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

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Neska's Tattoo

1. Neska must learn to use the super powers she acquired when the magic tattoo appeared on her hands in order to defeat the infamous villain known as . . . the Usurper!

2. When Steve and Neska meet, it's love at first sight--until he mentions how much he hates tattoos, unaware of the passion flower vines encircling her legs.

3. When 11 year old Neska Jones gets home from the slumber party, her mom immediately notices the "skull and crossbones" tattooed on her arm. Now Bob Jones is racing across town with his hound dog and shotgun, looking for the rat that wrecked his little girl's life.

4. As the winner of the Most Churlish Clerk award at the company party, Neska thinks she has nowhere to go but up--until her weekend ends on Monday afternoon when she wakes up naked in a strange house, sporting a scandalous new tattoo.

5. It wasn't her wisest move, but Neska Smith got a tattoo one drunken night in college. Now that she's planning her third date with hunky journalist Aaron Michaelson, she realizes that he may soon see it for himself. Will he be intimidated--or amused--by her tattoo of a laughing woman holding a knife in one hand and and a penis in the other?

6. The last thing Stinky and Dwight want to do is, of course, what they must do -- if they want to hang with the Blackbrush Bankers. Their mission? Lick Neska's tattoo. The deadline? Midnight, this Saturday. The penalty for failure? Exile.

Original Version

When Neska accidentally becomes a sorceress, she has to fight against the murderous usurper who would kill her to steal her magic. [I recommend capitalizing "Usurper" so he sounds like a super villain.]

The usurper [Usurper!!], now King Baleren, [Boring. Always refer to him as The Usurper] murders both the rightful Andonian King and Neska's clan. She escapes to a nearby town where she agrees to guide a fleeing mage through her native mountains. The mage is killed, [Nice guide job. Hope she got paid in advance.] his magical tattoo appearing on her palms. [What determines whose palms the magic tattoo will transfer to when the current owner dies?] She soon realizes that the tattoo contains [possesses] great power, power King Baleren will do anything to acquire [How does the Usurper know she has a magic tattoo?] and that she must now learn to control.

Salvation arrives in Erlant, a mage who offers to teach her to control the power that gives the ability to see the thoughts of the people around her  [If my enemy has murdered my clan and is hunting me, I'd rather be taught how to destroy him than how to guess what number he's thinking of.] and to fog their minds. But, salvation has a price, and Neska agrees in return to help Erlant find the missing heir to the throne. As much as she wants Baleren destroyed, she has no faith in their ability to achieve it. Yet together they hunt [search for] the Prince, pursued by traitorous mages, [Is there anyone in this book who isn't a mage besides the Usurper? What's the advantage of being mages if you all end up fleeing a villain who has no magic?] the usurper's army, [There's something odd about referring to someone as "the usurper" three times when you know his name.] and his half-demon minions called the Chanwe. [Well, that settles it; if you're going to capitalize his minions, you have to capitalize the Usurper.]

She locates him by getting close to the sadistic Chanwe commander so she can see his thoughts. [Unfortunately, the Chanwe commander thinks about nothing but naked women and swords for three hours, but eventually he thinks, The rightful heir is in the fourth cave from the left, halfway up Mt. Andonia; no one'll ever find him there.] Once they find the Prince, freeing him and reaching his awaiting army to defeat King Baleren takes them along an even more dangerous path. Then in their darkest hour, haunted by loss and with defeat imminent, Neska must call upon her deepest strengths to conquer her magic so they can triumph. [She must conquer her own magic? Not clear what that means.]

Neska's Tattoo is a completed stand-alone 90,000 word fantasy novel which could have a sequel... [which I have tentatively titled Neska's Eyebrow Piercing.]


This is a clear enough description of what happens, but it does inspire a few questions:

What makes the Usurper think he can steal Neska's magic? Neska didn't make the tattoo appear on her palms; she got the tattoo magically. How can the Usurper make the tattoo appear on his palms?

Besides, when you've already usurped the throne, and you have an army of half-demon minions, do you really need the ability to read minds? You can be sure pretty much everybody is thinking, We gotta kill the Usurper.

If Neska can't read thoughts until Erlant teaches her, how did she know she had magical powers in the first place?

When you're up against an army of half-demons, I wouldn't call mind reading ability "salvation." Knowing that the 6000 creatures charging toward you are thinking, Must kill Neska, isn't nearly as useful as a fast horse.

Why are the traitorous mages and the demon minions loyal to the Usurper? What do they need him for?

Selected Comments

Church Lady said...You may want to work some poetry into your story. To help you, I've come up with a list:

U Surper
U Burper
U Feathery Chirper
U Big-Gulp Slurper

writtenwyrdd said...The plot sounds overused and possibly illogical based on the query letter. Also, the use of usurper is pretty funny...not what you need in a query.

Your story sounds like it could be a workable if slightly generic fantasy. Perhaps you can highlight what makes your tale unique and different from other epic fantasies?

Phoenix said...I must agree with WW. From the query, this story seems to be pretty safe and generic. What's your hook? What about THIS story will make me want to pick it out of the slush of similar-sounding stories, whether I'm an agent or simply a reader?

Characters, plot, theme, and execution all seem standard fare as your query is written. Do you have something that stands out? If so, that something should go right up front as the attention grabber.

Now, standard fare in the form of characters and plot can still sell if you have a unique perspective. Perhaps if the mage who transfers his powers to Neska is somehow embodied in the girl and it's he who tells the story... Or maybe the story is told from the perspective of a talking dagger... Or maybe the narrator's voice is the hook. But something of that uniqueness must come through in the query. Right now, I'm afraid I'm not seeing anything in the query to distinguish it and elevate it out of the slush. I'm sure your story is good; it's just the query that needs another go.

Sarah said...Something to consider that comes from your query. This may not be a problem in your book, but it does seem to be one here.

If the usurper has to kill Neska to get her tattoo and the powers that come with it, does that mean Neska killed the mage from whom she got the tattoo? If she didn't kill the mage, why didn’t the mage’s tattoo transfer to the killer? Why won’t the same debacle happen if the usurper kills Neska?

I’m assuming that the killer of the mage is one of the usurper’s minions and it somehow knows the tattoo went to Neska. That’s a lot of reading between the lines though. Is this how the usurper knows he has to target Neska?

Neska’s out for revenge for the murder of her clan (the buttercup bears a sword). As was said earlier – this is a popular theme in a lot of sword and sorcery books. Along with the newly found power, the stranger who helps her awaken it and all of the danger and loss that precedes the eventual success of the mission. So what does make this book different from those?

It’s hard for me to sit back and think that a book I wrote and poured so much of my soul into doesn’t stand out from the crowd. Alas, it can be all too true. Good luck!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Below are three descriptive paragraphs taken from my works in progress. Unfortunately, I've left out the lines in which I reveal what it is I'm describing. But you should have no trouble figuring that out, assuming my descriptions are spot-on. It's like a blind taste test, but with literature instead of food. The correct answers are below each paragraph, in invisible ink. To reveal them, highlight them with your cursor.

1. Slowly, fearfully she inched forward, hoping beyond hope that all of their wishes might be granted. They had come so far, endured so much . . . he couldn't deny them. One by one the three before her made their requests, and seemed pleased with his responses. But her . . . would he give her what she wanted? Could he? She didn't think so. There's no place like home, she thought. She so wanted to be back home, to have this over with. She asked him. Lightning flashed, thunder crashed, a disembodied voice crackled unintelligibly. Overwhelmed with fear, she held her ground and meekly repeated her request.
Going through a McDonalds drive-through on a stormy night at closing time.

2. It was my favorite part of the grocery store. The aromas wafted over me like a neap tide of mango puree. Tomatoes. Avocados. Peaches the size of apples. Apples the size of Casabas. Casabas the size of volleyballs. And then I saw them, calling to me from the tropical fruit rack like the sirens to Odysseus, like a bird feeder to a squirrel. I had to have them. I squeezed them. Soft and yet firm. I buried my face in the entire rack and sniffed deeply. A state of perfect ripeness. Did I dare sneak a taste, here in the store? Could I even resist?
The breasts of Kroger produce clerk Margarita Sanchez

3. I looked at the framed glass rectangle before me and was struck not by the natural beauty, not by the classic wool coat or the pince-nez, but by those magnificent muttonchops. Try as I might, I could not take my eyes away.
Staring out the window at a bespectacled man hacking a sheep to death with an ax.


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

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Random Thoughts of a Teenage Axe Murderer

1. Should I chop up my boyfriend and eat his body parts? I hate writing my thoughts in this crappy journal. If I kill all my co-workers, maybe I'll get promoted out of my lousy entry-level job. I'm in love with my shrink; maybe I'll kill him with an axe. Or maybe I should have him over for dinner . . . as the main course!

2. She's cute. Math homework is so unfair. Got to beat my GTA3 high score. Wonder if the new Blindside album is out? Look at the boombah's on her. Die, Die, Die, you scum-sucking parasite. I hate mayonnaise.

3. Mmm, cookies. I wonder if I should ask Tina to the Winter Formal. Double-bladed looks cool, but a hachet is a lot more practical. Are there walnuts in these? If there are walnuts in these, someone is going to have to die. Would it look suspicious if I rented a woodchipper?

4. Will this fake I.D. work to get some beer? Can I get that cute girl in History to notice me? Will my skin clear up in time for the dance? Will my Dad loan me the car and an axe Friday night? Who you lookin' at?

5. I wonder if I was on the verge of getting my license before I chopped the driving instructor into tiny pieces. How do so many kids buy this Red Riding Hood story? I mean, if you can't tell your grandmother from a wolf, you need your eyes examined. Think I'll go hang out at the mall. Better bring my axe in case some cop gives me trouble.

6. So I hacked up a few people. Was that any reason to put me in here with all these crazies? Look at that guy, sitting there with his mouth hanging open. Where's an axe when I need one? Doesn't that TV get anything but Brady Bunch reruns? Wait a minute, is that an axe behind the glass in the fire extinguisher cabinet?

Original Version

All Mighty Evil One,

Therese Randle just turned nineteen and she thinks she's falling in love. Normally that wouldn't be a problem, but Therese has a small tendency to kill and eat her boyfriends. Well, she eats part of them; other parts give her indigestion. [The liver is good with Chianti and fava beans, but she stays away from the brains, possibly because her nickname for him was "shit for brains."]

Therese's problem is that her brain is incapable of remembering happy thoughts. [It's a psychosis known as elationesia.] So when something pleasant happens, she reacts to that foreign emotion by removing the cause of it. [For instance, if her boss praises her, she responds with an axe blade to the forehead. If a waitress gives her exceptional service, she responds with an axe blade to the forehead . . .] She sees nothing wrong with this less than accepted form of emotion management and is able to look at the death she causes in a matter of fact way. [The difference between Therese and normal people is that when normal people dole out an axe blade to the forehead, it's to someone who gave them unpleasant feelings.] This allows her to calculate her moves before she makes them in order to escape blame. [In other words, premeditated murder is the best kind because there's no blame involved?]

When she kills her boyfriend, Bucky, in the middle of sex in the middle of a forest,

[Bucky: Not to ruin the mood, but out of curiosity, why do you have an axe?
Therese: If a tree falls on us and pins us while we're making love--
Bucky: Ah. Say no more.]

[If a tree falls in the woods, and the only people there to hear it are moaning and screaming, "Yes, oh yes, harder, baby," could you even hear it if the tree made a sound?]
Therese claims to have witnessed the whole thing as a victim. ["Hey, I'm the victim here. I actually had to watch as Bucky was chopped up with an axe."] With a rash of [axe] killings sweeping through the area, everyone is more than willing to believe her. Months later, when she uses unnecessary violence against a cop who pulls her over for speeding, [She hacks him up with an axe.] [I thought it was only pleasant feelings that made her respond with violence.] Therese is sent to a psychiatric ward claiming emotional trauma from witnessing her boyfriend's death. Her shrink, Dr. Brian (a cute novice straight out of college) takes her on as his pet project and a year after her arrival gets her out of the ward and into a halfway house for nut jobs [Is that the pc term they're using these days?] with no knowledge of what's really wrong with her. With her new "apartment" and the low entry job she must take as part of her reintroduction into society, Therese makes friends that she must desperately try not to kill. [For if she kills her co-workers, she'll surely get the axe.]

Dr. Brian encourages Therese to write her daily events in a journal- a boring tedious task to her that inevitably becomes an eye opener. As she writes and rereads her entries, she realizes that good things do happen and she really wants to understand why she doesn't remember them and to try and overcome her violent urges. When Dr. Brian falls for Therese, and Therese for him, she knows exactly what kind of danger he's in even if he doesn't. So the question is, does she tell him the truth, or invite him over for dinner?

Random Thoughts of a Teenage Axe Murderer is my first novel. [Good, I was worried it was your autobiography.] [Any editor who thinks Therese might be based on you will reject this rather than give you a pleasant request for pages.] The complete, 88000 word manuscript is ready at your request. Thank you for your valuable time.



"Random thoughts" doesn't give the impression we're dealing with a cohesive novel. Maybe "Confessions" would be better.

You make it sound like killing is a regular occurrence with Therese. Is she that good at getting away with murder?

It seems like if you're planning in advance to kill people, you'd settle on a less-conspicuous weapon than an axe. Plus, even if the person isn't alarmed by the fact that you happen to have an axe, and there's been a rash of axe murders in the area lately, anyone with good reflexes could duck or run in less time than it takes to swing an axe. Of course, you don't actually mention an axe anywhere except the title, so perhaps she doesn't always use an axe.

What you really need if you're trying to sell a book about a killer is a weapon that hasn't been done to death in the movies. Thus I'm providing a list of weapons you might use to fill in the blank in your title, Confessions of a Teenage ______ Murderer.

1. Hoe
2. Tuning Fork
3. Dipstick
4. Baton
5. Turkey Baster
6. Corkscrew
7. Corn Holder
8. Waffle Iron
9. Clarinet
10. Pie

Selected Comments

acd said...I haven't even read the query yet. I just want to say these are the six best guess-the-plots in history.

writtenwyrdd said..."The Waffle Iron Murders" is a good title for a comedy mystery. Now, how to kill off people in a variety of amusingly original ways...

1. the obvious: Waffle ironed to death. Griddle marks everywhere.
2. Clouted over head with blunt object (waffle iron).
3. Drowned in butter and syrup with a waffle chaser stuffed down the throat.
4. Strangled by the electric cord.

Well, it's a limited repertoire but amusing.

Inkmandoo said...I smell a contest.
Pooper scooper
Thigh Master
Golf umbrella
Ice cream scoop
dowsing rod
curtain rod
electric wok

acd said...Back! And...that was one of the funniest query critiques in history, too.

The central plot point sounds like hooey--so if it's not, author, you should include the clinical name of the condition, maybe a line or two about its history or discovery.

Kate Thornton said...Writtenwyrd! Waffle Ironed to Death - too funny!

The Waffle Iron Murders:

Chapter 1. My Griddle is Too Tight
Chapter 2. Do I Want to Brain Him? Or Don't I? Or Do I?
Chapter 3. It Looks Just Like Mickey!
Chapter 4. Aunt Jemima and Betty Crocker Step In
Chapter 5. Pancake Make Up

Daisy said..."Confessions of a Teenage Hoe Murderer" sounds like it might be an entirely different kind of book.
Not bad, mind you, just different.

ello said...Perhaps I have a sick sense of humor, but I thought the premise of this book sounded fascinating and if I read it as a blurb (with the caveat that there would be no axes, but something more subtle and clever as the murder weapon) I would definitely be intrigue enough to pick it up and read it.
I don't really like the title and the axe is problematic, but otherwise, I think this is clever and interesting.

jfxock said...EE, did you forget wire whisk and eggbeater, or did I miss those novels? The eggbeater murders, right up there with the waffle iron murders. All part of a series called "The Kitchen Utensil Murders," or "Death At Williams-Sonoma."

My next novel is about what happens when someone develops a chemical they inject into the water supply of Atlanta that makes everyone deathly allergic to peanuts. Is it terrorists? Or is it an unknown investor who just bought up the majority of stock in the companies that manufacture and distribute Epi-pens?

As to the query... the title needs a change. I can't imagine myself EVER wanting to read a book with a title that contains both "random thoughts" and "teenage".

I suppose the plot seems maybe a little interesting, but the shrink falling for the 19-year-old nut job seems a bit cliched and predictable. I thought this was going the way of Girl, Interrupted, and I thought the aspect of self-discovery through journaling had potential, but the cheap romance sort of ruins it for me.

whitemouse said...Um...why would I want to read about this woman? Why would I want to spend any time at all inside her head?

Does she have any redeeming qualities?

If so, you need to put them front and centre, because there's nothing in the query letter to make me want to pick up this book.

I can't sympathise with Therese based on what I've read here. I'm too stunned by the horror of what she does to care if there's any humour or entertainment to be had from this book.

The timing of this is interesting, however. I just got done reading Miss Snark's blog, where she has some flap copy listed for Darkly Dreaming Dexter, which is about a likeable serial killer. The thing to sympathise with in Dexter's case is that he only kills "bad" people. The urge to punish "bad" people has just enough resonance with me that I'm interested in seeing what goes on in Dexter's head, even though he's a murderer.

I'd suggest you think carefully about what sort of things could make the reader like Therese. What does she struggle with that is a universal-enough issue that we can emphathise with her? Try to weave those elements into your query, because your book is stillborn if the agent/editor thinks readers will never be able to relate to the main character.

Also, having Therese kill and eat her boyfriends does sound like a rip-off of Silence of the Lambs. You might want to leave that out of the query letter.

December Quinn said...If she doesn't see anything wrong with her actions, A)she's a sociopath, and Dr. Brian must be spectacularly bad at his job, and B) why wouldn't she confess to them? "Yeah, I chopped him up, so what? Is that a crime or something?"

kis said...Melon baller?
Cookie cutter?
Ice cube tray?
Crevice tool for my Hoover?
CD rack?

The average home abounds with murderous possibilities.

judy said...This is the funniest thing I've read all week. I'd read this book because I love the absurd and this definitely falls into that category. And macabre humor is just fine with me, too.

Daisy said...Glue Stick?
Eyelash Curler?
Air Freshener?

writtenwyrdd said...The Kleenex Killer?
The Toilet Tissue Torturer?

Talia, Centre for Emotional Well-Being said...That has to be the best critique and 6 potential plot lines I've read. EE you really outdid yourself. And the comments are a scream too - especially Kate's chapter analysis.
Yep the turkey baster got me.

As to the query itself, I would read it, on the proviso it wasn't a teenager and that she used something other than an axe. I mean c'mon she'd have to be an amazon to kill people with an axe. Have you ever tried chopping wood? It's darn hard work, and an amazonian teenager would stick out.

Having said that I like the premise. It sounds like a fun tongue in cheek idea. Echoing the comments on Darkly Dreaming Dexter the plot doesn't give you any reason to like the teenage killer so that needs to be resolved.

The rest is fine. If you're talking about people not remembering happy times - quite simply that's just extreme depression. It distorts your cognitions and skews your memory so you only focus on the negative etc etc. That aspect is believable but I would expect violence to be a result of a situation that is stressful, and stress would be when someone makes demands on you or annoys you. Happiness leading to killing isn't a consistent characterisation as you've explained it, but it could be if you said that the emotion is so foreign that the killer doesn't know how to react, etc etc.

Overall I thought it was a well written query, altho EE's comments were even better. This should go in EE's hall of fame. It's the best critique and plot lines yet!!!

pacatrue said...I bet if done well there are a bunch of people who would like this book, even though it's not my thing. The main thing to concentrate on is whether or not the query truly captures the tone of the book. I'm guessing the book has a serious sense of humor about it, as well as a fondness for the absurd and macabre. But I'm not quite getting that yet from the query. Yes, the whole plot is absurd, but that's in content right now, not quite in tone. Perhaps there is a way to inject a little more of the spirit of the book into it. Then, as they say, query widely.

"What did you say? Oh no, you did not. Don't make me get out my turkey baster."

Writerious said...Wait, wait... wait. This starts out as a promising horror plot about a teenage psychopath, then turns into -- what? First a turn into an introspective literary bit, and then -- a romance??? Wait... WHO is the psychopath here? The teenager or her terminally naive psychoanalyst?

While the story got off to a bang, it flounders where it turns completely unrealistic. If she's really an axe murderer (supposing that 1. she's able to tote a very sharp axe everywhere and no one notices and 2. has the upper body strength to wield it with deadly force, and we're already down two strikes with those two assumptions), the crime scenes should be so bloody awful messy that the foresic lab shouldn't have any problem figuring out who did it.

An axe murderer, even if legally "insane" (that being a legal term, not a diagnosis), would not be allowed into a halfway house. She'd be locked up for life.

As for alternative murder weapons, there are a few items that are so frequently misused that I've sometimes been tempted to bludgeon, strangle, or choke people with them, including:
1. cell phones of all kinds;
2. portable music devices with earphones turned up so loud that everyone around can hear them clearly;
3. bottles of perfume that some women drench themselves in until the air around them tastes bitter;
4. wads of gum that people pop and crack with their mouths flapping open, like a herd of lobotomized cows;
5. cars that go BOOM THUMPF THUMPF BOOM!
6. lit cigarette butts tossed out a car window or on the ground -- like they just vanish or something? said...DAMN YOU, E.E! BEVERAGE WARNINGS!

You owe me a new keyboard. :-P

Anonymous said...
Neat query though it felt a little long, but I'm not convinced enough by the events in it to suspend my disbelief. But I love this line: "So the question is, does she tell him the truth, or invite him over for dinner?" and I think the fact that the axe murderer is a female is a great twist. But another thing I wondered was, why does she eat them? To dispose of the evidence? That'd be an awful lot of evidence to dispose of.

writtenwyrdd said...That'd be an awful lot of evidence to dispose of.

Okay, I'll be the one to say it: Axe-wielding, psycho-killer, bulemic cannibalistic teenaged girl

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

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Buried Secrets

1. Millions of years ago a falling comet created the crater now known as the Gulf of Mexico. Space dude Bud Winkerstein was on that comet, thanks to a software glitch that caused his space ship to crash into a level-5 time-space warp. At least that's his story when superspy Twinky Thompkins and her well-endowed sailors dredge him and his odd little submarine from the depths.

2. In a secluded corner of the old cemetery, best friends Julie, Kara, and Michelle write down all of their deepest secrets, drop them in a hole, and bury them, pledging never to reveal the location. When the friendship breaks up with a spectacular three-way fight, can any of the girls be trusted to leave those secrets underground?

3. The victim: a murdered archaeology student. The suspects: anyone who didn't want her literally digging up the past. The detectives: two guys who must bury their differences if they're to unearth a killer.

4. When a freak mudslide buries four ritzy homes in Santa Barbara, detective Dan Ruiz is surprised that the homeowners don't want anyone digging around their wreckage. But dig Dan does, unearthing not only a web of infidelity, strange religious rites, and money laundering, but also a child's skeleton.

5. When Josh's mum wants to know what he's burying in the backyard, he tells her it's a time capsule for a school project. Twenty years on, the new owners dig it up during a redevelopment project, and are shocked at what they find inside: a severed left buttock, preserved in formaldehyde.

6. When Nick Sprink gives colleague Donna Ergig the scandalous Neanderthal handshake, she suddenly realizes where he got that sexy supra-orbital torus and those big hairy knuckles. He, too, is a Survivor. After 35,000 years, she has finally found another member of her tribe. But is it too late to start a family? And what's that big-headed French guy doing with the hand ax?

Original Version

Dear Mr Editor

Please find enclosed a synopsis and first three chapters of my debut novel, Buried Secrets. It is a murder mystery of around 95,300 words set in South Africa and would appeal to readers of commercial crime fiction. [No need to explain to whom a murder mystery would appeal.] The completed manuscript is available on request.

Frieda Henning, an archaeology student, was brutally tortured before she was killed. A pentagram carved into her chest points to a ritual murder, but the scene looks artificially posed. [Wasn't this the plot of a Criminal Minds?]

[Detective 1: Looks like a ritual murder.

Detective 2: Agreed. So it must not be.

Detective 1: I don't follow.

Detective 2: Look again. It's artificial.]

Detectives Andrew Phillips and Lindiwe Makona are newly partnered. Even-tempered Andrew initially finds Lindiwe’s short temper and racial sensitivities hard to deal with, but they must bury their differences to solve a case that becomes increasingly complex.

[Phillips: Looks like a ritual killing.

Makona: What the hell makes you say that, Whitey?

Phillips: Pentagram carved into her chest.

Makona: That's it? Christ, you're friggin dense, even for a Caucasian.

Phillips: Also, her body was nailed to an upside-down cross, her blood was drained and used to paint the number 666 on the wall, and the head of a goat was hanging from her neck.

Makona: Who you callin' nappy-headed?]

The victim’s ex-boyfriend, Shawn Ryder is missing. When he is finally found he is in a coma from a severe beating and he was tortured in the same way as Frieda. Why would the killer murder and then carefully pose the young woman but leave her boyfriend alive? [I thought he was her ex-boyfriend. Obviously he was in on the plot but things got out of hand.]

The victim’s brother, Frans Henning, and his militant right-wing friends quickly become suspects as Frans was incensed that his sister had a non-white boyfriend. Also on the suspect list is a local Satanist. [I'll bet Satanists get sick and tired of being placed on the suspect list every time a corpse is found that just happens to have a pentagram carved into its chest.] Then a close friend of the victim disappears. [That sentence doesn't belong in your "suspects" paragraph.]

One by one the suspects are cleared of Frieda’s murder. [That one does.] When the missing girl is found hiding with a friend, the truth finally emerges from South Africa’s Apartheid past. [What do you mean, it "emerges"?] A time when security forces killed with impunity and believed their secrets would stay buried forever. [Idiots. They should have burned the records of their crimes instead of burying them in an archaeological dig.]

I am a South African, currently living and working in the UK. My career is in marketing and I have extensive experience writing marketing and communications materials, which has taught me to rewrite, edit and accept criticism. I am also used to working to deadline. This is my first completed novel. I am planning to write a follow-up featuring the same detectives.

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours sincerely,

[I am enclosing a full synopsis with the letter. I have tried to make this different to the synopsis, but I still worry that it is repetitious. Is it still a good idea to cover as much of the story as possible in the letter?]


To answer your question, this is about the right amount of plot to put in the letter. A bit less would also be okay. Presumably your synopsis goes into more detail. If it doesn't, you don't need to include it. Your letter should convince me I want to read your book. Your chapters should convince me you write well. Your synopsis is where I look to see what truth emerges, when you failed to include that in the letter.
I assume the killer is someone who's been in the book, and not someone who turns up only after the murder is connected to Apartheid. Mystery readers like to guess who the villain is, which is harder if he makes his first appearance at the denouement.

Selected Comments

blogless_troll said...I'm all for fooling people with false confidence, but "debut novel" sounds pretentious. I like the rest, but you should probably drop the sentence about the Satanist, or at least don't call him the "local Satanist." Makes him sound like a shop owner.

functioning fruitcake said...This is a good effort which has all the elements in place. The only true problem is the glossed-over resolution sentences about Apartheid past and buried secrets - I'd suggest giving more of a clue what you mean at this point rather than being vague.
A few suggestions on how to tweak it. The main thing I'd do if it was mine would be to shift a couple of things around: I'd move the introduction of the detectives down so that it came just before "The victim's brother..." . Or alternatively, I'd open with it. Currently it seems out of place.

Other suggestions: move up the mention of the missing friend as it's not foregrounded enough given that her disappearance and subsequent reemergence is pivotal to the plot (at least, so I understand it to be). And perhaps delete completely 'One by one the suspects are cleared of Frieda's murder'. And delete mention of the Satanist - it jars.

csinman said...I'm surprised I'm the first person to mention this, but I think the author is confusing "devil-worshippers" with "Satanism." Satanists are very unlikely to carve pentagrams on anyone's chest, as they are usually fat, goth gamers, much too busy playing Blood Rayne to bother with ritual sacrifice.

Secret Scribe said...Thank you Evil Editor, and all those who have commented - your ideas and comments have been noted and I am doing some serious rewriting.

Anonymous said...Am I the only person who thinks that referring to Makona's "racial sensitivities" makes her sound like a freaking fruitcake (as demonstrated by E.E.'s hilarious dialogue) which seems inappropriate in a novel where the killing was racially motivated?

Also, "incensed that his sister had a non-white boyfriend"? You mean...a black boyfriend? Or a purple one? Or what? I think you'd be better served by "black" or "person of color."

Author said...I am seeking representation for BURIED SECRETS, a police procedural murder mystery of 96,000 words. Set against the unusual backdrop of contemporary South Africa, it will appeal to lovers of mysteries everywhere, much the same way that Donna Leon’s novels have a broad following in this genre.

A well-liked and religious archaeology student was brutally tortured before she was murdered. The scene is staged in a way that points to a ritual murder but the contrived set-up does not convince newly partnered detectives Andrew Phillips and Lindiwe Makona.

For one thing, the victim’s ex-boyfriend is missing. When he is finally found he is in a coma from a severe beating and he was tortured in the same way as the victim. Why would the killer murder and then carefully pose the girl but leave the young man alive? The detectives quickly identify the victim’s militant right wing brother as a suspect and the ritualistic aspects of the crime lead them to a practising Satanist living in the area. A close friend of the victim disappears and Andrew and Lindiwe don’t know if they looking for another body or if there is still time to save her. Then the ex-boyfriend is attacked in hospital. Andrew is determined to solve the crime and thereby ensure the youngsters’ safety, but the suspects they have are cleared of the murder one by one, and they don’t have any new leads.

They finally track down the missing girl - hiding at a friend’s place. She fills in the details of a crime linked to South Africa’s Apartheid past and a killer who believed his secrets would stay buried forever. The killer kidnaps the girl from right under their noses and Andrew comes face to face with the killer in a final confrontation.

I am a South African, currently living and working in the UK. The novel is set west of Johannesburg, around the area where I grew up. My career is in marketing and I have extensive experience writing marketing and communications materials, which has taught me to rewrite, edit, accept criticism and work to deadline. I am working on my next novel.

I have included a synopsis, the first three chapters and an SASE for your reply (the pages need not be returned).

Thank you for your consideration.

Dave said...Good job. This is much, much better. It's not quite there yet. But it's much improved.
I dislike the first paragraph. But it's your query.
I think that this:

When the body of a well-liked and religious archaeology student turns up ritually tortured to death, newly partnered detectives Andrew Phillips and Lindiwe Makona suspect the victim's ex-boyfriend, but the victim's militant right-wing brother leads the detectives to a practicing Satanist, a red herring. When the ex-boyfriend is attacked a second time and the victim's best friend is discovered incommunicado, fearing for her life, she tells of a murder linked to South Africa's Apartheid past and a killer who thought his secrets would be hidden forever. Andrew and Lindiwe must confront their troubled pasts and a killer's desire to send past crimes to the grave in order to save the young girl.

is the sum of your second paragraph. The mention of the militant right-wing brother does not connect to the story as this is written. His involvement seems forced. You need to fix that.

Also you need to pump it up just a little. This is like advertising copy, make it happy, beaming and smiley-faced.

And your third paragraph is OK.

writtenwyrdd said...This is much better, but I also dislike the first paragraph comparison. I'd leave that out.

Another problem I have is with the description of a Satanist as a killer. You are aware that this is largely a prejudice and Satanists per se aren't generally criminals? Crazy people who hear Satan in their heads aren't satanists... And if you are talking about a religious element of the indigenous people, Satanism is the absolutely wrong way to describe it.

Just saying. Because your mention of religious victim and satanist suspect make you sound like a wing nut religious zealot...which might affect the reception of your letter.

The Author said...Thank you both. I am really struggling with this thing. Problem about the Satanist thing, it is in the book. They talk to someone from the Occult Unit and he sends them to a guy he has been watching, who is a practicing Satanist. Do you think this is going to be a problem in the book? It turns out that he had nothing to do with the murder, but is a bad guy (not because of his beliefs).

Evil Editor said...There's an Occult Unit? I suggest that instead of sending them to a practicing Satanist, he sends them to Satan. Who had nothing to do with this murder, but they pick him up anyway because of an outstanding warrant. 

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

A Certain Kind of Girl

1. She loves kittens and walks on the beach. She dances in the rain. She has been known to sleep on the muddy ground behind the freak show tent at a carnival, just so she can watch the sun rise from a Ferris wheel. She's wanted on four counts of arson. She consumes a live ferret at every meal. You know the type.

2. She can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you're a man . . . unless you mess with her golf clubs. Then, she'll crack your head open with said frying pan.

3. She's manipulative, clingy, and jealous of anyone who even looks at her guy. Everyone can see that she's an insane psycho. Oh, and she's killed hundreds of men over the years, but that's not as bad as it sounds, since she's immortal.

4. She's the kind of girl who would stick a huge bag of heroin in your underwear drawer and call the sheriff to tell him you're a drug dealer. When you're arrested, she means to call and let the sheriff know it was a practical joke, but somehow she never gets around to it.

5. She's sexy and she knows it and she's the kind of girl who wouldn't be caught dead at a football game but who will happily move in on the quarterback just to annoy her roommate who has a crush on him. Also, she's sleeping her way through law school.

6. She's tall and tan and young and lovely and when she passes, each one she passes goes, "Ah." Also, when she walks she's like a samba that swings so cool and sways so gentle, and when she passes, each one she passes goes, "Ooh."

Original Version

Meg Carter sees her first fairy when she's twelve. [Insert joke here.] By the time she gets to college, the supernatural doesn't seem that important anymore. Sure, she talks to dryads and bribes gremlins so they don't steal her date's keys, but there are other things to think about, like friends, [boys,] classes, [boys,] and the horrible girls her brother Fred brings home on vacation. The hidden world just isn't that big a deal. [Also, you tend not to encounter as many fairies and gremlins when you're in college as you did when you were a kid.]

Except that now there's a weird parasite out in the woods. It's magical, it's scary, and it eats people. Meg knows, because a dryad warns her— [I Googled "dryad," and I gotta say, the image results are interesting. Apparently there are a few bad dryads, but three fourths of them are the kind of dryads you want to fantasize about for hours. Or at least five to ten minutes.] but dryads don't talk anything like humans do. [Not sure what the point is there.] Meg and her friends aren't even sure what this thing looks like. As they try and fail to track it down, [No matter what kind of dryad it is, if it tells me there's a magical parasite that eats people in the woods, I'm gonna find an excuse to stay out of the woods. Why is Meg trying to track it down?] Fred gets involved with his worst girlfriend yet. [This makes it  sound like there's a connection between tracking it down and Fred's new girlfriend. Move Fred to the next paragraph and use this space to explain why Meg and friends are tracking down a parasite that eats people.]

Eva's manipulative, clingy, and jealous of anything [Are you sure you're not talking about Eva Longoria?] that takes Fred's attention off of her. Everyone can see that she's a psycho—except for Fred. But Meg doesn't have a lot of luck convincing him of that. [No guy likes to be told his girlfriend is a parasitic, manipulative psycho.] Besides, he's always had bad taste in women, and he's always gotten over it. [If you get over something, you don't have it anymore.] Meg figures Eva will go away eventually. She certainly doesn't connect her to the parasite in the woods.

Then Fred disappears.

When Meg goes to look for him, she discovers Eva's real nature: immortal, insane, and extremely powerful. [How do you discover that someone is immortal?] Like mortal men have done for hundreds of years, Fred's gone to her world. Like them, he'll die there, horribly, when Eva finds a reason to doubt his love. And she always finds a reason.

A Certain Kind of Girl is a 93,000 word urban fantasy novel. Much of it takes place at Brown University, which I attended for four years [(Two as a freshman, two as a sophomore)]. [I'm not clear on the setting. Fred brings home horrible girls on vacation. Including Eva? Where is home? Are the woods at home or at Brown? Do Meg and Fred both attend Brown?] I currently work as an editor at O'Reilly Media. [Can you get me on The O'Reilly Factor? I have a few things I need to say to that guy.] "Higher Education," a short story which involves some of the characters from A Certain Kind of Girl, will be published October 1st, 2007 in Spacesuits and Sixguns.


Is there anything supernatural about Meg? Does everyone have the ability to see fairies and gremlins?

Parasites are better off keeping their hosts alive, not eating them. Sharks and zombies eat people. Which leads me to ask if people are the parasite's host.

You make it sound like Fred is doomed. Does Meg make an attempt to rescue him?

As they try and fail to track it down would be better stated As they try to track it down--and fail--.

I think I'd leave the parasite out of the query. Drop the second paragraph and start the third one: When Fred gets involved with his worst girlfriend yet, manipulative, clingy Eva, who's jealous of . . . This would leave more room to tell us what Meg does when Fred disappears.

Selected Comments

writtenwyrdd said...The letter has a lot of extraneous bits to it, but overall I liked the idea of your story. I liked the beginning and thought it was a good hook despite its ability to also work as a straight line, lol.

One thing that confused me is that you use friends twice with apparently two different meanings. Friends, you say, are more important than fairies. Then you tell us that Meg and her friends try to discover what the magical parasite is. Seems like the fairy friends are in the second bit.

And perhaps consider why you call the mysterious thing in the woods a parasite when it is a human seeming predator.

Keep honing this one, I bet you can sell it.

pacatrue said...I like the idea very much as well. I'd want to get the first chapter to check the writing. Cool.

I was trying to come up with actresses to play Meg and Eva, but everyone I thought of played college students fifteen years ago, not today. I don't think Molly Ringwald can still pull this off.

freddie said...Cool idea! Your query is well-written. Focuses a little too much on "discovery" rather than the story.

It seems to me you should cover more ground in the query about how Meg manages to free her brother (assuming she does). You could cover how Meg learns Eva's nature in one paragraph, then get to the real meat of the story: Meg's search for Fred. Also, you only hint (albeit strongly) that Eva is the parasite. In the query, I would just go ahead and spell that out. (Don't make an agent do any extra work than s/he has to.) "When Meg learns Eva is the parasite, she finds herself in a race against time to find and free the only brother she will ever know . . . " Something like that. (I know, my example is total cliche, but you get the idea.)

Dave said...I think that you are looking in the wrong place for the query letter. I don't think that the hook is Meg's ability to see fairies, gremlins and dryads - a magic world. It's her search for her brother - how she finds him and how she saves him.

Gremlins stealing her date's keys is cute, but it's not a novel. Sister saves brother from death is a novel because it can discuss love, family and courage. That's where the query should focus.

Ello said...OOOOOOH! I really liked this query! I would absolutely buy this book to read. I definitely agree with the others that you can edit this much tighter. It definitely is longer than you need it to be. I don't have any other comments other than, WOW!, this sounds like my type of awesome story!

Anonymous said...How do you discover that someone is immortal?

You wait.

phoenix said...I'll start off by saying I like the premise in this query. But I also happened to have read your synopsis on the Crapometer, and I think while this story shows promise, the synopsis has the story -- right after where this query leaves off -- devolving into finding magic swords and a pretty stock ending. I think if you can envision a more original ending, you'll have a better chance at snagging an agent. IMO.

As for the query, Meg Carter sees her first fairy when she's twelve is maybe not the best hook for this book. It sets the reader up for two false assumptions: the story is about a 12-year-old (the sentence is in present tense) and that it will be about fairies.

You don't elaborate on that first sentence, so the supernatural doesn't seem that important anymore makes me wonder if it ever seemed important.

I also questioned the term "parasite." Not sure how Eva fits that definition. The query needs some motivation for Meg going after the parasite. If a lot of people are disappearing around a college campus, someone's gonna notice and call in the uniforms. A dryad's "warning" makes it sound like the dryad is warning Meg away from the woods, not into them. No need to go into the detail of the dryad not talking like humans. Meg figures it out so it doesn't matter in the query.

You can cut a bit from this query by tightening up the pretty heavy-handed 3rd 'graph. Also, the way the last sentence in the 2nd 'graph is written, it's telegraphing the last sentence of the 3rd 'graph, so you certainly don't need 5 sentences to get the reader to the point they've already figured out. A couple of sentences to get across Eva's personality ought to do.

Then Fred disappears. This is great. Even though we expect the event, the single short sentence is terrific pacing in this letter.

OK, you don't HAVE to give away the ending in a query. But some indication of what happens next would not be remiss.

Bernita said...Phoenix makes some *very* good points. And you should watch constructions such as "off of her."

jerseygirl said...I, too, saw this over at the Crapometer, and I actually like this shorter version a bit more (of course it's a synopsis on the Crapometer, which is always longer than a query).

I wonder about the opening sentence, as you don't talk about fairies after that: maybe you should drop that first line. In fact, you might consider dropping the first paragraph and reworking the second paragraph as your first. The second paragraph is where the action is (EE also has a point in starting the query with the third paragraph).

I like the premise, but I feel this needs to be tightened.

Good luck with it. :-)