Saturday, February 27, 2016

Evil Editor's Graphic Novelette

Excerpted from Evil Editor Strips Again.
Inspired by writing exercises that used to be on this blog.
Click on panels to enlarge.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Evil Editor's Cancer Diary

Reading someone's cancer diary is usually depressing and heartbreaking, and, if you're like me, scary, because you eventually start worrying that you'll soon be going through the same thing. So you'll be happy to know that this cancer diary isn't the kind where the patient has months to live and gets weaker by the day until there are no more posts, and you end up sobbing over someone you never met.

October, 2015. My doctor's office has been sending me letters and robo-calling me for weeks to inform me that I need to make an appointment. No specifics, like it's time for your rabies shot, just get in here, we haven't seen you in months, and business is a little slow, and you could have a disease with no symptoms and we prefer healthy patients because we don't have to worry about getting their diseases and now's the perfect time, unless you think you might have Ebola, in which case, never mind. So screw it. If I make an appointment, they win. On the other hand, the only way to get them off my back is to make an appointment, so I do. Fuckers.

November 3, 2015. My appointment. I've brought a list of everything that's wrong with me so the visit won't be a waste of time. My nose is reddish, my lips have a blue tint, I have what I think is a skin tag on my neck and a small area under my eye that I think is a chalazion. I made that diagnosis after looking up "sty" on the internet, and finding it was similar to a chalazion, which I'd never heard of, but when I Googled "lower lid chalazion" and clicked on "images", a few of the less-gross pictures resembled what I had. Anyway, chalazions usually go away by themselves, though they can hang around for months. My doctor doesn't care about my red nose or blue lips or skin tag, but he gives me the phone number of a dermatology clinic, telling me to have my eye thing looked at, as it might be something. I think he mentioned the word "squamous" in there. He doesn't seem overly concerned. He doesn't say, Get thee to a surgery.

November 4, 2015. I phone to make my dermatological appointment. The person I speak to says there's one opening next week, so I say I'll take it, and she comes back a minute later and says someone else beat her to it and the next available opening is November 30. I'm thinking, November 30? I could be dying of cancer and you're booked solid for a month? You need to hire more doctors if business is that good. Maybe you should open on Saturdays until you get caught up. I take the appointment, figuring if I stall another minute it'll be gone and I'll be pushed into 2016.

November 30, 2015. As I'm being led back to the room where I'll be seen, I can't help noticing that all the nurses and interns and receptionists I pass have perfect skin. I figure they must know what they're doing in this place. They probably treat all their employees for free and pay for it by upping everyone else's bill. Eventually my doctor comes in and asks why I'm here. I mention my red nose and my chalazion. He looks at me through a giant magnifying glass and says, "That doesn't look like a chalazion." I say, "What does it look like?" and he tells me it looks like skin cancer. I argue that it's a chalazion, and that he'd know that, if he'd ever even heard of a chalazion. He searches for chalazion on an iPad and shows me that my chalazion isn't one because it isn't quite touching the eyelid. I'm not sure I buy it, but that's probably because I'm still in the first stage of my cancer diagnosis, which is denial. (The other stages being demanding a second opinion, reluctant acceptance, life passing before your eyes, booking that vacation you've been putting off, pricing burial plots, scheduling a future appointment with a lawyer to change your will cutting out everyone who doesn't visit you when you're in the hospital dying, and getting religion, just in case.) I ask the doctor if I'm gonna live. He says Yes. I'm thinking, Thanks for burying the lede. You couldn't have opened with It looks like easily treatable, run-of-the-mill, harmless skin cancer? He does a biopsy, gives me a prescription for my red nose, which I know will have no effect, and says he'll be in touch with the results.

December 2, 2015. The dermatologist phones, says he was right, it's cancer. Like he would have admitted it if it turned out to be a chalazion. He says I need two operations, the first to remove it and the second to graft some replacement skin in its place. They can remove it in the clinic, but because it's so close to my eye, there's a specialist who'll have to do the graft (something to do with the possibility that the cancer is close to the tear duct), and the specialist doesn't work there so the operations will have to be done on consecutive days in different cities. Finding two consecutive days convenient for the two surgeons apparently proves difficult, but they book me for January 25th and 26th. I'm thinking, Are you people kidding me? That's like two months from now. I got cancer. I can feel it spreading into my pancreas and lymph nodes and lungs, and you can't move me ahead of all the wart treatments and eyebrow tucks and chalazion removals? I say none of this, because I trust that they know what they're doing and because it's not a good idea to antagonize someone who may soon be in a position to "accidentally" stab your eyeball with a scalpel.

January 7, 2016. I have an appointment with the surgeon who's doing the skin graft on the 26th. It's a chance for him to look at my skin and come up with a game plan for the operation. He looks. He tells me the good news is that I have basal cell carcinoma, and it's more a surgical problem than something requiring ongoing treatment like drugs that make your hair fall out. (My hair's been falling out without needing drugs lately anyway.) His assistant takes a couple pictures with her iPhone, probably so she can show them to her friends as examples of the gross stuff she has to look at every day. The surgeon seems like a nice guy. He's there about five minutes during which he does pretty much nothing. Later I'll get his bill for $380.00. Which includes $84 for photography. Woulda been more if I'd ordered the eight by tens.

January 25, 2016. There was a big snowstorm over the weekend, and I was worried they'd call and say the doctor couldn't make it and they'd need to reschedule me for April, but they called Sunday night to say I could show up late if necessary. Which it is, as it takes about forty minutes for an eight-minute drive. After some paperwork and prep, I sit in "the chair." It isn't an operation where they put you to sleep, although I do have my eyes closed the whole time, because the light shining on my face is the approximate brightness of a sun. Not a yellow sun, like ours; a blue sun like Sirius. They numb the area of the chalazion cancer, which is about a half inch by a quarter inch. Then the surgeon slices it off. Since my eyes are closed, I can't see if he's using a scalpel or a cheese slicer. They put a patch over the eye. I had been told I might have to wear a patch, but I was thinking a pirate patch, not just a bandage. When I complain, one of the nurses offers to draw a skull and crossbones on the bandage. They send me back to the waiting room while they look at my now-missing skin under a microscope. Turns out the cancer goes all the way to one edge of the skin they'd removed, and I have to go back so they can take some more from that side, but at least it isn't the tear duct side. That's good news because I'll need my tear ducts to be fully operational when I find out how much of this my insurance covers. At one point I hear the surgeon say, "I need someone to hold the skin apart here," and I reach up, saying, "I'll get it," and several people simultaneously yell "No!" We all have a good laugh. Anyway, back to the waiting room and when they come for me the next time it's to tell me they got it all. This time someone offers to draw a smiley face on my patch. I decline.

January 26, 2016. I'm late again, this time because of rush-hour traffic. I'm to be put to sleep for this operation, not the mask over the face way, just the IV, like I'd had done for colonoscopies. First I fill out some paperwork where I have to tell them whether I have a living will or a do-not-resuscitate order, etc. And where the possible side effects of the operation are listed, including brain damage and death. I start thinking the skin cancer isn't so bad. My glasses hide most of it and I'd probably die of old age before it got bad enough to kill me, so why risk it? They lead me into a prep area behind a curtain where I have to remove all my clothes even though they're only working on my eye area. Surgeons have learned that patients are less likely to make trouble if they don't have their clothes. At least they give me a warm blanket to lie under. A nurse comes in and asks how I'm doing. I tell her I need her to remove my patch so I can rub and scratch my eye for about ten minutes. It's been itching for days. I wasn't serious, but she looks at me like I'm a giant blood-oozing chalazion. She asks me if I mind a couple people observing the operation. Med students, I assume, or possibly Syrian refugees. I grant permission because it never hurts to have witnesses if you die on the operating table. She starts asking me questions, all of which I answered a couple days earlier when they phoned me, and then she accuses me of looking at her like I think she's crazy. I have a patch over one eye and without my glasses the other eye has blurry vision, so I don't see how she can tell I think she's crazy. She must have ESP. The surgeon comes in, tells me he's going to get the skin for the graft from near my eyelid. The person who was there to put me to sleep finds the IV isn't working because the nurse who hates me put it on wrong. She gets it going, and the next thing I remember it's all over. They let me look at the results. It looks like terrorists attacked me with box cutters. My "wound" and bruising area is about twenty times the size of the cancer.

January 28, 2016. Here's my first-ever selfie:

It looks even worse when I look at it in the mirror because my glasses magnify it. On the other hand it already looks a lot better than it did right after the operation; now it just looks like I've been in a bar fight with Edward Scissorhands.

February 3, 2016. Followup visit. My various concerns, such as I can't open that eye as far as the other one and my vision in that eye is blurry and it feels like there's some kind of bone spur or tumor on the edge of the eye and I look grotesque all get brushed off as temporary. Also, there's still a swollen area about the size of a cigarette butt under my skin, possibly because the surgeon was smoking during the operation and dropped it in and left it there just to amuse the observers and the nurse who hates me. Better a butt than a retractor or a scalpel, I tell myself. As I'm leaving, they stop me because they forgot to take more iPhone pictures. Can't let me get away without that $84 charge on the bill. I'm guessing they want all these pictures to illustrate a textbook on successful skin grafting. Or unsuccessful, depending. They tell me to come back in a month so the surgeon can admire his handiwork and charge me another $380.00.  Technically I think I can call myself a cancer survivor.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

New Beginning 1054

I brushed my fingertips against the lavender as I walked.

The air was thick with the smoky-sweet scent of the violet flowers. All I needed was mint, and I knew exactly what aisle it would be in. After all, I came here at least once a week. I zigzagged through the garden center anyway, walking up and down the rows of plants, admiring their bursts of colors.

I knew it wasn't a typical place for a sixteen-year-old to hang out. Most of the other girls my age were spending their time at the mall or going on dates, while I spent my weekends covered in dirt in my garden. Not that I was a total social outcast— I was friends with most of my classmates on Facebook, and even got the occasional invite to a party. But I was happiest when I was surrounded by a rainbow canvas of plants and the rich smell of the earth.

I found the pot of mint I needed and headed towards the cash register. I was making my way down the tulip aisle when I saw Holt, staring solemnly at the small plot of baby Norfolk pine trees.

I hesitated at first, then thought, 'what the hell.' I walked over to Holt, my sneakers almost silent on the walkway. He didn't notice me approach, just staring down at the pines, his hands clasped in front of himself as though praying to nature.

I paused, briefly, then: "Uh, hi!" Holt jumped, startled, and spun around. A stream of piss traced an arc from the base of the plant to my legs and began to fill my sneaker. That was the last thing I ever said to him.

Opening: Sonia Bricel.....Continuation: anon.


The original opening had an extra paragraph:

Holt looked up at me, a smile spreading across his face. He was the newest addition to my junior-year class, having moved to Deep Cove three weeks ago. Living in a small town in Canada sandwiched between mountain and ocean, I was used to tourists coming and going. But new residents were rare.

The chosen continuation works better without that, but the unchosen one (see comments) works better with it. Include it when commenting on the opening.

Monday, February 15, 2016

New Beginning 1053

The forest was on fire. Glittering flames licked at the darkness, stripping the bark from the trees and turning the leaves into ash. Inside of the great, flickering inferno was a car, its metal frame sinking under the weight of the flames.

Inside of the car was a boy.

They didn’t know, at the time. How could they have known? The firemen were busy trying to extinguish the flames, and the police were barking into their radios. From their vantage point, they could only see red, ravenous flames tearing through forest. Revealing the skeletons of the trees.

Then, everything went white. Thick, billowing smoke curled over the world, settling into lungs and forcing eyes to close.

Then, everything went black. Ash drifted down from the sky, covering whatever it could touch, forming outlines in the darkened forest.

That’s when they saw the vehicle.

The Hopemobile!

Speeding faster than Superman-themed hyperbole, belting out tunes infused with more optimism than John Lennon's undocumented excesses, casting the light of angels into the darkness as if all talk of oblivion was merely a cunning marketing trick designed to lure the ignorant into an eternal future of blissful slavery!

Driven by a PANDA!

Wearing a Beyonce-themed WIG!

Whose illuminatory zeal ejaculates hitherto undiscovered secrets of the universe — freely, and with generous abandon — in its flyaway gaiety!

To everyone, everyone in the world, irrespective of everything!

But, hey, yeah — boy still burned to death.

Fire is such a fucker that way.

Opening: Chelsea Pitcher.....Continuation: Whirlochre

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Friday, February 12, 2016

New Beginning 1052

The snow around the cabin lay unmarked by man or animal.

“You never told me you owned this place,” Logan and his buddy Nick walked the last hundred yards. The four hundred mile drive from Vancouver left them dog-tired and cold.

“It was Uncle Ronan’s. I found out that I inherited it a month ago.”

“Were you close?”

“After Dad started drinking, I would hitch to the main road. This was my refuge from the beatings. We shared the love of outdoors. He taught me how to survive out here and be a man. I was fifteen when the sheriff called and said Uncle Ronan was missing and presumed dead; no investigations, no missing persons report, just a memorial service, and an empty coffin.”

Nick opened the door and set the LED lantern in the middle of the cabin. A large bed sat facing the fireplace. A rough-hewn table with chairs sat opposite with the stove and sink. Logan grimaced as he removed the drop cloths covered in years of dust.

“Glad I’m not asthmatic. Speaking of rustic, it’s so much more than I thought.” To Logan, rustic meant the scurrying of field mice in the walls, and “almost never washed” sheets. Which would make Nick's one-room walk-up in the city rustic. In Nick's mind, "rustic" was a last-minute hitch-hike beyond the range of the nearest cell tower with no chance to let people know where you're headed; an abandoned cabin in the middle of nowhere, untouched by man or beast; a sharpened ax with a worn but sturdy handle; a pot of slow-cooked stew with that special, sweet sweet meat; and a banjo playing wistfully in the background.

"Why don't you light the stove," Nick asked his friend. "I'll see if I can find some music."

Opening: Dave Fragments......Continuation: ril


P2: If you use a comma instead of a period, we expect a dialogue tag: Logan said as he and his buddy Nick....   

Also, they just spent about seven hours driving to this place and Nick has only now revealed that he owns the place? Surely he told Logan where they were going before they left Vancouver. 

I can see how a 400-miles drive would leave them dog-tired, but not cold. Presumably their vehicle had a heater. Or were they driving a dogsled? 

Change "left" to "had left."

Shouldn't they walk the last hundred yards first and then see that the snow is unmarked by man or animal?

P3: I would say "my" Uncle Ronan's. Omitting the "my" suggests that Logan is familiar with Uncle Ronan, but the following paragraph suggests he isn't.

P5: Start with his answer to the question he was just asked. Possibly by dropping the first two sentences. At least by dropping "I would hitch to the main road." This cabin doesn't sound like it's on the main road, so it's not clear what that has to do with whether they were close.

Change "He" to "Uncle Ronan" and "Uncle Ronan" to "he."

"I was fifteen" would be more meaningful if we knew whether he was now seventeen or thirty-seven. Of course if they had a memorial service when he was fifteen, and he's much older than that now, why did it take till now to find out he inherited the cabin?

P6: Seems like if you're building a cabin in which you want a large bed and a stove, you'd want it where you can get to it without having to walk the last hundred yards. I'll assume there's a driveway that's impassable because of the snow.

P7: I think the removing of the drop cloths and the comment about asthma should be in the same paragraph.

If he means it's more rustic than expected, change "It's so much more" to "It's much more so". Also, field mice in the walls is rustic, and I think you're trying to say Logan hasn't been exposed to rustic, so you want something like: To Logan, "rustic" meant having only two bars on his cell phone.

There are no dialogue tags. I assume Logan is the first to speak only because it says "Logan and his buddy Nick" rather than "Nick and his buddy Logan." It wouldn't hurt to toss in "Nick told him," "Logan asked," "Nick answered," "Logan said" . . . 

Friday, February 05, 2016

Face-Lift 1303

Guess the Plot

The Iron Legacy

1. Why aren't robots allowed to submit crazy plots?What would Issac Asimov say?

2. Beautiful, fiery Lily St John is the only child of railroad tycoon David St John. Scheming, cunning, and an insatiable desire allow her to build the most powerful railroad network in the South. Then she meets Conner Reed, scion of a coal mining cartel. Will her heart allow for a union of interests, or must the mighty iron horse prevail?

3. Wolf is the son of legendary WWI ace Manfred von Pferdenthal. With WWII about to break, can he follow his father's lead in the air--or will his fear of failure doom him to the typing pool?

4. Sharlene likes keeping clothes neat and well-pressed. So she's got her trusty Rowlenta packed, her luggage full of clothes, and she's on her way to Kuala Lumpur for the International Extreme Ironing championship.

5. Gintal learns that great-grandfather Henry invented the electric iron. But Gintal's family received no royalties. He decides General Electric owes him. Gintal proceeds to murder the top executives of the company. Hot detective Marcy Clarke, winner of the women's Ironman competition, heads the homicide investigation. By coincidence the two meet and fall in love. What could ever go wrong with this romance?

6. Planet Earth has been overrun by alien beasts, all except the city of Alexandria, thanks to its iron gates. Now the city's chancellor has decided to open those gates, and it's up to teenaged Bailey to stop him from letting the nightmares in and ending the last bastion of humanity.

7. Mining was Jadder's family's livelihood until the empire burned their village, killed everyone, and sealed the mines claiming plague, black magic, and treason. Now an undead warlock spreading pestilence throughout the empire, Jadder figures he'll finish making the empire's lies real by killing the emperor. 

8. Despite their kindness to Aunt Loo Loo, the iron legacy was enacted in her will, leaving her three doting nieces, Poppa, Pippa, and Penelope with just ten thousand dollars and Aunt Loo Loo's "friend", handsome Joe Smiles with the rest, a cool 50 million. The three distraught nieces go on a retreat in California to recover and discover that they can communicate with dolphins, who want to build a fusion reactor.

Original Version

Dear Agent X,

Bailey MacKinnon’s city, Alexandria, is bursting at the seams with slum kids and drunks, so honest folks like herself are rare. [I don't think you need "so honest folks like herself are rare." It suggests that the presence of slum kids and drunks is responsible for the scarcity of honest people.] After the beasts known as the Tuatha De Danann overran Earth, they also sent her mom to an early grave, so she’s spent years training to become a soldier. Once she travels beyond the city gates with the military, she’ll give the Tuads hell. However, the day she joins the ranks, she overhears a conversation that would sentence [destroy] her city—their Chancellor’s plan to open the gates and let the nightmares inside. [Hard to believe beasts capable of overrunning the entire planet can't get into this one city because the gates are closed. Has every place that has a gate been spared? Are the gates opened to let delivery trucks bring in food for the slum kids and alcoholic beverages for the drunks? Probably not, as there probably aren't any farms or distilleries that haven't been overrun. Why haven't the military killed all the slum kids and drunks so there'd be more food for the military, as would happen in real life?] [What does the Chancellor think is the upside to opening the gates?]

No one buys the tale, not from a green recruit like her, so she gets proof by breaking into the Chancellor’s office. [I'm pretty sure she couldn't possibly do that.] Or at least, she tries.

The military catches her and kicks her out, [Out of the Chancellor's office or out of the military?] and once that roundhouse kick is delivered, her friends ditch her too. [Her friends probably tried to talk her out of joining the military in the first place, but now they ditch her when she gets thrown out? Nice.] No one believes her, until she meets an underground band of street trash and carnies [With the Earth overrun by beasts and the city bursting at the seams, are there actually carnivals in operation? Or are these carnies actually ex-carnies who prefer the moniker "carnie" to "street trash"?] who trump themselves up as druids. ["Trump up" is accurate only if they aren't really druids. "Claim to be" is better if it's not clear whether  they are or not.] She might be honest, but she’s no idiot. Bailey doesn’t believe their claims of magic [Despite how terrible it felt when no one would believe her story, now, when she finally finds someone who does believe her, she doesn't believe their story? Nice.] until they reveal the fate of Alexandria they divined—the same plot she overheard. With only a couple of carnies, flaky magic, and a shoestring plan in their [her] corner, [I love (out of context, anyway) the descriptions we get on this blog of those who help the main characters in their quests, like "With only a couple of carnies, flaky magic, and a shoestring plan in their corner." Here are a few more, which took me very little time to find:

Aided by a cranky witch with authority issues and a mysterious priest who is too comfortable in combat situations, 

aided and impeded alike by many bizarre individuals, including a constantly babbling imp, a werewolf whose handsome looks hide inner turmoil, a talking stallion who prefers a good debate to a good fight, and a dwarf who would rather invent magical potions than mine gold,

Aided by her newfound friends, the advice of a monk, and only a moderate dose of sarcasm, 

helped and hindered by three men – a Thai policeman trying to balance loyalty to the force with his desire to find the truth, a charming but roguish British journalist addicted to life in the fast lane, and Sugar, her driver, who, like most Thais, sees a supernatural explanation behind everything.

with the help of a pet-shop owner who seems to know too much and is close to the leader and a doctor on a quest for a mythical recipe for Twinkies.

...will be helped by others in her quest: Saska, who also wishes to be trained as a summoner; the priest Denson, who knows much about Nerea's past; the angel Seth, and his summoner companion Arentil; Melody, Arentil's book-wise granddaughter, and even the goddess Yethde, who directly opposes Onago's plans for Nerea.

With the help of an ancient Oak, 

Accompanied by his annoying little brother, Caden; his skull-collecting neighbor, Alex; and Idona, a teenaged girl with purple hair and a temper, 

With the help of a bawdy, female dwarf, a delusional peasant who believes herself the banished heiress of a long-decrepit estate, a small potatoes thief, and a mediocre wizard who has a serious shapeshifting problem,

Aided by Gordie, an obsessive bagpiper with a penchant for Shakespeare and mischief,

...he somehow winds up with a ragtag group of companions: The stubborn mule of a centaur constantly complaining about his age and grumbling about how magic is always the first to go; the timid princess with unrequited feelings for Lim who runs away from home to escape an abusive father; the young rebel maid, rescued from a dungeon, whose general brashness and idealism disarm the boy's good sense faster than he can say "infatuation"; and the young dragonling who, after a near-fatal misunderstanding in the forest between his mother and Limorek, joins the quest as a sort of "studies abroad" outing.] Bailey’s ill-equipped to expose the Chancellor. [That depends on which carnies she has with her. For instance, the carnies who run the tilt-a-whirl and man the ring-toss game would be useless on this mission, but the ones who are good at guessing people's weight or hammering in tent stakes might come in handy.] However, if she can’t get her broken city to listen to the truth in time, the gates will open, and like the other husks razed by the Tuads, Alexandria will fall. [A "husk" is the outer covering of something. I'm guessing it was the cities that were razed and their husks are what was left when the razing was all over.]

"The Iron Legacy" is an 87,000 word YA fantasy.



The word "iron" is common in steampunk titles. Not that you shouldn't use it in your title if it conveys something about the plot. Where did the title come from?

I would condense the first paragraph to something like:

After the beasts known as the Tuatha De Danann overran Earth and sent Bailey MacKinnon’s mom to an early grave, Bailey vowed revenge. Now that she's old enough, she's joined the military. But her first day in the ranks, she overhears talk of their Chancellor’s plan to open Alexandria's gates and let the nightmares inside.

Or, as the main plot seems to be stopping the chancellor, maybe we don't need Bailey's motivation for joining the military. We could open: Military recruit Bailey MacKinnon overhears a plot to open the gates of Alexandria, letting the beasts known as the Tuatha De Danann overrun the city. She tries to warn the populace, but no one will listen--until she meets an underground band of street trash and carnies.  That leaves a lot of room to talk about their plan and what goes wrong and what will happen if they can't come up with something better. Devote less space to the situation and more to how Bailey and company handle it.

Years ago we had a query for a book titled The Theft of the Daidanna Dankenka Maru. If you could combine this book with that one, the query could begin: "When the Daidanna Dankenka Maru is stolen by the Tuatha De Danann," thus getting rejected before the end of the first sentence.

When she's eavesdropping on the conversation about letting the beasts into the city, does Bailey know it's not a couple soldiers joking around, or discussing a rumor? Is it the chancellor himself she overhears? If not, why haven't the people she overheard backed up her story? If so, does she hear him explaining that opening the gates will be a good thing because it's preferable to everyone starving to death? Or because it will clear the streets of all these damn carnies? Is he just an insane megalomaniac, and no one else has realized this and tried to warn the people until Bailey came along?

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Face-Lift 1302

Guess the Plot

Heartless Joe

1. Joe Hartman fell in love, had a happy marriage, and an unfortunate, but friendly, divorce. Eighteen times. His exes have another name for him. These are their stories.

2. Joe is a zombie and proud of it. Now if only these well-meaning folk would stop trying to "cure" him and just let him eat their brains.

3. Jenna is so upset when she discovers her husband Joe has a mistress (and bought his mistress a goat farm), she dumps Joe and marries one of the many lawyers who've been comforting her. Also, a giant man-eating, pan-dimensional space goat. 

4. The Iron Age has left much to be remembered, and it is coming back with a vengeance. Follow the story of a boy named Joe as he attempts to change the past to save the future.

5. The doctors at St Mary's thought the derelict was just another junkie, but when they take his vitals, they find --no pulse. Horrified, they run a CAT scan, and find that the confused man literally has no heart. Have they found an angel, a demon, or something else?

6. You all know the story of the Tin Woodsman and the lengths he went to to feel love again. Well, this is the tale of his twin brother Joe who didn't mind being... heartless.

Original Version

Title: Heartless Joe

Joe is a smug, 40 year old, happily married successful executive in San Francisco with a taste for remote mountain trips. His most recent trip to Timbuktoo [Remote, yes. But if it's a mountain he wants, he should have stayed home, as Mt. Davidson in San Francisco is higher than Timbuktu.] ends in disaster and his Guardian Angel Michael is forced to exchange Joe's heart for his life. [Literally? He stays alive despite the removal of his heart?] The purchaser is Gretta, fairy godmother to Joe's long-forgotten high school flame Alyssa. Gretta gives Alyssa Joe's heart as a present, which makes Joe fall in love with Alyssa. Alyssa has always been in love with Joe and is now a disheveled, middle-aged, single mother of two young children living near poverty in Baltimore. [There's nothing an impoverished single mother needs from her fairy godmother more than a human heart. Did the FG at least wrap it in a tasteful Valentines Day gift bag?]

Joe recovers from hypothermia in hospital in San Francisco [Hypothermia caused by exposure to the cold temperatures in Timbuktu, on the edge of the Sahara Desert?] with his lovely tall, blonde, lawyer wife, Jenna, sitting next to him stroking his hand, and finds that he can only think of Alyssa. Puzzled, he contacts Alyssa, who he hasn't thought of for two decades, flies to Baltimore, meets her, and despite Alyssa's reservations they become lovers. Joe buys them a farm and visits every month. [There's nothing an impoverished single mother needs from her successful executive lover more than a farm to run.] Alyssa establishes a wildlife refuge on their property, taking in stray horses, goats, cats, dogs, and sheep. [Finally someone's doing something about all the stray horses, goats and sheep wandering around Baltimore.] They spend many hours with the animals and set up a donation center. [Is it for donations of money or unwanted goats?]

Five years later, Jenna finds out about Joe's other life when [she realizes that Baltimore, where her husband's been flying every month for five years, is neither remote nor mountainous.] her friend from Maryland tells her about the "Joe and Alyssa Wildlife Fund". [Does she tell her that the Joe in "Joe and Alyssa" is her husband, or does she just tell her there's a wildlife fund called Joe and Alyssa's, and she better make sure it's not "her" Joe? That would be like phoning her to say, I just passed a restaurant in Gaithersburg, Maryland called Joe's Crab Shack, so you better get your ass over here.]  She hires a private detective known to her law firm and discovers Joe's double life. [I've got bad news: your husband's been leading a secret life as a shepherd.] Jenna is very upset, but gets comforted by all of the men in her law firm. [They're lining up to comfort her.] She dumps Joe and remarries very quickly.

Meanwhile Gretta and Michael make peace with one another, despite the fact that Gretta confesses to having hired the giant pan-dimensional Space Goat, Gorem, [Thanks. Guess how many people are gonna guess which plot was real now.] to devour Joe's comrades on the trip to Timbuktoo. [Why?] [Wait, you can just hire the Space Goat? How much does it charge?] Michael invites Gretta to join his card-playing group of angels, but she politely declines.

Joe and Alyssa live happily ever after and adopt three hundred cats. [Okay, NOW you've gone too far.]

Heartless Joe is a 70,000 word novel, fantasy romance.


I've said it before and I'll say it again: if there's a giant, man-eating, pan-dimensional space goat in your book, it must be mentioned up front. 

Why is Alyssa's fairy godmother hiring anyone to devour Joe's comrades?   

I don't see why Joe's guardian angel has to pay Gretta anything for Joe's life. What does Gretta have to do with Joe? Was she in Timbuktu? If so, why? I expect my guardian angel to protect me, not to wait till I'm dying and then pay someone else to save me. And if he's gonna give up one of my body parts to save me, my heart is the last next to last one I'd want to do without. 

Why does Alyssa's fairy godmother wait until now to bring her together with Joe? Can't she cast a spell to make Joe love Alyssa instead of hiring a hitgoat to kill a bunch of innocent people so she can save Joe and demand his heart in return? 

If the space goat is mentioned up front, we might think this is a farcical fantasy comedy. As it is, we think it's a disorganized kitchen sink story until we get to the space goat, and then we assume it's a hoax. Whatever it is, I wouldn't call it a romance when Joe was happily married to begin with and is together with Alyssa only because of a magic spell. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Synopsis 48

This is a story of a young, seemingly perfect, but often turbulent love. Told in first person from the female heroine’s perspective, it takes you deep inside a young girl’s heart, into her challenging quest to be with the boy she loves so desperately. The story begins in the present and goes back in time from 1977 to 1990, concluding with a dramatic turn. [A synopsis tells the story. You're not telling the story, you're describing the book. Dump that and get to the plot.]

In 1977 Cassidy is an awkward teen who meets Danny when her family moves to a new house. Infatuated from the first moment she lays eyes on him, her whole world changes in what feels like a minute. Cassidy tries to understand a moody, young Danny, who seems to love her deeply, wildly and passionately. Yet, at times, his feelings seemed [seem] to change to an almost crushing indifference. Still she believes in her heart that they both love each other because somehow, they continually return to needing each other desperately.

When they are older they decide to try again, even planning for marriage and a future together. Cassidy finally believes they will get their “happily ever after” and that their troublesome journey to be together will end. Then Danny shatters her world when he admits that he has gotten another girl pregnant. Cassidy also thinks she might be pregnant and deep down, she hopes that maybe it will be a way to hold on to him. When she finds out she is not pregnant, she must face a harsh reality as Danny decides to do the honorable thing and marry this new girl. [He was getting someone else pregnant while discussing marriage with Cassidy, shattering her world, and she wants to hold onto him? Does he have any redeeming qualities?]

Cassidy finally moves on, yet deep down she still hangs on to her only true love, her destiny, her dream. Even while married, Danny calls her off and on, tells her how much he still loves her, and misses her. [He's the psychological equivalent of the dungeon master in a medieval torture chamber.] This tears her apart and leaves her deliriously happy at the same time; her conscience tells her this is wrong but she finds she cannot refuse Danny or resist her own desires. Her deep and all consuming love for him motivates her decisions and actions, despite the eventual repercussions. [What decisions and actions are you talking about? What are the repercussions?]

I invite you to come along on this journey of tumultuous, irresistible love and the heartbreaking struggles that come with it. The story of Cassidy and Danny will have you experiencing the entire gambit of emotions. Even some that will make you shout at the heroine to leave it be and forget Danny once and for all. You will feel hope and frustration for her, along with admiration and even sympathy, as she tenaciously hangs on and fights for her dream of achieving true love.

By the end, you may feel changed by this story. You may stop and wonder if Cassidy is truly na├»ve and entirely too submissive. Or, is it that she is stronger and smarter than you realized? What could happen in your life, if you never gave up, fought the odds, and faced all the hardships head on? Would you finally achieve the happiness you deserved? Maybe even win the battle for that first love that all of us most likely lost at one time in our lives, when we were too young and just didn’t know any better. [These last two paragraphs don't belong in a synopsis. Or anywhere. Just tell the story. Your three plot paragraphs at least have some specific information, unlike the plot summary in the query letter (previous post), but you could provide the same info in half the words, leaving room for a lot more about what happens. Tell the story.]

Thank you for your help!


If she kills him, say so. If she doesn't kill him, why not? It's fiction. Even if it's based on a true story, you can change it in fiction and have her kill him. Do you want readers to throw the book against the wall or burn it and vow not to buy your next book, or do you want them to set the book down after finishing it and sigh with satisfaction, looking forward to your next book? Kill him.

Face-Lift 1301

Guess the Plot


1. Danny and Cassidy meet as teens and fall in love. Follow their journey as they do pretty much nothing, knowing their love is either destined to endure or destined to end.

2. Destiny and Precious live in an abandoned house near the strip mall. Follow their journey as they change and grow while foraging in the dumpsters.

3. Terry and Sarah lose their parents when they're twelve years old. Follow their journey as they brave the wilderness of eighteenth-century Colorado to avoid being taken in by their abusive Aunt Sophie.

4. In an effort to dam the flood of doorstopper fantasy novels featuring prophecies and chosen ones, a literary agent valiantly takes on the mantle of Fate's Guardian, forbidding the use of destiny-based plot devices.

5. As the Destiny Star approaches, assuring complete annihilation of life on Earth within 100 years, one scientist figures out how to use micro-black holes to tunnel out of the Milky Way to a planet that can sustain life.

6. The Johnsons wanted one thing for their daughter: to be the best stripper at the Dallas airport. Now all grown up, Destiny is about to embark on the job interview of a lifetime.

7. "You may be a winner!" screams the envelope. So 89-year-old Marge Doherty decides to try and win. Trouble is, there are so many confusing rules and codes and fees, she has no chance. Heartbroken, penniless, she dies alone. And somewhere in a building in New York, another demon gets its horns for tricking someone out of money and time.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Based on a true story…A heartfelt account of a lifelong love. [Get rid of this. It doesn't tell us anything you don't say later on.]

Danny and Cassidy meet as teens and fall in love. Their tumultuous relationship brings misery and happiness to Cassidy. The story is told from her perspective and brings the reader into her emotions and trials. Determined and loyal, the once shy girl fights for a love that she cannot let go of. Her belief that Danny is her destiny perpetuates her longtime fight to bring them together. [This is all vague. In what way is their relationship tumultuous? What happens that brings misery and happiness to Cassidy? What emotions and trials is the reader brought into? Why does she have to fight for her love, when Danny is in love with her?]

Tragedy befalls her in her twenties [What tragedy?] and she has to face the fact that she has lost Danny. [Did he move away? Marry someone else? Die?] Still, their love seems to live on[You just said she had to face the fact that she had lost him. One sentence ago.] and she meets the obstacles head on. [What obstacles?] The story walks the reader through her difficult life. At times, you may want to scream at her….to just give up. [I do want to scream or just give up. You got that part right.] Her journey will pull at you [It will pull at me? What does that mean?] and make you feel many emotions: love, betrayal, rage and a desperate heartbreak. [The query alone is making me feel at least one of those.]

Can they learn to let go of a love that always seemed to prevail, [Why should they learn to let go of it?] or has destiny set a path for them that’s beyond their control?

A unique raw love story [Don't claim it's unique; tell us what's unique about it.] based on true events [What true events?] that will take you back to your own teen years, [I don't want to be taken back to my teen years.] DESTINY is a 58,000 word Chick-Lit, which will have you reliving all those [humiliating, misery-inducing] first love experiences. [I think of Chick Lit as predominately lighthearted. The Devil Wears Prada. Shopaholic. Bridget Jones Returns Yet Again. This book sounds like Literary Fiction. Tragedy, misery, heartbreak. If it's not a downer, show us the funny side.]

In the interest of full disclosure, this book was briefly published by an indie publisher Linkville Press, but due to the publisher violating their contract, they have returned the full rights back to me. [If your cover was as unappealing as the other ones on their site, they did you a favor.] The book has since been completely revised with the assistance of a professional editor. [Is that how the publisher violated the contract . . . . by not completely revising the book?]


You don't tell us anything that happens in your book. I'm not sure anything does happen. Millions of people fall in love as teens and move on (or don't) in their twenties. What makes this story different from all the others? Start over and provide some of the specific events that drive the plot toward its remarkable conclusion.

Not that it should be in the query, but what was it your publisher did to violate your contract?