Saturday, May 31, 2014

Confession 2

Public Confessor
They were showing Casablanca one night only on the big screen at the Classic Cinema and I told my husband Bill I wished we could go because it's my favorite movie, but of course we couldn't because our best friends the Harpers were coming over for dinner at eight o'clock. Then I came up with a plan.

I burned the chicken.

I figured the Harpers would decide to leave and go to a restaurant and we could make the nine o'clock showing. But Sally Harper suggested we just order a pizza from Dominos. I needed a Plan B fast, so I started yelling at Bill that he should have reminded me to take out the chicken. He caught on and yelled back and pretty soon we were having this big brawl on the living room floor. Bill started choking me and when the Harpers finally pulled him off me I pretended to be unconscious.

Sally said she was gonna call an ambulance but I "came to" and said I was okay and she said she was gonna call the cops on Bill, but I talked her out of it, saying it was all a misunderstanding and Bill was in therapy to control his temper.

Anyway, the Harpers left and we made it to Casablanca, but I've always felt a little bad because we lost our best friends, partly because of the fight, and partly because when the movie ended and we got up to leave we discovered the Harpers were sitting two rows behind us.

Penance: Watch the colorized version of Casablanca on TV while eating a giant tub of McNuggets.

Send your true confession as a comment or to


Friday, May 30, 2014

Confession 1

Public Confessor
I killed a man once.

I was standing at a bus stop many years ago, minding my own business, when this guy comes up to me and asks me to sign a petition. It was a petition demanding that music with violent or obscene lyrics be taken off the shelves of music stores. "All those vulgar rock ’n’ roll lyrics are warping kids’ minds," he tells me, "and turning them into violent animals."

I told him I’d been listening to hard-core rock music all my life, and he said that it had probably warped my mind. Well, of course I wasn’t gonna stand there and take that. So I slipped a Twisted Sister tape into my Walkman, turned the volume up to full blast, and shoved him into the path of the oncoming bus.

Later that night, in my jail cell, I got to thinking, maybe the music we listen to does affect our actions. I recalled that I had once barbecued chicken after hearing "Light My Fire. I once almost quit my job after hearing "Take This Job and Shove It." I once did it in the road after hearing "Why Don’t We Do It in the Road."

One time I was sitting in my living room, listening to a Jimmy Buffet album, when a song came on called "Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw?" and I became so aroused I went into the kitchen, chugged an entire bottle of wine, and went looking for my wife in the back of the house.

Unfortunately, when I found her, she had the radio on. She was listening to "Beat It!”

Penance: Four hours of non-stop listening to Peter Gabriel songs.

Send your true confession as a comment or to

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Blog Change

It's been two weeks since I had a query to post, and a month since we had a New beginning. Obviously no aspiring writers need our help. Our job is done.

Having foreseen this happenstance, I now move on to a higher calling by becoming . . . Public Confessor.

I hear confession is good for the soul, so I am setting aside some time to save your soul by posting your confession. This is a non-denominational service.*

Simply submit a written account of a sinful act you committed. I will post your confession here so that other sinners may learn from your mistakes. I'll also include my suggested penance. Best of all, you do all this from the comfort of your home or from Starbucks.

You may submit as a comment, but the confession won't appear in the comments; I'll post it at a later date.

* Public Confessor is approved by all major religions. Confess with confidence.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Beach Superstitions

Beach season is upon us. And by "us" I mean those of us in the northern hemisphere. Which, of course,  is the better hemisphere, because of its contributions to art, science, architecture, music, and literature, while the southern hemisphere contributes only penguins. Hey, I'm just kidding. There's also koalas and the Lord of the Rings movies. Speaking of penguins, I watched a movie recently about penguins who have to stand in the same place for months keeping their one egg warm and put up with other birds who try to steal the eggs, and I'm wondering why the cameraman doesn't just shoo the predator away. It's like when Lady Di had twenty minutes to get to the hospital or she'd die, and she spent the whole twenty minutes moaning in her limo while cameramen just took photographs. My point is, the world would be a better place if, instead of everyone harboring nationalistic views in a world with almost 200 countries, we just harbored hemispheristic views. It's gotta be easier for two hemispheres to settle their differences and get along than for all these countries, some of which no one's ever heard of. I'm talking about you, Moldova. Anyway, many people aren't superstitious at all. But most superstitions have a strong basis in fact. Take Friday the 13th. This date has long been considered unlucky because it's believed to be the day Jesus was crucified. And let's face it: any day on which you get crucified is pretty unlucky. But there are probably more superstitions associated with the beach than any other place, and most of them make a lot of sense when you think about them. So let's run through them.

1. If you walk backwards down a fishing pier, you will soon be buying a new pair of shoes.

2. It is bad luck to go swimming in the ocean while wearing a necklace made from hunks of raw meat.

3. Red sky at dawn: nuclear bomb.
Red sky at night: terrorists blew up another flight.

4. If a flock of seagulls flies directly over you, you'll soon be washing your hair.

5. When your legs become hopelessly entangled in seaweed while wading in the ocean at three A.M., it is bad luck if the tide is coming in.

6. If you put down a large non-refundable deposit on a cottage, it will rain for precisely the amount of time you have the place.

7. If you step on a conch shell, your middle name will mysteriously change to Chellio.

8. Drop the tray holding your family's sandwiches in the sand, and you will soon be spending a large sum of money in a bad restaurant.

9. If you buy a a swimsuit on sale at the end of beach season and store it in a drawer during the cold months, when you take it out next year it will have mysteriously shrunk two sizes.

10. If a Portuguese Man-of-War becomes trapped in your swim trunks, your sex drive will inexplicably disappear for two months.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Evil Editor Tops $20,000 Raised in Brenda Novak Auction

Based on my calculations, approximately $20,500 has been raised over the past few years by my auction items. Of course it's the people who coughed up the cash who deserve most of the credit. Also the people whose losing bids forced the winning bidders to go higher and higher. This year's auction ends Saturday, though many items close out earlier.  Below are EE's remaining items.

First 10,000 Words Of Your Novel Edited By EVIL EDITOR

Ends Saturday at 11:05 PM eastern

Your Book (up to 100,000 words) Edited by EVIL EDITOREnds Friday at 10:40 PM eastern

Signed Trade Paperbacks of NOVEL DEVIATIONS Volumes 1-3 by Evil Editor

Ends Saturday at 11:00 PM eastern

Signed Trade Paperbacks of WHY YOU DON'T GET PUBLISHED Volumes 1 and 2 By Evil Editor

Ends Saturday at11:05 PM eastern

Monday, May 26, 2014

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Evil Editor's Graphic Novel

Noting that we were in a slack period for query submissions, leaving me some free time, and inspired by the success of the graphic novelette I created for Evil Editor Strips, vol. 2 (which was based on my and other minions' hard-boiled detective writing exercises) I recently devoted a few months to creating a full graphic novel.

The book is based on an amusing science fiction story I wrote more than a decade ago, and which won first place in its quarter of the Writers of the Future contest.

A major contribution was made by minion James Catlett, who created a key piece of artwork that appears to some extent in almost half of the panels. Among James's contributions to this blog have been a couple pictures of EE, including this one:

In addition, the role of the main character, professor Schliegelman, the world's foremost theoretical physicist, is played in the book by none other than Evil Editor! A genius playing a genius. It's like hiring Meryl Streep to play an actress or Gordon Ramsay to play a serial killer.

I could produce this in black & white, 6 by 9, but I've gone with 8 by 10, full color. The best price I could find was $40.00, from Blurb (soft cover; $50.00 for hard cover). In the belief that most people won't pay that much for a book, it's clear that I should seek out a publisher who can produce it in large quantities and thereby get the price down. Which I will do.

That, however, could take forever and I want a copy now. And a couple more as gifts. I'll be placing my order Monday. If anyone else wants to spring for a copy let me know and I'll make it available. Not on Amazon, which will demand 55% of the cover price, forcing me to charge about $85 just to break even but we'll work something out though Paypal or the Evil Editor Store.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Face-Lift 1201

Guess the Plot

Death to All Spies!

1. Cold War espionage absurdities are brought to light in this mostly true story of Russian and American spies. Also, my sensational new theory about who really killed JFK.

2. Nine-year-old King Fredrey hates greens and allspice. When a new cook fixes the royal dinner, Fredrey spits out his food and shouts “Kale? Allspice?” But that is not the way his knights hear it. A purge of nosy people commences.

3. King Travers is sick and tired of all his best take-over-the-world plots being foiled before he's even gotten to the good parts. So, he institutes a "spy execution" program. Sounds great until his son, Prince Flanders, is arrested.

4. Sullivan was making a fair living, turning in his neighbors for their lustful thoughts and coveting. But the new Damchion has decreed that spying is a capital offense. And some of his neighbors are itching for payback.

5. Kayley loves Jason. Jason doesn't know. Bayley starts spying on him in Math to find out if he likes someone else. Turns out, he does. He loves Bayley. How will Kayley take this betrayal by her BFF?

6. From his secret hideout in the Andean volcano Lechugulla, evil mastermind Dr. Death plots the demise of the world's top spies by Tweeting them into insanity. Also, a talking white Persian cat.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I hope you will be interested in my historical novel called Death to All Spies!, which takes a wry, offbeat look at the world of Cold War espionage.

In the early 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, two KGB spies defect separately to the United States. Anatoly Golitsyn and Yuri Nosenko insist they want to help America. The only problem is that both of them say the other one is a fake. [Is that really the "only" problem?] Legendary CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton and his young colleague Pete Bagley have to figure out which one is telling the truth. [It's that old logic problem. Angleton can only ask one question to figure out who's the liar. Frankly, I think if you're gonna build a whole novel around a logic problem it should be the kind where you tell us the spy from Moscow prefers to eat at Borscht Bistro and the spy who drives a Yugo has never been to St. Petersburg, etc.] But the Americans quickly learn there’s more at stake than just feuding defectors. The escaped Russians bring sensational news about the Kennedy assassination and a mole in the CIA. [I'd go with "shocking" rather than "sensational." if you tell me the CIA killed JFK, I'm unlikely to say, "Why . . . that's sensational news!"]

Death to All Spies! explores the true story of a decade-long controversy that tore apart the American intelligence community. Based on extensive research into the work of Carlson and many others, the novel offers a possible solution to the still-unsolved mystery of which defector was lying. [So the defectors and Angleton and Bagley were real people. Are there also fictional characters in the book? Is it a novel rather than nonfiction only because this mystery wasn't solved? Maybe this is alternate history, a story about what might have happened if the solution to the mystery was . . . whatever you hypothesize it was? Novels are fiction. How much of your book is fiction?] By shifting perspective among the Russians and their handlers, the book reveals a tangle of personal motives and misplaced suspicions. What emerges is a quirky spy story about the absurdities of Cold War paranoia.

Anatoly Golitsyn is a hardworking intellectual who feels unappreciated in the KGB of the 1950s. In 1961 he abandons his cover job in Helsinki and flees to the West. Cerebral James Angleton, the spycatcher who quotes T.S. Eliot (and was the first to call espionage a “wilderness of mirrors”), is seduced by Golitsyn’s cabalistic vision of global Soviet deception. [When the KGB stations you in Helsinki, it's a good bet you aren't a good source of information about the KGB or anything else important. It's like if the CIA stationed an agent in  . . . Helsinki.] When Golitsyn reveals there is an unidentified mole in the CIA (code-named SASHA), Angleton falls deeper under his spell.

Yuri Nosenko is the hard-drinking womanizer whose influential father got him a job in Soviet intelligence. Working as a security officer at the Geneva disarmament conference of 1962, he secretly contacts the CIA to exchange KGB data for much-needed cash. He returns to the Soviet Union but suddenly defects after the assassination of President Kennedy. He insists he has crucial information about Soviet involvement in the crime. Nosenko’s handler is Pete Bagley, an ambitious CIA man from a proud naval family. He is stunned by the defector’s claim that the Soviet Union was not involved in the assassination. [Wait, the "crucial information" Nosenko has about Soviet involvement in the crime is that the Soviets weren't involved in the crime? Presumably that's what everyone in the Russian government would have been saying, so why does this guy saying it make it crucial information?] [That's like a German spy defecting during WWII and claiming to have crucial information about Hitler: he has no aspirations toward world conquest.] When Nosenko’s story starts to unravel, Bagley fears the Soviets have sent a false defector to spread disinformation.

[Conversation at KGB headquarters:

--We did it. We killed Kennedy.

--But now if the Americans find out we were behind it, it could mean war.

--Hmm. Let's get one of our espionage agents to defect, and tell them we had nothing to do with it.

--Yes, those gullible Americans just might buy it and try to pin it on some chump.]

Golitsyn reinforces suspicions about Nosenko. But some CIA officers suggest the self-aggrandizing Golitsyn, with his complicated conspiracy theories, has an ulterior motive. Is it possible they are both false defectors, part of an elaborate Soviet deception? Angleton, who is revered in the Agency but known to over-indulge in Bourbon, comes to blindly trust the striving Golitsyn [A legendary espionage agent blindly trusts an enemy espionage agent? What was he "legendary" for? His naivete?] and oppose Nosenko. Then Angleton has the shock of his life when his old friend, the infamous Kim Philby, is revealed to be a Soviet double agent. Shattered, Angleton redoubles his efforts to find Golitsyn’s mole SASHA. The search turns into an Agency witch hunt that paralyzes operations for years and puts loyal officers under investigation. As a result, there is a groundswell of opposition to Angleton.

Meanwhile the Warren Commission, which is investigating Kennedy’s death, wants Nosenko’s testimony. But safely in America, Nosenko has once again become an unreliable carouser. Bagley is convinced he is still under Soviet control. The Agency, in large part due to Angleton’s doubts, decides Nosenko is too much of a risk and keeps him from testifying to the Commission. Now certain that Nosenko is on a secret mission from Moscow, Bagley imprisons him indefinitely under conditions of near-solitary confinement. But Nosenko insists he is not a double agent. [If your theory is that Bagley was behind the Kennedy assassination, I'm with you all the way.]

Just when Nosenko seems doomed, a new defector vouches for him.

[Conversation at KGB headquarters:

--The Americans haven't fallen for Nosenko's lies.

--It was a long shot at best.

--Hmm. What if we send over another "defector" to vouch for Nosenko?

--Now that's thinking outside the box. The American fools will never suspect.]
To test the source, and save his career, Angleton mounts a last-ditch espionage operation. The operation backfires [cementing Angleton's "legendary" status] and the hunt for SASHA comes to nothing. Angleton bitterly regrets his faith in the blustering Golitsyn and the damage he has done to the Agency. As a result of Angleton’s weakened position, Bagley loses his battle to break Nosenko. Thanks to new allies in the Agency, Nosenko at last goes free after years in prison. When the dust settles, it appears that the two defectors are not part of a Soviet monster plot; they are simply defectors. Paranoia has led the Cold Warriors to deceive themselves.

The novel is complete at 180,000 words. Though it has an ironic perspective, the espionage plot of Death to All Spies! should appeal to fans of John LeCarre. The historical setting taps into a current revival of interest in the Cold War, as seen in Young Philby by Robert Littel, Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan, and Dissident Gardens by Jonathon Lethem. There is a similar trend in popular TV and film projects, such as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Homeland; and The Americans.

I have an MFA in Film from Columbia College in Chicago. As a film and television editor I have cut several independent films, History Channel documentaries, and the nationally syndicated Judge Mathis Show. I have written a number of screenplays and I adapted a story by Patricia Highsmith, “The Barbarians,” for a short feature which I directed. As the son of Cuban exiles, I have had a lifelong fascination with the political and cultural context of the Cold War.

[Author's note: Here is how I got my title: Smert Shpionam was the Soviet counterintelligence unit during World War II. Usually abbreviated “Smersh,” in English it means “Death to spies.”]


The query reads more like an historical account than a summary of a story. I just finished a novel by David Morrell (The Brotherhood of the Rose) that includes some historical reporting about Kim Philby et al, but the main characters are fictional. The TV show The Americans has some actual people as characters, but not as the main characters. Choosing to tell a fictional story using actual people as the main characters is tricky. We don't know what's fact and what's fiction. (Actually, what's fact is a matter of record, and some readers will call you out if your characters aren't where they were when they were there.) Going to the trouble of getting the facts right and using real people may suggest this isn't a novel so much as somewhat speculative nonfiction.

The query and the book are too long. To shorten the query, choose a main character and focus on what he wants, what he must overcome to get it, what goes wrong, and what he plans to do about it. And what happens if he fails. If this is a novel, you want us to care about the main character, not about Cold War politics. Give yourself ten sentences to set up his situation and tell us his story. First the setup:

At the height of the Cold War, two KGB spies, one a hardworking intellectual who feels unappreciated in the KGB and the other a womanizer whose influential father got him a job in Soviet intelligence, defect separately to the United States. Each claims the other is no true defector, but is working a mission. It falls upon legendary CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton to determine who is lying.

Then your story: how Angleton plans to solve the mystery, what obstacles get in the way (for instance, an underling with the gall to insist Angleton is wrong), keeping the focus on Angleton.

Most of your 3rd paragraph, preceded by "Based on a true story," would work well as a wrapup to the query.

As for the book, if you're spending a lot of words rehashing the work of "Carlson and many others," you can probably dump most of that. An historical novel starring George Washington or Claudius should get the facts about the time and setting right, but if they turn into history books about the American revolution or the Roman Empire, they may lose their appeal to novel readers. If this is all story, and not a ton of info-dumping, try to find a place near the middle that would be a satisfying ending to book 1, and make the 2nd half a sequel.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Out of Town

In New Orleans. Will probably be Thursday before I can post the Face-Lift for the title in the queue. So far I have only 4 fake plots anyway, but by Thursday I'm sure to have 5. Or ten.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Let's crank up the bidding!

Some people who want Evil Editor's auction items in the Brenda Novak Auction may be under the impression that the best strategy is to wait until there are only a few seconds left in the auction so that no one will have time to beat your bid. This doesn't work because the system has been set up so that no auction ends if there has been a bid in the last ten minutes. If you bid with 5 seconds left, there are suddenly 10 minutes and 5 seconds left. It's like a live auction in which the auctioneer says going . . . going . . . and someone makes a bid. Now the auctioneer gives the previous high bidder time to counter that bid.

Thus you are better off deciding the maximum amount you're willing to bid on an item and placing that bid. You won't have to actually pay that much unless someone else bids just under that much. But you also won't have to monitor the auction up to the last second in case someone outbids you.

Also, while I have your attention, fake plots are needed for the title in the query queue.

Your Book (up to 100,000 words) Edited by EVIL EDITOR
Item: 3326044
Standard Auction $ 650.00

Signed Trade Paperbacks of NOVEL DEVIATIONS Volumes 1-3 by Evil Editor
Item: 3326049
Standard Auction $ 3.00

First 10,000 Words Of Your Novel Edited By EVIL EDITOR
Item: 3326043
Standard Auction $ 25.00

Signed Trade Paperbacks of WHY YOU DON'T GET PUBLISHED Volumes 1 and 2 By Evil Editor
Item: 3326046
Standard Auction $ 3.00

Friday, May 02, 2014

Stick it to a Billionaire

I just Googled editing services and found that 5 cents a word seems to be a good price for editing these days. For a 70,000-word book, that works out to $3500. And if you want to deduct all of that as a business expense, your writing has to bring in at least $3500. And for all you know, your book is being edited by some guy in India who's telling people in Wyoming how to get their cable TV working while he's editing your book.

Contrast that with bidding on Evil Editor to edit your book in the next few weeks. For starters, you can deduct EE as a charitable contribution rather than a business expense, so you don't have to have any writing income. And you get edited by the world's most famous editor, not some ESL-heroin-addict-scam-artist in Ivory Coast.

Even if you don't have a completed book, you should be bidding on this just to keep some billionaire for whom $3500 is pocket change from getting a bargain. You know that no matter how high you go he'll outbid you, but for one brief moment you'll be a thorn in his side. It's human nature not to want billionaires to get great deals. This is your chance to stick it to one.

* Evil Editor not responsible for expenses incurred by people trying to stick it to a billionaire but accidentally winning auction.

Success Story

IMHO reports that the short story attached to New Beginning #975 has been accepted for publication by ANALOG magazine. "The evil minions’ comments helped me focus the beginning -- much appreciated. Thanks for all the evil work you do!"

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Auction Underway

The Brenda Novak Auction is underway. It's vital that we convince other people that Evil Editor's items up for bid are the items to have by bidding early and often. Once the cost gets up in the hundreds, even people who've never heard of EE will enter the bidding. A bidding frenzy will develop which will ensure that you get priced out of the auction you can't afford to win, and that someone else ends up contributing big money to diabetes research.

Your job is simple. Go to the site, register, use the search feature to find Evil Editor, and bid on EE's items, forcing the people who actually want EE to bid higher.

You can afford to bid up to $500.00 for the two complete book edits without worrying that no one will outbid you and that you'll be out $500.00. In fact, if the highest bid on the complete book edits is $500 or less and the auction is about to end, I will bid $501 just to get out of editing your book. [Update: Bidding has topped $500 on both book edits; you're on your own.]

What we want by the end of day 1 is something like this:

Item: 2922897

Here are links to EE's items. Note that you can bid on the one-day auction (the top one) only on May 2.

Item: 3326040

Your Book (up to 100,000 words) Edited by EVIL EDITOR
Item: 3326044

Signed Trade Paperbacks of NOVEL DEVIATIONS Volumes 1-3 by Evil Editor
Item: 3326049

First 10,000 Words Of Your Novel Edited By EVIL EDITOR
Item: 3326043

Signed Trade Paperbacks of WHY YOU DON'T GET PUBLISHED Volumes 1 and 2 By Evil Edito
Item: 3326046