Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Feature 11

First the writing exercise results, which consist of one last Halloween story, and then a remake of a Halloween film from . . . The Vault!


I wish I had the courage to kill you, my darling. Oh, to have the strength to give you what you ask! Alas, my beloved EE, I am weak. You cannot imagine how it pained me to remove your feet. Surely, you understand the sacrifices we must make for our love!

It all started so beautifully, did it not my darling? That glorious day when at long last you chose me! I hardly believed it myself. Oh how you teased me, renaming my characters and asking your silly questions. How did you know the pleasure I would receive, seeing your words in blue intertwined with mine?

So why, oh why EE did it have to end?

Did my novelty wear off after only one day?! Did you think I wouldn’t notice you had moved on to another? Did you think I wouldn’t recognize your words in blue?

I recognized you, EE. I recognized you because you belong to me.

I do not blame you for straying, my darling. You’re just an editor, after all, easily swayed by proper grammar and strict adherence to word counts. I forgive you your frailties.

But I see now that I have to protect you and our love from these seductive, literary succubi who covet your blue words for themselves.

Please do not cry, my sweet EE. You shall not miss your hands for long!

Just as you gave yourself to me, I shall become you. I will sacrifice my own identity to assume yours, my beloved EE, as a testament to our devotion to each other. I will advise these usurpers of our love with your own beautiful, blue words. Oh darling, how it will pain me to mingle my words with theirs. But love is pain EE, as you well know.

-- H.E. Ellis



video

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

New Beginning 800!

Professor Rupert Bingham was frequently inclined to spend Sunday afternoon locked inside his study, pouring over his notes in preparation for the coming week. Sunday, being the church-mandated day of rest, his assistant normally had the afternoon off and the Professor often found himself completely alone with his thoughts. Today was no different, save that a package had arrived from the Marchioness Durrenbach, and Professor Bingham was eager to discover its contents. He had been patient all morning, attending church services, as was required of a gentleman of good standing, and had politely suffered through an excruciating tea with his fussy neighbor, Mrs. Firth. Now he was finally at leisure to unwrap the mysterious package and learn what secrets were contained within.

Carefully, he untied the twine binding the parcel and peeled back the brown paper wrapping. Inside was a good-sized, square wooden box with a hinged lid—newly made, so it must not have accompanied the original artifact from Turkey. Raising the lid, Professor Bingham gazed with interest at the curious object nestled inside.

But where to look, where to focus, with his Turkey-conscious professorly eyes? The crude terracotta bowl? Or the custard, unspilled, within? Or the neat circle of cling wrap sealing custard from atmosphere, mystery from evident custardiness, so thin he could pop it with one of his wayward nostril hairs and suck, suck, suck till every last one of his Academia-honed Sensibilities vs Personal-Lust-For-Antique-Middle-Eastern-Custard dilemmas was resolved in favour of custard, then caution, then custard, then caution, then custard, then thenthenthenthenthen, over and over and over again, till he could take it no more, NO MORE!

Instinctively, he shot himself.


Opening: Joie.....Continuation: Whirlochre

Cartoon 763

Caption: Whirlochre

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Beginning 799

Summoned by email, I attended. Tim the Tinker's studio had that smell one finds in anterooms of hell. The sulfurous vapors, the sweaty stench of smelted metal, the pungent smoke of undying coals, the doorbell that chimed the Anvil Chorus and the phone that rang the Descent to Nibelheim from Das Rheingold. I should have demanded trumpets announcing the path to Valhalla, the Rainbow bridge that leads into the skies above.

The big man stood at the anvil, back to me, bare to the waist except for his leather apron, his muscled back and heavy triceps flexing with each stroke of the hammer.

"Don't look. You'll spoil the surprise." He spoke over his shoulder and returned the metal to the fire, waited a few seconds and struck it again. I picked up a longsword with a fine double fuller blade and gave it a few swings. I always tested Tim's swords.

"It's not like I haven't seen you beating off before," I said, annoyed at his back.

He opened his mouth, but all I heard was "Jawohl, Herr Hauptmann!" from Wozzeck. It was his cell phone this time, with a ringtone that stunk even worse than Das Rheingold.

After listening a moment he cried, "What? Your tiny hand is frozen?" Covering the phone with his hand he whispered to me, "A single secret tear from her eye did spring." Back to his caller he went on, "Sweet name, you who made my heart... yes, yes, sweet daughter of love... one fine day we will see... now farewell, without resentment." He closed the phone and grinned at me. "Women are fickle!"

I swung the sword and lopped off his head. He should have known by now that if there's anything I can't stand, it's opera in English.



Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Paul Penna

Cartoon 762

Caption: Evil Editor

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Face-Lift 835


Guess the Plot

Invisible Romeo

1. Mercutio scores an invisibility potion on the tough streets of Verona. He offers the concoction to Romeo so he can sneak into the Capulet home undetected. Once inside, he learns secrets that could finally bring down the family enemy; however this would mean betraying Juliet.

2. Carmen has finally met the boy of her dreams. As it happens, he's invisible. Also, a vampire. When Carmen gets trapped in a school fire, she fears no one can save her . . . unless . . . can a vampire go out in the daytime if he's invisible?

3. In the two years since her failed suicide attempt, Julia has put her life back on track. When she finds love in a new boy, her last boyfriend--the successful side of the suicide pact--comes back to haunt her and make her his forever.

4. Fiona is lonely and miserable at the dorms her freshman year. With no friends or family, she's stuck there over Christmas vacation. Making things worse, the dorms are supposed to be haunted by the ghost of a student who hung himself in the lobby. Fiona doesn't believe it...until the strange love letters start appearing on her pillows.

5. Romeo seems like Juliet's dream come true. He's handsome, charming, and he calls her "my precious." But at the wedding ceremony, he slips the Ring onto his own finger instead of hers, and suddenly Juliet is facing an . . . Invisible Romeo.

6. Anna's ability to time travel lands her in Shakespeare's home town and she begins to manipulate the writing of Romeo and Juliet. Soon Juliet is the antagonist and hates Romeo so much that he's considered "invisible".



Original Version

Carmen is an ordinary girl living your average everyday life...[My average everyday life? Lemme give you an idea of my average everyday day:

8 AM -- 5 PM: Playing basketball with balled-up query letters, putting up with Mrs. V's crap and burning manuscripts.

5:30 -- 5:35: Arrive home, inhale a few breaths from a tank containing pure oxygen mixed with the scent of cotton candy.

5:35 -- 6:00: Strip naked and work out on the balance beam.

6:00 -- 7:30: Continue long-term project of digging a secret tunnel under my house, connecting the lounge to the conservatory.

7:30 -- 8:00: Wheel of Fortune.

8:00 -- 9:00: Phone calls to Bruce Willis, Snoop Dogg, Tiger Woods and Lady Gaga to give them advice.

9:00 -- 10:00: Mud wrestling with my pet anaconda.

10:00 -- Bedtime: 8 pints of Cherry Garcia.]

that is until she meets the boy of her dreams. Mychel is a vampire--an invisible vampire--[The only time you can see him is when he's standing in front of a mirror.] and has been tormented for the past two centuries by a crazy stalker named Muriah who is of the same species. [And believe me, stalking someone who's invisible ain't easy.] One day Mychel crosses paths with Carmen, nearly running into her and exposing his existence. [I can't tell if he exposed himself or nearly exposed himself.] After that one day, a fascination grows within him about this small but seemingly strong girl. Muriah isn't too happy about this though, in fact she is outright appalled that the guy she is convinced will marry him [Marry him? Who's him?] is making googly eyes at a human. Per usual routine, Muriah tries to black male and brown nose Mychel into marrying her, [Unless that's a clever way of saying she gets Mike Tyson to force him to marry her, you mean "blackmail." And get rid of the brown-nose part, as the rest of this sentence doesn't describe anything related to brown-nosing.] by threatening the life of the girl he seems smitten with--Carmen. Eventually, Carmen finds out about Mychel and Muriah, and Muriah's worrisome antics become more persistent [Is threatening the life of the girl Mychel is smitten with a "worrisome antic"?] as she fruitlessly tries to persuade Mychel.

Then one day, while Carmen is at school, her worst fear is realized, she is trapped in a burning building with no way out. Being a hopeless [incurable?] Pyrophobiac [Why is that capitalized?] trapped in a chem lab fire, she begins to worry [believes] that it's all over and that since it is daytime, Mychel won't be able to do anything to save her. [Then she realizes that all chem labs are well-stocked with fire extinguishers and have sprinkler systems, and that the fire department is just up the road.] From his home, Mychel sees the smoke at the school and recognizes the area immediately. [That's . . . the chem lab! And Carmen has chemistry third period!] Fearing for Carmen's safety and unconcerned of [for] himself, he races to the school to search for her. Little does he know that this is Muriah's doing and Carmen won't be safe until he agrees to marry her.

Invisible Romeo is a 10,719 word, unfinished fantasy novel. [Apparently you ran into a case of writer's block and decided to work on your query letter while waiting for inspiration to strike? Not the worst idea--if this plot description covers what will eventually be the entire book--but if it covers only the 10,000 words you've written so far, that's not good, as the query should summarize a larger portion of the book.]


Notes

A 200+ year-old guy smitten with a high school girl? Shall we assume he was 17 when he became a vampire, and that he hasn't aged physically or emotionally since then, or shall we just go, "Ewwwwwww"?

I guess it doesn't matter if he looks like an old man, as he's invisible. But I don't understand what Carmen sees in him. Ba dum ching.

It's not clear why Carmen is thinking Mychel won't be able to do anything to save me, when there's been no mention that they have any sort of relationship. She should be wondering if her chemistry teacher will save her, not some guy she barely knows and who isn't in the school. All we know is that she recently found out that he exists. It's also not clear why Mike is smitten when his only contact with Carmen was almost running into her. Does he follow her around? If so, Muriah isn't the only stalker in the book.

Cartoon 761

Caption: Stacy

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Running on Empty

We have zero openings and one query remaining to be critiqued. Remember, openings can be from novels, short stories or chapters (in the case of chapters, it should be a chapter that requires no knowledge of what went on in earlier chapters, as when a new set of characters are being introduced).

If this notice spurs some people to finally submit their work, the rest of you might keep in mind that we'll quickly need fake plots and continuations.

New Beginning 798

Rosaluna Lauritchild scanned the vampire's eyes. When she finished she rose to look out a window, ran a finger across the spines of some books; a satisfying feeling of magic emanated from them.

"You show all the signs of feeding on animals, not people: the bruising on your eyes is the worst I've ever seen. Your gums are cracked and blistered. You show all the signs."

She mentally scanned the incense-hung room: bells, jars, candles, and magical paraphernalia were scattered about in their proper places. In one corner there was a large table at which her bodyguard sat. Another, smaller table sat near the window, and it was at one the vampire sat.

Bookshelves lined the free space of the walls. Leather bound tomes filled them to overflowing. The floor was stone. Dampness still showed where the last magical circle had been washed off.

Dominating the room was Rosaluna's chair. From it she could gaze into any one of a half dozen magic mirrors. To its right was a brass tripod on which rested a bronze head which spoke prophetically when the proper spell was cast.

"But you couldn't be as old as you claim to be without having fed on humans at some point. I suggest you explain when you did."

The vampire looked from the magician to Erikka. She was a barbarian, clad in shapely furs, seated at the larger table. Like Rosaluna, she had long reddish hair, though with less copper to it. Surprisingly small-framed, she still wielded a large double-blade axe with ease.

The vampire tried to smile at the barbarian, which is a useless gesture for a vampire at the best of times. Naturally, he received no grin in return.

"I...I've only killed those who tried to kill me. Them and cutpurses or assassins. I do the city a service, really."

"Cutpurses and assassins..." Rosaluna repeated.

"And beggars," the vampire said. "The guy outside the bank who always hustled for change. And the guy
inside the bank who gave me shit for filling out the form wrong. And that bitch with the attitude at the DMV. Oh, and there was that suit who thought he could push in front of me at the bus queue. And those two punks who made fun of my clothes and the clerk at Burger King who said I couldn't get breakfast one minute after eleven. Not that I was really that hungry. In fact--"

"Enough," Rosaluna said. "I've heard enough. You're hired!"


Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 760

Caption: Anon.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Face-Lift 834


Guess the Plot

Steamsteel

1. 1852. Lord Byron has come back from the grave as a vampire in Vienna. Can 14-year-old Franz perfect his steam-powered stake-throwing machine-gun in time to save the city?

2. When America entered WWI on the side of Germany, victory was assured. But not everyone is happy with the Kaiser. Neville Snodgrass, meek bookkeeper from London, is visiting Berlin for holiday. But instead of heading for the cabarets, by order of the King he's off to the beer halls, looking for some rabblerouser named Hitler.

3. William Collier works in London designing the large suits of steam powered armour known as Steamsteel. With Steamsteel manufacturers across England turning up murdered, the mysterious Inspector Boyle offers to hide William from the spies thought to be responsible. But is it spies . . . or vampires?

4. Liza feels trapped on Clay Island, so she and her brother Gus fly off in Gus's airship, The Gull. Unfortunately, Gus built the airship from steamsteel, a metal that gets violently hot when exposed to water, so . . . Whoa, are those rain clouds up ahead?

5. Matt Hemstead's future at his uncle's used car dealership seems guaranteed when he comes up with the term Steamsteel to describe 15-year-old rustbuckets . . . until he falls for sexy investigative reporter Madison Smart.

6. He took a wrong turn somewhere outside Fargo. And now Todd Jones is a prisoner of a madman who needs assistance in the diabolical effort to invent a new metal from water. Will Todd perish in this cellar? Or will he find a way to escape out the window with the help of Tina, the madman's beautiful daughter?



Original Version

I am seeking representation for Steamsteel, a young adult steampunk novel complete at 57,000 words. I come to you due to your experience with young adult author representation.

Liza Johnson feels trapped in her home on Clay Island, surrounded by the clouds. When her brother Gus shows blueprints to build an airship, she seizes the opportunity to leave her world of chauvinism and bureaucracy behind. What is the price of her decision, though? [No need to ask if you aren't going to answer.]

Steamsteel is the story of Liza Johnson, the caretaker of her family fortune. Her socially awkward brother Gus is the true heir, but Clay Island's Supreme Judge could rule him mentally unfit to receive the inheritance. Liza would receive the fortune unless she married, at which point her groom would own the estate. This means suitors are lined up at her door, trying to convince Liza to marry to "protect her family's wealth". [If the wealth goes to Gus if he's not unfit, and to Liza if Gus is unfit, how is the wealth in danger if Liza doesn't marry?]

Gus shares a set of blueprints with Liza, blueprints of a flying machine that makes use of steamsteel, an unusual metal that violently heats up when exposed to water. [The maiden flight was going great until it started raining and all the passengers were roasted alive.] Liza sees in the airship the opportunity for her and Gus to leave Clay Island, and all of the other inhabited islands in the clouds, behind in search of a new home. She hires a crew of people who won't be missed [Homeless guys and murderers.] and begins building The Gull. Among her crew is Fizz, a security guard who belongs to a race of people who live in the clouds that separate the islands. Oh, there's also a spy.

The crew take off as the Supreme Judge invades the estate [to demand that Liza marry him]. Knowing they'd be treated as criminals on any other island, they sail to Laurel Island, whose anti-technology Church severed all ties with the rest of society. There, they are tasked with finding mythical Harlan Island by the Archbishop of the Church. Liza, now the unwilling escort of the Archbishop and his mistrusting bodyguard, plots a course for the possible birthplace of their civilization. She instead encounters new threats and a secret that will shift the balance of power among the islands. [This is like a new plot. We're through with Clay Island, so we'll move to Laurel Island and stuff will happen there, and then we'll move to the birthplace of civilization and see what happens there. It's the format of a synopsis, but the brevity of the synopsis in a query letter makes that format sound like just a list of things that happen. We need to find the thread that holds everything together. Were they chased to Laurel Island by the authorities on Clay Island? If not, perhaps we should minimize Clay's role in the query, including the details about the family fortune and suitors: Disgusted with the chauvinism and bureaucracy of Clay Island, Liza Johnson and her brother Gus build an airship and fly off to seek a new home. That pretty much sums up three fourths of the query, leaving plenty of room to cover important points like Do they discover that every island has its problems, and realize that if they find the birthplace of civilization they can get to the bottom of how society went wrong and lead an army back to conquer Clay Island? Is Liza's goal throughout the book just to find a home she likes? If not, what does she ultimately want, and what's her plan to achieve it?]

Steamsteel is the first book in a trilogy, of which the other two volumes have been roughly outlined. Thank you for your consideration.

May I send you the manuscript?

Sincerely,


Notes

Are the islands floating above a planet or in outer space or what?

There's no need to tell us that among the crew of The Gull is Fizz, unless you're going to tell us what vital role he will play in the story. For instance does his power to carbonate liquids save the day over and over?

We don't know enough about the balance of power among the islands to appreciate how a shift in that balance would affect anyone.

Cartoon 759

Caption: Anon.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Feature 10

No new Halloween stories came in this week, so here, for your viewing and spewing pleasure, are four frightening films from . . . The Vault!


video


video


video


video

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

New Beginning 797

"Tell me you're kidding."

"No, Mr President. First contact has occurred and they've landed in Andorra."

The President put out his hand for the papers Don Carlos was carrying.

"That little space between France and Spain that on a map looks like the rectum of Europe? That Andorra?"

"I wouldn't put it like that in an election year, Sir. No reason to offend minorities in an election year."

"Don, how many immigrants from Andorra do we have?"

"They tend to band together."

The phone buzzed. The President put it on speaker but didn't manage to get a greeting out.

"Can you fucking believe this? Andorra. God-damn, they're about four mountains where Frogs and Spics crossbreed with their God-damn sisters. How are we going to handle this?"

"By that, Jim, I take it you mean how will I handle it and can you tag along?"

"Tag team? Yes, good idea, Mr. President. Think about it. Andorran sisters!"

"Dammit, Jim, do you always think with your dick? How are we gonna handle first contact?"

The phone was silent as Jim considered the question. "I suppose we could buy them a couple drinks and try the old lint on the sleeve trick."


Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 758

Caption: Anon.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Synopsis 26


Trapped in the Masquerade-Synopsis:

How much trouble can a seventeen-year-old girl get into on her birthday that happens to land on Halloween with two friends? [If you must cram this much into the first sentence, at least put the two friends after "into."] When the seventeen-year-old girl is Abby Clary, a witch from birth, but blinded and left powerless from [by] her mother's spell, trouble seems to find her everywhere. [Too much info in these two sentences. I recommend keeping it simple: How much trouble can a seventeen-year-old girl get into on her birthday? When the girl is a witch, and her birthday falls on Halloween, trouble seems limitless.] [That said, I expect a synopsis that opens: "How much trouble can a seventeen-year-old girl get into..." to be describing a light story, if not a comedy. And having looked ahead and become convinced this is not the case, I'd drop the whole first paragraph. A synopsis doesn't need an intro paragraph; it's fine to jump right into the plot.]

Abby gate-crashes Emerson Academy's annual Halloween ball, [Didn't you say a spell had made her blind? Why would... Wait, I get it; she's blind, so she crashes into the gate.] and almost immediately regrets it when she is taken [abducted] by a horde of evil vampires known to the magical world as Callum's Guard; a group so evil that she is intended for their Master, Callum, to become his subservient lover. [When you say "a group so evil that..." we expect an example of what they have done, not what they're planning. A group so evil they kill kittens with chainsaws for entertainment.] But what stands in Callum's way is the dark-haired, handsome Thomas who has secretly known Abby since 1273; [Is Thomas in Callum's Guard?] though, Abby has no clue. [Having said "secretly," you can do without "Abby has no clue."] [So does Abby think she's been on Earth seventeen years, or does she know she's been around for centuries?] Thomas gives her a way to escape Callum's Guard and Callum himself.

After Abby escapes, she makes her way to her mother and grandmother where she comes across a magical garden, and learns of a [centuries-old] prophecy [foretelling that she would . . . what?] given about her centuries ago. Abby also finds out that she and Thomas are supposedly [were once] lovers, though she is determined to fight it. However, Linley, a distant relative of Abby's has her own plans, and she forces Abby to travel back to 1273 to meet Thomas as human and not a vampire. Before she knows it, she falls in love with Thomas even though she tried not to.

But then, [Back then] Abby had life threatening troubles in her time to work through. She tries to save her friends, she tries save her family, tries to fight her feelings for Thomas, and she is running out of time before her mother's spell kills her. [What are the terms of this spell? When did her mother cast this spell? All you've said is it made her blinded and powerless, nothing about killing her.]

After Abby comes back from 1273 for the last time, she is faced with certain death of [from] her mother's spell. Feeling defeated, as well as believing that nothing matters at this point because she is dead no matter what, Abby runs off with two friends. Callum magically visits Abby, which hastens the effects of her mother's spell. But Abby's mother, grandmother, and friends go to her to attempt to remove the spell. The attempt fails, so Abby's mother decides that Abby has to be moved. [You've made it sound like the mother is a villain. Why did she cast a spell that kills her daughter in the first place?] En route to moving Abby [As Abby is being transported] to safety, Callum's Guard causes a fatal accident [attacks]. Abby's mother is killed saving Abby, and her death lifts the spell. Abby is full of grief, but knows that only the spell problem was resolved [her troubles are only beginning] because Callum is still after [her.] Abby and Abby still has to come to terms with her newly found magical powers.

When Abby confronts Thomas and tells him that she chooses him and that she is in love with him, Thomas redeclares his love for her. Thomas chooses Abby. [The end? Callum is still after her. The query didn't say this was to be continued.]


Notes

There are too many awkwardly worded phrases, too much that isn't clear. The reader is going to assume the book has the same problems. Which means you not only need to fix the synopsis, you need to make sure the book doesn't have the same problems.

Cartoon 757

Caption: Marissa Doyle

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Face-Lift 833


Guess the Plot

Trapped in the Masquerade

1. Bad enough it's sweltering inside his bear costume, but then the Earl of Kent steps into an actual bear trap set by Lord Hughes, who's attending the queen's masquerade ball dressed as an 18th-century American trapper.

2. Ingrid Orlov finds it increasingly difficult to step into the fat suit that makes her look like a 700 pound blob. Not because it no longer fits, but because of her crush on Ted, the cotton candy guy. She'd like him to know she's really a 36-24-36 gymnast, but evil taskmaster Frank Birnbaum will fire her if she leaves her trailer without the jumbo disguise.

3. Abby Clary has no idea when she crashes a Halloween masquerade ball that she'll develop magical powers that allow her to magically transport to the year 1273. Now if she could only figure out why anyone would want to transport to the year 1273.

4. Janet Nash lives a lie. Everyone thinks she's a 52-year-old housewife, but she's actually a 27-year-old Russian spy with orders to infiltrate the garden club and acquire seeds of Professor Grimsby's genetically altered rubber tree -- because it might thrive in Siberia.

5. Michael wants to be one of the glamorous fashion designers he loves, so when Satan offers him a fashion line of his own for his soul, he jumps at the chance. He never thought Satan would stick him with a line of plus-size clothes for a cheap catalog catering to trailer park clientele. Is there any way to cut the thread?

6. Halloween pirate Sidney Inkleby embellishes his nose and chin with putty, adds a few fake tattoos and a gold earring and rents one of the most fabulous costumes ever created by Madame Zelda, the devious sorceress of Springfield, who, unbeknownst to Sidney, casts a spell on him. When he steps out the front door, he won't be able to find the car -- because he'll be lost in 1748 Cuba.



Original Version

Dear Agent:

“Lovely?” I laughed out hysterically. “This isn’t lovely; this is far from even being nice. Holding me hostage, keeping me locked away in a tiny, windowless room isn’t entertaining. Being smacked around isn’t hysterically funny. [Not sure I can buy that one, as you were laughing hysterically three sentences ago.] Nearly becoming dinner a couple of times isn’t much fun either. Being stalked by a nameless skeezy idiot who thinks he’s god who thinks I’m ‘the one’ is far from being fabulous.” [First of all, we have no context for this speech. Apparently someone has just said to someone else, "Are you enjoying your lovely, nice, entertaining, hysterically funny, fun, fabulous stay in my closet?" but we don't know who either of them is, so all we know is someone's ranting to a bad person. Secondly, this is no way to open a business letter. The safest bets are to start with your purpose (I am seeking representation for...) or start with your title (Trapped in the Masquerade is a...) or start with your main character (Tammy Charles doesn't know what she's getting into when she enters the haunted hotel...).] He laughed a deep cold laugh. It seemed that he didn’t get the hint. “I love your spirit.” [These last sentences should be a separate paragraph, as we don't normally have two different people speaking in one paragraph.] [Of course, as we also don't normally open with an excerpt from the middle of the book, you'll be deleting everything up to this point.]

In a masquerade, nothing is as it seems, [Actually, I went to a masquerade once where everyone seemed to be a normal person wearing a mask, and it turned out they were all what they seemed.] [Well, except the kangaroo. It turned out to be a real kangaroo.] and Abby doesn’t know what is real, what is a dream and what is real [You already said real.] or magic, and who she can truly trust and who wants her dead until all masks are removed [, at which point she can come back to life]. [You're hitting us with too much vague information about someone we know nothing about. Drop that and start with the next sentence.] Trapped in the Masquerade (89,754 words) is a supernatural tale that explores the idea of destiny versus free will in an action-packed young adult fantasy novel. Abigail Clary’s seemingly sheltered but normal life comes to an end [I suspect most readers will take this to mean she dies. Also, "seemingly sheltered but normal" is not a good description. It's vague, and it implies that a seemingly sheltered life is rarely normal, when in fact the two adjectives don't have much connection, and there's no point in telling us her life seems sheltered if it isn't sheltered. I'm guessing her life, up to now, has been sheltered. I'd go with something like: Abigail Clary’s sheltered life takes a bizarre turn...] when she crashes Emerson Academy’s annual Halloween masquerade ball. The macabre outcomes from [events of] that night expose Abby to a magical garden, prophecies, and an unforgettable means of traveling through time. Abby tries to figure out who she truly is as she attempts to navigate [navigates] through a “cosmic pretzel” that interconnects Abby’s present time to 1273. As she explores her newly found magical powers, she finds herself in the middle of an unstoppable spell that means life or her death.

A novel is like a new pair of shoes; [it's hard to sell if it's too big or too small or too boring or if it has no "sole" so] you should fully try it out to see if the story is a good fit for you. [Fully try it out? Where do you buy your shoes?] I will be able to send the entire manuscript of Trapped in the Masquerade attached in an email on the day of your request or through the mail within five days [(I have a really slow printer)]. I sincerely hope you enjoy the story. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

This is way too vague. All we know about the plot is that Abby crashes Emerson Academy’s annual Halloween masquerade ball and apparently gains the magical power to go back in time to 1273. Trying to find out who she truly is means nothing to us. Finding herself in an unstoppable spell that could mean life or death could mean anything.

Start over. Dump the first and last paragraphs. Your first plot sentence can be: Abigail Clary’s sheltered life takes an unexpected turn when she crashes Emerson Academy’s annual Halloween masquerade ball. After that tell us what happens at the ball, focusing on the part where she develops magical powers. Then give us something about the significance of 1273, who the bad guy is, and what the bad guy wants from Abby. And conclude with the decision she must make that explores the idea of destiny versus free will.

Cartoon 756

Caption: Anon.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New Beginning 796

I can’t have been asleep for more than an hour, maybe two, when my bedroom door swings open with a long, shivering groan. I ignore it—the door never latches right in winter, and our apartment is draftier than a frilly skirt on a windy day.

But then there’s a touch on my foot, the barest hint of pressure on the duvet, and I am instantly, fully, awake.

“We’ve got company, Cupcake,” a voice says from the chair beside my bed.

“Thank you, Captain Obvious. Why did you let it in?”

“Last I checked, I wasn’t a doorman,” he says.

Still soundless, the thing continues its path around my bed, moving ever closer to where my head is resting on the pillow. I tuck my chin to my chest, shifting so the blankets cover most of my face, just in case. Ghosts won’t try to get physical, usually, not if my oh-so-helpful partner Zeke is around. But it never hurts to be cautious.

“Gross,” Zeke says, and even though I know better I open my eyes.

I relax. It's not a ghost after all. But Zack is still tense.

"For craps sake," he says. "You know I don't mind you writing that stuff, Honey. And I have no issue with you spending hours online every day with your research. And I never once complained when you invited him to stay here for a few days, even when the few days turned into a few months. But damn it, Cupcake, does he have to keep coming in here half naked and 'hanging out' on our bed?"

Evil Editor clears his throat, scratches himself, and tucks his balls back into his shorts.



Opening: Mary Miltner.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 755

Caption: Anon.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

New Beginning 795

The afternoon was colder than normal, but the sun helped shield my body from the icy nip. Rachel was still at work, which meant I was the one who had to rake the leaves. The wind picked up a little, so I raked faster, so my leaf piles wouldn’t blow away. I bent down to stuff the leaves in a brown biodegradable bag. The wind suddenly stopped like someone flipped a switch. I looked up, and my breath caught as I stared at the most beautiful man I have ever seen leaning casually against the birch tree in front of me.

The beautiful man pushed himself off the tree and came sauntering towards me with a long stride. I stood up to run, but my legs refused to work. He stopped an inch from me, breathing steadily. His face was so beautiful that it could have inspired works of the great masters and driven unfathomable fear into those painters simultaneously. His pallid skin wrinkled around the edges of his full lips, the right side of his mouth moving a little more upwards than to the left as a frighteningly beautiful smile spread across the perfect face.

As his eyes met mine I realized belatedly that his incredibly beautiful irises were green, and not the green of a summer birch leaf, but the green that might have caused the wreck of the Titanic if the captain had looked into the eyes of a woman whose irises were that same color of green at the same time his ship was approaching the iceberg. His gorgeous pupils were slightly dilated, and as black as a raven eating licorice at midnight. His scary but freakishly ravishing corneas were like clear lenses through which beauty was amplified to the nth degree.

Finally, I could take it no longer. I said to him, "You, know, I could describe more than just the parts of your eyes if you had stopped a little more than one inch from me."



Opening: Monika Pardon.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Cartoon 754

Caption: Anon.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Feature 9


Two Sundays ago I requested scary stories for October. Here are the first two to come in. You still have till Halloween to get them in, and as in past years, you may submit oral versions rather than written if you wish.



1.

"Darling, someone's in the house. I heard a noise from the bathroom." Sheila the she-ghost sat up, her nightgown shimmering.

"Yes dear. It's EE. He's the new owner. He bought the house," Howard the he-ghost mumbled and rolled over, yanking all the blankets over his shoulders. A Springer Spaniel scratched at the door to the room and whined.

"He's got a dog in our house! Doesn't he know I'm allergic to dog hair?"

"We're haunting him, remember? It was your coven's idea." Howard sighed into the pillow and smacked his lips. It wasn't morning breath yet but it was getting there. Sheila, determined to have her husband do his husbandly duty, pulled the blanket off and smacked his bare butt. Gossamer waves of cold mist spread across the room. "Get out there. Are you a man or a mouse?"

"Woooooooo..." He reached and thumped the floor like a heartbeat.

"Eeeeeeeeeee..." Her moans floated through the house.

Belches, groans and nether-region noises echoed from the tile walls. A nearly living vaporous emission capable of bug control and EPA sanction spread from the bathroom door across the master bedroom. The ethereal waves of psychic energy turned green, quivered and evaporated. Shiela's moans turned into gags. Howard rolled off the bed in one thump.

"This is the man you wanted to publish your book?" Spectral tears glimmered as they rolled down Sheila's cheeks.

"That was the blog talk." Howard blew out a cloud of frothy plasma. It freshened the air and created a cold room for them to materialize. EE unleashed another series of belches, groans and nether-region noises. Sheila and Howard fled through the window toward a beam of starlight from Polaris.

EE stood alone in his house. "I refuse to be haunted by rejected writers. All it takes is a hearty meal of asparagus, garlic, three bean salad and hummus and the ghosts leave."

--Dave F.


2.

When the moon grows cold and the night winds blow
And the ghosts of those who met his gaze
Bemoan their cruel fates with tears of sorrow
Now is time the for great fear of New York to wander free
And save the life of an innocent tree

They cry out in fear and horror
Their lives ruined, their dreams ablaze
With fire from his eyes a constant terror
They leap from buildings, bridges, or flee
For they have queried
The mighty EE.

--Khazar-khum

Friday, October 15, 2010

Face-Lift 832


Guess the Plot

The Devil You Know

1. You must choose to spend the rest of your life on an island with one of the following: Matthew McConaughey or Ed "Prison" King.

2. A new "Devil" mystery/fantasy/romance/memoir/thriller series. To be followed by: The Devil Made Me Do It, The Devil You Say!, Devil in a Blue Dress and You Devil You. With titles like these, who needs a plot?

3. Angel sees dead people. She thought they were ghosts, but it turns out what she's been seeing are demons, and they force her to choose eternal damnation or insanity. Are the living conditions better in hell or an asylum?

4. They say the devil you know is better than the one you don't. But after dating Ba'alzriel for six long years with no end in sight, Aramythia is ready to look for a new squeeze. After all, there are plenty to choose from in Hell.

5. When Hannah first meets her new college roommate, Giselle strikes her as a little odd. Nice enough, but a trifle . . . off. And that's before Hannah notices the horns, the tail, and the smoking cloven hoofprints that Giselle leaves on the carpet.

6. Executed serial killer Ed Parker Hull, awaiting his afterlife fate, finds both Satan and Adramelech vying for his soul. One he's never heard of, the other has a pretty bad reputation. Is it better to sign on with . . . The Devil You Know?



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Angel Dawson sees dead people. [It's sort of a sixth sense. Spoiler alert: she's dead.] The problem is she doesn’t see them well. [She sees them like she's looking at them through her windshield and she didn't scrape off the ice.] “Blessed” with just enough of the sight that ghosts think she can help them [Help them what?] —and get really ticked off when she can’t—Angie has to spend [spends] every second with her ghostly partner Zeke, who amplifies her meager abilities and keeps the not-so-departed from taking their frustrations out on her. [Not clear what you mean by her meager abilities. Her ability to see dead people? If he amplifies this ability, why doesn't she see them well?] Usually, anyway.

As if that isn’t claustrophobic enough, Angie’s mom puts the “over” in overprotective, going as far as restricting her access to friends and taking her out of school to work full time as a spectral liaison with the local police department. [So Mom knows Angie sees dead people. Does Mom know about Zeke?] It’s not at all the sort of life Angie wants, and she’s desperate for a change. [Why does Mom force her to work for the police?]

Be careful what you ask for.

Angie’s mom dies and Zeke confesses that her whole life has been a lie. He’s not a ghost—he’s a demon. And Angie is a demonseer. [Is that a person who sees demons or a seer who's a demon or a seer who knows what demons are planning to do or . . . ?] [It sounds like Zeke's life is the one that was a lie. He knew he was a demon. Angie didn't know she was a demonseer, and if you think you're telling the truth, as I told the judge during my perjury trial, it's not exactly a lie.] As bleak as her prospects were before they’re worse now; she can either deal with the demons stalking her, and be corrupted, or she can refuse and be driven insane. ["Deal with" seems to mean "work with." Cooperate. I'd say "work with," as "deal with" has other possible meanings.]

She immediately knows which she'll choose. Being crazy was never in her life plan but when the alternative is eternal damnation, life in an asylum starts to look [looks] pretty good. But then she helps the police with one last case and brings herself to the attention of a particularly nasty demon. He wants to deal. [I get the impression "deal" has a special meaning in the demon world. If so, I would leave it (and demonseer) out of the query unless you explain what they mean.]

And he’s not taking “No” for an answer.

Written for the young adult market, “The Devil You Know” is complete at 75,000 words and may appeal to fans of Richelle Mead and PC and Kristin Cast. Sample pages are included below and the full manuscript is available upon request.

Thank you for your time,


Notes

How does Angie know she'll go insane if she doesn't deal?

Sending your daughter off to work for the police as a spectral liaison is being more protective than sending her to school? Either the job is safer than it sounds or the school is a war zone.

The first paragraph isn't setting up the situation clearly enough. She sees dead people. The dead people want what from her? Maybe you should skip all that and start:

16-year-old Angel Dawson is a demonseer, a person who can see and communicate with demons. She'd like to be attending high school with the other kids, but the police need her as a full time "spectral liaison."

This gets you to the crucial deal/insanity decision and the nasty demon more quickly, allowing you plenty of room to tell us what happens.

Cartoon 753

Caption: Anon.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Beginning 794

Anaïs quickly parked her car in the lot. She threw the car door open and ran up to the front door of the daycare center. She rang the doorbell over and over, cursing her friend Mary for not being fast enough. She paused for a moment and raised her hand ready to knock on the door. After a hearing locks clicking open, she let out a sigh of relief. The door opened slightly as a face peered from inside. Then it was flung open.

“Oh, Ana, it’s just you! Why you here so early? It’s only two.” Mary saw the look on Anaïs’s face. “Is something wrong? Did something happen?”

Anaïs shook her head, “ No—well, I don’t know. Aalando called me at work. Said it was urgent. I just came to pick up Angelesa.”

“Alright,” Mary stepped inside, “I’ll get Angie.”

Anaïs followed Mary in and made a beeline to the cubby shelves, picking her diaper bag. She tossed it onto her shoulder while Mary put Angelesa’s shoes and light jacket on. She picked up picked up the small toddler and handed her to her mother. Anaïs smiled. “Thanks Mary.”

Before she could turn to leave, Mary asked, “Really, Ana? Is everything okay?”

Anaïs looked away. She looked at Angelesa who was waving goodbye to Mary’s daughter who peaked at them from the doorway to the playroom. Anaïs met Mary’s eyes. “I don’t know what’s going yet, but I may have to ask you to keep Angelesa for a few days.”

She looked at the door and considered how to manage the knob. Switching her baby to her other arm, she reached for the door and pulled it open. Much better; she was, of course, right-handed. Passing through, she paused to transfer Angelesa to her other arm and pulled the door shut with her left hand, as was only natural: she was on the other side now, of course.

The steps to the street she negotiated in the usual manner, one foot after the other, poising one firmly in place while lowering the other until it was itself reliably settled. At last, she reached the sidewalk and began her journey, mindful at all times of the precise sequence of actions that were required to convey her to her destination. Fortunately, as she was in a hurry after all, she'd found a parking place near the front of the lot. At her car, solutions were required to deal with a new set of conditions: where to hold Angelesa while she searched for her keys; securing the baby in the car seat; starting the car; accurately selecting the proper gear, depending on whether she'd parked head-in or out; applying just the right amount of pressure to the accelerator to assure effective but not reckless motion; it was daunting, the plethora of details one had to deal with to accomplish the simplest tasks in life.

She had to pause and think; at this rate no one, least of all she herself, would ever find out what was going on.


Opening: Xiexie.....Continuation: Paul Penna

Cartoon 752

Caption: Anon.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Face-Lift 831

Guess the Plot

Mad as a Hatter

1. Desperate to pay for prom, Bobby Phillips takes a job manning a baseball cap kiosk at the mall. He was told never to sell Merlin's Kansas City Monarchs cap, but when tipped $100 by a midget in a tuxedo, Bobby didn't heed the warning. Now, killer butterflies are attacking Missouri…and prom may be canceled.

2. A serial killer is haunting London, leaving a quote from Alice in Wonderland at the scene of each of his murders. Can Officer James stop him before he quotes the Mock Turtle?

3. Dubbed "The Hatter," This plot has been removed due to copyright infringement. For permission please contact the estate of Lewis Carroll.

4. When the body of Johnny Depp, actor beloved for his portrayal of the Mad Hatter in "Alice in Wonderland", is found impaled on a stuffed marlin, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: Depp was too short to get to the fish on his own, and he might want to get his daughter that bunny she wants.

5. Released through a computer error from an asylum for the criminally insane, serial killer "Duncan Punkin" runs for president. His disarming charm soon has him rising in the polls. The occasional disappearance of campaign staff hardly draws notice. Will the American electorate wake up in time?

6. Beginning with studies of mercury poisoning in the hatmaking trade and continuing through asbestos and miner's lung. Who knew industrial disease could be so much fun?



Original Version

Dear EE,

London, 1882.

Seven years ago, Emil Aleric and his sister were kidnapped. Emil survived [by jumping down a rabbit hole]. His sister didn't. So when he hears news of a serial killer rampaging London, [Rampaging through London is what you mean, although serial killers seldom rampage through anything, so maybe it should be ravaging London.] he's convinced that his former abductor is on the move again. [You should give us more information up front so that we understand why he thinks it's the same guy.] The peculiarities of the murders-- a note quoting Alice in Wonderland is found at each scene-- go hand in hand with the name his tormentor fashioned for himself: The Hatter. When his guardian, Officer Corwin James, is put in charge of the case, Emil thinks it must be fate. [If we rearrange the information, something like:

Seven years ago, Emil Aleric and his sister were kidnapped by a man who called himself . . . The Hatter!! Emil survived. His sister didn't. So when he hears news of a serial killer ravaging London and leaving a note quoting Alice in Wonderland at each murder scene, Emil is convinced that his former abductor is on the prowl again. And when his guardian, Officer Corwin James, is put in charge of the case, he thinks it must be fate.

. . . Emil's theory seems logical the moment we hear it.]

Corwin's not to [too] keen on Emil having anything to do with the case, but Emil's extensive knowledge of [Alice in Wonderland and of] the murderer's methods is too invaluable to waste. [Just call it "Invaluable." Or "too valuable to waste."] Yet as the two get closer and closer to tracking the man down, Emil realizes exactly what confronting his past will mean. He can live with the nightmares [about the Jabberwock]. But if he fails to avenge his sister's death, he doesn't know how he'll live with himself-- if he lives at all.

Complete at 51,000 words, MAD AS A HATTER is a YA historical novel written in alternating points of view. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

Did you look into whether Alice was already being referred to as Alice in Wonderland in 1882, or whether that shortening of the title was the result of later plays/films?

An example of how Emil's extensive knowledge of the killer's methods proves useful would help demonstrate that he's the protagonist, and not just a tool of James.

Cartoon 751

Caption: anon.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New Beginning 793


Macey usually got home precisely at five-forty-five, feet aching from a set of red velvet heels that were a birthday gift from her sister and head aching from her boss who is a jerk, but none of that happened today. Well her boss is still a jerk, but she had worn the blue heels today, instead of the red ones and as it turned out that made all the difference. For one thing they hurt a lot less than the red ones, but more importantly Mat had noticed the change.

He said, “Hey are those new shoes?”

Macey blushed and said, “Why yes they are.”

Unfortunately that’s as far as the conversation went with Mat. However Peter had asked her out on a date. That’s why Macey came home especially early today. She parked the Toyota her dad gave her in the driveway and trotted into her apartment with a big smile on her face. Kicking her heels off at the door, she strode into the kitchen and made a sandwich before jumping into the shower. Her pits were very hairy because she hadn’t had the opportunity to get laid for at least a year and Macey firmly believed in not shaving unless she had a man, which was remarkably hard since she kind of looked like a man.

After shaving her pits and trimming away the worst of her chest hair, Macey reached for the sandwich, but now it was soggy and covered in soap and shaving cream, so it had been a waste of time making it.

Macey slipped into a sexy dress and, of course, her blue heels. She ran to answer the doorbell when it rang, expecting Peter at the door. Instead, Chris was there, holding a bouquet of flowers.

He said, "Nice shoes."

Macey grinned and replied, "Thanks."

The conversation continued for a minute and he asked her out. She was sad to tell him no, but Peter would be here any minute. She gently closed the door her mom had given her and went to sit, not in the green chair that she usually sat in (given to her by her brother), but in the antique purple one that her grandfather's cousin's best friend's niece's boyfriend's uncle's son had given her.

When Peter came, Macey smiled at him and he drove her off in the red Ford. They strolled into the McDonald's, where he had a reservation. At the table next to them, Ben sat with a juicy brown Big Mac clasped in his hands.

He said, "Hi, Macey! Are those the new shoes I gave you?"


Opening: Ray.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 750

Caption: Anon.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Face-Lift 830


Guess the Plot

In Love and Law

1. Written in the style of a Regency romance, an in-depth exploration of the consequences of twenty-first century information technology on intellectual property law as it specifically pertains to the Regency romance genre.

2. It's a case not even John Grisham wants to solve. Who murdered the in-laws?

3. How will straight-laced lawyer Jimmy Halpern manage the brothel his grandmother just bequeathed him--when he can't even seduce the new judge?

4. Allison puts off a social life to become a major player at a big law firm. Then she goes looking for love. But after falling for Brian she discovers that he's a judge! Should she dump him on the grounds that she can't try cases in front of a guy she's romantically involved with, or should she quit the law and try med school?

5. Ginevra has never met her sister's fiance, David--until the wedding. Ginevra is maid of honor. During the ceremony her eyes meet his, and when he says "I do" she feels he is speaking to her. Before David and his new wife leave for the honeymoon, can Ginevra make him see that he was meant to be with his . . . In Love In-Law?

6. Erica hires a divorce attorney who turns out to be the wife of her husband's divorce attorney. Not only that, she falls in love with her husband's divorce attorney, and her husband falls in love with her divorce attorney. It's kind of like they're all trapped in a Shakespearean comedy.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Allison Knowles has dedicated the last five years of her life to establishing her career as a litigator for a large Indianapolis law firm, sacrificing her social life in the process. Now that Allison has reached her dream career, she’s ready to shift her focus to finding love. She quickly meets Brian, her ideal man, and soon believes she has everything she’s ever wanted, until she discovers Brian is a federal magistrate judge. [She discovers it? Surely his occupation came up no later than their first date, so did he lie?] Allison knows the rules—attorneys can’t try cases before judges they’re dating, but is true love worth jeopardizing her career? [I assume one normally hires an attorney before knowing which judge will be presiding, so it would have to be the judge's responsibility to recuse himself if his lover's case were assigned to him.

Judge: Sir, I'm afraid you'll have to hire a different attorney.

Accused: Why?!]


Judge: Because I'm sleeping with that one.

Accused: Hey, why do you think I hired her?]

When Allison learns there are other secrets in Brian’s life too, [He's also a professional expert witness and was once convicted of jury tampering.] her decision is easily made, and she breaks up with him. [I don't think you need to learn other secrets once you discover your man lied about his occupation.] Convincing herself she’s moved on, Allison begins dating Patrick. He’s tall, dark, and handsome, not to mention eager to marry Allison. Best of all, Allison can date Patrick without sacrificing her career. [Not necessarily. What if Patrick is accused of murder and Allison acts as his attorney and the case is tried in front of Brian, who is still resentful because Allison dumped him?] [I highly recommend changing your book so that this actually happens.] Everything is perfect, except that Allison can’t stop thinking about Brian. [That's like saying this chocolate cake is perfect, except that they forgot the sugar and the chocolate.] And when Brian reappears in Allison’s life [as the judge in Patrick's murder trial], she quickly finds herself weaving a tangled web of lies and questioning the same ethics code she pledged to uphold. As Allison forges ahead, searching for a way to have it all—to keep the job she loves and a man she needs, moral lines blur and Allison begins to wonder if something so wrong can ever be right. Allison must decide what truly matters most to her in life, and her ultimate choice surprises even herself.

In Love and Law is a 98,000-word novel about love, life and working with the law.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

You need to make it clear why dating a judge is "something so wrong." I don't see one Indianapolis attorney crossing paths with one federal judge so often that her firm would replace her if she were dating him. And I don't see that it's an ethical issue as long as she and the judge aren't on the same case.

The guy's gonna have to tell Allison he's a judge at some point, and she's not gonna be happy with him when he does, so the only point in waiting is that he wants to get her in the sack before she calls it off. So why does she want anything to do with the guy? And what makes her think she isn't just his fling of the month?

Wait, did Patrick tell her he was a federal magistrate judge and she found out he was a busboy?

We don't need Patrick. Just say she's moving on, dating other men, when suddenly Brian shows up at her door, selling magazine subscriptions. Or whatever brings them back together. What is this tangled web of lies and the ethics quandary? That seems to be a crucial plot point.

If this is a romance and Allison ends up with Brian, you need to make him sound more sympathetic. As it stands, we aren't rooting for that to happen.

If you have any experience with the law, you might add a line or two to that effect.