you he's the father of your unborn child, shouldn't you be a little skeptical? Does he offer any evidence?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Face-Lift 1162

Guess the Plot

Rise of Ari

1. The dingy tailor shop is open only at night. New employee David soon learns why: their clientele is all monsters. He's been given a daunting task--making pants for a three-legged demon. Can David correctly create--the Rise of Ari?

2. Seven years ago Ari's parents were slain by Sarebans. Seven days ago Ari's sister taught him the Alamfi chants for super-strength and invisibility. Seven seconds ago Ari breached the Sareban stronghold.

3. This is the story of Ari, and his rapid rise from son of a blacksmith to blacksmith, a rise aided in no small part by the death of the blacksmith.

4. From tobacco exporter to self-made billionaire shipping magnate, this is the story of Ari Onassis, and how he bagged the world's most famous widow.

5. A fully populated island of warriors rises from the depths of the Pacific and threatens to attack Hawaii if they are not provided with a fleet of destroyers and nuclear submarines. The American president accedes to their demands, and no lives are lost.

6. Ari was resigned to being a lowly soldier in the Greek army, but when he jokes that they should build a giant horse, hide inside it, and wait for the Trojans to bring them inside their city, his plan is put into action. Miraculously it succeeds, and Ari is hailed as a hero.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Legends tell of voices that whisper through the Great Plains of Carnin; the wandering spirits of souls forever trapped by the stalks of golden wheat grass. [And now Spirits of Carnin mead contains this authentic "soul wheat" in bottles or on tap. That's Spirits of Carnin, for discriminating mead drinkers. Available wherever fine mead is sold.] THE KINGS OF CARNIN: RISE OF ARI is a fantasy novel, complete at 103,900 words.

The great world of Carnin holds five kings and their Kingdoms. [I think "planet" or "continent" or even  "land" would be more precise than "great world."] Of these Orisgothia is known for Blistrar alloy and [Lipbalmia is known for Blistex ointment.] the swords it produces. Ari has been raised a son of the Royal Blacksmith; [In other words, his father's the Royal Blacksmith. Is it possible for the Royal Blacksmith to have a son who is raised a son of a cheese merchant?] the role he is destined to become. [No need to tell us he'll become the Royal Blacksmith when we see it happen later in the same paragraph.] Through skill and passion he produces a sword unlike any other. A sudden and devastating battle for Blistrar leaves his father dead and Ari’s world in shambles. Ari must now show the fierce King Orisgoth he is worthy of his father’s title.

Ari’s sword proves far better than imagined and finds him great favour with the King. Jealousy greets him in the soldiers he must now command. Unusual commands send Ari and his men through the Great Plains of Carnin where strange and frightening dreams rob him of his sleep and sanity. During battle, he amazes his veteran officers and soldiers alike with unworldly skill he cannot explain. Jealous, his lifetime friend Groadie finds a way to gain favour of his own at the risk of his friendship with Ari. A visit from the stranger in his dreams drives a wedge deeper between the friends. [Groadie isn't needed in the query.] [This paragraph feels like a list of things that happen, without much transition from one idea to the next.]

Convinced he is cursed, Ari ventures back into the plains, alone, to hunt and kill this strange man. What he finds instead challenges everything he believes to be true about Carnin and the five Kings. His return to Orisgothia is short lived and, despite continued valour in battle, he abandons King Orisgothia, [The king's name is Orisgoth; the kingdom is Orisgothia.] bringing the wrath of Orisgothia upon the stranger and the good people of Fent. [Fent? Is that one of the other kingdoms? If Ari abandons Orisgoth, I would expect Orisgoth's wrath to be directed at Ari, not at the good people of Fent.] Only his mysterious skill can ensure victory. [Victory over Orisgoth or over the people fighting for the Blistrar?] Devastation comes from the sky [What does that mean?] as Ari disappears and the hopes of Fent with him. The stranger and his people are scattered once again throughout the unrelenting Great Plains.

THE KINGS OF CARNIN: RISE OF ARI is a standalone novel with series potential. Thank you very much for your consideration.”

Thanks in advance!


Ari is the star. You have him disappearing to who knows where, and then your big finish is the stranger who we know and care nothing about going to the plains.

Is Kings of Carnin the title of the series? That would lead me to believe Ari rises to be king in this book. Instead, he attempts to rise to Royal Blacksmith by proving his valour, and then, on the cusp of realizing his destiny, disappears.

Focus on Ari, start to finish, addressing: What's his goal, what stands in his way, what will happen if he fails, and what's his plan?

Also, if there's something that sets this apart from other fantasies in which the nobody rises to greatness, feature it. Presumably this would involve the unusual commands Ari receives, the unexplainable skills he has, and the mysterious stranger, but all of these remain vague in the query.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Halloween Guess the Plot

The following plots have appeared in the Guess the Plot feature on this blog over the years. Most of them are fake, but two of them turned out to be the actual plots of novels. Which two?

1. In a bid to get lucky, the virgins of Alpha Alpha Alpha adopt a manly-man "monster hunter" theme for Halloween, disguising the House, as well as themselves, in gladiator bondage style, which seems to be very exciting for the two dozen scantily clad whip-snapping Medusa sex-pots who join them. All signs point to a lucky night, until the lads realize those snakes are real.

2. When Trudy and Bud sit down to make Halloween monsters at Uncle Reginald's castle, they have no idea the crayons are charmed--until the monsters start demanding "candy," and breaking furniture. Can Trudy's paper Medusa save the sofa and vanquish these diabolical green vampire-dinosaur-kitten things before Uncle Reggie gets home?

3. The new asylum director believes even psychotics can contribute to the community, and what better way than hosting a Halloween haunted house for the kiddies? The inmates take up the idea with gusto, but the director has second thoughts when chain saws go missing from the maintenance shed.

4. Abby Clary has no idea when she crashes a Halloween masquerade ball that she'll develop magical powers that allow her to magically transport to the year 1273. Now if she could only figure out why anyone would want to transport to the year 1273.

5. Halloween pirate Sidney Inkleby embellishes his nose and chin with putty, adds a few fake tattoos and a gold earring and rents one of the most fabulous costumes ever created by Madame Zelda, the devious sorceress of Springfield, who, unbeknownst to Sidney, casts a spell on him. When he steps out the front door, he won't be able to find the car -- because he'll be lost in 1748 Cuba.

6. 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.

7. Linguistically challenged Amy needs to hire a Ghost Dancer for her Halloween party. But she misspells her craigslist ad and gets something called a "Ghast-Dancer," a creature from another realm who looks exactly like a hawt human guy and seduces every girl in sight -- except Amy, because she's his new keeper. She can't decide whether to enjoy his charms, or pimp him out.

8. Halloween is coming, and the kids on the block make plans to scare the poop out of the crotchety old codger in the forbidding mansion at the end of Atchison Lane. Wait till they see what former Vice President Cheney has cooked up for them.

9. Bloodstone Creek was the brainchild of George Rusnak. George is dead now, but his daughter Lillian works at the haunted Halloween attraction. This is the story of Bloodstone Creek’s cast and staff during its first season. Boo!

10. Lex Hopper's mom refuses to ruin a perfectly good sheet by cutting eyeholes in it so he can be a ghost at Halloween. Later that night, a still-incensed Lex meets the Devil enjoying a hot tub in Mrs. Minchpick's back yard. There's more than one way to make a ghost and Lex's mom is about to discover there's more to life than good sheets.

Answer below

The actual plots were numbers 4 and 9.

Friday, October 18, 2013

New Beginning 1015

The rattle of the tail pipe on my old Indian Scout echoed back from the walls at me. It struck me with a bite of self-consciousness; I didn’t belong here.

Not that this cul-de-sac looked like a millionaires’ enclave. In fact, it was a funny sort of place to live, considering she had so much money—and I was pretty sure she had a lot of money. Judging by her car, her clothes, and that giant rock on her wedding finger.

That rock was on my mind, too. I was up to no good; I knew that. But I’d been anticipating this all afternoon, unable to think about anything else, ever since Mrs. Q had stepped out for lunch—and ‘Big Red,’ as I called her, stepped in. The little head had been doing the thinking for the big one ever since. I was in no mood to stop now. Hell! I was like a torpedo, fired on a collision course—no choice. Not anymore.

From the back seat, Big Red broke into my thoughts with her deep bass voice. “So, what kind of rock is it this time?”

I looked in the rearview mirror at her as a line from the old Kinks’ song “Lola” played in my head. You know, the one that goes “she walked like a woman and talked like a man.”

“What difference does it make whether it's igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary? All I know is, it was BIG! And I want it!”

Laughter rumbled from deep within Big Red’s throat. “Not easy being a two-headed man in a one-headed world, is it? Especially when the little head is an obsessive-compulsive rock collector.” She wet a finger and dabbed it in an ear of the smaller head that protruded from the right side of my neck.

“Stop that!” we said.

I would have stopped the Scout and kicked Big Red out, but I was going to need some help getting that enormous rock from Mrs. Q., who was obviously a powerful woman if she could lug that much weight around on her finger. Besides, what she’d said about my little head’s compulsion was true. And who would know better, considering all the other times she’d helped get my rocks?

“Probably just cheap sandstone,” Big Red said. “But whatever fires your torpedo, honey.”

I ignored the comment and the muscular, pantyhose-clad leg she draped across the backrest of the front seat, and said as assertively as I could manage, “Just make sure your jackhammer’s ready.”

Another deep-throated giggle from the back seat let me know my last admonishment was unnecessary. Her jackhammer was always ready.

Opening: Dixon Hill.....Continuation: James

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New Beginning 1014

Lieutenant Richard Gangly (whose last name was an unfortunately apt description of his appearance) lay in the mud beside a trench.

Earlier in the night, openings had been made in the barbed wire and mine fields directly in front of him. Beyond that: No Man’s Land. On the far side of No Man’s Land—perhaps as much as three quarters of a mile from where he lay—the Germans were dug in with layer upon layer of trenches, augmented by their own bands of protective wire and mines. Gangly’s thoughts largely concerned themselves with this large area in front of him, because he knew that he would have to cross through it in just a few minutes.

Wet mud sucked at his elbows and knees as he lay there. The breath plumed from his opened mouth in great billowy clouds, washed pure white by the cold light of the full moon overhead. His breath mingled with the clouds that rose from other men—tens of thousands of men—lying up and down the line. All of them waiting for the whistle to blow, the attack to begin.

Gangly pulled out his smart phone and tapped his banking ap. He quickly put a stop-payment on his echeck to the WWI-France Reenactment Company. He had envisioned wine, women, and croissants, not blood, guts and 90-year-old trench rations. Next year he was going back to Gettysburg, where they took war a little less seriously.

Opening: Dixon Hill.....Continuation: kregger

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fake Plots Wanted

National Book Award "Guess the Plot" Prep

Below are the titles of this year's nominees. Submit fake plots for any or all.

The Flamethrowers

The Lowland

The Good Lord Bird

Bleeding Edge

Tenth of December 

Also, there are two openings in need of continuations (link in sidebar).

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Strip 2.13

Click strip to enlarge.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Face-Lift 1161

Guess the Plot


1. Move over, Avalon! Avalyn is here! Now with 10% more mist!

2. Mimi's friends flaked on her, and now she can't get into her favorite nightclub Avalon. She wanders down the street and is welcomed into Avalyn, an "alternative" club. She never knew writhing in chains and leather could be this exciting.

3. For a thousand years the city-state of Avalyn has been a shining beacon of learning, science, music and art in a barren, barbarian world. Now, because some cute teenager claims she's really the secret Fae heir of the place, our "heroes" are going to burn it to the ground.

4. Avalyn was surprised when a knight in shining armor appeared on her doorstep. Two days later there was another. After the tenth bled out on the porch, Avalyn became annoyed. "No you can't live here," she told them as she kicked the tenth to the curb. When Merlin showed up, Avalyn knew she'd have to get Arthur to fix his FB page or Morgause would show up next. And Avalyn hated that bitch!

5. Avalyn is tired of the life of a 13th-century serving girl. She aspires to be more, and once she's been subjected to a 5-year program of secret ritual sacrifice, she will be more! According to the teachings of her Pagan faith, she'll soon be endowed with magnificent powers! Let's see who messes with her then.

6. In an alternate history, Arthur fails to pull Excalibur from the stone in Avalyn and goes on to become a lowly squire to Lancelot. Does he have the strength and fortitude to work his way up to knighthood and later to become king? If he didn't, would this book be worth reading?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I believe that my 86,000 word historical fantasy, Avalyn, is the type novel you are looking to represent. The story of Avalyn is set in 13th c. England. [Did her parents name her after Avalon, or were you just looking for something similar to Evelyn? Careful, you don't want anyone to think this is a sequel to Aragon.] [After The Wizard of Oz came out, thousands of parents were naming their children Ez and Iz. But who am I to talk? Evil Jr's and Evilette's real names are Mordyr and Hobbityn.]

Dylan has been in love with Avalyn from the moment he moved to town. The orphaned ward of the church, [Is that Avalyn or Dylan?] used to his methodical, cloistered existence, finds the young serving girl’s free spirit enlivening. [As Dylan can be masculine or feminine, and Avalyn sounds like a place, it's not easy to tell which is the ward and which the serving girl.] Teague [Who's Teague?] has hated Dylan since the day they met. He can’t see why Avalyn would waste any time befriending that bastard. [Teague sounds like a meany; Avalyn should choose Dylan.] He hopes to prove himself in order to gain her affection.

Avalyn ignores the silent battle [rivalry?] between the two young men. She spends her days lost in mundane routine, cooking and cleaning the inn where she is housed, and occasionally entertaining at the manor of the local lord. She finds escape in forest any chance she gets. [If the forest has a name, use it; otherwise, say "the" forest.] There she can dally in faerie daydreams, sing as she pleases, and be subjected to secret ritual sacrifice. [That comes out of nowhere. For starters, "be subjected to" suggests it's against her will, which isn't the case, or it wouldn't belong on this list. Even the less suggestive "participate in" isn't much better, as the term "secret ritual sacrifice" is loaded with negative connotations. It's like if I told you that when I need a lift I frolic in a meadow, dance a jig, and torture a homeless guy. You'll think bad of me, never considering that torturing a homeless guy might actually be a good thing.]

The thought of Celtic sacrifice frightened her as a child, [Celtic sacrifice: trading Pierce and Garnett to the New Jersey Nets.] but as she grew older her father showed her that sacrifice does not mean death. It is the surrender of senses. With each sacrifice she loses one of her senses, but in time [a few days? a few years?] it returns with ferocity. Her father promises that when the sacrifices come full circle, she will be endowed with a power that rivals that of the Faeries of the Celtic Otherworld.

The sacrifices also awaken bodily desires, and she finds herself falling in love with one of the young men. [Which one? Why use five words and be general when you can use one and be specific?] Their love is short lived. One evening, after being stripped of her sense of touch, she causes a fire that claims the life of her father and the man she has fallen in love with. [Eight words where one name would do. I guess I should be happy you told us their names to begin with, rather than calling them the male protagonist Avalyn will accidentally burn to death and the male protagonist Avalyn won't accidentally burn to death.] [Even without the sense of touch, I can usually tell when I've set a house on fire.] Guilt-ridden and alone, [Alone? What about the male protagonist she didn't accidentally burn to death?] Avalyn realizes the real sacrifices that her pagan faith has taken [begotten?]. Will she trudge forth through life and abandon her faith of [in] the ancient ways? [I'd dump that question.] Or can glimpses from the Celtic Otherworld sway her to resume her true calling?

If you are interested, I will gladly send you my completed manuscript.

Thank you for your time,


Perhaps for purposes of the query, if not the book, you need a gentler name for the process of becoming a supergoddess. "The Renewal" sounds good. Secret ritual sacrifice sounds like killing virgins or babies or baby virgin goats.

This could stand to be shorter, and I see no need for both suitors to be in the query. In fact, neither of them plays any role after you introduce them. The super senses aspect is what makes this different, so maybe focus on why she and/or her father wants her to develop powers. What will she do when she becomes Wonder Woman? Is someone trying to stop her?

Can anyone become Wonder Woman by temporarily sacrificing senses? If not, why Avalyn? If so, is the forest crawling with aspiring superheroes?

Sometime last night the number of visits to this blog hit 2,222,222. I can guarantee we won't be here to see 3,333,333, so get those queries and openings in while there's still time.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Mental Pause

1. When "Shrink-to-the-Stars" David Cohen's yacht Mental Pause is found aflame with the good doctor and three starlets dead in the galley, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: whatever Cohen was cooking up, it wasn't kosher; and Zack's wife will now insist he take her on that Caribbean cruise.

2. Susan has always been a daydreamer. One day, when off in her own world, she is startled by the realization that reality has been paused. Can she use her time-stopping powers to save the twin sister she never knew she had?

3. Hillbilly boy genius Buddy Boone tests his newly invented human catapult joyride and crash lands near a cave inhabited by old old old people who seem to be comatose -- it's the Van Winkle syndrome!!! Nothing he does wakes them, and soon he, too, is feeling very very sleepy...

4. Jared has the unique ability to kick his mind into overdrive, making the world seem to move in slow motion. Now a freshman in high-school, he decides to conquer first the sports-world, then academics, all while juggling a few girlfriends. What could possibly go wrong?

5. When Sissy's rich husband dumps her for a young babe, she's forced to pause and take stock of her life. She takes a job cleaning up blood and entrails from crime scenes. Now if she could just solve a murder, maybe that handsome cop would finally notice her.

6. Alison's new years resolution in 2024 is to watch less Tube. Not easy when Clik-It hits the surgery shelves and all her friends get implanted. Out of fashion and out of touch, Alison wonders why everyone is wearing a suit and telling the same lame jokes. The comedy turns to horror when she realizes they're all channeling late night talk show host SamG TanG! Can she turn these zombies off?

Original Version

Your Evilness,

Growing old is not for sissies, as Cecelia “Sissy” Cavanaugh is about to find out. When her husband steals her designer luggage and runs off with a younger woman who has a tight tush and perky tatas, [If the guy cared about a tight tush and titillating tatas (note added alliteration), he would have simply suggested Sissy get liposuction and a tata job. Obviously it was the designer luggage he was after.] Sissy Cavanaugh’s posh road to happiness veers off course. [Roads don't veer off course. Cars do. Roads stay put. If you need a metaphor for life, you could say her Cadillac of contentment veers off course. Or her Lexus of love. Or her Mercedes of marital mirth. Any luxury car will do as long as it's alliterative. I recommend just saying her life veers off course.] She must decide whether to ask her manipulative mother-in-law for a handout or get a job. Sissy chooses the path of least resistance—a job. A job that includes cleaning crime scenes. Only she doesn’t know that part. Yet. [You don't need those last two sentences, as you never show any significance to her not knowing . . . yet.]

Instead of enjoying manicures and sipping margaritas, she’s mopping floors, scrubbing toilets and trying to balance an empty checkbook. Fearing that her country club membership will be revoked, Sissy begins to build a life that doesn’t include tee times and garden parties. [Those last two sentences say pretty much the same thing. Combine them into something that transitions into the following sentence. For instance, Having traded manicures for a mop, massages for Mr. Clean (note alliteration), Sissy rises to the top of Millie Maid, Inc., then buys out the owner.] As her career takes off, [Careers mopping floors and scrubbing toilets seldom take off. Explain.] so does her personal life. She finds herself caught between three men: her cheating husband, a wealthy widower ready for love, and a handsome cop who gives new meaning to the words hot flash. [Don't insult her intelligence by implying that she's actually considering taking back that miserable cheating slimebucket.] [Marry the rich guy, have a life-long affair with the hunk, frame the ex for a murder, and live happily ever after.]

After investigators name a close family friend as a murder suspect, Sissy is assigned to clean the crime scene. ["Listen, Sissy, you've been doing such a good job scrubbing toilets, I've decided to see how you do as crime scene technician. Your first gig is a homicide at 56 Elm Street. Apparently the guy was cut in half with a chain saw. Blood and entrails everywhere. And when he died his bowels purged themselves. Add to that the fact that the body wasn't discovered for over a week. Oh, and when the cops entered the crime scene it was so gross they all puked. They'd just come from an all-you-can-eat burrito buffet at MexiSlop. The carpet is white shag, so better bring some bleach."] When her daughter finds out, she urges Sissy to embark on a mission to find evidence and steer the investigation in another direction. Sissy finds a clue in the most unlikely place—her own home. [It's her daughter's diary, in which she confesses to being the murderer. Although that doesn't necessarily prove anything; I understand back in '63 dozens of teen girls confessed in their diaries to having committed the Kennedy assassination just to find out if their mothers were reading their diaries. Actually that would be a good conflict for this book. The mother reads the diary, discovers her daughter is the murderer. Should she let the close family friend be executed in order to avoid the loss of trust that would come with revealing she read her daughter's diary?] [And yes, you may use this idea in your book.] Armed with this new information [What new information? Oh, right, the diary.] she sets out to solve the case and comes face-to-to-face with the murderer. [Her ex-husband. Now she wants him back even more, so she can sell her story to the tabloids after he gets the needle.]

Complete at 77,000 words, Mental Pause is women’s fiction. A formerly pampered woman discovers inner strength and self-reliance while learning that crime—someone else’s— does indeed pay. [I would replace the first sentence of the query with that sentence.]

Thank you for taking the time to consider my submission,



What's the clue she finds in her house? If you're keeping it secret because you don't want to give away who done it, note that I had no trouble guessing that anyway.

Her mission was to find evidence that would steer the investigation in another direction. Why doesn't she give the evidence to the cops instead of setting out to solve the case herself?

If you've been living the very good life, you ought to have enough assets available that you can hold out for a better job than toilet scrubber. She could probably get enough for her car and her jewelry to hire a ruthless divorce lawyer who'd see that she got the house and a healthy alimony settlement, not to mention child support.

Does solving the murder improve Sissy's financial situation or her life? Instead of telling us she's torn among three guys, did you consider focusing the query on the hunky cop as she helps him solve the case and he falls for her brilliant mind and they live happily ever after?

That all said, this has a certain appeal if you can make Sissy's rise from the ashes sound believable. Right now it sounds like she goes from inexperienced maid to CEO of a Fortune 500 company in about two weeks.

Selected Comments

arhooley said...I hate the title. And I agree with everything EE said.

Ellie said...How much research have you done into crime scene cleanup crews? Admittedly, my own knowledge only comes from one acquaintance who did that for a living, but I don't think there's a lot of crossover between ordinary maid services and crime scene cleanup. There are bodily fluids, you have to have special suits and materials...his company specialized in hazardous cleanups (e.g. meth labs), not toilet scrubbing.

It doesn't sound like women's fiction. It sounds like a cozy mystery, albeit with a biohazard twist. And if she finds evidence, why doesn't she just go right to the police?

Blake Snyder used the term "laying pipe" to describe all the setup needed before the real story gets underway. The way this is presented, there's a LOT of pipe laying. Her husband leaves, she gets a job, she gets better at her job, she gets a crime-scene job ... and THEN we get the mystery and the amateur sleuthing and the three hunky dudes and whatnot. That makes me nervous about the book's pacing.

Dave F. said...And if she finds evidence, why doesn't she just go right to the police?
I respectfully add that when confronted with this question in an interview, Alfred Hitchcock answered - then I would have no movie.

I might start with" "Divorced and down on her luck, Sissy discovers a clue to the murder of some high muckity muck in her own home and the suspects now include her ex-husband, her current lover and her estranged Mom with the cat problem."

That's a murder mystery not a romance.

If this is a romance then maybe begin: "Cleaning houses and crime scenes isn't glamorous but it pays the bills. When Sissy, the gay divorcee, meets the cop of her dreams at a crime scene, she's determined to turn her life of cleaning into being the wife of blue clad hunk by solving the murder."

or maybe: "Sissy never thought she would fall in love while cleaning a crime scene until she meets the man of her dreams. Can love bloom over cleanser and mops? Or will the killer and her lover leave her all hot and lathered?"

vkw said...I agree with EE and despite the fact there are problems with the query and perhaps the plot (the number one being that this is 2010 and the first wives walk away with most of everything these days, even with a prenup) not the ex's nor the second wives who usually get nothing, it was interesting, I liked your voice.

And, let me quite honest here, I find evidence, a shred, a tiny shred and molecule of evidence that my cheating ex may be involved with the tiniest amount of crime: I'm in hunky cop's office, spilling my guts and I think most women would. Maybe its the mother-in-law.

So don't go in that direction.

M. G. E. said...The plot has major credibility problems.

Hard to believe any older divorcee wouldn't get 50% assets, prenup or not.

Her decision to go with cleaning is strange. First it's a younger-woman's game, and she doesn't have any friends from high society who can have her run some sweetheart job?

Next, the idea that anyone in the cleaning crew is going to even recognize evidence that professional crime solvers missed is a bit unlikely. Even for fiction. But since you pose it as someone in her family, I can see her recognizing her husband's favorite coin on the ground or something like that.

Lastly, why women's fiction? This is being presented as something of a mystery, or crime drama. Is romance such a focus that you don't think men would enjoy the read? Have you left that romance focus of the novel out of the query?

Gwen Ever said...I'm finding it hard to connect Your title with this story. Then I read that a rich woman loses her husband and now has to scrub toilets for a living while maintaining a country club membership? It is my observation that most, if not all, of the people cleaning toilets for a living would not have a country club membership. Why is the mother manipulative? Did she cut her off of the family money? Is that why she can’t find any other job except for maid service?

So, she does such a great toilet cleaning that she gets promoted to crime scene cleanup? Overnight? Because a close family friend is being looked at by the police so they decide that an acquaintance of the suspect in question should clean the murder scene?

Would it not make more sense that, if this woman was rich, to have some college before her breakup, enough to land a job in forensics with a few supplemental classes? She would still have to excuse herself because the suspect is a close family friend. Ellie is correct in observing that human fluids, body parts, and other remains have special procedures in their containment and disposal.

Maybe Sissy could become a blood splatter technician (not exactly a romantic profession), like the Dexter character on Showtime (without her killing people, of course) and then the romance could happen? Also, I like the suggestions Dave F. had to turn this more to romance than a gross crime scene murder.

Dave F. said...I first heard the phrase "women's fiction" or "women's literature" back in the dark ages when women burnt bras to illustrate legalities and discrimination. It seemed like a silly political category since it described lesbian literature. I feel the same way about the "chick flicks" description of movies. It's like lumping video games into Pacman and Duke Nukem categories.

I don't know what this novel is about. However, if it is a detective story then call it that. If it is a romance, call it that.

I just read Peterson's "Married With Zombies" with is both a romance and zombies novel and lots of fun. I've also read Harris' "Dark and Disorderly" which is paranormal ghosts with a delicious side of romance. A few months ago, EE's book club had Dain's "The Courtesan's Secret" which is all romance and I enjoyed that as a diversion from my usual reading.

I consider dividing fiction into men and women types ridiculous. That's not a criticism of the author here. My point is basically that the categories are romance, sci-fi zombie and detective or police procedural, and paranormal. Those descriptors all have meaning. "Women's lit" sounds like something left over from ages past.

This could be a police procedural with romantic elements or a romance with murder mystery elements, or a plain murder mystery. This will save you so much time and grief.

M. G. E. said...Her being related to the killer, can you imagine what kind of party the defense attorney would throw when they found that out?

More than likely, any evidence she discovered would be removed from the trial as well.

She might even be suspected of planting the evidence! Especially if the perp turns out to be her ex-husband!

Jeb said...I see a lot of 'high-concept' romance elements in this one: the rich girl brought to a terrible low point by a faithless spouse even more spoiled than she is (lower than cleaning the country club toilets you used to puke into is hard to reach); the almost miraculous ability to succeed and grow beyond this awful job despite a complete lack of qualifications or experience; a hot new man you'd never meet if not for having been brougth so low; the manufactured conflict between solving the crime herself to impress hottie or taking the spoiled-rich-girl path of least resistance back into another rich man's bed.

This query makes a mistake in focusing on the non-credible career/crime/LEO elements instead of on the possibly more credible romance elements. That doesn't mean the story won't sell. In romance with any wider story than the cute-meet/obstacle/resolution format - sometimes called 'women's fiction' - any job/career and law enforcement elements will almost certainly stretch credulity beyond what mere mortals will stand. If those elements look really crude and fake on close scrutiny, it's because they're only backdrop to the romance. They're meant to be seen from thirty feet away, in dim light, while squinting, if you can ever drag yourself away from the really gorgeous people at front and center.

Just start over, author, and focus on the romance.

AA said..."Federal regulations deem all bodily fluids to be biohazards, so any blood or tissue at a crime scene is considered a potential source of infection. You need special knowledge to safely handle biohazardous material and to know what to look for at the scene -- for instance, if there's a thumbnail-size bloodstain on the carpet, there's a good chance that there's a 2-foot-diameter bloodstain on the floorboards underneath it. You can't just clean the carpet and call it a day. You also need permits to transport and dispose of biohazardous waste. Companies that clean up crime scenes have all of the necessary permits, training and, perhaps most important, willingness to handle material that would send most of us running out the door to throw up in the bushes."

"Now, even if you get a job with a crime-scene clean-up outfit, you don't just climb into a biohazard suit and dig in when the next suicide happens. There's a good deal of training involved, including bloodborne pathogen training (learning the dangers, characteristics and proper safety procedures regarding the handling of bodily fluids), training in the proper use of protective gear and learning how to properly transport and dispose of dangerous waste. Candidates will also have to pass a 'gross factor' test to make sure they can handle the work without throwing up. This type of training ranges from a graphic visual presentation of photos from previous clean-ups to an actual clean-up of animal remains. Most of this preparation occurs through the crime-scene clean-up company, but it may also include training and certification programs offered by a trade group or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Source:, and five minutes of research I just did.

Phoenix said...The problem with the suggestion to call this romance is that ... it isn't.

At least it doesn't appear to be from the way this query is written. The conventions of the traditional romance just aren't there at all.

With the focus so squarely on Sissy, I think women's fiction (today's acceptable term for what would have once been classified chick lit) is a fine genre to start with. Where the book would wind up on the shelf would be up to the editor and the publisher.

That said, I had a hard time with the maid to crime-scene-cleaning jump, too. I also recently read a survey where a majority of women said they don't generally use the word "tatas," even derogatorily, no matter how titillating those tatas may be.

You have the voice, author. Now you just have to make us believe.

AA said...I have to agree with Jeb that this should be a romance. It doesn't work as a crime novel.

I disagree with Jeb on the point that credulity can be easily stretched as long as it's a romance. This smacks of the philosophy "the reader's too stupid to know the difference." This could be true of romance readers. I don't know, I don't usually read romances. I think it's more likely, though, that the readers are smart enough, and the writer him/herself is maybe not the sharpest quill in the inkwell.

There's always the possibility that your readers will know someone who works in the fast-growing and money-making industry that is being portrayed in the story. It behooves an author to do enough research on an industry to make a story about it at least somewhat credible.

I get the idea (from the query) that the five minutes of research I did just to comment on the subject is more than the author put in to the whole book, and that's just unacceptable. At least, I don't see an agent accepting the story if that's how it comes across in the query.

That being said, it's okay to stretch credulity in professional matters if the main focus of the story is romance. But that doesn't mean credibility goes out the window.

It's possible the author does mention the training/certification in the book and just forgot to put it in the query.

I'd point out that the romance market probably has the largest amount of people trying to get into it right now, and crime fiction probably the second largest, so problems with the story aren't going to help the book's chances.

rachel said...Take EE's advice and add a little more about the murder mystery, and I think this'll do nicely. I like the voice that pops up in a few places, too.
And yeah, I know everybody's pointing out plotholes. But for some inexplicable reason, I'm still giving you the benefit of the doubt. The story sounds fun.

Dave F. said...I'm going to defend parts of this plot.

I worked with hazardous chemicals all of my 30 years in industry and took and quite possibly taught all of the courses that AA describes. (I escaped Blood Born Pathogens.) We took the shoes from one researcher and sent him home in stocking feet because of mercury contamination. We took the clothes off one technician's back and left him naked with special soap in a specially constructed shower with lights that made the chemicals on his bare body glow. We shut down the entire chemical handling facility because someone brought them an old chemical in very explosive form and it took three days to work out a procedure to neutralize it. Think something like nitroglycerin. And ANTHRAX, since we were federal and feds died in those attacks, everyone knew what to do if confronted by white powder. There were no exceptions to learning that procedure.

And there is the solution to the cleaning lady problem. If this "maid service" branched out into industrial buildings, janitorial contracts, water removal and even crime scene cleanup, then they have written and published procedures and conduct training in those procedures.

The law requires procedures to clear hazardous waste and it requires training to do that. So it is entirely possible that this house-cleaning or maid services also has a crew trained in crime scene cleanup. This is not hazardous chemical spill response, that's different. This is more like asbestos removal and mold where anyone properly trained can do the job. This could also be cleaning water damage caused by broken water lines.

I would think that a cleaning service that could handle hazardous cleanups would be invaluable in a small town, township or rural county.

Angela Robbins said...Mental pause sounds like menopause, and something more chic lit-y, and this is like a suspense or mystery with romantic elements.
I agree with ahooley: change the title.

I'm not sure about this crime scene cleaner thing, I'd think this is something some qualified would be assigned to. How about EE's favorite, the dead body cleaner upper?

["Listen, Sissy, you've been doing such a good job scrubbing toilets...] frickin' cracked me up, EE!

BuffySquirrel said...Chick lit and women's fiction are not the same thing, and, derogatory though the terms are, they're used by publishers, and therefore it's not the author's fault if they use them too.

Phoenix said...Well, yes and no, Buffy. Chick Lit is Women's Fiction, although only some WF is CL.

BuffySquirrel said...I think you're confusing 'women's fiction' as a general idea--fiction that's intended for women--and 'women's fiction' as a publishing term. Chick lit is for the twenty-somethings and is about shopping and dating (yes that's a gross generalisation) whereas women's fiction is for the thirty-pluses and is more about marriage, divorce, rebuilding your life, etc (gross generalisation 2).

Phoenix said...Buffy, we may have to agree to disagree or else these definitions are different in the UK than in the US.

I've never heard the age criterion applied to either chick lit or women's fiction. For example, Sex and the City is a poster child book of chick lit and its MCs are in their late 30s/early 40s.

I'm reading a crit partner's work about a woman in her early 20s that I would never describe as chick lit, but am happy to call women's fiction -- in the publishing sense as understand it.

BuffySquirrel said...Or maybe I'm just 100 years behind the times. It could happen!

Dave F. said...AFter reading the prior discussion of the differences between Chick Lit and Women's lit, I will repeat my advice:

This could be a police procedural with romantic elements or a romance with murder mystery elements, or a plain murder mystery. This will save you so much time and grief.

Phoenix said...Dave, I think that advice ignores the audience and is a disservice to the author. From the story told in the query, it's neither a police procedural nor a romance. It can't be pitched as either of those. From the title, it's obviously geared to the menopausal crowd, hence women's fiction -- by either Buffy's or my definition.

And it matters because of the pool of agents and pubs the author will be choosing to pitch to.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

I had a dream last night in which I was on a city sidewalk and a woman was selling a bunch of items like you might see at a yard sale. I picked up a board game, which was in pretty bad condition; it was called Courtroom. The cover reminded me of Clue...

but I opened the game board, and it looked more like Monopoly. I was about to ask the woman if the game was any good when this little girl interrupted my train of thought by handing me fifteen cents as payment for some piece of crap. Apparently she thought I was the seller. And then I woke up, so thanks to this kid I never got to see the details of the game. Although I'm thinking each player is a famous TV lawyer like Perry Mason, Denny Crane, Lionel Hutz etc.

Anyway, I've decided that this dream is a sign that I am destined to make my fortune creating Courtroom. What I need from you guys is help in designing the game. Monopoly devotes six spaces on its board to Chance and Community Chest. In Courtroom, I've decided these spaces will be called Judgments and Briefs. So your first task in this endeavor will be to come up with courtroom-related things that should be written on the Judgments and Briefs cards. Send your ideas as comments.

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