Tuesday, November 26, 2013

New Beginning 1019

Right now, as I fight the shakes trying to tear my aching limbs from my body, I struggle to hold one salient piece of information in my brain: Don’t swallow.  That may not seem extraordinarily difficult, but I haven’t had a drink in two days. And my mouth is full of liquid. Problem? If I swallow my season is over. Fucked, before I even step onto the mat. So I follow the other two sadasses who failed the hydration test yesterday for my third, and final, inspection.

“Let’s go boys,” the trainer calls. He’s usually gone by six and we’ve pushed it to the limit tonight.

We hustle forward, well, maybe not quite hustle. Our legs are weak from running the school’s treadmills halfway to Hell, so it’s more of a shamble. I catch a glimpse of my ragged reflection in the mirrors as I enter the trainers’ office. My pointy hips and knees and shoulder blades break rank from my curving deltoids and rippling abs. I clutch my suddenly-too-big shorts and step with as much strength as I can summon.

Ahead of me Boyle and Givens take their specimen cups and teeter off to the toilet closet. Again, I straggle along, cup in hand, fighting the urge to swallow. Trainers can’t go into the toilet with us, but they don’t let us close the door, either. Not like wrestlers could really hide a bag of piss in our clothes like football players do. Wearing the lightest shorts we own we’re practically naked. Boyle and Givens undoubtedly will be naked in a few seconds.

That's when the angel appears, piercing a shimmering arc of haloes, Sonic-the-Hedgehoglike, with a parabola of holiness from her piss flaps.

"Rule Number One, semi-naked guys: the word 'swallow' is a red rag to a bull as far as I'm concerned."

Me, Boyle and Givens cry, "WTF, weird avatar!"

"Rule Number Two," the angel continues, rolling incandescent drool about her lips with the careworn adeptness of a veteran interior decorator spray painting a window ledge, "never mention the word 'necklace' in conjuction with its shorter cousin, 'pearl'."

I turn to Boyle and Givens. Every pec and ab quivers like a shaved cat morphed into a scrotum by Loki. "Hey, Mrs Angel. We never said nothin' about no pearl necklaces."

A cloud of pure benevolence arranges itself over the angel's filthy smirk. "Rule Number Three is entirely arbitrary, my personal pet prohibition. It's time you boys learned the difference between taking and giving, bending over and leaping for joy, Genesis and Exodus. And while you're at it — SMILE, you chumps! If those shorts of yours had been a single size smaller, I'd have passed you over for Barry Manilow mis-tweezering a gray pube from his oiled and pretzel-imprinted crotch..."  

Opening: Veronica Rundell.....Continuation: Whirlochre

Monday, November 25, 2013

Face-Lift 1171

Guess the Plot

The Price of Creation

1. Strapped for cash, God comes up with a way to make a fast buck: let people design plants and animals--for a hefty fee. But when the were-T-Rex gets loose, God wonders if He's made His first mistake.

2. He was born in a small village, son of a simple blacksmith. But he's the one who will end centuries of war. Yes it's that story, but completely different because someone pays a price for creating something.

3. Lana gives birth to the world's first talking baby. When the infant describes what life before life is like, he skyrockets to fame as Earth's favorite guru. And when he starts growing horns, Lana realizes his father, a one night stand who claimed to be Satan, wasn't lying.

4. Peek behind the curtains when things go wrong at the God Store, where the deities purchase the tools of their trade, from miracles to something from nothing.

5. When Captain Peril left the Mars Spaceport he didn’t count on finding a stowaway in the form of Dr. Susannah Sagan. Or on being shot at by Icarians, a race of mercenary insectoids. Dr. Sue’s engineered a terra-bomb, and there’s a price on her head big enough for Peril to buy a planetoid of his own and retire. But when he discovers the Icarians want the bomb to terraform Earth for themselves, Peril has to decide if seeing Earth overrun by giant cockroaches makes the price of creation a little too high.

6. Billionaire playboy Rip McCord has never been into the 'Dom scene' and longs for one chaste woman with whom to start a family. If giving up his Friday nights to work at a soup kitchen will help him find the future Mrs. McCord, then that's . . . the Price of Creation.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Life's greatest lessons cannot be understood through words alone. [Extremely vague, and as no specific example is ever given, not worth saying.] The Price of Creation, a young adult fantasy novel, follows a young man as he discovers these lessons while struggling with his own dark destiny.

The nameless Historian chances upon Surac, a village where people's talents are defined and enhanced by powerful Stones. When the blacksmith's son is born with a Stone [Whattaya mean, "born with a Stone"? Literally? Or is it like being born under a bad sign?] that marks him for violence and destruction, they find themselves hunted by friend and foe alike. When the boy is finally banished, [If I want to banish someone from my village and I can't even find him without organizing a massive manhunt, I'm thinking, until proven wrong, that he's already long gone and my problem is solved.] however, he discovers secrets far darker than the villagers' petty prejudices. Can a young man who is crafted only for violence end centuries of war? [He can, but it would take some some pretty big stones.]

The Price of Creation is the first book in a series, called the Historian’s Tales. Each book is a stand-alone story, narrated by the Historian, an unwilling immortal without a name or a past who wanders through worlds and times to witness great stories. In each book, the reader gets small glimpses of what it means to be a Historian as he shares in the lives and struggles of those he observes. [How can he not have a past if he shares in the lives of those he observes? Aren't all of his "adventures" part of his past?]

The author is an eccentric marketer who read way too many Louis L'Amour books as a kid. This left him with an enduring faith in the power of books to shape the way kids see the world. He writes under the pen name Lance Conrad. [Wait, who are you? The author's agent?] [Lance Conrad was the name I was given by the Porn Star Name Generator.] This book would be aimed at the young adult/middle grade market and is complete and polished at 64,000 words. I am grateful for your time in reading this query, I hope to hear from you soon.


There's not enough here about the story. Who's been at war for centuries? What are these great life lessons the kid learns? Are the stones accurate in predicting people's proclivities, or is it all superstition? What are the dark secrets he discovers? What's his name? Was he a baby when banished?

It seems the main plot is what happens after the banishment, and there's nothing here about where he ends up or what he does there.

This Historian wanders here and then until he chances upon a great story. But what he chances upon in this case is a village where they want to banish the blacksmith's kid. I assume this isn't a "great story" until years after the kid is banished, but how did the Historian know the banishment would lead to a great story years later? Why didn't he think, There's nothing of interest in this dump, guess I'll go somewhere cool instead of hanging around in case the kid turned out to be a rock star? If he knows the kid is a future superstar, it seems there's more involved than wandering and chancing upon. It seems he's targeting the stories he observes. Which reminds me of the historian from the future in Star Trek, the Next Generation, season 5, episode 9. He would travel back in time to observe historical events, one of which was about to take place on the Enterprise. You can watch the whole episode here. Or you can watch this 5-minute excerpt on YouTube. Or you can just move on.

Focus the query on this book. Who's the main character, what does he want, what's standing in his way, what happens if he doesn't get it, what's his plan? We need to know what happens.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New Beginning 1018

Tim’s azure eyes bore into mine. “I can see you’re holding back some anger and – what’s this? Confusion?”

He speaks softly but its authority fills the room. His voice seems to come from a deeper place than ordinary mortals’ voices might. Rich and smooth as aged whiskey, sometimes I ignore his words and let the voice transport me to a mellow place, a place as ageless as OM.

I nod, and a wave of shame flares though me. It’s no use hiding my thoughts. My aura radiates any hint of negativity that courses through me, no match for Tim’s acuity. I now strive to keep my feelings calm, even when I am not in Tim’s presence. Armed with the knowledge that thoughts have a physical manifestation and are laughingly obvious to those enlightened by Higher Knowledge, every breath is now aligned with my aim to present only a shining aura to the world.

Avoiding Tim’s gaze is impossible. Even strangers who cross his path turn around for a better look. His presence resonates with the hum of the universe. Animals sense this immediately and are attracted to him.

“Yes, my teacher. My parents have been asking...difficult questions.”

His eyes don’t change.

“The path your parents have chosen is different to the path you have chosen. They will contaminate your pure spirit with destructive energy and doubt. Focus yourself on the path you wish to travel.”

“They’re trying to stop me from freeing myself of the burdens of material wealth.”

“And do you have any to unburden this morning?”

I reach into my jeans pocket, pull out the six hundred pounds from last night, and hand it to him. There is a flicker of joy in his eyes which pleases me immensely.

He stares deeply into my eyes. “You are doing well and nearing a higher plane. Jenny is moving to the Higher Knowledge Plane and soon you will leave your corner and take her place at the Cosmo Bar. You enjoy giving pleasure?”

I hear myself say, “Yes. I enjoy giving pleasure.”

“You are a worthy disciple. Now go and rest; you’ll be busy tonight.”

I walk out feeling joy in my heart.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Mister Furkles

Friday, November 15, 2013

Face-Lift 1170

Guess the Plot

Bummin' It

1. Joe Chesterfield rides lonely Wisconsin roads in search of answers to life's meaning with nothing more than an Ipad, a fedora and a suit from Goodwill. Will his resulting memoires be an ageless paean to adolescent angst and freedom? Or will it be proof that the old "Gas, grass or ass" rule of the road is still alive and well?

2. Lance glues a big clown butt on his butt and does a silly dance that will hopefully get his kids to eat oatmeal instead of sugary cereal. Unfortunately, Lance used super glue instead of Elmer's. His board meeting is going to go well at work today.

3. He blew out his flip-flop, cut his heel on a pop top, and his new tattoo has a misspelling. But, by gosh, George is going to enjoy his first solo vacation since his wife left. Also, a shark frenzy.

4. Elijah's parents set him up with the perfect summer job, but Elijah has a better idea: street-corner panhandling with humorous cardboard signs. But when Eli's record haul is stolen by a professional beggar he finds himself in over his head in the city's underbelly. Especially when he falls for the thief's hot daughter.

5. Laid off from his job working with psychiatric patients, Parker dresses like a bum, acts like a schizoid, and demands donations from yuppie shoppers. He’s having fun and clearing hundreds of dollars a day. Then two bodies are discovered in dumpsters and the police suspect Parker. Can he find the real killers before the cops pin double murder on him?

6. Sally's facing foreclosure. Bob just got fired. Mel was kicked out by his parents when they learned he was gay. Their lives intertwine in La La Land as they're all forced to start . . . Bummin' It.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

After growing up in the foster system, seventeen-year-old Elijah Briscoe wants more than a house . . . he longs to feel at home – with his adoptive parents, [Are these different from his foster parents? Have they adopted him? Why doesn't he feel at home with them?] his friends, a girl. Especially a girl. Trouble is, nobody warned him that childhood tweaked his inner wiring to make him sabotage any real connection.

So when his parents try to set up their perfect summer job for him [Practice dummy for trainees at the local bordello.], he lies about hunting for his own gig. Secretly, he and his best friends [Has he already sabotaged any real connection with these best friends or is that what happens next?] cook up a quick money-making experiment — street-corner panhandling. Their arsenal of humorous cardboard signs

is rocking awesome until some shady professional beggars rip off Eli’s record-breaking haul. Not about to lose the contest with his bros, Eli chases the thief down to reclaim his money and his pride. [Starting that paragraph with "So" suggests that Elijah thinks panhandling is going to help him feel at home with his parents, friends and especially a girl. It's not clear why he would think that. Perhaps if some of his classmates talk him into the panhandling scheme and he goes along because he craves friendship?]

What he doesn’t know is he’s not the only one chasing the money. His pursuit leads him into a hidden homeless neighborhood [Is "neighborhood" the right word? Maybe "enclave" would be better.] where he runs into Blue, the thief’s street-smart, so-hot daughter. Then when Eli witnesses a group of thugs kidnap Blue’s dad, he quickly realizes his idiotic excuse for a job has him in way over his head. Trying to play the hero, he makes a split-second decision that saves Blue [From what?] but loses her dad.

Fearing how much his choice has cost her, Eli decides he must help before time runs out. [When does time run out?] If they hope to fix this, [If "fix this" means rescue Blue's father, just say that.] they’ll have to help each other face the darkness in the city’s underbelly, the unlikeliness of their romance, and the secrets of their screwed-up pasts.



If the thugs are just after the money, I would expect them to just take it from Blue's dad. What's the point of kidnapping him? Do they think they can get a ransom?

Even the extremely rare panhandler who can make $73,000 a year is averaging just $200 a day. That might attract attention from thieves who somehow know how much Eli took in, but these thugs going after the thieves? Lets say three thieves steal $200 from Eli, and split it up. Then four thugs kidnap Blue's dad, take his $67 share of the $200, and split it up. They get less than $17 each. There's more money in robbing pizza deliverymen.

That said, the story doesn't sound like the same old same old.

I tend to think that a homeless thief and his so-hot daughter would have gone their separate ways by this point in their lives.

Presumably your completed query includes the book's title (which was in the subject line of the email), word count, genre?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Face-Lift 1169

Guess the Plot

The Guardian

1. Whip-cracking archaeologists may think they can steal the Sacred Stones of Szarbathia, but they're no match for... The Guardian.

2. When an alliance of alien races that has been at war with one militaristic race for decades realize they're losing, they turn to Jason, captain of The Guardian. Can Jason's knowledge of Earth's military history help lead the outclassed Entente to victory?

3. Sheldon thought his luck was bad when he found an infant abandoned on his bus. When the demons come in the night, it's clear his life has dropped into the toilet. Now on the run, Sheldon must employ all his commercial driving skills to keep the baby, and himself, from certain death.

4. It’s the 3rd biggest daily in the U.K. Oil tycoon Freddy Philips buys it and is turning it into a celebrity tabloid. Several investigative reporters conspire to dig up dirt on Freddy and force him to sell. But Freddy's secret international illegal arms syndicate replete with professional assassins will protect Freddy at any cost.

5. Voldy intends to uphold the sacred pact that his people have with the Masters. No evil will befall them while under his care. He will detect, deter, defend and destroy all threats, even if the Masters do not always understand why. And now, late at night, with strange People nearby. He will defend the Masters to his death...or until they put him away in his doggy crate. Don't they understand that those costumed children are a threat?

6. Internal audits have confirmed Ed Snowden's allegations: illegal wire taps at the prestigious newspaper have compromised the anonymity of Molly McGrath's famed informant--The Socialite. Molly runs deep cover at London's club scene to protect The Socialite from incalculable social harm...being disinvited from Prince Harry's 28th birthday bash.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Jason [No last name?], Captain of the Guardian, has dedicated his ship to protecting colonies at the edge of human space from pirates and bandits. He leads from the front lines, gets his crew the best equipment available, and ensures the Guardian has the firepower of a warship. But when humanity is attacked by the first alien species they encounter, the Careons, Jason finds himself completely outmatched. [It's the Enterprise vs. the Borg, but this time the Borg have decided they don't want to assimilate us.]

After a brash stunt that destroyed a Careon ship, Jason attracts the attention of the Entente, an alliance of alien races that has been at war with the Careons for two decades. Their ships are powerful, and their technology more advanced than anything humanity has ever seen. But the members of the alliance have no history of warfare, and they’re losing. [If their lack of tactical knowledge is such a big disadvantage, how have they lasted two decades?] [Possibly because it takes two decades at near-light speed just to get to the battlefield.]

What the Entente lacks, the humans have in abundance. Centuries of fighting each other have taught them the strategies and tactics needed to change the outcome of this war. [It took humans about 20 centuries to learn that dressing your armies in brightly colored uniforms, lining them up in a phalanx, and marching them toward people with spears or arrows or guns wasn't the best strategy. Yet we who have just encountered our first alien species have already figured out how to defeat their vastly superior firepower?] Unfortunately, since being attacked, the Entente has become xenophobic. They view humanity as another violent race that could be just as dangerous as the Careons. [It's not xenophobia if they're right.]

Jason and his crew must bridge the gap between humanity and this alliance, and use humanity’s terrible past to save them all from Careon dominance. [Step 1: Prove to the Entente that a vastly superior military can be defeated: show them the film 300.]

I am seeking representation for The Guardian, a 110,000 word science fiction novel.

Thank you for your time, and consideration.



Sounds like a good story if it focuses on Jason. He disappears in the 3rd paragraph. If you stress that it's Jason's knowledge of military history, rather than humanity's, that can save us all, it might help.

Is it just Jason who takes on the job of leading the Entente to victory, or is it all of humanity? If the latter, our generals and diplomats would squeeze Jason, who's captain of one outclassed ship, out of the picture. If the former, hey, how much can one guy do to end a two-decade-long war?

Perhaps examples of what the Entente have been doing wrong would help us see how we inferior humans who have no experience battling alien races can come up with a way to defeat the seemingly invincible Careons.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Face-Lift 1168

Guess the Plot

The Night Guard

1. The Mayan priests make sure day happens, but who keeps night from going AWOL? When the Lords of Death kidnap night, its Hunahpu, the Night Guard, to the rescue. Can he bring back night before Central America is burned to a crisp?

2. Female orthodontic patients are disappearing after leaving the office of Dr. C. Edmond Kells. It's time to encase himself in acrylic and assume his old identity as the "Night Guard" to solve the case. Or suffer rampant malocclusion in prison.

3. When pop singer Krysty is found dead in her lavish bed, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, the girl didn't strangle herself with her microphone, and two, she's not going to be hosting the VideoNet Music Awards on Saturday night. That only leaves hundreds of jealous singers and their management as suspects. Zack must enlist his daughter's playlist to solve this case.

4. Kevin, the night guard at a top secret facility, is shocked to discover an alien is being kept hostage. When the alien telepathically asks Kevin for help, will he be freeing an innocent being, or jeopardizing the future of the human race?

5. You wouldn't think a hospital would need extra guards on duty at night, but when it's a military hospital reanimating soldiers so they can be sent back to the trenches, you don't want anyone stumbling onto the operation. The way 15-year-old maid Daisy Blake does. Oops.

6. Somebody has been stealing the night, and gargoyle Freddy McKay is hired to guard it. He’s paid for work between sunset and sunrise, but most of those hours have been stolen. Can Freddy solve the case before he loses his home in foreclosure?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

The new maid at the London Military Hospital has three secrets that could get her sent to prison:

She's Irish, automatically suspected of [drinking on the job. Ba dum ching.] spying;

She speaks German, the language of the enemy, [That should get her a promotion from maid to spy or interpreter in the interrogation room. Not a prison sentence.]

And she stole the papers that identify her as Delinda Blake. She's really Delinda's sister, Daisy.  

[If she's Daisy, how can there be papers that identify her as Delinda? And if there somehow are papers identifying her as Delinda, and she wants to pass as Delinda, why not leave the papers where they were instead of stealing them? Now when they check the files to see if she's really Delinda, the papers identifying her as Delinda won't be there.]

1916 London promises good wages to young women, with so many men off fighting in France. But after Delinda drowns herself, Daisy finds opportunities are few for a 15-year-old schoolgirl on her own. Mopping up blood and washing bedpans earn her room and board. And, however disgusting, her work makes a difference: A clean, fresh ward is like heaven to wounded men who lived in the stinking filth of the trenches. [You'd think by the time these guys are transported from the trenches to London they wouldn't still be bleeding all over the floor.] Further, she enjoys the patients' teasing, especially the winks from handsome Captain Ferrar of the Night Guard.

But the Night Guard has its own secret, involving the hospital's power plant, where broken men are being restored for Britain's desperate army. A dying young POW reveals the truth to Daisy and gives up another secret as well: A traitor willing to kill is at work in the hospital.

Whom can Daisy tell without giving herself away -- [Telling someone there's a traitor in the hospital doesn't give away that she's Daisy.] or putting her life in danger?

Then Delinda comes back. From the dead. [Zombie, or reanimated? Either way, it's a little late to be telling us it's that kind of book.]

My 90,000-word YA novel THE NIGHT GUARD adds elements of "Frankenstein" [Ah. Reanimated. Should have guessed from the power plant mention.] to the story of a girl struggling to make a life for herself in a city at war.

I am a writer for a national World War I organization and a copy editor at a major metropolitan daily.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


I don't see anything in the first four paragraphs that is both needed and that can't be worked into the fifth paragraph:

1916 London promises good wages to young women, with so many men off fighting in France. But after her sister Delinda drowns herself, Daisy Blake finds opportunities are few for a 15-year-old schoolgirl on her own. Mopping up blood and washing bedpans at the London Military Hospital earn her room and board, and her work makes a difference: a clean, fresh ward is like heaven to wounded men who lived in the stinking filth of the trenches.

Note that I removed handsome Captain Ferrar, as he does nothing. (I assume there's no actual romance between a captain and a fifteen-year-old.)

Now we can get to Frankenstein in paragraph 2, just by changing the word "restored" to "reanimated." You'll have to tell us what the Night Guard is when you mention it, or just say that the hospital has a secret.

Probably it's better to focus the query on one main plot point, which I'm guessing would be what's being done to the soldiers, and let the traitor and the zombie sister subplots wait for the book.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Tweets of Hannah

Hannah Rogers, literary agent (link in sidebar), has given up tweeting, but has granted me permission to reproduce some of her contributions to Twitdom. As you may know, Hannah accepted submissions of the first sentence of authors' novels, then tweeted that sentence plus her two cents worth.

"Someone made a mistake."  Is that your first sentence, or your prediction of what I'll say when I read it? 

Armageddon began with a cup of coffee.  I had forgotten Starbucks prime directive: If Satan comes in, serve him decaf. 

It comes on the night of the full moon.  And lasts about 5 days, and if you want me to like your novel, don't bring it to me then. 

It was a stately room.   Specifically, it was shaped like Colorado. 

I stopped dead in my tracks the moment I saw him.   No one had mentioned to me that Evil Editor would be attending our slumber party. 

The day I learned my twin sister was a vampire, I was shocked.  Then it hit me: finally, I had an excuse to put a stake thru her heart. 

The big Dutch boy wanted to fight about the ship's name again.   We showed him the name, printed on the stern. That settled that. 

As Leisha disembarked, the hot desert wind hit her like an anvil.   She took a deep breath and blew it out like a category 5 hurricane. 

I could hear the fear in my breathing - jagged and sporadic.   Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I thought, and entered EE's office. 

“What brings you to Mobile?”   The only believable response to that question: "My GPS malfunctioned." 

The man bore down on me, leering with yellow teeth.  And chomping with bloodshot eyes. 

"Your drug induced coma is the anteroom to my reality."   And your Huh?-inducing opening sentence is the foyer to my nightmare.

Kincaid rode behind the sheep.   I'm torn between wanting to know what you mean by "rode" . . . and NOT wanting to know. 

In your minds, you are all special.  That's because the publishing industry would grind to a halt without us . . . in our minds. 

"I love you," Andi said very clearly, looking right up into his brown eyes.  "I'm so glad I put up this ceiling mirror," he added. 

"Don't forget to send a report about the Crom Dubh to the national data base," I called.  Swallow the bagel, please; then repeat. 

In this business, every once in a while, you meet a woman who's a class act.  Thanks. 

“Mama, Luis ate the last empanada!” Carlos whined.  "The one with poison in it?" she replied. "I meant that one for you, Carlos." 

I didn't know that I was psychic.  Which, now that I think about it, should have been the first clue that I wasn't.

It's over.   For once I can say with certainty: you're starting in the wrong place.

"Shit!"   I'm a traditionalist; I prefer you give the title and word count BEFORE the genre. 

She’d grown to expect it.   And yet it still shocked her when the 1st sentence of a manuscript had two pronouns with no antecedents. 

If days were trains, this one would have been lying at the bottom of a ravine.   If openings were logs, that one would be in my fireplace.

I let the gun rest on my limp dick.   No need to tell us it's limp. If there's a gun anywhere near it, it's limp. 

"You're going to wear that page out, you know."   Dialogue between two senators?

It’s amazing how you take oxygen for granted until you don’t have any.  True, if you replace "amazing" with "perfectly understandable." 

One year was wasted and gone.  Trunk novel or boyfriend? 

"You don’t want this, no more than I do."   Well, at least we agree on something.

"What the hell was that?"  What the hell was that?

Friday, November 08, 2013

New Beginning 1017

Gwinn breathed a sigh of relief when the shop finally came into view. She’d run the entire way from her village, almost a quarter of a day’s journey. A quick glance at the sun told her she was ahead of schedule. Still, she couldn’t stay long. Her parents thought she was in the orchards and would expect her home for lunch. If she arrived late, they would ask questions.

She slowed to a light jog as she made her way down the hill, the faint path merging into the wide and well-worn road. The shop sat about twenty feet back from the road, leaning slightly to the left as if it were tired. It was actually more of a glorified shack attached to an even smaller shack meant to be a home, but it was the only shop Gwinn could reach by foot. As she approached, she noted two unfamiliar horses. Good. The last thing she wanted was to encounter anyone from her village. They could ruin the surprise. She opened the heavy door and walked inside.

Although she hadn’t been there in several years, it smelled just as she remembered – sweet, like the hard candies that glittered in glass jars along the wall, mixed with dried rosemary and sage. She paused in the doorway.

Two strangers sat at tables near the register, presumably waiting for the inscrutable shopkeeper to appear with their orders. Was that Gwinn's order on the counter? She peered into the bag. "Dammit!" The Mu shu pork had congealed into a solid mass! And the lo mein was cold. Who knew "ten minute" really meant ten minutes? Now her family would start asking hard questions, like Where's the duck sauce and spicy mustard? What was the point of surprising them with take-out if this was the result? She searched the bag. Ah-ha! Saved! At least they'd remembered the fortune cookies.

Opening: Alice.....Continuation: Kregger

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Face-Lift 1167

Guess the Plot

The Borrowed Man

1. His neighbors have borrowed almost everything he owns- his lawnmower, his rake, his hedge clippers. Now one of them is "borrowing" his wife. Luckily there's one thing no one has borrowed yet: his Glock.

2. To make it home in time for dinner with his wealthy future mother-in-law, morgue attendant Ed Bomer nabs a John Doe so he can use the carpool lane during rush hour. Will he still get her blessing after she insists he set her up with the handsome fellow she spied riding shotgun?

3. Kelli and Kaci are mad for each other, and long for a child they can call their own. Unable to pay for in vitro, they search for a suitable donor. Surely, there must be one good candidate in Saskatchewan?

4. Seeking vengeance on the men who murdered him, Adam Rorke possesses his brother Tim's body and sets out to commit multiple murders of his own, using an electric saw. And now Tim must worry about being arrested for murder or killed by the murderers Adam hasn't gotten to yet.

5. Jackie will be damned if she's bringing her paunchy, unemployed, boorish husband to her 25th high school reunion. Especially not when her BFF's strapping son, Cord, is home for spring break. Jackie rocks her cougar status . . . until hubby gate-crashes. Hilarity ensues.

6. Voodoo practitioner Amanda Lively needs a date for her cousin's wedding, so she digs up a recently deceased male model -- suffocated in his own hairspray -- and reanimates him. He smells bad, he mumbles and he's a terrible dancer, but it's not until her pushy mother starts dragging him from table to table introducing him as Amanda's fiance that Amanda picks up a steak knife and wonders what other uses can she find for . . . The Borrowed Man.

7. Lady Kibbelford’s masquerade ball is the highlight of the autumn season. But her butler and several of her staff are down with the flu. She asks visiting Duke Sterreich, if she can borrow his main man. Due to mistranslation, she gets Sterreich’s Hungarian gardener.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

Tim Rorke's dead brother Adam has possessed him to avenge his own murder.

He knew how crazy that sounded. [To whom? Has he told someone this?] Maybe even crazier than killing a stranger at a train station with Adam's gun. And that's not even the worst thing he's done lately. He tried not to think of the circular saw and how those things really could cut through just about anything. [If you're talking about human flesh, that's probably a lot easier to cut through than anything a circular saw is normally used to cut through.] [Also, this paragraph would make more sense if we had already been told that Adam was killed by multiple people. As it is, it's not clear what the saw has to do with anything.] [Perhaps something like this would work better:

Tim Rorke's dead brother Adam has possessed him to avenge his own murder. Unfortunately, Adam was murdered by the entire Miami Heat basketball team. Putting a bullet in Dwyane Wade's head was easy enough, but killing LeBron James by cutting off his limbs with a circular saw was a bit over the top. Tim doesn't even want to think about what Adam has in store for the benchwarmers.]

Adam, who turned his back on Tim twenty years ago, has really dumped him in the shit now.

Even if Tim doesn't get arrested for multiple murders, Adam's killers are going to kill him. If not because he killed some of them, then for the money Adam stole from them - the money they now think Tim has. If he can find it, maybe he can make a deal. Maybe they'll let him live.

Though that doesn't [won't] help him with problem number three; [colon] what to do about [how to get rid of] Adam? [period]

The Borrowed Man is complete at 85,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


If you have no luck with this story, try writing one of the fake plots. They all sound like winners.

If Adam stole from these guys, they probably killed him because they wanted revenge. There should be a limit of one revenge killing per situation. Otherwise, after Adam gets revenge on the guys who got revenge on him, they may possess other people and seek more revenge on him.

It's not that bothersome that it's mostly setup, as the situation is interesting, but something about what Tim does (to find the money? to get rid of Adam?) might help us see where the story goes.

Speaking of which, in order to find the money, Tim needs control of his body. If he has control, why can't he stop Adam from committing the murders?

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

New Beginning 1016

We haven’t had bread in nearly a week. My thin slice is well past the point of stale, but I savor every dry crumb as I make my way to our spot. There’s not nearly as much violence on our side, but I still tuck the bread up my sleeve when a small group of woman walk past me. Men aren’t the only ones who know how to throw a punch. Besides losing my bread, I don’t want to be late. This is the only part of my day I have to look forward to.

There are only a few guards at the fence tonight. It’s been a while since anyone has caused a scene, so they probably feel safe. From what Patrice said, it was awful for the first few weeks. They needed guards armed with shock sticks to keep people from trying to climb the razor sharp wires. By the time we got out of Quarantine, the worst of it had passed. No one holds on to hope for long inside the PIT.

Why the busiest restaurant in town feels the need to corral its customers like dissenters in a Russian gulag, I don't know. But the ribs are to die for. Bring a hundred-dollar deposit and a survival backpack for the week-long wait. While Quarantine is the pits, after that--it's pork heaven! See you at the PIT!

Opening: Sarah Negovetich.....Continuation: Kregger

Monday, November 04, 2013

Face-Lift 1165

Guess the Plot

Lady No Soul

1. As Pope Boniface VIII explores the Vatican archives in the year 1295, he discovers irrefutable proof of a fact that could bring down the Church: Women have souls. Surely God would want him to destroy the evidence?

2. Her parents called her Sally. At the orphanage they called her Little Missy. At twenty-one she finds the karaoke blues bar and when she gets up on stage they give her the nickname that finally sticks: Lady No Soul.

3. Carol knew snapping and head-bopping was not dancing. That's why she accepted the salsa lessons she won in that Internet giveaway. Now her steamy teacher, El Diablo, seems hell-bent on bringing her to heel. Can Carol master the Cha-Cha before she loses her soul?

4. Chrissy is abducted by goblins and taken to their city, where the notorious Lady collects souls for her diabolical plots. Will the luxurious surroundings and opulent gifts from the Lady lure Chrissy into staying, or will she escape and return to her dull, predictable life?

5. Vandelia is one of the Unsouled, a group of immortals who cannot love or die because of an ancient magician's curse. Then Marco comes into her life and she feels a strange attraction to him. Is he the new owner of the soul she was deprived of hundreds of years ago? And if he is, how will the two maybe-lovers resolve it?

6. Villagers whisper about strange lights, sounds and smells coming from the abandoned church just outside of town. Faron and Garn decide to arm themselves with torches, cheap swords, and whiskey to find what's really inside. Now can they escape...Lady No Soul?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor, Pink Cloud of Sweetness and Light Extraordinaire:

We must not look at goblin-men.

Chrissy has always known what path her life will take. [Not true (I looked ahead.)] She speaks when she’s spoken to, she learns her lessons and minds her manners in preparation for the day when she’ll attract a nice young gentleman and settle down into a respectable marriage. [Chrissy has spent her life preparing for the day she'll settle down in a respectable marriage. There, I've converted 43 sleep-inducing words into 16 sleep-inducing words. Now let's get to the good stuff.] That’s Chrissy’s plan—until the night that [Then one night] goblins break into the house and drag her through the shadows and rainbow fire to the goblin city, a place of glittering debauchery and cruelty. A city where the mysterious and beautiful Lady collects souls for [her] own hidden purposes.

The goblin world breaks every rule Chrissy has ever known, and she is alternately fascinated and repulsed by the Lady’s life of casual cruelty and opulent luxury. The sudden freedom of her strange new life is intoxicating, and the Lady plies her with gifts and treats, but Chrissy knows she mustn’t give in. [By "give in," you mean accept gifts and treats? What will happen if she does?] She has to stand firm. She can’t trust anyone.

But as the days go by and Chrissy becomes more and more [is] immersed in the goblin world, she can’t help but wonder if the rules she has always followed apply here. It can’t be wrong to listen to Cog, the Lady’s quiet and philosophical alchemist, with his jars of magic and strings of spells. It can’t be wicked to spend time with Wist, whose strange eyes and cold heart intrigue her beyond manners and moral thought. [Not clear what these examples have to do with rules she has always followed. Was there a rule against listening to philosophical alchemists in her former home? Her rules included speak when spoken to and mind your manners, so it seems that if an alchemist or a man with strange eyes speaks to her,  engaging them in conversation is following her rules. Perhaps: as she is immersed....she finds herself intrigued by this strange culture. She spends hours listening to Cog....and talking with Wist....]

But the Lady is planning something, her plots and secrets weaving ever tighter around the lives of the people in her court. [What clues her in to this?] If Chrissy is going to escape, [Does she have any idea how to get home from this place?] she needs to move quickly before the goblin tricks and magics trap her forever. But whom can she trust? [She can't trust anyone. Oh, wait, I had you delete that sentence.] Is anyone on her side? Is it ever safe to look at goblin-men? [It's pretty hard not to.]

LADY NO SOUL is a fantasy novel complete at 80,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


I don't see the "looking at goblin men" opening and closing as helpful. Nothing between them explains what's wrong with looking at goblin men or whether it's ever safe.

I don't like any of the references to "rules." If she's from a world where breaking rules like mind your manners is punished by death, make that clear.

Is her abduction random? If not, does the Lady make it clear why she was chosen?

We need to know what's at stake, more than "the Lady is planning something." Is Chrissy just interested in getting out, or does she want to thwart the Lady's plan? If the latter, are her "friends" Cog and Wist in danger? We need to know specifically what's going on.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Because Evil Editor Cares

Evil Editor has had to compose three of the fake plots for each of the last two Face-Lifts. Evil Editor has enough work just composing the actual plots. In a last-ditch effort to keep the Guess the Plot feature from going the way of the dinosaur, I've instituted a new feature, a sidebar supplement: Next to the terms "Query Queue" and "CONTINUE SOMEONE'S OPENING" in the sidebar, you'll find the number of titles awaiting fake plots and the number of openings awaiting continuations. This will save you the annoyance of clicking on the terms only to discover that the queue is empty and that you've wasted three seconds of what remains of your life.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Doing NaNoWriMo?

Get feedback on your first 150 - 200 words. Plus suggestions on where to go from there.

The first few paragraphs can make or break you; EE & his minions want to tell you what you're doing wrong.

Face-Lift 1164

Guess the Plot

The Life that I Have

1. I was murdered a century ago, so you'd think I'd be dead, but I'm immortal. Since I never look any older I have to move to a new town every time I graduate from high school. That's why immortality is a curse, at least when you're 16. If I have to read Paradise Lost one more time I think I'll jam a stake through my heart.

2. I'm twenty two-years-old. I live down by the river in a broken down van with no electricity or running water. My disability and morbid obesity keep me unemployed, and my parents disowned me when I was expelled from rehab. But now I have a plan. And it will work, because Saturday Night Live needs a turn around.

3. I love all living creatures. I'm a caregiver at a wild animal rehab center. On the night of the winter solstice, both a werewolf and a vampire bit me. For twenty-eight days, I was myself. But under the full moon, I became a vicious blood sucking monster. I despair my life and wonder if I shouldn't have become a blood sucking lawyer like my father.

4. I work twelve hours a day shoveling out pigsties. When I get home I watch my 14-inch black and white TV that only gets one channel: Bravo. Which stinks, except when The Real Housewives of New Jersey is on. It's not exactly the life of Riley, but it's . . . The Life that I Have.

5. Terrorized by bullies at school and my abusive mother at home, I begged a vampire to bite me and give me power. Instead the vampire bit my mother, then passed out, drunk. So I found a werewolf, who promptly ran off with the vampire.

6. I get up in the morning, go to work, come home, eat a frozen dinner, watch TV all night, and go to bed. Hey, it's better than being enslaved by Rhodesian diamond miners.

Original Version

Dear Agent I Want So Much To Impress

For Vivi Tell, immortality is a curse. Life is something she borrows, not something she owns. She's spent a century clinging to who she used to be. A sixteen-year-old girl who lost everything: her home, her family, her hopes. And maybe her soul. She has never stopped hating the handsome young man who took her 'real' life, even as she blames herself for what happened.

Vivi allows herself to love only one person, her adoptive mother, Diana. But every few years, they must separate to deflect notice of their shared 'condition.' [If you mean Mom is also immortal, I can see why they would have to move, but not why they have to separate.] Vivi's latest move, to Oak Village, Ohio, begins to bring [brings] changes to a girl who doesn't [didn't] believe she can [could] change. First she is drawn into a friendship with the tough, talkative Shoshannah Silver, a housemate delighted to find herself living with another Jewish girl. Then she attracts the attention of Ian Olmsted, the sweetly geeky vice president of the high school's Astronomy Club, who somehow manages to make a girl who knows she's all wrong feel like she belongs. Despite her own misgivings and Diana's outright forbiddance, Vivi decides to pursue the relationship.

But Vivi's new connections force her to keep secrets from everyone she cares about. [She was already keeping her biggest secret from everyone she cared about, and everyone else. I assume.] She can't share her new experiences with Diana. Shoshannah is hurt by her reticence. Even Ian doubts her trust in him. Those secrets become dangerous when her murderer reappears – with Ian – and Vivi begins a desperate attempt to protect the boy she loves from her own fate. Meanwhile, she herself is threatened when vigilantes who will make no distinction between killer and victim begin to close in on Oak Village – and Shoshannah becomes eager to join them. [When your best friend is eager to join vigilante killers, it may be time to cut the ties. Especially if you are the target of the vigilante killers.] Revealing the truth at last only makes things worse, as Vivi and Ian are each confronted with temptations she has never anticipated.

THE LIFE THAT I HAVE, a YA paranormal coming-of-age novel, is complete at 107,000 words. It is the bittersweet tale of how love and friendship bring a girl who doesn't believe she deserves to be happy out of the past, and into an uncertain present where she must fight for the very soul she's not even sure she has. [If you've shown this in your plot description with specificity, there's no need to now tell us with vagueness.] In asking what a person must accept about her circumstances, and what she can – or should not – change, it offers no easy solutions and no happily-ever-after. I think it would appeal to fans of Maggie Stiefvater's The Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy, Carrie Ryan's The Dark and Hollow Places, and Melina Marchetta's Jellicoe Road. [Ms. Stiefvater was an Evil Minion in the early years of this blog, and Ms. Ryan joined us when we discussed her novel The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Thus they are worthy of mention, but this third person has not earned the privilege.]

This is my first novel. I have been writing fiction since I could hold a pencil, but haven't been published since college. I grew up in Ohio and currently reside in the Boston area, where I work in civil engineering and do competitive racewalking in addition to writing (many of my best ideas have come to me during a long workout). [The Life I Have is more interesting than the life you have. Dump this paragraph.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Your refusal to include the word "vampire" is distracting. First I'm thinking, She's a vampire. Later I'm thinking, Why hasn't the word "vampire" come up? Still later I'm thinking, Few people can go this long without using the word "vampire," even if their book has no vampires; apparently she's not a vampire.

Does Vivi kill people and/or turn them? Is she responsible for her adoptive mother's "condition"?

This is well-written, but even without the bio, it's a bit long. The first paragraph could be reduced to:

For Vivi Tell, immortality is a curse. A sixteen-year-old girl who lost her family, her hopes, and maybe her soul, she has never stopped hating the handsome young man who took her "real" life a century ago, even as she blames herself for what happened.

Not sure we need Mom in the query. The main plot seems to be this:

Immortal Vivi moves to Oak Village and falls for the local astronomy geek. One day, to her horror, she sees her geek hanging with the bastard who immortalized her.

So, open with the setup paragraph, introducing Vivi and her "condition." Then a paragraph in which she moves, falls for Ian, discovers he's in danger of becoming as cursed as she is. Finally a paragraph about her plan to accomplish the goal of saving Ian, and the obstacle preventing this (vigilantes are after her).

I seem to have left Shoshannah out, along with Mom. Probably not a bad thing. A heroine, her love interest and a villain can usually carry a nine-sentence plot summary.