Monday, March 31, 2008

Face-Lift 508

Guess the Plot

Tony's Horrible Journey Throughout the Universe

1. First, the spaceship only served Lox and Bagels and they weren't even the good bagels, they were the cheap kind. Then they lost his luggage in a solar flare. Now, they can't even find his planet?

2. Tony's pizza business has gone sour since Vito's moved in down the street. Now his quest to find the best pizza recipe in the universe takes him on a perilous journey across seven galaxies and through Hell itself.

3. From the polyp clusters of Mucodromeda to the fecal swamps of Slakkbauul, android Tony is pursued through the cosmos by badly programmed cyber-harpies hungry for the 43.7 grams of pure Cerebretanium at the molecular core of his carapace.

4. Tony, a sub-microscopic ion, recounts in crisp and snappy monologue his birth at the center of a flaming plasma-jet in deep space, and his subsequent journeys being squeezed through the glowing torturous hell-like plasma threads that lace the universe together until he arrives at Earth's gentle sun and is spat toward the planet.

5. A decade of study with Tibetan monks hasn't prepared Tony Declan for the reality of enlightment. Turns out, the universe literally IS God...and life's journey is through His alimentary tract.

6. When Tony makes a wish--to get out of town--he has no idea his wish will be granted. And he definitely has no idea how far out of town he's about to end up. Or for how long. Or that he'll endure so much human torment he'll wish he was never born.

Original Version

Dear Agent or Publisher,

"Tony's Horrible Journey Throughout the Universe" is a middle-grade novel complete at 30,000 words.

Poor Tony is unhappy with life. Four older sisters and bossy, no-good parents....UGH! So when he makes a wish to get outta town, Wink-the-mouse happily obliges with his magical powers. Trouble is, Wink is a bad, bad seed, and he loves getting into trouble. Every time Tony makes a wish, Wink adds his own personal touch. [For instance, when Tony wishes his sisters and parents were dead, Wink kills them, which is good, but then he frames Tony for mass murder, which is typical Wink.]

Tony doesn't realize the depths of Wink's mischeviousness (sp.) until it's almost too late. When they both find themselves in the midst of the most horrible adventure of their lives, they will have to work together to arrive home safely. Will they make it? Will Mother Mouse put Wink in the time-out of his life for tormenting a human kid? [Spoiler alert.] Probably yes to both.

Time-outs have never worked for Wink, and there are lots of kids wishing they could start over with nicer parents, better brothers and sisters, and definitely cooler toys. This could be a series that goes on forever. Or at least until Wink grows up. [This makes it sound like the series will be about Wink but not Tony. If that's not the case, I'd replace "and there are lots of kids wishing they could start over with nicer parents, better brothers and sisters, and definitely cooler toys" with "so". If it is the case, I think it's Wink and not Tony who deserves his name in the title.]

Thank you for considering my work.


There isn't enough about what happens. What's "no good" about Tony's parents? How about an example of Wink's "personal touch" when granting a wish? What's the "most horrible adventure of their lives" that they find themselves in the midst of? What's this about "throughout the universe"? For all we can tell they don't get past the county line.

In short, more specifics.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cartoon 38

Caption: Anonymous

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cartoon 37

Caption: Tracey S. Rosenberg

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New Beginning 475

Mike let himself into the lab for the last time, noticing everything as if for the first time. The way the key wouldn't fit easily into the lock, but yawed this way and that. The stench of disinfectant. At least the lighting hadn't changed. He glanced down at the scuffed floor, newly cleared of his equipment. Apart from fresh scratches on the grey vinyl, it looked the same. Sterile. Finished with. He stepped inside and pushed the door shut. Even his lab coat was gone from the hook on the back of the door. He wondered if he'd reached a stage beyond anger. Or if resignation had set in.

They'd taken everything down from the walls, too. Not neatly--too much to ask. Diagrams, charts, little "happy notes", all gone.

The door creaked, then opened slowly, as if unsure it should be opening it at all.

"It's okay," he said. "I won't bite." A head came round the door, appearing first as a pointy little nose topped by a pair of glasses. Then adding some close-cropped brown hair. Fitch smiled a little frightened smile, still keeping everything beyond her ears out of sight.

"I'm so sorry," she said, glancing nervously around. Then she stepped into the room. "We'll miss you."

They hugged, an awkward, quiet moment. "It's okay," Mike said. "Now that I'm gone, I wish you the best."

Then the director cut to commercial, and that was the end of Mike's run on the poorly-rated America's Next Top Chemist.

Opening: BuffySquirrel.....Continuation: freddie

Cartoon 36

Caption: Anonymous

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Friday, March 28, 2008

New Beginning 474

She raised her head from her forearm in a slow arc, screening her barely open eyes both with the fall of her hair and the shadows across her face from the dying fire. The slight movement allowed a cold draft into the warm sleeping bag and helped to jolt her to full awareness. She breathed slowly, shallowly, thinking I’m Still Sleeping thoughts and hoping the thing stalking her campsite was fooled, even as her fingers shifted to close about the grip of the pistol. It was just a small noise, but a chilling one nonetheless. Something from out of nightmares. Something she’d hoped never to hear again.

It came again, the slow scrape of a clawed foot, something like fingernails on chalkboard crossed with the whine of a rusty hinge. A noise you didn’t forget. An image you didn’t forget. Iron claws on granite, a creature that should have been impossible… They weren’t supposed to be able to follow her here.

But one had. Now, the question was what to do about it before the graindall decided to attack.

But the graindall that had decided to follow her, the graindall that would soon decide to attack, had another thing coming.

Because iron claws on granite might be one frightening sound, but the screams of animal fury welling up and about to explode from she who had just returned from the land of Still Sleeping made the fingernails on chalkboard granite-walking sound of the graindall seem like a sonic vacation destination.

There would be some scraping sounds this night. Yes. And they would be chilling. But they’d be coming from the sleepy psycho bitch who had just started her period and who was, this night, looking for something on which to release her wrath.

That testosterone-loaded graindall was soon to be . . . fucking toast.

Opening: Writtenwyrdd.....Continuation: Robin S.

Cartoon 35

Caption: Whirlochre

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Face-Lift 507

Guess the Plot

An American in London

1. This edgy travel memoir is loaded with fascinating anecdotes about British vs. American culture, like when the author goes grocery shopping and when she samples England's gourmet foods. Also, traveling with children.

2. This traveler's dictionary provides useful translations of the phrases the American tourist is most likely to hear when interacting with the people of London, alphabetically arranged, from Arsehole to Wanker.

3. Set to the plaintive strains of Hayden's London Trio, a pack of plaid shorts, Hawaiian shirts, gartered socks and flabby arms in muscle tees invades Piccadilly Circus while the new Minister for Cultural Sensitivity quietly climbs to the top of Big Ben and blows his brains out.

4. After years of dreaming and saving, Mabel Abeline from Houston is able to realize her dream -- a two week trip to London, England. At first, though, she is disappointed. Everything is so much smaller than back home, yet so expensive. Then, visiting Trafalgar Square, she finds Nelson and is mighty impressed by the size of his column.

5. Don Liebnitz is overweight and looks ridiculous in his Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts. His camera lens is way too big, he wears sunglasses even though it's raining and he tries to start conversations in the tube (I mean, really!). He goes to expensive restaurants, talks too loudly to the waiters and orders with everything "on the side". Why can't he go back to Yankee-land where he belongs? Wanker.

6. Jovial American tourist Hoagy Williams Jr. mistakes the Queen for a hooker he bedded in college and is sentenced to twenty years in prison for thrusting his tongue into her ear as she presides over the opening of a new branch of Shoppers' Nirvana in East Acton.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Two years ago my husband, our two small children, and I moved from Kansas (98% culture-free) to London (diverse metropolis) and I was eager to experience a different country's culture. However, I was surprised that in the process of learning about British culture, I also made a few discoveries about my own.

[Things I learned about British culture and my own:

1. Once you leave London, the place is just like Kansas, except they call it moors and we call it a wasteland.

2. Steak tastes better on a grill than in kidney pie.

3. Counter to assumptions I made thanks to Hugh Grant and Sean Connery, most guys with British accents are not sexy.]

I have completed a 44,000-word manuscript, titled An American in London, describing the joys, surprises and frustrations I encountered as we adjusted to our new European home. Instead of a day-to-day account of our tenure overseas, my travel memoir is more of a collection of essays that lovingly compare and contrast American and British cultures. Humorous, irreverent, and sometimes edgy, [(Did you know they call an eraser a rubber?!)] think of David Sedaris meets Bill Bryson, and then they get into a death match and are coached by Elizabeth Gilbert and Rebecca Ramsey, respectively, and Frances Mayes is the referee. [If that was supposed to give me a better idea of what you meant by "humorous, irreverent, and sometimes edgy," it failed. Right now all I'm thinking about is Elizabeth Gilbert, Rebecca Ramsey, and Frances Mayes mud wrestling.] In fact, this book will rock your world…okay, maybe not. But you will enjoy the journey I take you on and perhaps even laugh out loud. You will walk with me as I learn to do grocery shopping without a car, [I was about to suggest you provide some specifics, but if that's the best you've got, forget it.] taste blood pudding (two words that shouldn't even be in the same sentence let alone describe something you eat),

[Wrong. Sentences that include the words "blood" and "pudding":

"Eat your pudding, Bobby, and then we'll get to your daily blood-letting."

"I don't know what that was, but it tasted like blood and had the consistency of pudding; can I have some more?"

"Mommy, there's the blood of a Chinese man in my tapioca pudding."]

travel around Europe with an infant and a four-year old (a task not for the faint of heart), and ponder the question at the forefront of every Brit's mind: Is James Hewitt Prince Harry's real biological father? [You don't need "real" there . . . unless there are imaginary biological fathers.]

I chose you as the first agent to solicit (you lucky bastard) [Yes, I was just thinking that myself.] for numerous reasons (okay, two):

1) I thoroughly enjoy your blog and have learned from it.
2) You represent Iwanna Beyou, the author of Expat Fever, which is similar to my manuscript (yet different; see above comments).

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Is your audience people who love to travel, or people who never travel? The former group might not find your experiences any more interesting than their own, unless you're holding back your best stuff. And it might be hard to find an agent who handles travel books and wants to handle one for the latter group.

Even if this is going to someone who mainly handles travel writers and is thus familiar with all the authors you name, that space would be better utilized making your adventures sound exciting and hilarious. Tasting blood pudding may be amusing in the book, but in the query it's no big deal unless you also puked it up on David Beckham.

Maybe that's the way to go: embellish your mundane experiences. Like you go grocery shopping without a car, and buy so much you can't carry it, but then Clive Owen happens along and gives you a ride back to your flat and kisses you. And you puke blood pudding all over him.

Note that I said Clive Owen "gives you a ride" rather than "gives you a lift." To those crazy Brits, a lift is an elevator!

If you can prove James Hewitt knew Princess Di nine months before Prince Harry was born, you've got a bestseller. Otherwise you'd better enclose a couple of your essays with the query, as it's a better way to demonstrate your voice than through frequent use of parentheses.

Also, the title sounds too much like An American Werewolf in London. Either add a werewolf (recommended) or change the title to Blood Pudding? Am I in London or Transylvania?

Cartoon 34

Caption: Peter

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

New Beginning 473

Chance McCloud had been in Paris when news came of his brother Jim's death. Unfortunately, Chance didn't do the kind of work that could be walked away from in an afternoon. He had been forced to supervise the winding up of Jim's modest estate from a distance, scrambling to wrap up his own business so that he could get back and make sure that his brother would rest in peace. Waiting now, in a Paris cafe at an outdoor table, sipping coffee and hoping his employer would be on time, Chance took out the newspaper article he carried in his wallet and studied it again.

RIDGECREST, CA - The death of seven men, including the pilot, in a small twin-engine commuter plane, has been confirmed by the US Navy. The men were all civil employees at the China Lake Naval Base, except for the pilot. There was no sign of foul play in relation to the crash. The plane apparently developed engine trouble in the mountains, and crashed into the side of Burton's Peak at approximately 2:15 pm on Sunday. Names of the deceased are being withheld pending the notification of family.

See, now that's style, Chance thought. That's how Jim should have bought the farm. A plane crash, or lost at sea. He read on.

MODESTO, CA - Home improvement enthusiast and Darwin Award nominee, Jim McCloud, did it himself for the last time yesterday when he tried to fix a leaky fuel oil tank by welding it. Fireman Bill McIntyre, first to the scene, described it as an inferno, adding: "The guy really should have emptied the tank first. Here's hoping he was the last swimmer in his gene pool."
Time to move on, Chance thought. He unscrewed the wick from the small light on the table and poured a little of the lamp fuel on to the newspaper clipping. The smell made him sneeze and he spilled oil on the tablecloth and in his lap. Shit, he thought. My new pants. He shrugged and reached for his lighter.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: ril

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cartoon 33

Caption: Evil Editor

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New Beginning 472


Jerome whirled to deflect the sword thrust with his rapier. Soon the last attacker lay in a pool of blood on the cobblestones. The lanky man scanned the street for threats before he stomped over to where Kit huddled behind a rain barrel. "Why the hell are you still following me? Did you think I was out for a pleasure stroll and wanted a child for company?"

Kit shook her head so hard that her braids flew. "No, never thought that." She couldn't understand why her brother wanted her to follow this mean fellow, but the man fit the description he had given her. She frowned. "You are Jerome, right?"

Jerome gave a bitter laugh. "Yeah. I'm out to avenge my father, and it's dangerous to be around me. So why are you still hanging about? I don't need your help."

Kit gave him a reproachful look.

"What?" Jerome peered at the little girl. "Do you think with all my years of training, I still need the protection of a ragamuffin?"

Kit scowled and shook her head until her eyes rattled. "No, never thought that."

"Then why, little girl, do you follow me?"

She narrowed her eyes and took a deep breath. "My brother said to find you and tell you he misheard; your father's okay, the Smythe boys didn't do 'im in, they just beat 'im at Gin. His bad."

Jerome looked at the bodies sprawled across the cobbles. Bugger.

Opening: Deborah K. White.....Continuation: Anonymous

Cartoon 32

Caption: Freddie

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Face-Lift 506

Guess the Plot

The Way of Dispossession

1. When an honest yet poor Nigerian actually finds $10 million US in a dead account, he tries desperately to find someone somewhere in the world willing to help him get it so he can use his ten percent share to get his dying mother a kidney transplant. Why will no one help him?

2. Alaina Gredeinian is a leader in the Sancian resistance, fighting the occupying Fredians. Her roommate Cathy Donaldson is a pacifist. When Alaina's cell blows up a major bridge in the capital city, will it put a strain on their living arrangement?

3. Allan Keanes is a financial "Mr. Fix It". When he's called into one of the country's biggest banks to help sort out their sub-prime losses, he thinks it's just a matter of foreclosure--until he discovers the money markets are in fact possessed by an evil spirit.

4. Harry knows his life is in the dumper, what with the alcoholism, the drug abuse and the trans-gender issues he refuses to face. But when his family stages an intervention with the order of the Monks of Forced Enlightenment, things get a little out of hand.

5. Adex is a mid-level demon inhabiting a 12-year-old girl in Fresno when he is unexpectedly evicted from his home by an exorcist. He finds himself in a shadow realm occupied by displaced fiends, imps, and fallen angels. Only one thing to do: Form a rock band!

6. After giving all his wealth away to a cult, Luke realizes that he has been scammed and that he will never find inner tranquility until he gets his money back. Follow him as he breaks into the cult HQ and faces the leader with only his head, hands and feet as weapons.

7. Rich, successful and empty, Daniel Piermont cannot get his life on track; everything he worked for means nothing. In a bid to find his true self, he dispossesses himself of everything he owns; but when he falls in love with Liana, he realizes happiness is more easily attained with wealth. That's when he remembers his twenty-million-dollar off-shore account in Bimini.

Original Version

Dear Almighty Evil Editor,

I am seeking representation for my novel, The Way of Dispossession.

For almost three years, the nation of Sancia has been ruled by Fredia, its neighboring country. During that time, the underground movement has worked to bring down Fredia’s oppressive regime. The story revolves around Alaina Gredeinian, a leader in the Sancian resistance; Cathy Donaldson, her roommate, a pacifist; and Terrence Harlin, her long-time friend and partner in the resistance. When Alaina’s cell blows up one of the capital city’s major bridges, the government threatens to shut down the city. [Attention, residents of the capital: we're closed. Everybody out. Oh, and it's recommended that you not leave via the western bridge.] In response, the resistance steps up its efforts to smuggle food and other supplies into the city. [Why does food have to be smuggled into the city? Surely shutting down the city doesn't mean no more food for anyone?] Alaina finds herself being run ragged [How about "runs herself ragged," or "is run ragged"? "Finds herself being" is a long way to say "is," and makes it sound like a surprising discovery.] to support this effort, and during one mission, she accidentally reveals her identity to a Fredian soldier. [In other words, she makes a Fredian slip.]

[Soldier: Halt! Who are you and where are you taking that food?

Alaina: I'm Alaina Gredeinian and . . . doh!]

She, Cathy, and Terrence are all imprisoned and interrogated, and Alaina’s family is arrested in retaliation for her involvement with the resistance.

Just before Alaina’s execution date, [Oppressive regimes shoot first, then set the execution date.] the resistance rescues them; however, they are still in danger. Ronnie Hartson, a wilderness guide, [Ronnie Hartson is no name for a Sancian wilderness guide, and Grizzly Adams is taken. How about Wolverine McGuff?] is assigned to help them get to Laucasia, another neighboring country. But hiking over mountains, relying on a chain of “safe houses,” and avoiding Fredian troops are just part of their journey. Alaina deals with her family’s arrest and the aftermath of her prison experience, which was more brutal than either of her friends’. Terrence struggles with his feelings for Alaina and her tendency to push him away. Cathy tries to figure out whether, in light of her beliefs, her minimal participation in the resistance was justified. [Also, she must deal with her unexpected crush on Ronnie Hartson, wilderness guide, right?]

Even arriving in Laucasia does not alleviate their problems. [It may not solve all their problems, but if it doesn't even alleviate them, what was the point of going there?] And when they are eventually called back to Sancia for a final attempt to completely overthrow the Fredian government, they all must confront their fears and issues head-on.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



I'm not finding it that exciting, though I feel I should be. Maybe more about the rescue or the danger and less about the details. How many Fredians are they up against? How many are in the resistance? Their comrades rescue them from prison, their guide gets them to Laucasia . . . when do they do something to help the cause, and what is it? If these three people are ultimately responsible for victory, I'd rather hear about that than about how incompetent they are.

Are these three people so vital to the final attempt to overthrow the Fredians that the assault is being put off while they make their way back through a string of mountain safe houses?

If they can safely return to the capital and stay safe during the final attempt, why couldn't they stay safe after being rescued from prison? Going all the way to Laucasia only to turn around and head back accomplished what?

For some reason I find it jarring that a character named Alaina Gredeinian, a leader in the Sancian resistance, has a roommate named Cathy Donaldson and a wilderness guide named Ronnie Hartson. It's like reading a book about a high school girl named Madison and her BFF is named M'lota Larg and her guidance counselor is D'Ghor of the house of Kanjis.

You write Fredia, but I think Frieda, the Peanuts character with naturally curly hair.

Have you considered making the countries Freudia and Jungia?

Klingon names generated here.

Cartoon 31

Caption: Evil Editor

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

New Beginning 471

After shoehorning himself into the space along the curb, Graham tried deciphering the sign above his car to determine his risk of being towed. Which Tuesday of the month was it? The pavement was rapidly burning a hole in his shoes, so he hoped for the best and set off in search of the office. He wasn't far from Faneuil Hall, and he heard the echoes of a street performer barking through a fuzzed-out amplifier. He crossed behind the Customs House and found the address - a dingy five story building crammed in among the banking towers like a dirty paperback on a shelf full of classics.

He opened the door, hoping for a gust of air conditioning, but was instead rewarded with a musty lobby that seemed sliced out of time. A directory of plastic letters pressed into faded brown felt listed the building's occupants. Lawyers, dentists, and oculists. Graham blinked. He hadn't heard of an oculist since Gatsby. Some of the directory's letters had fallen to an alphabet soup jumble at the bottom of the case, leaving darkened silhouettes in the fabric.

Well, this was the place Kurt had recommended. If anyone could get the grasping hands of the IRS from up Graham's arse, supposedly this guy could.

Three hours later, Graham winced his way down three flights of steps. It had been more painful than he'd expected. He glanced again at the directory on his way out. An honest mistake; there's not that many letters difference between Tax Attorney and Taxidermy.

At least the guy had thrown in a pretty nice Elk's head once they realized the error.

Opening: Benwah.....Continuation: Anonymous

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cartoon 30

Caption: Freddie

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Fake Query 11

Little Suze Hanford loves her pet banana slug Hope. But when Hope starts spelling out hot stock tips with her slime trail, she's kidnapped by Suze's next door neighbor, an unscrupulous day-trader. Will Suze ever see her pet again?

Dear Editor:

When Hope, her pet banana slug, goes missing, Suze Hanford is despondent, not only because she loves the cute little bugger, but because Hope has helped parlay Suze's lemonade stand profits into a three-million-dollar nest egg. Hope uses her slime trail to spell out stock tips, and so far the little detritivore is batting a thousand. Without Hope, Suze knows she'll squander her fortune and end up working for a living when she grows up, possibly as a prostitute.

Day-trader Snidely Turkovich, Suze's next-door neighbor has been as successful as a three-legged greyhound lately, and if he doesn't start picking winners, he'll lose his house. Snidely is the obvious suspect; with Hope in his corner, his luck would surely change. But when Suze catches the slimeball with Hope, he claims it's not Hope, but Warren, his own banana slug stock forecaster.

Suze calls in a favor from the CSI squad, who discover that every banana slug has a slime trail as unique as a fingerprint. They compare Snidely's slug's slime trail with a slime trail in Hope's terrarium. A perfect match. Hope and Suze are joyfully reunited, and the now-hopeless Snidely is ruined.

Trail of Hope is a 95,000-word commercial novel that should appeal to those who enjoyed Mollusk Fever and I, Gastropod. Thank you.


Fake Query 10

Porn stars Viv Lickum and Gary Coonch are shoe-ins to win the year's Best Love Scene Award, until they learn of a young couple who are burning up the cameras. Can Viv and Gary turn the heat even higher in their new movie Love Inferno, or will they have to kill the competition?

Dear Evil Editor:

Never one to (only) lay down on the job, when Viv Lickum discovers that her dreams of winning the year’s Best Love Scene Award, a milestone achievement in her long and illustrious career in the porn industry, are threatened by a young, up-and-coming actress, she takes matters into her own hands -- and bludgeons the competition to death with the “Daddy from the ‘Natti,” a vibrating rabbit she can always trust to get the job done…

LOVE INFERNO explores the nastier side of the porn industry, giving the readers the inside story of the people behind the cameras. The players are vicious, competitive, and will screw anybody in the pursuit of making it to the top . . . to earn the title “porn star.”

Can Viv get away with murder and win the award she’s coveted for so long? Will she find true love with her on-screen lover, Gary Coonch, and finally have the happily-ever-after of a Herpes medication commercial? She’s guaranteed to end up in handcuffs . . . but will they be in furtherance of her career, or will they mean the end?

Upon your request, I will be delighted to send you sample chapters of LOVE INFERNO (and a photograph of me with the Daddy from the 'Natti, if you so desire). Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,


Fake Query 9

They don't call him Casanova Krebs for nothing! In this tale of high adventure, follow our hero as he impersonates the paying customers at an expensive brothel.

Dear Mr. Editor,

Virginal accountant Carmichael Krebs has a new Wall Street job, finding rationales for the executive luxuries piling up on company credit cards. When he uncovers the brokerage’s expense account at an exclusive pleasure house, Carmichael starts slipping into brothel bedrooms booked in his bosses’ names, romping with five-diamond hookers five days a week in ever-bawdier adventures.

Strung up by Mistress Madison and her Whip of Wails, he soon confesses his misuse of the company account. Then he learns it’s on digital video. He must obey her every command, including those involving insider trading, or he’ll be on Youtube and then on trial. Can Casanova Krebs wiggle out of bondage to the Machiavellian Mistress, or will he be paying restitution from prison on every one of those high-class Stolen Pieces?

Stolen Pieces is complete at 69,000 words.

My previous writing credits include Expense Accounting for Fun and Profit, The Auditor’s Nightmare, and My Months with Mistress M (a memoir). Research for this novel was accomplished during my three years in a Wall Street accounting department, and the manuscript was workshopped extensively at a fine federal retreat recently redecorated by Martha Stewart. Erotic adventures were field-tested for accuracy prior to incar-- my writers retreat. Video verification is available on request (you keep the videos if I get the publishing contract).

Yours truly,


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Fake Query 8

His Majesty could have driven a Jaguar or a Mercedes, so why is he so obsessed with the rusted Ford Falcon that once belonged to Steven King? He claims that it talks to him, but is King George insane, or is an automobile running the kingdom?

O Highest Evil One:

The warden may make the rules, and the guards may enforce them, but everyone knows former gang leader George “King” Ramone is the true ruler of San Antonio’s California State Prison. His ruthless ways have made him feared and respected—but mostly feared. Even the guards are forced to call him “Your Majesty,” especially when they find themselves backed into a tight corner.

One fateful day, an old rusted Ford Falcon comes through the prison shop to be fixed. The car, George learns, can talk, and used to belong to Stephen King, who just happens to be George’s favorite writer. It’s not long before the car reveals its diabolical plan: get George to escape prison and drive to Maine so it can be reunited with its former owner.

But George has problems of his own. He can only hold on to his power so much longer, what with all the gangs and factions plotting against him all the time. Soon he’s taking advice from the car, and everyone in the prison notices a change. Can George make a correctional facility a kinder, gentler place for his own sake? Or will he follow the car’s and start killing those who are plotting against him?

I have been published in Dweeb’s Journal and Sci-Fi for the Lonely Guy, as well as other publications you’ve probably never heard of. King’s Falcon is 122,000 words long. I have enclosed the first ten pages and would be thrilled to send you the rest of the manuscript.

Best Regards,


Fake Query 5

A knight with OCD causes the collapse of the kingdom when he stays at home to re-polish his armor instead of leading his men into battle. (In Shining Armor)

Nights in the arms of the Countess of Lovelace have helped Sir Richard of Rotsbury forget the stench of the battlefield. But now, she has closed her legs to him until his assets are suitably increased. The king, who could grant Sir Richard the largess he requires to get back in his lady’s favor, has instead threatened Sir Richard with the loss of his head if his troops do not end the war on the morrow. Having less knights to feed is one answer to the royal purse growing thin, however Sir Richard would prefer to keep his head, his lover, and earn a bit of silver with daily battles.

Sir Lancelot offers Sir Richard a solution - one in which he keeps his head, gains more land, and returns to his lover’s soft charms. It is tempting, but can Sir Richard continually polish his armor while his troops are slaughtered to a man and the kingdom is overrun by the barbarian horde? Or will his conscience prod him to don his shining armor and lead his troops to ultimate victory? And will he decide in time to save the men who serve under him?


Fake Query 4

In this Socratic dialogue between an oak tree and a large rock, the main characters discuss the nature of man and his effects on the environment.


I am seeking representation for my 65,000 word literary novel 'Oak and Stone'.

When a hurricane hits Five Oaks village, only one of the namesake oaks survives. The remaining tree, Robur, has to deal with being alone for the first time since he was planted. His solitude ends when the villagers install Socrates, a sandstone memorial to the lost oaks. Robur and Socrates become friends as they debate human nature.

A child littering sparks a discussion about humans affecting the environment. Robur realises that global warming may have caused the storm that killed his family. As he is recovering from this revelation, he discovers that Socrates is dying from acid rain corrosion. A second hurricane approaches, but Robur is preoccupied with thoughts of revenge against humanity. Unless he puts revenge aside and starts preparing, he risks becoming a victim of the storm.


Fake Query 3

Disgruntled manticore-mucker Janie runs away from the Cirque Obscure, taking one of the sideshows with her. . . and endangering her entire kingdom.

In my romantic fantasy, THE DEMON TAMER, Janie joined the Cirque Obscure because they provided her a safe way out of the capital of the kingdom of Vastness. Now, they're threatening to take away her quiet backstage job of manticore-mucker and put her center ring as one of the glamour girls. Worse, the king's guards are searching the tents and are sure to find her. As she's throwing together necessities, the manticores speak, asking to be released from their cages.

Startled by the evidence of their intelligence, Janie agrees. Escaped manticores will cover her disappearance nicely. Instead, they join her. It's like traveling with tigers, except manticores don't leave bones when they eat you. On their journey, pursued by the handsome half-breed dwarf in charge of the circus menagerie, Janie learns why the manticores haven¹t eaten her, and why the king wants her.

She is a lost member of the legendary demon tamers, a race of people who bonded with the vicious manticores to control the hell-gates at the heart of the world and the demons that leak through them. The king has mad dreams of using the hell-gates to create an empire. Now that Janie and the manticores have joined forces, they must evade the king's men with the help of Stretch, the half-dwarf, while journeying to the heart of the world to tame the escaping demons.

I've had five books published, two of them award-winners, and am currently contracted with another publisher for a different romantic fantasy series. THE DEMON TAMER should be complete at around 100,000 words.



Fake Query 1

A séance sounds like fun, right? RIGHT? Well, not for Snotgurgle Mcflop. It's bad enough he has a mom who plays soccer, but when his mother decides to take a class on Basic Witchery, what's a troll to do? Eat her, of course!

Dear Sir,

I am seeking representation for my 950,469 word novel, My Soccer Mom’s Seance - a masterpiece I guarantee will compel you to prostate yourself in wonder at my unparalleled talent.

My idea is outstanding and incredible and fantastic, being loosely based on a plot I came across on your blog while surfing for porn.

A séance sounds like fun, right? RIGHT? Well, not for Snotgurgle Mcflop. It's bad enough he has a mom who plays soccer, but when his mother decides to take a class on Basic Witchery, what's a troll to do? Eat her, of course!

It’s a good start, but my ideas are much, much more original. My protagonist is called Snotgurgle McFlip, the Witchery class is upgraded to Advanced (how brilliant is that?) and in my genius, I have substituted a gremlin for the troll. Even better, this masterwork is set in the fantasy kingdom of Pain Land, a mystical world in which I have sought refuge since being diagnosed as a psychopath when I was four.

I plan to write this epic bestseller in PainLandian hieroglyphs the moment I am released from prison. I have selected my next victim from MySpace and will render the work in ink distilled from her blood on papyrus woven from her beautiful blonde hair.

I have no publishing credits of which to speak, but as I am descended from Satan, I expect to encounter no obstacles. NONE!

If you ignore this query, you will burn in Hell.

Hear Me!


Face-Lift 505

Guess the Plot

Zaught Green

1. Martha loves her knitting but when the parson is murdered she rallies all the ladies of Zaught Green to search out the killer. Who will find him first: the professional and highly trained detectives or the little old ladies with their walking frames? Or will the killer turn out to be one of them?

2. As a Galactic Star Warrior, it's Jeleth's task to identify those stars in the zaught green phase, which a red dwarf enters just before reaching the point of supernova, and evacuate the vicinity. When she meets Callou, a scientist who believes that zaught green is a disease transmitted from star to star, he insists on staying to test his theory. Jeleth must choose between safety . . . and the man she loves.

3. In a world of magic where everything has a soul, a little girl named Zaught Green is identified as the nexus of time travel itself. She's not, really, and she gets so pissed at the misconception that she creates an army of zombies to take over the world. Also, a vicious pack of meerkats selling bubble gum ice cream.

4. After Coach Green was found buried under the soccer pitch, the Zaught sports field was abandoned. But when Danny and Shelley discover all that short grass just begging to be run over, they ignore the rumours and start a kickaround. Suddenly, ghostly hands appear and try to drag them down into the earth. Will anyone believe their tale of . . . Zaught Green?

5. Two aliens take possession of the Earth and rename it Zaught. Then, for laughs, they torment Zack Sterling, making fire hydrants and wood mulch attack him. Which, as it happens, is an improvement in Zack's life.

6. Chazton Huston once thought that the biofuel made at the factory came from corn. He has uncovered the secret of zaught green and he wants to tell the world. Can he escape from security guards who have orders to kill anyone who discovers that zaught green is made from . . .

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When every other kid began to tackle him, Zack was in a fix. It was already hard enough surviving past twelve years old: what do you do when the kids beating you up are from another world? Zaught Green is a work of middle grade fantasy in a contemporary setting. It is approximately 56,000 words with series potential. [You've made two statements here:

1. Every other kid is tackling Zack.

2. The kids beating Zack up are from another world.

This could lead one to believe that all the other kids are from another world, which I, having read ahead, know is not the case. You have two hooks. You need only one: What do you do when you discover that the bullies who've been beating you up are from another world?]

The mysterious rumor started five years ago: knock Zackary Sterling to the earth, earn $3.00 a take-down. It turned out to be true. Thanks to the trouble that follows him, he's seen seven foster parents and twelve different schools. [That's almost two schools per year.] [Every other kid tackles him, but no one does anything about it? Don't teachers know what's going on?] At his latest home near Indianapolis, two boys in strange clothes show up, causing fire hydrants and wood mulch to attack him. [Now that there's just one hook, maybe you should start the plot here: Zack's been bullied by the other kids for years, but when fire hydrants and wood mulch start attacking him, he's had enough. Now there's plenty of room to tell us about the boys in strange clothing.] Zack's had enough! With the help of Van, his tiny but tough girl friend (but not girlfriend!) [with a boy's name], Zack sets out to solve the mystery behind his two new attackers—Brown and Blue. He learns not only to stand up for himself, but to stand up for others—even if it includes his antagonists. Told in fresh voice and snappy dialogue, their unique adventure combines the quirky humor of Maniac Magee and the heart-capturing adventure of A Wrinkle in Time. [It's always dangerous to compare your book to a true classic, so I recommend getting rid of the reference to Maniac Magee.] [Their "unique adventure" combines the "heart-capturing adventure" is too much adventure for a query that hasn't described an adventure. Tell us about the adventure.]

A member of SCBWI, I hold a BA in English Literature. I currently and have always worked in the non-profit sector to bring aid to needy families. [Thus . . . ?] While the situations in the novel have a fantastical bent, many were inspired by the real ones that I've encountered. [Like the time I fell into a mulch pit and the time I tripped over a fire hydrant.] [Why the hell do they have to have a fire hydrant right where I always park my car?] The first three chapters or the full manuscript of Zaught Green are available upon request. Thank you for your valuable time.

On the title: yes, it's a non-sensical word followed by a subscript color. One of the otherworldly boys renames the earth Zaught. He owns the planet, after all. [Who owns the planet? Blue or Brown? Why isn't the title Zaught Blue or Zaught Brown? Who's Green?]


It begins: When every other kid began to tackle him, Zack was in a fix. But that was five years ago. Usually when you're in a fix you don't wait five years to take action. Fortunately we're getting rid of that line anyway.

What's the connection between getting tackled and getting new foster parents? Is getting knocked down the trouble that follows Zack? His foster parents are saying they don't want Zack because he gets knocked down too much? Fortunately, we're getting rid of the foster parents anyway.

If an alien owns the planet Earth, you might want to mention it in the query. It's an intriguing plot point. In fact, when beings from another world are on the scene, everything else in the story takes a back seat in the query. Just like with zombies and wolfmen.

Another intriguing plot point: Why would an alien being who owns the Earth single out a twelve-year-old kid as a victim?

I'm not crazy about the title, even knowing where it comes from. Maybe middle-graders will like it. Or maybe they'd prefer Zack Sterling and the Bullies from Outer Space.

New Beginning 470

My name is Zachary Willis. FleX and I met in 1979, at a loft on Canal Street in NYC. He was the first flex; he had the handle before the DJs, the dotcoms and the industrialists. He spawned them all, from flextime to flexgeist. When I met him, his big gig was his early noise band, the FleXibles, in which he played lead guitar and sang. The FleXibles were more than just another blast of Jack Daniels and speed with a weird rockabilly undercurrent and unintelligible lyrics, but they never had much impact beyond the vortex of that musical moment. They were at their best that night when someone slid open the loft’s pulsing steel door. Maybe 50 people milled around, a few dancing wildly, a lot of them stoned on heroin (anyone remember “White Widow?”). Holes gaped in the floor, and it was hard not to imagine what might creep out of them. Then the electricity crashed, stranding everyone in a murmuring penumbra of dark creatures.

The darkness caught FleX mid-pogo and he missed the edge of the stage on the downbeat that never came. It took three EMTs to pull him from the hole in the floor. He chipped a vertebra and walks with a cane now. Last I heard, he'd changed his name and was fronting his new band, the StiFFs.

Opening: Richard Dailey.....Continuation: ril

Friday, March 21, 2008

Cartoon 29

Caption: EE

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New Beginning 469

0 Childhood's end

1 Childhood

The Seeding

On October 4, 1957 the Soviet Union launched the first of humanity's machines to reach my realm. Sputnik means "co-traveler" so I hitched a ride and waited 92 days to plummet to Earth on the burning Star of Sputnik exactly 9 months before I was born on October 4, 1958. I entered the developing egg of a random woman and waited while minions, terrified of a primitive tin can in space, scrambled to create ARPA, the organization which would design your web of weapons of war while also giving rise to Gog.

First Blood

mom says that I looked like a monkey when I was born. All arms and legs with a teensy body. It's stuck with me to a degree, but I can't scratch my knees anymore.

I had a hernia which needed to be surgically repaired. Not a big deal, but when the doc mentioned something about the possible dangers of anesthesia in the first year of life, mom took on an insane task. Since crying was painful, she would try to keep me silent until my first birthday.

Present Day

Evil Editor laid the page down on his desk. Excellent opening, he thought. Have to remember to strike the mention of "minions," though. Don't want anyone realizing it's my autobiography.

Opening: the antichrist.....Continuation: McKoala

Cartoon 28

Caption: Anonymous

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Writing Exercise

This exercise provides query-writing practice, and usually turns out amusing.

You'll need a random number between 1 and 504. You can get one here.

Use the search feature or the archives to find the Face-Lift that goes with your number. Now choose one of the fake plots and write a query letter. In the past I've had you choose your plot with a random number. If you're indecisive, you may do so again, but you are free to use any plot except the real one.

You have the option of doing just a synopsis of the book, or a complete query with credits and other incidentals. Either way, limit yourself to 250 words.

Use the same title the original query uses. Submit the Face-Lift number, the fake plot you used, and your query. Deadline: Sunday morning, 8 AM eastern. Include a name if you want credit. After we read your query, we'll let you know if we think you should write the book.

New Beginning 468

Sweet Christ on a bike but Nicola hated dollar beer night at the bar.

The place was always packed from the seedy stage to the grimy bar, wall to wall with every drunken college frat boy within a hundred mile distance. Almost three hundred sweating, stinking, immature fuck-ups swilling down cheap beer and leaving crap tips as they groped her, all packed into one tiny bar.

It was nights like these that Nicola really missed her ex. Max had been a shit and a fuck-up, but there had been something infinitely comforting about dating one of the bouncers. Max, useless as he always was in most areas of life, had always looked out for her in the bar, at least. The other bouncers did their jobs ok, but Nicola liked to have that killer instinct that thrummed inside a man and told him not to let his lay get groped.

Mother Mary on a trike but Nicola longed for cage fighting night, when the bruising hulks from across the street came in.

Yeah, it had been nice, fucking one of the bouncers, but it wasn’t like Max was hung like a war criminal, so it had been a while since she’d felt thrumming like she wanted to feel thrumming.

Getting groped by Thundarr the Terrible was terrific, and he did his business more than ok. He had a killer instinct, and a kind of groping-your-lay combination move that made Nicola wish that the towel girl job she’d applied for across the street would work out soon, so she could play where she was laid.

Yeah, it was nights like these that Nicola really missed her sex.

Opening: Moth.....Continuation: Robin

Cartoon 27

Caption: Anonymous

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New Beginning 467

HELL TEMPTED ME about every third weekend. So did the bottle. So did a big-breasted neighbor named Magdalene. That much, I admit to.

When it all came crashing down on me was the night my parrot said some things, and I listened, for the first time ever. He said, "You suck". He said, "Help me." He said, "mmmmm," like he had had a belly full.

Magdalene was the alien smell on my hands and genitals. She was the girl-next-door-to-the-brothel, like a discounted address. I didn't like Magdalene. In fact I hated her. In fact she hated me more than I hated her. And this is how we did it. It wasn't pretty and it was never sober, and this was just fine with us. I got the feeling she was heeling every Tom and Harry who had ever hurt her in her past, every time she spurred me on in our frenzied-hateful-love-making. "You", she would accuse me in tremolo. "Youuuuuuuuu." It was always a very long "U". Always longer than I could hold onto the guilt that she had built up inside me. "Youuuuuuuuuuu." She would breath and say it again and often. "Youuuuuuuuuuu!" She was like an alarm going off and a fire starting in a peach pit and a pair of big-nippled accompaniments that jellied on a sternum freckled densely. Her legs would kick me in. "Youuuuuuuuuuuuu."

Then the parrot starting saying it. Youuuuuuuu. Youuuuuuuuuuuuu. I felt no guilt inside me serving parrot en papillote for dinner that night. Youuuuuuuu Suck. I had a belly full.

Magdalene squawked about preparing an avian flambe because she hated the parrot more than she hated me. But I was no fancy chef.

I ate the parrot. That much, I admit to. I nibbled on Magdalene's big breasts, too, but just a little. She was a tough old bird. Would have made a better stew.

I'm going to raise sheep now. Give up on birds. Something tells me I'll be happier with a flock of ewes.

Opening: Scott Simpson.....Continuation: Mignon

Cartoon 26

Caption: Anonymous

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Face-Lift 504

Guess the Plot

Unplugged Yellow

1. When Ukrainian heavy metal band Yellow nets just fourteen sales of their newest album, they break up and each members searches for meaning in his own way: one climbs Everest, one drops into a six-month drug haze, one gets a poetry MFA, and one lives with a native tribe in the Amazon.

2. When a gargantuan meteor sails into the solar system, it impacts with the sun, sinking halfway in. The remaining mass just sits there, stuck. Sunlight reaching the earth drops by 80%. Astrounaut Tom Dangerine hasn't failed a mission yet, but can he unplug the sun?!

3. Zach is obsessed with the paintings of the hottest new artist on the New York art scene. Especially the yellow ones. Then he meets Rachel, the artist's girlfriend and becomes even more obsessed with her. When the artist is killed in a Timbuktu sandstorm, will Zach and Rachel find happiness together?

4. Lisa wants nothing to do with sparky Dave the electrician, even when he rewires her house for free. But when every yellow lead in her apartment comes unplugged, is it bad wiring, or Dave's revenge? Either way, she has to mollify him, but in the process, will she end up . . . plugged?

5. A new superhero is born when genetic engineering meets Ariolimax columbianus-- the banana slug. And boy is she peeved about her loss of habitat.

6. Like, hey man, this weed's really good. A semi-autobiographical, maybe-reality based, might-be-a-drug-induced-fantasy of life among the hippies in a Colorado Commune known only as Mellifluous Daffodil with Primrose.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Zachary Willis, a 28-year-old contemporary art collector, becomes obsessed with the paintings of an enfant terrible who calls himself FleX. FleX is a painter [Do artists who paint call themselves painters? Seems like they'd want to differentiate between themselves and house painters. Although I had a guy paint my house once who thought he was an artist. He painted the whole house using a palette and a Kolinsky sable artist's brush; no buckets, no rollers . . . in retrospect it was quite clever, as I was paying him by the hour.] more known for singing and playing guitar in an early noise band. [It was FleX and four roosters.] They become friends and Zach also becomes obsessed with FleX’s Haitian girlfriend, Rachel Aufan.

FleX’s art career takes off, largely due to Zach. Zach is responsible for FleX’s meeting with Phil Grey, the art critic, and his art-collecting French wife, Agnés de la Façade. FleX’s paintings double and triple in value [when it's discovered that he's a mentally unstable heroin addict,] while his mental instability and heroin habit undermine everyone’s investment in him. [It's like a Catch-22.]

Phil is laundering cocaine money for the Haitian mafia by buying art in New York and selling it in Europe. [That's two unrelated references to Haiti already. What were the odds?] [Speaking of low odds: You're a respected art critic. A gang of drug-dealing punks known as the Haitian Mafia comes to you with a deal: they'll give you their cocaine profits so you can buy art, take it to Europe, sell it, bring back the money, and give it to them. And you agree to this? Are they holding your lover hostage?] Art is the largest unregulated market in the world, and Phil is cannily starting to flood the downtown art market with hot cash. FleX makes a theatrical disappearance during one of his sold-out openings; Zach and Rachel get caught together later that night in a snowstorm and become lovers. [When I'm caught in a snowstorm I'm more interested in getting shelter than getting laid.] FleX returns, briefly, and then he and Rachel leave together for her family’s empty house in the hills outside of Port-au-Prince, where FleX goes cold turkey.

FleX and Rachel descend into a folie à deux as they run to Paris, and then Timbuktu. Rachel goes to New York alone to pick up money and tells Zach she is pregnant with his child. She returns to FleX. [This has devolved into a list of things that happen. An outline. We need a logical progression with smooth transitions; some cause and effect; less what and more why.] Zach tracks down FleX’s real identity as he attempts to separate Rachel from the sacred monster he has helped to create. [Why "sacred"?] FleX dies in a sandstorm in Timbuktu the night he learns Rachel is pregnant with Zach’s child. Zach rescues Rachel, who dies in childbirth. [It's your typical boy meets girl-boy loses girl-girl's boyfriend dies inTimbuktu sandstorm story.] Willis’s true obsession is Rachel Aufan, and his need for her to choose between the collector and the artist is at the heart of this book. [If that's the heart of the book, focus the whole query on it.]

UNPLUGGED YELLOW (45,811 words) is a love triangle set in NYC, Haiti, Paris and Timbuktu in 1979-80. The same people who bought Danny Moynihan's "Boogie-Woogie" and Siri Hustvedt's "What I loved" would probably buy UNPLUGGED YELLOW. I am Editor-in-Chief at Afterart News, an art newspaper published in Paris, France. The novel is currently being serialized (I retain all rights) in Hearsight Magazine.



If the book is a love triangle, the first order of business is to get rid of the stuff that isn't connected to the lovers, namely the money laundering cocaine art critic Haitian mafia stuff. The only reason to mention Phil the critic is if it was Phil's reviews that resulted in FleX's paintings tripling in value. NY, Paris and Timbuktu are enough settings for the query. Nothing happens in Haiti that we need to know about.

Agnés de la Façade?

That the novel is available free online may make it less desirable to some publishers. That it's 45,000 words will make it undesirable to most publishers. Perhaps the serialization is an abridged version? The mere fact that that it has four major settings leads me to believe there are more than 45,000 words worth of story to be told here.

Focus on the Zach/Rachel story as your main plot, and throw in something about how the book provides a rare look at the contemporary art scene, as that seems to be your thing. Unfortunately, 1979-1980 isn't contemporary, and may be less interesting to those into contemporary art. Is there a reason this can't be set in present day?

The Timbuktu sandstorm sounds a bit wacko, if not Deus ex machina. You might want to just say FleX died, for the purposes of the query.

Cartoon 25

Caption: Evil Editor

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New Beginning 466

"Bullshit," snapped Billie Massey, giving her friend Geraldine a prod with her elbow. "She most certainly does not look nearly as lovely as she did when she was alive. She looks like hell and you know it."

"Watch your mouth, Billie, someone might hear you." Geraldine cringed and glanced nervously around. She spoke with the soft southern accent of someone who'd been raised in Georgia, but hadn't gone back since the day she left home. "It wouldn't be seemly to be caught speaking ill of the dead."

"I'm not speaking ill of the dead. I'm speaking ill of the cretins that dare to call themselves funeral directors." She tapped a finger on the closed half of the casket. "She looks like she's been stuffed with straw, and I don't think she even has a skirt on!"

As they spoke, the third member of their party, Ruby Sinclair, joined them. She looked distinctly disgruntled. "There isn't any toilet paper left in the bathroom. I had to use the tube."

Billie scoffed. "They ran out after they stuffed it all in Audrey's bra."

"You use the tube?" Geraldine made a face, then turned to Billie and said, "I'm sure she has all her clothes on. You're just upset, honey, that's natural."

Billie tapped her finger on the lower half of the casket again and then whipped around, slid all ten fingers under the lid and lifted it just a fraction.

Geraldine's hands flew to her mouth in horror. "Honey, don't--"

Billie let the lid fall with a snap. "No skirt."

"But why would they . . . ?" Geraldine swallowed hard.

As she spoke, the funeral director appeared behind them, smiling brightly and holding up a roll of colored fabric. "I hear the toilet paper in Ladies is running short again. Make do and mend in an emergency I always say. Ah, look at your friend, isn't she a vision? You can hardly tell I had to use red magic marker instead of lipstick. And her false eyelashes turned out fine. You don't want to know where I got the extra hair. And guess what I stuffed her . . . "'

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: McKoala

Cartoon 24

Caption: Freddie

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Face-Lift 503

Guess the Plot

Quantum Magic

1. Is making potions too slow for you? Cauldron not boiling fast enough? Turn to quantum magic, the quicker, easier way for Wiccans to have fun in the forest!

2. When an evil Celtics fan threatens to turn Los Angeles into a radioactive puddle of slag, whiz kid Mario Degas shrinks basketball legend Magic Johnson to molecular dimensions. Can Magic drive the lane and slam-dunk the evil plot? Or will Los Angeles be destroyed, thus bringing joy to billions worldwide?

3. The physics lab is not all work and no play. Scientist Lou McNerdle has used quantum physics to create an anti-gravity shoe for the basketball team. Will his Quantum Magic lead to a tournament bid, or will NCAA watchdog Hillary Hooper bring McNerdle back down to earth?

4. The Muse of Inspiration has a problem in helping humanity to the stars: Getting scientists to believe in magic, because only magic can go faster than light. Hilarity ensues when she utilizes ethanol and some untried new designer drugs to effect.

5. The dean laughed when physicist Norman Gannon first proposed teaching a course about Magic at the university. But that was before the Sociology Building vanished into smoke.

6. Murders and miracles, physics and prophecy are linked to the author of this magical autobiography, an alien being who explains such mysteries as Revelations and the numerology of 666 and 911. Also, Sputnik.

Original Version






Magic [That, apparently, is the full title. I decided to make it easier for fake plot writers.]

On October 4, 1957 the Soviet Union launched the first of humanity's machines to reach my realm. [You know me as . . . the ionosphere. I'd been sitting there for millions of years, minding my own business, when suddenly this hunk of junk shows up and starts beeping. How's an atmospheric layer supposed to get any sleep? And that was only the beginning. This . . . is my story.] [If you think a memoir narrated by the ionosphere would be weird, wait till you read the actual query.] Sputnik means "co-traveler", so I hitched a ride and waited 92 days to plummet to earth on the burning Star of Sputnik exactly 9 months before I was born on October 4, 1958. I entered the developing egg of a random woman [I'm not saying I was born in 1958, but just out of curiosity, what did this woman look like?] and waited while minions, terrified of a primitive tin can in space, scrambled to create ARPA, the organization which would design your web of weapons of war while giving rise to Gog.

Mine is a new non-fiction genre where one weaves a verifiable yet impossible tale over a Biblical 40 years with a 10 year preamble. [Where one weaves? I think you mean where you weave, unless you know of someone else writing in this genre . . . By the way, are you Gog?] You'll find out how and why I took out the USA's most expensive military aircraft, along with her older sister. [I once took out the younger sister of a heavy battle-axe.] I explain Revelations and the numerology of 666 and 911, [666 is the only 3-digit number which, when added to half of itself and then flipped over yields itself; 911 is the highest known prime number*.] as well as the secrets of the SS9, [Secrets like what it is.] and link them repeatedly to me and only me. [Better title for this book: I, Gog.] I add physics and prophesy to 23 murders [Whoa, 23? Did you come up with that theory that everything is connected to the number 23?] and many miracles in this web I call Autobiographical Magic.

I've been loud. [I wouldn't call it loud so much as annoying.] Much of the plot can be Googled, [So, Gog, did you invent Google?] and lots of folks will remember the rest. Police and paramedics and pastors and physicians [all start with "p" and] make wonderful witnesses when people live and die on cue. And when it comes to weather, I like wind. [You do sound kind of like a gasbag.] Of course, since I'm me, you'll get shredded with commentary on your wars and other fun games, too. [Of course, since we're us, we'll tune you out.]

Part 1, which covers my childhood, is both lived and written. Part 2&3 [2 & 3? 23? Spooky.]continues on through my 50th. A third book, The Gospel According to rick, no, that's later. For now, I'll just prove that I'm the Dick you've been waiting for. [No additional proof is needed.]

* Known to Evil Editor



I assume if this were a hoax you wouldn't have come up with a weird title, so . . . even if the book is wildly over the top, there's a better way to convey this than with a wildly over-the-top query. You're trying to convince an agent to represent you in a business deal, or a publisher to invest lots of money in you. Thus it's best that you not give the impression that you actually believe you're Gog.

You had a plot going for a while there, stowing away on Sputnik etc. Is the rest just a series of rants and a listing of your accomplishments? I think you need to focus on a progression of events that culminates with your biggest achievement or failure. Even a memoir tells a story.

Cartoon 23

Caption: Robin

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

New Beginning 465

In your minds, you are all special. You like to fool yourselves that your experience and outlook on the world is different, unique. Any suggestion that even your most unusual thoughts have already flitted through the minds of billions of others on this rock you live on is instantly quashed. You are convinced by your significance. If only others could just look in to your souls and see what a unique being you are, oh how they would worship you.

“The things we’ve seen... way beyond anything you could dream of”, you cry. The reality is that even Saturday afternoon B-movies have dreams that are more exotic and astonishing. You are mediocre, unoriginal, clones. You live your lives desperate to prove yourselves... with bad relationships, risk taking, playing with fickle fame. You laugh at those who have reached the pinnacle who claim that really, they just long for the simple life, an ordinary existence. You know they are lying.

The irony is that those few individuals who have genuine originality are hunted down and ousted from society. We’re labelled insane, heretics, psychopaths... or, if feeling somewhat generous, merely eccentric.

Freddie stopped reading the letter and, after a moment's thought, threw it in the trash.

Jeez, she thought, I knew The New Yorker had a reputation as pompous assholes, but do they have to send out such pretentious form rejection slips?

Opening: Pewari.....Continuation: freddie

Friday, March 14, 2008

Cartoon 22

Caption: anonymous

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Cartoon 21

Caption: Tal

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Face-Lift 502

Guess the Plot

The Taj Mahal Romance Repair Agency

1. From the outside it is looking like ordinary Indian restaurant. But those couples being strangely attracted to its most exotic menu are finding its warming food and most philosophical waiters are exceedingly putting the spices back into their troubled relationships. Also, a chapati.

2. Three clueless Indian virgins are starting running an agency specializing in the fixing of the ailing romances for some other Indians lacking the clues, but are quickly getting sucked into some most amusing misadventures.

3. Arranged marriages can be most great for the families, but for the couple thrusting together without the spark of the romance, getting to know each other can be most traumatic. Jaswinder and Anjul have a plan to fix that with their newest business idea. But when they are setting their call center up in Lexington, KY, the miscommunications lead to hilarity on two sides of the world.

4. Sanjiv has made his fortune as a Kama Sutra instructor, and his mother is after him to seek the wife. Hilarity is ensuing when he meets his future in-laws. Can he be convincing Mr. Gupta that he is computer repairman before Mrs. Gupta is recalling "The Reverse Cowgirl"?

5. Bishakha's husband has died twenty years before, but she isn't seeing why death should be a barrier to romance. With help of the Taj Mahal Romance Repair Agency, she plans to hunt down her husband's reincarnation, and marry him once more. Also, a sacred elephant.

6. Getting to work for a top literary agent right out of Brown is Sissy Lions' dream. But no one is telling her she will be slogging through endless piles of romance novels rather than literary fiction. And now they wish her to be editing this tripe? Is there any escaping...The Taj Mahal Romance Repair Agency?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Novel Query: The Taj Mahal Romance Repair Agency

Three clueless Indian virgins, seeing a business opportunity in teaching even more clueless youth in India how to interact with the opposite sex, decide to start an agency specializing in fixing ailing romances.

Armed with Western romantic-advice books and expecting to deal with broken hearts, they quickly get sucked into both romantic and criminal misadventures as their clients drag them into one scrape after another. Before long, the company motto becomes Stay Out of Jail. Or Stay Alive. [Is "Stay Out of Jail. Or Stay Alive." the new motto? If so, "and" would be better than "or." If it's two mottos, I'd stick with just one. Actually, those don't sound like mottos anyway. "Mission statement" might be better.]

The Taj Mahal Romance Repair Agency has the pacing of a James Patterson novel, the humor of a Janet Evanovich novel, and the cultural immersion of a McCall Smith [How come you use the first names of Patterson and Evanovich, but not McCall Smith? It's Alexander, though those of us in his inner circle call him Sandy.] Botswana-set novel. [According to . . . the author? If decisions on which manuscripts to request were made based on the authors' opinions of the works, all manuscripts would be requested. I've said it before, but it bears repeating, apparently: Leave the hype to the person writing the back-cover copy. If you declare that your work is like James Patterson's, Janet Evanovich's and Alexander McCall Smith's, there are three possible reactions from an editor:

1. I've never gotten around to reading anything by those authors, so I have no idea what you're trying to say.

2. I hate all three of those authors, so even though I was loving your query letter, forget it.

3. I worship those three authors. And you have the gall to compare yourself to them? The ashes I've placed in your SASE are what remains of your query, which I burned as a symbolic gesture in hopes that James, Janet and Sandy will forgive me for reading it.]

Thank you for your time.


What you've provided is the situation. Three unqualified people start a business, and get more than they bargained for. It's an intriguing setup, but we want to know what happens. The setup was two sentences. That leaves plenty of room to tell us about a couple of the romantic and criminal misadventures so we can judge whether we think they're as funny as you do. And so we have a lengthier sample of your writing.

If you must mention other authors, there are those who don't mind your saying something like fans of James Patterson will enjoy the pace of this book. But usually the editor has decided whether to request the manuscript before then anyway. He's unlikely to change from no to yes just because you claim it's Patterson-paced. And if he requests it and thinks that it's Ayn Rand-paced he won't believe anything else you've said.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cartoon 20

Caption: Anonymous

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Cartoon 19

Caption: Anonymous

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New Beginning 464

Susan stomped her way down to the village market. The sun was already high, she'd swelter walking back up the hill in the lunchtime heat. John's fault. She'd found him still in the Shark's Head, slumped over the counter. No use in shouting at him, he wasn't in any state to pay attention, bleary-eyed and hungover, surprised to find himself still there. Damn him.

She bought peanuts for setting on the bar and some olives for the tables. The fruit was all bruised and battered, the vegetables dry and sad-looking. All the decent stuff had been bought hours earlier, while she was cleaning out the kitchen and sweeping the floors. John's fault again, he should have done all that last night. She bought skinny-looking green beans because she knew he didn't like them and then she bought some green apples because she knew he did.

As Susan gathered her breath for the trek back up the hill, she noticed a woman sitting in the dust, leaning her back against the side of a stall selling bikinis and wrap-around skirts. Their eyes met.

"How big do those come?" Susan indicated a violently pink bikini.

"You don't need as big as all that," said the old woman. "You need a small one."

"No, give me a big one. That one will do."

She paid the woman and started her trek. Too wasted to clean the bar, eh? Well, explaining to all his buddies why he was lying on the floor in a pink bikini should teach him.

Opening: Sylvia.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

Cartoon 18

Caption: Anonymous

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Beginning 463

Waking from the coma was much easier than all of just about everything else. The lights were off and then- without my doing anything- the lights were on again. I was a suddenly-woken focus of hospital wonder who got baby-spooned small bits of information and food that I nibbled and swallowed. Nurses came and cleaned between my cheeks and welcomed me back. Some reporter came and took my picture. She called me a hero. They all did.

“You’re a hero.“ they all said while I nibbled and swallowed.

I really had to blink my eyes at what I had woken to become. I got trampled by a dozen pairs of boots is what they tell me and I’m a hero? Imagine that? Three and a half months in a coma and you’d think I’d bump into some unique understanding of life’s profundities; and here I am, dumbfounded by a compliment on my second waking day? It’s all a mish mash. Who knew it would all become a mish mash?

Who knew I could get so angry, and “do” those things I think I remember?

They'd been in the bar a while when we got there, those good ol' boys. They'd traveled up from a dry county and had a good soaking in mind. I just wanted a quiet drink and a bite in my own dim corner.

They got louder as they got wetter, and as the volume went up things started to break. Sooner or later someone was gonna get hurt.

But not if I could help it. I slipped out back, cut the brake lines on their pickups and came around front. "Excuse me," I yelled, and for a moment, they did. "I need some help. I just hit a deer down the road."

Who knew it would work so well? Of course, a real hero would have had more sense than to stand in the doorway when he said it.

Opening: Scott from Oregon.....Continuation: Anonymous

Cartoon 17

Caption: BuffySquirrel

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