Saturday, February 28, 2015

Face-Lift 1251

Guess the Plot

The Door

1. It's 2020, and the last living member of a seminal 60's rock group wants to go out with a bang.

2. One by one the members of the 1960s rock band "The Doors" are murdered. Seventy-year-old guitarist Robby Krieger is the last man standing. It's kill or be killed.

3. Alternate history in which Jim Morrison, instead of starting a band, goes on American Idol hoping for a solo career, but finishes ninth.

4. Cindy Sanders' garden is her pride and joy. Black spot, snails, and weeds are dealt with with ruthless efficiency. But when an enormous red door appears in her rose-bed, she isn't quite sure how to handle it. Especially as the door leads to an inter-dimensional hothouse full of brain-sucking slugs and elephant-sized greenflies.

5. Subject 00EG417 awakes locked inside a sterile white room. With no food or water, and needing medical attention, she must get out. But will she be any better off on the other side of . . . the door?

6. A former Wiccan turned prep school admin Chloe 'Rainbow' Rowe discovers that Fate closes one door to open another when she is forced to return to abandoned practices to fight off demons that try to take over the Holy Lady Prep School

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor

It’s been ninety-seven days since subject 00EG417 awoke from [in] her pod. Thousands of feet underground, locked inside a sterile white room, [waiting for the sun,] she is safe from the sickness above. The doctors that made her and the other engineered humans watch over her. [That sentence could mean the doctors and the other engineered humans are watching over her. If it read: The doctors that made her watch over her and the other engineered humans, there'd be no ambiguity.][Anyone who spends ninety-seven days watching someone in a sterile white room would have to be nuts. But then . . . People are strange.] 

Then the power goes off and the doors open like gapping [gaping] mouths, ready to swallow her up. She steps out into a white hallway and finds the others. [The others being subjects 00BS624, 00BP666, 00UV435, 00FH451, BH90210, and 00U2INXS.] They wait for doctors that never come. There is no food or water and one of the boys is vomiting blood. The sickness is here and they will die within days without help.

She steps into a labyrinth of laboratories, larger than she ever imagined. [That suggests she knows she's in a labyrinth of laboratories, but imagined it was a smaller labyrinth. How does she know it's a labyrinth of laboratories at all if she's never actually been outside her room? If I woke up locked in a sterile white room I'd assume I was in a psych ward or a weird prison, not a small labyrinth of laboratories.] In every abandoned and destroyed room she finds more dead. The doctors have been executed and they could be next. To survive, subject 00EG417 will have to find the door to the above [, break on through,] and face a world she knows nothing about. [Why does subject 00EG417 have to  do this? Can't all the subjects work together?] 

THE DOOR is a 60,000 word YA Sci-fi.

Thank you for your time and consideration. [The End.]


This didn't really light my fire. I mean, I want a query to touch me.

Seems kind of inefficient to keep these engineered humans thousands of feet underground for 97 days, but to not have any food or water there. Why are there no faucets for drinking and bathing? And a storeroom filled with food? Or at least a snack bar? Are there bathrooms? Don't the doctors need a bathroom occasionally?

I'm not clear on what an engineered human is. Were they engineered to be immune to the sickness? Because it doesn't seem to have worked.

You've basically set up the situation subject 00EG417 finds herself in. We want to know what her plan is and why it fails and what she does about that. What you've told us could all take place in the first few pages. I want to know what happens in the first 40,000 words.

There are few places on Earth that are thousands of feet below the surface. Just digging that far is hard enough without putting a large labyrinth of sterile laboratories down there. Of course anything's possible in science fiction, just hoping the book has an explanation for why they need these labs so deep.

Obviously we can't tell if a book has "white room syndrome" until we read the text, but declaring in the query that your character wakes in a sterile white room will convince some readers that it does. If you could describe the pod and tell us what's in the room and leave out that it's a white room, it might get you past those readers who will say Aha! White room syndrome! Next query.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

New Beginning 1041

They say that space is dark and endless, that it will kill you if you make a single mistake. They’re not wrong, really, but they miss the thing that is most likely to get you killed: your own smart-ass mouth.

When you’re hanging out in a rescue pod, giving up on hope as your water and oxygen dwindle, a person tends to reflect on their life. What you did wrong to come to be in such dire straits, etc. I know what I did wrong.

Let’s rewind. A month ago, I took working passage on a ship headed for Sol. Working because I couldn’t pay, going to Sol because why not? The old vids had a name for people like me: drifter. I have always preferred to think of myself as a child of the stars, bound to no place, a wide-eyed explorer conquering worlds old and new.

Anyway, like I said, I couldn't keep my smart-ass mouth shut.

We're heading for the sun, and I mention to my CO that only Polacks would go to the sun hoping to get there at night.

That's when Lieutenants Kaminski, Lewanski, Sapkowski and Kosti drag me over to the pod, shove me in, and lock the door. Captain Jaromyr Konstantin says something about God, and they launch my pod.

So now I'm hurtling toward the chromosphere and a fiery doom. Who woulda thought a ship called Aina Polka would be based out of Poland?

Opening: Anon......Continuation: Khazarkhum

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Hot Babes Holding Evil Editor's Books on Trains

This young woman obviously realizes that the best way to attract a man 
on a train is to flaunt her literary chops. Muttonchops, to be precise.

Never thought the subway was the best place to meet a doctor, 
but this MD wants everyone to know laughter is the best medicine.
Not the best medicine for all diseases. Consult your own physician.
Not recommended for spewers.

Decisions, decisions. EE or a delicious slice of chocolate 
mousse cake. Hey, why not have your cake and eat it too?

Coat casually tossed over her shoulder, favorite reading material on
display to any guy who leans into the aisle to check out her gams. She
boarded alone, but something tells me she won't be getting off alone.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Valentine Gift

Click strip to enlarge.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Face-Lift 1250 (Already 1/4 of the way to 5000!)

Guess the Plot

Oliver and the Underlings

1. Oliver has been trapped inside a query for months now. Will the creatures who live inside the book help him find a way out before EE rips the query to shreds? 

2. Puberty is a trying time for any teenage boy, but when Oliver finds his balls have learnt to talk life becomes intolerable. Not only do the sentient Underlings chime in at the most inopportune moments, especially when girls are present, but the hot and sweaty atmosphere is making them increasingly irritable. Can Oliver make peace with his testy testes in time to get a date for the junior prom?

3. Fifteen-year-old Ollie is an awkward genius. He invents tiny micro photo-robots, the Underlings, and plants them in cheerleaders' underwear. As girls disrobe, face-blocked photos are posted to a porno website. When three of them are abducted. Ollie knows all about it while the cops clueless. If he gives the data to the police, he goes to prison for teen porn. Somehow he must free the girls and capture the criminals himself.

4. Oliver Wendell Livingston wants to start a ska-steampunk band, like Springheel Jack or Steam Powered Giraffe. His financial adviser father decides to buy him a band that already exists--the struggling Underlings. But can they make beautiful music together, or will Oliver have to retreat to the family basement?

5. Bad enough that the creepy old man who's been after Oliver's mother for years turns out to be Oliver's grandfather; now monsters are coming out of the closet all over town. Oliver puts together a team to deal with the chaos in this middle grade story filled with adult sexual innuendo.

6. Oliver the poodle is highly protective of his family. So when he discovers a group of little goblins living behind the fireplace, he tries to warn the humans. But will they listen before it's too late?

7. Oliver has grand dreams of starting his own Mafia family. Unfortunately, he’s an orphan, his entire family wiped out by an unfortunate accident with a cheese grater and five peaches. If only he could find some underlings willing to crown him their godfather.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

All eleven-year-old Oliver Bradshaw wants is a normal life. A safe place he can call home. [A lavish wardrobe.] Some friends. That's hard to have when his [friends mock him for having a name that's an anagram of "lavish wardrobe" and his] mom is running from a creepy old man, his dad is missing, and monsters are coming out of closets all over his new town. [It's about time wolfmen and vampires and monsters came out of the closet.]

When the monsters kidnap Oliver's classmates, Oliver must enter their world to get them back. [Why is this Oliver's responsibility?] [Grammatically, "their" refers to Oliver's classmates.] [Where is the monsters' world and how does Oliver enter it? Can anyone enter it? By walking into a closet?] He needs an army for this rescue mission. What he has is his quick-to-scare best friend, a devil-may-care bully, and a friendly monster that looks like a wad of chewing gum.

Oliver quickly finds the monsters' world to be a complicated one, full of fighting monster clans and weird technology powered by magic instead of electricity. While there, he runs into his grandfather, a traveler between the two worlds. His grandfather is searching for Oliver's missing dad, kidnapped when Oliver was just a year old, and has recruited the ugliest, meanest-looking monsters in the entire underworld to help him. If that weren't bad enough, [Why is that bad? If you're on a mission in monster land, don't you want the best monsters on your team?] his grandfather is the creepy old man his mom has been running from for years. [Not clear why mom didn't recognize the creepy old man in all those years.]

If Oliver can't sort out his true allies from his enemies, not only will he fail in rescuing his dad and his classmates, but the monster war will spill into his own world, and nowhere will ever be safe again. [He needs a better goal than "sorting out" his allies and enemies. He needs to shut down access to his world by the monsters. How's he plan to do that?]

OLIVER AND THE UNDERLINGS is a 50,000 word middle grade fantasy novel.

By day, I work at a university, writing software to transfer electronic student records from one computer to another. By night, I write fiction to transfer stories from my imagination to the imaginations of others. I view both professions as a kind of magic. [Cute paragraph. Get rid of it.]

I have published short fiction in markets such as Spider, Stories for Children, knowonder! magazine, and Kids'Magination. I am also a graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature and the Gotham Writers' Workshop, and I am a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Thank you for the opportunity to present my work to you. My novel is complete should you desire to see more.



You say nowhere will ever be safe again if the monster war spills into our world, but as the monsters are already coming out of closets all over town and kidnapping people, is anywhere safe even now?

It's kind of listy. A list of stuff Oliver wants, of stuff that's going on, of characters who are his underlings and of stuff he finds in the monsters' world. Try to limit yourself to one list, and tell us the story rather than listing elements of the story . . .

. . . Which will be easier to do if you focus on one plot line. When monsters cross into our world and kidnap all of Oliver Bradshaw's classmates, it's up to Oliver to recruit a hostage rescue team. Unfortunately, the only allies he can find are his quick-to-scare best friend, a devil-may-care bully, and a friendly monster that looks like a wad of chewing gum.

Getting there is the easy part--every bedroom in town is a portal to monsterland. But . . .

Now you can tell us their plan and what goes wrong and why failure is not an option. 

Monday, February 09, 2015

Face-Lift 1249

Guess the Plot

The Water Still Rules

1. That old maritime saying, "Ships might sail on the surface, but the water still rules" (which I made up) inspired this story about a 17-year-old female Spartacus (even though the book has no ships or water; it does, however, have a magic tree).

2. Joy and Rock want their daughter Sylvia to take over the family drug smuggling business, but all she wants is to read pulp fiction. They hire a former teen idle to seduce her … but the plan backfires when his decapitated body washes up on the shore of their beach bungalow.

3. When Olaf Ardnolfson wakes up on an island, he has nothing but his sword, his clothes, and a vague recollection of the longship going under. He's not alone; there's a beautiful woman with a black dress and a belt of sealskin with him. But is she real--or a selkie?

4. Chloe loves the wet climate she lives in, but realizes the water has a mind of its own when her dates start disappearing on rainy nights. Are they really not that into her, or is the water a jealous and evil lover?

5. Apocalyptic Venice is overrun by masked goblins. Pierro’s sister is determined to join the goblins as their pet assassin, and his mother is too busy with her cheese business to pay attention to the goblin threat. Pierro must defeat the goblins and save Venice – but Venice has its own ideas about that.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

My YA Fantasy at 75,000 words, THE WATER STILL RULES, [My YA fantasy THE WATER STILL RULES, complete at 75,000 words] is the story of a teenage girl with magical abilities who is forced to fight as a gladiator. Spartacus meets the rich world building of Rae Carson’s A Girl of Fire and Thorns and a fierce female lead like Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series. [When you say "a fierce female lead like..." you need to follow with the name of a fierce female lead, not the title of a series. You can then add the series title as in: . . . a fierce female lead like Celaena Sardothien from Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series.] [Personally, I'd rather you talk about your story than liken it to Spartacus but with the Kirk Douglas role being played by Miley Cyrus.] [There's not enough to like about that paragraph to justify starting the query with it. Put the title, word count and genre toward the end. And resist mentioning Spartacus.]

For seventeen-year-old Aelia, life is a play [game] of hide-and-seek to protect the last Soultree on Earth - and the magic inside it - in the hopes that one day it will grow strong enough to aid her in freeing her people. Not like [that] she minds; hiding is better than being a slave to the Marasans – the people who took over their kingdom, enslaving or killing anyone with the ability to draw magic from the tree. [How is she protecting the tree if she's hiding? Is she the only one who knows where the tree is?] [In any case, I don't like the hide and seek analogy. 

But when she gets captured by the owner of a famous gladiator school, Saro, being a slave becomes the least of her worries. [The least? I would put it pretty close to the top of her list, right below the fact that her first match is against Borgo the Disemboweler.] Saro intends to make [back] every last [piece of] gold he spent on capturing her back by making her fight in the arena. [Why is he spending his gold capturing seventeen-year-old girl slaves who probably won't last two minutes in the arena? He should be capturing linebackers and lumberjacks.] With her family dead, her tree far away, she cannot rely on anybody but herself. To her surprise, though, she finds friends at the house. [The house? You haven't mentioned a house. I assume you mean the school?] People who make the endless days of work and training endurable. Especially Zenon, who trains Aelia for her first fight, and who - with his mischievous smile and honesty - starts to feel more than just a friend. But with that first fight coming up, she has to decide - they say escaping is impossible, but staying means hurting the very people she swore to protect. [Or getting killed without hurting anyone. Do they fight to the death?] [Escaping won't help the people she swore to protect. Even if she could get to her tree, the tree isn't strong enough yet to aid in freeing her people. Plus, how will she know the Marasans didn't let her escape so they could follow her to the last Soultree on Earth and destroy it?

Thank you for your time and consideration.


P.S.: My title comes from a saying "Ships might sail on the surface, but the water still rules." There's a revolution at the end of my book. The saying refers to the slaves as the water and the masters as the ships. [In other words, the masters sail on the surface but the slaves still rule? That doesn't hold water. I think it means that we may think we've conquered Mother Nature with our titanic ships, but one big storm at sea will show us that she still rules.]


While I realize that some men get off on watching girls fight, if you want to fill an entire arena, you need athletic gladiators who are juicing. Not teenage girls. A T-ball game isn't gonna fill Yankee Stadium.

Your fierce female lead spends her youth hiding, then gets captured. We want to know something she does that's useful. Get beyond the setup of her hopeless situation and tell us what her plan is, what goes wrong, what will happen if she fails to overcome the odds stacked against her.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Evil Editor Comics

EE's First Meeting with Grisham

Click strip to enlarge.

EE's Latest Meeting with Grisham

Click strip to enlarge.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

The Grisham Interview

It's John Grisham's birthday weekend, so what better time to revisit this rarely seen interview which was unearthed by ril back in 2009:

Friday, February 06, 2015

New Beginning 1040

The car was red and shiny-bright against the dusty road. The desert stretched away on every side; pale beige dust and darker dirt, little scrubby washed-out green stumps of plants, and occasionally a saguaro cactus, tall and faded, stretching its spiked arms up towards the bright blue sky.

The car, a Mustang convertible of indeterminable age and heritage, sped northwards, billowing white dust, a shining red dragon speeding onwards through its own smoke. The driver was a slim man, tall when standing, with a young, pleasant, handsome face. His hair was dark, ruffling in the wind, and his hands were long and elegant, pianist’s fingers that gripped the steering wheel. His eyes were dark, dark, dark blue; almost black in some lights, almost turquoise in others. He gazed steadily at the empty road ahead, occasionally glancing at the girl in the passenger seat next to him.

The girl was younger than him by perhaps ten years; also slim, also tall, with the same dark, dark, dark eyes. She sat very low in the seat in a position that should have looked ungainly, but which she somehow managed to imbue with a kind of languid grace that Cleopatra would have envied. Her hair was long and straight and dark, and the wind lifted it and played with it caressingly.

‘India,’ said the driver, her uncle Matthew.

She looked across at him.

He smiled. ‘Do you want the roof down?’

She shook her head. ‘No. Just keep driving.’

‘As you wish,’ he said.

India tried to concentrate on what lay ahead. Before too long, they would leave the freeway in her mother's red Ford Mustang convertible GT/CS with dark dark leather bucket seats, passing through little dusty towns until they reached the dark dusty place where her grandfather had died in a fiery crash all those years ago. She and Matthew, the last of his descendants, would perform the ritual and honor the memory of one who died so far from home.

"Here we are," said Uncle Matthew.

So soon? Sighing, India looked up at the sign.


Opening:.Alice Smales....Continuation: Khazarkhum

Monday, February 02, 2015

Face-Lift 1248

Guess the Plot

Chalk Circles

1. Wayward Collins has no magical abilities, which means he has to stay hidden from all the magicians and wizards and sorcerers vying for control of London. Will a wizard trap Wayward and enlist him to investigate a murder, or will Wayward escape by standing in a chalk circle?

2, Three years ago, before the bad witch pulled a Rip Van Winkle, she bound Eloise's sister in black circles underground. Eloise must find her grimoire in the tangles of the witch's hair, and rescue her sister before the witch wakes up and releases her legions of bat demons.

3. Pappy Chalk founds Chalk's Ocean Airways in 1917 and it operates until it's eventual obsolescence in 2007. Ninety years of adventures with sea plane passenger service between south Florida and the Bahamas are detailed in this true life saga. Chalk's was the oldest continuously operating airline in the world. The passengers included the rich and the famous from the roaring twenties to the high tech twenty-first century.

4. Demons are ready to invade your world and there is only one thing stopping them: Chalk Circles. Every time a teacher drew an "O" on their chalk board, a demon lost his portal. But with the advent of digital technology, fewer chalk "O's" have been obliterating the demon portals. Now a coalition of hipster teachers, led by Dexter Kale Haven (Dexter to his students), is all that stands between Earth and a demon invasion.

5. Every day after school, 14 year old Paisley Plottz takes Grandpa's strange old book into the yard and tries to make magic come alive. She burns her fingers, knocks over the fence, and makes the cat go bald, but nothing exciting really happens--until the day she draws the chalk circle.

6. It started with simple chalk squiggles. Then, they became drawings of children. Who were playing in fields--fields of corn. Circles started to appear. Was it ... aliens? 

Original Version

Dear Evilness,

London, 1867. The city is full of magical communities, all with their own agendas, [each with its own agenda?] all determined to own the streets. Those without magic are expendable, and for Wayward Collins, a man with no magic, no money, and no power, remaining hidden is the only way to be safe. [What about moving to Liverpool? Can't he move to Liverpool?] Magical politics are cutthroat even for magic users—Wayward getting involved would be suicide. He stays hidden, he stays neutral, and he stays alive. [I would drop those last two sentences; they either repeat what's been said or state the obvious.] But a miscalculation one night has tragic consequences, and he is trapped into the service of the wizard Lord Cadogan.

Rich, powerful and well bred, Cadogan is everything Wayward despises, and he immediately starts planning his escape. [Moving to Liverpool would have been easier than escaping from Cadogan will be. Plus once he escapes from Cadogan, he's still gonna have to move to Liverpool because he's right back in the same boat.] [Now that you've dropped a couple sentences from Paragraph 1, you can tack that sentences onto the end. It makes more sense there than here with the following sentence.] For his part, Cadogan sees Wayward as a coward without moral code or good manners—but even cowards can be useful, and when one of Cadogan’s footmen is murdered by magical means, Cadogan drags Wayward along with him into the ensuing investigation. [My footman's been murdered and I need someone to work the investigation with me. Should I use one of my trusted apprentices or . . . this coward with no moral code who slurps his soup?]

Although determined to drag his heels [while being dragged,] out of pure principle, Wayward’s attitude of studied isolation is shaken by unexpected events in the household, and suddenly everything becomes more complicated. [That was all pretty vague. If you don't have room to be specific about the "unexpected events" and "everything," just drop the sentence. ] The dead footman had his own secrets, certain magical factions are suddenly interested in the whole affair, and one particular police inspector [named Lestrade] just won’t leave the matter alone. Dogged by forces magical and mundane, Wayward is unwillingly entangled in the magic and power brewing in the heart of the city. Even if he manages to escape Cadogan, he must play very carefully to ensure he doesn’t end up as a pawn in the magical plots he’s spent his whole life trying to avoid. [Exactly. He's in the same boat. Explain what he's got against Liverpool.] [Also, why is it Liverpudlian instead of Liverpoolian? They do that with Blackpudlian too, but my question is, if they made a movie about a monster who rises from a toxic cesspool, would it be a cesspoolian monster or a cesspudlian monster?]

CHALK CIRCLES is a historical fantasy novel complete at 75,000 words. It is the first of a planned series, but will also work as a standalone novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Not badly written, but I'm sure your main character must have a more intriguing goal than to fade back into anonymity. Escaping from Lord Cadogan and going back into hiding is nothing. Maybe the unexpected events in the household that you fail to tell us about should be the crux of the query. Maybe Wayward wants to save London from its current chaotic state. What's he got going for him? Can Cadogan grant him magical powers? If he doesn't get involved in the magical plots he’s spent his whole life trying to avoid, wouldn't we rather read about someone who does?

Lord Cadogan caring about a dead footman is like Darth Vader caring about a dead storm trooper. Explain why he and other factions and Lestrade are so interested in this case.

Enjoy the first film in this double feature; it involves a chalk circle:

New Beginning 1039

My desires, before becoming one of the undead, were simple: party every night, and violate a goddess for hours. I achieved the former easily in my house in the English countryside, but was not naked with a goddess until my summer solstice orgy of seventeen sixty-three.

I was carefree and aroused on that hot, breezy night. Nothing was going to stop me from bedding every woman I pleased. But all I wanted was one of the thirteen naked women—referred to as goddesses, and hired to manage my biggest party of the year—to choose me as her pet. They were prostitutes with a mysterious pimp whose face I never saw without a mask. He went by Vlad. A friend of a friend had recommended him. I would mail a letter requesting his services, and a crow would return the next day with his obliging reply on crisp paper. A trained crow was a strange and wonderful creature to have.

The party began in my massive, oval shaped gilded ballroom used mostly for drunken, dirty dancing. Nearly one thousand people wearing Venetian masks stood under crystal chandeliers ablaze with lit white candles. Curious cherubs, virile gods, and sensuous goddesses watched us from the fresco on the ceiling. Whenever I looked up, I scowled. What did they care? Why wouldn’t they join us.

That's when I broke out my hunting rifle.

I had it tucked down the leg of my modestly Satanic trousers in the hope of attracting goddess after goddess, but if I was going to be ignored I was left with no alternative. When I put on my costume it was an easy matter to slip the rifle down past my hip; not so the unusually acrobatic feat of taking it out again while surrounded by hundreds of cavorting harlots. The best I could do was to unzip my flies to reach for the trigger and aim the gun by raising a leg. When it went off, I nearly lost a shoe, but those first few shots did the trick.

Goddesses and wrinkled bankers scattered in a reverse tsunami of panic and entrails. I could barely contain my excitement, hopping beneath the chandeliers with the devil-may-care pluck of a mongrel pissing on the door of a church.

Then a voice cried out — a pained voice.

"Stop Sir, please stop right away."

From the squirt of blood, the shrieks of horror, a tiny girl appeared, teddy bear clutched to her Marilyn Manson T Shirt.

"Those Satanic trousers of yours would fetch a mint on Ebay, but if you keep bouncing around like that you'll split the crotch. What say you take them off and we post a bid right now? I'll take the first hundred quid and you can keep the rest. You can even borrow a spare pair of my Daddy's trousers for a tenner if you like, unless it's your preference to continue romping around this Bacchinalian revel in your underwear like the people dressed as Satyrs."

My leg de-cocked, my hip clicked, and my eyebrow shot up. At that moment I must have looked like I was selectively epileptic.

"Fine," I said, "all we need now is a monkey wrench."

Opening: CavalierdeNuit.....Continuation: Whirlochre