Friday, October 31, 2008

New Beginning 568

The doorbell rang at the exact moment Sara’s left thumb touched the inkpad. For a moment, her brain instinctively tried to make sense of the coincidence. She looked doubtfully at the detective.

He smiled back, but kept pressing her fingers one by one onto the squares on his paper. “Why not let the constable answer?”

“I guess.” Sara pushed back her hair with her unmarked hand. “It’s probably a neighbor wanting to know if I’m okay.” She watched the uniformed patrolman open her front door with latex-covered fingers. A tall man flipped a wallet at the constable and walked in like a conqueror. His eyes passed Sara as if she didn’t exist.

“Miss Martelli, let me introduce you to James Preston,” said the detective. “Our new electronics and telecommunications expert. James, Miss Martelli purchased the suitcase in question.”

James Preston took Sara’s hand in his long, tanned fingers, but she could tell his mind was on the battered beige case beside her. “You opened it?”

Sara nodded.

“And nothing went boom?”

Sara shook her head.

“Not even tick-tick-tick?”

Sara shook her head again.

“Well, there’s probably nothing there for me. But we’ll have a look all the same.”

Sara sighed at his lame attempt at humor. Sure, buying a Louis Vuitton Pegase 60 online was a bit ostentatious for someone on her salary, but it hardly warranted this much attention from the Fashion Police.

Opening: Jeb.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 247

Caption: Evil Editor

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Face-Lift 579

Guess the Plot

The Willow Knot

1. The Willow Knot had always been a quiet folk art school specializing in weaving classes for little old ladies - until biker and ex-con Carl "Stinky" Ross showed up for his court ordered art therapy. Can the ladies warp Carl to their woof before he puts their retreat in a hopeless tangle?

2. When Mylla's father is unjustly executed for treason and her brother Tyl is turned into a deer, Myl takes it upon herself to rescue Tyl with the help of an ancient willow tree. Also, a shape-shifting prince.

3. Leeshia owns the Willow Knot, a small pagan store. Her landlord, grant Stevens, is an avowed Lutheran. He's also handsome, strong and wealthy. When a flood threatens to wipe out all of Ottumwa, will she drown---or will he be the angel she always thought?

4. Bob Stanstead is set upon by black-clad thugs -- Mae Wong's gang of hunky lifeguards! Their mission? Follow Mae to the North Pole, rescue her, and stop Bob's evil twin, Dave, who bought Russia from a syndicate of billionaires, and plans to blast half of Eurasia from its moorings, tow it across the Bering Sea, and pile it on top of Canada.

5. When Taylor Needham retires to Lawrenceville, he hopes he'll be alone to practice his craft of chainsaw sculpture and to pursue his Ahab-like quest to carve the most obdurate wood of all. But among the tourists drawn by his growing fame is one woman whose face haunts him in every twisted trunk and root.

6. It is 1867 and Tom Johnson prepares to present his findings to a secret commission of the Royal Society, claiming the Willow Prize, a reward funded by Queen Victoria for solving the great bio-physics creation enigma. But the unruly little winged space aliens he captured on the Heath of Blinnabore are determined not to participate. Can Tom subdue the putti long enough to save the world? Or does the future belong to Darwin?

Original Version

Dear Agent spelled correctly,

To free her spell-trapped brother, Mylla must save a kingdom, with the help of the king who had her father executed--and a willow tree. The Willow Knot is a 105,000 word fantasy, based on the Grimm tale "Brother and Sister", set in a fairy-tale kingdom grounded in the realities of 18th century Europe.

After their father's execution for treason, plain, practical Mylla and her impulsive brother Tyl flee to the forest, where old tales come true--but not all tales end well. Tyl is transformed into a deer [He just becomes a deer with no explanation?] [Wait, is he a weredeer?] and though he and Mylla rescue an abducted princess and a shape-shifting marsh-prince, she cannot rescue him.

Sheltered by an ancient willow, they survive robbers and wild beasts until young king Alard finds them, but their troubles are not over. Burdened by guilt over her father's unjust death, Alard makes Mylla queen, [He makes Mylla his own queen? He unjustly kills her father and then she becomes his wife? Does she have a choice?] of a kingdom beset by war without and conspiracy within. To uncover the true traitors, Alard needs the seal-magic Mylla had scarcely begun to learn. To unspell her brother, Mylla needs Alard's protection, but dares not trust him with the full truth, for fear of being accused as a witch herself. Parting in anger, they fall into the hands of enemies. With the help of deer-Tyl [This kind of help?] and the grateful marsh-prince, [You seem to assume we know what a marsh-prince is. A reasonable assumption if he's the prince of a marsh.] [Or is this like the march-hare?] [Come to think of it, I don't know what a march-hare is, either.] Alard escapes an ambush by rebellious nobles [He's already in the hands of enemies. Are the nobles the enemies? Or are they ambushing the enemies?] and returns, not knowing his most trusted councillor has conspired to remove the queen. [Conspired by sending the enemies to capture her? Or by sending the nobles? Or is this a later event?] Near death, Mylla shelters in the willow's roots while an imposter takes her place. Her happy ending must yet be earned with blood, fire, and pain.

In 2006 I attended the (fairly well-known writing workshop), and was shortlisted in the (quirky writing contest). My short story, published in (new-ish ezine), received an honourable mention in (year's best anthology) 2007. I have other novels underway, including (modern fantasy), and (mystery). I work at the (academic) library, which makes it easy to indulge in [my own personal] research [while getting paid for it by the clueless administration].

Thank you for your time and consideration.
(my contact info)



The plot description is too complicated. It has some logical progression, but it still feels like a list of events: Father is executed. Myl and Tyl flee. Tyl becomes deer. They rescue princess and marsh-prince. They survive robbers and beasts. Alard finds them. He makes Myl queen. They argue, part in anger, fall into enemy hands. That's already a lot of events, and I'm not clear on the rest. They parted, so when they fall into enemy hands, is it the same enemy, or different enemies? He escapes the enemy? She ends up hiding in the willow roots; did she also escape the enemy? I think it would be better with less plot detail and more of a general overview.

This is grounded in the realities of 18th century Europe?

Hard to believe a shape-shifting marsh-prince needs rescuing. Can't he just change into a bird or a bee and fly away?

Who would win between a boxing weredeer and a weredingo?

Cartoon 246

Caption: R. Watson

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Beginning 567

It sounded like a gunshot, muffled and distant, but none of Lacey’s companions looked up. Neither did the high-bred horses in the paddock. A groom closed the barn door behind the group. As Lacey thankfully breathed the fresher, less horsey air outside, another pop came, louder this time.

She looked for the source. It could be a starter pistol from Spruce Meadows, the international-class horse show place just down the hill. If show jumping used starter pistols. But she didn’t think it did.

“From the mansion to the south,” said Ryan Branson, the yuppie owner of Sundance Stables. “Construction noise. They’ve been renovating for over a year. We try to think of it as crowd-conditioning for the horses, instead of a bloody nuisance. Now, I’ve got a lunch date. Leah will help you with anything else.”

He turned away, his impeccably office-casual clothing at odds with the staff’s smudged riding gear.

A dark stain marred the back of his otherwise impeccable dress shirt. As Lacey watched, the stain spread. Ryan gave a little squeak and fell over.

The rumors were true, then! Somebody -- somebody nearby -- had a gun with ultra-slow-moving bullets!

Lacey whirled around, trying to look in all directions at once, wondering: What about that second gunshot?

Opening: Jeb.....Continuation: Ellie

Cartoon 245

Caption: Kiersten

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Face-Lift 578

Guess the Plot

The Last Changeling

1. Elora is the last of her kind. Fearing for her life after leading the revolution against the royal court, she leaves the Faerie kingdom in search of peace and healing. But she ends up in the world of humans, and enrolled in high school. This is an improvement?.

2. Lucy has no idea Faerie is suffering from a catastrophic fall in its birthrate until a small, pixie-faced nursling is shoved into her arms with a whispered, "Look after him, for all our sakes--he's the last one!". But does a nine-year-old have what it takes to raise . . . The Last Changeling?

3. Alanka is thrilled to be working at Twilight, the preeminent nursery in the Faerie Kingdom. But the boy they've just stolen from his parents is definitely not human. Dogs are talking, food's coming to life . . . What's a naive sorceress-turned-nanny to do?

4. The epidemic is terrorizing the nation ... sort of. Kids go online and become responsible, respectful, even pious. Mitch, a dedicated hacker and slacker, stumbles on the source of this mind-altering virus. But can he fix it before the FBI, not to mention the nation's parents, stop him for good?

5. 6000 hopefuls left to colonize distant planets and disappeared without a trace. Adam Walker, a war hero, widower, and secret drunk, agrees to become a Changeling, his body modified to survive interstellar travel. He sets out on a lonely, dangerous search for the colonists. He finds them--and something else that changes everything.

6. The elves are nearly gone from the world now, but Ethelbert believes he's a changeling, the child of elvish blood swapped for a dying human. No one else believes him--not even his friends, Naff and Jellwyn--until a mysterious tinker kidnaps the boys, taking them into the faerie mound, and only Ethelbert's newfound abilities can see them home again.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Elora lives in a world where iron sickness has rendered the faerie folk infertile. She is the last faerie ever to be born, the youngest daughter of the Unseelie King and Queen, and she has just led the common fey in a revolution that disbanded the royal faerie courts. Fearing for her life, she embarks on a journey across the Faerie lands, in search of magic that can heal her people and unite her world. [Which people is she trying to unite? The common fey and the royals? The Seelie and Unseelie? What was the point of the revolution? If it succeeded, she should be hailed as the leader, not run out of town.]

In The Last Changeling, an 85,000-word YA urban fantasy, Elora travels to the edge of the human world and beyond, enrolling in a high school [You can't get much farther beyond the human world than a high school.] and attempting to pass as a teenage girl. But mimicking human behavior is complicated, [Tell me about it. I've never managed to pull it off.] and Elora quickly becomes entangled in sordid school politics, ["Sordid" is a pretty strong adjective for school politics. It should be reserved for serial killers who eat their victims and national politics.] unexpected allegiances and forbidden love. When the time comes to return to Faerie, she finds herself torn between two worlds, dedicated to finding resolution in each. Then she realizes the answer lies in the connection between them.

I have a degree in English Literature and the magazines Illumen (October 2006) and Sounds of the Night (August 2007) have published my writing. Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.


I was willing to buy into the common fey choosing to follow the daughter of the Unseelie King and Queen rather than one of their own, and I was willing to buy into a teenager being the leader of this revolution, but a new kid who has trouble acting human gaining even a small amount of acceptance at a high school? I don't think so.

I've always wondered why the Unseelie couldn't come up with a better name. I mean, when the British started colonizing America they didn't call themselves the Unenglish.

Is most of the book set in the high school? If so, you might want to open with a brief mention of the Faerie part: Fleeing assassins in the kingdoms of Faerie, Elora, the last Changeling, takes refuge in the world of humans, and enrolls in Springfield High School. Then work in a couple key characters (including the villain), and the conflict and the stakes. If the book is half Faerie, half high school, it feels like two books, as there'll be a different set of characters in each part. In which case maybe Elora should have a sidekick, someone to talk about Faerie with.

Cartoon 244

Caption: Anon.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

New Beginning 566

When the outside door banged open, Gilles Regnier was talking on the phone. He spun around. The chill scent of outdoors filled the room, fluttering the Christmas cards that still clung to the refrigerator door. His wife stood in the doorway, wind whipping her dark hair and her long, moss-green coat. Her eyes were bright, her cheeks blooming from her walk. Heavy clouds darkened the sky behind her, dimming the kitchen, obscuring the gleaming modern appliances and recalling the room’s roots in a past century. To leave this old farmhouse would tear out her heart, but it must be done.

He turned briefly back to his phone call. “It’s only Gabrielle. I’ll see you soon, then.” He hung up and beckoned her in. “Shut the door, Gabi,” he said in French. “Where’s Dom?”

“He went up the back way. What’s wrong?”

He crossed the room and laid his hands on her shoulders, wishing there was time to break the news gently. “They’ve found me out. They’re coming. We have to go.”

“No!” The exclamation was involuntary. “Oh, Gilles. How long?”

"About the same, last I measured, ma chérie. I'm not sure if those pills I bought online are working after all." He shook his head and gripped her shoulders more tightly. "That's beside the point, though! We have to go!"

Opening: Jeb.....Continuation: Ellie

Cartoon 243

Caption: Evil Editor

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Scary Story 15


Scary Story 14

The bright fire crackled and burned, yet those sitting around it shivered. Halloween. You could almost feel the ghosts and spirits in the air.

"Evil Editor," I said. "He's really a ghost."

Robin rolled her eyes. "Okay, I'll bite."

"It's the house. He's there. He died a few years ago, according to the locals. No wonder it was dirt cheap."

"How do you know it was EE's old house?" Buffy asked.

"Their description of him. How many men do you know wear muttonchops in the twenty-first century?" I countered.

"Good point."

"He was working on a Grisham novel and just keeled over before finishing it. Now he roams in search of the perfect manuscript to edit."

"But what about his blog?"

"Oh, he runs that. His computer pops on at odd hours of the day—on its own."

"So you're living with the ghost of Evil Editor."


"Is he here now?" Dave asked. He sounded skeptical.

"I don't think so."

"Make him show himself."

"Oh, the only way he'll do that outside the house is if you have Grisham on hand. EE's got a bone to pick."

"Does he?" a new voice said. We all sat up. We could barely see him beyond the smoke of the fire, but we knew those blue eyes anywhere. "John Grisham!" I yelled.

"Bring him out."

"No need," said yet another voice.

EE came out of the shadows. "Your manuscript literally killed me, Grisham. I can't get any peace since I read it. Tell me how it ends or you will meet the same fate."

"Oh, EE, you know I can't do that. Contractual obligations and all."

"Fine," EE said. "We'll fight over it."

Grisham smiled. It was unpleasant. "Yes, of course we will."

The battle of the titans had begun.


Scary Story 13

“You’ll catch a death of cold, standing out there on the porch. Come in and warm yourselves.”

Before the two boys could say ‘Get away from me’ and ‘Leave me alone, you freak,’ the old woman’s strong arms and sharp fingernails dug into their costumes, dragging them inside.

The front door slammed closed.

“Now. What was I saying about getting warm?” She flung her long, silver hair over her shoulder and cackled.

A parrot sat atop a broken grandfather clock and hissed at the boys, “Halloween stew. Halloween stew.”

“Oh, don’t pay attention to Mortimer.” The woman walked around the room, lighting candles and incense. A gust of wind flapped through her black shawl. “We’ll eat after we’ve had a conversation. You boys know how to converse, don’t you?”

The boys nodded their heads in rapid succession.

“Good. Because the cat got Mr. Itor’s tongue long time ago.” She motioned to skeleton hunched over a typewriter. “Now, what was I saying about getting warm?”

The woman walked in circles, over heaps of papers and waste bins. “Oh, yes. The stew.”

“Halloween stew. Halloween stew.” The parrot looked from one boy to the other.

“We have to be going now,” one boy reached for the doorknob. “Our parents will be worried.”

Red fingernails sliced the air and caught the boy’s hand mid-turn. “That’s what Ed said, forty years ago. You don’t see his parents anywhere, do you?”

The boys gulped. One of them ventured a question, “He wouldn’t talk to you? Is that why you kept him here, waiting for him to talk?”

“Oh, he talked good enough,” the woman sneered. “Just couldn’t type a sentence to save his life.”

“Halloween stew. Halloween stew.” The parrot danced around his cage.

The boys ran screaming out of the house, leaving a trail of dust that could be seen for miles.

The old woman took off her witch’s costume. “Damn if being an English teacher isn’t the most fun job around.”

--Chris Eldin

Scary Story 12

Campfire Madness

Blanketed by clouds, surrounded by a wall of whispering trees that hid creatures of the night, we sat by the crackling fire. Hastened by alcohol, the campfire songs had given way to fables of horror. It was Halloween.

At first it was less Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination and more Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror; but as we twisted those popular urban legends with our collective writers’ imaginations, each trying to better the last, the gentle sounds of the woodland became the harsh noise of impending madness.

And then, it became my turn to tell a tale; yet could I top The Madness of Miss Nelson? Could I match the simple terror of Nathan Bransford’s Brains? What could chill the spine more effectively than The Clue Claw of the Snark?

“I fear the well is dry,” I told the expectant circle of minions. “You have once again outdone me. I can think of no horror to better the tales already told.”

“What about Evil Editor?”

Indeed, a timely interjection. So engrossed in the others’ stories, I’d all but forgotten our nemesis: the evil that every query writer feared. I leaned forward and stared deep into the hypnotic flames. “You’re right,” I said, “he’s nearly done. Who wants a leg?”


Scary Story 11

Oh, my, HECK, you have not even heard scary till you’ve heard the story I’m about to tell you, right? So this one time, I was at the mall, right? And it’s like getting late. And so I’m all walking to my car when this guy comes out of nowhere, it’s totally dark, right, those parking lot lights are all flickering creepy and everything. At first I’m all thinking it’s a mall cop, you know? Anyway, he starts talking and I realize that dude’s no mall cop—he’s hitting on me. Which, I know, happens like all the time. Not scary. But this guy? He had MUTTON CHOPS. Seriously. And his hair was COMPLETELY gray. Then it got really creepy, and he started like telling me his name was Evil. So I started screaming and ran for my car, you know, but when I get there I drop my keys. AND THE GUY WAS RIGHT BEHIND ME—so I kept screaming. And then I like totally maced him, AND HIS FACE MELTED OFF. I am not even kidding. It melted off. As if that wasn’t like total trauma enough, ever since that night I’ve been getting weird phone calls from some chick with a Southern accent, saying, “I know what you did, and I’m gonna get you for it.” Creepy, huh? So, like, you said your name was Robin? Great party. Hey, you probably get this like all the time, but your voice sounds really familiar.


Scary Story 10


You know, it was nice of EE to invite us on this writing retreat , and the campfire is a nice touch, but I'm kind of surprised that he invited only one female minion.

Yeah, me too. But what really pisses me off is that he takes her out in the woods somewhere, and leaves us all alone here. Not that I don't like your company, guys, but I didn't come here just to--

[Woman screaming.]

What the hell? . . . Should we do something? Somebody do something. What should we do? Should we go out there and--

[More screaming.]

Ugh. I don't know about you guys, but
I'm not going out there. Besides, it seems to be all over now anyway--

[More screaming.]

Man, I knew it was a mistake to come here. How do we even know that
is EE? That could be anybody.

Wait, I think I hear somebody coming.

I'm back gentlemen. I suppose you're wondering what that--

EE! Get your ass back out here!
I'll decide when we're finished!

Ehhhh, gotta go boys.

--Evil Editor

Scary Story 9

The minions gathered around the fire, creeping closer to the warmth with their fingers outstretched. The crisp night air leeched heat from their backs. Shoving elbows discouraged rotisserie movement. It broke the circle and allowed precious heat to escape.

EE bent his head low, hoping the flames would warm him to the nape of his neck. The heat surrounded his head. He bent lower still. His muttonchops smoked then burst into flames.

He screamed as the fire reached his scalp. Screamed and threw back his head in panic. Burning embers landed on his ragged shirt and set it alight. He tried to beat the flames out with his hands. The smell of burning flesh filled the air.

The minions shifted away from his dance with death. They stood back and watched as he tried and failed to extinguish the flames. A few reached out to him to warm their fingers, bask in the heat of his burning body.

His movements slowed and the circle closed ranks, edging him closer to the fire. He gave one last shuddering gasp as he fell into the fire pit. They gathered around the fire, creeping closer to the warmth with their fingers outstretched.


Scary Story 8

My turn? Well, those of you who are newish around here may not know this, but Sparky invited a few of us up to this cabin of his last year, too.

"I say, I feel certain I would have been made aware of such a…ah, meeting, Robin."

Ril, it was girls night, honey. I mean, let's face it, Sparky ain't sharing with you of all people, not if he can help it. You know how we all feel about those, ah, punchlines of yours. Seriously. Nice hair, by the way. Plus, we thought we were gonna get to meet him, and he didn't even show.

Anyway, listen. There was this old black and white movie I watched one time, called The Spiral Staircase, and in one of the beginning shots in the movie, it's night time, a dark and stormy night kind of night time outside the window, and through the camera you look out the window of this old boarding house, and the thin curtain's blowing in the wind, and then you see a crippled woman in this room… walking to her closet to pull a dress out or something, and she leaves the closet door ajar just a few inches, and as she makes her way back beside her bed to take her clothes off…

"Was she hot?"

No, she was not hot, Wonderwood, she was just a woman. Just regular. Just plain old. That's not the point. Anyway, about the time she walked away from the closet…

"You know, Robin, I think I remember that film…"

Yeah, Pete? It was a good one. Scared me to death when I was a kid. It was on one those late night rerun things back in the late 60s – that's when I saw it.

"I think it was set in New England. I'm almost sure. Turn of the 20th century, although it came out in 1945."

You're probably right, paca.

So anyway, the camera does a close up of the closet door, and all you see, with this big crescendo of a scary movie music piece playing in the background, is the closeup of an eye, one eye, that's all, as he stares out of the closet at the crippled woman, a woman who can't easily get away from him when he…

"When he has his way with her?"

No, Whirl…

"Because when you tell any kind of story, there's a sexual punchline. It's what we've come to expect."

Dammit, Dave, not this time. I'm trying to tell you all, and OK, I'm taking one damn long time to do it – when I was back inside, in the cabin a few minutes ago, I swear to God I saw an eye looking out at me from the hall closet. It was blue. And it was pretty, but still, it was an eye looking out of a closet door, people. The closet door was barely open, and it was just like that Spiral Staircase movie and when I thought about that, I got chills down my…


Dammit, Whirl. No. Not my pants, my spine, and…

"Oh yeah, Robin. Chills. Heh. From when the eye guy pulled you into the closet, right? Was it EE? I mean, Sparky, was it? Tell me – it was him, right? So, uhm heh, how were those shorts? I named 'em, so I'd like to know. And what's he look like? I mean, not inside the shorts. Just in general, ya know."

Hell, BT, I don't know. I'm serious, honey – I ran like a freaked cat, ran right out the door. I figured it was like all those movies where the bitch gets it first. And let's face it, I'm not exactly Little Mary Minion Sunshine, now am I?

I mean, maybe we were called out here for a bad purpose this year. Maybe it's like a movie come to life, like that Blair Witch dealie. Maybe we're IN a horror movie, you all. It could happen. And it looks like he called only the old guard out. Maybe he's tired of us all. Maybe he wants….Oh, Lord, you all, maybe he wants new blood only on his blog from now on…or maybe he wants to get rid of all the old guard guys, and me. Maybe I'm hoggin' him, and he's tired of it.

"Horror movie my ass, Rob."

Good Lord, are you, are you HIM? Are you…are you you? And what are you doing with those clothes hangers hangin all over you? Those wire ones can be really dangerous – they can scratch your skin if you're not careful, Sparky. Here, let me pull those off your back. Jacket on or not, they've got to be hurtin…and also you shouldn't be out in this cold wind wearin' only your boxers. I do like boxers best, by the way. I think they're so cute…

Why do you have that weird look on your face? Does your face always look weird like that, I mean, you know, handsomely weird, or are you really pissed? You know. Off…



Scary Story 7

“. . . and to this very day, people still claim to see the mournful Ghost of Two-Hearted River, gliding silently downstream in his birch bark canoe, tenderly cradling the still-beating heart of his one true love.” Mindy finished her story, blushing with pleasure at the brief patter of applause from the small group gathered around the campfire. The First Annual Minions in the Moonlight Story-Fest was going quite well, she thought, as she stepped away from the firelight, even though Evil Editor had failed to show up. She grabbed her overnight bag from the pile in the main tent and headed for the restrooms.

“Pssst! Hey, you!”

Mindy heard movement in a small grove of trees just off the pathway and pointed her flashlight at the sound. She gasped, startled at the sight of a huge, shaggy wolf-like creature with an elegant pince nez dangling from his left ear. She opened her mouth to scream, but no sound emerged.

“I need your help,” said the wolf. “You are a minion, are you not?”

Mindy stood rooted to the spot, terrified and fascinated. “Who, who are you?”

“I am Evil Editor, of course,” replied the wolf, drawing closer. “And I am in desperate need of a depilatory, as you can see. Do you have any Nair?”

Mindy dug through her case and handed a pink plastic bottle to the wolf, watching in amazement as he quickly drank the contents. Evil chuckled and growled at the same time, moving back into the shadows as tuffs of grey fur fell from his rotund form.

Mindy averted her eyes. “B-but, I don’t understand. Are you a werewolf?”

“Hell no! I’m just having some kind of allergic reaction,” said Evil, now returned to human form. “But I’ll tell you," he said, ruefully stroking his muttonchops, "that’s the last time I ever get Botox and Rogaine injections on the same day.”


Scary Story 6


What do you call a man with one hand flesh and one hand steel? Captain Hook? Lefty? The craw? Cat-scratch fever? Scraper? So many cruel names await. To say them makes one feel witty, clever. Tis a child's game. Remember, remember.

I once had a wife of blond hair and fair complexion.
She loved my hands as I wrote down words.
Phrase-by-phrase and verse-by-verse and chapter-by-chapter,
In longhand I wrote and she would transcribe,
Together we would edit into the wee hours and finish in night's magic and love's embrace.

But my words weren't enough. An editor she found, foul of mouth and black of soul. Bespectacled. Besotted. His soul purveyed to demons for glory and power. He claimed to polish words to glorious heights but then he sold to the lowest of the earth and the basest of masses. And thus she ensured my success. The signings, the readings, the speeches and panels, acclaim as hollow as tinkling brasses. No happy clanging of bells, no joyous mellow bells, no silver jingling of holiday bells. But only rings of lead and stone.

My love gave me a ring, a gold and beryl ring,
She bought it from a hag, an old repugnant hag,
The Demon Lord, he wanted it back.
Wanted it back come ruin or wrack.
He bit off my hand and flew down to hell.
For I be here and she be there, his sad and mournful paramour.

And so my children be cautious and wary. Beware the unknown door, the stranger who answers. Beware the trick betrayed with candy merry. If one hand be flesh, one hand be steel. Remember my tale of writing lost and love affrightened.

--Dave F.

Scary Story 5

"If only I could turn slush into food," thought Ces Wraven, then I could restore the resale value of my house and help the hungry. He looked at the slush pile in his nextdoor neighbor's backyard and shuddered. He went to his arcane library and searched out the writings of ancient alchemists. Then he cried, 'Alas!' after reading the Annals of Gilgamesh. The secret was in melding two parts man and one part evil. And so he made a sluice and mixed two parts slush and one part mole sauce (not the Mexican one, which goes better with chicken than slush).

Ces was too wise to try out the mixture on himself, so he invited his other neighbor, Baberienne Arbeau, over for dinner. He plated her a serving of slush-mole. It reeked of genre madness and mole entrails, but she dipped her little finger into the brew and tasted it.

"I'm up here," she said, as Ces was preoccupied elsewhere.

He looked at her as she transformed. She hurled herself into the sluice and was soon covered with slush-mole. She ran out of the house screaming and soon was upon the source of madness, the slush pile next door. She butted down Evil Editor's door with her head. There were minions there, too. Baberienne grabbed two minions by the neck and squeezed.

"Evil, there is but one cure for my acceptance letter for my trunk novel."

"Never!" said Evil Editor.

Baberienne squeezed tighter. "This minion is kind of cute." Baberienne thumped its nose. "Does it live or die, Evil?"

Evil thought long and hard. "It lives."

Baberienne dropped the minions to the floor, as Evil typed out an acceptance letter. "What's it called?"

"Dark and Stormy Night."

"Why does that not surprise me?"

--Bill H.

Scary Story 4


The darkling night closed 'round us tight as we sat beside the flame.
Anon's voice fell low as it croaked out slow, "From then on, Three Fingers was his name."
The horror! A shiver stabbed my spine at that anticipated line
And it was very real my fright confronted by that story trite --
Not at all like mine.

"Firebird, you're next; read us your text," Ril politely cued.
Ready was I to terrify with writing that really shook.
"The stormy night was not so bright and torrential rain espewed."
The minions moaned and the minions groaned, and I knew I had them hooked.

"On a lonely road in the countryside, a couple side by side
Saw a woman in white in their headlight bright who asked them for a ride."

"Prom Night!" cried Chris with pride, and Sarah deeply sighed.
"No, they passed her by," I quick denied, "since they knew her for a ghost.
Then they ran upon a tattooed man, with baggage much engrossed."

"Ax Killer!" Pete pronounced, and Blogless snorted beer.

"No, they knew enough to heed advice, and from strangers to steer clear.
But in a graveyard overgrown, standing by a great tombstone
They came upon a creature lone, flesh hanging from its bone."

"Zombie," Robin, yawning, said, and my heart went cold in dread.
Was there nothing new to these minions' ears? Did my words lie cold and dead?

Suddenly a shot rang out, and the minions spun about.
And who should we see but a crazed EE, an editor cruel and stout.
Through the woods he crashed as his red pen flashed in the face of the rising moon.
Forward he dashed then downward slashed, putting our words to ruin.
Our manuscripts bled red with ink, their insides soundly panned,
And we saw our dreams, amid the screams, be crushed beneath his hand.


Scary Story 3

This campfire reminds me of the story of the four-year demon. No one knows why, but right around election time, November every four years, a demon returns to these woods. The earliest account was recorded in 1894, but people think it happened before that, too... without survivors to tell the story.

Every time it's the same. A few hikers are up here, backpacking out in the woods, and late at night when their campfire is getting low like this one, an unknown hiker stumbles into their camp in need of help. A lot of times he looks like a handsome young man, and almost always he tells a story about being in his tent when a bear rips in and attacks him. His story of the narrow escape is always believable--remember, Kim had a bear in camp last year, right? And the group take him in and let him stay overnight and promise to get him to safety the next day.

In the middle of the night, though, the stranger disappears, and one of the campers with him. No one hears a thing, no one wakes up. And no one ever sees or hears from either of them again. There's never any sign of struggle, and all the stuff is still in the missing person's tent.

And it's always the prettiest, youngest woman in the group that gets taken.

They call him the demon because one group claims they saw him put his hand right into the blazing coals of the fire without any pain or burns. They think he takes his victims back to Hell with him, just one beautiful young woman every four years. So all you beautiful ladies... you might consider not staying alone tonight. Stay in my tent with me and you'll be safe.

Hold on... what's that?

A stumbling, crashing through the undergrowth takes everyone's attention. From the darkness emerges a lone hiker breathing heavily and collapsing to the ground just inside the ring of dim firelight. As he flops, one hand falls right into the coals, and it's a second or two before he withdraws it. His face is to the ground as he pants out, "Bear... there was... a... bear, chased me half a mile, attacked me in my tent..."

His sleeve, smoldering, now catches fire but he seems not to notice. His hair pokes out in gray blobs from under his black, wool cap. As he lifts his head, his eyes flicker red and orange in the firelight. Everyone gasps as the unmistakable muttonchops come into view. And I think to myself, "Guess I'm sleeping alone tonight. Probably walking home alone tomorrow, too."


Scary Story 2

“'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe,” Anonymous began quietly. Minion’s dreamy faces were rapt in firelight and backed by the twinkling stars of a chilly, dry Arizona night. Their spines tingled. "Beware the Jabberwock, my son!...”

EE leaned back. Hmm, Jabberwocky. Very Halloween. We should do this more often. Such a peaceful, loving group he thought as he looked from face to face round the fire. Looking beyond, EE made out the silhouette of a lone Joshua tree in the moonlight. Perfect setting for a terrifying tale, he mused. I’m glad I thought of this…

“I cain’t understand a word he’s sayin’. Can ya’ll?” 6shooter, a new minion, pierced the mood with his unwelcome nasal bray, and looked around.

“Shhh.” Phoenix hissed.

“The jaws that bite…”

“I thought he said campfire stories,” 6shooter hooted.

“Lower your voice,” someone said. Buffysquirrel leaned and gave the noisemaker a stiff elbow.

“…the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!" Anonymous intoned.

“Awe, this is stupid,” 6shooter hollered, “needs more cowboys and less jubjubs.”

“Would you please SHUT UP!” Benwah was outdone. The mood was fading fast.

“…And as in uffish thought he stood, the Jabberwock, with eyes of flame.”

“Ahh come on!” 6shooter leapt up, “I cain’t take another second. Let’s talk cowboys.”

EE was knocked off his log and barely escaped the violent attack on the interloper. Dust clouded the hideous grunts and sounds of struggle. EE cringed. He listened, helpless, as blood-curdling yells pierced the night. Finally, the din began to subside.

Dave stepped forward, covered with dust and blood: “Master, I put his head in your trunk. What shall we do with the other pieces?”


Scary Story 1

I glanced around the campfire. I didn't really know them that well and they didn't know me. One by one they were recounting tales of horror. The three we'd heard so far were interesting enough but you could hardly call them 'scary'. They all contained the usual fare - zombies, werewolves and vampires. Scary? Sure, when you're five. But after what I have experienced in the last twelve month, it takes a lot more than that to get my heart rate up.

The next story was about some teenage couple necking in the woods - talk about predictable. Still, I didn't want to be anti-social, I faked fear like a two-bit hooker faking an O. There was nothing to it. I would just have to think of the most scary, horrible story I could.

Suddenly I realized the group had fallen silent and all their faces were pointed in my direction. My turn. I stood and looked into each of their faces, ashen and grey from fear, holding each gaze for a brief second before continuing.

"Let me tell you a story of a wanna-be writer and a man named Evil Editor…"

My story was interrupted as five of my fellow campers passed-out cold.

--Shell 1

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday Film Series

I keep telling the ladies the title's already taken, but they still think I should call what's in Evil Editor's shorts The Magnificent Seven.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Face-Lift 577

Guess the Plot

Flames of Hatred

1. When flirty English Daisy meets brash laird Sandy McTenninch at a Balmoral garden party, it's Scots-versus-Sassenach enmity at the first glimpse of his fluttering clan tartan. Will a stray breeze show her the real reason the queen spends her summers in Scottish seclusion, or will hairy reality fan the . . . Flames of Hatred?

2. When a young warrior uncovers treason in his own family he is unjustly exiled to the land of his family's enemies to teach him a lesson. But the only lesson he learns is that the daughter of his father's rival is hot, hot, HOT! Is a hot babe enough to dampen his bitter . . . Flames of Hatred?

3. Benny and Theresa are fellow carnies as well as a couple—she's the tattoo lady and he's the fire-eater. Their romance is admired by all their colleagues, except one, who vows to win Theresa's heart. When he lifts 450 lbs. above his head, Theresa swoons. Soon Benny's fire-eating act is consumed in . . . Flames of Hatred.

4. When topiary artist Gareth McGee loses his girlfriend to a brainless stockbroker, he is crushed, but the pain inspires his most ambitious piece ever, a 27-foot-high holly masterpiece titled, "Flames of Hatred," for which he wins the prestigious Golden Clipper award, handed over by his favorite Hollywood celebrity, Gemma Garbo. Is it love at first sight for her, too? Or was that kiss just a formality?

5. When Todd said he'd swim any ocean, climb any mountain, etc., Sally sent him on a difficult mission across the Lake of Despair, up the Cliffs of Infatuation, around the Plains of Indecision, down the River of Resentment, and through the Grove of Anger. But now? The Flames of Hatred? No way. He'd rather get cozy with an easy-going heavy-set gal, like Jan Barkowsky -- but how can one of award-winning author Stacy McShaw's "Starlit Romances" end like that?

6. There are four mystical flames burning in the White Temple: the Flame of Truth, the Flame of Justice, the Flame of Love and the Flame of Life. When the flames begin to flicker and threaten to go out, Tadry Omanish discovers the existence of the Black Temple and the Flames of Hatred. As chaos engulfs the city around him, Tadry must find and defeat the priests of the Black Temple.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Swords of Fire: Flames of Hatred follows the path of Khirsha, a young warrior trying to discover who and what he is under the threat of war, treason and his awakening to the daughters of his father and grandfather's fiercest rivals. His efforts are hampered by reason of changes taking place inside him which are affecting his judgment and actions. The cause for these changes is unknown to him, but they are creating problems in all areas of his life. [The first sentence is awkward and the next two are vague.]

The story opens with Khirsha already in trouble. By reason of a prank which went terribly wrong, Khirsha and his best friend and cousin, Kelso, have uncovered the existence of treason in the family (something unheard of for more than two hundred years). The treason has put family supply caravans under threat from surrounding companies of bandits, which are attacking with increasing frequency. However, the family's political tension means the exposed treason is going to be ignored, at least publicly. Instead, Khirsha and Kelso are punished for their prank. [One family member commits treason while another toilet papers the neighbor's yard, and which one gets punished? This reminds me of how Stalin's parents ignored the twenty million deaths he was responsible for, but banished his brother to Siberia for making prank phone calls.] The punishment is to be reduced to servant level and cast into the villages of factions not friendly to their grandfather, who is Head-of-Family. [If you're being cast into the enemy camp, does it really matter if you've been reduced to servant level? You're probably better off.] [That's like sentencing Hannibal Lecter to life in a dungeon, but first taking away his country club membership.] They are told to use the experience as a learning tool, but the only thing Khirsha learns is that there are more pleasurable things to do with Avalina, the daughter of his father's rival, than fight mock battles with wooden swords, a skill at which Khirsha excels. Fortunately, since protocol dictates that Khirsha [I started out reading that as "Krishna" and I can't stop.] can do no more than Avalina allows, they are spared from complete wantonness, but Avalina allows far more than she should.

Regarding the treason, Khirsha has gathered clues to what is going on, but his distress at what nearly took place with Avalina has clouded his thinking and he neglects to put the pieces together to form a solid picture. Something is happening to him which he can neither explain nor understand. And it is getting worse. Also, his involvement with Avalina has made him ashamed and uncomfortable to be around Sayla, a longtime friend who Khirsha now realizes he is drawn to, and who may have been drawn to him. [What is his longtime friend doing here in the villages of unfriendly factions?] Unfortunately, he and Avalina had been seen and Sayla no longer speaks to him. Khirsha is feeling the stress of his desire for multiple girls and wonders where the line between honor and dishonor really is. When he finds himself in the arms of an older, married woman who once courted his father, he knows he has crossed the line, but he feels caught, like a boat without oars flushing down a raging river toward a precipice of destruction. [A waterfall of woe.] What is making him behave this way? How can he resist a madness which seems to have a life apart from his own will? [I don't care if he knows what's causing his madness; if you know, tell us.]

As Khirsha struggles with his newly awakened sexuality, [How old is this guy? He was called a warrior, but sometimes he seems fourteen, what with discovering girls and pulling pranks.] he continues to be moved like a pawn on a game board as family factions vie for political control and attacks against family caravans increase. That someone is revealing caravan schedules and routes is clear. (Could it even be his own father? What was the mysterious mission he went on?) What is not clear is that Khirsha's involvement with Avalina has given someone cause to take treason to the next level: murder. [Who was murdered?] And hidden to all is that on a much grander scale the Powers which fight for control of the Great Sea have chosen Khirsha's home village as their battle ground, and Khirsha himself appears to be the focus of their attention. [If he's going to save the day, he'll have to work fast. Hurry, Khirsha. Hurry, Khirsha. Hurry, hurry, Khirsha, Khirsha.]

Swords of Fire: Flames of Hatred is roughly 190,000 words.


[Author's note, not part of query: The weapon of choice for this warrior community are swords which seem to issue fire like the business end of an ox whip. The passions of jealously and bitterness which are feeding the treason make up the title's second portion. Swords of Fire is the saga. Flames of Hatred is the first installation.]


This is a synopsis. A query should include a synopsis, but a brief one, no more than eight or ten sentences worth. This is way too much. First of all it's repetitive:

p.1: His efforts are hampered by reason of changes taking place inside him which are affecting his judgment and actions. The cause for these changes is unknown to him...

p.3: Something is happening to him which he can neither explain nor understand.

p.2: The treason has put family supply caravans under threat from surrounding companies of bandits, which are attacking with increasing frequency.

p.4: family factions vie for political control and attacks against family caravans increase.

Secondly, it is too detailed. Do we need to know Khirsha excels at fighting mock battles with wooden swords? That he was once in the arms of a married woman?

Third, save the flowery writing for the book. He feels caught, like a boat without oars flushing down a raging river toward a precipice of destruction. That's too many words to say he's losing control.

All of that isn't going to shorten this enough. Start over and focus on the grander scale: war, treason, politics. Leave out the women. Try to make it sound more important than bandits robbing caravans. Kingdoms are at stake. Life as we know it. The galaxy.

Who's committing treason? Why is it being ignored? Why is Khirsha important to the powers fighting for control of the Great Sea? You're providing a lot of information we don't need, and hiding what's driving the main plot.

Also, your book is going to be 700 pages. It's cheaper to print a 350-page book, and publishers know this. Maybe your book, like your query, can be trimmed.

Cartoon 242

Caption: Anon.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Beginning 565

Janice hadn't exactly had a happy childhood, even though she came from the suburban, middle-class fantasy of a ranch house, two kids, two cars and a dog. Mother even stayed at home to raise Janice and her older brother Mott; but mostly Mother watched her soaps and drank her gin-laced tea, leaving the disciplining of the children to the children's father. And Father, a former high school football hero going to fat, alcohol and anger, welcomed the excuse to give his life's disappointments into the safekeeping of his children--very brutally and with relish.

Then the Tellulil came.

She first felt their presence when she was fifteen. That was when Mott took his still-damp diploma and ran for the nearest recruiting office, leaving Janice the sole recipient of their father's angry love.

A few weeks later, she lay in bed, moonlight streaming through the mullions to cast prison bars across the door. By that furtive light she read again the postcard addressed to their parents, but not to her. A message that said between prosaic lines he was glad to be gone, glad to ignore his sister's predicament.

"Fine," she said to herself, the card slipping between her fingers over and over and over. "It's not like we were friends or anything."

The moon's brightness seemed to wink at her, a sly acknowledgment.

She smiled in acquiescence and lifted the blanket. Yeah, the night was young, and a fifteen-year-old with Tellulil like hers could make all the friends she wanted down at Joe McKirk's wine lodge.

Opening: Writtenwyrdd.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 241

Caption: Anon.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Writing Exercise

You and your fellow minions are sitting around a campfire on Halloween telling scary stories. And it's your turn. Extra credit if your story involves Evil Editor. Deadline 10 AM eastern, Sunday.

If you want to tell the story orally, feel free to record it and send it on.

Face-Lift 576

Guess the Plot

The Paper Gods

1. The slaves known as the Paper Gods will be freed only when the evil Prince of the underground world of Submundi is dead. Prophesies describe the Prince's demise as death by Poetry. That's where high school student Poetry Wu comes in.

2. The Rock Gods and the Scissors Gods are engaged in a battle that threatens to destroy the Earth -- unless Mitch Mickley can summon the fabled Paper Gods and even up the game.

3. The Golden Gods, pagan idols from ancient times, had been melted down and the wealth redistributed. The Iron Gods were long gone – only the rusted-out carcasses remained, strewn about the confines of junk yards around the country. Now Paper Gods rule the Earth, befuddling the masses with their origami disguises. But Casey, a new-age orphan who recently discovered her druidic heritage, has a plan . . . and a book of matches.

4. When Trudy and Bud sit down to make Halloween monsters at Uncle Reginald's castle, they have no idea the crayons are charmed--until the monsters start demanding "candy," and breaking furniture. Can Trudy's paper Medusa save the sofa and vanquish these diabolical green vampire-dinosaur-kitten things before Uncle Reggie gets home?

5. Zack Runciman publishes the Daily News. Across town, his twin brother and rival Jack publishes the Daily Herald. When a drop in subscriptions makes it clear that there is market enough for only one paper, a circulation war erupts. How far is Zack willing to go to win?

6. Huff'n'Puff the dragon didn't find the Paper Gods much of a challenge, and the Stick Gods barely held out any longer. But he's a little concerned about the Brick Gods--how's he going to burn their house down?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When a knife-wielding stalker reveals that Poetry Wu is prophecized [--cied] to free his people from magical slavery, Poetry has doubts. [That "his" sounds like it refers to Poetry, as we don't know yet whether Poetry is male or female (we assume from the name that it's a gay guy).] But her knack for weaseling her way out of problems is no match for her supernatural stalker. Though the last thing she wants to do is set him free, she winds up agreeing to murder the ruler of a shadowy land to help his cause. [That "his" sounds like it refers to the ruler of the shadowy land rather than the stalker.]

Poetry searches for a way to convince him she's no destined one. Instead, she stumbles into the world of Submundi, where she draws the attention of the Prince she is to kill.

[Prince: Well, hello there. Who are you?

Poetry: I'm Poetry.

Prince: I can see that, but what's your name?]

The forces of this eerie underland creep into her ordinary life. Soon she has to contend with missing memories and friends under mind control just to hand in her homework. [Apparently she has stumbled back out of Submundi. Why hasn't she ever stumbled into Submundi before?]

All Poetry wants to do is impress her artsy new classmates, get home for dinner on time, and make her stalker leave her alone. [Consider putting this sentence up front. As it is, we can't tell this is set in modern times on Earth until you mention homework. I thought we were in Isengard; turns out it's Schenectady.] But Poetry's involvement in Submundi goes back further than she realizes. When she discovers the terrible sacrifice she made to escape Submundi long ago, [Years ago? Or eons ago?] she must take on the Prince to make it right. [To make it right is vague. What are the stakes?]

The Paper Gods is a YA fantasy novel of 100,000 words. It is the first book in a planned trilogy, but can stand alone. [So the numerous fake plot writers who submitted rock, paper scissors plots were on to something, and The Rock Gods and The Scissors Gods are the next two books?]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


[Author's note, not part of query: The stalker and his fellow supernatural slaves are beings known as Paper Gods, hence the title The Paper Gods.]


Once we realize this is set in the modern world we are forced to question Poetry's agreeing to commit a murder. Why does she agree to this? Is she threatened? If the slaves believe she will free them, any threat to harm her would seem empty.

What constitutes being a slave? Usually slaves aren't permitted to roam into distant lands wielding knives and stalking girls. What are the Prionce's powers that allow him to enslave supernatural beings?

Who names their kid Poetry? I suppose it's better than Nonfiction. Does she have a twin brother named Prose?

Cartoon 240

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New Beginning 564

As was her custom, the Imperial Consort, Lady Azhka, strolled her gardens in sweltry noon while the sun rode high and the heat was enervating. It was exactly what she liked; she tired of the perfumed claustrophobia of her apartments and the nested eyes of servant and spy alike, tired of opulence and carved dead rock that were so vastly different from the rolling lavender plains of her homeland and the living caves where she was born. Both, lands however, shared the same balefire summer sun.

So instead of the shaded bowers kept watered by a small army of gardeners each morning against the heat, she kept to the baked sands of the pathways, her servants dismissed to huddle uncertain below covered walks, anxious not to miss some vital summons or to cosset their charge as was proper for one of her exalted status.

Only profound respect and the Lady's insistence had won her this modicum of privacy, although some few of the titled servants still sought to attend her, ply her with sunshade or sweated urns of snow-chilled fruit juice.

She waved away her chief steward, the most stubborn of the lot. "No, Manoc," she told him firmly, "I wish to think, not be fussed over."

Had she looked up at that moment, she might have noticed his clenched jaw and baleful stare as he was, once again, forbidden to meet his obligation; to serve his purpose. Unwitnessed, therefore, Manoc, last in a long line of proud household stewards, withdrew to the stores and, as was his custom, relieved his frustrations--and his bladder--in the sweating urns of snow-chilled fruit juices.

Opening: Writtenwyrdd.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 239

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Face-Lift 575

Guess the Plot

Houses of a Thousand Dolls

1. Shanghai, the business center of China. For many it's the gateway to riches. For Xa Xang, it's the home of her brainchild: mobile sex clubs. Can she keep her business going while her customers are coming?

2. Katrin has less than two weeks to figure out who is killing the other girls in the Houses of a Thousand Dolls. Otherwise she'll be sold off cheap, like a cow that stopped giving milk. Also, talkative cats.

3. It was the strangest contest in the history of reality TV, and Blythe Dornbusch was determined to win it. So, after visiting every tag sale and thrift store in Pakumpsuck, Mississippi, she took her thousand dolls and began to build a house. This is what happens when you let pigs schedule programming.

4. There are a thousand stories in the Geisha houses run by Kiroshi, but none more heartwarming than this tale of Li-Li and a wounded American soldier during World War II. Also, a magic Samurai sword.

5. Heroin is being smuggled into the United States in dolls, but when a case of the dolls falls off a truck and is discovered by a Girl Scout troop, the town of Happy Valley must contend with an epidemic of addiction.

6. Collector Corcoran Lourdes sets out to gather every doll, ventriloquist's dummy, and marionette that ever came to life to torment its owner in a horror movie or TV show. Turns out he needs to buy three houses just to hold the ones from Twilight Zone episodes.

Original Version

Dear agent,

Things Katrin Satogo has to do before the Redeeming...

1. Find out who in the Houses of a Thousand Dolls is killing girls. [My money's on Chucky.]
2. Discover the secrets of her own past, who she is and why she was left at the Houses.
3. Avoid betraying the few friends she has, including a clan of talkative cats.
4. Stay alive.
[5. Figure out what the Redeeming is.]

But none of those things are going to [will] be easy. Because missteps in the Houses are as easy as wearing the wrong asari, [Asari? Is that the same as sari? Google doesn't think so. If it's a made-up word you might use the English translation in the query.] and long hidden anger simmers under the ginger-scented air.

Katrin Satogo was left at the Houses of a Thousand Dolls at the age of seven, too old to be Groomed, as the other girls in the Houses were. [Also, too old to make the Olympic gymnastics team.] Now she's seventeen, without formal training or caste, and if she doesn't do something, she'll be thrown out, property of whoever wants to claim her. So when Katrin finds out that three girls have died suspicious deaths, she strikes a bargain with Matron, the head of the Houses. If she finds the killer, she'll have a caste and a future. [You can just give a caste and a future to someone who isn't Groomed? I don't think so.] If she fails, she'll be sold. Now Katrin will need all the luck and help she can get, because everyone is hiding something.

And the Redeeming is only twelve days away....

Houses of a Thousand Dolls is a young adult fantasy about a seventeen-year-old girl trying to figure out who she is, and the unexpected family she discovers along the way. Unlike many fantasy novels today, the setting for this story, the Sangitian Empire, was inspired by the culture of ancient India.

I am a graduate of the Institute for Children's Literature, and have been a contributor to I also recently sold a young adult novel to OakTara (formerly Capstone Fiction), which is projected to be out in trade paperback in spring of 2009.

The complete manuscript of Houses, 50,000 words, is available for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Not bad, but what's the Redeeming?

I'm not sure it would be called a fantasy just because it's set in a fictional place. Does it have magic or fantastical creatures? If the cats actually talk, that's something, but perhaps the main fantasy aspect could be stressed more. Is it the Redeeming?

House of a Thousand Dolls is a better title. You see lots of singular houses in titles: House of Flying Daggers, "House of the Rising Sun," House at Pooh Corner, "Fall of the House of Usher," House of the Seven Gables, House of Sand and Fog and the TV show House. Okay, there's Houses of the Holy, an album by Led Zeppelin (also a song, but they decided the song wasn't good enough to go on the album so they stuck it on a future album that they put out after they ran out of good songs).

You're probably thinking a thousand girls wouldn't fit in one house so it has to be houses. As long as there's one main house that all the dolls pass through (sort of like the administration building on a campus or the bar in a hotel) you can call it House. Actually, you can call it anything you want, since the publisher will probably change it to Hookers in Training in hopes of selling beyond the YA market.

This is the second consecutive query on which I finally gave up and wrote three fake plots because you guys are falling down on the job.

Cartoon 238

Caption: Kiersten

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Writing Exercise Result 6

I was closing the office early in preparation for my weekend trip to a major romance writers convention. I don't actually handle romance, but romance conventions are 98 percent women, so that pretty much settles that. Anyway, I had just cleared my desk and tossed the day's slush in the trash (unopened) when he walked in. Or should I say when I walked in? The guy looked just like me, except not quite as handsome. Also he was pointing a gun at me.

"I'm replacing you," he said.

"Replacing me?"

"I look just like you, except a little more handsome. But I've never amounted to anything, and why should I work at making something of myself when I can just take over for you? It's not like you've done anything to warrant your fame."

"So you're gonna kill me?"

"No, I want you alive to witness how much more successful you are when I'm running the show. My hired goons will hold you captive indefinitely."

"But if I don't show up at a certain writers convention this weekend, people will know I've been kidnapped."

"Then I guess you better hand over your plane ticket and the confirmation number for your hotel reservation."

I did as he said, and he called in his goons to take me away. I wasn't worried. No mere mortal had any chance of surviving what this poor schmuck was about to go through.

--Evil Editor

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Saturday Film Series

There's no predicting exactly what you'll find in Evil Editor's Shorts, only that it'll be awesome.


Friday, October 17, 2008

New Beginning 563

“For the storms of life, your comfort and your salvation lie with the Lord God. Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven. For the storms of Bay St. Louis, buy your cypress storm shutters at Chauvin’s Lumberyard.” I’ve been nailing boards all morning in preparation. God, I’m getting old I thought as I sank. My easy chair gasped as I settled to rest for a moment before I go to the post office. I nodded and the old Chauvin lumberyard sign bubbled up from the depths of long buried memories in a vision.

It was on Beach Boulevard at the foot of the bridge that crossed the Bay. As children, the sign was our marker. Momma allowed us to go only as far as the sign on our bikes. The sign was ancient, and like Bay St. Louis, bleached by the sun and salt air, and battered by the eternal storms that are a part of Gulf Coast life. It leaned badly, and the two wooden posts that held it seemed ready to give out at any moment. How it stayed there all those years anchored in nothing but sand, I never understood. Yet, by an act of faith, it hung on year after year. Stubborn. Determined to be our guidepost. It was a special marker for me. Countless days I rode to the old sign and turned left onto Ulman Avenue to hear the beautiful piano music emanating from a home just off the beach. Miss Betty Lee Meacham practiced piano every day in the front room of her house. That was my refuge.

Once, Sonny, my older brother, asked Daddy what the words on the sign meant.

“Buy insurance,” he said.

Of course, it was inevitable that the salt air and storms would have their way with our sign, and after a couple more winters, our demarcation was lost to the elements. Six months later a new sign was in its place.

When the spirit is weak, the Lord God will give you strength; when the flesh is weak, get your rubber, leather, whips, masks and chains from Madame LaFife's S&M Boutique.

I asked him one time, "What do the words on the sign mean, Daddy?"

He cleared his throat and thought for a while. "Invest in bonds," he said.

Opening: Luke.....Continuation: ril

Cartoon 237

Caption: R. Watson

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

New Beginning 562

I rolled my eyes.

Well, okay, technically I don’t have any eyes. But the intention was there—if I had eyes, I would have been rolling them. The setup was just so tacky. Way too many candles filled the room with smoke and the few lights were draped with filmy red cloth. She had even thrown in some fancy, flowered pentagrams this time.

Really—pentagrams? Give me a break. Clearly this was a low-rent establishment, and I hated that Rose’s was the only service that saw fit to call on me so far. I was better than this, better than Rose and her ridiculous showboating, better than her cheap, boring customers and their cheap, boring lives.

Yet, here I was. I could have just ignored the summons. But I’ll admit it felt good to hear my name again. And besides, even if the work wasn’t interesting, it was still something. What can I say, writing was my life. Too bad I died.

"She comes!" someone whispered behind me. Probably Rose herself, wearing her black nylon hooded robe decorated with silver stars that she'd carefully hot-glued on the hem. Carefully, because otherwise the nylon would melt.

"Mwa ha hahahahaha-a-a-a!" I chortled. May as well give her and her cheap, boring customer a good show.

"Put the manuscript in the center of the big pentacle," Rose said in her whiskey growl, "and read the exhortation! Quickly!"

Hurried scuttling behind me. I turned slowly, emitting a few puffs of black smoke just for fun, and drew in my breath in a deep, hissing gasp. Then I spoke: "What is the word length of this manuscript which I, Miss Snark, have been summoned to read?"

Opening: Kiersten.....Continuation: Marissa Doyle

Cartoon 236

Caption: Wendy

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New Beginning 561

The boy scoots inside the rusty recess of a car because Papa has told him to hide. He counts breaths and waits. He waits and sleeps and eventually he wakes. The boy has learned to be a good listener. He lifts the trunk the length of his ear. No pop-popping of a worn-out knee. No wet, phlegm coughs. No hushed murmurs of love and dreams and life and skies.

Where are you, Papa?

The boy hears beyond Papa’s silence. The familiar wind loops around the desert brush. Aimless feet shuffle in the distance. His own heart struggles beneath his breath. He is scared and curious and hungry and alive.

He opens the trunk and scrambles out. The brown sky is pushing into the brown earth. His hand fumbles for the sky-paper and upon contact, comforts him.

“Hey! You there!” A Gatekeeper sees him.

The boy walks faster.

"Hey!" The Gatekeeper's footsteps quickened. "Use of the present tense was restricted in this zone. Have you obtained a permit?"

The boy takes off at full speed.

Faintly he hears the shouts behind him, feels the shots kick up the dust at his feet. He keeps his head down and runs as hard as he can away from the past.

Opening: Chris Eldin.....Continuation: Sarah from Hawthorne

Cartoon 236

Caption: Debhoag

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Success Story

Speaking of YA books that appeared here, I don't think it's been mentioned that Marissa Doyle's novel Bewitching Season

has been published. You may have read the opening if you were around at the time of New Beginning 189

Success Story

Some of you may recall that a couple years ago Miss Snark, Literary Agent, ran a crapometer with a limited number of entries, and that Evil Editor offered to post comments on some that weren't lucky enough to get onto Her Snarkness's blog. You may even recall this query, which was among those submitted:

Query 4

[This one is excellent, but seems a bit long. I've placed brackets around things that can go without affecting the content or tone.]

Dear Evil Editor,

THE BIG SPLASH – approximately 60,000 words – is a hard-boiled detective novel for the middle grade set, with strong archetypal characters and dialogue that’s quick and punchy, like a flyweight boxer on too much caffeine.

Matt Stevens is smart, witty and tough as a cheap steak in a bad restaurant. He’s a middle school Philip Marlowe, [a Sam Spade in the seventh grade,] and he just did something he said he’d never do: he accepted a job from Vinny “Biggs”.

Vincent Biggio, [a.k.a Vinny “Biggs”] is a pre-teen Al Capone. Vinny’s got his chubby little fingers in a lot of illegal pies baked at James Franklin Junior High: extortion, racketeering, black market sales of stolen exams. Matt trusts Vinny [as much as] [like] a deer trusts a guy in an orange vest, but Vinny just made him an offer that was hard to refuse: twenty bucks to return a good luck charm [that] Vinny had lent out long ago. The problem? The girl he lent it [out] to is Nicole Finnegan, a.k.a. Nikki Fingers, the most feared squirt gun assassin [to ever attend] [at] Franklin Junior High.

You see, life at Franklin is tough, like trying to play the piano [with] [in] oven mitts [on]. Find yourself on the wrong side of Vinny Biggs, [the next thing you know] [and] you’re in “the Outs,” the least popular “club” in school. How’d you get there? Water, apple juice, cat pee… anything liquid, strategically splattered below your belt for maximum humiliation, [marking you forever as an enemy of Vinny Biggs.]

While Matt is negotiating the return of Vinny’s good luck charm, someone puts Nikki [on] [in] “the Outs”. Matt has to juggle two clients (Vinny Biggs and Jenny Finnegan, Nikki’s younger sister) as he tries to find the trigger kid [amongst a list of suspects as long as a New York City phone book]. Was it Joey Renoni, the hit kid with a high-pitched giggle and a hair trigger[, who was always looking to prove himself against the baddest and the best]? Was it Kevin Carling, [Matt’s ex-best friend, ] Vinny’s right-hand man, and the boyfriend that Nikki left behind when she quit the life? Or was it some other kid with [“]soda-induced courage,[” a friend or relative in “the Outs,”] and a big beef against Nikki? Matt’s got to watch his back, and [especially] his front, as he works a case that’s harder to navigate than the streets of downtown Boston[, or he just might find himself on “the Outs].”

On a personal note, my eighth year as a writer, director and dialogue editor for children’s television animation has been a great one. In January, I was nominated for an Annie Award for best writing in a television series. I also wrote, developed, and directed a series of shorts that will be airing on (NetworkA) in November. [(NetworkA) ordered forty half-hour episodes based on the strength of those shorts, stating that the writing was the main factor in their decision.] I’ve just started writing the second Matt Stevens book in what I imagine to be a series, chronicling the life and hard-boiled adventures of Matt, his classmates, and his family. May I send you a full or partial manuscript of The Big Splash?

Thank you so much for your time. [I look forward to hearing from you soon.]


[Well done. While your characters are in middle school, one wonders if your audience might be even younger, as middle schoolers these days would identify only with kids using real guns.]


jackyboy said...

Wow...Thanks EE for your comments. I knew it was too long, but wasn't sure what to cut (I imagine my ms will have the same issues). Your suggestions for the chopping block were right on. It's pretty amazing of you to offer your services for free. I hope you receive some good karma for this, as well as the occasional gift ham.

Anonymous said...

This rocks! I'm 34 and I think I'd like to read this book.

Jeb said...

I loved the tone in this query letter. I would totally go out and buy this book even though I'm several decades out of 8th grade.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking this is for slightly younger middle grade. My 3-5 grade kids would eat this up.

Leah said...

I'm seventeen, I would read this. It reminds me of the muppets in that it is entertaining for kids and includes jokes for adults.

(From The Great Muppet Caper)

Lady H. details all her troubles with her brother Nicky to her new secretaty (Miss Piggy) who asks, "Why are you telling me all this?"

"It's plot exposition, it has to go somewhere."

Kathleen said...

great query, great story idea. nice work.

Leah spotted this review of the published book in the latest New York Times Book Review section: