Monday, April 20, 2015

New Beginning 1044

Annie rushed down the stairs. She was ten minutes late and would only have time for one cup of tea before she started her duties. She had slept badly, tossing and turning most of the night. Images kept flashing through her mind none of which she could decode. When May reached down and shook her awake it had felt like she had only slept a few minutes. It had taken all of the strength she had to pull herself out of bed and she had wasted all of her time trying to wake herself up. Now she was going to pay the price for it.

"I poured you a cup," May told her when she came into the kitchen. "Thank you, May. You are a dear," she said gratefully as she sat down and took a sip. The tea had cooled enough for her to down the rest of the cup. She sat for a tick waiting for the effects to take hold then reluctantly got up to take the tray of tea that May had prepared up to the housekeeper.

The tea was starting to work its charms by the time she came back down the stair . She went towards the drawing room to pull back the drapes when she saw him lying on the floor in a pool of vomit. She jerked back and tried to call for May to help her but her words came out as a high pitched shriek

May bustled into the room. "What is it, dear?"

"''s..." The words would not come.

"Oh, him again." She went to the prostrate man. "Help me roll him over, will you?"

"But he's..."

"No, he isn't dead. Just drank too much again."

Annie hauled the man onto his side. His breathing came easier and his color returned. "Why did this happen?"

May shook her head. "I keep telling Mr Grisham not to read EE's reviews of his books, but he never listens. Come on, now. We have to get to dusting."

Opening: Kat33.....Continuation: khazarkhum

Saturday, April 18, 2015

When Cartoon Characters Infiltrate Fake Plots

Tired of chasing the uncatchable roadrunner and enduring mishaps that ought to have killed him a hundred times over, Wile E reviews his tactics and settles for easier prey: naïve Route 66 tourists.

When Lois tells Superman that his name is kind of egotistical-sounding, he decides to come up with something that still expresses his magnificence, but more subtly: The Transcendent.

There's also George. And Judy. And Rosie and Elroy and Astro. What I'm saying is that the Jetson family is not . . . Just Jane.

When Elmer Fudd decides to become a major player in the South American slave trade, he discovers his biggest competitor is none other than Bugs Bunny. Not content to let that wabbit spoil another one of his pwomising enterpwises, Elmer dukes it out with Bugs in a series of madcap antics, until they finally settle their diffewences and agwee to go into business together. Now they just have to find a way to wound up those wascally Bazillions.

Ever since Priscilla opened her diner, she’s had her doubts about the name. Selling eggs and sausage to truckers at one in the morning is tricky business, but she never expected her place to become the new hot spot for roadrunners. And who sent her the huge Acme brand anvil?

The ghost of Al Capone returns to 1960s Chicago and wreaks havoc on the city's hippy counterculture. Ultimately prohibited from committing any worldly sin, Capone is consumed by a hatred of Bohemianism bordering on the fanatical. Only Shaggy and Scooby can stop his nefarious plans to exorcise the desire for pleasure from the human spirit. 

In a Disney World restaurant Dave witnesses a customer's complaint that the chicken hasn't appeared, by which he means Donald Duck isn't on the scene. Realizing something should be done about ignorant and obnoxious theme park patrons, Dave complains to Mickey Mouse. But Mickey just calls him a butthead.

Somebody dropped a safe on Jerry's tiny little head and Tom wants to know who. Can Kojak crack the case in time to save Wile E. Coyote from the same fate? Who Loves Ya Mouse?

A Chicago business tycoon believes his days of struggling for existence are behind him--until he catches a glimpse of his old rival running down a back alley. This time, he swears, things will be different. This time he OWNS the Acme company!

Captain Tisdale wishes he never took the helm on Disney's Bermuda Triangle Line. Mickey's smoking blunts while Donald's tapping Goofy. Chip and Dale have bivouacked in the galley and Pluto thinks he's a cat. Can the stalwart captain pull them from the rift before Snow White begins the striptease, or will every child aboard grow up to become a Pirate of the Caribbean?

When Marge Norge bought her long-abandoned mid-century modern House of the Future, she envisioned a Jetsons life, with herself as Jane in an apron. But the Kitchen of the Future has other plans.

In a land where “superheroes” are ordinary government workers and dorks have superpowers (if you call bringing comic book characters to life a superpower), one man rages. Forgotten and alone after becoming a centenarian, Superman vows that Metropolis will not soon forget the day his wrath was unleashed.

Oh, how positively inviting she looked--that bikini-clad cuckoo that statuesquely stood by the window on W. E. Coyote's porch. All that gave the ploy away was the return address on the discarded packaging that read "Acme Adult Novelties."

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Face-Lift 1255

Guess the Plot

Red Skies Take Warning

1. Six years after the last bomb fell, survivors slowly exit their hideaways to see if it's safe to come out. It probably isn't, but in this latest dystopian kid's book, it won't matter . . . if you can prove it was all just an illusion or game or some other BS.

2. For the denizens of Club Nitro, morning brings pain, revulsion, and the ugly reality of another day teaching at Jackson High.

3. On a water-covered planet, the dread pirate Solokov attacks a ship and kills everyone aboard except one seamstress, who he needs to repair his sails. Will he fall in love with her or will she lead his crew in mutiny?

4. They say "Red sky in morning, sailors take warning." And this was never so true as it is for the crew of the Bluster when they come on deck in the morning to find themselves under attack by millions of cardinals.

5. On a planet where the sky is red and the oceans are yellow . . . Wait, it's Earth! After a nuclear war! Help! We're all gonna die!

6. As the sun sets over the ocean, Marge tells her husband Bob to check out the gorgeous red sky. He glances up, then goes back to his newspaper. And it dawns on Marge that a divorce would have been a better solution to her troubles than a Hawaii vacation.

Original Version

Dear Agent X,

The morning Serafina Berenofsky [Anagram: baroness faery knife] spots the Crimson Orchid’s flag on the horizon, [Italicize ship names.] a slaughter is promised to follow—at least if the tales hold any truth. [Wait, do the tales mention a baroness who acquires a faery knife with which she slaughters people? Because if so, that's either an incredible coincidence or I should have given a spoiler alert.] [I don't like "promised." You could just say "certain" since that's what the tales say. Or you could go with "prophesied." Also, you could change "at least if the tales hold any truth" to "if the tales are true." You could even stick an adjective in front of "tales" like "witch's" or "ancient" or "fortune-telling goose's."]

She thought she’d left trouble behind the day she abandoned sub-life for a chance to feel the sun on her skin and glimpse what little land remained after the Great Thaw. [Not sure what sub-life means. Was she living underground? Underwater? On a submarine? Or is sub-life what they call the lower classes?] Even if it meant signing up to [for] a lifetime of servitude aboard an elite-owned ship. [Hard to believe anyone signing up for a lifetime of servitude would think she was leaving trouble behind.] After she spent seven years holding her tongue and avoiding the Madame’s temper, the Crimson Orchid, commandeered by the pirate king Solokov, [Do you mean "commanded" by? "Commandeered" is okay if he attacked it and decided he liked it better than his own, so now sails it, while "commanded" would mean it's his ship. If commandeered is right, I'd go with "recently commandeered." If he commandeered it years ago, it's pretty much his ship now.] sets sights on her home. [What home are we talking about? The one she abandoned? The elite-owned ship?] [Has she now been on the elite-owned ship for seven years or is that how long she was in sub-life? Who is the Madame? Is it a bordello ship? Or is the Madame the captain? Or was the Madame her boss in sub-life?] [You probably think the answers to my questions are obvious, and I'm a total idiot for even asking them. You aren't the first.]

Blood stains the decks, but what haunts her memories more is the echo of Solokov’s executioner’s sword as he sentences every single elite on board. [Is "he" the executioner or Solokov?] As for the servants, most meet the deep. Survival comes first, and though she might sail under his pirate flag, she will remember the day he [Solokov] massacred her makeshift family. [Her "makeshift family" meaning the elites who agreed to give her a glimpse of some land in return for a lifetime of servitude? The way I see it, the dread pirate Solokov rescued her.] Solokov made his greatest mistake in keeping her alive, because even though Serafina Berenovsky’s a mere seamstress, [I see her last name is now spelled with a "v" instead of an "f." That totally screws up my original anagram, but now we can make "brave sea-air inferno." Which actually makes sense considering that "red skies" is part of the title. Spoiler alert: To defeat Solokov, Serafina must brave a sea-air inferno. Possibly she's thinking sub-life wasn't so bad after all.] she won’t stop training and learning every trick they’ll teach until she wields a sword as well as she does a needle. [Why are they teaching her any tricks? That's like a warden equipping his prison with a firing range.] And when that day comes, she will claim her revenge. [You took me from a life of servitude, slaughtered my oppressors, gave me room and board and a job, and trained me in swordsmanship. DIE!]

Red Skies Take Warning is a 90,000 word dystopian science fiction, and the first of a planned series. Thank you for your time and consideration.



This map of what Earth would look like if all the ice above sea level melted indicates that the phrase "what little land remained after the Great Thaw" isn't totally accurate. Coastal areas would be underwater, but it wouldn't be anything like Waterworld. Which can only mean the book is set on a planet other than Earth. 

If little land remains, and Serafina isn't somewhere where she can get a glimpse of it, how does she sign on as a seamstress on the elite ship? Were they recruiting servants in some underwater cave? Where was she that she couldn't feel the sun on her skin, but could board a ship?

We don't have much plot here. Basically, we have: When the pirate Solokov massacres most of her crewmates, and takes seamstress Serafina Berenofsky aboard his ship, she vows to one day get revenge. Treating this as a pirate story, you could open like this:

Serafina Berenofsky thought she’d left her troubles behind when she signed on as a seamstress aboard an elite-owned ship. But the day she sees the Crimson Orchid’s flag on the horizon, she realizes her troubles are just beginning. The pirate king Solokov doesn't take prisoners.

Blood soon stains the decks as Solokov’s executioner dispatches every elite on board. As for the servants, most meet the deep, but Serafina is inexplicably spared and taken aboard the Crimson Orchid.

That leaves plenty of room to tell us how she plans to avenge her makeshift family by leading Solokov's crew in mutiny and then finding the Himalayan Islands, and what goes wrong, and what happens if she fails. I've left out the fact that this is Waterworld, but the original version didn't really show that as relevant. Many pirate stories take place mainly on the water, even on a planet that has lots of land. Plus, if there's little land, how do they find enough fresh water to drink? Or wood for the ship-building industry to replace sunken ships? Or places to trade your pirate booty for eye patches and hooks and peg legs? You don't have room to answer all my questions, so maybe it's best to leave the lack of land out of the query.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Face-Lift 1254

Guess the Plot


1. A complete history of the most recent .002% of planet Earth's existence up until the invention of the Internet.

2. Chancellor Hister plots to dominate the European Empire, by preventing the 12-year-old heir to the throne from aging, thus allowing Hister to remain regent forever. Question for discussion: is it the kid who never ages or the evil chancellor who has lost his . . . humanity?

3. When Tech Barons succeed in getting everything but cheerleading and STEM banned from Stanford, Dr Franzil Shcott decides to wage Internet war to take back her school, one gender studies program at a time.

4. A time traveler visits the great disasters of history to record them on film, adding to each his own voice-over saying "Oh, the humanity!"

5. Inside the building, where thousands had engaged in all acts of sexual depravity, hung the meaty odor of bodily secretions. It wasn’t offensive, but it wasn’t sweet. Is this where Wally, the 43-year-old virgin, finally loses his innocence? 

Original Version

Dear agent,

Edgar Lewis is an heir to the [throne of the] European Empire, a successor state to the European Union. It is 2169 and the Empire’s chancellor, named Hister, has plans to eliminate the people in between Edgar and the throne and dominate the boy’s regency. [The guy who wants to rule Europe is named Hister? Are you aware that with a minor change the name "Hister" becomes . . . Hipster?] Edgar’s stepfather murders his mother and then makes plans to destroy Edgar’s self-esteem in anticipation of a sale to Hister. [A sale of what?] [Also, any good salesman ought to be able to close a deal without destroying a child's self-esteem.] [Also, if your wife gets murdered, you are always suspect #1, so you should be fleeing the empire, not hanging around trying to destroy your stepson's self-esteem.] The Chancellor has a scientist in his pocket that [who] has created nanites to halt aging and plans to use them to keep Edgar from achieving adulthood. By the laws of the Empire, the head[-]of[-]government position will remain open until such time as the heir is physically able to withstand the stress of governing. [Hey, kids handle stress a lot better than most adults. It's more the complexities of governing kids don't get, especially how to use corruption and bribery and blackmail to your advantage.]

After the treatment, Edgar manages to escape to the Empire’s space colonies and is pursued by Marshal Grummer. Unbeknownst to both of them, the Marshal is the boy’s biological father. [Science fiction in which the villain turns out to be the hero's father? Do you reveal this in a sequel called The Empire Strikes Back?] Pursued by the Marshal’s fleet command, Edgar struggles to deal with his new situation and the deep depression the thought that he may never age brings upon him. The chancellor let’s slip information that turns Edgar’s pursuer into an ally, prompting the two to fight their way across the solar system to prevent the chancellor’s assassination attempt. Can they depend on the military to support the rightful heir? Can they, in spite of the law, convince Parliament to accept an [a] juvenile-looking Emperor? Finally, how does a 12 year old who will never age come to terms with the fact he may never marry, never have children?

HUMANITY is a 90,000 word scifi novel that explores issues such as what humanity is and do you lose yours if you can never die of old age. I see series potential with this novel, but I have other universes to explore as well.

I thank you for your time and consideration


I feel that the intriguing issue of immortality's drawbacks may get pushed aside when the main characters start fighting their way across the solar system. Feels like two different kinds of science fiction competing for attention. Possibly that's just me.

It seems to me that if Hister simply offered Edgar a treatment that would prevent him from getting old and dying, Edgar would go along instead of escaping into space. Or tell him the treatment prevents disease. Why tell him whatever he tells him that makes Edgar feel he must escape? Is Edgar a prisoner when he escapes? If so, how is the chancellor getting away with holding the heir prisoner?

If Edgar's biological father is not who they thought was his biological father, is Edgar still the rightful heir? I mean, would Henry VIII have succeeded Henry VII if Henry VIII's biological father were actually Marshal Grummer? Who knows that Grummer is the father? Where does this Grummer dude get off hitting the sheets with the queen?

Who is Hister trying to assassinate? I don't see what he gains by assassinating Edgar or Grummer. Besides, a trip across the solar system and back would take so long, the political situation on Earth would probably have changed drastically when you got back. Like, you chase Edgar to Neptune, assassinate him, and return to Earth to find that the European Empire is now part of the 3rd Ming Dynasty. 

If I've got a scientist in my pocket who has cured aging, the first thing he's doing is treating me. Then we're marketing the treatment to billionaires until I've cornered the world market on money. Then I'll buy Europe, evict the French, and make the whole empire my summer home.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Face-Lift 1253

Guess the Plot

Danger in the Darkness

1. When Lyle takes his date to the carnival and talks her into going on the Tunnel of Love ride with him, he has no idea the exit has been locked and the ride's been stocked with hungry lions and crocodiles.

2. The heart-pounding story of one man's search for an outdoor latrine during the Great Northeast Blackout.

3. 12 year old Amarosa is short, fat, and the smartest girl in her class. When the teacher's beloved baseball trophy is stolen, Amarosa organizes an all-sixth grade detective team to find the culprit. But is there more to this than a simple theft?

4. When 17 year old Kaisley buys her reclusive neighbor's black horse, she's delighted to learn he's really Danger in the Darkness, a one time world champion Tennessee Walking Horse. With show season fast approaching, can Kaisley and the old man return Danger to his former glory?

5. Detective Jennie Carlson asks Zachariah Sinclair to assist in finding the person who's been killing young women and leaving their bodies in a dark alley at night. Will Jennie wish she'd left the investigation to her own team when she finds out that Sinclair is actually a creature of the night who feasts on the blood of innocents?

6. Bats. Honey badgers. Coyotes. Wolfmen. Cougars. Cat burglars. Mink. Owls. Drunk drivers. Dracula. Revenge-seeking ghosts. Ocelots. Skeletons.

Original Version

When the bodies of young women begin turning up in the alleyway behind local bars, detective Jennie Carlson and her team are called in to investigate. [Jennie suspects foul play, until the coroner reports that the women all died because their bodies had no blood. And you can't live without blood.] [Is "called in" the right term? If they're police, they would be assigned. They wouldn't be sitting around on call, waiting for their next mission.]

The small New England town is rocked by the murders and want answers. [It's a rare alleyway behind a bar that doesn't produce a few bodies every week; how do they know these women were murdered? Was the cause of death the same in each case?] [Also, if corpses are filling the alleyway in my town, It's not answers I'm looking for; I'm looking for The Avengers.] Who would want to hurt these innocent women? [Serial killers. Obviously.] Zachariah Sinclair thinks he knows who the culprit is. [Change his name to Zach Martinez. And report that he knows two things: the dead women didn't commit suicide, and if he doesn't bring home a bottle of Lagavulin, his wife will drain his blood.] The problem? Zachariah harbors a dangerous secret: he is a creature of the night who feasts on the blood of innocents. [I can see how he would want to keep that to himself if the dead women had puncture wounds on their necks and no blood. Otherwise, what's the problem?] He believes the culprit to be the vampire who, over a hundred years ago, murdered his [Zachariah's] fiancée and made him what he is. Zachariah wants to know why he is back and wreaking havoc on the small town. [That's the difference between the cops and bloodthirsty creatures of the night. The cops prefer to stop the killing first and then worry about whether the killer has a reasonable explanation. Your characters seem more interested in information than in safety.]

Determined to bring the killer to justice Jennie turns to Zachariah for help. [Why does she turn to him? Does she know his secret?] The sexual attraction is undeniable and she finds herself tumbling headlong into a dangerous love affair. [Some women are attracted to older men, but a hundred years older is way up on the Ewww Scale.] As the body count rises, the passion between them mounts and the flame of their desire is ignited. [Or, to put it another way: As the passion between them is ignited and the flame of their desire rises, the body count mounts.] When a scorned lover plots to get Zachariah back [Do you mean win him back or get back at him?] the intimate world he and Jennie created crashes down around them and their love is put to the test. [What happened to the old vampire? Suddenly we've switched to this scorned lover as the villain?]

With Jennie’s life hanging in the balance Zachariah must make the ultimate sacrifice to save the woman he loves or risk losing her forever. [The term "ultimate sacrifice" is generally accepted to mean death. If you mean something other than he must kill himself, spell out what he must do, instead of calling it that.]

DANGER IN THE DARKNESS, book one of a trilogy, is a 107,00 [107,000-] word erotic fiction novel. [No need to describe a novel as fiction.] This is my first novel.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.



I would give the old vampire a name.

We need to know why a detective with her own team is consulting Zachariah. What makes Jennie think he brings anything to the table? Who is he to her?

If the main goal is stopping the old vampire from killing again, focus on that. The scorned lover sounds like a subplot.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Feedback Request

Hi EE,

Here is my second attempt at my query letter. I've changed the name from Spy Girl to Into the Shadows. Thanks for your help.

Kind regards,

Sacha grew up on shooting ranges, Krav Maga crash mats, and the streets of foreign cities. Out of the blue, her father reveals the truth about her unusual upbringing: he is a spy. Now, he needs her to become one too. A rogue agent is on the verge of selling the identities of ten American NOCs—a list that includes her father’s name. But the traitor is in the wind and the only lead is her secret teenage son, Charlie. [Secret from whom? Everyone? I'd drop the word "secret," as he's obviously not secret to Sacha and her bosses.] [Consider starting a new paragraph with the next sentence.] Despite feeling betrayed by her father’s lies, Sacha chooses to leave the security of her normal life [Her normal life hanging out with her buds on shooting ranges, Krav Maga crash mats, and the streets of foreign cities.] and step into the world of espionage. If she can keep her cool long enough to [and] keep her cover, she [just] might just be able to complete [accomplish] her mission: to spy on [monitor] Charlie’s actions and communications and follow the intel to the rogue agent.

To succeed, Sacha needs to infiltrate Kingston Preparatory Boarding School in Paris, home of the next generation of European diplomats and politicians. But Sacha wears Chucks not Chanel, and she’s better at fighting than fitting in. Add to that a politically-driven school principal and her target’s [Charlie's] snarky French girlfriend getting in the way of [hampering] her mission, and Sacha begins to think her handler might be right – she should stick to school and leave spying to the adults. But time is running out, and Sacha is the only option left.

Into the Shadows is a 55,000-word, 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 Pub #1 and Pub #2. This is my first YA novel. A few other agents are also considering this submission. [No need to say this if you're referring to just the query letter.] Thank you for your time.

Kind regards,


This sounds pretty good to me.

Is NOC a common-enough acronym that the literary agent will be familiar with it? If not you could go with "agents" (in which case you might change "rogue agent" to "traitor).

While "more than 30 books published" is impressive, it almost feels like an exaggeration. The reader may wonder why someone with 30 books published doesn't already have an agent. If that number includes both edited and written works, I'd reduce to the number of which you are the author.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

New Beginning 1043

The last day I saw my sister alive, I lost my position. It hadn’t been much of a job, just sweeping out our landlady’s flower shop, but it had paid part of my school fees, and I didn’t look forward to telling Edwina.

“I’ll not have the likes of you working here,” Mrs. Hudson had said loudly, to impress her Protestant customers.

I dawdled on the way home, trying not to drag my foot, stopping to check the names on the neighborhood’s makeshift war memorial. No new names, but I crossed myself, just a quick wave of the hand.

As I turned to cross the street, someone shouted, “Look out!” and I stumbled back to let three students rush by on their bicycles. One of them lost his hat, and I grabbed it up and sailed it after him. The grocer’s horse shied, and the old man shouted at me.

Two years into the war, the university had a dearth of students, only ashamed young men not suited for service and arrogant future officers waiting to be called and sent to the trenches. They were all just as cheeky as ever.

The hat missed its mark, and slicing neatly through the war memorial flew towards Mrs. Hudson's flower shop. It shattered the glass, and cleanly decapitated the old Protestant and her customers. Finally it embedded itself in the grocer's horse, and I retrieved it from the frightened animal.

It seemed I would have to return it to its craven owner myself. Turning it over, I read the name of the cheeky student who so carelessly lost it:

Odd Job.

Opening: Susan Hall-Balduf .....Continuation: khazarkhum

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

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)