Thursday, December 31, 2015

Monday, December 28, 2015

Face-Lift 1291

Guess the Plot


1. On a near-future Earth, one man must locate the three coins that fit into an ancient amulet, thereby acquiring the power needed to prevent the demon Ezerkial from stripping him of his title. Also, a cranky witch.

2. Sixteen-year-old Trinity is the daughter of the Queen of the Faeries, the Emperor of the Elves and the kitchen boy of the Tuatha de Danann. (Magic was involved.) Thanks to that same spell, only she can save the world when the 2,500-year-old Irish planetary shield develops a hole and aliens land in Nairobi.

3. Set at White Sands during the Manhattan Project, "Trinity" tells the forbidden love story of Dr Bill Overton and his assistant, Josef Makelshmidt.

4. Deter Brule gets a full ride music/dance/theater scholarship to Trinity College. When his impersonation of a celebrity for the ceremonial first pitch brings a record turnout for the season, the college starts using him for other events. College football will never be the same. 

5. Triplets Lee, Lei, and Lae hate being referred to as the unholy trinity--arson, blackmail, and counterfeiting are normal for kids their age. Then Lei is bitten by a vampire, Lae is bitten by a werewolf, and Lee is abducted by cultists thinking he's Bruce Lee incarnate. Poor cultists.

6. Fifteen-year-old Silvia is invited to the Mardi Gras masquerade party at the mansion on Basquem Hill, but she has measles. She goes anyway, with only a pillowcase on her head and a white sheet over her scanty pink nightie. But three of the partiers aren't disguised--the new owners: Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman. Ever seen a vampire with measles?

7. This groundbreaking mashup of Roman Catholic theology and classic humor opens with the Supreme Being, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit walking into a bar. Hilarity and epiphanies ensue.

8. Trinity is the last of a hermaphroditic race that were male, female, and the rare bemale. When a genetic-cleaansing robotic horde target him/her/gim, Trinity must find the tri-gem to restore order to the galaxy.

Original Version

Dear The Agent to Be Named Later

Dragons have emerged from seemingly nowhere. Witchcraft has become mainstream. [Those two sentences aren't needed. Having looked ahead and seen that you have two characters who are dragonslayers and one who's a witch, I can infer that dragons and witches exist in this time and place.]  Louden Ellery, Dragonslayer, rushes to help out a fellow slayer only to find he’s too late. Instead, he stumbles across an ancient amulet created to balance Light and Dark energies on Earth. [We don't need to know what he was doing when he found the amulet. Possibly we don't need to be told he's a Dragonslayer either, as this gives the impression we're in King Arthur's time, when dragons existed, rather than (having looked ahead) the near future.] Suddenly, a man of little faith finds himself the terrestrial Guardian of Yahweh’s and Satan’s power. [I note that we're capitalizing a lot of words that normally don't need it (light, dark, dragonslayer--but not slayer--, guardian. If this is just the Tip of the Iceberg, it'll get Annoying.]

The amulet’s power, however, is fractured. Three coins, [one] each provided by Yahweh, Satan and the Garden of Eden, respectively are missing. The amulet’s power and thus Louden’s will only be complete when all three coins have been returned to the amulet. Aided by a mysterious priest and a cranky witch, Louden begins a quest to find the coins before a group of murdering satanists and a demon, Ezerkial, with aspirations of world domination strip him of his title, a lifelong obligation. [I assume by "his title" you mean Guardian of Yahweh's and Satan's Power? Why isn't it Guardian of Yahweh's and Satan's and the Garden of Eden's Power? Not that I was crazy about the Garden being one of the providers of coins, but it was, so it should be given credit.] [Not clear what you mean by "strip him of his title." How come satanists have the power to strip the Guardian of his title? As they're "murdering" satanists, why don't they just murder Louden and take the amulet?]

Trinity is a hero’s journey set in the near future, chronicling Louden as he learns to control his new powers [His powers aren't complete without the coins, so what are these new powers he has right now?] and stop Ezerkial. It is my first novel. I have previously published a bi-monthly column and feature articles for a craft beverage periodical. [No need to tell us this, but since you did, I accept payment for services rendered in Samuel Adams Winter Lager.] [Also, lay off the suds when composing your revised version.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Somewhere on Earth there are three coins that fit into this amulet, and he's supposed to find them? I'm worried that whoever had them accidentally used them in a vending machine.

I take it whoever previously had the lifelong obligation of guarding Satan's and Yahweh's power died? You'd think there'd be a system in place for that situation instead of the job going to whichever person stumbles across the amulet. Were the coins missing from the amulet when the previous Guardian had it? If so, why didn't Ezerkial make his move then? If not, how did they go missing?

If dragons emerged in the near future, and they needed slaying, I doubt the job would go to individual dragonslayers. We have more effective weapons than Sir Lancelot had. Or did you fail to mention that witches made all the weapons except lances and swords disappear?

I think we need to know what will happen if Ellery returns the coins to the amulet, and what will happen if he doesn't. We know his powers will be complete if he does and his title will be stripped if he doesn't, but that's pretty vague. If the coins aren't returned, does Satan have an advantage over Yahweh? Seems like it should affect both of them the same.

No need to answer all my questions, but perhaps you can clear up a few points so I don't ask as many questions.

Ezerkial sounds like you misspelled Ezekiel. As you use the real names Satan and Yahweh, why not Google a list of real demon names and choose one?

Out of curiosity, is the title "trinity" Yahweh/Satan/Garden or Ellery/priest/witch or the three coins?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Evil Editor Film Noir Marathon

Having noticed that many TV networks are running marathons of such shows as Doctor Who, The Twilight Zone, etc. this week, I'm jumping on the bandwagon with a marathon of some of the Film Noirs that appeared here over the years. This isn't all of them, but it may be more than you can stomach.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

Below are some of the funnier Christmas-related fake plots that have appeared in the Guess the Plot feature over the years. Mixed in are seven that turned out to be actual plots of minions' novels. Can you remember/guess which ones?

1. When “undocumented worker” Carlos Cruz shows up at the day labor pool on Christmas Eve, the only guy offering work is a pequeno duende with bells on his shoes. Driving the sleigh is no problem, but will Christmas be ruined when Carlos has to take a leak at 30,000 feet? The kid who asked for the jar of marbles will probably think so.

2. While following yonder star, the three wise men find themselves in Rome. Lost and confused, they must depend on a senile mapmaker to get them back on their path to destiny.

3. Charlotte has a thing for holidays. She poisoned the marshmallow chicks in her first husband's Easter basket, strangled her second husband with the ribbon from the Valentine's Day chocolate box, and suffocated her third with the helium balloons at his own birthday party. Now, as Christmas approaches, hubby #4 wonders why that package under the tree is ticking.

4. Every year, Carrie's creepy boss has groped and French-kissed her at the office holiday party. With the antidote in her hip pocket, she waits near the mistletoe and keeps her tongue away from her poisoned lipstick. By this time next year, she'll be the VP doing the groping.

5. Christmas at the estate of Lord Ajax was supposed to be the climax of this year's social season-- and the moment Lord Ajax proposes to her. But Clarissa discovers she is not to be the recipient of a marriage proposal, when she discovers her Ajax under the mistletoe, locked in the embrace of . . . her brother.

6. It's Christmas, and Christine has no one to spend it with--until she gets drawn into an international drug conspiracy by hunky doctor David McLeod. Now that she's found true love, can she stay alive long enough to enjoy it? Also, Johnny Cash.

7. What started as an innocent kiss at the Devorson’s posh Christmas party turns into an obsession that leaves a trail of bodies from New York to Nevada. Beautiful detective Mary Sky must find the X-mas Killer, following the clues he leaves her, before Christmas rolls around again and his knife finds her under the Mistletoe.

8. Kelly Coosman volunteered to work the kissing booth for the parish Christmas Gala…it was the least she could do after Father McElroy rescued her from the streets of Chicago. But she’s been on her feet for fourteen hours straight, smooching hundreds of nicotine-fouled old men with rotten yellow teeth, and she's thinking prostitution wasn't so bad after all.

9. Confident his parents won't be getting him a Christmas present, Nate runs away from home and moves into Wal-Mart. When a night security guard finds him and realizes he's the missing boy she read about in the newspaper, she sets up a tent, gets Nate a sleeping bag, and helps him set up a household. Hey, the place gets lonely at night.

10. Nerdish Ferdinand Turnbull postpones his search for his father in order to pimp for all the hos in Bethlehem.

11. Time traveler Giovanni intercepts the Magi outside of Bethlehem and replaces the frankincense with sensimilla, dooming Jesus to be forever pictured as a long-haired hippie.

12. A guy who pees on her boots. A porn-obsessed crybaby. A cheese thief. Sofia always seems to end up with losers. Her latest boyfriend has just given her her Christmas present: a crummy loaf of bread! Is this the final straw? Or is this what she gets for moving to LA? 

13. Something sinister is afoot when the insurance office does its Secret Santa drawing and everyone draws Lucretia's name. Lucretia gets 35 gifts -- and a bullet in the head. Only mailroom boy Clark Cooper can both solve the mystery and deal with the Returns office at Macy's.

14. Sunol, California, 1998. Jeff Dunley and Mark Morris are engaged in an all-out, take-no-prisoners, no-holds-barred war between their rival Christmas Tree farms.

15. The true story of what happened that fateful night when three rich, swarthy, lost travelers asked for directions to the stable, but could not speak Italian.

16. Papa regrets telling the Santa Claus at Macy's what he REALLY wants for Christmas . . . when he discovers Santa is really an undercover vice squad cop.

17. Christmastime, gentle snow falls, merry Santas, bludgeoned girls whose hair falls over their crushed skulls like strands of silver . . . it's just another day for Rudolph.

18. Secret Santa is all fun and games, until Hayley opens her package and finds a human hand. Should she report it to the cops or investigate herself? How hard can it be to spot someone who's missing a hand?

19. At Christmas, Mandi and Daniel each make great sacrifices in hopes of providing the other with happiness. Will their sacrifices tragically render their gifts useless? Or will a robot MAGIcally save the day with his Deus ex Machina appearance?

20. When the scarves Aya is knitting for Christmas presents start to fray, so does her mind - convincing her doctor that knitting and mental illness are linked. Can he prove it in time to save his wife, a knittaholic?

21. Abandoning his family on Christmas day is the only decent thing Jeffrey's done for them in years. At least he didn't take all the presents with him.

22. When Mark messes up his solo in the Christmas musical, his dad is so upset with him he crashes the family car into a gasoline tanker truck on a foggy bridge while driving home.

23. Bob's trip to the toy store to get little Timmy something for Christmas turns into an epic battle of good vs evil when the evil elf running the cash register slips him the magic kaleidoscope he stole from Wizard Ferkle, who is desperate to retrieve it before the Dark Threesome can get their grubby hands on it.

24. As a nonogenarian wraps Christmas gifts for each of her relatives, she reflects on things they and others have done to annoy her over the course of her long life.

25. Sick of his stressful job guarding a labyrinth, the Minotaur applies for a position pulling a sleigh. Can the taurine recluse learn to be jolly and get the job before Theseus finds him?

Answers below.

The actual plots are:

6, 9, 10, 12, 19, 21,  22

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Cartoons for Nerds

In an effort to get a book nominated in the best humor publication category of the Eisner Awards, and thereby have an excuse to attend next year's ComicCon in San Diego, I've created a book titled Cartoons for Nerds (and Geeks), which includes the funniest of the cartoons from this blog that have a fantasy, science fiction, horror, superhero, science/technology theme. If you've been coming here for ten years you've seen these, although about twenty-five of them have been given new captions to fit the book's theme. Here's the cover:

I had them convert it to an ebook formatted for an iPad, but it can also be viewed on your computer, though you may have to click "view" and zoom out to get it the right size for your screen. If you buy it at Evil Editor's bookstore ($1.99, link in sidebar), I'll not only send you the code that allows you to read it, but I'll also send you the code for Evil Editor's History of the World in Tweets.

I also had a few copies printed, as I need one to submit to the contest. Like the EE comic strip collections, it's printed in color, but unlike the EE comic strip collections, which are printed on coated photo paper and are 8 by 10, this book is trade paperback size (6 by 9) on uncoated paper, and thus more affordable. By which I mean $12.99 including shipping to US addresses. Supplies are limited.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Face-Lift 1290

Guess the Plot

The Azemeon

1. When the world wavers on the brink of Ambigetton ... er, Arbategon ... er, Armageddon, a new hero emerges. She is a wonder of a woman, a powerful Amazamalon ... er, Azumaloom ... er, Azemeon ... she's just really tall.

2. In a world with magic and time travel, the fate of Earth lies in the hands of one teenager, as usual. But this teen has one big advantage, a gem that confers the power to read minds--a gem known as . . . The Azemeon! Or maybe it's the bad guy who has it.

 3. A scientist uploads the brain of Isaac Azimov into new world order robots which then fuse into the Singularity. It sends a clone of Mila Kunis back in time to improve the gene pool. Unfortunately, she ends up in an alternate history line on an island with Lon Chaney.

4. The voices of young spelling bee contestants are stolen by Dyslexia, the goddess of Sedsdog, and thrown into the labyrinth. Young stutterer Jason Petre-Piper must brave the dangers of the prison to save his friends as the Minute-tar slowly fills up the corridors. They must struggle without the aid of language in order to escape the Azemeon or die.

5. After the murder of Maya--the love of his life—total physics nerd Fred Azem creates a new device, the Azemeon, to convert aliens into porcupines. He solicits help from the more than five thousand members of the American Pawnbrokers Association. Still, two problems remain: the aliens have morphed into vampires and are set on sucking all pawnbrokers' blood; while Priscilla, the world's most influential porcupine, is dead set against aliens clogging up pure porcupine blood lines and she hires Borgo to disembowel Fred.

6. The jungle is a scary place, especially if your habitat is a water droplet left out during a total eclipse on the altar of a forgotten temple. At any rate, mutant-virus-infected zombie bacteria grown to the size of chihuahuas terrorize a research student named Moe who just wants to graduate.

Original Version

Someone is changing the past…and not for the better. [That's so vague it could mean anything. Get rid of it.]

There is magic in the world, controlled and concealed by a shadowy government organization known as the M.O.M. [If you're going to name it, use the full name, i.e. Mages of Mars or (more likely) Ministry of Magic.] But young Dephon Johnson [How young?] cannot worry about the severe penalties imposed for the unorthodox use of sorcery, for not only does the survival of his family depend upon it but quite possibly the fate of the Earth as well. [Who decides whether the use of sorcery was orthodox or unorthodox?] [Has anyone else noticed that orthodox religions like Greek, Russian and Eastern Orthodox proudly include the word"orthodox" in their names, but none of the unorthodox religions include the word "unorthodox" in their names? Why is that?]

With his mother’s life hanging in the balance, Dephon must travel back to an earlier time to save her life. But once he arrives there, he finds he is not welcome. A young man, his father, believes Delphon is insane; his mother-to-be fears him as a witch or a demon. [Dad thinks he's insane because he claims to be from the future but has no cool futuristic gizmos as proof. Mom thinks he's a demon because he has futuristic gizmos that seem magical. It's contradictory. Does he or doesn't he have cool futuristic gizmos?] And, worst of all, someone has come back as well to bring a tyrannical government to power decades before its time, thereby igniting a bloody reign of terror that will leave countless dead in its wake. And the names of Delphon’s [This is the second time you've spelled his name with an "l," while the first two times you mentioned him it was spelled without an "l." Change his name to Lloyd. That way if you leave off an "l" you'll have another one for backup.] parents sit at the top of the list of those to be eliminated [Why? Who are his parents?] —an unthinkable catastrophe their son must prevent at all costs…or he will never be born to end the madness. [How does De[l]phon know someone else has come back and what that person's plans are? How does he know who's at the top of the hit-list? Usually if you're planning to knock off a bunch of people, you don't warn them by posting their names.] 

The Azemeon is an 89,000 word young adult novel.

Note from author: The Azemeon is an ancient gem that confers the wearer with the power to read minds.


How can one teen with no friends or allies prevent a reign of terror? If the answer involves the Azemeon, maybe that should be in the query.

Why is D's mother's life hanging in the balance? Has it been hanging in the balance for decades?

I can live with a title that's a word I never heard of, but when I read the whole query and still don't know what the word means, I get annoyed.

Are the parents on the hit list because of who they are or to prevent De[l]phon from being born?

Is it sorcery that allows time travel?

Even if the guy starts his tyrannical government 30 years earlier, and our hero isn't born, can't someone else go back in time and kill the bad guy before he succeeds, in which case De[l]phon is still alive?

Somehow, preventing a tyrannical government from coming to power a few decades earlier doesn't seem like enough if it still comes to power eventually.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Face-Lift 1289

Guess the Plot


1. Inexperienced wannabe author Bill R. Lytton submits the only copy of his manuscript for professional corrections and revisions, unaware that work sent to Evil Editor is less likely to be edited than . . . eradicated.

2. In the post-apocalyptic city of New New York-york, four exterminators compete to combine classic technique with creative innovations against the tidal wave of mutant vermin overrunning the city. Will they win, or will they be . . . eradicated?

3. Maya knows the history of how aliens nearly eradicated all humans. But as the greatest living micro biologist, she has a plan. She works with total physics nerd Fred Azem to create a device that can convert aliens into humans and save both species. But it violates her colony's deepest religious beliefs. And the aliens, who now rule Earth, are not about to let it happen.

4. Humanity has all but been eradicated by intermarriage to the peaceful alien race that now populates the Earth. Only teenager Maya can save us, but she's about to find out that the aliens aren't so peaceful after all. 

5. When we eradicated the dominant species on the first planet we colonized, we figured we could create a new home on which humanity would flourish. Little did we know that the Mutalians would show up a few years later with the same idea.

6. Some dude named Kafka is crusading for insect rights. Will he bridge the gap between exo- and endoskeletons? Or will he be . . . eradicated? Includes handy instructions on building your own Geiger counter.

Original Version

Maya Richardson is one of the last remaining humans. Humanity has all but been eradicated by intermarriage to the Gliesians, the peaceful alien nation that now populates the Earth. [It's not marrying them that eradicates us, it's sex. Specifically, human women stop having sex with human men, most likely because Gliesian men are better at it.] [Also, the Gliesians sound more like a race than a nation.] Maya lives in a fledgling commune where she resided with both of her parents until they each disappeared, abandoning her for the glittering allure of the Gliesian society. [Do the Gliesians require that those who wish to enter their society first abandon their children?]

Unfortunately, her place in the commune is jeopardized when her best friend vanishes with the commune’s supplies—and Maya is accused of being an accomplice. [Supplies of what? How much stuff can one person disappear with?] Maya has to prove her innocence and convince the commune elders of her loyalty [Do the elders have to prove her guilt?] in order to take her rightful place in the commune hierarchy. [Once you've declared that humanity has been virtually eradicated, I find it hard to care whether Maya Richardson takes her rightful place in the hierarchy of a fledgling commune.] [Also, it sounds odd for a "fledgling" commune to have elders. Unless, by "elders" you don't mean people who've attained their positions of power through longevity, but simply people who are older than other people.]

But Maya has a secret. Actually, she has two secrets: one that can save the commune [From being depleted by those who leave to have sex with Gliesians? Or are they under attack?] and the other that can save humanity. Unfortunately exposing one of her secrets will get her kicked out of the commune. [To hell with the commune. She's better off without them.] If she exposes the other, she'll find out that the aliens aren’t so peaceful after all. [You know that, but does she know it?]

Eradicated is an 80,000 word young adult novel. May I send you the full manuscript?


It's hard to buy that enough Gliesians could be transported to Earth to eradicate humanity through intermarriage. It would take millions of them. Presumably about 100,000 show up and reproduce until there are millions. But even so, there are billions of us, so there wouldn't be enough Gliesians to marry. Polygamy would help solve that problem, but it's only the children who would be alien/human hybrids; it would take a hundred years for all the original humans to be die out. At which point, if almost all Earthlings are alien/human hybrids, isn't it true that almost all aliens, the ones Maya is going to find out aren't so peaceful after all, are hybrids as well? Perhaps half the Gliesians go around impregnating human women while the other half keep the alien strain pure?

The fact that Maya is one of the few remaining humans suggests that her parents were among the few who didn't buy into the Gliesian hype. Which seems at odds with their abandoning her.

What's so alluring about the Gliesian society that virtually all humans want in, even if it means abandoning their children? Are they drugging us? Hypnotizing us? Is that the secret you won't, for some inexplicable reason, reveal to the agent you're querying?

Do these Gliesians look like humans? Because I can't see a lot of humans wanting to marry aliens who look like Ferengi. 

Friday, December 04, 2015

New Beginning 1051

Guard Tali Adilrein crept through the warehouse, searching. Would a child who'd snuck in climb the towering bales of wool to look out through the high iron lattice? A normal human wouldn't detect the rancid scent of ancient enchantments in the metal, not with the reek of camphor. Would they notice the dead moths around the bars? If the child touched the lattice, could they be too hurt to call for help?

Gulls cried from the harbor in the distance. Faint scuffs tapped the bale above where a cat prowled along the edge of a spider web. A cat could sound like a young child, too young to be the one Tali'd heard. She crept onwards. The measured tread of the duty guard paced the floor. Thuds punctuated the voices of laborers stacking bales onto carts. A child whimpered with fear, beyond the outer wall? Roughly northeast.

Tali jogged back to the guardroom. She ducked through the curtain over the entrance.

Mirran said, "Find someone?" He looked up from wiping the table.

"They're outside," said Tali, striding to the door.

Tali hated this time of year. Children, always children, sneaking in, climbing in. She'd find them later, torn apart by the guardians or trapped in the gargoyle pens. Why did they insist on breaking into Santa's warehouse to see if they'd been naughty or nice?

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: khazar-khum

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

New Beginning 1050

Three corpses dangled by ropes around their necks from the branches of the enormous border oak. Though rotted by time, the corpses still retained a mostly human shape, if you ignored the long tails. The breeze shifted. Carrion stench swept over the makeshift slave market.

Or, rather, the market of spies pretending to be slaves.

“Do they really think we're that stupid?” said Korus.

Psiris said, “They're expecting--”

“Dismount!” said Captain Nisin, suiting action to word.

The six men in the patrol meandered towards the market, leaving the two dogs guarding the horses at the top of the hill.

One of the slavers met them with open arms. “Good day, good sirs, and welcome. Are you looking for anything in particular? Oh, but I get ahead of myself. Come sit in the shade and allow us to display our wares.” The slaver led them to a tent with one side open.

"Here's a good one," said the slaver. "Tough, strong, women want him, men want to be him. Tell them your name."

"Bond," the muscular man hissed through clenched teeth. "James Bond."

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: khazar-khum

Friday, November 27, 2015

Success Story

Dave Fragments reports:

Dear EE,
This is a success story in two ways.

1) Last May or June you offered to edit 70K words for a charitable donation to FARM SANCTUARY in place of the Brenda Novak Fund Raiser. Farm Sanctuary and I have a happy relationship. I took your edits and worked the stories into an anthology. It is now in print and Kindle format and available for sale. The links are below.

2) I checked through Blogger and 8 of the stories were “New Beginnings” and 1 story started out as a “Writing Exercise.” For some reason (unknown to me) 1 story I just wrote. I make those stories in the blurbs below.
Thanks for your blog and all the effort it takes.

FUTURES YET UNKNOWN: Dreams Become Reality
Ten Stories by Dave Fragments
-A hunting expedition on an alien world -- NB-821
-An Alien serial murderer and a furry detective with fleas
-Murder on an alien world with altered humans -- NB-851
-A new frankenstein, conceived in metal with a human brain -- NB-868
-A man on trial for betraying the human race to robots -- NB-971
-Devils, demons and ghosts come to visit -- NB-246
-Ambitious survivors of a plague war -- NB-974
-Cyborgs trying to be human once again -- writing exercise 2 Dec 2007
-Six friends in the strangest sinkhole ever discovered -- NB-925
-The truth about a world drowning in rain, without sun, without hope -- NB-1038

CreateSpace, print --
Amazon Kindle --
Amazon US, print --
Amazon UK, print --

EE Moonlighting on Black Friday

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Face-Lift 1288

Guess the Plot

The Feast of Masks

1. As the kingdom of Galailia prepares for the sumptuous Feast of Masks, at which every maiden of age is matched with whatever noble chooses her, one feisty, raven-haired countess thinks she's beat the system by sending a shape-shifting goblin in her place . . . until her secret crush picks the goblin.

2. Only one woman can prevent a dragon from augmenting its power and laying waste to the city during the Feast of Masks festival. But in doing so, will she become an even greater threat than the dragon? Also, in the broad scheme of things, does it really matter?

3. When the Queen of Al Laheria dies, a Feast of Masks is held to choose her successor. All women between the ages of 13 and 30 are required to attend. Rabinah desperately hopes to be chosen. But with 5000 other girls attending, how can she increase her chances of being chosen and escaping poverty? Also, why should readers care?

4. Nothing is what it seems, there's an elusive secret, and a young serving boy must make a terrifying choice that will change the course of the armistice banquet: red wine? or white?

5. A new fad diet has taken the world by storm. It turns out plastic Halloween masks have half the carbs of a slice of bread. Little does the public know that this is the dastardly new scheme of mad scientist Dr Petar Vlodstolk, whose wife has recently opened a costume shop. He doesn't want to see her become depressed after yet another failed business.

6. Everyone who's anyone was invited, but when the guests remove their masks at the end of the Feast of Masks, they find their faces have changed. They all look exactly like their masks. It's a total disaster . . . Although you don't hear the woman who wore the Kate Middleton mask complaining.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Years ago, Tali Adilrein abandoned the practices of the dragon path and sealed away the destructive magic they gave her.

When Tali rescues the Commissioner of Customs’ niece from smugglers, she's hired as the girl’s bodyguard. Her none-too-happy client is a dragon treasure: Her gifts can catalyze spells for those on the dragon path. Her life can augment the power of a dragon. [Meaning the dragon must kill her or just use her?] [Is the girl "none-to-happy" because she's a dragon treasure or because she's stuck with a bodyguard?]

The smugglers awoke an imprisoned dragon. It's influencing them to bring it treasure to fuel its magic. When it acquires sufficient power, it will lay waste to the city. [
Not clear whether the smugglers woke the dragon while trying to abduct the girl, or had awakened the dragon previously, and were trying to abduct the girl for the dragon.]

The dragon spreads its influence to one of Tali's allies. [Unlike Tali's alleys, Tali's allies is a good tongue twister.] [Also, what do mean by Tali's allies? Allies against what enemy?] It hunts her client with magical flames. Tali returns to the dragon path to protect the girl. In doing so, she may become as great a threat as the dragon. 

The Feast of Masks is a stand-alone fantasy adventure with series potential, complete at 111K words. I’m currently working on another book set in the same world.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Was Tali in the bodyguard business before she rescued the girl?

The last two plot paragraphs need more sentence variety. Those short sentences read like an outline. 

 Maybe it would be better to start with the dragon:

When smugglers inadvertently awaken an imprisoned dragon, the creature compels them to bring it treasures to fuel its magic. If it acquires sufficient power, it will lay waste to the city. 

One powerful "dragon treasure" is Jane Doe. The smugglers abduct her, but Jane is rescued by Tali Adilrein, a woman who years ago abandoned the practices of the dragon path and sealed away the destructive magic they gave her. Tali is immediately hired by Jane's uncle as her bodyguard.

As the dragon hunts her new client with magical flames, Tali reluctantly returns to the dragon path to protect the girl. But in doing so, she may become as great a threat as the dragon. 

That introduces your main character in the second paragraph, which isn't ideal, but it also gets the setup into paragraph 1 instead of P3. And it leaves room to add a bit more information, perhaps showing more about the new threat the dragon brings besides "magical flames." 

Not sure we need to know Jane is the niece of the Commissioner of Customs, as we don't know whether that's an important position like adviser to the king, or a minor position like  supervisor of mail carriers. Just knowing the dragon needs her is enough.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Face-Lift 1287

Guess the Plot

Under the Rainbow

1. A fantastical adventure based loosely on The Wizard of Oz, but instead of meeting hundreds of Munchkins when she gets to Oz, Dorothy meets the over five thousand members of the American Pawnbrokers Association.

2. Dorothy, the world's first vampire, must travel to Greed City and convince Satan to release her from the contract she signed hundreds of years ago. Only then can she escape hell and find out once and for all if there's anyplace like home.

3. Mere days after returning to Kansas and professing her wish to never leave again, Dorothy longs for a world with color and the adrenalin rush of fighting witches and flying monkeys. But can she get back to Oz by clicking together the heels of her leather walking shoes?

4. At Area 52, an illegal rave in the Nevada desert, someone spikes the drinks with “Rainbow, a drug that makes speed look like slo-mo. When Marcia learns that Rainbow can only be synthesized in the atomizer her scientist parents designed, she realizes there's more to her nerdy parents than meets the eye. Can she uncover the true source of the drug before she and her friends wind up six feet . . . Under the Rainbow?

5. When Theodore brings his wolfhound Otto along to retrieve his grandmother's silver slippers from an estate sale, he's whisked away in a whirlwind of red tape to a land of drug-dealing imps, bricked music, and witchy strippers.

6. We can be pretty sure that if Dorothy had successfully boarded that hot-air balloon, it wouldn't have ended up in Kansas. Fly with her as the winds carry her to another wondrous land filled with danger and excitement. Also, a wizard who's not a fraud.

7. When gay rights activist and prominent drag queen Tuply Paper Mates is found strangled on a yacht belonging to prominent conservative talk show host Ross Bigelow, the media rushes in to crucify Bigelow. But homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: One, Mates was shot in the Hollywood Hills, not strangled; and two, having a boat in Marina del Rey probably isn't worth the hassle.

Original Version

Dear Agent:

Dorothy doesn’t remember anything after she’s staked and lands in Hell.

She doesn’t remember the contract she signed with the Devil hundreds of years ago, nor the thousands of people she murdered since then. [Once you've said she doesn't remember anything, no need to list a few individual things she doesn't remember. But since we prefer specifics to generalities, we's rather you get rid of the "doesn't remember anything."] But when an angel breaks into Hell, she tells Dorothy that, at the mere age of seventeen, she sold her soul to Satan for eternal youth, turning her into the world’s first vampire. [So Satan benevolently lets Dorothy exist oblivious to all the horrors she's caused, while this so-called angel spills the beans, sending her on the mother of all guilt trips?]

Now Dorothy’s regained her soul -- along with her guilt -- as part of her punishment. [How did she regain her soul, and why is that considered punishment?] But she learns if she wants a shot at redemption, she must travel to the City of Greed and somehow convince Satan to release her, something never before attempted. [If it turns out all you have to do is ask Satan to release you, a lot of people who've been in hell for centuries are gonna be kicking themselves.]

If Dorothy travels to the distant City, she faces a powerful demon that will stop at nothing to keep her from reaching it, claiming Dorothy is not out to seek redemption but instead to steal her title. [The demon's title? What is her title? Is this title in Greed City?] But if Dorothy stays where she is, [the book will end prematurely.] she faces her ultimate punishment – monster children with razor teeth tearing her apart as she tore others apart on Earth. [Hmm, an obsessed demon or monster children. Tough decision. . . . How many monster children?]

And as her memories start slowly coming back to her, Dorothy begins to realize this powerful demon has some connection to the night she sold her soul. [Why is that important?]

UNDER THE RAINBOW is a YA dark fantasy novel with series potential inspired by The Wizard of Oz, complete at approximately 78,000 words. It is written as a morbid and unusual fairy tale retelling for the audiences who enjoyed A.G. Howard's Splintered series and Danielle Paige's Dorothy Must Die series.

I saw on your website that your represent fantasy, literary horror and young adult. UNDER THE RAINBOW contains elements of each of these, so it seemed like a good match for you.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,


If we condense what you've written into something like:

Hundreds of years ago, when she was seventeen, Dorothy signed a contract with the Devil, trading away her soul for eternal life--and becoming the first vampire. Now that she's been staked and sent to hell, she seeks redemption. But to get it she must travel to the City of Greed and convince Satan to release her.

As Dorothy travels to the distant City, she faces a powerful demon that will stop at nothing to keep her from reaching it.

. . . you'll have room to tell us some of what happens. Insofar as you call this a "retelling," I assume Dorothy encounters allies who join her on the journey. Tell us the story, preferably without resorting to simply listing Dorothy's friends and the obstacles they overcome.

Was there small print in the contract that specified her life would be eternal only if she didn't get staked?

Friday, November 06, 2015

Face-Lift 1286

Guess the Plot

The Burnt State

1. The Empire is the greatest endeavor in the history of man. Now someone wants to burn down the whole thing. Eldritch was preventing this, but he's given up so it's up to his granddaughter. But what can one six-year-old do?

2. Someone is setting forest fires in Idaho then harvesting the burnt wood to sell as charcoal. The governor enlists the over five thousand members of the American Pawnbrokers Association to investigate and apprehend the perpetrator. But they refuse because they are getting charcoal at a huge discount.

3. Lia is immortal thanks to her phoenix blood giving her the chance to rise from her ashes every 80 years or so. Problem is, her ashes are always transported to a different country and it's a bummer to have to learn new languages and fit in to some weird culture when she has no money or identity there. At the moment she's really loving access to indoor plumbing and smart technology in beautiful Tuscany and so frankly is doing anything to avoid...the burnt state.

4. A pyrokinetic vampire must team up with an asthmatic djinn to save the state barbecue competition after a freak tornado rips through the largest firework show in Oklahoma history. Can ya'll say "firenado"?

5. No longer able to stand the overpriced world of Los Angeles, firefighteer Jessica Maclain moves to Abilene, Texas. But when the drought triggers a massive firestorm, her old captain begs her to return to...the Burnt State.

6. Five medical students at a small New England university do experimental laser neurosurgery on themselves to see if they can make themselves smarter. The laser treatments turn them into geniuses, but the effects are temporary. They persist with the experiment, amaze their professors, and go around town claiming they're a coven of vampires. Their brains are starting to fry.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Eldritch Ramsay is not going to let his grandson die.

He's going to give in and let the Empire, the greatest and most unselfish endeavour in the history of man, burn.

Let the heroes and patriots save it if they can. [Why is that three paragraphs instead of one?] [It's vague. I'd be more interested if I knew specifically what's going on. Apparently someone has told Eldritch, I will kill your grandson unless you let us burn the Empire. Which leads me to ask, How is this one guy preventing those with the power to burn the entire Empire from doing so? It's like the Death Star shows up to destroy her planet, and Princess Leia tells Darth Vader, Don't do it, and he, instead of laughing and just doing it, says, Either you allow me to do it, or I kill Luke.]

On the other side stands Indy Ramsay, his granddaughter. The best of the aforementioned patriots, in heart if not in proven ability.

Many over few. Always. The greater good. Always. This is what her grandfather has taught her. [If I'd known her grandfather was Spock I would have gone with a Star Trek example instead of Star Wars.] ALWAYS.

She will live by it. She will fight, and prove herself worthy of the Empire and the validation that was denied her.

She will ensure the survival of the Empire, Ever Eternal, at any cost. [Who is she, Supergirl? Unless this is a world where disputes between empires are settled by champions in cage matches, I don't see how this one girl/woman fighting can ensure anything.]

Then what if the cost be Eldritch? [The greater good. ALWAYS. She will live by it. Eldritch is screwed.]

THE BURNT STATE is a fantasy novel, complete at 112,000 words. I am an anonymous voice speaking to you from the ether. [I'll do the jokes, if you don't mind.] This is my first novel (If voices can be said to have novels)

Thank you for your time and consideration.



The whole thing is vague. What makes the Empire so great? Who wants to burn the Empire, and why? What's stopping them? It sounds like grandpa has been stopping them, but how? How old is Indy?

It sounds like Indy is the main character. Start with her. Tell us about this validation she was denied. List her super powers. Then tell us how she plans to accomplish her main goal, and what goes wrong. What's her big decision when the moment of truth arrives?

We're more interested in your story than your theme. If you describe the plot well, we'll figure out what the theme is. 

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Q & A 190

Should italicized internal dialogue be given a separate paragraph or placed at the end of a paragraph? I'm providing an excerpt from my book [Previously seen here in New Beginning 1047] done both ways.

Inside her first clubhouse, Lacy Dawn glanced over fifth grade spelling words for tomorrow’s quiz at school.  She already knew all the words in the textbook and most others in any human language.  
            Nothing’s more important than an education. 
The clubhouse was a cardboard box in the front yard that her grandmother's new refrigerator had occupied until an hour before.  Her father brought it home for her to play in.  
The nicest thing he's ever done.  
Faith lay beside her with a hand over the words and split fingers to cheat as they were called off.  She lived in the next house up the hollow.  Every other Wednesday for the last two months, the supervised child psychologist came to their school, pulled her out of class, and evaluated suspected learning disabilities.  Lacy Dawn underlined a word with a fingernail.  
All she needs is a little motivation.  
Before they had crawled in, Lacy Dawn tapped the upper corner of the box with a flashlight and proclaimed, "The place of all things possible -- especially you passing the fifth grade so we'll be together in the sixth."
Please concentrate, Faith.  Try this one. 
            "A, R, M, … A … D, I, L, D, O," Faith demonstrated her intellect.
            "That's weak.  This is a bonus word so you’ll get extra points.  Come on."
            Lacy Dawn nodded and looked for a new word.  
I’ll trick her by going out of order – a word she can't turn into another punch line.  
“Don’t talk about it and the image will go away.  Let’s get back to studying,” Lacy Dawn said.  
            My mommy don't like sex.  It's just her job and she told me so.

Inside her first clubhouse, Lacy Dawn glanced over fifth grade spelling words for tomorrow’s quiz at school.  She already knew all the words in the textbook and most others in any human language. Nothing’s more important than an education. 
The clubhouse was a cardboard box in the front yard that her grandmother's new refrigerator had occupied until an hour before.  Her father brought it home for her to play in. The nicest thing he's ever done.  
Faith lay beside her with a hand over the words and split fingers to cheat as they were called off.  She lived in the next house up the hollow.  Every other Wednesday for the last two months, the supervised child psychologist came to their school, pulled her out of class, and evaluated suspected learning disabilities.  Lacy Dawn underlined a word with a fingernail. All she needs is a little motivation.  
Before they had crawled in, Lacy Dawn tapped the upper corner of the box with a flashlight and proclaimed, "The place of all things possible -- especially you passing the fifth grade so we'll be together in the sixth." Please concentrate, Faith.  Try this one. 
            "A, R, M, … A … D, I, L, D, O," Faith demonstrated her intellect.
            "That's weak.  This is a bonus word so you’ll get extra points.  Come on."
            Lacy Dawn nodded and looked for a new word. I’ll trick her by going out of order – a word she can't turn into another punch line.  
“Don’t talk about it and the image will go away.  Let’s get back to studying,” Lacy Dawn said. My mommy don't like sex.  It's just her job and she told me so.

I would place internal dialogue in the same paragraph, not a separate one. If it's in a separate paragraph we have no way of knowing which character is thinking it, unless you add an unitalicized tag like "Lacy Dawn thought" or "Faith wondered." Even when the internal dialogue is in the same paragraph, an occasional "she thought" isn't a bad idea, especially if it's not a lengthy thought.

I don't see why Please concentrate, Faith.  Try this one. is internal. Why wouldn't she say it aloud?

It's common for a scene to be described from one character's point of view, and since no one knows what another character is thinking, you wouldn't be able to provide internal dialogue from two different characters in the same scene, as you do here. An omniscient narrator would know everyone's thoughts, but if we have an omniscient narrator, that's one more person to which the italicized words could be attributed if they're in a separate paragraph.

Also, as I said in New Beginning 1047, these particular snippets of internal dialogue aren't especially useful to the narrative. Use it sparingly. If a story is told well, the reader can usually figure out what the characters are thinking. It's when the characters aren't thinking what we'd expect that internal dialogue is most helpful. As in this scene from Annie Hall:

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Face-Lift 1285

Guess the Plot


1. Todd is 16 and he's always wanted to be a girl. He runs away from home and takes a new street identity, "Lily." After a few years of hooking and doing meth, he finds new self-respect and becomes an inspirational speaker at high schools. In the triumphant finale, he wins a $70 million lawsuit against Jodi Picoult for writing his life story as fiction with only slight name changes.

2. In a world where time is currency, the heir is kidnapped as a bargaining chip for a slave's freedom. But does the leader have time to spare? Will the slave run out of time? And would either be good or bad? It's all kind of . . . recondite.

3. Quint invents an AI called "Recondite" that operates on obscurities and abstractions. He loads it into a droid modeled after Robert Pattinson and turns it loose at San Diego State, where it wreaks havoc on the ladies of the French Literature department.

4. An apocalyptic cult named cryptically 'Recondite' hides in the mountains of Montana as a lone FBI agent tries to crack their secrets, hoping for a promotion. Instead, he will get a taste of the end of days.

5. When an agent receives a manuscript with an obscure one-word title, it's up to the more than five thousand member National Pawnbrokers Association to decipher the clues and bring the book to publication.

Original Version

Dear (Agent),

I am sending my query to you in hopes that you will consider representing RECONDITE, a NA contemporary sci-fi novel, complete at 92,000 words. I have included a synopsis and the first 10 pages of my manuscript for your consideration. If you would like a larger sample, or the entire manuscript, you may contact me using the information below my signature. [Zzzzzzzz. Snort. What? Oh, right, queries. Recondite. Wait, that's the title? A word that's obscure, abstruse, and that few people understand? What does it even mean? I'm not interested in a book that makes me feel stupid before I even open it.]

New York City is breeding a terrifying secret. In an underground Compound, [No need to capitalize that.] an ancient community births a hidden society [Are you sure that shouldn't be "an ancient society births a hidden community"?] of people called Recondites. ["Recondite" is a noun?] Enslaved to a debt system where time is currency, Recondite lives are signed away to the Compounds’ [Apostrophe in wrong place.] leader, the Generational. [Since when is "generational" a noun? It sounds like a combination of "general" and "irrational."] With their every move monitored by internal tracking technology, the only way to gain their freedom is to run out of time. [You've run out of time, by which I mean the agent has moved on to the next query. But Evil Editor will forge onward.] ["Running out of time" is considered a bad thing. Gaining freedom is good. Maybe there's a clearer way to state what they must do to gain their freedom.] 

Twenty-year-old Recondite Liam wants out of his servitude, but the disappearance of his sister is the crux in his escape plan. [The crux? That makes it sound like he needs her to disappear. Do you mean the snag/crimp/hitch/stumbling block ?] Riddled with guilt over wanting to leave her behind, Liam decides a trade is the only way to get her back: the Generational’s heir for his sister. [Just one problem, he has absolutely no conceivable way of acquiring the Generational's heir.]

Clueless to her inheritance, twenty-year-old heiress Sahar Ihsan awakes terrified in Liam’s home [The enslaved have their own homes?] with no recollection of how she got there. [Well, that turned out to be easier than I expected.] [Why refer to her as the heir and as the heiress? We might think they're two different people.] Desperate to return home, Sahar tries to figure out their connection. [She has to figure it out? Can't she just ask Liam?] [Also, when you've been kidnapped by a stranger it's often for ransom, and there's no "connection."] [In a world where time is currency, you'd assume a kidnapper would demand time as ransom, but because running out of time is a good thing here, the kidnapper would say, you can have your heir back, but first you have to also take all my time. It makes for a confusing negotiation, akin to a kidnapper in a money-based society paying you to take back his hostage. Which is what happens in "The Ransom of Red Chief." I haven't thought of that in decades.] When Liam is forced to unveil the horrifying secret Sahar’s community has kept hidden from her, Sahar is faced with an impossible decision: take her rightful place as heiress or help free the man she was never meant to meet. [Help free Liam? I thought she was Liam's prisoner, and had to decide whether to help him free his sister.]

RECONDITE is my debut novel. I currently reside in Philadelphia.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Put the first paragraph at the end, and shorten it to one sentence. 

Is everything underground? 

What do you mean by Sahar is "clueless to her inheritance"? Does she not know she's the heir, or just not know exactly what she'll inherit? 

The horrifying secret Sahar's community has hidden from her is that her community has birthed a hidden society of people enslaved to a debt system where time is currency? I doubt she'd find that horrifying. I doubt she'd have any idea what it means.

Dump the whole thing. It's too recondite. Start with something like:

Twenty-year-old Liam wants out of his servitude, but his escape plan hits a snag when his sister goes missing. He decides a trade is the only way to get her back, but first he'll have to kidnap the Generalissimo's heiress. 

Possibly even that leads to too many questions. Maybe start with Sahar waking in Liam's home, where he tells her in clear language what's been going on under her nose.

The important thing is to get to a main character up front. We want to read about people, not communities and societies. And get rid of "Generational" and "Recondite." They're killing you. You know a title sucks when only three people submit fake plots--and I'm not sure whether the first fake plot was supposed to be for this title or another one.