Monday, January 31, 2011

Success Story



Steve Prosapio reports that his novel GHOSTS OF ROSEWOOD ASYLUM (Facelift 679) will be published in June by Otherworld Publishing.

Steve kindly (and justifiably) gives 100% of the credit to us.

New Beginning 829

There was something odd about Strangley Lane. Actually, there were many things odd about Strangley Lane. The houses along the lane were odd, as were the people who lived in them. The little newsagent’s shop was odd, and sold odd things. The church was odd, with odd little gargoyles peering down from the steeple. Even the vicar, who preached from the pulpit, was not as you would expect; yet oddly, the congregation never seemed to notice.

The only person in Strangley Lane who wasn’t odd was Spud. -- though isn’t being the only person who isn’t odd, just a little bit odd?

They called him Spud because you can’t get much more ordinary than a potato.

It was said the name Strangley came from the fact that the path led to the gallows which dispatched the black of heart in the olden days. It was said that it was the daily passage of condemned souls through the village that had imparted much of the oddness on the lane. Spud thought otherwise.

Rather, he thought to himself in an oddly quotidian manner, the oddness was an artifact of the town's long defunct lithium mine and refinery just outside town limits. The half dozen spires still appeared to respire scant wisps of effluvium from time to time, even though the doors had closed many years ago, and the condemned souls no longer passed through the village on their way to the lithium industry's oddly meagre employ.

No, the oddness had its fores within the boundaries of what was rumoured to have been a failed Superfund site, despite the assurances of the oddly agreeable team of remediations specialists sent by Union Carbide. They appeared, and as quickly disappeared, shortly after the outsourcing of the entire plant's production to an oddly aboriginal village unencumbered by the profit-trimming burdens of minimum wage and child labor laws, and other bourgeoisie constraints to free enterprise.

Soon thereafter, the dankmoat encircling the former compound began spreading even as the edges crumbled inward with a curious alkali exudate that never completely dried. Every spring, since the mine's entrance had been shuttered and the refinery's whistle silenced, clots of granular yet oddly viscous ordure percolated through the ground like grim fairy circles. The breezes had always carried the oddly metallic scent of proto-pharmaceutical production out over the river, and only on the warmest nights did the town become bathed in the refinery's distinctive odor. "Uncle Carbide's in town again," the residents would whisper, oddly complacent and unruffled by the fine slurry of metallic silt that accumulated in their gutters and sifted into their oddly planted gardens.

Spud secretly relished his ordinariness; a silent rebellion against the even oddness of the populace. He'd never experienced the hair loss, dry mouth, itching, or joint pain of the news agent, or the constipation, gas, bloating and restlessness of the blacksmith. Nor had he been subject to the village idiot's inability to control shaking a body part; let alone his frequent urination. The vicar's crossed eyes seemed to linger a bit longer on him than he'd thought appropriate for a man of his station, but perhaps it was just the excess saliva in the vicar's mouth that seemed, well, odd.

His wife, a pale, acned lass with thin, brittle hair and a slurred manner of speech, considered him oddly appealing despite his mundane demeanour and unexceptional appearance. Not long after their first awkward kiss at the foot of the old gallows, she bestowed him with the moniker he carried, a result of an oddly memorable date that resulted in the need for immediate medical attention. His erection had lasted more than four hours before becoming painful, but he'd experienced a sudden, severe loss of vision and a rash before fainting away. This man, she told herself, would be hers, if he survived.

"Spud", she softly called to him as he lay in the doctor's anteroom, awaiting his return. "My poor spud, my spud horse, my love. I'll pake care of you, I'll pry anything, anything at all, just pell me you'll live."


Opening: anon......Continuation: Mistress Claudia Balzac

Success Story


Dave F. reports:

"The Night Dickie Ward's Tongue Stuck To The Flagpole," which was New Beginning 822 (the plot turned out to be that three teenage brothers confront an alien threat in the Ice Hockey Rink circa late 40's early 50's), was accepted and will be published in the anthology "DIESELPUNK" edited by Sean Monaghan.

BTW - I really liked the way this story turned out. The minions get credit for the first 2/3rds and the turn to dieselpunk clarified the ending. That is, no modern equipment.

The anthology is still open so if anyone has a short story that fits Dieselpunk subgenre or if they can fix up a story to fit the subgenre, they should go to http://www.staticmovement.com/ which is Static Movement's main page and find this link
"http://staticmovement.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=seanmonaghan&action=display&thread=310 to the Dieselpunk Anthology.

For those who don't know: Steampunk's bastard cousin, Dieselpunk looks for speculative fiction filled with rugged, chunky engines but no sign of electronics. What would the would be like if we still had those huge 1950s aircraft, locomotives, tanks and cars, but no computers?

Cartoon 830

Caption: anon.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Feature 24


I searched BN.com for books about grammar and found ten that had amusing titles. Then I made up six additional titles. Your job is to figure out which of the following titles are not grammar books available at BN.com.


Woe is I
Spunk and Bite
Anguished English
Comma Chameleon
Linguistics for Losers
The Great Typo Hunt
The Elephants of Style
Origins of the Specious
How to Write Good, Period
Not Your Gramma's Grammar
The Years of Talking Dangerously
When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It
Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies
The Grammar Geek Settles the Arguments
Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages
Punctuation is for Pussies: How the Internet Made Grammar Irrelevant



Answers Below



The fake titles are:


Comma Chameleon
Linguistics for Losers
How to Write Good, Period
Not Your Gramma's Grammar
The Grammar Geek Settles the Arguments

Punctuation is for Pussies: How the Internet Made Grammar Irrelevant

Friday, January 28, 2011

Face-Lift 864


Guess the Plot

The Time Weaver

1. Mihelia, Goddess of Time, must keep playing her enchanted harp so that the strands of time will work in harmony. When Blajer, God of Misrule, starts plucking her strings, events begin to cascade wildly out of sequence. Can she get her harp back into time before Jorus, King of the Gods, gets angry?

2. Cottage industry is thrown into chaos when popular hand-woven mats suddenly transport their hapless owners back in time. Will the middle-class, Prius-driving vegans survive the brutal Stone Age long enough to figure out a way home? Or is Etsy doomed to collapse?

3. As his 30th birthday approaches, Seth suddenly stops the flow of time. Then he finds himself in an alternate universe where wizards on two sides in a war want to harness his power. But all that pales in comparison to the ancient evil that threatens to consume the fabric of space and time and destroy both universes . . . unless Seth stops it.

4. After the straw-to-gold incident, Rumplestiltzkin changed his name to Phil and retired to Bermuda. When the sorcerer who's conquering the world kicks him off his island, Phil decides to get revenge using thread spun from hourglass sand and a spider named Arachne. Also, knitting.

5. Forget time lines- how about a time potholder? God's eye? Macramé plant hanger? Because this is exactly the problem the Time Weaver faces when his daughter, Clockie, gets into his office and runs off with his time threads. Your life's about to be tied into knots, just like his.

6. It is the year 2039, and "Time for a Challenge" is the most popular game show in the solar system. Rex does fine with the more physical challenges, but how can he hope to compete when it's... Weaving Time?


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

As a child, Seth sat enthralled through his fathers [father's] vivid stories of sword and sorcery. When his father vanished, it prompted five-year-old Seth to put the stories behind him and live for reality. [I'm not sure what "live for reality" means, but five seems a bit young to decide to do it. In fact, it's a bit young to be making any decisions about your life.] Now he has a house, a car, a good job and a date for his thirtieth birthday. [Not bad for a five-year-old. Although that's way too early to be scheduling a date for his thirtieth birthday.] But all of that changes as a dormant gene awakens within Seth and stops the flow of time. [The worst part is, with time stopped he'll never get to his thirtieth birthday, and he was really looking forward to that date.]

In an alternate universe, the kingdom of Findoor sits on the brink of war with a dark and powerful warlord determined to exact revenge on the land that banished him. [Is time stopped in this universe or just in Seth's universe? If time is stopped, how can anything happen? As I recall, when time stops, everyone freezes in place. Except one person. I saw it on Twilight Zone.] Tensions build between the two factions, with skirmishes breaking out along the Findoor borders. [I'm not sure I'd refer to the kingdom as a faction. If John McCain was pissed about losing the last election and attacked us, you wouldn't call the United States a faction.] [Also, when there's a powerful warlord determined to exact revenge on you, tensions don't build, they're already maxed out.] Wizards on both sides discover a force that will spell a swift end to the war for the side that obtains it. That force is Seth. [Is Seth in their universe or have the wizards detected his existence in his own universe? I don't remember him moving to a new universe.]

Seth struggles to control his new-found powers [What are his powers, besides stopping time?] while being led through a world of magic and creatures unlike anything he has ever known. [Okay, now he's in the wizards' universe, or possibly Venice Beach. But how did he get there? Does stopping time equal switching universes?] Eventually Seth learns that there is more to the escalating war than just black versus white. Something darker and more ancient stirs, an evil that spans generations, and threatens to consume the fabric of space and time. Seth must overcome his own doubt and disbelief to defeat this evil, or watch both worlds get annihilated. [Suddenly the query has gone vague. Plus, it sounds like this evil darker something is the main villain of the novel, in which case maybe we should work it into the query earlier, cutting some of the backstory. Perhaps open with the awakening gene, even if it means we don't find out about Seth's birthday date.]

THE TIME WEAVER, an 80,000-word fantasy, leaves an unlikely hero in a world that is not his own, with an ability he never wanted, and fighting a war he didn't start. [It's a rare person who can claim to have started a war he's fighting in.]


Notes

Can you make it clear how Seth's power can make it easy to win the war? Can he stop time just for one side? Or is it his other powers they want?

If an awakened dormant gene stopped the flow of time, how can it be started again?

Cartoon 829

Caption: Mother (Re)produces

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

New Beginning 828

“There's a storm coming, Mum!” Aimon Alexander hefted the bag of scuba gear over the side of his mother's jet boat, turning to face her as she walked down the front steps of their seaside cottage. “Look at the Reef – I saw lightning!” He gestured at the distant cumulus cluster steadily gathering grey. The sight of the churning clouds made his hands sticky with sweat and the hair rise on the back of his neck.

"It's all right," she said. "You've got the bag in the right place. Now just start the boat and let her go."

"OK." He turned the key. The boat rewarded him with a deep, angry roar. Leaping from the stern, he watched as the boat nosed her way into the sea. Soon he lost sight of the white mass amongst the choppy waves.

"See?" said his mother. "All taken care of."

"Will we get her back?" asked Aimon. "I liked Swiftrunner.

"Maybe. But if we don't, we can get you another one, all right?"

He nodded. His mother was right: this was much cheaper than a divorce, and far less messy.


Opening: GN Forester.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

Cartoon 828

Caption: Anon.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Face-Lift 863


Guess the Plot

The Forest's Paw

1. Trees spring up in the middle of the interstate, rabbit warrens pop up mid-game on the football field. Humans are toast. After centuries of being burnt, made into furniture and eaten, Flora and Fauna have banded together for revenge.

2. When the great redwood forest is threatened by a greedy developer, Alya the fairy must convince her people to stop their eternal war with the elves and join together to keep their forest free. Also, the Wolf King.

3. Drake comes from a long line of smugglers, conmen, lumberjacks and polluting industrialists. When he decides to run for governor on an eco-platform, (un)natural disasters ensue.

4. A giant bear has been sleeping for centuries, and now, there's a whole forest growing on his back. When meddlesome hikers awaken him, can they escape... The Forest's Paw?

5. Bess is trying to protect the last earth spirit from assassins with the help of a goat-boy, but what hope do they have against the vicious vegetation, hideous harpies and murderous mermaids they encounter?

6. More people have disappeared there than in the Bermuda Triangle, so many that the area's been declared off-limits to hikers. Naturally that only inspires Brad and Chelsea to explore . . . The Forest's Paw.


Original Version


Dear Evil Editor,

When Bess finds a tiny, half-drowned wolf cub, it seems harmless. And it is, more or less. Unfortunately, those pursuing it are quite the opposite. Soon Bess is running from the Givers, beautiful assassins who want to kill her and capture the wolf, [They sound more like Takers than Givers.] who is really the last free earth spirit. They act for the Black Angels, self-appointed dictators, in an attempt to regain their magic. [Is that the Givers' magic or the dictators' magic?] It will mean the death of all the earth spirits, and the plants they protect, if they succeed.

Bess is in too deep to turn back when she realises they’re chasing her wolf. Leaving her uncomfortable but once safe home, [It's already been established that she's running from assassins and that it's too late to turn back, yet now you declare that she's leaving her home.] she makes her way to the Black Angels’ lair to free the other spirits. Along the way, she teams up with an immature goat-boy, a cheerful child, an obnoxious woman and a glowing cluster of moths. Her courage is tested as they face vicious vegetation, hideous harpies and murderous mermaids. [One list is plenty for a query; I recommend dumping the alliterative one. Mostly because the alliteration is annoying, but also because it leads me to wonder what mermaids are doing in a forest.] [You can drop the cheerful child from the other list as well, not only because of the alliteration, but because once you've mentioned the immature goat-boy, we won't care about any allies or enemies except the immature goat-boy.] That she never knew so many of the dangers even existed, that her ‘cub’ keeps growing in size, and that everyone seems to have their own secrets only further complicates matters, not to mention the love triangle Bess is unknowingly a part of. [Is the immature goat-boy part of the love triangle? Please say Yes.] [This list of complications is vague and most of the items on it don't seem like big complications anyway, and what about the immature goat-boy?]

At least she can see the ghosts of animals. That’s always useful.

THE FOREST’S PAW is a completed 67,000 young adult, fantasy novel. It is a stand-alone with series potential.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours sincerely,


Notes

I would mention either the Givers or the Black Angels as the bad guys. We don't need both in the query.

Focus on Bess's goal and her plan. I'd scrap everything after she makes her way to the Black Angels' lair, and tell us what happens after she gets there instead of what characters she met along the way.

They may not use any title you come up with, but try to come up with something that sounds like it makes sense.

Cartoon 827

Caption: Whirlochre

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Beginning 827

“I’ve got nothing to do,” I told Mum.

“I’ve got a headache. You need to play quietly, Oliver.”

“Playing quietly is boring. It’s not fun without Jack.”

But Mum had already shut the door to her bedroom. Why did all my toys look so dull whenever Jack was out? Maybe there was something fun in the kitchen.

Nope, the tidy kitchen was as quiet as the rest of the house. What about the fridge? I wasn’t hungry. Well, not really hungry. Not hungry enough to eat a carrot, but I would munch on something tasty.

And that’s when I saw it. How could I have forgotten yesterday’s birthday dinner?

The cake. The fattest, squashiest cake ever. It was so tall it couldn’t fit in your mouth, even if you opened up as wide as it could go. It was a moist, gooey chocolate cake that stuck to your tongue. There was a shiny frosting on top, so deep that the red cherries sunk almost all the way through. A layer of raspberry jam ran through the middle, so the top and bottom bits stuck together.

It looked so yumalicious.

There wasn’t much left. How could this wedge be shared between us all? It would need to be cut into tiny, thin bits for everyone.

But what if the cake had gone bad? Then nobody would be able to eat it.

I had to make sure that it was still ok.

Very carefully, I lifted the cake from the fridge. It looked fine. I had a sniff. What a sweet, creamy smell.

But how could I be sure it was still good?

“Hey, buddy. What'cha got? Some cake?”

I turned around, and there was Jack! His fur shone in the morning light through the kitchen window, and his silly floppy ears were waving around. He smiled, showing his funny buck teeth.

“I'm just making sure it's okay.” I held the plate out to him. “Want some?”

“No thanks, pal. I'm an herbivore.” He looked at the kitchen door. “Where's your mum?”

“Aw, she's lying down. She has a headache again.”

“Hmm.” Jack frowned. “Maybe we should check her.”

I set the plate on the counter, and started measuring a slice with the knife. “What do you mean, Jack?”

“You know-- take a look inside. Make sure everything's tick-tock and shipshape. Like with the cake.”

I decided on a fair-sized piece. Pretty big, but not so huge Da would be cross. He told Mum I was 'porky', one night when they thought I was asleep. “You're silly, Jack.”

“Well, if you don't care about her...”

Same old Jack, with his games. 'Let's see what's inside puppies'. 'Let's find out what makes kittens go'. 'Let's make Danny Haskins stop taking your lunch'. I cut the cake and put a chunk in my mouth, pressing it flat to fit. Raspberry filling oozed over my fingers. I dropped the knife into the sink so I could lick my hands. “Are you sure you don't want some?” My voice was muffled, but Jack always understood me. “It's yumalicious.”

Jack shook his head. “I should'a picked a skinny kid,” he muttered.


Opening: Anony Mouse.....Continuation: Sean

Cartoon 826

Caption: Marissa Doyle

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Success Story

Dave F. reports:

Static Movement picked up my short story "Roll Another Joint For me, Baby!" (New Beginning 779).

It will appear in an Anthology titled Like Frozen Statues of Flesh: A Bizarro Anthology. The anthology should appear sometime in the summer.

Thanks to EE and everyone else for the help and encouragement.

Monday, January 24, 2011

New Resource

I can ill afford to let anyone who comes to this site with a query letter take it elsewhere, as there are currently zero (0) queries in the queue. Nonetheless, I've been asked to mention that there's a new site called Query Goblin, where you may send your query and have it rewritten but without receiving EE's humor and comments (which may be the only reason you haven't sent your query to EE).

Face-Lift 862


Guess the Plot

Sins of the Past

1. If having Vlad Tepes as a distant ancestor is wrong, I don't wanna be right.

2. An overzealous pastor stumbles across a time machine and sets out to convert every accursed heathen through history.

3. When a retired teacher of special needs students is murdered, police immediately suspect her former students were seeking revenge for all the past times she made them confess to being naughty, even when they weren't.

4. When the director of the Natural History Museum turns up half submerged in the La Brea Tar Pits, homicide Detective Zack Martinez knows two things: anthropology is a dirty business, and he'd better pick up a stuffed woolly mammoth from the gift shop for the kids.

5. In 2045 the Earth’s climate is wildly unpredictable because of decades of CO2 emissions. Ussiah, a Mennonite priest, can forecast the weather with meticulous accuracy. When a massive hurricane heads toward the US coast, the government asks Ussiah to predict its path, but he refuses to cooperate unless the country repents.

6. During a psychic reading, fashionista Tiffany learns the reason she can’t get a date; she was a heartless supermodel in her past life. To satisfy karma, Tiffany must transform Melvin, the nerdiest boy in high school, into a hunk. But can she do it before prom?

7. Devout youth turn to Father Kevin for confession. He understands their world and knows exactly what penance to prescribe for cyber-bullying or pirate downloads. But he's stymied when a mysterious stranger shows up to confess ox-coveting, regicide, obscene semaphores, and other . . . sins of the past.

8. Millie's mother was hung as a witch. Her aunt has been sheltering her ever since, trying to keep her from the prying eyes of the local law. But Millie can't stop playing with bones, cats and candles. Is she just a curious girl, or is she really her mother's daughter?

9. Jeb congratulates himself on getting away with murder – literally. But when the corpses of his victims rise up and threaten humanity’s future, Jeb must find a way to atone for his . . . Sins of the Past.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Teachers are being killed; brutally, systematically. Each murder more horrifying than the last. [I blame video games, rap music and the Internet.]

Detective Harry MacCormick hated working Saturday nights. [I see we've switched from present tense to past already.] All the garbage happened on Saturday nights, from teenagers wrapping their cars around trees, to alcohol fueled couple disputes; at least a dead body wouldn't hurl drunken slurs at him. [That last phrase would make sense if it came after Harry was called to a murder scene.] When he is called to investigate a retired teacher's murder, he hopes to clear the matter up quickly and get back to his loved ones, chips and beer. [Change that last comma to a colon so it's clear that he has no actual loved ones, or at least none he wants to get back to.] But Harry soon discovers that this is only the beginning. [To me, this implies that he's unable to get back to his chips and beer because of additional murders. I doubt the additional murders occur that soon.] [I recommend dumping the first paragraph and the first two sentences of the second. Open with the phone call, and it might go like this:

When he is called to investigate a retired teacher's murder, Detective Harry MacCormick hopes to clear the matter up quickly and get back to his loved ones: chips and beer. But Harry soon discovers that this is only the beginning, as over the next eight hours three more retired teachers are brutally slain, one with safety scissors thrust into her eye, one with colored pencils shoved up her nostrils, another battered to death with a Garfield lunchbox. The media dubs it all the work of the Kindergarten Killer, the Moppet Murderer, the Elementary School Executioner.]

Who has motive for such crimes? Is it one of the former students of the first murdered teacher, who Harry soon discovers were being forced to confess by the teachers and principal to incidents that they didn't do? [People don't "do" incidents.] [I want an example of whatever these children were forced to confess. Timmy, either you confess that you spilled my coffee, or I call in Borgo the Disemboweler.] Or perhaps the janitor, with his checkered past of involvement in sexual abuse scandals? [I told you we should have hired kindly old Mr. Goodfellow as school janitor instead of the guy with past involvement in sexual abuse scandals.] [How many sexual abuse scandals do you get before your past is no longer labeled "checkered"? This guy sounds more like he has a Sorry! past.]

Along with detectives John Defazio, his best friend on the force for ten years, who is about to be a father for the second time with his fiancee, and Jennifer Reed, a detective for only five years, but headstrong and determined to make a name for herself, Harry races against time to stop this madman before he kills again. [The brief tidbits of information about John and Jen are interfering with whatever tension has been built up.] [Also, as this is clearly the same book as our recent New Beginning, it becomes even stranger that Harry never seems to have any down time now that we know there are at least two other detectives in this small town.]

SINS OF THE PAST is a griping tale [The tale is gripping; griping is what Evil Editor has been doing.] of murder, revenge, and suspense that will keep you guessing about the identity of the killer to the end. [Not me; I've already deduced that the murderer is actor Paul Sorvino.] It is complete at 55,000 words. The full manuscript is available upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Note to EE: The title comes from the first suspects the police have for the murders, the former students of the first murdered teacher, who was a special ed teacher.

[Who do you like for the murder, detective?

Former students is my guess.

But the former students are autistic.

Yeah but their teacher once got them to confess to writing on the walls, so I figure we can get them to confess to this and be done with it.]


She, along with the principal of the school, conspired to blame incidents on the students that they didn't do. And also of one of the other suspects in the murders, the janitor at the school, who was involved in sexual abuse scandals earlier in his life and may have abused some of the students.


Notes

I don't see why the police would suspect one of the students of the first murdered teacher, unless that person was also a student of the other murdered teachers. The motive for killing your teacher is not the same as the motive for killing random teachers.

Focus on the case. We don't need to know what happens on Saturday nights or that John's girlfriend is pregnant.

Cartoon 825

Caption: Lonie Polony

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Feature 23


Often books listed online have a colon in the title, separating the actual title from a description of the book that appears on the book's cover. I went to BN.com and searched for humorous books about fashion. Below you'll find a list of ten post-colon descriptions followed by a list of ten titles. Match them up.



1. Hope, Heartbreak, and the Search for the Perfect Pair
2. The Indignities of Coach Class, the Torments of Low Thread Count, the Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems
3. A Life, a Witch, and a Wardrobe, or, The Wonder Years before the Condescending, Egomanical, Self-Centered Smart-Ass Phase
4. An Illustrated Faux History Of Outrageous Trends And Their Untimely Demise
5. Nursery Rhymes for the Blahnik Brigade
6. Fashion Forecasts and Meaningless Misguidance
7. The Sweet Potato Queens' Guide to Preserving Your Assets
8. Your Personal Fashion Consultant
9. A Man's Guide to Style
10. A Guide to Good Manners and Social Survival in Alaska


a. Like I Give a Frock:
b. American Thighs:
c. Paisley Goes with Nothing:
d. Pretty in Plaid:
e. Don't Get Too Comfortable:
f. Fashion Means Your Fur Hat Is Dead:
g. Liberace:
h. This Little Piggy Went to Prada:
i. Forgotten Fashion:
j. It's All About the Shoes:


Scoring:

10 correct: Fashionista Extraordinaire
7 - 8 correct: Swanky Trendsetter
5 - 6 correct: Sloppy Sleaze
0 - 4 correct: Deviant Crudbag



Answers:


Don't Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, the Torments of Low Thread Count, the Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems

Pretty in Plaid: A Life, a Witch, and a Wardrobe, or, The Wonder Years before the Condescending, Egomanical, Self-Centered Smart-Ass Phase

Forgotten Fashion: An Illustrated Faux History Of Outrageous Trends And Their Untimely Demise

This Little Piggy Went to Prada: Nursery Rhymes for the Blahnik Brigade

Like I Give a Frock: Fashion Forecasts and Meaningless Misguidance

American Thighs: The Sweet Potato Queens' Guide to Preserving Your Assets

Liberace: Your Personal Fashion Consultant

Paisley Goes with Nothing: A Man's Guide to Style

It's All About the Shoes: Hope, Heartbreak, and the Search for the Perfect Pair

Fashion Means Your Fur Hat Is Dead: A Guide to Good Manners and Social Survival in Alaska

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

New Beginning 826

The call came through at 5:50 pm., Detective Harold MacCormick had just settled into the leather chair in his den to watch the news and catch the football highlights. He lifted a large bag of chips off his lap and set them, along with the beer he was holding, on the small table next to the chair.

“Hello?” he said, trying hard to mask the frustration in his voice.

“Harry, it’s Joe. Sorry to cut in on your evening, but we have a stiff in an apartment on East 5th Street,” said Joe Devlin, Harry’s desk sergeant, with genuine regret in his voice. “You need to come in right away. We are pretty sure that it’s murder.”

“Okay, Joe, I’ll head on over to the scene now,” Harry said, with quiet resignation.

“Dammit.” Harry sighed as he placed the phone back on the table. One last chip and a quick swig of beer were poor consolation prizes. He sat back in his seat for a moment, gazing longingly at the blank television screen as he ran a hand through his short, brown hair. Apart from the occasional spree of break-ins or car thefts, nothing that exciting ever happened in Harton. There was a case a couple of years ago that had made all the local papers. A bunch of teenagers had beaten a Mexican immigrant to death. But aside from that, small town boredom was the biggest risk to life here. That made it all the more frustrating that on the one evening in a long time that Harry had set aside some quiet time for himself, someone had to go and get themselves killed.

Harry brushed chip crumbs off his belly, leaving streaks of salsa across his sweat top, and pushed himself up out of the La-Z-Boy. The foot rest snapped back and he dumped beer in his lap. No time to shave or get into uniform.

Twenty minutes later, Harry's beat up Pontiac groaned to a stop outside the crime scene. He noticed the press photographers and brushed the Playboy magazine off the dash before hauling himself out of the car. His first step landed right in a moist dog turd. "Shit," Harry confirmed.

As he ambled to the building entrance, his foot scraping on the ground to try and remove the foul-smelling crap, he noticed Chet Kittern, the editor of the local rag, grinning at him. "Well, look who's here at last," Kittern mocked. "It's . . . "

Here we go, the detective thought, pulling his sweat pants up over his belly. Moved all the way from San Francisco to bumfuck nowhere for the quiet life, changed my surname, but for some reason still can't shake the handle Dirty Harry.


Opening Toneman.2.....Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 824

Caption: John

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Face-Lift 861


Guess the Plot

Spirits of the Unknown

1. Ludlow hears voices in the surf. Wally thinks he ate too many pufferfish, but Ludlow is pretty sure the Spirits are speaking to him. Who are they, and what do they want? If only they spoke English! It all sounds like some kind of repetitive alien hissing/roaring noise.

2. When nature enthusiast Melvin Wilcox inherits his father’s vineyard, he decides the produce will be used for a new eco-friendly wine beverage. Unfortunately the concoction has a slow-acting but devastating side effect: it wipes out the drinker’s long-term memory. Can Melvin remedy the formula before he forgets he owns a vineyard?

3. Balah is a psychic, able to peer into the world beyond the Veil. When strange, amorphous blobs called Riphons begin to call to her, she wonders: is she losing her mind, or reaching the lost souls of another world?

4. When hopeless alcoholic Johnny Beam drunkenly swore to sell his soul for a whiskey, he had no idea his offer would be accepted. Now he’s doomed to a fiery – and thirsty – afterlife, unless he can win an unholy contest of the palate, by correctly identifying the . . . Spirits of the Unknown.

5. Ghosts haunt a spaceship on its way to planet Earth. This has nothing to do with the plot, but everything to do with the title. The plot is set in another solar system, where a brutal civil war has devastated a planet and everyone is a suspect.

6. Sparkle Starshine's investigation shows the house is full of haunting spirits, but spirits of what??? Tiny feet seem to run up and down the walls and in the ceiling. By night they make crunchy chewing noises, gnaw holes in the upholstery, and leave toothmarks on the furniture. Could they be the spirits of wererodents? Is it time to call upon the Ghost Cat?


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Tilvanau has survived a murder plot which has claimed the lives of every member in his family. [Not quite. The plot didn't claim Tilvanau's life.] He doesn't know who to trust and grief may be clouding his judgment.

In an attempt to escape, his brother has [Apparently the plot didn't claim Tilvanau's brother's life either.] taken his family, [Didn't claim the lives of Tilvanau's nieces, nephews, or sister-in-law. Who, exactly (if anyone), is dead?] setting a course for earth [If we're not on Earth, I wanna know that up front. A conversation like:

"There's a murderer on the loose! We gotta get outta here!"

"But where will we go?"

"How about Earth?"

. . . is a bit jarring if you weren't aware that the speakers were on the Gohr prison planet, Lycus IV.]
with the murderer hidden inside the ship. The ghosts of his family now haunt the ship [The ghosts of the brother's family? Were they ghosts when they boarded the ship or did the murderer kill them on board?] trying to disclose the killer to earthlings that don't understand their language and Tilvanau who doesn't believe in ghosts. [Are these earthlings on the ship or has the ship already reached Earth?] [Is/was Tilvanau on the ship?]

Meanwhile Tilvanau must face a brutal civil war which devastates his planet, [Where the hell is Tilvanau?! If he's still on his planet, facing a brutal civil war, how are the ghosts on the ship trying to reveal the murderer's identity to him?] and although the woman he loves can help him, she is found to have the greatest motive and opportunity. [I assumed Tilvanau's wife was among the family members who were murdered. So who's this woman he loves?] [Also, motive and opportunity to do what?]

Tilvanau finds himself fighting a war he can't seem to win. [You're talking about the brutal civil war? A guy fighting in a brutal war doesn't think thoughts like, I can't seem to win this war. He thinks thoughts like I hope I don't die today.] He must find the murderer before the murderer finds him. [The murderer was hiding on the ship that Tilvanau's brother took to Earth (see paragraph 2). So how can Tilvanau find the murderer or vice versa?] Everyone is a suspect having motive and opportunity, [Everyone? How can everyone have the opportunity to do whatever you're talking about?] but they all fear he has betrayed them by killing his own family to gain control over the planet. [How would killing his family give him control over the planet?]

SPIRITS OF THE UNKNOWN is a science fiction complete at 95,250 words

Thank you for your time.


Notes

Scrap the whole thing. Start by telling us who Tilvanau is. Like, is he the leader of the biggest country on the prison planet, Lycus IV? Then tell us what he wants, who's standing in his way, and what Tilvanau plans to do about it.

If you can't organize your information and express it clearly in the query, the reader will assume your book is also a mess. Let's hope it isn't.

If the spirits in the title are the ghosts of Tilvanau's or his brother's family, why are they "spirits of the unknown"? Aren't they spirits of the known?

Let's assume the motive/opportunity phrase applies to the murder of Tilvanau's family. If the woman Tilvanau loves was found (by whomever) to have the greatest motive and opportunity, why does everyone think Tilvanau did it?

Cartoon 823

Caption: anon.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Channeling Poe

In retrospect, it was perhaps unduly harsh of me, some fifty years past, to brick Fortunato into the vaults beneath my Palazzo as punishment for a minor insult, the nature of which I have long since forgotten. But no.

You may well believe that having escaped punishment for my act, I would have taken satisfaction in my favorable outcome and would be loath to chance additional flirtations with the law. And such has indeed been the case for these five decades . . . until such time when I put to paper my confession, as it were, and brought it to the attention--not of the police, for I am no one's fool, but--of the gentleman who lives in the building directly opposite mine, who goes by the name Evil Editor. Confession, I hoped, would at last remove a great weight from my shoulders, and to present said confession in the guise of a work of fiction would save me from living out my waning days in a cell.

"Drivel." It was the word he used to describe my oeuvre, and no blade could have cut deeper. I thanked the boorish pig, never letting on that I had resolved to make him my second victim. But how was I to lure this gargantuan oaf into my crypt? The swill he had offered me in his home was evidence enough that he housed no pretensions in the field of oenology. Only during a casual consultation with Luchesi some weeks later which I cleverly steered toward the subject of my neighbor, did I discover the editor's solitary weakness: cheese danish.

When I "happened" to run into him months after, I subtly sprang my trap. "I have discovered the secret to the perfect cheese danish," I said. "Nitre. This is why I store my cheese danish in the dank vaults beneath my domicile. Perhaps you'd like to sample one? The gleam in his eye betrayed his eagerness.

In the cellar I pointed out the hole I had recently made in the wall behind which Fortunato's remains remained. "Step right through," I said. "The cheese danish is in there."

"What about coffee?" he asked.

"Coffee?"

"Can't eat cheese danish without coffee."

"There's coffee in there too."

"After you, my friend."

I had no choice but to precede him through the opening; to do otherwise would have looked suspicious. As I went through he shoved me with his boot, and my head collided with the far wall, not far from the hanging bones of Fortunato. By the time I regained consciousness, Evil Editor was working on the final row of bricks. "The good news," he said as he closed the last gap, "is that I've reconsidered. I'll be publishing your tale after all."

--Evil Editor

Cartoon 822

Caption: Evil Editor

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Survey Follow-up

If you are one of the people who declared they would want a copy of a book of writing exercises that appeared on this blog if you were among the contributors, send me a comment or email so I can look into whether you sent something that's right for my list (which won't be necessary if you're already on the list).

New Beginning 825

She wasn’t at school.

“She has to be. I saw her get on the bus this morning,” Katie said. She tried to keep her voice calm, reasonable, measured. But already the panic and guilt were setting in. She hadn’t actually seen her sister get on the bus. Sure she’d seen the bus pulling up. And yeah, she’d seen her sister walk out the door. But the truth was she hadn’t actually seen her sister get on the bus. Now it was five hours later and her mother was calling.

“I just turned my phone on and there’s a message from the school saying she isn’t there. You’re sure she’s not at home?”

Katie kept her breath steady. “I’ve been home for the last hour and I haven’t seen her. Maybe she went out somewhere?” That was silly. Her sister never went out anywhere. She barely got out of bed. That’s why she went to a special school and that’s why Katie was supposed to watch to make sure she got on the bus.

“I’m on my way home,” Katie’s mom said.

“Yeah, okay.” Katie ended the call on her phone. The school must have made a mistake. Her sister wasn’t home. Katie would know if she was home.

Katie walked through the house once more, shouting her sister's name, as though she might be hiding in a closet or something. She was definitely not in the house.

Ten minutes later she heard the front door and ran downstairs.

"She here?" Mom asked.

"Not a sign," Katie replied, grabbing Mom's coat.

"I'm guessing she might have locked herself in the neighbor's garage again. They won't be home from work for hours."

"What are we going to do?"

Mom closed the front door, looked at me, and took a deep breath. "I rented a couple of DVDs and ordered Vietnamese on the way home. After that . . . it's makeover time! God, when will people realize we have special needs too?"


Opening: Lauren Krystaf.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 821

Caption: Evil Editor

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Face-Lift 860


Guess the Plot

Eyes of Stone

1. Anaiiya is the lone human living in a tribe of gargoyles. Or is she? Suddenly she's seeing visions no one else can see. There's a monster within her! A deranged queen attacks. Immortal magical beings go to war for control of Anaiiya's powers. Life's never easy when your name is almost all vowels.

2. Stone Keller, embalmer for the town's one funeral home, can see the eternal destiny of souls when he stares into the eyes of the dead. Working on Father Murphy’s corpse, Stone discovers he is agonizing in hell, but the town’s folk start praying to Father Murphy, believing he will be canonized. Can Stone enable the people to see through his eyes before all their souls are lost?

3. What is wrong with Jeff? Can he not see Tiffany's total awesomeness is exactly what he needs? Well, he's got three weeks to lose his eyes of stone. Because that's when Tiffany get's her sorcery license, and she will definitely get her man or her revenge. If Jeff flunks at love, he might as well be a cat.

4. Carrie's wealthy grandparents take her to Easter Island, where she's captivated by the moai, the giant stone heads. One comes to her in her dreams, telling her about the young warrior trapped within. Can she help him escape, or must he always use--Eyes of Stone?

5. The cavemen try mud balls, leaves, peach-pits, beeswax, feathers, chunks of old bones -- nothing brings the statue to life until Ursu finds a pair of mysterious stones in the space alien's camp and screws them into the eye sockets. But the statue turns out to be a wicked fire-breathing robot and everyone will perish unless Tudd and his dire wolf can put those eyes out.

6. Alice married in haste, and has discovered that Bob, who rules his corporation with an iron fist, has feet of clay, a lily-liver, and a heart of glass. When an optometrist reveals that Bob also has eyes of stone, will this be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?



Original Version

Anaiiya's always known she's human. Even living among the last of the gargoyles, the certain knowledge of who and what she is has always been with her. But when a deranged queen who sees only traitors in every non-human species launches an attack on the gargoyle tribe, Anaiiya discovers a dark truth: There's a monster inside her waiting for the right trigger to free itself. Seeing her family assaulted, she blacks out—and awakens covered in the blood of thirty men, with no memory of how it happened. [I know guys in the movies will mindlessly continue attacking an invincible enemy until they're all wiped out, but it seems to me that in real life, once ten or fifteen of you have been slaughtered by one individual, the rest would retreat and regroup and consider whether Plan B (whether it be call in air support or hide in the nearest cave), might be a better strategy. Someone should do a study to determine if I'm right.]

Now the river boils when she sings and [the fishermen are threatening to attack her if she doesn't quit singing and] drops of blood show her visions only she can see. [Visions of what?] The monster within, the thing she’s becoming, fills her with a bloodthirsty darkness that demands to be sated. She struggles against it and turns her newfound powers to defending her beloved tribe. [Do you mean her water-boiling and vision-having powers, or does she have other powers?]

But Anaiiya's attempts to protect her family draw the attention of far more dangerous creatures than a mad queen and her militant army. [When you have to take on an entire army, it's much better if it's a laid-back pacifist army than a militant one.] Using the gargoyles as pawns, immortal beings of dark magic war for control of Anaiiya's powers. [We may be immortal beings of dark magic, but we simply must know how you do that river-boiling trick.] Because of Anaiiya, the last gargoyle tribe is in greater danger than ever and only she can save them —- if the darkness growing like a cancer within her soul doesn't destroy them first.

EYES OF STONE is a 109,000 [-word] fantasy.


Notes

A lot of words are devoted to describing what's happening to Anaiiya, but they're mostly general: the darkness growing like a cancer within her soul; a monster inside her; the thing she’s becoming; a bloodthirsty darkness. How about some specifics? What does she see in her visions? Apparently she's not just morphing into a gargoyle.

The ability to win a battle against thirty soldiers is impressive, but not to immortal beings of dark magic, who could probably defeat forty guys, so we want to know what powers Anaiiya has that are coveted by these immortal beings.

You claim "the certain knowledge of who and what she is has always been with her." I don't think so. Even by the end of the query she doesn't seem to know who or what she is.

Cartoon 820

Caption: Lonie Polony

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Feature 22

1. You never know when the Blogger people are gonna say, "Screw this, we've been hosting blogs for a decade and we haven't made a dime; let's shut it down and open a restaurant." That's one reason I've collected the funniest stuff on this blog into five books and a DVD.

2. Last year in the Brenda Novak auction I won, for a paltry seven dollars, the right to use my choice of dozens of paintings by a certain artist on a book cover. Turned out none of her paintings included Evil Editor, but this one looks kind of like Evil Editor holding court before his minions . . . err, minnows.

3. Like most of you, my favorite author to read when I need a pick-me-up is Evil Editor. Turns out the majority of my writing in recent years has been the writing exercises on this blog, but trying to read my writing exercises is a pain, as they're scattered throughout four+ years of blog posts. The solution, I decided, is to put together a book containing my favorites. But after gathering them together I discovered I had only about 60 I wanted to use, and I'd rather have a nice round 100. So I'll be adding some of your exercises. But it turns out reading all of your exercises in search of those worthy of being included is an even bigger pain.

4. On the other hand, writing exercises are a good topic to go with a painting of a school of fish. Get it? School of fish?

5. Another pain is deciding whether to produce a few copies of the book for myself (and to give to Evilette and Evil Jr. as birthday presents instead of cars and Xboxes), which would be expensive per-copy-wise, or whether this is a product that a school of you would want, in which case it would cost the same as the other Evil Editor books.

6. So, if you are someone who submitted writing exercises, and you are also someone who would want a copy of this book only if one of your writing exercises were in it because you suspect it will be the most impressive item on your resume, let me know. I'm perfectly willing to bloggoogle your name and find your best work and include it just to make an extra sale, even if I have to edit your piece to the point where it becomes unrecognizable as your work. And if I can't salvage any of your exercises, I'll let you know so you can spend your $10 on something else, perhaps a copy of Why You Don't Get Published.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

Face-Lift 859


Guess the Plot

The Land of Endless Night

1. Frustrated bowler and evil-warlock-in-training, Hackasack, has fumbled a spell on the black light lamps at Bowling Land, causing a town-wide eclipse of the sun. Only a perfect game can break the spell. Can bowling wonder Rory save the town?

2. Fifty years ago, the town of Elklarshire reneged on a deal the citizens made with a warlock to save their children from a plague. Now, the children are about to see light for the very first time. Ironically, the light at the end of the tunnel is a train.

3. In a land where volcanic ash has blocked out the sun, an evil overlord with the ability to turn rabbits into bloodthirsty weredingos attempts to gain dominion over the puny people. Can 16-year-old Dara and her ragtag companions thwart Gurodun before he destroys the vessels containing the essences of their abilities? Or is everyone doomed?

4. Doctor Lye tried to convince humanity that the upcoming solar eclipse was a plot by vampires to blot out the sun. He failed and eternal night engulfed the Earth. Now his son leads the underground resistance in adapting an amusement park attraction into a moon-destroying missile.

5. Everyone except Sunny is excited about moving to the planet Nero, which is devoid of shopping malls and eligible boys, and gets no sunlight. Sunny’s wardrobe, love life and sexy tan are doomed. How can Sunny shine in . . . The Land of Endless Night?

6. That opaque dome over Las Vegas was supposed to boost the economy ten-fold by creating an endless night: more night means more drinking, more gambling, more commercial sex. But some fiend blew up the power supply. Now the oxygen is dwindling, the lights are out, and the survival of Lotty Cha-cha and her dancing chorus depends on groping their way to an exit before they suffocate.



Original Version

Dear Evil One,

Dara is not a typical sixteen-year-old. Sure, she never met a chore she didn’t hate, and seeing a cute boy makes her heart beat faster. But she also spends hours a day learning to use lethal weapons, including some she wields with her mind.

She’ll need that training after a power-hungry overseer [Not bad, but I'm not sure "power-hungry overseer" has enough cachet to capture the minions' hearts like such villains as ruthless vigilante sorcerers and brutal eunuchs once did.] named Gurodun attempts to destroy the Light Gems--vessels containing the essence of the unique abilities of all the people of Dara’s world. With powerful dark gems in his possession, Gurodun feels he no longer needs the paltry gift the Light Gems give him. [Do dark gems contain the essence of the unique abilities of the power-hungry overseers of Dara's world? Because if they aren't pretty similar to Light Gems, maybe they should have a name that's not so similar.] Once the Gems are gone, and everyone’s gifts fade, he’ll be well on his way to attaining dominion over them all. [But will he be happy? Wouldn't it be like having dominion over sheep?] [If the dark gems are so powerful, and the Light Gems provide paltry gifts, why can't Gurodun attain dominion now? More importantly, if the dark gems are more powerful, how come only the Light Gems rate capital letters?] Dara’s grandfather thwarts Gurodun’s plans by using telekinesis to scatter the Gems to the far reaches of their world. The effort takes his life.

Her grandfather’s sacrifice is only a temporary fix, however. It’s only a matter of time before Gurodun hunts down the Gems. Dara sets her grief aside and joins forces with a small group bent on stopping him at all costs.

It may cost them everything given that Gurodun’s newfound talents include a potent knack for controlling others with his speech, the ability to mutate innocuous animals into bloodthirsty predators, and the power to revive a long-extinct race of shape-shifters. [This query seems a bit long, and this is the paragraph it can do without.]

A gifted seer provides clues [It's gifted seer vs. power-hungry overseer in Extreme Sage Fighting.] that lead Dara and her companions to a land covered in dormant volcanoes with more than just rock formations hidden in their shadows. The group must put aside their differences, and attractions, as they struggle across perilous terrain to reach the first Gem before Gurodun gets it--or gets them. [The first Gem? Does Gurodun have to find the Gems in a specific order? Couldn't he be going after any of the scattered Gems?]

THE LAND OF ENDLESS NIGHT is a YA fantasy complete at 76,000 words. It can stand alone, but has series potential.


[Note to EE-- the title comes from the name the land (where the first Gem is found) used to be called in ancient times because ash was constantly blocking the sun there.]


Notes

If scattering the Gems to the far reaches of the land is gonna be fatal, grandpa should have just put the whole batch at the bottom of the ocean.

How many Light Gems are there? Five? One for every person?

Why was Dara spending hours a day training with lethal weapons even before the Gurodun threat came along?

How is it that grandpa has access to all of the Light Gems in the first place? I mean, if the essence of my unique abilities were in a gem/vessel, I'd want that gem/vessel in Fort Knox or at least somewhere requiring the power-hungry overseer to perform a cavity search to get it. I wouldn't entrust it to Dara's grandfather. Yet apparently gramps has all of the Gems.

How many people live in this world? I mean, if some evil overlord were trying to gain dominion over humans on Earth, there'd be more than a 16-year-old and her band of companions trying to stop him. Where are the armies?

It would be nice if the query didn't prompt so many questions, or if it answered a few of them.

Cartoon 819

Caption: Anonymous

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Beginning 824

Lizzie wasn’t the first person to kill herself this year. Five weeks prior to her final ascension Gordy “Queerbait” Wilson hung himself in his basement. Rumor has it he used the belt his father beat him with. For two days he hung there, feet pooling with blood, before daddy came down the stairs in search of a cold one.

I guess that’s the difference between Gordy and Lizzie.

Lizzie didn’t go quietly.

I’m Angelina Lakesly. I was Lizzie’s best friend. We met in kindergarten – did the whole blood-sisters-death-do-us-part thing with a couple of Home Ec sewing needles. Lizzie cried when the needle pierced her skin, but not me. Back then nothing could scare me.

I got breasts before she did, started dating before she did. My parents divorced first. (Lucky me!) We used to joke that I’d get knocked up first but it was one of those jokes based completely in reality. Lizzie never touched anybody. She was Prude Queen.

Then everything changed. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. Every blogger within a ten mile radius had a fucking field day with the story: Little Miss Perfect Seduces Prom King While Girlfriend Primps Down the Hall.

Unless you use Twitter. The whole sordid tale was too many characters for a Tweet, so went unnoticed on Twitter. Just emo kids doing what they do, anyway. Bored by it now. Need to log on to FB and friend some new kids.


Opening: Chelsea P......Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 818

Caption: Khazar-khum

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Face-Lift 858


Guess the Plot

A Girl and Her Octopus

1. Come on. Do I HAVE to explain what this book is about?

2. Tiffany spent her entire summer vacation coaxing the octopus to emerge from that tide pool. But now Dad won't let her bring him home. If she pretends to obediently flush the gastropod, can she sneak her new pet back to Kansas in her suitcase?

3. Every time Nemo Jones tries to complete his speech for the documentary about his undersea miracle of post-modern living, that damn girl swims to the window and makes silly faces at the camera while her octopus sullies the glass with its arm-slime. Where does this pesky wench come from, and how can he be rid of her?

4. In 2487, Earth depends on the asteroid miners for raw minerals. Miner Jax Subit is one of the youngest, driving her eight-armed mining droid in the outer belt to support her family Earthside. When war leaves half of Earth a smoking hulk, Jax realizes that she can finally afford those implants, since she doesn't have to send money home anymore.

5. Sheila's cool with the prune look, the suction cup hickies and scarecrow hair from all the salt. Octi makes it all worthwhile, bringing her pretty shells and bits of coral from the deep. But when Octi brings her a doubloon, greedy eyes take interest and the hunt is on.

6. Ever since an octopus saved Octavia from drowning, the two have been inseparable friends. But when she falls in love with Otto, who is allergic to gastropods, Octavia must decide if she can give her octopus up, and be content with a man with only two tentacles…er, arms.

7. After the hurricane, Tina does her best to hide her new pet, but at story time three suckered tentacles grab Mom by the ankle and pull her under the bed, where she is summarily devoured by a monster that will quickly grow to enormous proportions and devour everything that moves in Orlando.

8. Michelle is the richest girl in the universe, but she won't be happy unless she and her octopus guardian Soangdu can break her Aunt Lisa out of the mental institution. Fortunately they have help from a doctor, if they can just get him to focus on the mission instead of his quest for the Twinkies recipe.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

A generation after spaceflight begins, humans have spread to hundreds of planets and haven’t found other sentient life forms; right? [Wrong. Space flight began a couple generations ago, and humans haven't reached any planets.] For ten years after her mother’s kidnapping and murder, twelve-year-old Michelle Gulden, the richest girl in the universe, has lived in her father’s lab on a small planet. Now she must get her aunt, Lisa, from a mental hospital before her father dies, an adventure she’s always wanted. [This is the plot of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, except set on Pluto.]

She has the help of her two guardians, Chirpizadon and Soangdu, but her guardians must be passed off as pets. Chirpizadon, who was bred in her father’s lab and has a genius I.Q., as a furball. [Was that a sentence?] Soangdu, is an octopus that hates people and hates being thought a pet. [No comma needed in that sentence.] When they discover that her mother’s murder was only part of a conspiracy trying to take over; [Take over what? Whatever. Change semicolon to comma.] they must try to destroy the whole conspiracy with the help of a pet-shop owner who seems to know too much and is close to the leader [Leader of what?] and a doctor on a quest for [a] mythical recipe for Twinkies.

My 60,000 word young adult book, “A Girl and Her Octopus: It’s a Beautiful Thing”, is a science-fiction story that plays with ideas about what is “human”.

Sincerely,


Notes

It's safe to assume that if this were a real query for a real book it wouldn't have "It's a Beautiful Thing" tacked onto the title. Even A Girl and Her Octopus is a title so ridiculous it could be applied only to bad fan fiction about Spiderman's nemesis, Dr. Octopus.

Cartoon 817

Caption: Marissa Doyle

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Beginning 823

Adam checked his watch, only to remember that the face was smashed in, and the arms were twisted at odd angles. Ultimately, it was in bad condition. It didn't even tell the date anymore, but from looking at calendars, He thought it to be about September, maybe early October.

It was hot out, his hair sticking to his forehead, and the back of his neck. Adam wrinkled his nose and coughed into his arm. The entire city smelled like the damn Reekers.

He felt rats scamper over his scuffed shoes, but he was so used to it that he hardly flinched anymore. Hardly.

"Hey, Adam," Raine caught his attention, and pointed it into the direction of a rundown Gas Station, "I bet we could find a map in there."

"Good idea. Gio and Lacy go around the back to check for some Reekers, and Raine and I will go around the front and check out the inside first. Todd, you can stay back and look outside." Adam seemed to like calling the shots, going back into his head to get information from the countless facts about surviving he had memorized.

Adam went to the very front with Raine, and scoped it all out, eyes scanning, brains worrying. Nothing seemed to be wrong, except for a rotting hand by the handicap symbol that was painted and faded into a parking spot that had been vacant for some time now.

But he didn't let his guard down, and they ventured inside the seemingly abandoned gas station, their foot-steps careful and calculated.

Inside, the gas station was as devastated as the world outside. Most everything of value had been taken, and what was left was strewn broken or rotting across the floor.

Adam noticed the map stand wedged behind the empty drinks cooler. It had taken some strength to move that; whoever did it, he didn't want to meet. "Raine!" he shouted. "Give me a hand."

Silence. Then a sickening scraping shuffle. Then something clammy against his neck. Adam felt his bowels loosen as he turned to face... Raine. "This one do?" Raine asked. "I found it outside."

Thus came to pass the demise of the last member of the human race.



Opening: Lindsey.....Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 816

Caption: Anon.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Success Story


My fantasy story "The Things That Remain," which came into existence as a Bad Backstory exercise and came up for another round as New Beginning 666 has actually gotten published (first time any of mine have done that anywhere) in Mindflights Magazine.

Thank you for the bad back-story prompt! And thanks to you and all the minions for suggesting that there was a real story there, for insisting that the heroine of a real story could not be named Slubka, &c.

Joanna

New Beginning 822

It was one of those nights of the dreadful winter, after the celebrations of Christmas, after the singular toasts of New Years, about halfway through the month of January. A winter's night that no longer delighted with brisk cold and playful flurries but rather filled the chilled the heart and ached the body tired from shoveling. It was, coincidentally, my eighteenth birthday and my 15-year-old brother Dick stood in the great room at the foot of the stairs, singing at the top of his lungs.

"Oh come all ye faithful. Sing of Chad's ex-paul-shin from hi-is, Mo-ther's womb, womb, womb, womb..."

"Stop that caterwauling. I’m trying to write my column and I'm on deadline," our father yelled from his computer. Now normally, an order like that might have been accepted with dutiful silence. Not this day in frigid, disgusting January history. My other younger brother Steven, lacking the brains God gave a turnip, joined in, clanging an old school bell.

"Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye! Thomas Pynchon wears pantyhose..."

"That's it!" Our father said. "I warned you." With a flick of Father's wrist, Steven popped and fizzled out, like the bottles of champagne opened for New Year's only a couple weeks ago.

A moment later, Dick was likewise extinguished.

"Are you in the mood for caterwauling too?" Father asked me.

"No I'm fine," I squeaked from my computer.

Web conference birthdays. Not as good as the real thing.


Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Naomio