Monday, March 30, 2015

Synopsis 43

Dear Evil Editor,

About a year ago you kindly lambasted a query letter for my YA historical mystery, A SERPENT IN THE GARDEN. The novel and the query have been extensively revised and retitled. New title is BURY THE DEAD: in celebration of the increased body count. I'm pretty happy with the revised query letter, but now I need a 250 word synopsis for a contest. 250 words is so, so tough. Here's what I've got. I look forward to your and your minions' constructive and hilarious criticism.

Sixteen-year-old EVA VON HIRSCHBURG fears she will live and die in her family’s forbidding castle, scorned ["Ostracized" would be a stronger word here.] for sins ["Atrocities" would be a stronger word here.] her parents committed. When a woman is killed at a nearby abbey, leaving behind a newborn baby, Eva is moved by similarities between the victim and her own dead mother. She vows to find the murderer herself and convinces the kind but reluctant BROTHER CLEMENT to help. [Not clear why Clement is in the query, as he's never mentioned again.]

Her investigation is complicated by the arrival of an unexpected suitor, the charismatic LORD FRIDERICH. Drawn to Friderich’s rebellious spirit and the chance to escape her oppressive family, Eva falls in love. [Someone once offered to help me out of a bad situation. I was grateful, but I didn't fall in love with him.]

When a potential witness is stabbed to death, Eva confronts her prime suspect, the cold and arrogant BROTHER KARL. He reveals that the first victim was his sister and she was having an affair with someone in Friderich’s household. [Does that strengthen or weaken Eva's belief that Karl's the killer?] [Is he her prime suspect because he's cold and arrogant, or is there actual evidence against him?]

When Eva approaches ["Confronts" would be a stronger word here.] Friderich, he begs her to relinquish her obsession with the murdered woman before she becomes another victim. [If you don't quit obsessing over that woman, you'll become my . . . er . . . the next victim.] Later, Eva prevents Friderich's friend, RAGENARD, [Anagram: Rodney Dangerfield.] from raping a serving girl. Convinced Ragenard is the murderer, Eva implores Friderich to bring him to trial. [I see she has a new prime suspect.]

When Ragenard is found dead, Eva realizes [that she must come up with yet another prime suspect.] Friderich was the woman’s lover. [Not clear what one has to do with the other. Were Friderich and Ragenard the only possibilities? Why was Ragenard a suspect? Ragenard is described merely as Friderich's friend, not as a member of his household. Is it known that the person having the affair is also involved in the murder?] Ragenard killed her under Friderich's orders [Should I care why Friderich wanted her killed?] [I have a lot of friends, but few who would commit murder, even if I ordered them to.] then attempted to blackmail him. [Surely anyone who's willing to commit murder for you would also give you whatever you want from him without your having to blackmail him.] [What does Friderich want from Ragenard?] Suspecting he intends to kill the baby, [If he wanted the baby dead, wouldn't he have had the mother killed before she gave birth? He had nine months to get rid of both of them at once.] she races to the abbey where Friderich ambushes her. Eva fights for her life. She is losing consciousness when Brother Karl enters. Friderich tries to throw Karl from a window. Eva saves Karl, but Friderich falls to his death.


What's so oppressive about Eva's family? Her mother's dead and no other family member is mentioned.

Also, it would be cool to live in a forbidding castle.

Let's clear up the Friderich-Ragenard relationship. If one of my friends ordered me to commit murder, he wouldn't be my friend much longer. Unless he was rich.

And if someone is required to take orders from me, I don't need to blackmail him. I'll just order him to give me his money and his nineteen-year-old daughter.

Dropping Clement would be a minor improvement. How about dropping Ragenard? He's taking up a lot of space, but if he's just acting under Fred's orders, leaving him out would let us focus the query on the main villain. And eliminate a few embarrassing questions. Plus, the fewer characters, the less boring. You don't want my mind wandering while I'm reading.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

New Beginning 1042

The woman pushed her cup forward on the sidewalk and tucked her bare feet under her blanket. A new swell of commuters spilled out of the underground, blinked in the morning light, and rushed past her. She fixed her eyes on the sidewalk and pulled her shawl forward over her face as a businessman in a Louis Vuitton suit aimed a two Euro coin at her cup. It missed and rolled away to land just out of arm’s reach. The woman ignored it.

At 8.15am a man wearing runners and pushing a buggy slowed to a stop in front of the woman. She lifted her shawl a little and narrowed her eyes. He was young, with bright cheeks and a scar under his left eye.

“I only have two Euro,” the jogger said.

The woman nodded her head. “A croissant only costs one.”

The jogger knelt down to fish around in the storage compartment under his pram. “You said you had something of interest to our organization?” he asked.

“I have the names of ten American agents,” said the woman. “I want three million dollars.”

“We’ll pay two.”

"Deal," the woman said.

The jogger wrestled a large black duffel bag out of the storage compartment, biceps straining against the weight. He tossed it on the sidewalk. "Cash okay?"

She handed him a folded piece of paper and confirmed that the bag was filled with cash. 

He unfolded the paper and looked over the list:

1. Miss Snark
2. Hannah Rogers
3. Kristin Nelson
4. Janet Reid
5. Irene Goodman
6. Donald Maass
7. Erin Niumata
8. Curtis Brown
9. William Morris
10. Jenny Bent

"Hey, just one minute," he said. "Two of these people are the same person." He looked up to find the woman long gone. 

Oh well, he thought, the joke's on her. We were willing to go as high as 2.5 million. 

Opening: Libby.....Continuation: Anonymous

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Click on covers to enlarge.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Face-Lift 1252

Guess the Plot

Spy Girl

1. Caught smoking in the girls' bathroom, Karen is threatened with a month of detention--unless she agrees to go undercover by joining the mean girls clique and snitching on them.

2. Fifteen-year-old Sacha is given her first mission as a government agent: infiltrating a prestigious boarding school before America's espionage network is seriously compromised, and bringing down a traitor. If this is what they give her as a sophomore, she can't wait till she's a senior.

3. Eighteen-year-old Juli, a high school senior, is incensed when a boy installs a nanny-cam in the girls' restroom. So she bugs the boys' locker room. The girls are amused to hear the boys talk about them. However, it results in romantic breakups and when Juli tries smoothing things over by putting it on the Internet, the FBI begins investigating child porn at the school.

4. After a plane crash, nine year old Petunia Higginbotham finds herself in the presence of a scythe-wielding man dressed in black, who challenges her to a game. Not particularly good at chess, she chooses I Spy. But, after solving "Black Box" and "Corpse", will she be able to figure out what Death is looking at with his little eye that starts with the letter G?

5. Henderson G. T. Thornbush is a man on a Big Bucks mission, a guy with a dream, a real top player. But life turns sour when he loses his hemorrhoid ointment and only Spy Girl can help him rediscover his mojo.

6. When the body of bestselling author Frank Stevens is found strangled by a lace teddy in the cabin of his yacht, homicide detective Zach Martinez knows two things: One, that really is Frank's teddy; and two--wait!--author of tough guy books like "Die Violently" and "Gun Guts" is the same person as romance writer Norma Macleod?

Original Version

Sacha Knox is a kick-ass, quick-witted fifteen year old who calls it as she sees it. Thanks to her unconventional father, she competes with the boys at her local Krav Maga club, speaks five languages, and can hit any target you dare her to shoot at.

Out of the blue, her father reveals the truth about her unusual upbringing: he is a spy. [It's taking Elizabeth an entire season of The Americans to break it to Paige that her parents are spies. This guy does it out of the blue?] And now, he needs her to become one too.

[Dad: Finished with your Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and Canadian homework?

Sacha: All done.

Dad: By the way, I'm a spy. And henceforth, so are you. Ready for your first mission?]

With knee-highs and Bambi eyes, Sacha can infiltrate where no adult agent can go. Add in her sharp mind and fiery attitude, and she might just have what it takes to complete her mission: to stop a rogue agent from selling the top secret identities of ten [American?] agents—a list that begins with [includes] her father’s name.

To succeed, Sacha needs to get close to the traitor’s charming and attractive teenage son at Kingston Preparatory Boarding School – home of tomorrow’s millionaires and [senators?] tomorrow night’s socialites. But Sacha wears jeans, not designer dresses, [Apropos of nothing, nowadays jeans cost more than designer dresses.] and she’s kicked more guys than she’s kissed. And with an interfering school principal and her target's snarky girlfriend getting in the way of her mission, Sacha begins to think her agency trainer might be right – she should stick to being a school girl and leave the spying for [to] the adults. But time is running out, and Sacha is the only option left. Can she pull off her cover, survive the dangerous world of subterfuge, and save her father?

Complete at 55,000 words, Spy Girl is a stand-alone YA novel with the potential to grow into a series. I have worked for the past eight years as a writer and editor of children’s books, with more than 30 books published by [Publisher #1] and [Publisher #2]. This is my first novel.

I believe Spy Girl will appeal to fans of the Veronica Mars and the Gallagher Girls novels, as well as anyone who loves to read about a strong female character juggling life-and-death adventures with being a teenager in high school. A few other agents are also considering this submission. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,


Not bad. I've designated a few phrases for possible deletion in order to free up space to tell us what Sacha has to do once she gets close to her target. As the list of names could be memorized or could exist in the "cloud," I assume the mission is not simply to steal it. Is she supposed to kill the rogue agent? Bait him into being captured? Kidnap his son for leverage? A bit more specificity about the mission would be nice.

If Sacha has such a sharp mind, how come she buys this story about her father being a spy? Teenagers never believe anything their parents say. Evil Jr. would have laughed me out of the room if I'd claimed to be James Bond.

Do the good guys know where the rogue agent is? I assume not, or they'd swoop in and take him where he'd never be heard from again.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

March Adness, Final Results

I checked the votes at 9 PM and there was a tie for 3rd place. At midnight, when I'd tweeted that voting would end, there was a tie for 2nd. But I hadn't specified eastern time zone, so to accommodate those in California and Hawaii, I waited till this morning, at which point there was a tie for 1st and 4th. In other words, the vote was ridiculously close.

Remember to click on ads to enlarge them. Several have fine print.

Winners (tie)

3rd Place

4th Place (tie)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Strip 3.05

Click strip to enlarge.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Monday, March 09, 2015

Scene from Evil Editor's forthcoming graphic novel starring Hercule Parrot

Click toon to enlarge.

Last Day to Vote

The eight posts beneath this one make up round 1 of March Adness--a tournament to choose the all-time best Evil Editor advertisement.

Voting in all match-ups ends at midnight edt Monday.

Several of the match-ups are currently tied, so your vote could sway the election. Ties at the end of voting will be broken by Evil Editor.

The most one-sided winners will receive the top seeds in round 2.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

March Adness Continues

Round 1, Day 8 

Vote for your faves in the comments. 
Votes will be secretly compiled
Once we're down to 32 ads, we'll start round 2.
Voting remains open on all games
until the entire round is posted.

Click on ads to enlarge them. 


Game 29: Street vs. Courier

Game 30: Bedtime vs. Crowd

Game 31: Mammals vs. Depression 

Game 32: Epic vs Marquee