Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Beginning 690

Put that down. It won’t help you here.

You all come clutching useless things: coins, talismans, weapons. Before the armed ones finish the crossing they’re usually scared enough to attack someone, and there’s no one here to harm except themselves. The rest of you clench your treasures in your hands and stare at them as if they could save you. Forget that. You’d best keep your hands and eyes wide open.

Yes, you heard me right. No one to hurt except yourself. I’m only a voice. You’ll be rid of me soon enough.

Dreaming? You could call it that. Yes, you’ll wake up in time. But what you’ll wake to.... that depends on what you do now.

Hush now. There were plenty of people to hear you before, and most of what you said to them wasn’t worth saying. There’s no one but me to hear you now. Stop talking. Look ahead.

Yes, it’s a narrow edge, but you can walk it. Go on. Staring longer at the drop on either side won’t make it easier to start.

Steady now. Watch your step. I see the lights over there as well as you do.

Stay between the marked lines at all times. Don't try to reach over them.

In the unlikely event of an emergency, follow the glowing arrows. I'll keep you safe.

Remember, you must be at least as tall as the line on the wall to ride this attraction.

Your adventure is about to begin. Don't forget to stop by the gift shop when you exit.

Opening: Joanna.....Continuation: Steve Wright

Cartoon 482

Caption: Paul Penna

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Face-Lift 678

Guess the Plot

Dodging Bullets

1. Rock star Spike McGee takes his grandma to the Amazon jungle, only to be kidnapped by "Visionaries" who are high as kites. Meanwhile the authorities seem bewildered so Granny paddles upriver with her Smith & Wesson and Miguel, vowing to find those rat bastards or die trying.

2. Life as a vampire was never easy, but now that his arch-enemy has acquired an ample supply of silver bullets, Hugo Valle never gets a moment of rest. Which makes it ever so difficult to be as seductive and vain as the other vampires on Broadway. Still, he tries.

3. It is a dark day in Black Gulch when rival gangs of outlaws simultaneously hold up the stage coach from Tombstone. But thanks to handsome gambler Sam Birks and his man Jeeves, Miss Kitty and her Can-Can troupe escape the melee by fleeing into the wilderness.

4. Gay Republican Cody Carlisle lands a job--and a secret relationship--with White House adviser Kirk Rayne. Now Cody wants to break off the affair, but rumor has it Kirk murdered the last boyfriend who broke up with him. Can Cody get out without . . . Dodging Bullets?

5. When she married Bud, Maddy had no idea how caffeine affected him. Their safari honeymoon is ruined when she serves him Kenyan roast and he goes on a rampage with the elephant gun. Plus, a handsome rescue helicopter pilot.

6. Sarah Simpson is a plucky seamstress who is succeeding by selling her retro bullet-bras to Hollywood’s pointy-boobed elite. But she constantly unravels in front of Buck McClure, hunky action star. Will their love be a perfect fit? Or will they be seam-ripped apart?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Cody Carlisle is gay, Republican, and addicted to power. [What is it that would appeal to a gay guy about a political party that has gay guy death panels as part of its platform?] His friendship with his old mentor, now the President of the United States, has landed him a position on the staff of top White House adviser, Kirk Rayne.

The perfect job to support his habit, right? Nope. As the new guy, Cody's stuck reporting to Joey Ratansky--a man less ethical and more paranoid than Richard Nixon. [Cody and Joey sound more like the names of the Jonas Brothers than guys working in the White House.] So rather than scoring political victories and shrinking the government, Cody is busy foiling Ratansky's never-ending schemes to get him fired.

Cody has two choices: match Ratansky's deceit or lose his job. [What about telling his friend and mentor the president about Ratansky's dirty tricks?] When a hot tub incident exposes Kirk Rayne's attraction to him, [Another gay Republican? Is this science fiction?] [Where is this hot tub? Were they both in it when the "incident" occurred?]

[Hot Tub Incident:

Kirk: Mind if I join you in the hot tub?

Cody: You're naked.
Kirk: Yes, meet Captain Kirk.]

Cody ignores his inner ethicist and uses a secret affair with Rayne to supplant Ratansky.

[Rayne: Sorry Ratansky, I'm gonna have to let you go.
Ratansky: Why?
Rayne: You're not the type of guy I want handling my staff.]

Although the relationship helps Cody climb into the president's inner circle, [Can't you come up with a better nickname for it than "inner circle"? The Urban Dictionary suggests Rusty Sheriff's Badge.] dating an old man gets ... well, old, and Cody resolves to end it.

As he considers how to break up with Rayne and still maintain his influence, Cody learns that Rayne may have murdered an ex-boyfriend. On the day the ex dumped him. [I'd change the period after "boyfriend" to an ellipsis or dash.] Fearing that ending the affair could make him Rayne's next victim, Cody must solve the murder to escape the relationship.

I conceived of Dodging Bullets: The Perilous Journey of a White House Pol--complete at 70,000 words--while finishing my PhD in political science at Rutgers University. During my graduate studies, I also taught in the Rutgers writing program.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Cody's goal is to dump Kirk but continue working for him? I don't see Kirk going for that, whether he's a murderer or not, so why bother solving the murder?

And you'd better explain how Cody thinks he can solve a murder that no one else was able to solve.

If the main plot is Cody gets involved with his boss in order to advance his career and later wants out but fears for his life, I don't see the need for Ratansky to even be in the query. He's a subplot, and he's delaying your getting to the murder. By the time you get to the murder, I've settled into believing the book is about politics and scandal. Maybe you need to open with a statement like: Cody Carlisle never thought his dream job in the White House would land him in the middle of a murder investigation. A clue about where the story goes. Right now it feels like the murder comes up in the last chapter.

Cartoon 481

Caption: Whirlochre

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Monday, September 28, 2009

New Beginning 689

I hate guns. I went to a party when I was sixteen and my friend's maw pulled a revolver on her ex-husband in the dining room. Me and my friends were sitting around the table drinking cheap beer, and right out of nowhere there was this crazy bitch on the loose. She yelled at him to get the hell out of her house, but his arms went up real slow and his fingers crossed behind his head. He leaned back in the chair like it was a joke. All of us kids got up and ran out of that house like we were stealing candy from the 7-11 and we got caught. I remember turning around to look at the last minute, before I made it outside, and what I noticed was the difference between the two of them. His face looked flat and peach, as if he didn't give a shit at all. She had a red face that shook and twisted--she was a human pit bull ready to attack. Thinking back, I realize crazy doesn't always look like you think it's going to. That man was nuts, and he took two bullets in the chest because of it. Anyway, that's why I hate guns.

However, I sense that you boys don't quite share the same sentiment, and given the late hour and the part of town we're in, I guess on this occasion I would be willing to, ah, part with the Rolex and my money. Just stay calm there, boys, while I reach for my wallet . . .

Opening: Aimee States.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 480

Caption: Anon.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cab Ride 7

‘Where ya headed?’

‘5th Avenue. Cinnderellas.’

‘The bun bar? Jeez, you’re my fourth today.’

‘That so?’

‘Heck, yeah. Some weird chick in dungarees, then a business guy, then some wasters from one of those grunge bands, yanno, like Nirvana. I’m a people watcher, see.’

‘That so?’

‘Oh yeah. Ain’t nothin’ escapes my beady eye, and when I’m done drivin’, I write it all out, like a novel. Some day I’m gonna be a famous author.’


‘Problem is, do I set it in space, in the past, or the dinosaur age? Or do I go for the whole fantasy world thing?’


‘What’s it about? Hey — a guy in a taxi. Kinda semi-autobiographical. Only instead of it being me, it’s some other guy in a taxi. Maybe even a different taxi. That’s where the fantasy element comes in. And I figure, got one fantasy, gotta have ‘em all. Like, I dunno — Pokemon. Hence the space thing. Maybe it’s a flying taxi. Maybe I’m an android. Hunting dinosaurs. But not just for the thrill of it. That idea’s been done to death. A “trope”, they call it. Like a dinosaur park is now a trope. So my dinosaurs are all gonna be from the future. Hence the past. The taxi driver is in the past. So it’s like a time travel thing...

* * *

‘...and the monkeys, hell, the monkeys — they’re the guys who poisoned the dudes from the second incarnation after the zombie lords got trashed by the princess, so that all ties in with the burst tyre in chapter 29. Still ain’t decided whether to write it out in prose or rhyming couplets, but I figure — Jesus! How the hell did we end up in LA?’


Cab Ride 6

"Airport? Gotcha." The cabbie slipped onto the wood anti-sweat cushion. Not that it did any good. The back of the cab smelled of sweaty butt-crack, dog, and recycled beer all topped of with a whiff of vomit--the perfect nosegay for a lousy day.

"Hey, you were at dat Writer's convention didn't you? Well How'd a like to hear my story. Gotta be better than all desperate crying would-be authors crying their eyes out over some guy who kept saying no, no, no. I got a real story. It's fiction, not semi-half-lies like those glibertarians you see on the political screamfests but a real, gung-ho mystery."

"I'm not getting starbursts." EE slid behind the cabbie, trying to hide. The cabbie adjusted the mirror so he could see EE.

"It starts with an old crone screaming, harpy-like. She's hot and mad like Our Lady of Perpetual Outrage. She big time voodoo momma: I warned you boy's not to drink old man dickface's moonshine but you boys could never listen to what your elders tell ya. Now look at what you become... Dumb as dirt, roach-infested zombies. I could've turned you idjuts into goats and you'd still be alive. No one wants zombie goats."

EE noticed the highway sign and spoke up. "Uh driver. It's Newark airport, not Kennedy."

"Aw shit! You shoulda said 'Newark' when you got in. Now it's goin' to take two hours to get to Newark."

"I'm so lucky."

"Don't go all pearl clutchy fella. You'll make your flight. This gives me time to tell you all about my climax. I got a really fierce orgasmic ending. It's kinda like Macheath's not being hung, but instead of Deus Queen Lizzy as Machina, I give'em a walkin', talkin' Clenis issuing a pardon."

"Driver, you can let me out here."

--Dave F.

Cab Ride 5

Just come from the writing conference, 'ave yer, gov? Thought so. Bet that was a barrel of laughs, knowwhatImean? All them authors.

Bet none of them was any quality, right, knowwhatImean gov? Bet none of them had a romantic paranormal thriller, 139,000 words, title "Intercourse with the Vampire", Mrs. 'Oskins at the writing group said it was dead good. Bet none of them 'ad class like that, knowwhatImean gov?

I blame all them foreigners, knowwhatImean gov? All them Europeans. Them bloody Portuguese, comin' over 'ere, nicking our Nobel Prizes. And them bloody Swedes are worse.

I mean, who wants to read all that lit'rary stuff, when they could be readin' a romantic paranormal thriller, 139,000 words, title "Intercourse with the Vampire", Mrs. 'Iggins at the post office said it was dead good an' all? Well? But them bloody European litr'ary types 'ave got it all stitched up, knowwhatImean gov?

I mean, I can't even find a bloody agent these days, knowwhatImean gov? Things was different in the old days. I 'ad that Miss Snark in the back of me cab once. Straight up. You can still see the stiletto marks in the ceiling, knowwhatImean gov?

But you can't get a bloody agent for love nor money these days, knowwhatImean gov? Not even for proper quality like a romantic paranormal thriller, 139,000 words, title "Intercourse with the Vampire", Mrs. 'Arris down the supermarket said she'd never seen nuffink like it.

I mean, I blame the EEC, knowwhatImean gov? Prob'ly got a lit'rary fiction quota or sumfink like that. Everyone's got to read that Portuguese lit'rary stuff, there's no room for yer home-grown writer, knowwhatImean gov?

.... Gov?

.... Gov?

Bloody 'ell, 'e's done a runner. Fifth one this week. Bastards.

--Steve Wright

Cab Ride 4

Airport, eh? What're you, a pilot?


Baggage handler? Flight attendant? You don't drive one of them carts around with the beeping noise, do you? That'd drive me crazy.


Well shit, what're you goin to the airport for?

I'm a passenger on a plane, you idiot.

Oh yeah, right. Shoulda guessed. Where you headin?


Here on vacation?




What business?

I'm an editor.

Hey, I'm a writer! My novel's about the world's tallest midget.

Fascinating . . . Uh, how tall is he?

5 foot 9.

Tall. For a midget.

He starts a traveling circus freak show, but everyone in it is just a normal-looking person. There's him and there's the world's shortest giant, the world's thinnest fat lady, the world's handsomest elephant man.

So it's a scam.

Supposedly, but it turns out the show is a hit and everyone who comes just stands there laughing and staring at the normal-looking people like they're really freaks. The "freaks" can't handle it, even though they're rolling in dough.

Enough. Be quiet a minute, I need to make a phone call . . . . Hello, Mrs. Varmighan? It's me . . . No, Evil Editor! . . . I don't care if I sound like Harrison Ford, just listen. Get the Coen brothers on the phone. Tell them I've got them another winner.

--Evil Editor

Cab Ride 3

"Lotta traffic coming and going from the hotel today." The cab driver slammed the trunk closed.

Geoffrey murmured something that sounded vaguely like agreement. He didn't want to talk. All he'd done for the past three days was listen to aspiring writers tell him why their novel was the next “big thing”. He was tired of smiling and feigning interest, knowing that even though these writers were passionate about their works, they didn't have that elusive ... it.

They rode in blessed silence for too short a time.

“So, you a writer?”

“No, editor.” Damn! Why had he answered?


OK, here it comes.

“You know, I got an idea for a book …”

He sighed and prayed for patience.

“Everybody tells me I should write it. Says it’s like nothing else…”

Of course, it isn’t.

“It’s about this cab driver …”

Really? Shocking!

“…and all the weirdoes that he picks up in his cab …”

Never heard that one before.

“…and one night he picks up this couple and they start makin’ it in the backseat of the cab …”

Oh, women’s fiction?

“…but it turns out they’ve just killed the chick’s husband …”

That’s … different.

“…and he overhears them talking about it.”

Who? The dead husband?

“Whaddaya think?”

They pulled up in front of the airport terminal. Geoffrey forced another smile and opened his wallet as he stepped out of the cab. Handing the cabbie his fare and a tip, he tried to sound sincere.

“Here’s my card. Send me a query and remind me of our conversation.”

“Hey, thanks!”

As he followed the skycap into the terminal, he smiled to himself. The sheer joy on the cabbie’s face was enough to ease his headache if only for as long as the walk to the security checkpoint.


Cab Ride 2

God, I was glad the convention was finally over. I slid into the back of the taxi, let go a long sigh of relief, and said one word, “Airport.”

Unfortunately, the cab had barely rumbled out into the street before the driver cranked his head around and opened his yap.

“Say, you're that Evil Editor guy, aren't you?”

I gave him the barest of nods.

“It’s great to meet you! My name’s Kim Luckman, but I hate that name. My friends all call me…”

“Let me guess, Lucky.”

“No. Spike,” he said, taking off his cap to reveal a Mohawk haircut greased into multi-colored spikes. “Anyways, the reason this is so cool is that I’ve written a great book, and since we have a twenty minute ride to the airport, I can tell you all about it. What could be better than that?”

:”Something like, KEEPING YOU EYES ON THE ROAD!”

Spike gave a glance forward. “Shit!” he yelped, simultaneously swerving, blasting the horn, and flashing the finger. He laughed, turning back around again. “Alright, so back to the book. See, it’s about this old lady who’s got crazy tattoos and rides a Harley Sportster, who takes a tour across the badlands and meets up with some Hell’s Angels who give her shit because she has a big stuffed lion named Linus riding in her sidecar. Remember that old cartoon song from the sixties – ‘Linus the King, Linus the Star, Linus the Lion Hearted!’”

“How could I ever forget that?”

“Yeah, I figure this story has it all: A feisty old lady, a loveable lion, some crazy Hell’s angels, and…”

“Hopefully not an orangutan named Clyde.”

“No. Just a run-in with a pack of weredingos

“WEREDINGOS!” I exclaimed, pulling a contract from my briefcase. “I like the sound of that!”

--Mark Mosher

Cab Ride 1

“Nice weather. The trees are wilting with their luminous leaves.”

EE looks up, alert like corn at the sound of a locust. He belatedly notices the cab driver’s spectacles, and the calluses on his thumbs from hitting the space bar repeatedly. EE’s joke that a writer would be desperate enough to pose as a cab driver and kidnap him in order to worm his way into a contract has become reality! He lunges for the door. The locks slam up. He tugs at the handle, but it doesn’t move. EE relaxes back into his seat with pretended nonchalance. He even checks his manicure. “That’s good, real good. You ever consider becoming a writer?” he asks with no trace of sarcasm.

Cab driver glances at EE in the mirror. “Yeah, funny you ask. 5000 rejection letters for my masterpiece, “Lord of Flatulence.” I’m still waiting for a response from a guy called Evil Editor. It’s my last chance. Do you know him?”

Evil Editor shrugs. “No, but he’s a big cheese. They say he would eat writers for lunch, but they aren’t rich enough.” Evil Editor discreetly checks the door handle again, yup, locked.

Cab driver says, “Lord of Flatulence is a 124,895 word epistle on the loveliness of frogs in the sunshine. It is a classic romance which will sell millions of copies.”

Evil Editor nods. “Sounds like beans on toast. A real bestseller.” He mutters, “If we were all frogs.”

Continues cab driver, “I also have another novel entitled “The Loveliness of Cab Drivers,” 35,678 words, more or less. A cab driver walks into a bar and….”

Evil Editor interrupts. “Really good. You should teach this stuff.” He jimmies the lock with his Evil Editor Writer Escape Kit, lifts one eyebrow, and escapes into the sunset.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Face-Lift 677

Guess the Plot

Lily of the Lamplight

1. Lily the Moth's affection for Rupert, the lightbulb who hangs out over the porch, is red hot, but it quickly flames out.

2. Everyone in town knows that the ghost of Lily Lawrence lurks by the streetlight near Shady Acres Cemetery. Jaden and Mike have rounded up cameras and recorders. They're going to prove Lily is real . . . or die trying.

3. Oliver uses his sexy neighbor Lily as the model for a character in the video game he's designing. When Lily disappears, Oliver is suspected of murdering her. If only he'd used his other neighbor, Zelda.

4. When 17-year-old Steve gets into botany and turns the basement into an ultraviolet growing chamber, his mother has mixed feelings. It's great that he's taken an interest in science, but this obsession with horticulture? Won't his classmates tease him? Yet suddenly he's Mr. Popular.

5. Lily Maury spends her retirement collecting antique lamps and reflecting on the past that wasn't, while her family plots to get rid of the junk and dump her in an elderly care facility.

6. Growing up over her parent's pub might look like fun to the other kids, but Lily's room is right over the loo and she's sick of listening to people puke. She embarks on a campaign to turn the Lamplight into the first alcohol-free pub in Britain.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I would love for you to consider my 60,000 word YA suspense novel, Lily of the Lamplight.

Oliver believes he’s about to have the best summer of his life. He’s graduated from high school, working as a video game tester, and living in downtown Seattle with his best friend, Max. [Not to nitpick, but "He's" is short for "He has" in this sentence. If you change "graduated from" to "finished with," it would be "He is," which works with "working" and "living." Or you can keep "He's graduated from" but change the rest to "gotten a job testing video games and moved to downtown," so everything works with "He has." Or do nothing and assume no one cares.] He and Max are designing a video game that must be finished by the end of the summer in order to gain acceptance to an elite gaming academy [The last thing you want is to settle for a lower-class gaming academy where they teach you to program Pong.] in Seattle, and thus, live the dream of spending their entire lives with an XBOX control in their hands. [Good plan. I remember when I was living the dream of spending my entire life with an Atari control in my hands. How'd that work out?]

But, Oliver makes the dual mistake of using his beautiful neighbor as model for his kick-ass cyber heroine and falling in love with her. After she goes missing, he discovers real women are far more dangerous than virtual ones when he finds himself the number one suspect in her death. [How long has she been missing? How do they know she's dead? And who are these real women who are dangerous?]

I worked in video games both as a freelance writer for Nintendo Power Magazine [I've never forgiven Nintendo Power for not rating The Lost Vikings as the best game ever.] and as a video game tester. This is my first novel.

Thank you,


You might want to mention that the neighbor's name is Lily (if it is).

This is all set-up. Here's my character, here's his situation. But what actually happens? Do they find a body? What evidence do they have against Oliver? Are there other suspects? Has Lily magically disappeared into the video game? What's Oliver doing to clear his name? Is there a bad guy? Is Oliver in danger? Where's the suspense?

The good news is it doesn't seem to be based on a video game or on your most recent game of Dungeons and Dragons.

Cartoon 479

Caption: Anon.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Beginning 688

“Don’t drive out there with all that trouble. Don’t go,” is what people said.

But other people couldn’t help themselves. They had to go.

People called it the hellhole highway, and they weren’t kidding.

Sometimes people called it that because it sounded good when they said it, like they knew what they were talking about, saying it and smiling big and nodding when they said it.

Sometimes they said it because it proved they watched the 11:00 o’clock news and they were informed; and it proved they didn’t live out in the South End with the assembly-line workers and the knifings and the drunks.

But mostly, mixed in with the other reasons, they called it that to warn their good girls about what could happen to them in a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kind of way without warning if they found themselves driving out close to that end of the county line, out by the rundown tinderbox houses and the human-built sludge of shopping strips and the tacky string of neon signs fired up at night like a mad carnival place.

Yes, people did like to talk about the hellhole highway. They did talk, and that is what they did.

She ponders this as she applies her bright-red lipstick. Janice Baddington can't say no to the hellhole highway. It attracts her more than she can stand.

Tonight, a full moon; beads of sweat gather on her smooth brow like pearls on a string. Her keys flash in the silvery pale moonlight and she slides into her car, one long leg after the other. She is ready to watch and to wait and to hope . . . for trouble.

The drive is long. Long to the South End, to the hellhole highway. Sometimes people call the drive a writhing snake. Janice Baddington prefers to call it “Justice.”

She turns on the car radio. Madonna belts out “Like a Virgin" as Badd--for that is what she prefers to call herself--drives past the tacky string of all-night porn shops, past the rundown, 24-hour pawn shops with their prison bar windows, past the machine-built sludge of doughnut shops with their cop cars out front like piglets suckling at a sow's teats.

The hellhole highway is the colon of the South End. But how else is Janice Baddington supposed to get to the Wal-Mart?

Opening: Robin S......Continuation: Anon./EE/Stacy

Cartoon 478

Caption: anon.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Leah Libresco sent this link to a page that should help you distill your plot, no matter what it is, into one sentence.

Face-Lift 676

Guess the Plot


1. When the package arrives, Ernestine believes it is her long-overdue oven-mitts, until a vaporous genie wafts out and volunteers to fix her problems with Stan. Unsure about trusting her love-life to a mirage, she suggests they start with a new career in optometry and the genie agrees. Hilarity ensues.

2. When Santa and the reindeer crash on Christmas Eve, all the cavemen are excited about the sudden abundance of free food. Mugoo fires up the barbeque while Santa searches the snow for his broken time turner so he can get back to the right century and save Christmas. Plus, seven angry elves.

3. Laura Lowman is a genius high school student. Bullied mercilessly, she welcomes the chance to join a local community organization for other brilliant but asocial teens. When it turns out the organization is planning a bloody revenge on the dumber students, will Laura join in or help her classmates?

4. "Gifted" Anna Foster has to build Wankel rotary engines in the cellar blindfolded just to get her parents' attention. She's ready to end it all, until science club co-geek Brian Flanders spots her in the drug store and stays her self-destructive hand as it reaches for the blond hair dye.

5. Fresh out of high school, Celeste Hopewell is offered a position leading an organization that serves people with supernatural powers. What the heck, it's gotta be more interesting than going to college.

6. Something sinister is afoot when the insurance office does its Secret Santa drawing and everyone draws Lucretia's name. Lucretia gets 35 gifts -- and a bullet in the head. Only mailroom boy Clark Cooper can both solve the mystery and deal with the Returns office at Macy's.

Original Version

Dear Ms. ___________,

I recently read the write up on the Paranormalcy book deal to HarperTeen in Publishers Weekly. I believe that you will find my book fits in a similar vein commercially.

Celeste Hopewell, a telepathic ‘09 high school graduate, is forced to discern [decide] whether she should act for the greater good or pursue her own dreams when she is recruited as the successor to an ancient and clandestine organization [One person is recruited as the successor to an entire organization?] that protects the secrecy of Gifteds, a race of people who have supernatural powers. [TMI] [Usually when I say TMI it's because people are telling me things about themselves that I really don't want to know. In this case, however, it's because that sentence contains more information than the average agent can process without losing consciousness.] She finds love, both encouraged and forbidden, in two vastly different men and is forced to choose between the two [If you're given two choices, and one of them is forbidden, there's no problem at all:
when the existence of Gifteds and humans is threatened. GIFTED is a 90,000 word young adult adventure novel steeped in romance with a strong female protagonist.

I started my own business at age 22, Puppy Cake, LLC, using my degree in International Business and Marketing from Grove City College (’07). [TMI.] Channeling my vivacious imagination [No no no no no. If you want the agent to know you have a vivacious imagination, demonstrate it by summarizing a vivaciously imaginative plot.] and the flexibility of entrepreneurship allowed me to write my first novel. I currently live with my husband and two [extremely fat] dogs in Pittsburgh, PA.

I greatly appreciate your time and consideration. More information about GIFTED and the first three chapters are available on my website _____________. I am prepared to send the full manuscript upon request. [If there's any information on your website that would make me want to read your book, it should be in the query where there's a chance I'll see it.]



You have three sentences about you, and two about what happens in your book. Admittedly one of the latter is long enough to be a paragraph, but all we know is that Celeste is a high school grad who must decide between the good of the many and the good of the one, and between the sexy bad boy and the nerdish nice guy. And we already know nice guys finish last.

I want to see a mix of eight simple and compound sentences in which you tell me what happens. Here are some things you might bring in: Why is Celeste chosen? What does she use her telepathy for? What are these supernatural powers the Gifteds have? Is one of them Aquaman? Who are these two men vying for Celeste's love? And most importantly, what is it that's threatening the existence of Gifteds and humans?

Protecting the secrecy of the Gifteds' existence doesn't seem so important now that I know everyone's about to die. I thus assume revealing their existence is what puts everyone at risk. If that's the crux of your plot, explain it. What's the danger, who's the bad guy, and what's our plan? We do have a plan, right, a million-to-one shot at survival?

If you're an ancient organization charged with keeping a secret from the world, the last thing you're gonna do is tell a seventeen-year-old kid the secret.

Cartoon 477

Caption: Evil Editor

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Beginning 687

Coach Chahuank greeted me. He had an amazing deep red complexion. "You're going to tell me you want to win," he said. He knew my thoughts before I knew them, a man of second-sight, sibylline even. I wanted to be the quintessential older athlete who might never have the full bloom of youth again but could still be a champion. In this, the most important interview of my life, I filled myself with bravado.

"I want to be the best ever," my answer.

"The Olympic team might have accepted you but for that video."

"Supposed to be private. I sued the distributor but the internet protects anonymous real well. I'm not proud of it and I won't apologize."

"It's one thing to wank for the camera. It's another to throw yourself at six men."

"An acting job. It paid four years of my Bachelors degree. One of the stupid old farts governing swimming actually called it the crime that dare not speak its name, like we're living in Victorian England."

"And the dolphin?"

"They told me it was a man in a suit. I didn't realize it was real until it was too late."

Chahuank nodded, slowly. "I guess that's understanda--"

"Their loss, it was. Look at me now. Third interview today, eleventh of the week. My fame precedes me like the feathers of a peacock walking backwards. Discipline, dedication, hard work, it's all very well, but for a shot at that elusive target--fame, fortune and your own reality show--follow Pamela, Paris, all the greats: whore yourself out on Youtube.

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Khazar-khum/Anon.

Cartoon 476

Caption: Stacy

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Face-Lift 675

Guess the Plot


1. Johnny Wilson tries to improve his love life through chemistry, but now he changes into something different every month. He's been a werewolf, a werellama, a werelion, a werevelociraptor.... Can he cure himself before his new girlfriend finds out?

2. Three baseball players named Who, What, and I Don't Know consult a pair of PR experts to find the perfect name for their team.

3. Jack Hoboken could have put up with everyone in his family turning into wereanimals if it weren't for the gargantuan lobsters. Can he convince them to leave Hobokenstone Manor before he gets pincered? Plus, torch-wielding villagers.

4. Detective Fred "Zombie" Jones must solve the mystery of the WereThing before it devours another tourist, or Miss Nannette will have to sell her chicken ranch to a mob of developers who plan to turn WhoVille into WhatNot.

5. Tina's crush on Todd is going nowhere as sinister forces counter the efforts of this wee lass. Plus, an army of diabolical robots, the WhoDo.

6. After joining the Peace Corps, Tilda struggles to comprehend existential philosophy in Romania. Plus a terrifying WhereWho.

7. O, Dingo, Dingo, Werefore art thou? When 16 year old Juliet Jones introduces her new boyfriend, Dingo Smith, to the wrinklies, they are not amused. When they catch a glimpse of him and Juliet naked under the harvest moon, they get their pitchforks. Hilarity ensues.

8. TimeiscompressedtoaninstantasBertquestionsthe

Original Version

When the Hobokens learn they’ve inherited a mansion from a great aunt they didn’t know existed, 12-year-old Jack Henry thinks it’s just another move to yet another house.

But Hobokenstone Manor isn’t even close to anything he could have imagined. [This makes it sound like he was imagining something mildly fantastic.] It’s not so bad that it’s located by the sea [An awkward way of saying At least it wasn't near the sea.] (even if there are . . . shudder . . . lobsters). He could even learn to live with the fact that the rooms move and that there's no real comics store in town – eventually. Nope, it’s not until his entire family turns into WereAnimals at his belated birthday party that Jack Henry realizes life at the manor is even more complicated than the plot of The Gargoyle Knight vs. the Changeling Monster.

Now Jack Henry must face gargantuan lobsters, [Are they werelobsters, or is this a different problem altogether?] deal with the ghosts of his evil ancestors and convince his parents that turning into WereAnimals isn’t normal if he’s ever going to get his family out of Hobokenstone Manor and find somewhere they can call home. Of course, they have to make it past the pitchfork- and torch-wielding villagers first.

WereWhat?, an mid-grade novel, is complete at 60,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

(Author’s note: WereWhat? comes from the fact that each member of the Hoboken family turns into a different WereAnimal on the full moon and Hobokenstone Manor turns out to be a WereHouse that changes to fit the needs of each individual.)

Revised Version

When the Hobokens learn they’ve inherited a mansion from a great aunt they didn’t know existed, 12-year-old Jack Henry thinks it’s yet another move to yet another town with yet another school.

But Hobokenstone Manor is no ordinary house. For one thing, the rooms move around like puzzle pieces. And the place is haunted by the ghosts of Jack's evil ancestors. And let's not forget the gargantuan . . . shudder . . . lobsters.

He could live with all this, and maybe with the fact that there's no comics store in town. But when his entire family turn into WereAnimals at his birthday party, Jack Henry realizes life at the manor is even more complicated than the plot of his favorite book, The Gargoyle Knight vs. the Changeling Monster.

Now, if he’s ever going to get his family out of Hobokenstone Manor and find somewhere they can truly call home, Jack Henry must convince his parents that turning into WereAnimals isn’t normal. Of course, they'll also have to get past the pitchfork- and torch-wielding villagers.

WereHouse, a mid-grade novel, is complete at 60,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


It sounds like kids would enjoy the book. But the query is disorganized: no need to mention lobsters twice, the paragraph about the house not being normal has too much in it that's not on topic, too listy. It was easier to reorganize it than to pick at it.

It seems like if the family name is Hoboken, the house would be known as Hoboken Manor.

Apparently Jack's parents argue that turning into wereanimals is normal. That's odd, if it never happened until they moved here. Do they realize that they turn into wereanimals? Do they do bad things when they're wereanimals? Does Jack Henry change too?

WereHouse is a better title, unless it's already been used a lot.

It might be amusing to provide examples of the kinds of wereanimals the family change to. Presumably weredingo is one of them. It would be refreshing if none of them was a werewolf.

Cartoon 475

Caption: Anon.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

PirateSpeak Sermon 9

"Avast, ye sons of biscuits," I shouted. "Our Cap'n may've drunk his last communion grog, but ye'll not be headin' home to watch TV sports, not till ye've heard a sermon, even if I must gie it meself."

The congregation groaned as one, but filed back into their seats.

"That be better, me hearties," I said. "I see the program be callin for a discussion of the parable of the lost sheep, but I've a tale ye might like better, ye scurvy dogs. 'Tis the parable of the lost ship, a tale I've told many a time elsewhere, but ne'er to this crowd. If someone would be dimmin the lights I'll get me slide show started. Arrrgh.

So thar ye have it, landlubbers. Now get yarrselves home and no sinnin till Monday arrgh ye'll be walkin the plank.

PirateSpeak Sermon 8

Arrgh. Vell, mateys, me ol’ mate the Apostle Paul, ‘e was a tentmaker. Arr, ‘e made tents. ‘Cause sometimes, ye just havta reelize a city don’t want no preachers. Arrgh?


Aye, mateys, I see that you agree with me. Now y’see, cities that don’t want no preacher don’t generally mind people who do a hard day’s work. Same goes for other places, like the high seas. Arrgh?


So when I came here, I says to meself, girl, when in Rome. And I got meself a cutlass, and booty for me feet. You remember what I said about me ol’ mate Paul?


So here I am, good sirs and possibly ladies, too. Arrgh?



PirateSpeak Sermon 7

"Well there it is. Death at a funeral.

Avast me hardies, Captain Death has crept out of a bunghole and seized upon the right reverend Deadheart and like the landlubber Albert Camus once said "life is short and meaningless." Well shiver me timbers NOT. Captain Death has left the room like a Velvet Elvis flees from chumbuckets. Blackhearted bastard as he is, the Almighty decreed he only take one true pirate at a time.

But Sam the Shark who lies before, well he be the last of a long line. Great, great grandson of a would-be privateer who married a thieve'n injun squaw and made their way to the Floridas for the big par-lay over De Leon's bones. Put him into the bunt the slack of the clews (not too taut), the leech and foot-rope, and body of the sail, may your sail not luff in the cool breezes of paradise. It is to the happy waters of Augustine that we send Sam to his forbears.

An aahrr-phan boy like the pirates of lore, his Mom and Pa lurking in Davy Jone's locker off the coast Bermuda. He know what it is to be an aahrr-phan boy and I can tell ye, it was not greatly to his pleasure. He comes here rum all out, his jib outstretched and his body bound by hempen rope.

Now do not shed tears like scurvy bilge rats. Sam would not be proud of ye for crying. He would call ye goat buggers and worse. So Bar the doors Molly against the dastardly constable, raise the mizzenmast high and bring us all a noggin of rum-fortified grog and drink a hearty cup to the memory of Sam the Shark Hayes. Now say Aye-Aye and Amen and be going on your ways.

--Dave F.

PirateSpeak Sermon 6

I hobbled up to the front of the room and whirled around. Peg legs offer a convenient pivot point. The parrot on my shoulder dug its talons into my tattered waistcoat as I gripped the sides of the podium.

“Arrgh vey,” I said. I told you I was going to use that line. “It seems me matey Rabbi Cohenbergenstein has walked ye proverbial plank. Now he’s gettin stuffed into Davy Jones’s locker like a wee landlubber on his first day o’ learnin. So now it’s up to me to complete this bris.”

The parrot on my shoulder whistled and squawked, “Polly want a foreskin.”

“At least the bilge rat was kind enough to swab the dick with a wee bit o’ grog,” I said as I drew my cutlass. “It should be as clean as the bung hole on me best barrel o’ rum.”

As I raised the blade and prepared to make the cut, a voice called out for me to stop.

“Avast ye scurvy dog, ‘fore I gets me cat o’ nine tails out. I got work to do,” I scowled, for scowling is an important aspect of pirate-speak. “Aye, well sink me, this little hornpipe ain’t got enough meat to cut.”

“That’s what I was trying to tell you. It’s a girl. This is a baptism, you fool.”

“Well shiver me timbers! This wee one squats on the head to pee. Not even me mateys up in the crow’s nest could ‘ave seen that one comin.”

--Rick Daley

PirateSpeak Sermon 5

“I held my breath, my breasts trembling, nay, swelling over the neckline of my churchiest bustier. It had been quite a day already, what with running out of Cocoa Puffs and the minister collapsing all over poor Mrs. Trumble's plastic hip. But when the man with the sexiest peg leg I had ever seen clomped his way to the front of Our Lady of the Perpetual Flogging's congregation, I knew this Sunday would be special. Even more special than the day the choir rapped about birth control.

The riveting man, with his riveting wood, leaned on the podium and swilled Father Peter's rum, which he had left there before vomiting blood. They'd never get that stain out of Jesus's loin cloth.

Then, the stranger's shoulder-parrot spoke. ‘Yar, the message in today's sermon be givin' t' th' poor. Dubloons not be growin' on trees, mateys. Before ye find yerselves in Davy Jones’s locker, damned for all eternity fer ye selfish ways, ye be needin' to make a small donation, ye scurvy dogmas. Polly want a cracker, brawk!’

Well, I certainly didn't know what crackers had to do with it, and my name isn't Polly, but I felt stirred down to my churchiest g-string. The stranger’s companions, many with colorful jungle pets of their own, milled through the pews, gently turning worshippers upside-down and shaking them.

The man himself hobbled to me, his remaining eye fixed on my overflowing booty. He snapped his fingers and the parrot squawked, ‘Ye make me Jolly Roger fly, brawk!’

I hadn’t heard such romantic squawking since Sister Mary Pat drank too much holy fire water. He crushed me against his frock coat and kissed me until his bird looked uncomfortable.

And that, officer, is all I know. Tell me, how did you lose your leg?”

--Lucy Woodhull

PirateSpeak Sermon 3

Ten minutes into the tribute launching the new ship and the pirates decided the priest needed to be introduced to Davy Jones’ Locker. I was not sure what that meant but I got a good idea when his body was tied to the anchor and he was thrown overboard. I guess he shouldn’t have mentioned the burning in hell part for pillaging and murdering.

Being the only one left qualified to bless the ship, (only because I had a Bible and could read and prayed once in awhile – usually in a, “Oh my God,” kind of way), I stepped up to the Aft or port or bunker – well I don’t really know where I stepped up to but it wasn’t the poop deck because you know there wasn’t any. “Arrg, thar mateys. Begad, the bilging,” I began.

They were staring at me. I tried again.

“Sail oh! . . Err . . . ship-shape the nose and let’s sail the high seas with a bottle of rum or grog or . . . you scurvy dogs.”

A sailor growled and then a few more growled. Then they were all growling. It was ugly and getting worse.

The captain, who by the way looked nothing like Johnny Depp, Captain Hook or for that matter, Keith Richards, yelled, “Just be blessing it thar lass. So we be weighing the anchor.”

“Oh . . . okay. God bless this ship and may the pirates get the booty.”

I broke the champagne on the rail and. . .well they were planning on drinking it. Things have gone south from there; worse than killing a priest. I guess I’m going to be dancing with Jack Ketch and if he looks anything like the captain . . . oy vey.

--Vivian Whetham

PirateSpeak Sermon 2

Well, ye wenches an' biscuit eaters, hear ye this; 'tis a simple lesson Father Ahern was after tellin' ye today before he went aft tae Fiddler's Green: 'Tis a mighty sin to covet yer neighbour's treasure.

Shiver me timbers- ye thar, the scurvy lad in the starboard pew- aye, ye- look lively or ye'll be walkin' the... er... walkin' the... pulpit. Nae, we'll keelhaul ye o'er the steeple, ye scallywag!

Now, as I were sayin', ye'll go straight tae hell via Davy Jones Locker if yer caught covetin' yer neighbour's booty, and especially if yer so bold as to covet yer neighbour's wife's booty. 'Tis a mystery deeper than the very ocean what Father Ahern would have had tae say aboot it, now he's gone tae that great crow's nest in the sky, but I'll tell ye what yer to do: just go ahead an' take it, and that'll solve yer problems, see? Nary a covet more, if ye jes' take the stuff.

Now. That were easy enough! Aye!

Oh, Father Ahern did leave one wee note, 'tis the topic of next week's sermon. “Thou shalt not steal-” oh, bugger. Well, blow me down.

--Mother (Re)produces

PirateSpeak Sermon 1

“Gar, I be in charge of this voyage now, and ye be bowing ye heads now as a token of respect for our good friend and matey who be taken now by the sawbones, until he return to reclaim his place amongst the noble and fine, such as you are.

“So what have ye then? What manner of swabs be ye that come to hear the words which will spare ye from the tempest to come? Be ye the salt of the sea, or not? For knowest ye not that should ye lose the salt, ye be no better than a scurvy wretch laying in the bilge. Ye shall be cast adrift into the sea.

“So take ye heed to the swells which the sea rages against all sailors, fair and foul alike. Have the courage to climb the mast, untie the sheets and let your sails billow in the wind. For ahead is the course and behind only water. For the Captain of All does cover our misdeeds as the sea covers its dead. He marks the course, but ye must navigate it at the wheel. Keep your hand steady that ye may steer a true course through the channel, else ye be washed up against the rocks and dashed asunder by the sea’s angry fury. For the sea is not concerned about neither rocks nor shore. The sea is forever, and we must abide it as best we can. When the tide be high we sail fine and true, but when the tide be low, the rocks threaten the hull, and the shoals to stay the voyage.

“There be no assurance save to trust in the Captain. So man the decks and heed the orders. Our course is set.

“And now, it be time to collect the treasure.”


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

New Beginning 686

IF SHE HAD stopped to think about what she was getting into, Callie would have turned the job down flat.

She looked up at the island while the wallowing ferry that carried her and half-a-dozen other commuters docked at its weathered pier. Short, rough cliffs and jagged rock prevented docking anywhere but under the dead eyes of long-deserted watchtowers.

Both crew and passengers had hoods pulled up close to protect their faces from the lashing rain; Callie suppressed a shiver as she looked at the bent, shuttered figures; they looked more like ushers on the river Styx than human workers on their way to a bedraggled historic landmark.

The sudden burst of bad weather brought dark clouds with it, and they still hovered as the rain sputtered to a stop; it was early spring just off the Pacific coast of the United States, but it felt more like one of December's wrenching storms. Everything - trees, straggling leafless shrubs and dilapidated buildings - looked beaten down and hopeless. Callie wore a rain slicker that had long since given up on keeping out the lashing rain and the salt spray of the roiling ocean. The optimism she had felt about the project in her sunny office overlooking Coos Bay was nowhere to be found at the moment.

They docked, and one of the hardy few already on land, face hidden by the dim light and the hood of his rain slicker, turned and offered her a callused hand as she scrambled up the slick ramp onto the dock.

Callie followed the crowd as far as the courtyard before she paused, surrendering to the lashing rain as it whipped her face and neck—a punishment, she was beginning to realize, she heartily deserved.

It was worse than she thought. A total disaster. She could see that now. Even the smell of hazelnut wafting through the moldy corridors and rusted barbed wire couldn’t console her.

Her company had finally done it, crossed some invisible threshold into the darkest depths of festering soulless depravity. That it had been her idea made it all the more depressing, but, like the relentless lashing rain, she could deny it no more: a Starbucks on Alcatraz was a shitty idea.

Opening: Debhoag.....Continuation: Blogless_Troll

Cartoon 474

Caption: Mother (Re)produces

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Face-Lift 674

Guess the Plot

My People

1. They'll call you -- no matter where you are or what you're doing. You don't need a phone to do business with them. Or sanity. And when they're done, you will be too. Shall we do lunch, or would you like to start running?

2. Lady Chumley attempts to rally her kin to resolve the troubles of the day, namely, the matter of Fred, the price of chicken, and that vampire thing in the basement.

3. 10-year-old Angela doesn't believe college students collect little kids--until she looks in her sister Kimmy's closet.

4. Anna, AKA Torture Lady, tries to impress Ana, AKA The Salvadoran, but Ana doesn't respect her. What's a girl gotta do to make friends at summer camp?

5. Thomas Fredericks wants to save a corrupt world. He decides to start a cult, gain power and influence, and force the world to be more peaceful. Can he lead his people long enough to effect change before it all falls apart in violence, scandal and disgrace?

6. Mark Freeboon hasn't spoken to anyone who isn't a Lego since he was two. They are his people. They love and protect him. And tell him he will go straight to hell if he doesn't do what they say. Like liberate their brethren from FAO Schwartz.

7. The puppet master of Croydon wows audiences in London with the antics of his spry little creations -- until Inspector Birks proves the toys are actually vampires that prey on pigeons and stray dogs at night.

8. My People, Jeanette Morton's memoir of oppression and woe--which reveals all the horrors and foibles of her family's past--hits number one on the bestseller lists, only to be derided and ridiculed by her next-door neighbor, an ignorant witless tart with six trunk novels under the sofa and a brain the size of a pea.

Original Version

Dear Editor,

13-year-old Anna Brooke wants to be brave, to make a difference in the world. Going to the Conservation Leadership Institute’s summer camp is one small part of her plan. So of course when she sees a big kid shaking a little kid she makes him stop. She didn’t mean to get nicknamed Torture Lady. [That's like a cop arresting a shoplifter and they start calling the cop "Serial Killer."] [Even if it made sense for Anna to get the nickname, wouldn't it be Torture Girl?] Or to be introduced by that name to Ana Reyes, the Salvadoran refugee girl who has the poise and courage Anna craves. [Your main characters are named Anna and Ana? Whether you've done this so there can be hilarious incidents of mistaken identity in the book or just to make your proofreader's life miserable, consider that it may be more confusing to readers than it is to the camp counselors.] [Or is it because all your character names are palindromes? That I could live with. Are we about to meet Bob and Hannah? Interesting palindrome thoughts:

1. You can't have palindromes without repeated letters, yet "palindromes" is the longest word in the English language that has no repeated letters.

2. Palindrome? Shouldn't the word be "emordrome"?

3. There should be a superhero named Palindrome who captures criminals and then lets them go.

4. Emit no SOS on time. I just made that one up.

5. I would buy a book that had a one-sentence palindrome hidden in every chapter.]

Anna spends the rest of the week trying to prove herself to Ana, and incidentally to herself. She sticks up for James, who’s accused of being gay; she tells off the kid who grabs her butt; she tried to get her new best friend Allison, who shares her liberal ideas but has considerably more money and tact, to admit that some of the rich kids at camp are bullies. [This place sounds even more miserable than Camp Swampy, where my parents sent me every summer, with its two-hour vesper services and Counselor Bob's nightly nude camper inspections.] Soon many of the campers won’t speak to her--including James and Ana. Naturally, Anna tries harder. The camp petition drive doesn’t go according to plan either, but it does reveal enough of Ana’s past to shake Anna’s assumptions about bravery, and her understanding of what you have to do to make things change. [Not clear what you mean by a petition drive revealing Ana's past. Make it clear or just say, When Anna learns the sordid truth about Ana's past . . . ]

My People is a bittersweet, sometimes funny MG novel about the courage to grow up. I’m submitting it to you because (insert long list of real good reasons.) [A list of reasons for submitting to a specific person should have a range of from zero to one items.] (Pages, synopsis, whatever they say they’ll take) are attached. Thank you for taking time to read and consider this submission.

[--EE, this is a WIP, so there is no word count.]


Does "My People" mean Anna's people? Because no one at this camp seems to be Anna's people.

Shouldn't a middle grade book about summer camp have some monsters or a guy in a hockey mask? Something to make kids want to read it?

The list of things Anna did that supposedly caused everyone to stop talking to her doesn't sound like such bad stuff. Telling off a kid who grabs her butt makes her a pariah? She sticks up for James, and he won't talk to her? It seems to me that a camp that focuses on leadership rather than fun and games would attract a better clientele. Or at least would have counselors preventing stuff like bullying and taunting and turning fellow campers into social outcasts.

The main theme is coming through, but mainly through lists of things that happen. Make it feel more like a story than a series of unfortunate events.

Cartoon 473

Caption: Mother (Re)produces

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Beginning 685

November 14, 9a.m.:

Fucking Faeries. They thought I wouldn't notice the hollow bit of dry skin, crinkling like an old plastic carrier bag, where our Monine used to be. They thought I wouldn't notice the soulless wheezing of this creature. They thought I wouldn't know where they'd taken her, know the old stories or their names; but Gran told me everything. They thought--

They thought I wouldn't come after them alone. I'm sure they were watching you, Niesh, waiting till you went away on business. And I can hardly go to the Garda with a faery story, can I? So I load this- this- thing, this changeling into the Baby-Björn like a baby, though it turns my stomach. The creature's all the creepier for it's closeness to humankind, like a half-starved, hollow-eyed infant.

I'm off. I regret for the first time our decision to go carless. The busses all either arrive or depart after dark and the faeries will be watching. The days are so short this time of year. I hope, my love, that you never have to read this, but if I don't make it back with our baby, you should know why. I can't just sit here, thinking of their skeleton fingers digging into her fair skin. I'll get as far north as I can today, and write again.

Niesh finished reading and shook his head. She thought I wouldn't notice she wrote the whole thing out in cocaine? Jesus, didn't one of the neighbors see her dragging the bedroom mirror out onto the front lawn and scraping all that powder around? They coulda called the cops or at least called me. Shit, there goes our nest egg with the next gust of wind.

He pulled out his cell phone and called his friend Rick who worked at the sheriff's office. "Yeah, just like the other week. She won't be hard to spot, carrying an E.T. doll around in a snuggly."

That does it. We're never getting a car OR a kid.

Opening: Mother (Re)produces.....Continuation: John

Cartoon 472

Caption: Whirlochre

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Beginning 684

“That’s not fair!”

Even as the words left her mouth, even before Professor Ted’s eyebrows rose, Hope knew she sounded like a child. A particularly bratty one. She took a deep breath and did not look up at the wall over his shoulder, where the clock was ticking down the five minutes before the last bus left campus.

“What I mean,” she said quickly, trying to sound more like the experienced woman of the world she was at 18. “Is this is worth at least a C. C minus.”

Professor Ted cleared his throat and rubbed uncomfortably at his goatee. He was young, baby faced, and Hope was pretty sure he’d grown the facial hair in an attempt to add a few years to his look. It certainly wasn’t because he liked it. He never went more than five minutes without scratching at his chin.

“Maybe from another student,” he said. “But this is not an acceptable level of work from you, Ms. Doe.”

He pushed the previous week’s assignment across the desk. Five pages, three hours, and a small, apologetic “F” written in purple across the top of the paper. Hope sucked in another deep, deep breath through her teeth.

Professor Ted rubbed his chin whiskers again. And yet again, until Hope looked like she was going to scream. She could scream all she wanted, no way would he admit that annoying teeth-sucking thing she did every time she talked was the whole reason he had given her the "F."

Opening: Sarah from Hawthorne.....Continuation: Kate Thornton

Cartoon 471

Caption: Anon.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Guess the Title

Religious Book Edition

The book descriptions below were excerpted from the Barnes and Noble web site. Below each description are six titles, one of which is the book's actual title, and five of which were created by the Evil Minions. Which titles are real?

Answers at bottom of post

1. With the Bible in hand, the author sets off to spend a year attempting to follow the innumerous laws of Scripture in order to achieve the supposed claim of fundamentalists who say the Bible should be taken literally.

The Year of Living Biblically
Are You Sure I'm Not in Hell?
This Damn Well Better Have Been Worth it, God
Year Without Sin: I’ll never frigging do that again!
I’ll Be Damned: Eating shrimp and other crimes of moral turpitude
The Unleavened Bread Wasn't Bad: But I don't recommend living in a whale

2. This book will help readers navigate their way through born-again America, with tips on how to avoid being Left Behind, how to protect oneself against demonic locusts, and how to find a guide to class-action suits and post-Rapture therapy.

Beam Me Up, Jesus
Salvation for Dummies
Faith and Loving in Las Vegas
Winging It: Going undercover in Jesusland
If You Know What's Best for Me, Why Are You So Screwed Up?
My Way or the Furnace: An Evangelical's guide to freedom of worship

3. Sure, the rivers and seas will run with blood, locusts will swarm, mountains will move all over the place, and famine will strike. But for the five billion of us left behind, the post-Rapture world will be a time of opportunity.

Making the Apocalypse Work For You
How to Profit from the Coming Rapture
Can I Have Your Stuff?: A guide to the post-rapture economy
50 Stocks that Will Take Off Once Good People Are Out of the Way
Profits For Non-Prophets: How to build your post-apocalyptic nest egg

4. Like Chaplin taking on the Nazis in The Great Dictator, the author has a field day lampooning the patent absurdities espoused by Muslim extremists.

Radical Eye for the Infidel Guy
Worship Allah . . . Or I'll Kill You
A Child's Guide to Killing Americans
The Great Big Book of "Yo, Mohammad..." jokes
And You Thought Christian Fundamentalists Were Nuts
Is That A Beheaded Infidel In Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

5. All about the people known as the Brides of Christ. They wear all-black robes tied with heavy rosary beads and crucifixes that would make any child wince. They cover their heads with vast, winglike hoods. They have no legs but roll along on silent casters. They do not flinch from handing out swift and painful smacks with a switch, cane, or paddle.

Sister Pact
Scary Nuns
And then there was Nun
The Secret Life of Penguins
Get Thee to a Nunnery . . . And Live a Little!
Everything You Ever Thought You Knew About Nuns . . . Is True!

Fake Titles were submitted by

Rick Daley
Evil Editor
Vivian Whetham
Sarah from Hawthorne
Min Yin


0 right: Atheist
1 right: Agnostic
2 right: Holy
3 right: Angelic
4 right: God's Favorite
5 right: Hell-bound Cheater

Actual Book Titles

The Year of Living Biblically
Beam Me Up Jesus

Radical Eye for the Infidel Guy

How to Profit from the Coming Rapture

Scary Nuns

Success Story

Rich Ochoa reports that as a result of advice/shredding he received on Face-Lift 323 he reworked his query, changed his title (to One Way Ticket to Anywhere), and has landed a good agent. No doubt I'll be reporting the book's publication at a future date.

Cartoon 470

Caption: Evil Editor
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bad Analogy Pitch Session 7

"Hi Evil Editor," the aspiring author said, his voice squeaking like the brakes on a '73 Plymouth Fury I once owned. "I know your time is valuable, so I'm gonna cut to the chase like a Bowie knife through a lamb spleen. I've written a novel I think you'll find as riveting as a Native American on a skyscraper I-beam. It opens with a fireworks display of ennui, progresses through a flash flood of pathos, and closes in a tsunami of tuna and salami sandwiches. Think cocaine on steroids."

"Interesting," I replied. "Let me see if I'm understanding you. It sounds like you're saying your novel reads like a war of attrition between landlocked nations from opposite hemispheres, with the emotional impact of a Carpathian mongoose on the South Beach diet."

"Were you even frigging listening to me?" he yelled. "It's more like the feeling you get when you watch someone with a lot of facial piercings eat cheese that's gone bad."

"Ah, I see. And I like it. It's like last night when I saw some hot shot showoff request chopsticks in a Chinese restaurant just to impress his date and then drop a hunk of General Tso's chicken in his lap."

"Exactly. Except this is more like a Mu Shu pork accident."

"Mu Shu pork? Sorry, dude; I've already got two of those in the pipeline."

--Evil Editor

Bad Analogy Pitch Session 6

I made a beeline for him like a bee makes a line for whatever. He sat in his chair, which was as tiny as Miss Snark’s heart and made him on the chair look like a fat guy’s paunch when he’s wearing tight pants and a short shirt. Speaking of which, he was—double whammy. But after today we’d only call and email, so best get a move on and bag me an editor—tag and release, like they do with polar bears.

“Four minutes, 34 seconds.”

I smiled big and sat. “Well, my manuscript is like a fish in the Arctic, or a mountain in the desert. I guess you could just call it an undiscovered junkpile of valuable trinkets that someone threw away years ago and will be sold for mere pence at a garage sale until people see the daVinciness of them and they sell for millions. Millions, I say!”

“Main character?”

“Well, I’ve got this one girl, she’s like a homicide found in a lake—her personality, you know, because she’s not really purple and bloated—and her life’s a scream in a cage with steel bars. And another, she’s a cockroach on a windmill, going around and around, and a guy, he’s a loaf of French bread cut in half, without any sandwich in the middle.”

“Where’s it set?”

“In a land where forks are forks and spoons are spoons but sporks are always spoons.”


“When pigs fly.”

He flopped around in his seat like Hermann Melville getting into Moby Dick’s character until he found a business card. “Send a query to Now git.”


Bad Analogy Pitch Session 5

My novel is a masterpiece, like a Picasso painting except it’s like he used words instead of colors and punctuation instead of lines. Oh, and I wrote it, not him.

The plot races forward like a cheetah going after a wounded gazelle, except this has nothing to do with animals, it’s about people and ghosts. But the ghosts aren’t your standard ghosts at all. Instead of having spooky ghosts that scare you like a trip to the dentist, these ghosts are trapped souls that are in a roach motel but they can’t escape, and there’s no poison, so it’s not like a roach motel at all. Maybe a roach motel where the poison is all gone, and there’s one big ass roach in there who ate the poison and it didn’t kill him and now he’s going to eat the other roaches.

And then my protagonist is trying to live his life and raise his family but his fate has death written all over it like your phone number on the bathroom walls, and he has to die so he can escape and be reincarnated or the ghost will suck him in like a bottle of scotch in front of an agent at a bar.

And then the climax comes like a . . . sorry can’t think of anything. Then the climax arrives like a jet landing on an aircraft carrier, all super-fast and then stopping real quick and you’re like “Holy shit, that was awesome!”

It’s going to sell like waffles. I mean pancakes. No, hotcakes, that’s it. Sell like hotcakes. And we’ll all be so rich that we’ll be calling Bill Gates and Warren Buffet “the po’ boys.”

So now you’re a green light for this project, right?

Rick Daley

Bad Analogy Pitch Session 4

“Mr. Editor. I've written a great fantasy novel I think will interest you. The main character, Todd, is an eighteen year old boy who is really hot, like if Brad Pitt married Russell Crowe and they had kids – except that they can’t really do that because they’re two peas in the same pod, if you know what I mean. Anyway, he meets this princess from another world, but they flee the castle to escape a wizard who’s way evil, like the Grinch on meth with more magic than a bag of tricks.

“So the two of them end up escaping and screaming all over the place like the three blind mice with their heads cut off except like if the third mouse snuck off down the rabbit hole or something, because there’s three mice and only two of them. The best part, though, is when Todd fights a dragon as mean as the Cheshire Cat without a smile, but with a flame that’s hotter than a cat on a hot tin roof.

“The ending is really awesome too. In order to rescue the princess, Todd goes down into these scary tunnels with less light than the man on the dark side of the moon. He whips up on the bad guys though, and in the process has courage dripping off him like butter.

“I left a lot out for your imagination, but I just want to say that the plot has action packed into it like a clogged artery, and a storyline with more ups and downs than . . . than . . . well, than an overpaid hooker. Oh gosh . . . I’m not implying you ever had to pay for sex . . . or that you couldn’t afford it. I mean . . . it’s just . . . I’m sure most women come on to you like bees to money.

“So . . . what do you think?

--Mark M.

Bad Analogy Pitch Session 3

"Fresh doyo-no-ushinohi for lunch, delicious," EE mumbled. Dirk, resplendent in madras shorts, Ed Hardy shirt and clogs, jumped up and down in the elevator like a game show contestant.

"It's YOU," he shrieked. "My novel is a love story. Not that anyone dies of a fatal disease and inspires Al Gore but a best-times and worst-times sort of... without songs like Les Miserables. A real father and son story in a post-nuclear wasteland without blood, violence and shark's jaws like the Chicken Little Movie but with live actors." Dirk grabbed his undergarments as if bitten by the Zanti misfits. EE froze and eyeballed the emergency phone.

"Damn! Scorpions on a Train with Sam Jackson. NOT!, Chicken Little doesn't run aground in the shallow gene pool like the end of the ocean. He discovers a conspiracy but dat don't do no good like Bebe Rebozo howling Tricky Dickey. Beeety Davis eyes! Quint never cries wolf. Into the woods with a Bad Wolf who done ate me Trinny and Susanna; Childhood miscreants in Judge Judy's courtroom, suddenly subject to her gavel. There are gold coins cut in half to be redeemed without question and a raven-haired Lolita steaming it up with a baseball bat like Durham's Bull got hit." Dirk put his knuckles in his mouth. His nametag read Dathon El-Adrel.

"I understand," EE brightened. He punched the next floor's button and blocked the emergency stop.

"Do you? Sorry. Sorry I'm hysterical. Tourette's, yanno. I'm hallucinating spotted dicks and trains from South Carolina. Thoughts are uncovered eyes. Gotta catch me brain cells like Ensign RO-mer Treece. RE-do! RE-boot!"

"I don't imbibe before lunch," EE dashed from the elevator.

"May I tweet you in Paumanok?" Dirk yelled after him.

"Only if you're a crow singing about pachyderms," EE instructed.

"I can try," Dirk replied.

--Dave F.

Bad Analogy Pitch Session 2

I smoothed my pants on the sides of my thighs. As my palms were wet with sweat, that didn’t work so well.

I smiled, but he didn’t smile back, so that didn’t work so well, either.

“Sit down,” he said. So I sat down, not smoothing pants, not smiling.

I looked at him.

He looked at me.

He checked his watch. “You’ve already spent thirty seconds of my, pardon me…of your…precious time. So…”

I started in. “Well, Mr. Ed, I mean, Mr…I mean, well. To start off quickly, let me just say that my favorite authors are those that blend well-wrought fiction, you know, amazing words and ideas…uh, with stories that belong only to them,but still, uh, they marinate, or is it marinade, ” I smiled again, sorta asking, but he just stared, “their experiences with universal language. You know, like, uh, well, like sex, for instance, is a universal language. Like that.”

He looked at me.

So I said, “ Or like Tim O’Brien, for instance, with his Vietnam novels…”

He looked at me. “In what way are Tim O’Brien’s excellent novels like marinated universal sex? And in what way does this connect with the reason you are here today?”

I looked at him.

“Your novel?” He said. “Possibly you haven’t written one, and simply want to chat?”

“Oh, no. Not just chat. I want you to love my book and read my book, well read it first, obviously, and then love it, and then buy my book. My novel. My manuscruipt, I mean. I was just doing the intro…so, uh, my novel is about…I mean, no, no, it’s simply not possible to capture my novel into a quickie light days pantyliner of a tagline. It’s much heavier than that.”

“Jesus, lady…”

--Robin S.