Friday, April 30, 2021

New Beginning 1096

Alexis guided the cursor over her favorite words. After ten hours in her cubicle, the phrase “Sign Out” was better than any other two words in the English language including “free shipping” and “new episodes”. It was even better than her favorite three word phrase: “number two combo”. 

She clicked the button. Instead of turning grey, it remained green. Alarmed, Alexis clicked the mouse again and again. No please God not now, not this! 

Too late. Cheerful music blared in her ears. Alexis knew it would be an insult to war veterans and trauma survivors everywhere to suggest that the upbeat tone ‘triggered’ her, but the anxiety that overcame her was real. That zippy ditty meant that someone, somewhere, was angry and about to take it out on her. She would have to absorb that anger, make it a part of her, reshape it, paste a smile on it, and hand it back. 

“Thank you for contacting Smiletronics,” she answered. “My name’s Alexis, could I get your name please?” 

“June 24th, 2011,” the woman on the phone began.

"A date that will live in infamy?" Alexis guessed.

"The day a SWAT team broke down my front door, killed my four children and my husband, and then realized it was the house across the street they were supposed to be raiding. I happened to be at the grocery store."

"On the bright side," Alexis said, "I assume you only had to attend one funeral for all five victims. I hate going to funerals, don't you? So depressing. I remember when my great grandmother died, she was 98 and bedridden, and I had to go out and buy a black dress, which is not my best color, and which I've never worn again because on the way home from the funeral I stopped at Wendy's for the number two combo and spilled grease on the front. My best color is turquoise, which goes well with my light brown hair. Although I could have colored my hair to match the black dress, but then I'd have had to buy new shoes. Any--"


Opening: Amanda Barrett.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Face-Lift 1417

Guess the Plot

Monsters Like Us

1. That's right, they really do. We sell out every show and have wild parties afterwards that leave them in a drunken stupor, the perfect condition to be snatched up and sold. And if their friends and relatives don't like it, well, they should have paid us what we agreed on. 

2. Crying babies with leaky diapers. Screaming toddlers who bite. Surly teenagers. The stuff of nightmares that we, as parents, have created in our own image. What the hell have we done, and more importantly, can we ever be stopped? 

3. Police. Republicans. Old white men. The Swiss. Mimes. Editors. They may look like us, but they're evil. And they're coming for us.

4. The year is 3011 and the metropolis infrastructure is crumbling. The old sewers can't keep up with the explosive waste. A sub-race of humans, disfigured and discolored, adapted long ago to high levels of pollution. Will they agree to clean the pipes of their oppressors? Or will they unionize first?

5. A behind-the-scenes history of Japan's Toho Studios, with special emphasis on the violent jealousies that arose between the little men in the rubber suits that threatened to tear the company asunder as thoroughly as Godzilla and Ghidorah devastated Tokyo. 

6. When Matt hides the crate of experimental opiates he found, he doesn't expect to become the target of the CIA, a major drug cartel, and foreign agents. Lucky for him he knows Taekwondo.

7. In a secret underground lab, Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman perform terrifying experiments on potatoes, glue, eggs, and other common household items in this science book for kids. Includes a fun pronunciation guide by the evil Doctor Dihydrogen Monoxide.

8. No one knows where they came from. They started cutting down trees, polluting our rivers, and destroying the land. These humans.

9. Calista Kalspar's life is turned upside down when she learns she is a half breed of the race of the mucus-oozing creatures her parents have devoted their lives to hunting. Hunting to prove the existence of, that is.

Original Version

Dear highly personalized agent 

Matt grew up tough in his opioid ravaged Appalachian town. When his high school sweetheart dies of a fentanyl-laced overdose, he kills the dealers involved. Feeling guilty for taking the law into his own hands [(and worried that it might be illegal to murder a bunch of guys)], he vanishes to a quiet life in Los Angeles where he teaches kids at the local Taekwondo school. [When people in LA want a quiet life, they move to West Virginia. West Virginians move to North Dakota.] 

That’s until [Then] a crate parachutes onto the path of his mountain bike ride. Matt swore he wouldn’t get involved again but no ordinary drug shipment comes with serial numbers and expiration dates. [Actually, that's how ordinary drug shipments do come. It's the parachuting part that makes this shipment suspicious.] With his past, he doesn’t dare involve the police, so he hides the drugs on the mountain while taking [and takes] a bag to get tested. If they’re standard street fare, he’ll anonymously notify law enforcement and return to his law-abiding, if boring, life. [But if they're the really good stuff, well, let's just say he'll have a lifetime supply.]

Only the CIA, who developed the drug at a secret facility in South America, is sending in a team after the test results activate a government tripwire. The cartel who stole it is close behind. [After the test results activate a government tripwire, the CIA, who developed the drug at a secret facility in South America, sends in a team. The cartel who stole the crate is close behind.] And the foreign agency manipulating everyone is planning to discredit the CIA by using their own drug to fuel a new wave of addicts. [Manipulating the CIA I can buy, but just trying to manipulate a drug cartel is asking for trouble.] 

If Matt was a cautious man, he’d run as fast as he can. But a cautious man wouldn’t have killed those dealers ten long years ago, and there’s no way he’ll let more kids die. [Also, once a vigilante, always a vigilante.] 

 Monsters Like Us is a 115,000 word suspense novel.


Not clear why Matt has to determine whether the drugs are standard street fare before he anonymously alerts the police. And if he does need the test results first, it would be hard to stay anonymous while taking a bag of drugs to some laboratory, requesting it be tested, and 
asking to be notified when the testing is complete.

Matt's goal is to prevent more kids from dying. Presumably that means from getting their hands on these drugs, and not that Matt wants to take down the cartel and the CIA. Obviously he doesn't want the drugs going to the cartel or the foreign agency. Probably not the CIA either, as their use of a secret lab in South America suggests they're up to no good, as usual. The police aren't much more trustworthy, but since Matt was planning to notify them anyway, if the drugs were street fare, he could just FedEx them the crate. Or he could just destroy the drugs himself after Googling "How to destroy drugs safely."

You'd think the cartel would've had people waiting and watching for the parachute. Guys with binoculars and machine guns.

If you can answer or prevent some of the questions I've brought up, it will help.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

New Beginning 1095

Eliza Mack was trying to think about her dead brother. Maddeningly, she was failing. Mikhail Shamoun, the love of her life, had driven her thoughts away from the innocent dead and back to himself this morning with a persistence that was nothing short of demonic. He was the one man on earth who had the power to hurt her more than anyone else, and he used it. Eliza picked up speed as she cruised south on the 405 while sapphire skies, glittering office parks, graceful palm trees, garden-like beach towns, and shimmery plains of ocean evaporated in her rage. 

 It was a gauzy Sunday in June, and she had begun her day with that springy feeling that always followed a night, or nowadays a Skype, with Mikhail. Their groove of anus-licking and violent orgasmic passion -- which they had adapted to cybersex due to their new geographic circumstances -- left them both groaning and unconscious in a way that equaled them out until the next cycle of injuries and apologies. Before she left her apartment, she had snatched a few minutes to surf the net for something that was gnawing at her mind, and she struck google gold. Escalation of commitment.

* * *

Evil Editor looked up from the manuscript, eyebrows raised. "Well, Miss Persimmon... You certainly know your target demographic: Wild free spirits, wanderlust, sudden rage; love of bright colors and shiny things; obsession with computer screens; noisy, wild sex and, ah, anus licking...

He adjusted his spectacles. "Anus licking." He paused for a moment. "Frankly, there's just one thing that will prevent this becoming a best seller. Cats can't read."

Miss Persimmon huffed, grabbed her papers and headed for the door.

"Anus licking." Evil Editor repeated quietly to himself, as he reached for the intercom button. "Mrs Varmighan? Would you step in here a moment? There's something I need you to do."

Opening: anonymous . . . . .Continuation: ril

Friday, April 16, 2021

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1415 would like feedback on the following version: 

The Counterfeit Girl is a 93K suspense novel, in which a woman who shouldn’t be alive finds the secrets of a town that shouldn’t exist are more than even its creators expected. [More . . . numerous? Mysterious? Dangerous? What did the creators of the town expect its secrets to be? Maybe it should be . . . a woman who shouldn’t be alive finds the secrets of her hometown are more sinister than she could have imagined.] 

Thirteen years ago, five-year-old twins were kidnapped from Castor, Oregon just before it was destroyed by a mysterious explosion killing all the inhabitants. [An explosion that wipes out an entire town won't be mysterious for long. It'll be newsworthy and investigated. More mysterious would be if everyone in town suddenly disappeared.] Now, one of the twins, eighteen-year-old Trina Radu, has discovered she’s grown up in a copy of a town that no longer exists. 

Trina’s counterfeit town is hidden by impregnable forest and maze-like trails. Her parents have been replaced by actors, [her] friends [have apparently moved away] and family dead and gone, any mention of the outside world carefully edited. All that’s left is her sister, seductively whispering through Trina’s dreams. Find me. Save me. And rescue the whole damn world. Only, their kidnappers believe the twins hold the secret of Castor’s destruction and their reunion will result in a global holocaust. [Do they want a global holocaust? If not, they could have left the twins in Castor to die with everyone else. Why did they kidnap them?] 

Trina will do anything to rescue the only family left in her life. A quest that will either save a world Trina has never known—or burn it to the ground. 

The Counterfeit Girl’s inspiration reaches back to Twin Peaks and The X-files and could be thought of as Jean Grey trapped inside The Truman Show. It would appeal to fans of Blake Crouch, Peter Clines and Patrick Lee. [Seven comps isn't nearly enough. You forgot to include the songs "Trapped" and "We Gotta Get Out of this Place" and that surreal dream you had four years ago.] 


"their kidnappers believe the twins hold the secret of Castor's destruction" makes it sound like the kidnappers had nothing to do with Castor's destruction. But they had to be in on the plot, since they presumably took Trina to fake Castor. 

 Perhaps you should explain why the kidnappers believe the twins' reunion will result in a global holocaust. How can that make sense to even the nuttiest conspiracy theorist? 

 I can't say I find this version any more intriguing. It's good that you focus on the plot rather than the set-up, but maybe you should stick with what Trina knows. She doesn't know what the kidnappers believe. Is a global holocaust a real possibility?

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Face-Lift 1416

Guess the Plot 

The Angel of No Consequences

1. When Eliza Mack’s fiancé ejects her from his life to clear the way for a new woman, the Angel of No Consequences appears to her and offers her one free murder. Spoiler alert: She takes the Angel up on it and pumps a bullet into her fiancé. 

2. All guardian angel Muriel did was make certain the fallout from the disasters his charges caused were completely insignificant. After the third one commits suicide, Muriel is branded a fallen angel and cast out. Can he rescue his former charges from hell by making their stay there unimportant as well? Spoiler alert: He makes things even worse. 

3. Sarah Fim, the world's wealthiest woman and ruthless CEO, dies on her way to a board meeting. On her first day in Heaven, she demands to be made an Angel, and when it's clear she won't take no for an answer, her wish is granted. She throws herself into her new role, answering prayers from the rich by giving them more riches and ignoring prayers from those she deems not worth her time. No one dares contradict her authority. Spoiler alert: the prayers she thought she was answering are just computer-generated fabrications to keep her busy.

4. Ask any angel: does he make love? No. Why? Because he is love. Gabe is not just any angel. He is a sex god. Life on Earth is paradise until Raphael blasts him back to heaven. Spoiler alert: It's actually hell this time.

5. When the fountains in heaven stop gushing, the lights stop shining, and the couples stop ... ahem, Vizriel leaves the group of happily singing investigators looking into this diabolical plot and goes to Earth where people have the decency to get upset when things go wrong. Also a depressed demon with a good attitude.

6. A counter-argument to Butterfly Effect theory, consisting of essays and mathematical models, the shape of which, when plotted, more closely resemble the wings of an angel than a butterfly.

7. Alaois Markey agreed to back the production of morality play No Consequences as a ploy for the gratitude of the ingenue playing the angel. But through the ups and downs of the inexperienced cast and crew, he discovers camaraderie and true love in the most unexpected place. Spoiler alert: in the arms of the mutton-chopped minister.

Original Version

Dear Agent, 

I’m an English major and sometime Outer Limits addict with a tingly-sense for the perverse side of justice. I’ve written a literary thriller inspired by the fate of Lady Macbeth: a tale of guilt that begins when a woman scorned decides to cool her fury with a murder. 

When Eliza Mack’s fiancé ejects her from his life to clear the way for a new woman, she winds up in a lowly motel room to lick [licking] her wounds. There, a mysterious and seductive creature that she dubs The Angel of No Consequences appears to her and offers the thing [gift? blessing?] she’s cried out for at the height of her rage: one free murder. She takes the Angel up on it, pumps a bullet into her fiancé, and flees to the gloomy estate of Madeleine, her late brother’s agoraphobic widow. 

As promised, Eliza’s crime goes unprosecuted--but not unsuspected. Desiray, the “other woman” who stole Eliza’s (now-dead) fiancé, is convinced of Eliza’s guilt, and she threatens Eliza with revenge. To Eliza’s horror, the Angel offers his services to Desiray. Knowing the Angel’s ruthlessness and lethality, Eliza strikes pre-emptively and poisons Desiray. This time it’s her own skill, not the Angel’s, that helps [lets] her escape the consequences. 

Meanwhile [In time], Eliza finds life at Madeleine’s estate increasingly bizarre. When she catches Madeleine dumping a bucket of blood down a drain, she resolves to quit the place. But one last intervention from her otherworldly accomplice forces her to return. 

I realize this reads [This may sound] like some sort of [a perverse] horror opera, but it's also a morality tale; after the desire to live, my characters are driven by the need to right their wrongs. 

[Optional "I thought I’d query you because..."] 

The Angel of No Consequences is complete at 88,000 words. [The first xx pages follow my signature below.] May I send my manuscript for your consideration? 



Well done. I'd ask for the manuscript, if the first xx pages weren't a mess.

I assume you call this a "tale of guilt" not because Eliza is guilty, but because she is haunted by feelings of guilt, so maybe there should be something about that in the summary. Maybe instead of the bucket of blood, which, while intriguing, only leads me to wonder how Madeleine explains it.

Eliza: Um, why are you dumping a bucket of blood down the drain?

Madeleine: It's AB negative. I only drink A positive.

Eliza: No, I meant why not just flush it down the toilet?

Wait, is it Eliza's brother's blood? And Madeleine's dumping it because she was afraid Eliza would see it in the refrigerator and start asking awkward questions?

I think spelling Desiray's name Desirée or Desirae would lend a more gothic flare, and could be what puts this query over the top.