Wednesday, January 31, 2007

New Beginning 205

I let the gun rest on my limp dick. The whore doesn't notice. Maybe she just doesn't care anymore. Maybe she's dead.

A friend of mine said adrenaline makes your dick hard. Maybe I've gotten too old. After all, I'm pushing 30. Should you ever have to kill someone, you should do it before you hit double digits. Sure, those kid soldiers get all fucked up in the head afterwards, but if they have to keep on killing, they keep on killing.

Kid soldiers, they've got it made.

Me, I just want my motel room to go back to being the shit-stained hole it was until about an hour ago.

I try to switch on the tv. The buttons make a sticky sound when I push them. The remote is covered in too much blood. Guess even Dr. Phil can't help me now.

"Fuck you, you motherfucking..." The whore isn't dead after all. She tries to get up, but slips in the blood, and falls back onto the bed.

"Honey, time to go," I say.

"That's enough," Miss Carson said. "Does anyone else want to read? How about you, Ms. Bardwell?"

Julia Bardwell picked up her manuscript, cleared her throat and began:

The night was hot, hotter than Brad Pitt's ass. The cocksucker I'd just shot in the gut was still coming at me, his intestines hanging out like angel hair through the holes of a colander. "Eat lead, fuckwad!" I said as I shot him in the face . . . and got sprayed with his blood. Shit, that was my best dress, too. I stripped it off. I was nude underneath, and my tits . . .

Miss Carson closed her eyes and shook her head. What was I thinking, she wondered, when I agreed to teach creative writing to third graders?

Opening: E. S. Tesla.....Continuation: Evil Editor, based on a Pacatrue idea

New Beginning 204

Willis laughs, so I punch him in the face.

Maybe it’s a mistake, but it still feels good. Inside, I mean. The actual feeling of his teeth gauging into my knuckles is not pleasant. It’s still worth it, though. That's the last time anyone will laugh at my fluffy Bunny slippers. But Willis is an okay guy, so I help him to his feet.

He's actually my best friend. Sort of.

"What the hell?" he asks, rubbing his jaw.

"Sorry, I got carried away," I say. I didn’t even hit him that hard. I couldn't because of my Pixie Stix arms.

"Sometimes I wonder why I even hang out with you," he says.

I wonder that too. Sometimes.

We take a seat at the bar.

“I just can’t believe you wore slippers to the bar, man,” Willis says, shaking his head.

“Yeah well, I want to be comfortable,” I say.

“What can I get you?” the bartender asks. It is still early, so we actually get service without having to wait for an hour. The bartender looks annoyed. That annoys me.

“Bud light,” Willis says.

“Boddingtons,” I say.

After the bartender walks away, I assault Willis.

“What the fuck?” I yell at him.

“Jesus, what now?” he says.

“You just ordered a BUD LIGHT, that’s what. Now you look like a total fucking douche bag. And now I look like one too just for being seen with you,” I say.

He shakes his head. He doesn’t get it. That’s why he’s a tool and a douche bag. And he’ll never even know it.

The light catches the glass eye on the bunny slipper.

He just doesn't get it.



"Nothing," I say.

I told you he's a douche bag.

"You're right."

"Say what?" Willis asks.

"Dude! I said nothing!"

Face it. He deserves to die. We're going to have to kill him.

I look away from my slipper and turn my gaze to Willis. I nod. The slippers are right. They always are.

Opening: Chris Rylander.....Continuation: Rashenbo

New Beginning 203

Minor Annals V

That year brought plague and pestilence and a desperate hunger.

And fear.

The night skies were like ichor and the clouds clung like the poisoned spume on the rocks of the shrinking river.

That year the maidens of the clan were sacrificed one by one to the new priest's unsatiated god.

That year I stood on the stony hillside with the others, our faces washed to bloody bone in the streaming torch light.

When the moon curved above the clouds like a knife I watched the priest raise his arms in incantation.

I saw the sigil of the goddess written in the sky above her veiled face and knew he lied.

When he led me forth his eyes gleamed red. My mother moaned, and the clan rustled like a hot wind through dry leaves.

I waited until we reached the stinking altar before I struck.

I let them tear him to pieces among the stones.

There were no more sacrifices that year.

That year, or thereafter.

Minor Annals VI

A Juca bug crawls up the wall of my hut and I smash it.

With my thumb.


I offer the bug to Tzetoqiee, but he turns his nose up at it.

He says I've changed since my friends and I ripped out the intestines of the priest last year.


Minor Annals VII

That year I considered publishing my annals on stone tablets, but decided against it.

I guess you could say I'm very annal-retentive.

Minor Annals VIII

Skipped work today and gnawed on a coca leaf for an hour instead.


I'm doing this again tomorrow.

Tomorrow, and thereafter.

Opening: Bernita.....Continuation: Pacatrue

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Face-Lift 268

Guess the Plot

The Aleksandr Conspiracy

1. They made fun of him, with his overbite and learning disability, said he couldn't spell his own name. But Al is going to show the judges of the National Spelling Bee. First, though, he must fill out the application. A-L-E...K? Q? A-L-E-C-K..X?

2. When Dmitriy Ivanovich Aleksandr joins the FBI, he quickly uncovers a corporate conspiracy to take over the presidency. Will he expose the plot, or will the group known as Free Americans Revering Truth in Service convince the public he's a spying, gay-marriage supporting, global-warming-believing, tax-and-spend commie?

3. When hunky CIA agent Bronk Lewis disappears, it's up to his twin brother to take his place and thwart the Aleksandrs, a Cold War-era sleeper cell of terrorists planning to spill anarchy into the streets of America.

4. After the disaster that was his last movie, Colin Farrell sets out to change the title on every existing copy of the film. When Brad Pitt becomes suspicious, the 'Alexander' to 'Aleksandr' Conspiracy may be exposed--and if the movie didn't destroy Farrell's reputation, this revelation will.

5. EE Blog fanatics have always wondered why no continuations except those written by two prominent minions ever reach the desk of Evil Editor. Internet blog hacker Aleksandr "RIL" Thornton knows the reason but as far as she's concerned mum's the word.

6. Ninth grade English teacher Nola Webster is on a crusade--to halt the depredations IM-ing has wrought on standardized spelling. When hunky Russian Internet mogul Aleksandr reveals between shots of iced Stoli that undermining English is his first step toward world domination, will Nola turn him in? Or turn him on?

Original Version


I came across your name while exploring __________. [I hate fill in the blank tests. Let's start over and make it multiple choice:

Dear Evil Editor,

1. I came across your name while exploring

a. an archaeological dig in Transylvania
b. an al Qaeda website
c. the depths of my soul
d. Charles Manson's MySpace page]
Since your successes and interests appear to be diverse and include complementary genres of commercial fiction, [You've lost me already. Whatever that was, get rid of it.] I thought you might like to review my novel, The ALEKSANDR CONSPIRACY, and consider representing me.

The ALEKSANDRS are a cold war era sleeper cell whose members have woven their way into key corporate and governmental positions. [Woven their way?

Terrorist: The plan is brilliant, Fearless Leader. I have but one question. How am I to attain my position of power in corporate America?

Leader: Weave your way in.]

[Wait a minute, did you say Cold War era? Like the 1950s? It was a brilliant plan they had, except for one thing. By the time the terrorists were finally ready to make their move, they were all using walkers, drooling, and watching Matlock reruns all day.]
Already exerting their influence on the supply of electricity and crude, the ALEKSANDRS are about to push shortages to the point where even the U.S. government becomes vulnerable to outside control. Pace Lewis, a State Department translator whose idea of excitement is a day sailing on the Potomac River, is drawn into the conspiracy by a single phone call. “In two days a meeting will take place. Your brother was to attend.

[2. What will the mysterious caller say next?

a. I'm asking you to take his place.
b. I want you to take his place.
c. I'd like you to take his place.
d. All of the above.]

I want . . . I’d like . . . I’m asking you to take his place. The fate of the free world hinges on this. [Yeah, yeah, but what's in it for me?] You see, [I guarantee that whoever made this phone call did not start this sentence with "You see . . . "] 247 kilograms of weapons grade plutonium—enough to blow something straight to hell—is about to fall into the hands of terrorists.” [Your mission, should you decide to accept it . . . ] The caller is the Deputy Director of the CIA and the motivation behind his odd appeal isn’t just patriotic: Pace’s twin brother Bronk, a decorated combat soldier now employed by the CIA, has disappeared. The Deputy Director contends the only way to find out what has happened to Bronk is for Pace to assume his brothers identity and attend the meeting.

Pace agrees, but from the moment he arrives in the Middle East, finds he is a marked man. Thrust into a dark, upside-down web of his own brothers making, [How does one determine whether a web is upside-down?] Lewis soon discovers that the terrorists are the least of his worries, and to get to the bottom of the conspiracy and learn what has happened to his brother, means becoming more and more like the conspirators themselves. Pitted against an opponent who will go to any length to succeed, Pace,

[3. Who will help Pace save the world?

a. a ravishingly beautiful FBI agent who once dated Pace. Or was it Bronk?
b. a team of trained dolphins

c. Tommy Lee Jones
d. No one, he's on his own.]

with the aid of a pulchritude FBI agent [You meant "pulchritudinous," but if you want the agent to continue reading, go with "attractive."] who happens to have Lewis ties in her past, races to stop the ALEKSANDR’S and prevent anarchy from spilling onto America’s streets.

The ALEKSANDR CONSPIRACY is my first novel, and though I have no formal literary credits, I am an active businessman whose articles have graced trade publications and whose editorials continue to find the print media. I am a voracious reader and in-between, have several other titles under varying states of construction. [Once I finish constructing the titles, I'll start working on the actual books.]

I’d be happy to send sample chapters or a complete copy of the manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration.



You haven't connected the Aleksandrs with the plutonium. It sounds like the Aleksandrs have a plan in place to bring down the U.S. economy. So are they involved in getting plutonium as well? This feels like two books: the Pace/Bronk/plutonium book, and the Aleksandrs book. Connect them.

I would expect someone at "the meeting" to be responsible for Bronk's disappearance, and to thus know Pace is not Bronk, and to kill him on the spot.

Apostrophe problems: "brothers" needs one (twice) and Aleksandrs doesn't.

4. Which of the following requires the greatest suspension of disbelief?

a. The government entrusts the fate of the free world to a lowly interpreter.
b. A Cold War-era sleeper cell awakens fifty years later.
c. After giving birth to twins, a woman decides to name them Pace and Bronk.

New Beginning 202

The man whose intestines would be on my floor in less than an hour walks out of the brick house. I watch from my car as he descends the steps sprightly and struts down the sidewalk.

I grit my teeth at his strut.

I put my car into drive and accelerate the new Audi with the headlights off. The car glides quietly into the dying night. He is whistling. I can hear it. He's happy, but he doesn’t have the right to be.

I turn on my lights and drive past him. He looks at the car but he doesn’t know who I am. I smile at him, but he doesn’t see.

I turn left a few blocks ahead, into a greasy alley. I get out and open the trunk. I grab my son's aluminum tee-ball bat. I crouch behind shrubs hugging the apartment building next to the alley. I hear his whistling louder now. I smell his arrogance. I hear his breath.

I see his shadow.

He walks past the shrub and I spring forward. He stops, perhaps hearing my knee crack as I spring from my crouch. I am faster, though. Such is the advantage of surprise.

I swing the bat down on his head just above his left ear. The crack sounds just like it did when my son hit a double with this very bat only a few weeks ago. Identical except that no one cheers me on.

The man drops. I don’t know how many blows it takes to knock a man out cold and how many to kill one. I guess that three might be somewhere in between. I swing down two more times, a little softer. The metallic plinks sound like my son’s ground out and single later in the game.

The man does not move.

I drag the lifeless body to my car like an infield drag mat and stuff it into the trunk. I'll need some privacy for what I'm going to do.

My home is a half-mile away. I pull into the garage and drag the body through to the kitchen. I get out a butcher knife and gut the bastard like a pig.


I look up and a cop levels his gun at me. I lunge toward the living room, but there’s already another cop, a tall one, blocking my path. They’ve got me in a rundown, like when my son got picked off first last week.

As the tall cop approaches, his eyes widen. “Mitch?” It’s Brian, the Bluejays coach. He looks at the pool of blood on the floor and back at me. “Say it ain’t so, Mitch.”

I drop the knife and hang my head, like my son did when he took that called third strike. My son, he’s only six, but he’s gonna be in the majors some day.

“You have the right to remain silent.” Brian slaps the cuffs on me and spins me around. “Just for the record,” he says, jerking his thumb toward the dead body, “Lou makes some bad calls now and then, but your kid was out by a mile.”

Opening: Chris Rylander.....Continuation: blogless_troll

Monday, January 29, 2007

New Beginning 201

It was just before midnight. As I lay there fighting back the nausea I could hear the roar of his duel exhaust as he sped up and down highway six. I was trying to think of anything but vomit. So I just listened to my old buddy hot-rod up and down the highway wishing I were with him. My girl was supposed to come see me. Where was she? That bastard is out there with my girl. Every time I could not hear his Plymouth, I could imagine he and my girl doing things in his back seat. Things she was only supposed to do with me. That two-faced bastard. When I get out of this bed I will stomp his sorry ass right in front of everybody at school. Then I just lay there thinking about the payback. The time he accused me of trying to make it with his girl. Well, I only did it once and she was willing. Besides, he didn’t even know about it.

“I don’t get it. I just don't see the--”

“No, look. It’s great. There, he’s getting up. Now press the triangle button. Quick.”


“Exactly. When did you last see someone blowing chunks like that? It took forever to figure out how to get him to do that.”

“I'm sure. Look, I know I told you to tone down the sex and violence and fast cars, but this? No, I just don’t see Grand Theft Auto 4: Consequence City being a big seller.”

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Anonymous

Face-Lift 267

Guess the Plot

Gin and Sympathy

1. After her husband's architectural firm goes bankrupt, Dallas Grimes meets a wealthy philanthropist who promises her a million dollars if she accepts his indecent proposal: submit a query to Evil Editor for which all the fake plots will contain clever references to Miss Snark. Also, sympathy.

2. In this touching coming-of-age memoir, Miss Snark reveals her passion while touching lightly on her shortcoming. Profusely illustrated, sample cluegun included.

3. Jealous of Evil Editor's growing publishing empire, Miss Snark decides to go for a kinder, gentler image and pens her own book of writing tips. Sample tip #85: Rejection goes down easier with a gin chaser.

4. Miss Snark spends Friday night blubbering with two of the lesser gods: Gin and Sympathy. In the morning she burns the shoe boxes and computer containing her seven unpublishable novels, and gets a new tattoo in preparation for her blind date with Arnold Patterson, pizza driver. Is she at rock bottom yet? Or will Sunday be even worse?

5. Our heroine has trouble with her cussing, weight, smoking, and a certain beverage. When her best drinking buddy, Niles, is found murdered, she vows to secretly sober up until she finds the fiend who did it.

6. Fifteen years ago, our heroine had an affair with Eugene, a man with a tail. She got pregnant, but never told Eugene. Now her son wants to meet the father he never knew. But she just wants gin. Also, sympathy.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Dorothy Abramson has been a fag hag as long as she can remember. [Even Evil Editor, with his history of electro-shock therapy, heroin addiction, and the Burmese prison brainwashing incident, can remember back to the age of five. "As long as she can remember" may be an exaggeration.] Whether she's dancing till dawn with Nathaniel, holding Robert's hand through an AIDS test, or trading blows with the bigots who gaybashed Marshall, [Just so we're on the same wave length, is "trading blows" more gay slang, or is she brawling?] this self-proclaimed "fairy godmother to the fey" is the best friend a gay boy could ask for.

But it wasn't always that way. Once upon a time, Dorothy made the hag's classic mistake and tried to seduce her best friend -- his refusal broke her heart, and she vowed from then on to respect the impassable boundaries of intimacy. But when one of her beloved boys starts [I'd stick with the past tense here.] crossing lines of his own, and suddenly everything gets a lot more complicated.

Their affair is short lived: Eugene goes back to his husband with his tail between his legs, and Dorothy is left with nothing but a newly broken heart... and an unplanned pregnancy. Dorothy swears that she'll never tell Eugene, as she doesn't want to break up his marriage. [Here's where to return to present tense.] Fifteen years later, however, her teenaged son wants to meet his long lost father. Dorothy knows she should say no, but she can't help wondering if the boy who wandered once can be convinced now to switch for good. [This makes it seem like she is motivated less by satisfying her son's curiosity than by satisfying her own. Surely she's moved on with her life after fifteen years.]

Gin and Sympathy is an 80,000 word commercial novel detailing the life of a girl who follows her heart to the wrong side of the rainbow. I would be happy to provide you with a complete manuscript and look forward to hearing from you soon. I am enclosing an SASE for your reply, or you may contact me at _________

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Long-time minions will recognize this as a revised version of Face-Lift 117. That's where the rest of the laughs are, in case you were wondering.

Is this version better? I think so. It now sounds like it has a central plot, while it previously consisted entirely of lists, giving the impression it was a series of vignettes. Not that a series of vignettes can't work in a memoir, but the "son" aspect gives it more appeal now that you're calling it a novel rather than a faux memoir.

That term "fag hag" is rather jolting. Maybe not to those you see as your target audience, but possibly to those to whom you're sending the query. If it began:

Whether she's dancing till dawn with Nathaniel, holding Robert's hand through an AIDS test, or trading blows with the bigots who gaybashed Marshall, Dorothy Abramson, self-proclaimed "fairy godmother to the fey," is the best friend a gay boy could want.

But it wasn't always that way. Dorothy once made the mistake of trying to seduce her best friend. His refusal broke her heart, and she vowed to respect the impassable boundaries of intimacy from then on.

But when one of her beloved boys started crossing lines of his own, everything got a lot more complicated. Their affair was short lived: etc. etc.

. . . it might be less abrasive.

I assume "boy" is slang for man? It still sounds weird when talking about the 15-year-old son of a boy.

It seems like it would be impossible to keep knowledge of her son from Eugene. Surely they had numerous mutual friends. Did she claim the kid was someone else's? I doubt it; the kid hasn't met Eugene and he certainly would have met him if Eugene didn't think the kid was his. Did she move to Alaska? Maybe, but she's been a fag hag as long as she can remember, which would include the last fifteen years. Not that Anchorage doesn't have a thriving gay community, but . . .

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Queries and Openings Needed

We're down to two queries and three openings. Remember, queries can be for any kind of book that you're hoping to have published. Openings should be for fiction only, but any length including short stories is okay. Submit material through the email address in my profile.

As it takes a while to get good Guess the Plots and continuations, we don't want to run dry.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Face-Lift 266

Guess the Plot


1. When llamas and zombie cows begin acting strangely, cultists, roaming ostriches, and rival biker gangs are suspected, until one woman exposes the true culprits: parasitic brain-worms from outer space!

2. Deep sea diver Phil Walters is on a mission to discover new forms of sea life. To this end he dives deeper than anyone before. Is the giant grinning worm a result of his low blood oxygen? Or is it . . . a fluke??

3. Bob Johnson's mom blabs the truth about his birth -- he exists because of a defective contraceptive -- and sends him into an episode of depression. Bob breaks up with his girlfriend, starts smoking weed, and changes his college major to philosophy, then art history, then microbiology. Can he find the meaning of life in a petri dish, thanks to . . . the fluke???

4. RIL had a pretty good run of winning continuations at EVIL EDITOR, but grizzled continuator Kate Thornton thinks it was a fluke. When she releases her latest editions she knows no work of RIL's will ever see the light of day again.

5. Aided by a homicidal jellyfish, Skipper the Dolphin plans to kidnap the high-flying goody-goody who hijacked his starring role in a new yet-to-be-named TV show about a crime fighting porpoise, forcing the producers to rehire him. Sure, flippers are cute, but if you want to be a star in this town, you gotta kick some fluke.

6. After Captain Ahab's death, what became of his son Fluke? The boy with flipper-like feet is determined to find the great white whale, to avenge his father's death, but Fluke also wants to win the gold in swimming at the upcoming Olympics. Will he find his way through the uncharted waters of his emotions?? And what of the man they call Ishmael???

Original Version

Dear Dream Agent,

Laura is used to picking up after the people in her life. When her charming, feckless husband dies, leaving her with a failing sheep farm and a 14-year old nephew, she sets out to sell the farm and get back to the familiar city. She expected rural life to be hard and boring. She didn't expect weird.

First, an unknown, addictive fruit appears in local orchards and her sheep develop a magnetic pull toward a nearby mountain. Her neighbours bring in ostriches, llamas and alpacas, who share the sheep's fascination with Mount Donald. [Actually, it's not Mount Donald the llamas are fascinated with, it's the sheep.] A farm patriarch finds a prophetic tablet and starts a millennial cult. Her nephew can't decide whether to join the cult (the patriarch's grand-daughter is pretty hot) or stay out all night with the astronomy club, looking for strange lights in the sky. An outbreak of cattle mutilations [I suspect the ostriches.] raises fears [Especially among the cattle.] and brings media attention. UFO-watching tourists wander into fields where the unofficial cash crop grows, annoying the local biker gang. [This list is way too long. You need to connect some ideas. Plus, when you throw it all into one paragraph it makes the book sound ridiculous rather than comical.]

With every turn, Laura finds herself more enmeshed in the small-town life she meant to escape. Her veterinarian friend Jan and distractingly-rugged biologist Mike involve her in uncovering the source of the uproar. Cultists? Bored teenagers? UFO aliens? Rival biker gangs? Roaming ostriches? Or parasitical brain-worms from outer space? [Let's limit our lists to three items.] Laura thinks she's found the answer (or gone crazy), but now the sheep and llamas have broken down the fences, and reanimated cattle stagger out of their bulldozed grave. They're heading for Mount Donald, [New title suggestion: Close Encounters of the Herd Kind] along with the cult members, the astronomy club, the tourists, the bikers and the lights in the sky. Laura must race her old pickup truck against a spaceship to reach Colin and her friends [Colin and her friends? Who's Colin?] before they hitch a ride with strange aliens.

Fluke is a 60,000 word comic sf novel. I have attended (genre writing workshop), was a finalist in (gimmicky writing contest) and have a story in (new e-zine). Thank you for your time and consideration.


[EE--the title 'Fluke' refers to the alien brain-worms, who are, yes, what's behind it all. The ostriches have their own agenda.]

Revised Version

Dear Dream Agent,

Sheep farmer Laura Davis expected rural life to be hard and boring; she didn't expect it to be bizarre. So when all the animals in the area develop a magnetic pull toward Mount Donald, and Laura's nephew, Colin, considers joining a new cult, and an outbreak of cattle mutilations brings the media to town, Laura decides it's time to sell the farm and move back to Liverpool.

But soon Laura finds herself more enmeshed than ever in the small-town life she wants to escape. Her veterinarian friend Jan and distractingly-rugged biologist Mike involve her in uncovering the source of the weirdness. Is it the cultists? Bored teenagers? Roaming ostriches?

Everyone's a suspect, until Laura uncovers the true culprits:
Parasitic Brain-Worms from Outer Space!
But it may be too late! The sheep and llamas have broken down the fences, and reanimated cattle have staggered out of their bulldozed grave. They're all heading for Mount Donald, along with the cult members, the astronomy club, and local biker gangs. Can Laura's old pickup truck reach Colin before he hitches a ride with space aliens?

Fluke is a 60,000-word comic sf novel that may sound like Close Encounters, but did Close Encounters have zombie cows? Did it have llamas? Did it have . . .
Parasitic Brain-Worms from Outer Space?
No. So there.

I have attended (genre writing workshop), was a finalist in (gimmicky writing contest) and have a story in (new e-zine). Thank you for your time and consideration.



Even if you leave out the lights in the sky and everyone being drawn to the mountain, and the pick-up truck/spaceship scene, they're in the book, and some will say it's derivative of . . . that movie. Unless it's intended to be a satire of the movie, perhaps there should be a different strange occurrence, something totally un-derivative, like all the animals have developed an insatiable appetite for human brains.

Not sure why it begins: Laura is used to picking up after the people in her life. It may be true, but the query doesn't make it clear what that means. Also, it sounds like the opening line of a query for a more serious book.

Parasitic Brain-Worms from Outer Space is a much better title than Fluke.

New Beginning 200!

It is irresponsible to place oneself in distressing situations without proper training.

There are few things more embarrassing than dangling over the shoulder of a swaggering highwayman. If Rachel wasn’t a professional, she would have knocked him out the moment he grabbed her. Instead, she had to content herself by pounding him on the back and kicking her legs. He grunted in response to her blows, and tossed her onto his horse. “One more scream out of you, lady, and I’ll cut out your tongue,” he told her, wrapping a firm arm around her waist.

“You wouldn’t dare,” Rachel whispered in response, lifting her chin. “My father would have your head for it.”

“Your father isn’t here,” he used his free hand to stroke her cheek, “and your escort is dead.”

It is foolish to embark upon a journey improperly attired.

Rachel pushed the assailant’s hand away from her cheek and corrected her skirts. The cruel winter air bit at her skin, and she thanked the heavens he had not taken hold of her muff. “You are despicable, sir,” she hissed.

“Indeed,” the man replied; and with a grunt, he mounted the mare from behind. The horse nickered uncomfortably and shifted its feet.

Rachel could feel his warm breath on her neck as he leant forward to take up the reins. Her muscles were tense, and her heart beat out a tattoo. “This road is patrolled by the king’s men,” she said defiantly. “How far do you intend to go?”

“All the way,” he replied. “I know of a passage, narrow, dark and well-hidden, by way of which I shall take you.” The highwayman spurred his horse to a gallop, and Rachel could feel the point of his weapon brushing dangerously against her hip.

“Sir, I must warn you, anything you do to me shall incur a heavy price.”

It is unwise for the professional to commence a service until contractual matters have been agreed.

Opening: Luney.....Continuation: ril

Thursday, January 25, 2007

New Beginning 199

Call me Mandy. No really, I insist. Amanda is cute but it’s too proper. Mandy? Now that’s young, hot, fresh. Plus, it makes things easier on guests when my great aunt Amelia comes around.

How often do great aunts come around, you might wonder. Quite often in these parts, actually. Of course, mine has been lolling around in the garden, hoping to stumble into another mystery, but even my neighbors have had theirs stop by to check on them. I think most people like to keep an eye on family, especially when said family’s town has recently suffered through the strangest set of events this side of Armageddon.

To be honest, I wished my aunt had stopped by sooner. Instead, when things started that Saturday morning, I was by myself. My husband was around, I suppose, but, let’s just say, he wasn’t all there.

No, when I awoke, there was just the smell of copper. I rolled on my side to see what it was, but something cold and wet lapped at my thigh. I didn’t quite make it out of the sheets and ended up rolling away, falling to a crumpled pile at the side of the bed. Swearing, I rose. And went silent.

A large red stain had turned our sheets into a passable Japanese flag.

Of course, it’s not like this was totally unexpected. My husband was always very impressionable. His muffled groans led me to the bathroom where his botched attempt at seppuku had left him sterile but stoic. He bowed his head and apologized profusely, while trying to stanch the flow.

I put on my dressing-gown and padded barefoot downstairs, following the trail of blood. Near the front door I found the newspaper, folded into artful representations of a crane in flight, a black bear and a ’93 Toyota Corolla. With trepidation, I passed through to the kitchen. The inhabitants of my tropical aquarium, as I'd feared, had been sushi’d to death.

With a sigh, I went over to the TV, took the rental DVD out of the player, and cursed the subliminal messages in Letters from Iwo Jima.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Kobayashi

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

New Beginning 198

When the ghoulish being dropped silently from the treetop and landed before her on the sidewalk, Ms. Foobie was hardly surprised. She stiffened her shoulders and glared into the creature’s eyes.

“Get out of my way you pickle-faced weenie!” she ordered.

The creature’s eyes burned brighter. It did not move.

“I said get out of my way!” Ms. Foobie leaned back and heaved her handbag into its ribcage with a heavy clunk and poof of dust. Its eyes widened with alarm, and, as it tottered, Ms. Foobie shoved the monster completely out of her path.

“Stinking, skulking vampire, that’s all I needed on a day like this,” she muttered, stomping past as the chastised vampire skittered away like a roach.

Ms. Foobie fondly patted her bag. Most folks kept their distance from her, wondering exactly what it was she kept in that wretched old thing. Well, she thought, practically everything except the kitchen sink; and, once, she actually did tuck in an old faucet she’d once stumbled over at the dump. That same faucet worked just fine now that it was installed in Mr. Stinky’s bathroom.

Some folks, she realized, might think it odd that a kitty had its own bathroom.

Ms. Foobie let herself into her ramshackle little house and dropped her bag onto the floor. Mr. Stinky slinked out of the living room and eyed her suspiciously. “Hey, Kitty. Want to see what I’ve got for you today?” Mr. Stinky sat down on the hallway rug and squinted up at her.

A sudden rapping on the door sent Mr. Stinky skittering into the kitchen. "Ms. Foobie." It was a vile, gravelly voice, muffled by the door. Ms. Foobie looked through the peephole. That despicable bloodsucker had followed her home!

"Get away from my door you vinegar pissing parasite," she said. "You won’t cross my threshold. You're not going to suck me dry."

"Ms. Foobie..." The voice was edged with weariness. "This is the last time I'll say it. A cat with an odor problem does not count as a disabled dependent, and there’s no deduction for home improvements for a pet. Ms. Foobie, I can assure you the IRS will get its money!"

Opening: Lori Lapekes.....Continuation: ril

New Beginning 197

My real mom and dad died in a plane crash when I was six months old, and I was raised by a pack of Saturday morning cartoons. I guess if I’d listened to the Superfriends useful safety tips I wouldn’t be in this hospital bed, wondering if Kyle made it out of the bank too. But who listens to parents, right?

Stephanie the Pretty Nurse slipped into my room and closed the door. She stared at me for a moment, like she was trying to figure out something, then she rushed over and whispered in my ear. “Close your eyes and moan.”

Now, I may be pretty banged up, but I am fourteen. And things like that don’t happen to guys like me. I couldn’t stop my goofy grin. Stephanie squeezed my arm. “Do it.”

But the door opened again. This time it was the crabby nurse and a tall, skinny guy in a dark suit. “Good. You’re awake,” said Nurse Ogre. “This gentleman would like to ask you a few questions.”

Stephanie shot me an "I tried" look and hurried out.

The skinny guy sat down on the bed, opened his notebook and licked the end of a short, dirty pencil. "Okay, kid," he said. "What were you doing in the bank?"

What could I tell him? Kyle and I had planned a heist. Well, actually, Pinky and the Brain had planned it. Wile E. Coyote was the lookout and Roger Rabbit was in charge of the getaway car.

How were we to know to know Dick Tracy and Droopy would show up?

Opening: blogless_troll.....Continuation: Kate Thornton

Face-Lift 265

Guess the Plot

Vesper of the Blue Wind

1. In an effort to both liven up Evening Prayer and provide a modicum of warmth in the freezing stone chapel, Brother Crudfile experiments with lighting his own gaseous emanations.

2. Ever since "Fragments" Vesper ate that indigo bean dish there's been as much hot air coming out of his back end as there always is from his pie hole. Is that why FOX News suddenly wants to hire him?

3. Sister Flatulata finds inspiration for her liturgical compositions in the most mundane objects. Peanuts, beer and a blueberry slushy will be immortalized in song at vespers next Sunday, but will the parishioners be prepared for the nun's unconventional performance on wind instruments?

4. Psychologist Vesper McNeil overcame many obstacles to land her dream job: Chief of Group Therapy at the Hormel Research Institute for the Clinically Depressed. Now if she can only convince management to stop serving black bean chili for lunch.

5. Japali wants to be friends with Kottre, but the only way she can work up the courage to approach Kottre is by taking on the persona of Vesper, an albino duelist in the Blue Wind, an online role-playing group.

6. Vesper, Kansas. Population-not enough to be interesting. Wind-enough to make Linda Dunaway tired of dust, tired of bleak fields, tired of her no-good husband, Chance. Her only hope is faith in God--and the hunky unattached engineer looking to build a wind-powered energy plant on her property.

Original Version

Dear ---,

Japali, role-player and suicidal teenager, drives away her friend, Kottre, fellow role-player, with erratic behavior. Afterwards, Japali pulls herself together and wants to be friends with Kottre again. But shame keeps her from going to her friend directly. So Japali seeks Kottre through Aether, an international, virtual reality network that hosts thousands of role-playing games. In order to (secretly) get to Kottre again, Japali will have to take on the role of Vesper, an albino duelist. [Is that an albino who fights duels, or a duelist who only fights albinos?] [So "duelist" is this character's occupation? You'd have to fight an awful lot of duels to reach the point where, when someone asks what you do for a living, you say, "I fight duels." Of course, if we assume duels are fought when someone insults someone else, I'll have to concede that albinos probably would get involved in an inordinate number.]

But Kottre, aka Kearheart, has a legendary status on Aether that ostracizes Japali [aka Jalopy]. Japali must start from the bottom, going from game to game, earning notoriety, before Kottre and her group, the Blue Wind, will even consider her. When it becomes apparent that Japali will never accomplish this in one lifetime, [Everyone else who has accomplished this has done so in far less than a lifetime. Probably in a year or two. If it's going to take Japali more than a lifetime, she must suck at role playing.] [If Kottre was willing to be Japali's friend before, despite the fact that she sucks at role playing, why does she now have to attain the highest levels to regain the friendship?] she must reveal her identity, contact Kottre outside the game, or let a good friend go forever. [A good friend of a suicidal girl would not be driven away by erratic behavior; she'd insist on helping.] But shame and fear keeps Japali trapped in indecision. [I think you should swap their names; then when Kottre wins her way back into Japali's good graces, Japali can say, "Welcome back, Kottre." Also, spell it Kotter, and change Japali to Horshack.Then when people Google Welcome Back, Kotter characters, your book comes up and you sell millions.]

VESPER OF THE BLUE WIND is the 90,000-word, science fiction/fantasy novel that covers Japali’s adventures. [Her adventures? What adventures? I hope you don't mean Vesper's adventures, because adventures that take place on a computer screen or at a card table aren't gonna fly as a 90,000-word book. If Jalopy has adventures, bring that up in the query letter. It's gotta be more interesting than reading about teens and their role-playing games.] As per your submission instructions, I have included a bio, synopsis, and sample pages. The completed manuscript is available upon request.

Thank you for your time.



It's not clear who the audience is. If it's for people who are addicted to role-playing games, say so. The number of people addicted to role-playing games who also buy books is highly limited, but fortunately, most of them read this blog, so you may find a sympathetic ear. If the book is for twelve-year-olds, make that clear as well.

The main problem is that the only thing at stake is whether some teen regains a friendship that we have no reason to believe is even worth regaining. Even those who want to follow Jalopy's climb up the Aether ladder will be disappointed when she fails to reach the top in her entire lifetime.

If you aren't going to give anyone a normal name, at least mention where the story is set so we know whether it's on Earth.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Face-Lift 264

Guess the Plot

Mathias Corvinus and the Dragon's Order

1. When drab Brother Mathias (the Crow) Corvinus condemns as lascivious the peach colored habit of the Passerine sisters, Sister Erithaca lodges an appeal with Abbot Draco. Soon the Passerines are tricked out in flame red, royal blue, and grass green. And they are breathing fire.

2. 22nd-century genius Elmer Mars devises time travel technology that he hopes to use to save the planet from the lasting blaze of religious zealotry. His plan: convince the 15th Century King of Hungary, Mathias Corvinus, to crusade against the Ottoman Empire and win with secret modern weaponry.

3. Second violinist Mathias Corvinus can't forget legendary conductor Carmen Dragon's advice: "Take up plumbing, car repair, anything but violin!" But he realizes it was more than just good advice when his Pinto bursts into flames over a sewer pipe on the Santa Monica Freeway.

4. Mathias Corvinus discovers that he lived centuries before, in the land of Myrddin, and was killed by Queen Lilith. Now he lives again, and the Queen is a member of the faculty at his university. Coincidence? Or opportunity for revenge? Also, a vampire.

5. Young Mathias Corvinus enlists in the army looking for fun, adventure and $60 a month. But he gets more than he bargained for when the lovely Major Melissa Dargonne, alias "The Dragon," yanks him off the firing lines and puts him on a very personal detail.

6. Obsessive-compulsive King of Hungary, Mathias Corvinus, acquires a hoard of battle dragons with which he plans to conquer the thieving bloodsuckers of Wallachia. The invasion backfires, however, when King Mathias insists, against the dragonmaster’s expert judgment, that the pink one should go first, then red, and then green.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

"I wish I was a vampire..." [Evil Editor wishes you authors would get right into your books, instead of leading off with personal information.] [Be careful what you wish for. Some agents are bloodsucking monsters who'll grant your wish gladly.]

As a 13-year-old street kid, Mathias "Matt" Corvinus had no idea that one wish would change his life, forever. You see, this is not the first time Mathias Corvinus walked the earth. [Some sources don't insist on capitalizing "Earth," but all the other planets get capitalized, so I say Earth should be too. True, other planets are named for gods, but so is the element mercury, and we don't capitalize that, so godness alone doesn't justify capitalizing. If any planet should be uncapitalized, it's Pluto, a hunk of floating debris about the size of a Hummer 3. Earth, one of the four best planets, should be capitalized.]

[Planets listed in reverse order of quality:
9. Pluto (dropped to 9th after recent humiliating downgrade.)
8. Jupiter (It's all gaseous; that's not a planet, it's a giant fart.)
7. Mercury (Skin cancer capital of the solar system.)
6. Neptune (There's a limit to how far even I will go for great seafood.)
5. Mars (Moved up from #7 thanks to War of the Worlds and Snickers bars.)
4. Earth (Would be #3 if it weren't home of Rosie O'Donnell.)
3. Saturn (My favorite day is named after it. Also, cool rings.)
2. Venus (Only planet named after a babe.)
1. Uranus (Never underestimate the comedic potential in Uranus.)]

Centuries before, Corvinus was the vampire king in the lands of Myrddin who met his demise when he willed himself to death after Lilith, the queen and mother of all vampires, tortured him. [How does one become the mother of any vampire, much less all vampires?]

Dying in an alley, a victim of a drive-by shooting, Matt made his wish. As he takes his last breaths, his wish is granted by none other than Vlad Tepes III, otherwise known as Dracula. [That was his wish? That Vlad Tepes III would happen along and be unable to resist a free meal?] But becoming a vampire meant more than just exposed necks. Matt must deal with learning how to survive as well as having to go to the "University", the only school in existance for vampire children. [Also, the only school with all night classes.]

[Classes at the "University:"

Hematology--Tips on improving blood flavor. For instance, a wedge of lime squeezed onto the victim's throat before dining can be most refreshing.
Periodontics--Preventing fang loss.
Zoology 101--Bats, Bats, Bats!
Geography 101--The Transylvanian Alps: Earth's Wonderland.
History 160--Bram Stoker: Historian, or Sensationalist?
Speech 101--Vherein ve vill teach you to pronounce the letter "w."

To make matters worse, the vampire world believes Matt to be their idol

[Songs heard on Transylvanian Idol:

"Drac the Knife" (Bobby Darin)
"Addicted to Blood" (Robert Palmer)
"Oh, Vladdy" (Fleetwood Mac)]

simply because he bears the same name as their beloved king. After having nightmares about being tortured by Lilith, Matt discovers that he was the legendary figure the vampires believe him to be. [Discovers how?] When he finds out that the Queen is a permenant faculty member at the school, Matt ambarks on a quest to get her to admit to her reason for torturing the first incarnation of Mathias Corvinus, and ultimately, causing his death. [That's his great quest? To discover her motivation for something she did hundreds of years ago? Maybe she's just evil to the core. We want to see him seeking revenge, not better understanding.]

Mathias Corvinus and the Dragon's Order is a 65,000-word young adult fantasy. I admire authors such as J.K Rowling and Katie Maxwell, who write novels that both amuse and delight their readers. It is my hope that this novel will appeal to the same audience.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to be hearing from you soon.



Was Matt the same guy who lived centuries ago before Dracula bit him? If so, how did he come back to life? If not, it's just a coincidence that he has the same name as the ancient vampire he becomes?

I think we need higher stakes if we're going to care about Matt's story.

New Beginning 196

It is transparent and it sticks to you to itself to anything you don’t want it to, but it does not hold together those things that need holding together - the gaping wound of the broken marriage, for example, or her lips when she is about to say something cutting, hurtful, or embarrassing. It does not hold together worlds or atoms or decaying societies, or rotting plywood or the canvas back to the director’s chair that Myrtle sat in that last summer that she was able to sit upright, the skin of her hands transparent, the skin of her legs gone over, turned, like curds like pot cheese like yellowed papers from her father’s desk.

Myrtle read a poem when she was in the fifth grade. It was the first poem in her poetry book, wherein the poems were arranged in chronological order, thus – this poem – this first poem in Myrtle’s memory:

Sumer is a-cumin’ in
Loudhe sing cuckoo
Sumer is a-cumin’ in . . .

She doesn’t remember the rest. She just remembers the pages, turned by the hands of a dozen students before her, reading learning growing creasing and tearing the pages held together with brittle, yellow . . . It ages like we do, we all grow old grow brittle turn yellow, it happened to Myrtle, it’ll happen to you. I can still see still imagine, that virgin spool, full of promise until eager fingers unwind it until there’s nothing left, you have to understand--

“Scotch tape? That what you want? Scotch tape?”

Yes dear, that’s it: Scotch tape. And also . . . oh, it’s thin and pointed and it can draw a line on paper or card or the journal of your life, and it carries an eraser at it’s end, but you can never erase everything no matter how hard you try, there’s always a shadow a smudge a residue of the past, remaining to . . .

Opening: Tia Nia.....Continuation: ril

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Face-Lift 263

Guess the Plot

Beyond Ordino

1. Josh Ordino has a mad crush on Nancy Jones but she's so far beyond him on the scale of cool, it's hopeless. She never even said "Hello" until a tornado put her car in his ditch. Now he's standing at the kitchen window, pretending to look for the tow truck, watching the little green Munchkins running away with her purse, and wondering if he should step aside and let her see . . . beyond Ordino.

2. Callista Ordino is all that stands - or rather runs - between DeeAnn Pliner and the gold medal at the Los Angeles Marathon. But is it worth a murder charge to get . . . beyond Ordino?

3. The sign on the door on the right says "ordino." The other door reads "ourtodo." The sign above both announces "Anagram Club." Lily and Nick are the only ones to know who serial killer "The Puzzler" really is. Can they solve the clues and find him... beyond Ordino?

4. Stuck in a tiny village of cheap souvenirs, bad food, worse plumbing and with a case of The Revenge, Milly is on her bargain vacation in Italy where her only consolation is the view from the shared toilet, a view of the mountains . . . beyond Ordino.

5. Kidnaped by terrorists who are driving her to Ordino, Mandy escapes with the hunky terrorist, Sendoa, who has fallen in love with her. But Ziggy, the terrorists' interim leader, is hot on their trail. Will the chase take them . . . beyond Ordino?

6. In the vast outreaches of known space lies a pristine island planet called Ordino. Beyond it is the secret lair of GingerLady and a land of unimaginable sweets and spices. And now the Common Federation has decided to open Ordino for exploration and exploitation. Conflict ensues, but will it spread . . . beyond Ordino?

Original Version

Dear Agent,

When terrorists take Mandy Patrone on an impromptu tour of the Pyrenees, she wishes she'd packed a toothbrush. [But then, how could she have known they'd be stopping at every Kung Pao corn on the cob stand in a fifty-mile radius?]

While on vacation in Barcelona, Mandy finds herself in the middle of a struggle for freedom by the ETA, a terrorist group fighting for independence from Spain - a free Basque nation.

In the hotel room next to hers, she overhears an Englishman demanding a store of ammunition in exchange for Juan, a captive ETA cell leader. [Wait, is this like that movie, Memento, with the paragraphs in reverse order?] Alejandro, Juan's negotiator, refuses, revealing that a number of hotel patrons are being held hostage. He says they'll be killed if Juan isn't released.

The Englishman readily reveals Juan's location -- a village called Ordino in Andorra, a tiny principality in the Pyrenees. He then orders Alejandro killed. [What's the point of revealing the location if you're gonna kill the guy you reveal it to?]

Mandy is discovered by the rest of the ETA cell group and must join the hostages in the hotel courtyard. The mysterious Englishman that murders Alejandro [I thought he ordered someone else to kill him.] disappears, apparently unconcerned about the fate of the hotel patrons. Out of sheer self-preservation, Mandy impulsively tells the hostage takers where their leader is held. [Impulsively? They didn't even ask? Let's see, if they're planning to kill me, the only thing that'll keep me alive is the fact that I know where their leader is, and they don't. So . . . I'll tell them.]

One of her captors is Sendoa, a man whose family roots delve deep, [delve?] neither French nor Spanish - not even Moorish. [You say that as if it's shocking to discover that someone isn't Moorish. Wait, this could be like Rumplestilskin.

Sendoa: Guess what my ancestry is. You'll never guess. If you guess I'll let you live.
Mandy: French?

Sendoa: Nope.
Mandy: Moorish?
Sendoa: Not even close.
Mandy: Basque?
Sendoa: Augghhh! Impossible!!!! Who told you?!]

The Basque language is unique, [I'm trying to think of a language that isn't unique.] their culture like no other. He joined the movement as a young man, ignoring his family's aversion to violence. His passion stems from the murder of his brother by a Spanish policeman and he had followed Juan into exile.

Mandy recruits Sendoa as an ally when Zigor, the interim cell leader, suggests that they bring her along as leverage when they attempt to rescue their leader. [Zigor will never be more than an interim leader. A true terrorist leader doesn't "suggest," he orders.] Mandy uses wit and ingenuity to stave off sheer panic while she is taken on a wild ride through Spain. [Wit and ingenuity, eh? I'll have to try that next time I'm faced with sheer panic, instead of my usual strategy: curling into the fetal position and sobbing.]

Partway through the journey, Zigor turns against Sendoa, [Once Sendoa had been recruited onto Mandy's side, it was inevitable that Ziggy would turn against him.] due to a lie told by the Englishman, who is still after the ammunition. [Is it really that hard to get ammunition, that you have to chase terrorists through the Pyrenees? Don't they have Wal-Marts in Baskerville?] [Englishmen don't need ammunition anyway. Didn't you ever watch The Avengers?] [Excuse me a moment while I reminisce about Mrs. Peel.] Sendoa's family is in danger, and he debates whether to continue with the rescue of his leader or return to his family.

Mandy convinces him to opt for the family, and they both slip into the wilderness of the Pyrenees to reach his home in the Basque region, Zigor in hot pursuit. [That's it? What about the leader? Is anyone going after the leader?]

BEYOND ORDINO is a romantic thriller, [This is a romance? Let me guess. Mandy falls in love with the terrorist? I figured she wanted the toothbrush for a MacGyverish escape; turns out she just wants fresh breath when she kisses the Samoan.] complete at 85,000 words. According to your submission guidelines, I have enclosed the first five pages for your perusal. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Revised Version

While vacationing in Barcelona, Mandy Patrone overhears an Englishman demanding a store of ammunition in exchange for Juan, the captive leader of a Basque terrorist group seeking independence from Spain. Alejandro, Juan's negotiator, refuses, declaring that a number of hostages will be killed if Juan isn't released. The Englishman reveals Juan's location--a village called Ordino in Andorra--and then kills Alejandro.

Discovered by the terrorists, Mandy is forced to join the hostages. One of her captors is Sendoa, who joined the movement as a young man, ignoring his family's aversion to violence. His passion stems from the murder of his brother by a Spanish policeman.

When Zigor, the interim terrorist leader, orders that Mandy be brought along as leverage when they set out to rescue their leader, she is taken on a wild ride through Spain. Partway through the journey, Zigor turns against Sendoa, mainly because he won't stop singing "Mandy." Sendoa and Mandy slip into the wilderness of the Pyrenees, bound for Sendoa's home in the Basque region, Zigor in hot pursuit.

BEYOND ORDINO is a romantic thriller, complete at 85,000 words. In accordance with your submission guidelines, I have enclosed the first five pages. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Why do they take Mandy along as leverage, rather than some other hostage from the hotel? Those holding the leader don't know Mandy. The Englishman was willing to let all the hostages be killed, but they think the captors will care about just Mandy?

Apparently the Englishman reappears; once he does, they should take him as leverage.

If Sendoa is a member of the ETA, Basque would be the obvious first guess, so what's with the "neither French nor Spanish - not even Moorish"?

It was too long, and too confusing. You don't need to tell the whole plot. On the other hand it feels like you're describing the setup, and the main plot is about to begin. Is most of the book Mandy and Samosa falling in love while fleeing Ziggy? If so, condense everything here into one or two sentences, and move on. Something like: Mandy Patrone has saved up her money for a vacation in Spain, but before she even unpacks her bags, Basques have kidnaped her and are driving her to Andorra to leverage the release of a terrorist. When the hunky Basque Sandoval falls in love with Mandy, the two of them slip into the wilderness and . . . take it from there.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Blurb Challenge

I've put together an amusing--if simple--back cover for the new book, but I wonder how the back would look with blurbs from great names in literary history. You know, like Shakespeare and Arthur Conan Doyle. Send 'em on, and I'll publish them in the comments. But not on the book, because I never stoop to going after cheap laughs.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

New Beginning 195

In the nineteenth century the search for life on Mars was a search for a new civilization, a power with whom to converse on equal terms, to learn from and compete against and accomplish great and memorable things by that exchange. By the end of the twentieth century the search for life on Mars had become the search for a chemical reaction. Nothing more. Just water and carbon acting in predictable ways. Life as a chemical reaction like it was for those senile zombies in the nursing homes. In the twentifirst century even that was abandoned. Any chemical reaction would do. Not water, but hydrogen peroxide would do.

Bartholomew Jones had had a life like that. The early high hopes had given way to trying to fit in, had then degenerated to just being alive by any definition. Survival at any cost.

But coincidence meant if he could not renew his ancient dreams he would at least be able to avenge them. His chemical reactions were no longer like theirs. There was no form of communion any more. Now, he needed only one more thing in order to have his revenge.

There was a knock at the door...

Bartholomew took the package handed to him by the tan-clad courier and ripped it open. Seratonin levels spiked in his brain. Dopamine levels plunged. He twisted the cap off the canister in the box and fingered the aluminum powder within. Senile he wasn't. Pathfinder had made a fatal mistake; had mixed water with Martian soil. Certain death to life that sparked in the presence of hydrogen peroxide. He wouldn't make that same mistake.

That night he parked his rented van under the Brooklyn Bridge. Only one way now to survive forever.

He began emptying bags filled with ammonium nitrate. Added the aluminum powder and a little zinc. Splashed on some diesel fuel. Threw in a handful of magnesium to make it biblical. And struck a match.

Some chemical reactions are as unproductive as the search for life on Mars.

Some ignite like a war of the worlds.

Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: Phoenix

Face-Lift 262

Guess the Plot

Nibbling Nirvana

1. An intern is in deep trouble when she is entrusted with the one-of-a-kind master tapes from original Nirvana songs, and her roommate's guinea pigs chew them to shreds.

2. When Teresa dies, God gives her a chance to escape limbo by doing good deeds. Her ghost befriends a nerd who needs her help getting a girl, but it turns out he did have a girlfriend once--and she's a ghost hunter!

3. Jazz trumpeter Jonesy Day plays his heart out at night at the only job he can get, a joint on the Bayou where he meets a pole dancer, whose stage name is Nirvana. Jonesy is hoping all his lipwork is going to pay off at last.

4. The celestial beings who have achieved enlightenment rethink their position on the sacredness of all life when an infestation of rodents makes living in Nirvana less than heavenly.

5. Detective Jon Louis Bretonne finds 17-year-old Kendall White in a French Quarter back alley, dead. The only clue is the sticky green froth at his mouth that means he'd been nibbling nirvana, the latest drug on the teen scene. Can Jon Louis work his way through hell to find out whose been peddling heaven?

6. In this alternative history novel, Kurt Cobain is forced to run for his life when his buzzed bandmates get a case of cannibalistic munchies after a concert.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Agent,

I'm querying your agency regarding my novel, Nibbling Nirvana, a YA paranormal chick lit of approximately 45k words.

When flaky, materialistic 16-year-old Teresa Jones kicks the bucket by choking on a pork sandwich, God gives her a chance to work her way out of limbo by performing good deeds. She befriends Brandon White, a quiet video game nerd in her school who can actually see and hear her, [It would be hard to do good deeds if people can't see or hear you. Is she non-corporeal, like a wisp of air? In which case she wouldn't be able to push a child out of the way of an oncoming truck? Or is she more like a mute invisible man? In which case when she takes an old lady's hand to help her across the street, the woman will freak out . . . and run in front of an oncoming truck.] and they strike a bargain: he'll help her fulfill her mission, while she'll teach him how to woo her pretty and popular best friend. [Does God know about this arrangement? Because Teresa seems like just the type to let Brandon do all the good deeds, in which case God's going to be pissed.]

However, a clueless ghost hunter (who just so happens to be Brandon's ex) [If Brandon has an ex, it would seem he managed to successfully woo at least one girl. I mean, what video game nerd has an ex? And if he does, why does he need lessons?] will do whatever it takes to make Teresa cross over to the other side. [Which is what?] Suddenly, Brandon's juggling more girls than he can handle, while Teresa's dealing with regret of things left undone. [Mainly, she regrets that she never got to finish that delicious pork sandwich.] And both must face an insurmountable problem: falling in love with each other.

Mr. Agent, I have a Master's degree in English and a Bachelor's degree in English, Creative Writing. I am a principal manuscript editor for a legal publishing company, and also freelance edit and teach self-editing workshops. I am a member of RWA, as well as the chick lit chapter.

I would be delighted to send you Nibbling Nirvana. Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to hearing from you and thank you for your time.



Can the ghost hunter see or hear Teresa? Is there an explanation for why Brandon can see her?

Why is Brandon juggling so many girls? What happened to wooing Teresa's popular friend? What is it that has so many girls suddenly interested in this quiet video game nerd?

When Brandon sees Teresa, is she naked? Or does she have on invisible clothes?

Is God an actual character who tells Teresa her mission?

This is fairly brief, so you have room to address a couple of EE's questions and comments.

Okay, it's on.

I'm going through with the book, and here are the answers to a few of the questions that have been raised.

I mean, would it really be that hard to add additional advice based on your own experiences rather than just what people have asked you on here?

The parts of the book that could be considered useful are in question/answer format. Sometimes the laughs come from knowing it's an actual question. If I make up a bunch of questions just so I can give clever answers, readers will think I made all of them up. The answers won't seem so clever.

Now, if you guys send a bunch of questions, I can answer them in the book rather than on the blog, thus providing new material. But it probably won't be instructional material. I see this as a book writers will read for entertainment, not for advice. Books with advice for writers are easily found (and easily discarded). This one might be read over and over.

I would buy it, but I'd really like it if it's liberally dosed with your humorous commentaries.

It'll have plenty of what you want.

I'd first want to know what would set it apart from the plethora of other books offering a road map to publishing success, or pointing out the roadblocks along the way.

Why, it'll be nothing like those books. It will offer nothing, and point out nothing. (Unless you read between the lines.) I expect it will contain a few items not on the blog, but not a lot. Here's an analogy that may be helpful.

You're a big Dilbert fan. You read it every day in the Springfield Gazette. Time passes. You want to relive the joy you received reading Dilbert. You notice that a giant anthology of Dilbert comic strips is available for $14.95. You also know that you can go into the archives of the Springfield Gazette one issue at a time and eventually read all the Dilberts for free. If $14.95 is the kids' lunch money, you read the archives. If it's dinner at The Olive Garden, maybe you buy the book and make your own spaghetti. You don't buy the book expecting a lot of cartoons that never appeared in the newspaper. You buy it because you want to read in bed or on a plane or during commercials, instead of in front of your computer.

If you really wanted to get serious about marketing . . .

I don't. I want one for me, and I want to sell enough to cover the printing and shipping and other costs.

I really do like the idea for the new book...I just wish there was a way to get it besides the internet. Do you think it will get into the bookstores anywhere?

Yes, you'll be able to request it in a bookstore, and they'll order it from a wholesaler, who'll order it from EE, who'll mail it to the wholesaler, who'll ship it to the bookstore. I will put it on the blog a couple months earlier, as I'm more likely to cover costs if I'm not giving these other places their cuts, and also to please reviewers, who don't want it in stores before they write their reviews. But eventually you can ask for it at your local store.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

New Beginning 194

Death stood on the door step, flanked by two toughs armed with pikes. It was a plague doctor, looking anything but human in his black oilcloth and beaked mask, where the eyes absorbed the light instead of reflecting it and looked cold, bottomless and deadly like the Thames on a winter night; a faceless, heartless angel of doom.

"This is a mistake," Dick said heavily, as if his mouth was full of molasses.

The plague doctor stepped forward. Dick moved aside, from habit or shock, and the creature entered the house. The two guards stayed just outside the door.

"You have a male child who is ill?" the apparition asked. His voice was rough, dry, cutting, and, muffled by the mask, it seemed to come from a great distance.

"No," Dick said.

"I will be the judge of that. Where are your children?"

"Oh, for crying out loud," Dick spat in exasperation. "You still don't have it? Go out and try again."

The plague doctor bowed his head in embarrassment and went back out to the door step. The thugs with pikes looked down at their feet.

"Okay," Dick said. "I'm gonna shut the door now. Get it right this time." It was so hard working with these people.

He heard the knock, and opened the door. This time the unholy trio on his doorstep looked up and shouted in unison, "Trick or treat!"

"That's better," he said, handing out the candy.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Kate Thornton

New Beginning 193

My name’s Rudolph Reddin. And as you might imagine, I hate Christmas. Lucky for me, it’s still six months away from now, June 25th. It’s the best day for catfishing ‘cause everyone else is downtown celebrating peaches and shaking hands with the Mayor. We all know he’s crooked, but most people think it’s really something to touch a person with power. Not that our Mayor’s got much of that, less you count the power to get seated right away at Trudy’s biscuit house.

Diamond Bend River’s down at the end of High Street. That’s ironic ‘cause the river’s where kids come to smoke weed, drink beer and get into other kinds of trouble. I went down to the Bend early today when the sun just peaked through the tree line and most kids were still nursing their hangovers at home.

All but one, that is.

I saw him just after I cast my third line of the day. A lump of coal black in the scruffy tangle of the riverbank weeds. I probably shoulda spotted him after my first or second cast, but my seein’ ain’t so good.

I phoned my partner, Hemlock, who, as you might figure, hates Arbor Day.

“Not another one,” said Hem. “Want me to call the Sheriff?”

“Sheriff Eggbunny? Naw, he ain't recovered from Easter. I'll take care of this.”

I hung up and trudged through the tangle of weeds. Eggbunny would be stuck downtown for another hour at least. I unpacked my hacksaw and filet knives and set to work on the dead boy’s thumb. Soon as cast number four hit the water I got me a bite. Yep, best catfishin' day of the year.

Opening: Carmen Norgaard......Continuation: blogless_troll

Would you want this book?

Having purchased 10 ISBN numbers in order to start Evil Editor Publications and put out one book, it seems silly not to put out a couple more, thereby reducing the ISBN expense attributed to Book 1, and bringing it closer to breaking even. I feel certain there'll eventually be Novel Deviations 2, but it will be many months before there's enough material for that. In the interim, I've compiled material for a book that consists of 65 of the Q and A's from back when people used to submit q's and I used to a. I've divided these into four chapters: Query Letters, Agents, Manuscripts, and Misc. Between the chapters are sections with rants, dialogue, etc. from the Face-Lifts. And on pages that don't get filled up by the q & a, additional comments taken from Face-Lifts. It's somewhat longer than Novel Deviations, but still a thin book. In my opinion it's hilarious, and occasionally useful.

Now it's a matter of whether there's any demand for this. Obviously it's less expensive to read the blog from start to finish. But I like the idea of having a book; it's a more convenient way to read, and can be given as a gift. Plus, two years from now something better than blogging may come along and blog sites suddenly aren't profitable and go out of business and everything is lost (unlikely, perhaps, but I don't see any journal manufacturing companies in the Fortune 500 lately).

That cover is just an illustration, there is no cover so far. Though I kind of like it for a rough draft.

No binding commitments, but if the book existed, would you want one?

New Beginning 192

Emily hated the idea from the moment she heard it. Unfortunately, from the moment she heard it, she also knew it was set in stone.

She was doomed from the start because--as her parents pointed out repeatedly over the following month--there was really no better option. Emily's mother and father would be spending the entire summer in Italy helping to open a new factory: another bid to expand the company that the family had owned for over a hundred years. That meant that Emily could either come along with them, stay at home with her nanny, go to her grandparents' mansion in New York . . . or she could spend the summer at Camp Demosthenes.

"Look, Ems," her father said, almost every day. "There'll be kids there your own age. There's a lake, you can learn some sports or crafts, they keep a stable of horses . . . " Emily perked up at this but quickly checked herself for any outward sign of enthusiasm. This was war, after all. Her father pretended not to notice but went on, encouraged, "And I know you don't want to come to Italy. There's no other choice."

But, Emily thought to herself, there was another choice. She could spend the summer with her boyfriend Rick, teaching him everything she'd learned two years ago at Camp Caligula. But first there was the problem of the parents . . . which was where everything she'd learned last year at Camp Corleone would come into play. And the horses at Camp Demosthenes might come in handy too.

“I understand,” she said. She stood up, took her father’s face in both hands, and kissed him firmly on the forehead. “It’s not personal, Daddy. It’s strictly business.”

Opening: acd.....Continuation: ril

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New Beginning 191

Baby wipes.

Jule stared at the offending entry on her Click-Point datapad and gnawed on the end of her stylus. She didn't order baby wipes! "Miranda!"

The echo in the spaceport warehouse barely faded away before her assistant appeared around the corner of the row where Jule stood, checking off the last of the supplies bound for the Damarian dig. "Yes, Dr. leBois?"

Jule pointed at the crate next to her. "Where are the moist towelettes I ordered?" she asked, keeping her voice patient. Grad students. Must have patience.

Miranda scanned the list on her own C-P. "There," she said, "line 57. Baby wipes."

Jule gritted her teeth. "I ordered moist towelettes."

"Baby wipes, moist towelettes," Miranda said, smoothing a long strand of brown hair behind one ear, "what's the difference?"

Jule held onto her C-P with both hands to keep from bashing the grad student over the head. Nice girl, semi-talented in xenoforensics . . . and incapable of doing anything without putting her own personal touch on it. Why was this girl her assistant?

"And what about the dehydrated milk?"

"Line 29. Nestle's Quik."

"My underwear order?!"

"Line 42. Diapers."

Jule felt a headache settling between her eyebrows. She stared at the grad student like she'd grown a second head. "The oxygen tanks? There should be 500 . . . Don't tell me . . ."

"Line 53. Large window fan."

"Window-- We're in outer--" Unable to contain herself, Jule reached down, picked up a crate, and slammed it down on Miranda's useless, mostly empty head. She felt better as she turned back to her datapad. With one less person breathing, she thought, I might hold out till the next shipment. Let's see, Line 63. New grad assistant. Check.

Opening: Gerri Baxter.....Continuation: GutterBall

New Beginning 190

“You’re uttering nonsense,” Tyler grumbled, parking the SUV. Since morning, Garrett only spoke riddles.

“I used to live back there a little ways, in that trailer park yonder. I stored my little brother and the rest of my inheritance here when I runaway frums mah bastard Father,” Garrett answered.
His flippancy disturbed Tyler.

“I never knew you had a younger brother,” Tyler said. He opened the door so he could back the SUV to the front of a storage unit. Sweat formed on his body; it was 110 degrees in the Escalante.

“You never asked,” said Garrett, slipping into an I-ain’t-sayin’-nuthin’ attitude, pushing a key into the lock and shaking it from the hasp. He tugged at the roller door and it slid up, revealing boxes and the tin statues of a boy and a dog.

“You owe me the truth. I’ve known you six years and yet today, I find out that I barely know anything about your past,” Tyler said, folding his arms over his chest, tapping his foot on the gravel.

“Hey, Tyler, what gets wetter the more it dries?”

“Stop your babbling and tell me what’s in those boxes.”

“Ain’t nothing in the boxes. Nothing important, anyway. Just some cash, debentures, and convertible bonds. Nah, this here’s what matters. This here’s my brother, Rumpus. That there’s his dog.”

But Tyler had stopped listening. He was ripping open the nearest box and gaping at the mass of moldy hundred dollar bills that slid out. Garrett watched a puddle of water spread across the floor as he closed and locked the door.

“You shouldn’t ought to store this stuff in the damp," Tyler said. "Can’t spend it till it’s dry.”

“What can you hold without touching it?” Garrett shouted through the door. The water should be up to Tyler's knees by now. "Your breath!"

A moment of silence, then banging sounded through the door.

“Hey, I got a good one for you, Tyler.” Garrett flipped an electrical switch outside the door. “What kind of city ain’t got no people?”

Tyler didn’t answer

Opening: Dave Fragments.....Continuation: Tia Nia

Monday, January 15, 2007

Face-Lift 261

Guess the Plot

Limorek Ironwood and the Sacred Crown

1. When Lim saw Jesus's thorny crown,
On a museum shelf he took it down.
He mistook it for grass,
Tried to smoke it, alas,
He burned the whole place to the ground.

2. King Ben felt his crown was too dim.
So he called in a young squire named Lim.
Then Lim and his team
Found a crown that did gleam.
Sir Lancelot had nothing on him.

3. A young man named Limorek Ironwood
Tried to roar just as loud as a lion could.
But the king of beasts roars,
While Lim sounded more
Like a porpoise or dolphin that's dying would.

4. Limorek was always impressed
With his dentist, who he thought was the best.
But when the oral surgeon
Sacrificed a virgin
Before Lim's root canal, he reassessed.

5. At Toadflax Magic School, London town,
It takes two years to earn cap and gown.
While his classmates took tests,
Lim embarked on a quest:
The seduction of sexy Ms. Crown.

6. "Ironwood," said she, "you're a prat.
To bed me, you must wear this 'hat.'"
"But it keeps falling off!"
"Ah," the damsel did scoff,
"Viagra will take care of that!"

Original Version

Dear :

What's an aspiring knight without a quest? Squire Limorek, [Limorek? Isn't that what happened to Princess Di?] between squirees at the moment, couldn't be happier when his king sends him to help find the Sacred Crown. That King Ben only wants the Crown for profit, and to prove to that meddlesome King Arthur that his knights are just as good as those upstarts Galahad and Lancelot, doesn't much phase 14-year-old Limorek. [Unusual for a king to confide his motives to a 14-year-old squire.] It's a real quest, after all! And quests themselves always seem to be magnets for other adventures.

Lim, though, is more than a mite miffed that 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." [It's like Lord of the Rings, but with some babes along.] 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. [Somehow he ends up with this ragtag group? I assume they didn't emerge from a dimensional warp. Is it like Dorothy coming across the scarecrow and then the tin man, etc.?]

But what quest comes without peril? This one, this one, and this one.

Tracking the group are two relentless knights, sent by the princess' father to bring her back to court -- at any cost.

To put the jewel on the tiara, when the Sacred Crown is found, it isn't quite as advertised. [Too clever for your own good. Makes the reader think there's a jewel that needs to be put on the sacred crown, thus authenticating its . . . authenticity. Stick with the more mundane, To make matters worse, As fate would have it, Alas, To top it all off, To put the gravy on the cake . . . Occasionally a cliché is . . . just what the doctor ordered.] And the consequences of that discovery, of the princess' actions and of the rebel maid's earlier escape from her prison must all be faced before this quest can truly be counted done.

LIMOREK IRONWOOD AND THE SACRED CROWN, complete at 53,000 words, is the first in an older-middle-grade limited series that combines action, humor, fantasy and old-fashioned chivalry to tell the adventures of a young squire working his way toward knighthood in the days of King Arthur.

Thank you for considering LIMOREK IRONWOOD AND THE SACRED CROWN for review.

Kind regards,


This isn't bad, but it raises some questions you might briefly clear up. Did King Ben send Limorek out with some knights? Or by himself? If the former, why isn't he with them? If the latter, how will Lim finding the crown prove that Ben's knights are in a league with Arthur's?

In order to be a princess, as I understand it, you must be the daughter of the king/queen, or marry the son of the king/queen. Your princess--is she the daughter of King Ben, or the wife of the king's son? If the former, I assume you would have said so. If the latter, why is she living with her abusive father, rather than with the prince? Is she the daughter of some other king? If so, just how many kings are there, and what are they the kings of?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

New Beginning 189

"You're going to wear that page out, you know. The ink will rub off from being read so much."

Saraid started and clapped The Book closed, then scowled at her older sister. How had Ninieth managed to tiptoe in here without her hearing?

"Ha ha. Very funny," she said, trying to casually slip her book behind the cushions on the window seat where she huddled. "What are you doing sneaking around in Mama's room?"

"I might ask the same of you." Nin leaned past her and fished the book out of the cushions. "Ah, The Book. Just as I thought. So how many copies of "The Flower of Royalty" do you own now? Do you ever read anything else? I mean, it's good, but we studied a lot of other good books too--"

“Deflecting unwanted conversation is an art well to be cultivated in any situation, but especially in the confines of a royal court.” The quotation sprang to Saraid’s mind unbidden. She thought it might be on page 77, somewhere near the bottom.

Ninieth perched on the cushions beside her, one leg tucked below her bottom. The other swung up and down against the windowseat. A most unladylike posture.

"I know why you like Mother's copy best," Nin said, while allowing the book to fall open where it would upon her lap.

Saraid kept her features still. Page 32: A lady keeps her emotions to herself. She knew where the book would open: Page 93, the etching. A little sisterly bribery would shortly be afoot.

Grinning, Nin glanced at the page and read the caption. "Hmmm, the Royal Bud Opens. Do you suppose Mother would mind if she found out you were reading her copy--the one with pictures?"

"Not if I tell her I was just trying to put a name to what I'd seen you and Derrick the stable boy doing in the woods." Page 109: A lady holds her most powerful ammunition in reserve until needed most. Seeing the shock on Nin's face, Saraid used her most courtly smile full of charm and poison. Unlike her sister, she really had been reading the text. Mostly.

Now she'd have Derrick all to herself.

Opening: Marissa Doyle.....Continuation: writtenwyrdd

Saturday, January 13, 2007

New Beginning 188

When the last bell rang, April sent up a heartfelt prayer of gratitude. As her students filed out the door into the escalating noise in the hall, she slid her feet out of her practical, supposedly comfortable, distressingly painful shoes, and grinned and wiggled her toes on the carpet. She considered stepping into the storage closet to take off the god-awful pantyhose too, but decided against it.

The trashcan was nearly overflowing with empty soda cans, so she placed it and the stack of empty pizza boxes just outside the door. The rest of the room was pretty tidy, just a few crumbs and the desks might be a little sticky with soda. Not bad after her sixth hour class full of hungry sophomores. She packed up left over party supplies in plastic bags. She checked her cabinet doors one last time. The text books and other teaching supplies were locked up tight for the summer.

And so was Principal Carstairs.

She thought of the way his eyes had bulged at her above the strip of duct tape across his mouth just before she and her students had closed and locked the cabinet doors. Perhaps she should have tied his feet and hands together more securely, so that he wouldn't wiggle around and knock over the neatly stacked books and bundles of composition paper. She hated messes.

Oh well, the good news was that her fall biology classes would have a new human skeleton to aid in their studies.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Marissa Doyle