Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's that time again.

Like Wikipedia and possibly some other site I don't know about, I keep this blog ad-free. But once every five years I ask you to donate a few minutes of your precious time to watch these ads:

Monday, December 22, 2014

How This Blog Is Like the Universe

It has been theorized that the universe is expanding, and will do so until such time as it begins contracting. (Not unlike my stomach, which I'm hoping will cease the expansion phase before I have to purchase yet another wardrobe.) At some point everything in the universe will shift into reverse and eventually be back in one place, finally allowing people from distant galaxies to read my blog.

On a less galactic scale, I noticed some time ago that this blog was approaching 7000 posts. It occurred to me that someone new to the blog, in order to catch up, would have to read twenty posts a day (plus all the comments) for a whole year. At which point they would still be a year behind.

Knowing that few have the patience and persistence to read 7000 posts, I was relieved to discover recently that the blog's contraction had begun. Apparently the Book Chats and Writing Exercises were the first posts to vanish, and recently the Evil Editor Classics (which were mere copies of posts that remain) disappeared. (Don't worry, everything that's gone has merely been saved as a draft, not deleted. So if you desperately need to read something that's gone, it can be retrieved.)

Suddenly we're down to about 4500 posts. If we can get down to 365, a newcomer would have to read only 1 per day for a year to catch up.  At which point they would still be a year behind. But what else can we afford to lose? The New Beginnings that appear in Novel Deviations, vols 1 - 3, and are thus available to anyone willing to fork over the price of a medium-sized movie theater popcorn? The Q & As that appear in Why You Don't Get Published, vols 1 - 2? The 50 Face-Lifts that appear in Dear Literary Agent? The cartoons that aren't as funny as the other cartoons? Everything that isn't wildly entertaining?

I could remove the cartoons from the blog and give them their own website. Same with the query letters. Then those who care about only one feature wouldn't have to wade through a lot of clutter to get to their favorite stuff. This would require work, but what else do I have to do? It's not like anyone submits anything anymore.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

There've been two "Guess Which Titles Are Real Cookbooks" quizzes over the years. I've combined the best of both into one quiz. Ten of the titles below are actual cookbooks. The rest were made up by EE and his minions. Answers are below the quiz.

Go Fork Yourself: Recipes for Life

Moon Unit Zappa’s Vegan Goodies

The Endangered Species Cookbook

The Hunting in the Nude Cookbook

The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken

Mama Nazima's Jewish Iraqi Cuisine

Ring of Fire: Recipes for Anal Distress
Fishwife's Guide to Cooking for Ingrates

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry

Stoned Soup: Favorite Recipes of the Martyrs

Long Table: The Complete Giraffe Recipe Guide

Yeast Infections: Natural Bread Baking at Home

Hungry for You: From Cannibalism to Seduction

The Head's the Best Part! 101 Ways to Cook Brain

Unsettling Soups For Your Pre-Suicide Farewell Party

From Here to Eternity: Recipes Inspired by the Afterlife.

Erin go Burp: Traditional Meals from Ireland's Emerald Shores.

The Bulimia Cookbook: Recipes that Taste Just as Good Coming Up

Beyond Offal: Decorating Dishes With Hooves, Teeth, Horns And Fur

The Willie Nelson "Cooked Goose" Cookbook and IRS Financial Advisor

Eat What You Want and Die Like a Man: the World's Unhealthiest Cookbook

The Redneck Grill: The Most Fun You Can Have With Fire, Charcoal, and a Dead Animal

Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany

The actual cookbooks are:

The Hunting in the Nude Cookbook

The Endangered Species Cookbook

The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken

Mama Nazima's Jewish Iraqi Cuisine

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry

Hungry for You: From Cannibalism to Seduction

The Willie Nelson "Cooked Goose" Cookbook and IRS Financial Advisor

Eat What You Want and Die Like a Man: the World's Unhealthiest Cookbook

The Redneck Grill: The Most Fun You Can Have With Fire, Charcoal, and a Dead Animal

Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany

Thursday, December 18, 2014

New Beginning 1035

“Why do you look to the north?”

Esmerelda flinched at the voice from so close behind her. She would never get used to Henrick’s penchant for appearing and disappearing silently. Could not magicians use doors to enter and exit, like everybody else?

“These are my private chambers,” she said, turning to face him. “It would be polite to knock.”

His twisted smile told her, as if she did not already know, that politeness was not much of a concern for him.

“You have golden fields to the east, lush green hills to the south, and a verdant forest to the west,” he said, pointing to the high windows on each side of her top-of-tower room. “Why would you insist on looking in the one direction where the view is so spoiled?”

Esmerelda turned to the north-facing windows again. The ground, so very far down below in the valley at the base of the cliff on which her castle was perched, was withered and black. The trees were thick with gnarled branches outstretched like grasping claws, but no limb sported so much as a single leaf. Patches of limp dead grass floated like islands amid pools of oily mud. Even the northern air seemed still and gray, catching none of the breeze and very little of the sunlight that danced at the other points of the compass.

“You know why,” she mumbled.

“I’m sorry, Princess Esmerelda, I couldn’t quite hear that.”

“It’s just Esmerelda,” she snapped. “I am no one’s princess.”

"Sorry, sorry," he whimpered.

"Never mind. Now, tell me--when are they setting up the drilling rigs? I want to get the crude moving to China while OPEC's still imploding."

Opening: JRMosher.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

Monday, December 15, 2014

Satan Guess the Plot

The following Guess the Plots have appeared since the last time we did a Satan quiz a few years ago. Only one of them turned out to be the actual plot of a minion's novel. Which one?

1. The Devil knocks up some woman while possessing the body of some hot guy. The pregnant woman, shunned by her Amish family, finds herself in a New Jersey walk-up, surrounded by a group of devil worshippers waiting for her foretold daughter to be born. Also, a priest who throws himself out of any handy window at the first sign of demon possession, but always manages to survive.

2. Gabriel is not looking forward to this year's Angel Olympics. Michael has won the javelin throw for the past twelve hundred years. Satan offers to replace Michael's platinum javelin with a replica, but in return he wants Gabe to sneak him back into heaven. Will Gabriel lose again, or take the deal?

3. Hades' Devilspawniest EVUH gather to argue the toss over PERSONAL EVIL. Only one will make Apocalypse Academy. And RULE. Will Yellerpants Kindasatany Lite make the grade? Or will the "Jet Black Persona" Clause precipitate foiled fiend oblivion?

4. Baelzebub, Hell's metalsmith, creates a sword for Satan that can slice through any angelic beings. Yes, 'Saint' Michael, this time it's ON!

5. When the severed head of iconic 'scream queen' Devilicious is found stuffed in a cooler inside a burning car, homicide Detective Zack Martinez knows two things: One, she didn't drive herself, and two, that horror film scream-a-thon at the Egyptian won't be the same without her as hostess.

6. Joe Vanderberg thought it was a sure bet when he wagered his firstborn's soul on a game of tic tac toe. Now he must play poker with the Devil himself to reclaim little Aidan from Hell. Can he win...the ten hands?

7. Demon hunter Aldrick will do whatever it takes to save the woman he loves. And by "whatever it takes," I mean bring about the complete extinction of humanity.

8. 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.

9. Code named "Haven," she's the coldest, deadliest assassin in the world. Until she dies in a freak baking accident. Luckily, the devil needs a good hitwoman and he's willing to make a deal.

10. With agnosticism on the rise, God and the Devil come up with a new scheme to win believers: The Eternity Wars, a reality TV show starring the Big Man, the Big Bad, and your immortal soul.

Answer Below

The actual plot is #7.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Title (Children's Books Edition)

Below are descriptions of six published children's books. The descriptions were taken from Your job is to guess which title goes with each book. The fake titles were composed by Evil Editor and his minions.

1. A "fanciful creature of undefined nature," it was also once the wisest, kindest, most fun-loving living thing in the world--until people stopped believing in it.

A Young Person's Guide to the Democratic Party
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
When Puffalumps Walked the Earth
The Graveyard of the Imaginaries
My Body, My Elf

2. Three children pore over an extraordinary manuscript forced on them by a passing hen: "The True Story of Harrowing Farm." The hen tells how little green men shoo her and her fellows from the cramped cages where they've been confined to lay eggs, uncomfortably, in public, then fit the cages to humans -- the species they prefer as food.

Three Men in a Kettle
The Chicken Gave It to Me
PETA People Eater
When the Clucking Ends
Guess Who We're Having for Lunch

3. "Some cases start rough, some cases start easy. This one started with a dame. (That's what we private eyes call a girl.)" Fourth-grade gumshoe Chet Gecko searches for a missing chameleon named Billy.

Gumshoe Lizard
Flight of the Iguana
The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse
The Case of the Reptile Dysfunction
How Chet Saved 15% On His Car Insurance

4. Fourth-grader Albert has always been a little afraid of the Pine Manor Nursing Home, which he passes on the way home from school; the residents wave at him, but he just can't relax until he's well past it.

Old People Were Human Once Too
Heaven Can't Wait
Evergreen and Ever Dead
Mannequin Manor
Old People, Frogs and Albert

5. Shamelessly exploiting the intelligence, honesty, and guileless wit of the nation's youth (and apparently having a heck of a time doing it), the author asked over 100 kids the same question: "What do you think would make our world a more perfect place to be?"

No more Homework!
The Kid's Guide to Self-Delusion
Undoing the Damage Grown-Ups Do
Lima Beans Would be Illegal
Have Your Mom Buy You This Book and Make Me Rich

6. The author appeals to the gross-out side of kids in this exploration of edible grub (larvae and otherwise) around the world, past and present, and it's more laughs than a barrel of monkey brains (the one delicacy he missed).

It's Disgusting and We Ate It!
The Big Book of Yuck!
GrassWhoppers and McCockroaches
Surely You're Not Going to Stick That in Your Mouth!
Bugmeister's Insectivorously Delicious Diet

Answers below

The real book titles are:

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
The Chicken Gave It to Me
The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse
Old People, Frogs and Albert
Lima Beans Would be Illegal
It's Disgusting and We Ate It!

Friday, December 12, 2014

The 2nd Jesus Guess the Plot Quiz

Jesus pops up occasionally in fake plots on this blog. The ten examples below have appeared since the last time we did a Jesus Guess the Plot Quiz. But one of the ten turned out to be the actual plot of someone's book. Which one?

1. Dirk Beefhead is a born-again Christian who's been born yet again, this time in the era of Christ. Now it's time to find out whether people in Biblical times will accept or stone a guy named Dirk Beefhead.

2. When Rowena dies and goes to heaven, she gets to rub elbows with angels, the Virgin Mary and Jesus. But when she notices heaven has no homosexuals or non-Christians or sinners of any kind, she realizes God is no caring, generous Father, but a cold-hearted dictator. Not that she can do anything about it . . . until an underground resistance group of undercover angels ask her to join their movement to oust God from the seat of absolute power. Hey, someone's gotta take this egomaniac down a peg.

3. After mob boss Johnny “Bibs” Bibbiano finds Jesus and confesses—it takes nineteen hours and three shifts of priests—he returns to the pole dance emporiums. He buys beer and lap dances so he can talk to the girls. Only this time, between burps and sighs, he proselytizes and they throw him out.

4. Archeologist Gary Davis is approached by a strange woman in Jerusalem, and soon learns her secret. She has a box, with a gun in it--the gun used to kill Jesus. Now the Vatican is after him, and he may need that gun.

5. Sister Mary Agony experiences a series of doomsday visions involving Jesus, JFK, and a dachshund. But it seems no one will listen to the dire prognostications of... the Nun-Prophet.

6. What did Jesus really do? In this memoir based on recently found scrolls, get the true story of Christ's few years of turning water into wine and drinking it, spending too much time "saving" prostitutes, and carving obscene figurines out of olive wood. And steel.

7. Will Callie's Bible class believe that Jesus has been visiting her every Tuesday night bearing nachos and telling funny stories? If not, she'll take over the pulpit, and make the whole church believe with the robe He left behind.

8. Jake has realized that spirits are not souls. No one in Hell wants to buy any, and Jesus just chuckles at Jake's ambition. But why do so many useless specters keep appearing at Jake's door? Is Jake a Specter Whisperer or an unpublished writer with a too-big imagination?

9. Leroy has the job of his dreams: dressing up as a Jesus at The Holy Land Experience (he gets to carry people across sand!) When another Jesus shows Leroy how easy it is to get big tips from older women, will Leroy open his robe for them, or resist temptation?

10. No burden is he to bear. He ain't heavy. He's my broth-- . . . Unnghh. Unnnnngggghhhh, Jesus Christ, he's heavy. Let's leave him here.

Answer below

The actual plot was


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Face-Lift 1243

Guess the Plot

The Transcendent

1. When Lois tells Superman that his name is kind of egotistical-sounding, he decides to come up with something that still expresses his magnificence, but more subtly.

2. Now that scripted programming has disappeared from television, Religious Idol is the latest reality show craze. Can ‘Smelly’ Joe Hippie beat his Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and New-Age rivals in a fasting and meditation contest to become…The Transcendent?

3. You'd probably call them vampires, but they're not really vampires, and when they feed on pregnant humans, the offspring are called transcendents. Anyway, Annika is a 21-year-old torn between her love for a handsome priest and for a transcendent named Bram. It's a romance.

4. They are all things to all people, these beings who appeared on Earth three years ago and now have billions of followers. The world's established religions have dwindled to cult status. That's where things stand, if you want to know about the characters and plot, you're out of luck.

5. When the Greek gods return to Earth after setting up a civilization in a distant solar system, only to discover that no one worships them anymore, they're furious. It's Armageddon time, and this Armageddon is gonna make the biblical one seem like a tea party.

6. They are the ones who hold all of the power in their world. The ones who decide the fates of others on a whim. The ones their followers worship from afar and hope to one day sit at the feet of, if only for a few moments at a gathering of like souls. They are the literary agents, though they prefer to be known as . . . The Transcendent.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Annika Theriot has never been normal, and in her twenty-first year, she learns why: surviving a vampire attack while in the womb has its consequences.

Raised as a devout Catholic, Annika has spent every Wednesday in confession at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans trying to repress her demons.

[Annika: These demons. I don't think I can hold them off any longer.

Priest: Not again. Just once couldn't you confess to impure thoughts about boys?]

It’s there that she learns that vampires really aren’t vampires at all. The church refers to them as rebel angels, legions of angels that followed Lucifer after his fall. They feed on humans to retain their somewhat mortal existence on Earth. They aren’t boyfriend material. [Unless you're Miley Cyrus.] They are completely and inherently one thing: evil. [Are these vampires that really aren't vampires the demons she was trying to repress, or are they a different issue from the demons?] [Also, is this any way to comfort a member of your flock:

Annika: Vampires are out to get me.

Priest: Calm yourself, my child. The vampires aren't really vampires. They're just inherently evil creatures who feed on humans.]

When Annika finds herself running from one of these rebel angels and into the arms of the handsome, new priest, Elias, she quickly falls in over her head. [Not sure what that means. She was already in way over her head from what I could tell. Do you mean she falls head over heels in love?] At least until she meets the reckless Bram, [I'm not sure Elias needs to be in the query if she dumps him that fast.] [Also, Bram?] a man who shares her curse and shows her what she truly is, a transcendent. Bram reveals that all of the transcendents were created for a purpose…except for Annika. She was an accident. [Telling a transcendent she was an accident is cruel, like telling your youngest sister she was an accident.]

Once the rebel angel and creator of the transcendents, Sebastian, learns of Annika’s existence, he will stop at nothing until he has her in his collection. [Sebastian created all the transcendents? By feeding on pregnant humans? How come he doesn't know of Annika's existence?] [If the transcendents were created for a purpose, I would call them Sebastians's army or clerical staff or whatever, not his collection.]

Thrown into a supernatural world and fighting for her life, Annika soon becomes torn between the sinner and the saint, who she is and who she wants to be. [I can't tell if the sinner and the saint are who she is and who she wants to be or if they're Bram and Elias.]

The Transcendent is a new adult, fantasy, [paranormal] romance novel complete at 50,000 words.

I graduated at the top of my class with a BA in English, have worked as a staff writer for my university’s newspaper, and my poetry has been published in a children’s literature anthology. I am also an established blogger. [There are 100 million bloggers...although I can't find statistics on how many of them are established and how many are disestablished.] [For those who are familiar with the word "antidisestablishmentarianism," but never knew what it meant, now you know. It's the school of thought that opposes disestablishing bloggers.] [Dump the credits.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


What is the purpose for which the transcendents were created? If we knew that we'd have a better idea what's at stake.

Not sure why it's stated that: "They aren’t boyfriend material." Neither Annika nor the readers of the query would be thinking they're boyfriend material.

If this is a romance, make the romantic elements more obvious. Is Bram or Elias (or both) interested in romancing Annika?

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Face-Lift 1242

Guess the Plot

At Stake

1. When Becca Sanchez's uncle tells her that her history teacher is actually a vampire, Becca isn't sure she believes him, but just to be on the safe side, she and her friends decide to kill the guy. Hey, even if he isn't a vampire, at least they won't have to sit through any more of his boring lectures.

2. Down to his last dollar during a high-stakes poker game, inveterate gambler Rhett Lovelace thinks nothing of pledging a first-born child he thinks he’ll never have. Consumed by his addiction, Rhett never questions why his diabolically lucky adversary would accept such a pledge, nor does he realise exactly what’s…At Stake.

3. Where is your heart when you date a vampire?

4. What's at stake? Only the future of Earth, the sanctity of human life, and the future of one very special teenage girl. Only she has the supernatural powers to compete in a winner-take-all game of wits against our alien overlords, who, as luck would have it, are incredibly good-looking.

5. Penley and her small-time Iowa racing family have their hopes pinned on their unlikely stakes winner Norbert, a great-grandson of the immortal Seattle Slew. With the Breeder's Cup fast approaching, she must decide if she wants to sell him to a Japanese syndicate, run him in the Mile stakes race, or retire him to stud. And which way should she bet the family's money?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

AT STAKE, my YA novel of 73k words, is a modern-day mashup of Don Quixote and Dracula. When Becca Sanchez’s uncle Don [Quixote] tries to convince her that her new teacher is a vampire, [Dracula,] she must decide who to believe, and who to stop from killing whom.

The week Becca discovers her uncle is a total whack-job begins with a moving van and ends in handcuffs. First, her creepy history teacher moves in next door. Then Uncle Don tries to stake him. [When you explained the moving van, I assumed you were then going to explain the handcuffs.]

When a student goes missing, Becca starts wondering if maybe crazy Uncle Don isn’t so crazy after all. She decides to find out for herself. But when she’s caught shooting her teacher with a holy water spitball, she lands herself in a whole heap of trouble with the school and, worse, her mom. [A holy water spitball would prove nothing. Even if it was a lucky shot that hit the vampire's skin, at worst it would feel like a bee sting, which isn't much different from what it would feel like to a non-vampire. A garlic bulb soaked in holy water and shot out of one of those T-shirt cannons is what you need if you want to injure the vampire to the extent he can't immediately kill you. True, he's unlikely to kill you in the classroom, as that would blow his cover as a teacher, but as he lives next door, he'll have plenty of opportunity to drain your blood in private.] [Also, a spitball, by definition, is moistened with spit. Thus a wad of paper moistened with holy water would not be a holy water spitball, but simply a holy water ball (not to be confused with a holy water balloon, which, it now occurs to me, is probably the best projectile to launch at the vampire - unless he turns out to just be a teacher, in which case Becca would be in even bigger trouble with her mom).] 

Becca and her friends concoct a plan to kill the vampire before he can turn the Halloween Dance into his own personal buffet line. But she can’t get rid of the nagging voice wondering if this is all just a series of unlikely coincidences and her teacher is simply a creep. [Not clear what events are part of this series of coincidences. Only the missing student seems to suggest possible foul play.] Because this is real life, and really … vampires?

I have no previous publishing credits. Yet. I attend several conferences and workshops each year, as well as a weekly critique circle. My first novel was a finalist in the 2012 James River Writers Best Unpublished Novel Contest. [Credits aren't necessary. If they're requested, I'd just go with the last sentence.]

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to working with you.


Sounds like a good story, and the query has nice voice.

I don't see much that compares to Don Quixote or Dracula, outside of the obvious possible vampire and guy named Don. Okay, I see how the uncle is like Quixote if the teacher isn't a vampire. Otherwise he's more like Fox Mulder.

Maybe a holy water squirt gun or plant mister would be a good compromise.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Dear Literary Agent... Now in Print

Someone sent me this film of himself speed-reading Dear Literary Agent . . . , the new book that belongs on the coffee table of every writer, editor and literary agent in the English-speaking world. I have two extra softcover copies and one extra hardcover that I can send out in time for you to give one to yourself for Christmas. Better yet, tell someone else to buy it for you, and use the saved money to reward yourself with something else from EE's bookstore. It'll be like getting two books for the price of one. Make that three, because EE's History of the World in Tweets is free with every purchase.

Sunday, December 07, 2014


Turns out the query for this title was sent not to Evil Editor the cartoon character, but to EE's scribe, and thus is not available for critique. But rather than waste the fake plots that came in while the title was in the query queue, here they are, along with the real one.

Guess the Plot

Alien Love

1. Just when Hilda Newburger thought she had tried all the dating websites -- with no success -- she finds one promising her love that's "out of this world." Unfortunately, she learns that under their handsome green skin, Martian men are just the same as Earth men: all they really want is to probe Uranus. 

2. Humans do not even understand other humans. Is it possible for them to understand a true alien female, no matter how alluring? Ex-SEAL Jack Starling seeks the answer to this question in his journey of self-discovery, and to others such as How come I never realized my father was an extraterrestrial?

3. Shelia thought they would be together as one--forever. That was, until she discovered her alien parts were the same as her boyfriend's. The Supreme Court can't decide which way to go, and Shelia cringes everytime she sees a local waste removal truck's advertising logo, '1-555-Got-Junk?' Halarity ensues.

4. Anna dated a vampire but found him too sparkly. She married a werewolf but the monthly moulting drove her to distraction. The angel she had a fling with was more interested in picking mites out of his feathers than in spending time with her. Perhaps now it’s time for some…Alien Love

5. When the body of NuProg musician Beth Campbell--AKA Alien Love--is found crammed into a mailbox in San Fernando, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, she didn't shoot herself in the back before getting in the mailbox, and two, his daughter had better get cracking on her practice for the piano recital on Saturday.

6. Boston blue-blood, Preston Flournoy Wentworth IV lost his fortune in an investment scam. His patrician wife left him, taking the servants and her inheritance. So he hired an illegal Guamanian cook/housekeeper and turned his two century old estate into a bead-and-breakfast. Guilt lead him to resent his remaining employee, but Maria persevered and his resentment turned to admiration and finally to love. Also an angry squirrel.

Fake plots are now needed for the new title in the queue.

The actual plot description for Alien Love is #2.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Success Story

JRMosher reports:

EE, just thought you and the minions would like to know that Captain Kissy-Face (from Face-Lift 717) is now available as an eBook. I got great responses from agents, but ultimately no takers, so I have self-pubbed via BookBaby. It's available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, GoodReads, Google Play Books, and just about everywhere else.

The second book in the series (Invisible Max, which also got a Face-Lift here) will be out in December, and the third and fourth books over the next couple of months.

And of course I remembered to thank you and the minions for your advice in the acknowledgements. I've been here since just about the beginning (though for a while more lurking and reading than posting) and this continues to be one of my favorite sites.

Thank you! 

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Face-Lift 1241

Guess the Plot

Descendants of the Banished

1. As the great-granddaughter of the only couple ever banished from Atlantis, humiliation burns within Melloria on a daily basis. But when she watches as Atlantis sinks beneath the foaming waves, a new emotion surfaces. “Suck it, bitches!” she cries. Vengeance is so, so sweet.

2. With werewolves, vampires, and zombies taking over everything, and their grandparents all but forgotten, there wasn’t much call for banshees. So, their offspring use scientific demonology to get back in the ... say what? ... Descendants of the Banished? ... Oh, yeah, well ... well ... Descendants of the Banshees would sell lots better.

3. They were banished to an uninhabited island two centuries ago. They had children, and their children had children and so on. Now they number in the hundreds, and seeking revenge they sail with their swords and spears toward the land of their banishers, the United States of America.

4. Keenah and Oog live on the outskirts of the fishing settlement, as their families have for generations. When one of the Fishers rapes Keenah, Oog kills him to rally the others. The Neanderthals are now on the march--and with superior strength, bigger brains, and their oppressor's weapons, it doesn't look good for the Cro-Magnons.

5. Centuries ago, an ancestor of Hemlock was banished from the land. Now Hemlock has been named the supreme ruler. A remarkable comeback, though helped along by Hemlock's confessing to killing the previous supreme ruler. And by the ancient law that states anyone who accuses anyone of murder will be sentenced to death.

6. America's longest-running "reality" series, Big Brother, has survived 40 seasons by constantly upping the ante. This year the contestants will all be children and grandchildren of the most-hated D-List pseudo-celebrities ever to get kicked out in past seasons, plus one unassuming young man who only the producers know is a psychotic serial killer. Hilarity ensues. 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Being required by law to marry her father's killer was not Princess Briar's idea of a happy ending. Nor is the fact that, without any rock solid evidence, a public accusation of murder would result in her own trial and death sentence. [None of that would be anyone's idea of a happy ending to anything, so no need to tell us that.]

In a land where Spirits can be summoned only by members of the four royal families, the strongest Summoner is called the Protector and becomes the supreme ruler. The unexpected death of the Protector, King Acacia, sets in motion a Summoning Ceremony which determines the new Protector. When Princess Briar attempts to win the ceremony and take her father's place as Protectress, she loses to a stranger no one has seen before and inadvertently invokes a law that requires she marry the new Protector. [Because she's the princess or because she came in second? If she wins, she can marry whomever she wants, but if he wins he is required by law to marry Briar?] [Whaddaya mean, "inadvertently invokes"? I don't see how a law can be inadvertently invoked. Doesn't this law come into play whenever a Protector dies?] [I don't like devoting so much space to the rules of succession.   In the land of Gonoria, the death of the supreme ruler is always followed by a ceremony in which the strongest Spirit Summoner wins the throne. When Princess Briar's father dies unexpectedly, she tries to take his place, but is out-summoned by a stranger, a stranger who invokes a long-forgotten law requiring the princess to marry him.

When the stranger confesses that the Spirit that won him the title also killed her father, Briar knows she must bring him to justice. [Him, meaning the stranger, or the spirit that killed her father?] However, in their land, [If you named the land in paragraph 2, you could now refer to it by name.] accusations are not taken lightly, [Confessions, on the other hand, are brushed off like dandruff from the shoulders of a carpet salesman.] and if made prematurely or without enough proof, can backfire on the accuser. If Briar is to live to see Lord Protector Hemlock receive his just due, she must play the part of a blushing bride while gathering evidence of his guilt. Meanwhile, the man that Briar had intended to marry after the ceremony turns his back on her just when she needs an ally the most. [If you're dumped by your fiancee at the last minute so she can marry a complete stranger, you can be forgiven for not wanting to hang out with her. But you've done nothing to earn your way into the query.]

In her quest for retribution against the man who stole her happiness, Briar will go on some perilous journeys, discover some startling truths, and come to realize that things are not always what they seem. [Vague. Either drop the paragraph or specify where she goes and what she discovers/realizes.]

Descendants of the Banished is a 75,000 word Fantasy that crosses elements with genres [Not clear to me what is meant by "elements."] such as suspense, action, mystery, and light romance. It is intended for the YA reader who loves plot twists. [It wasn't obvious to me that this was YA. Maybe this should be put up front.] Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours truly,

***The title comes from the backstory that Hemlock, the main antagonist, is a descendant of a forgotten Baron who was banished two centuries ago.*** [And "Descendants" is plural because someone else is also a descendant of someone who was once banished?]


So if a Spirit kills someone, it's the fault of whoever summoned the Spirit? Spirits don't do anything except follow their Summoners' orders?

So if Briar says, "I don't know if it's true or not, but Hemlock confessed to me that he's responsible for the king's death," she will be sentenced to death because she has no rock-solid evidence?

This is analogous to Queen Elizabeth being found murdered, so Prince Charles is expected to take the throne, but then Camilla announces that Charles confessed to her that he hired a hit man to kill the queen. But because Camilla doesn't have rock-solid evidence that Charles did so, she is sentenced to death. . . . . Now that I think about it, if that all happened it wouldn't even make the Top Ten List of the Most Scandalous Events Involving the British Throne.

Does Hemlock want to be married to Briar? Because it seems like confessing he's behind her father's death is likely to lead to one of them getting a death sentence. And even if it doesn't, it's likely to lead to him not getting a lot of action in the sack. Why does he confess?

Is the fact that centuries ago one of his ancestors was banished considered evidence that Hemlock is behind the king's death? Is that the evidence Briar is after? If so, the title gives it away. If not, why is it important enough to be the title?

There are some intriguing aspects to this, but I'd try rewriting it:

Paragraph 1: The setup: Princess Briar must suffer a forced marriage to the man who killed her father until she can gather evidence to prove his guilt.

P2: The Plot: What evidence exists, how does she go about gathering this evidence, and what threatens to defeat her plan?

P3: The wrap-up: What is Hemlock up to? What will happen to the kingdom and/or to Briar if she fails to bring him down?

Try to limit each paragraph to three sentences.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Success Story

Lisa Aldin reports:

My query first appeared as Face-Lift 987 in 2012 and now the manuscript will be published in Feb. 2015 by Spencer Hill Press! It's got a new title: ONE OF THE GUYS. I just wanted to thank you and the minions for your help in cleaning up the query. Your site has helped me a lot. 

Thank you!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

The Perfect Query?

People often comment that the queries I post are eminently mockable. How about showing us samples, they write, of queries you've received that were flawless, immaculate, impeccable. That way we'll have a template for perfection.

Ask and ye shall receive. The three queries below weren't submitted to this blog; they appeared in my slush pile. I requested the manuscripts, and the books were published, though not necessarily under the authors' titles.


Evil Editor:

When Minnie Murphy arranges her vacation in England, she has no idea she'll fall head over heels in love with Sir Falderall, an actual British knight. But fall she does, and the wedding is set for the coming Saturday, on the grounds of Hoohah Castle. What Minnie doesn't know is that Saturday is also the day of the Cup finals, the biggest football match in Britain.

As Minnie is about to walk down the aisle, she spots a horde of hooligans heading toward the wedding party, drunk and spoiling for a fight. Apparently their team lost. Or won; it doesn't seem to matter to Brits. No way is Minnie going to let these rowdies ruin her big day. She opens a conveniently located corral of horses, hops on the nearest one, and drives a stampede right at the interlopers. From that day forth she's known as Minnie Driver.

By the time the orchestra strikes up the wedding march, the hooligans have been trampled to death and Minnie is back in her place in the procession, none the worse for wear, except for the horsehair all over her gown. But where's Sir Falderall? Seems Minnie's beau disappeared at the first sign of trouble, and hasn't been seen since.

Horses of Hoohah is the first book in my series featuring Minnie Murphy, a heroine who always gets her man, but never quite gets him to the altar.

Thank you for making it to the end of my query.


Dear Evil Editor:

When Hope, her pet banana slug, goes missing, Suze Hanford is despondent, not only because she loves the cute little bugger, but because Hope has helped parlay Suze's lemonade stand profits into a three-million-dollar nest egg. Hope uses her slime trail to spell out stock tips, and so far the little detritivore is batting a thousand. Without Hope, Suze knows she'll squander her fortune and end up working for a living when she grows up, possibly as a prostitute.

Day-trader Snidely Turkovich, Suze's next-door neighbor has been as successful as a three-legged greyhound lately, and if he doesn't start picking winners, he'll lose his house. Snidely is the obvious suspect; with Hope in his corner, his luck would surely change. But when Suze catches the slimeball with Hope, he claims it's not Hope, but Warren, his own banana slug stock forecaster.

Suze calls in a favor from the CSI squad, who discover that every banana slug has a slime trail as unique as a fingerprint. They compare Snidely's slug's slime with a slime trail in Hope's terrarium. A perfect match. Hope and Suze are joyfully reunited, and the now-hopeless Snidely is ruined.

Trail of Hope is a 95,000-word commercial novel that should appeal to those who enjoyed Mollusk Fever and I, Gastropod. Thank you.


Dear Editor:

The turning point in Graham Chansky's life was the day he brought a live cow to school for show-and-tell and slaughtered it in front of his third-grade science class. Sure, the cow's screams, which could be heard over the roar of the chain saw, were disturbing, and the blood was flowing like a river, and no doubt Mrs. MacReady wasn't happy with Graham, but at least for once Steffie Carruthers noticed him.

Graham has been content to remain a shy kid, always sitting in the back, never raising his hand, but when Steffie moves to Wormdale, Graham vows his life will change. In fourth grade he comes to school drunk out of his mind every day. In sixth grade he murders the principal. In tenth grade he instigates a war between Mexico and Guatemala. All to win the heart of the beautiful Steffie Carruthers.

In his waning years, haunted by dreams of Principal Breeen, an innocent cow, and two million dead Guatemalans, Graham looks back on his life. Sure, he's had a perfect marriage to Steffie, but at what cost? Was it all worth it? He decides that it was.

Bad Things Haunt Good Men is a 90,000-word semi-autobiographical memoir of a man who would do anything for love, including that. Interestingly, I he would also do anything to get this published. May I send you the manuscript?

Selected Comment

150 said...
Happy April 1st to you too. :) 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Dear Agent X,

For Cassidy MacNamara, Thanksgiving’s no piece of piss—after all, throwing a bunch of fire elementals in one room incites brawls and torched curtains. [It sounds more like Thanksgiving is a piece of piss. Not that I'm familiar with the term, but I assume it means the same thing as piece of crap or piece of shit.] [Oops, a bit of research reveals it's British and means the same as piece of cake. Hey, at least cake, unlike piss, comes in pieces, you crazy Brits.] [Wait, do Brits even celebrate Thanksgiving? Additional research shows they don't, but these could be Americans in Britain or Brits in America, so I'll let it go.] However, this year air elementals crash their dinner, killing some of her own and kidnapping others. including her little sister. [The word "however" suggests that this year Thanksgiving is a piece of piss, when in fact it's still no piece of piss. What you want is something like: Thanksgiving's never been a piece of piss, but at least it's never been a piece of shit. Or rather, shite. Or: Cassidy didn't expect Thanksgiving to be a piece of piss—after all, putting a bunch of fire elementals into one room always incites brawls and torched curtains. But when air elementals crash their dinner, killing some of her own and kidnapping others, including her little sister, she declares it her second-worst Thanksgiving ever.] [Note that I changed "throwing" to "putting." "Throwing" was giving the wrong impression.] [By the way, "piece of piss" is a great tongue twister. Say it five times fast.]

With her aunts and uncles arguing among themselves and her drunk Ma cradling a bottle in the corner, [This is in the same room with the corpses of their relatives lying on the floor?] Cassidy, like always, has to take responsibility. Those bastard air elementals took her little sister, but she’s going to get her back.

Problem numero uno though: fire elementals are restricted to the South. If she crosses the border, the elemental Council will send their extraction team after her. [Problem numero uno should be arranging for the Council's disposal team to get rid of the bodies in the dining room. Otherwise Sis will be coming home to a highly unpleasant scene.] [Are air elementals restricted to the North? If so, why didn't the extraction team deal with them? If not, how does Cassidy know her sister's been taken to the North?] If caught, not only will her little sister be gone for good, but Cassidy will be stripped of her powers. A fire elemental without fire is nothing. Even though all she’s armed with is a couple of her crazy, but loyal cousins, her ‘69 Camaro and a hostage who won’t shut up, [You forgot to include the ability to manipulate fire. When you have flamethrowers and your enemy has leaf blowers, I like your chances.] Cassidy will make sure her family comes home, no matter what the cost.

"When Fire Ignites" is a 90,000 word urban fantasy.



You'd think a society that has extraction teams to keep elementals in their own areas would also have authorities to deal with renegade air elementals who commit crimes.

Presumably the mix of mythological creatures, Thanksgiving, "piece of piss," "numero uno," is part of the book's charm, and not anachronism gone wild.

I like the voice and humor if the book is also funny, but it's unusual for a query in which the main plot development is that characters are murdered and kidnapped to stress the comical aspects. Is the plot more adventure/thriller or comedy?

The query is mostly setup. When her little sister is kidnapped by air elementals, Cassidy and two of her cousins head into the forbidden North on a rescue mission. Expand that into a three or four-sentence paragraph that includes the important stuff I left out, and you still have room to tell us what the plan is, what obstacles pop up, what the air elementals want with Little Sis.

Selected Comments

AlaskaRavenclaw said...I found this query incomprehensible, even when I tried rereading it without EE's blue comments. Try for less, er, voice and more clarity.

IMHO said..."A fire elemental without fire is ..." what? A human? A fairy? I'm really unclear on the characters and the setting (Alabama/Connecticut? South Pole/North pole?). Why did air elementals crash the party/kidnap the kid? Feels more like a madcap movie trailer than a query designed to hook an agent.

Veronica Rundell said...Jesus god. Please don't de a Brit trying to write 'Murrican. This ALWAYS falls flat. Because, as EE has stated, the colloquialisms simple do not translate. I don't care if the words are English--the sentiment is foreign. That being said, set your query aflame and start again.

Describe what the heck actually happens in the story. And be more specific than North v. south, k? If you are a dreaded Murrican (that's how my son calls the incompetent persons seemingly constantly featured on Fox News) you know that America is region-specific. And North-South is too vague to really gain a flavor of authenticity.

Good luck!

AlaskaRavenclaw said...The Brits talk about their North and South too, with the cultural assumptions more or less reversed AFAICT.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...
I'm going to try to synopt this story as I understand it from a 3rd reading of the query.

Cassidy McNamara is hosting Thanksgiving for her extended family of fire elementals when some air elementals show up. They kill several of Cassidy's family and kidnap her little sister.

The relatives don't fight back, they just argue and get drunk. So Cassidy goes off to look for her sister alone.

However, she's not allowed to leave the South. (I'd leave that out, since it clearly doesn't deter her. The next sentence contains an unclear antecedent... let's not worry about this. You'll have to rewrite from the ground up.)

She hops into a car with some relatives-- it turns out she wasn't the only one willing to pursue Sis. Off they go.


I would work on the fire elemental aspect if I were you. You don't say what it means. I'd think, for one thing, it would make one want to stay away from alchohol and Camaros. Also, give us some context. Who are air elementals and why are the fire elementals so powerless against them? Air makes fire stronger. Is this some kind of Hatfield/McCoy feud? What's at stake? If it's preserving Cassidy's family, can you make them sound less undesirable?

In other words, what is the actual challenge facing the protagonist?

Veronica Rundell said...EE and Alaska make concise work of the set-up, unfortunately I don't get a true sense of urgency from the author's query. It's heavy on the snark, light on the plot. Try re-balancing with a good dose of 'toning this down'.

Also, and perhaps this is me, but why the muscle car? I mean, the dang thing is 50 years old. Why is it so important to the story that it's in the query?

Also, no idea why anyone would host Cassidy's family for a Sunday dinner, let alone turkey day. They sound reprehensible, and TSTL.

Veronica Rundell said...That Alaska has read this query three times, author, should give you some sense of her kindness, and commitment to helping you rewrite this...

I hope you understand how unlikely it is that an agent will read it more than once. It has to be perfect. Work hard, revise. Let us see it again...

AlaskaRavenclaw said...Why thank you, Veronica. What a nice thing to say.

Anonymous said...Hey Alaska, many of us appreciate your decisive and insightful comments.

Evil Editor said...Actually, I think you meant divisive and incite-ful.

Hey, just kidding.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...Thanks, Anonymous.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Face-Lift 1240

Guess the Plot

Aliens, White Fur and Troubles

1. The eyes of Kaylee's white cat named Trouble are different colors--all three of them.

2. Name three things you get with the Kardashians.

3. Natasha Brodski learns the hard way what NOT to declare on her US customs form.

4. Black cat Dagger is assigned the task of training a rookie in the fine art of catjitsu, so that the two of them can guard the extra lives chest from invisible aliens. Trouble arrives when the rookie turns out to be a huge white dog that stinks like . . . a dog.

5. Beau Pontmercy is tracking the legendary Great White Moose across the Canadian wilderness when he sees blue lights and hears an eerie keening. As he loads his trusty flintlock he knows whatever scared off his game is about to find more trouble than they ever expected.

6. White Fur feels a special bond with Leoma, the beautiful Latino who rubs his ears every time she feeds him pellets. When the mean pet store owner steals Leoma's green card, White Fur plots to bring him down. But what can one albino guinea pig do?

7. To save the polar bears and protect their Fall outerwear collection, fashionistas from Unitard IV want to plunge Earth into a new ice age. PETA activitist Acocado Sunshine and supermodel-climatologist Adriana Jaeger have three days to convince the Unitardians that faux is fab... and then save the polar bears.

8. The Tribbles are back, this time with white fur and as big [and nasty] as polar bears. Can the crew of the Enterprise MCMLVII overcome, as Tribbles eat and reproduce and take over an entire planet?

9. Roger parked his pickup in front of Home Depot and pointed to the three strongest-looking candidates. He had no idea they were albino werewolves. Now there are blood trails leading to his yard, neighborhood pets gone missing, and the only way he's going to get his garage finished in time to sell the house is to add another shift of cheap labor. Luckily the Home Depot is now open late, and he's found a few men who seem more than happy to work only at night.

10. Polar Bear Krug thought he had enough to worry about with the ice cap shrinking and fish stocks diminishing but that was before those Northern Lights brought strange little green people and their painful probes. Or was that the result of eating tundra moss?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Dagger, a black warrior cat of the Feline Guard Corps, is not a team player. He’s order-obeying [obedience?] challenged and prefers fighting vicious lycis –aliens invisible to humans– single-pawed and without backup. After disobeying Captain Slash’s orders once [yet] again, Dagger is punished in a singular way; [:] he has to train a rookie [the newest recruit] or Slash will take fifteen of his [Dagger's] twenty-seven lives. [Is there a good reason this isn't 5 of his 9 lives?] Losing so many lives without fighting is a humiliation Dagger can’t tolerate, but [Luckily,] for the best fighter in town [, training] a rookie is not a big deal. Except that the rookie isn’t a cat but a huge, white dog named Alka.

That’s a tragedy. How is Dagger supposed to teach the fine art of the catjitsu to a dog, who moreover has a white coat? [I'd move that sentence to the end of the previous paragraph.] On top of that, the Cat Intelligence Agency has evidence that the lycis know where the Lives Chest –the container of the guards’ extra lives- is and want to destroy it. Without those extra lives killing the guards will be easier [to kill], and the lycis will have a free hand on Earth, eating everything that moves and doesn’t speak Lyciese. [Including cars and boats?]

As [Of course] the mission to protect the Chest is assigned to Dagger and his rookie [Alka.] To succeed Dagger has [will somehow have] to overcome his prejudice against dogs –especially [big, goofy, slobbery,] white ones– and train Alka. But he’s optimistic. [But hey,] If he can endure a dog’s stench, he can probably do anything.

ALIENS, WHITE FUR AND TROUBLES is a Middle Grade fantasy novel complete at 50.000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards


Sounds like a winner. I see it as a future graphic novel and a Pixar animated feature.

Most of my suggestions are nitpicks. Ignore those you hate.

Did you consider making Dagger a female? Surely cats are enlightened enough to allow women in the military, which would make Dagger a great role model for girls. Besides, cats are girls and dogs are boys.

I'd change the last word of the title to Trouble if I couldn't think of a better title for the book. Like Black Cat, White Dog. And I'd call the Chest the Extra Lives Chest.

Monday, November 24, 2014

New Beginning 1034

To men who study war, and Col. Baron Patrick Callahan had been a student all his life, these great conflicts have a definite pattern. In the beginning, it is all hearts bursting with pride and dreams of glory. Too soon the gleaming brass buttons on crisp uniforms tarnish. Feet that marched smartly to a vibrant, tattooing, drumbeat grow weary and plod from one battle to another, scuffing up puffs of dust or sucking through mud deep enough to bury a good size mule and wagon. The days of family picnics on the hillsides as opposing armies gathered below to deal death were long over and the reality, the work, of war had set in.

Callahan had settled into war easily. It was as if something he had waited for all his life had finally arrived, wide-eyed and faunching at the bit to be off on the grand adventure. He would have loved it more, if that were possible, if its arrival hadn't also delayed something he had waited for just as eagerly, his marriage to Lorena Dobbs McKenzie.

His chest ached with the knowledge that they would have to move the date, losing, he was sure, the deposit on the church, so he distracted himself from the disappointment with the work at hand. 

This seashell brocade was completely wrong for a mountain pass battle after Labor Day, camouflage or no, and he wouldn't use it, no matter what General Carter had to say about it. Seafoam, though—that was a color for an epic battle. But not in bursting hearts this time; that pattern was so last season. No, this conflict's pattern definitely would be plaid and then, if he could talk the General into a second campaign . . . nautical! He just hoped his bolts arrived in time to redo the uniforms. Of course, he and his cadets still would be up all night stitching on buttons and polishing the boots, but they always managed in time for the carnage. 

And then, he promised himself, it was right back to designing the bridesmaids' dresses. 

Opening: Julie Weathers.....Continuation: anonymous