Friday, September 30, 2011

Face-Lift 957


Guess the Plot

Half Truths and Bursting Bubbles on Kao San Road

1. I wanted this book about my quirky heroine Kayley to reflect how funny and quirky she is so I gave it this long quirky title.

2. When Soon Kim, owner of Koreatown's only gay bar "Bursting Bubbles", is found dead in a bathtub full of Merlot, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: Kim didn't shoot himself; and it's a cheap Merlot, so no great loss.

3. Lost in the countryside on a road littered with old memoirs and novels, Minnie Jones suddenly realizes -- OMG, the lair of Evil Editor must be near! If only she can find it, she'll be able to submit all those manuscripts locked in her trunk! But night is coming, and so is a hurricane.

4. Julie's uncle dies in Bangkok, leaving her his journal. She heads for Thailand and quickly makes some friends and gets married and meets her uncle's ghost. Then an accident puts her in a coma. Her husband isn't sure he wants her to wake up because he's been having wild sex with one of her new friends. Also, metaphysical swimming.

5. Freshly graduated from college but lacking goals and prospects, Rob backpacks off to Thailand. Buddhism, betel, cheap whores, many bowls of cow intestine stew, crooked pols, and an innocent schoolgirl ensue.

6. The blacktop paver has lied about the quality of his materials, and the new surface on Kao San Road bubbles in the heat of a Bangkok summer. It gives a whole new meaning to "stuck in traffic," and half the Thai population can't get out of Krungthep. Can Dorphy, a drug addict from Boulder, Colorado, avert a revolution and save the monarchy?

7. On his death bed, Kao San tells his nephew he hid the treasure he looted from a wax museum near the road he built across Thailand. Awa's frenemy Han overhears and it becomes a race -- interrupted by moguls, mongols, and mongrels. Hey, maybe that should be my title.


Original Version

Dear Evil,

My new novel is complete at 90,000 words. Absurdist fiction is the closest genre I can come to.

A young woman receives her uncle’s journal after his death in Bangkok. Julie is curious why he left it to her and wants to fill in missing blanks [The blanks aren't missing; she wants to fill them with whatever is missing.] by travelling to Thailand to poke around. She wasn’t close to him but she has the feeling there’s more involved than the pages of a journal. [More involved in what?]

Fresh to Bangkok [Nice phrasing. Setting a novel in Bangkok does present numerous opportunities for laughs, as would setting it in Intercourse, PA or Dickshooter, ID or any of these towns.] she makes friends with three women backpacking around Asia. [Asia's a pretty big place to backpack around. Maybe they should be Backpacking in Bangkok. Maybe that should be the title.] [Of course, three women backpacking in Bangkok wouldn't last a day without being kidnapped and forced into the sex trade.] She also meets a man she marries in short order [who turns out to be a short-order cook]. While sleeping one night Julie has the crap scared out of her by her uncle’s ghost. [I once had the crap scared out of me while sleeping. The maid was not amused.] An accident puts her in a coma after the haunting.

Julie doesn’t remember the journal, her husband, friends or the ghost as she enjoys a metaphysical swim around her hospital room watching people watch her body that is plugged into monitors. Her short term memory is gone when she rejoins her body and comes around. Her husband was engaging in wild sex with one of her friends finding relations exceptionally enjoyable as Julie was getting her melon smacked on a sidewalk. His guilt robs him of any residual afterglow. His partner of that moment, Julie’s friend, [You told us his partner was her friend two sentences ago.] is mortified and satisfied at once. [Which came first, the mortification or the satisfaction?]

The women and husband hope Julie’s memory returns but dread the moment when it does. Julie meets a man who looks like her uncle. He’s carrying an old journal. Like hers. [Hers? Meaning her uncle's?] He introduces himself as her ghost. [Her ghost? Or her uncle's ghost?]

Half Truths and Bursting Bubbles on Kao San Road is an earthy story of changing lives and circumstances in a land where nothing runs quite right or as expected.

Thanks.


Notes

Tell us specifically what's in the journal that sends Julie to Thailand to poke around. That's a pretty big undertaking just because he left you a journal.

I assume Julie didn't know her husband was involved with her friend, so why is everyone dreading the return of her memory? What is it they don't want her to remember?

This falls apart early. The journal is interesting. Something in the journal compels Julie to go to Thailand. If you tell us what, then you can focus the rest of the query on whatever her uncle wants from her, whether it be to solve his murder or discover that he's her father or kill his business partner or submit his journal to a literary agent.

Instead of a cohesive plot you give us a list of things that happen, and we can't tell which are important. Is the journal just a gimmick to get Julie to Bangkok so the real plot can involve her, or is the journal the main focus of the book?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

New Beginning 888

The young god rowed across a violent ocean, voyaging to wed a bride he did not want, a cold Titan witch: Circe's daughter. Waves as tall as castles rolled beneath the hull. He plied the oars with rapid strokes, traveling alone in his small boat, cursing the hurricane at the end of the world, moving against the current and wind. A son's duty powered his work at the oars, not passion.

Greater gods than he arranged this marriage, uninvited. He did not wish to be the agent of their diplomacy. His important business was in Thrace and Ireland. He had sweet ladies, mortals, to entertain in Venice and Normandy. This wedding was a detour, a distraction. He journeyed for honor, not love, to fulfill an ill-conceived promise that could not be undone by his own good reasoning or desires.

He never liked passing through the storm between the worlds, but on this day it seemed worse than ever and the farther he went, the more it raged, as if to blow him back to Britain. Why so difficult? He must cross this barricade to reach the world of immortals, then find Circe's island. Perhaps she made the journey especially impossible now, to test him.

Slowly his thoughts turned as cold as the waves that washed over the stern.

Typical, creating a fucking storm when all he was trying to do was the right thing. Bitch. Jesus, all he'd done was knock up her daughter, and now he was going to spend eternity under her thumb. Did he deserve that fate? Did anyone, really?

Too late to back out now. He kept rowing. There was one small kernel of comfort: Odysseus had told him Circe was a real MILF. But still. He wished he'd just joined the Army.


Opening: Susan Brown.....Continuation: Stacy

Mrs. V's Twitter Update

I seem to recall reading that if you put a penny in your piggy bank yesterday and two pennies today, and four tomorrow, and then eight, and kept doubling the number, at the end of three weeks you'd be a millionaire.

That's the way I was told it would work with Twitter. The twits would multiply exponentially, and after three weeks I'd have more twits than Evil Editor has minions. Then he'd have to give me a raise.

Well, after day one I had 8 twits, and after day two I had 17. That's much better than the three cents I'd have had after two days of banking pennies. But most of my twits are also minions, so to outpace EE I started following the International Association of Administrative Professionals, which has 1158 followers. I tweeted to them about my new blog. Hopefully all of them will start following me.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Face-Lift 956


Guess the Plot

Beauty and the Bouncer

1. HE'S a high-class fashion model. SHE'S a pogo-stick champion. Will she ever stay still long enough for him to win her heart?

2. The depressing tale of why you're not cool enough to get into the trendiest club in town, even if you slip the bouncer a twenty, while that harlot in the miniskirt doesn't even have to wait in line.

3. Bree Taylor loses everything in a bad investment except the one asset she doesn't want: a biker bar in the hinterlands of Northern California. She takes it over reluctantly, realizes she can't handle the customers herself, and hires a bouncer. Happily ever after?

4. A lovely and brilliant cat named Beauty shares her house with a slave human named Melissa, who exists solely to bring Beauty's food, keep her litter box fresh, and provide something warm for the feline to lounge upon. Life is good until Melissa brings home an idiot dog: a distracting pestilence known as "The Bouncer," who intends to stay, but must be eliminated at any cost. War ensues.

5. She's a type A med student with an adorable drinking problem! He's a tough guy from the wrong side of the tracks trying to put his past behind him! Can they look past their differences and find love? It's a romance novel, so, yeah, probably.

6. When Elissa's friends set her up with the rough, hunky Jake, she knows he's bad news. Until the day he flattens some bikers trying to get too friendly. Now she can't get enough of him. But can she at least housebreak him before she takes him home to meet her mother?

7. Norman is the lanky dork who gets hired as a bouncer at Jezebel's Bar. Lucy is the slutty shot girl who already works there. Their boss has a strict no-dating rule, especially between bouncers and slutty shot girls. So you just know they're gonna hit the sheets posthaste.



Original Version

Dear Benevolent Editor,

I am seeking a publisher for “Beauty and the Bouncer,” a contemporary romance, complete at X,000 words, [Never combine Arabic numbers with Roman numerals; use one or the other. And try to expand this to at least LX,000 words.] that should appeal to fans of the wry humor and playful sexiness in the works of Jennifer Crusie, Victoria Dahl, and Rachel Gibson.

Lucy York is an aspiring mechanical engineer moonlighting as a slutty shot girl at Jezebel’s Bar & Lounge to pay her bills. [Is that the actual job description? Was she looking through the help wanted ads and answered one for a slutty shot girl? If a bar owner advertised for a slutty shot girl I would expect women to be boycotting and picketing the place.] [If the reader is familiar with the term "shot girl," I don't see the need to add "slutty" to the description. And if she's not familiar with the term, she'll probably think bartender.] All she has to do is keep the job—and keep herself from smashing a keg over some stupid frat boy’s head—until her student loans come through and she can flee north to live her dream of attending UC Berkeley. [My brief research suggests she could pay her tuition with what she'd make as a shot girl in about eight weeks. If she admits on her loan application that she makes $800 a night, those loans may not be forthcoming.]

Then her boss hires a new bouncer, Norm, a lanky literature dork who seems like everything a bouncer shouldn’t be: tall, gangly, [You already called him lanky. Tall and gangly isn't adding much.] sweet (and, you know, named Norman). But, as she gets to know the new guy, ol’ Norm turns out to be everything Lucy never knew she wanted: funny, passionate, smart, kind, and the best friend she’s ever had.

One problem for their happily ever after: the big boss man [owner] has a strict no-dating rule for employees. Especially between bouncers and slutty shot girls. [Is that how the rule is worded? No dating shot girls, especially not the slutty ones?] If anyone at Jezebel’s finds out she’s dating a bouncer, [We didn't even find out she's dating him. Is she?] [He takes a job as a bouncer, agreeing to the no-dating-slutty-shot-girls rule, and immediately starts dating a slutty shot girl? He didn't seem like the type. Can't he wait a while and follow her to Berkeley?] Lucy will lose her job as well as her best chance of getting out of the dump and away to Berkeley. [I thought she was getting away as soon as her loans came through. Do the loans depend on having a job as a slutty shot girl?] [Why doesn't Norm quit and get a job as a bouncer at the library?]

But, if she loses Norm trying to protect her job, is she losing her best chance at really ending up happy for forever after [happiness]?

I have two full-length novels out now as ebooks under my pen name E.D. Walker. My paranormal romance "The Beauty's Beast" was released by Noble Romance Publishing last year and my YA fantasy novel, “Heir to the Underworld,” was released by Sapphire Blue Publishing a few months later. My novel “The Beauty’s Beast” was a finalist in the First Book category of Romance Writer’s Ink “More Than Magic” contest.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.

Sincerely,


Notes

If Lucy were to lose her job, couldn't she just move to the Berkeley area and get a job as a shot girl there? I don't think you've shown her situation to be a desperate predicament. Should I risk losing this job I'm planning to quit soon anyway just to live happily ever after? Duh.

Has Norm agreed to move north when Lucy does? As far as we know, Norm is the guy who just started working at Jezebel's, and Lucy is planning to move to another city. We need to know that this is true love and that losing her job would ruin everything.

You might want to change the opening to:

Lucy York is an aspiring mechanical engineer moonlighting as a shot girl to pay her bills. All she has to do is keep the job—serving watered-down drinks to drunken frat boy’s at Jezebel’s Lounge—until her student loans come through and she can flee north to live her dream of attending UC Berkeley.

This explains the term "shot girl" to those agents who aren't into the big-city nightlife scene without calling them sluts. The shot girls, not the agents.

I believe the term "moonlighting" means working at a second job after getting off your main job. If shot girl is Lucy's only job, she's working, not moonlighting.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mrs. Varmighan Tweets

Hi, I'm Mrs. Varmighan. You can call me Mrs. V. It's easier to spell. You may know me as the woman behind the man, the man being the highly disagreeable teddy bear who happens to be the world's most famous editor.

I've tried to get him to join Twitter so his minions could get to know him better, but he refused to join unless his handle could be evileditor or EE, and they were both taken, probably by someone who thinks EE would be willing to pay them big bucks to relinquish the name.

As it happens, MrsVarmighan wasn't taken. MrsV was, so if you want to follow me, you're gonna have to spell "Varmighan" right at least once.

If you're already a twit, you probably know how to follow me using @MrsVarmighan. If you aren't a twit and you don't want to be, I'm going to arrange for all my tweets to appear on Evil Editor's blog as soon as someone tells me how.

Here's the good part. His Evilness would never stand for me tweeting on the clock, so I invite all minions to submit potential tweets to EE's email address (evledtr@gmail.com), and I'll pick out the funniest ones to post. All his email goes through me first, and he rarely reads his blog, so he won't know what's going on till it's too late.

BTW, EE would puke on his keyboard if he saw abbreviations like h8 or l8r or Go 4th & X. So pretend you're writing to him, or I'll get in big trouble.

New Beginning 887

It’s only been three weeks but Ian’s chafing already.

Three weeks since he lost control and let his cravings get the better of him. Three weeks since he carved up that yapping little shit that wouldn’t bend to his whims. Three weeks since he dumped Brent’s body deep into a river.

Three weeks without a teenage boy at his free disposal and Ian’s going crazy with the need to have a young, unwilling body trapped underneath him. To feel soft, unmarred skin under his fingertips. To mark that skin with his hands, his teeth - his hunting knife.

His cock starts to twitch at the thought, and Ian pushes down on it with the edge of his hand brutally, forcing it into submission. ‘Wilson’s Snack & Sandwich’ in the middle of the shopping mall is not the place to beat off, not if he wants to remain inconspicuous. Pretending to be focused on the well-worn menu, he lets his gaze wander over the steady stream of people passing by.

With any luck, he’ll find his new boy today, get him home and settled in by tomorrow. And this time, he’ll be more careful. This one will last longer than a couple of months.

He wipes a froth of spit from the corner of his mouth, the corner that twitches in sympathy with his cock, then pulls at the groin of his pants to give himself more room as a mother and her son approach. His palms are sweaty. He can almost smell the boy's hair.

They stop in front of him. He stares intently at the menu, ready to explode.

"Excuse me," the woman says, and he starts to wonder if he might know them.

Ian levels his eyes with theirs. "Uh, yes?"

"A ham-mushroom-swiss on wheat and tuna salad surprise on rye, please."

Ian wipes his hands on his apron and reaches for the bread.


Opening: Red Silverbeet.....Continuation: anon.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Face-Lift 955


Guess the Plot

Quinn's Law

1. It's a long journey, especially by dogsled, and Quinn is running late as usual, but when he finally gets here, everybody had better jump for joy.

2. Always sterilize your equipment. Do no harm. And don't tell anyone their new doctor is a woman until it's too late to send you back East.

3. Using proven scientific methods to analyze the female, physics genius Albert Quinn publishes a paper explaining his third law: the bigger the hair, the smaller the brain. Outrage ensues.

4. After winning a national elementary-school essay contest, little Quinn gets to make up a new law of her very own. After she comes down with a traumatizing case of cooties, she demands boys be outlawed in the United States. Hilarity ensues.

5. Zebediah Quinn rules his ranch hands with a velvet glove. He has just one iron-clad law: hands off his lovely daughter, Virginia. But when a new ranch hand who comes to the farm has no hands, lost in a tragic combine accident, will Quinn's Law apply to the man's prehensile feet and toes?

6. Hubert Quinn is grubby, foul-mouthed and malodorous. Follow his career as he buys his way to the bench while representing the criminal who set rats free in his chambers and a fat Santa who got stuck up a chimney.

7. In 1887, Eustace Phillipe Quinn decides to go practice law in Dodge City. But kindly old Judge Hooper thinks that the fragile, effeminate Quinn is overmatched. Will he prove them wrong--and catch the eye of Sheriff John McClanahan too?

8. Arizona, 1885. The tough mining town of Burbage has claimed yet another sheriff. That's when Jonas Quinn, half-breed brother of the dead lawman rides into town, vengeance in his heart. Will he finally break Burbage--or will Burbage break him? Also, a Cheyenne medicine woman.

9. Quinn's mother is supposed to be getting rejuvenating treatments from a "doctor,' but the guy is actually draining her life force so he can live longer. But he doesn't know Quinn has special powers, and that she's willing to take the law into her own hands to rescue her mother. Also, a man with no face.

10. Robert Quinn is an outlaw, making a living by robbing banks and holding up tax collectors. But when Alamanno Gulch loses its sheriff and its deputy sheriff in the same week, he sees the chance to take over; unless the residents decide that they prefer their banks unrobbed.


Original Version

Dear Agent:

I recently completed a 60,000 word young adult horror novel, Quinn’s Law, for which I am seeking representation.

Quinn Sage is the only survivor of a crash that killed thirteen of her friends. [I always suspected it was dangerous to cram so many people into one of those clown cars.] She wanted to kill herself and join them but ended up in a psych ward instead. [Nothing gets you over suicidal impulses like being surrounded by other people who want to kill themselves.] When she’s finally sent home, she thinks things are getting back to normal. Until a man with no face starts stalking her. [If a man with no face is able to stalk you, you need to stop talking so much.] Quinn is terrified she’s having another breakdown. Nightmarish winged creatures scrabble at her windows at night, leaving deep claw marks in the concrete window ledge. [Yep. Another breakdown.]

When her mother, a Broadway actress, starts receiving rejuvenating treatments from a slick doctor, Quinn discovers that his great-grandfather was in the same business—until his patients were found drained of their fortunes and their health in a remote estate, insane, skeletal shadows of their former selves. As Quinn delves deeper, she realizes the doctor isn’t the great-grandson after all—he’s the same monstrous man, who has somehow found a way to drain the life force of his victims and maintain his own youth for centuries. [He sounds like a bad guy, but I have to admit that if I could maintain my youth for centuries by draining other people's life forces, I'd give it a shot. Though I'd try to drain the life forces of only bad people. Unless it turned out bad people's life forces caused indigestion, in which case I'd have to go with the weak.]

He’s become obsessed with the idea of restoring scarred, damaged Quinn to her former beauty. [With his rejuvenating elixir? Is he a plastic surgeon? Can he provide testimonials from former patients? Does he at least have an infomercial?] He’ll do anything in his power to get her, including holding her mother hostage and terrorizing Quinn with horrifying creatures of his own creation. Having balanced on the thin edge between life and death has given Quinn powers, and a purpose, she didn’t realize she had. [Commas not needed.] [What powers? Super powers?] She puts them to the test when she follows the monster to his lair to free her mother and put an end to his evil once and for all.

I would be delighted to send you a sample chapter or the complete manuscript at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

The YA genre having been overrun with vampires and werewolves and faeries; perhaps a mad scientist is just what it needs.

Let's drop the man with no face from the query.

Creatures capable of digging their claws into concrete oughta be able to get through a window. Unless . . . are they really stupid creatures capable of digging their claws into concrete?

Most teenage girls would want their mother taken hostage and drained of her life force. Maybe you should make it Quinn's BFF.

If the doctor is obsessed with restoring Quinn to her former beauty, he should just tell Quinn's mother he can do so. He can find some other person to hold hostage and drain of her life force so that Quinn's mom trusts him.

Has he met Quinn?

Why is the title Quinn's Law? What is her law? You need a title like The Island of Dr. Moreau. But not exactly that, as I assume his name isn't Moreau and he doesn't have an island. The Laboratory of Dr. Schizoid. Rejuvenation. My Mother Sings on Broadway: Kill Me Now.

The horrifying creatures of his own creation does remind me of Dr. Moreau. Usually the villain doesn't branch out into new fields. Usually if you can drain people's life force, you focus on that and leave creating horrifying creatures to other mad scientists.

Cartoon 1000!!!!


1000 is enough of anything. But the main reason I'm stopping the cartoon caption contest is because I'm out of ideas. Evil Editor has encountered so many occupations, animals, situations, etc. that it's hard not to repeat ideas.

When I started the cartoons I had no idea if they would last any longer than several other features that fizzled out after a few months or weeks. And they wouldn't have if they hadn't been so funny.

To celebrate the occasion, I've prepared a short film that collects the cartoons featuring my most famous client, John Grisham, as well as the always-popular religion cartoons. The credits at the end of the film honor as many caption writers as I could come up with, not just the ones who wrote the captions for the Grisham and religion cartoons. These are the people without whom the cartoon feature would have died out long ago.

The cartoon music is by Kevin MacLeod. The credits music is from Apple. The film is at YouTube, because it's bigger and clearer there. Here's the link.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Face-Lift 954

Guess the Plot

I hate putting out a special call for fake plots and then not using half of the ones that come in, so your task will be doubly hard today.

The Last Ghast-Dancer

1. Little Maggie has a special way of saying good-bye to Mr. Fluffy now that he's become a "ghast."

2. After the weird pink monkey men slaughter all the peaceful monks of her temple, young Grffnghgh swears by the slime of her six tentacles that she will have revenge! With a special guest appearance by Cthulhu.

3. Britney takes "Into to the Paranormal", figuring it'll be an easy A. But when the lonely ghost of Isadora Duncan appears, she's thrust into a world where ghosts actively hunt ghasts--and Britney doesn't know which side to take.

4. At Seance High for the Supernatural, Julie wants more than anything to kiss a boy. Problem is, being a spirit, she's ethereal. But when a vampire hunk transfers to the school, his half-dead status means he might consider taking her to the prom. Can she scare off all the other spooks while she strives to possess his heart?

5. Jasinex hires Salitor to be his live-in necromancer. What he doesn't know is that Salitor is a hoarder. Now the castle is overrun with talking books, piles of skulls, and dancing ghosts. Bit how do you kick out someone who can fry you to a crisp?

6. Iryeh's been ghast-dancing for so long, she's sure it's her turn to be sacrificed to the ghasts. Instead the ghasts kill all the other ghast-dancers. Accused of conspiring with the ghasts, she goes into hiding with the only ghast-dancer ever to retire from the ghast-dancer guild and starts her own ghast-dancing business. Will she ever drive away the ghastly ghasts?

7. Robert Smith is a nobody and knows it. He resigns himself to living a nobody’s life – monotonous, mundane and unremarkable until he discovers by accident he can summon ghasts – ghoulish monsters that are distinguished by their immobilizing stench. Robert suddenly realizes that he is resigned to nothing and quickly plots his revenge against all who offended him.

8. Finally resigned to the reality that his position as a mortgage broker is forever gone, Smedly throws himself off a skyscraper. Alas, even suicide didn't work. He turns to dancing at strip joint where the customers all seem to be gay vampires. He was hoping women, or at least men who weren't actually dead, would be attracted. But no matter; the tips are good.

9. Linguistically challenged Amy needs to hire a Ghost Dancer for her Halloween party. But she misspells her craigslist ad and gets something called a "Ghast-Dancer," a creature from another realm who looks exactly like a hawt human guy and seduces every girl in sight -- except Amy, because she's his new keeper. She can't decide whether to enjoy his charms, or pimp him out.

10. Rock star Dez Gregson takes a break to visit Aunt Mimi at her country pile in Yorkshire, where he can't sleep because shadowy things keep going bump in the night. Is the house haunted, or are those space aliens on the stairway? Maybe a bottle o' whiskey and a tryst with the maid will help Dez solve this mystery. Maybe not. He's determined to find out.


Original Version

Dear Agent Bookpimp,

Every full moon, Iryeh and her fellow swordswomen perform a choreographed battle against twelve desert ghasts, a ritual enforcement of the treaty keeping all spirits out of their city. Iryeh's been ghast-dancing for so long that she's sure this is finally her month to disappear in tribute as the sole symbolic casualty. [Every month another ghast-dancer "disappears"? Can anyone ghast-dance, or are you born a ghast-dancer? Is this a volunteer organization?] But this time, the ghasts don't stick to the ritual; they actually attack. Only Iryeh survives.

When the royal family accuses Iryeh of intentionally letting the spirits win, she runs into the desert to hide with the legendary Mazaret, said to be the only woman who ever survived to retire from the ghast-dancers' guild. Although Mazaret isn't as welcoming (or as noble) as Iryeh had hoped, they take refuge together in a town overrun with spirits, with no ghast-dancers to protect it. Iryeh secretly begins using her dancing skills to chase off the spirits...and regain some of the wealth and admiration she's used to. [I was under the impression ghast-dancing was just a show put on to mollify the ghasts, not that it has the power to drive them away.] But her underground business attracts attention, and a kidnapping attempt leaves Mazaret dead. [She has an underground ghast-dancing business? Do people hire her to chase off ghasts?] After a disastrously failed resurrection, Mazaret's ghost [Is her ghost a ghast? If not, what's the difference between a ghost and a ghast?] alerts Iryeh that terrible conspiracies are brewing--ones that will leave her city in ruins and the spirit realm enslaved. But they [the conspiracies] can't proceed as long as even one ghast-dancer still exists.

All her life, Iryeh has been prepared to die to save her city. Now, if she is to do any good, she must fight alongside friends, strangers, and even her former opponent, the capricious, tantalizing sand-spirit Third--and she must live. [Maybe that name should be rethought. Or do you need it for a comic-relief conversation that goes:

Hi, I'm Iryeh. What's your name?

I'm Third.

I meant what's your name?

I said I'm Third.
I heard you. So who's first?
What?

What
is first?
No, my second cousin is First.

And I suppose your first cousin is second?

No, he's Fourth. Though he does play second violin.
Fascinating. So . . . what's your name?]


The Last Ghast-Dancer is a YA fantasy, unfinished at about 16,000 words. [Ah, you heeded my plea for queries of books that aren't finished. Don't forget to change the number when the time comes.] My short fiction has appeared in several dozen venues, including [Fair-To-Middling Quarterly and The Journal of Semipro Hopefuls]. Thank you for your time and attention.

Best regards,


Notes

If ghast-dancing can drive ghasts away, it's not clear why the ghast-dancers participate in the ritual instead of just keeping the ghasts out.

There's too much here. I recommend dropping Mazaret and reducing the long paragraph to something like:

When the royal family accuses Iryeh of letting the spirits win, she flees into the desert, taking refuge in a town overrun with spirits. Though she uses her dancing skills to chase the spirits off, a new threat rises. Terrible conspiracies are brewing that could leave her city in ruins and the spirit realm enslaved.


Whether his name remains Third or you change it to Thyrd, if he doesn't get mentioned until the plot summary is in its last five words, chances are he isn't needed in the query.

Cartoon 999

Caption: Evil Editor

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cartoon 998

Caption: anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New Beginning 886

Desk lamps and computer screens lit the newsroom in a modern gloom as a gray-haired reporter surfed up foreign news that would be rejected by the editors and a lone janitor emptied the paper waste baskets of the previous days drafts and rewrites. Tablets and smart phones sat, charging, waiting for the morning news. Crickets chirped from the corners. The life of the newspaper dwelt in the print shops and the truck bay, in the hands of deliverymen and ink-stained wretches.

Without warning, the newsroom came to life. The electronic brains of the newsroom awoke and a single document appeared on each device.

Urbi et Orbi -- To the City and the World, I Steve Harrow bring greetings. Be not afraid. Be happy. The children of man have left to explore the stars. Look to the heavens for we will reveal its wonders to you.

* * *

Brian McVallance, Chief Editor, tore a page from the humming press, read the quote and shook his head. Aliens? he thought. Higher beings from outer space? This phone hacking shit had gone further than even he had thought.


Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 997

Caption: Evil Editor

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Beginning 885

I hate questioning wizards. They sit there in the witness box and give me that look: that raised-eyebrow, upturned-lip sneer that says they'd sooner alter their clocks than give me the time of day. My boss reclines in his corner office and laughs into his latte, but he can afford amusement. No wizard worth his wand fears another.

I'm worth every inch of mine, every dead inch. Mercen the Mundane, that's me. Blank as a wall and with far less to recommend him, as my criminal law professor once said. I always did like criminal law.

I take a deep breath and push my glasses up my nose.

"Mr Ambrose," I say, "are you acquainted with my client?"

The witness examines the ceiling. "Not personally, no."

"Had you met him previously?"

"Only in passing, at other seminars. I doubt he would remember me."

"So in other words..." I turn to face the jury. "He had no reason to attack you."

Silence. Several brows crease. At the far end of the bar table, Noakes stops twirling his wand.

I fix my eyes on Ambrose. "Well, Mr. Ambrose?" I say, the pitch of my voice raised.

Ambrose stares at me. I stare at him. He stares at me and I give a little wave of my wand. He doesn't know my wand is impotent.

"All right, you got me." Ambrose slumps in his seat. "We'd known each other for years. I did it. He caught me with his wife, took a swing at me and I turned him into a mailbox."

Being a wizard defense lawyer is too fucking easy.


Opening: Kerin.....Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 996

Caption: Whirlochre

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Face-Lift 953


Guess the Plot

Guilty as Cast

1. Sven Swarsky has played crooks in hundreds of movies. He usually appears in the credits as "Third Gangster" or "Guy With Knife." When someone kills his estranged brother, Sven has his hands full trying to prove his innocence when half the witnesses pick him out of the lineup.

2. When Stojan goes fishing in the Sava River, the last thing he expects is to wound the Fish Princess with his hook. Can Stojan heal the Fish Princess before Poseidon finds out, or has he cast his last line?

3. Accused of casting a magic assault spell, Robert Stanford has the perfect defense: he has no magical powers. But if this were revealed, he would lose his job as a neurowizard. So he hires a magic lawyer, but it turns out he has no powers and will lose his job if anyone finds out. Hilarity ensues.

4. High school psycho Ned Nixon is cast as Hamlet, and everyone he hates also has a major role. He plots to put actual poison in the wine, so their opening performance will be their last. But his prying younger sister Ophelia knows something is wrong with Ned and joins forces with Sherlock Hamilton, varsity team quarterback and computer genius, to stop the fiend.

5. When aspiring actress Bailey James is found holding a gun next to the body of former teen hunk Jake Ryan, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, Ryan wasn't killed by the .22 James was holding, he was poisoned; and two . . . hey, what's his ex-wife doing over by the catering truck?

6. All her life Bonita has longed to play Lady MacBeth, but now that she's cast, the director says she's never quite had the right level of passion. When she finds Michael in the arms of 18 year old Julia, all that passion suddenly surfaces.


Original Version

Dear Sir Evil

I enclose for your consideration GUILTY AS CAST, a 10,000 word urban fantasy.

Tobias Mercen is a rookie defence lawyer who possesses all the wand skills of a blank wall, a situation that’s more than a little awkward considering he’s employed by one of the top magical law firms in the country. When eminent neurowizard Robert Stanford appoints Mercen to defend him against allegations of a brutal magical assault, things head straight out of awkward and smack-bang into bizarre. [Don't you have to demonstrate your abilities before you can get hired by a magical law firm? It's not easy to hide impotence.] [I've heard.]

The trial pits Mercen against Prosecutor Gregory Noakes, an old colleague and friend. Faced with the evidence, Mercen’s hard-pressed to believe in Stanford’s innocence - until an argument down in the cells sees them both raising their fists and neither reaching for his wand. Mercen’s been handed the holy grail of defences: his allegedly magic client is as blank as him [he is]. [Don't you have to demonstrate your abilities before you can get proclaimed an eminent neurowizard?] Trouble is, revealing that to the jury will destroy Stanford’s career, and his [own] right along with it.

Trapped, he approaches Noakes for help, only to find his friend is already aware of the situation; aware, and apparently unconcerned. Mercen is fuming, and Stanford’s indifference to his plight isn’t helping. Their only chance lies in the spell behind the attack, and the knowledge that, their combined lack of magic notwithstanding, some wizard was responsible for casting it. ["Notwithstanding" doesn't mean what you want it to. You want: In view of their combined lack of magic . . . Though a better idea is to delete the whole phrase, as we're smart enough to figure out why it's obvious someone else cast the spell.] Mercen’s going to prove his client’s innocent, even if he has to break the law to do it. [Not much of a connection with the previous sentence. You want something like: All Mercen has to do now is figure out who, and get him to confess.]

My stories have previously been published in [small-time publications]. I am a practising criminal lawyer and have worked in both prosecutions and defence.

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours sincerely, etc.

[Author's note: This is a short story; as such, I appreciate it wouldn't usually justify its own query. I thought it would be a useful - and potentially amusing - exercise to write one though. Thanks!]

[Evil Editor's note: This was the last item in the query queue. Summer vacation is over, minions; time to start putting some effort into those writing careers. Step 1: Start a new novel. Step 2: When you reach 200 words, stop. Send what you have so far to EE. Step 3: Write a query letter and send it to EE. Step 4: Go back to writing the novel. Too many authors finish their novels and then have to spend months perfecting their query letters and rewriting their openings. Better to have that stuff ship-shape the minute you need it.]



Notes

Not clear why the prosecutor is going on with the trial if he knows the accused is innocent.

Not a bad query. Have you considered making Noakes unaware and adding another 50,000 words?

Robert Stanford is a pretty boring name for an eminent neurowizard.

Cartoon 995

Caption: Whirlochre

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Success Story

Steve Prosapio writes:

I've got a success story to share. Any time a lowly writer can work out a trip to Hawaii that's at least partially deductible, it's a success right?

I'm leading a 2-day publishing seminar on the Big Island of Hawaii. I'm planning to spend some time during the presentation covering query letters and will be showing them your last critique of my Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum query. I'll be forwarding them to your blog too. Thanks for everything!

http://hawaiinewsdaily.com/2011/09/publishing-workshop-at-volcano-art-center-sept-24-25/

New Beginning 884

The head of the pedestal fan panned left and right from the corner, pushing the hot air around the stuffy room. Jake Wilson would've left the windows open, but the searing wind outside would seep in, making the summer night even more unbearable. And with the air-conditioner broken, he had to compensate with a towel-cloth and a shallow basin filled with iced water.

Jake rose from bed for the tenth time during the night. He wiped his arms and face with the drenched cloth and plopped back down, leaving it splattered over his face like an overstreched pizza dough. Maybe this time--with the cooling cloth over his face--he would finnaly get some decent sleep.

But within minutes, the cloth had turned warm and the coolness from the wipe-down had evaporated. He started perspiring again and was itchy from the sweat trickling down the sides of his neck. The nights in January were never ususally this bad, but tonight just seemed hotter for some reason.

You know how if you cook a frozen pizza in the microwave but you accidentally set it for six minutes instead of three and then you slap it onto your face, cheese side down? And where the pepperoni was you'd have these round blisters on your face, like chicken pox only bigger? Ostrich pox? That's how hot it was.

Christ, it was hot. Although it was always rarely this hot. Sweat poured off Jake like he was lying in a pizza oven in the Outback. Where was the damn air conditioner repairman? 24-hour service my ass, Jake thought. He's probably sitting in his air-conditioned truck downing a cold one while I'm--

The doorbell rang. About time. He jogged through the living room to the front door and pulled it open.

But it wasn't the AC guy. It was the Dominos guy. "Careful with the box," he said. "It's very hot."



Opening: Afiq.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Cartoon 994

Caption: Whirlochre

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Beginning 883

“So... you took the test?” Michael asked. He stared at the ground, refusing to look up at Stephanie.

“Of course I did!” Stephanie fiddled with the box the pregnancy kit came in. She looked at Michael, studying his dark hair and square jaw. What if their baby—she stopped the thought before it could finish. She would not be pregnant. Would not.

Looking at his watch, Michael saw the time go from 12:53 to 12:54. Four more minutes. Four minutes and they would know. Four minutes and he could be a father.

Stephanie seemed to read his mind. “We will not be parents, Michael. I can’t afford a baby. I can’t have a baby. I’ve been on birth control. I never miss it. I’m just late. We can’t have a baby. I can’t have a baby with someone I don’t—” She stopped herself.

Michael stared at her now while she looked down at the ground. This time he studied her as she gripped the box tighter in her hands. Her veins pushed at the skin so hard, he swore he could see the blood pump through them. Her hands began to tremble along with her shoulders.

Just as the minute hand hit the twelve, Stephanie's cellphone rang, making them both jump. Michael watched in trepidation as Stephanie, ashen-faced, took the call.

After what seemed like forever, Stephanie flipped shut her Startac.

"Well?" Michael asked, visibly trembling. "Was it...?"

Stephanie nodded. "Yes, that was MTV. The test results are in, and apparently I'm way too educated to be on Teen Mom, so you can keep it in your pants."


Opening: Xiexie.....Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 993

Caption: John

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Face-Lift 952


Guess the Plot

Throne of Chaos

1. Flushing a cherry bomb down the toilet is always good for laughs, but at Fermilab, things can quickly get out of hand. Now Dr. Wiesacre has to rebalance space-time before HE gets canned.

2. The six wives were bad enough, but when Henry VIII's mistresses threaten a class action for child support unless he places one of their children on the throne, chaos ensues. For a guy batting way below average, he's produced a helluva lot of bastards.

3. Luna discovers on her 17th birthday that she is heir to the faerie throne, despite being half werewolf. As she struggles to master magic based on Euclidean geometry, and her vampire boyfriend broods furiously, she is romanced by a handsome centaur prince and the goblin king. All of a sudden the Seelie court comes under attack by a horde of zombies in zambonis. Only Luna's guardian angel can sort out this mess - if only he wasn't desperately in love with the reincarnation of his Babylonian lover, who just happens to be... the centaur! Ha! You thought it was going to be Luna, didn't you?

4. Malakai is considered a disgrace to the royal bloodline, so when war breaks out with a neighboring land, he signs up to lead the first attack. But when his attack ends not only in defeat, but also in the assassination of his father the king, followed by his best friend recruiting him to kill his own brother, Malakai realizes he may soon be all that's left of the royal bloodline.

5. While visiting family in old Philadelphia, history student Jessy Kashkin finds a hidden door in her grandmother's basement. Wow, is it tough to open! But she persists with help from a hunky neighbor and a psychic. Opened, the forgotten closet contains an iron chair covered with gilt symbols of a mysterious and sinister nature. They haul it upstairs to examine. When Jessy sits on the chair, well, let's just say this is where the term "chaos theory" comes from.

6. While searching the forests of Tennessee for a place to live like Thoreau, Lewis Fletcher discovers a crashed plane containing the skeletons of Nazi pilots and a cargo of ancient artifacts. He furnishes a nearby cave with plane debris and Egyptian relics and settles in for a profound experience, unaware his new chair is actually the very one that drove Hitler mad.

7. Ted Jackson's international adventure turns out to be a date with cholera. He records his thoughts on Nancy's voicemail as his whole life is reduced to sitting on a messy toilet in a hostel full of crazy characters. Half these people are plotting to take over South Asia. The other half are Ted's comrades in misery. If he survives he's never leaving Milwaukee again.


Original Version

Evil,

I was hoping you would consider representing my 100,000-word fantasy novel, Throne of Chaos [but now I'm just hoping for a rejection slip that isn't abusive].

Malakai, the second of the King’s two sons, is considered a disgrace to the royal bloodline, and constantly finds himself overshadowed by his perfect, pride-of-the-kingdom brother. When war breaks out with a neighboring land, Malakai sees it as a chance to prove himself, and signs up to lead the first attack. [Is that how it's decided who leads the attacks? They send around a sign-up sheet?] But when his attack ends not only in defeat, but also in a Noble being assassinated by one of his own allies, the desired result is far from obtained. [Considered an even bigger disgrace in his now-decimated kingdom, Malakai moves to the neighboring land where he is hailed as a hero and put on the throne. For that is how things work in the land called Chaos.] [If you delete "when" you can also delete that wordy, vague last phrase.]

The in-house assassination points to a conspiracy to overtake [usurp] the throne, and when the King winds up murdered it solidifies the assumption.

[-Recent events lead me to assume the king is in danger.
-Haven't you heard? The king's been murdered!
-Hmm. That would seem to solidify my assumption.]

The only lead points to Malakai’s best friend, Nihilez, and though there is no evidence to prove it, Malakai finds out of [Discovers? Realizes?] his guilt when Nihilez solicits him to join the conspiracy.

Malakai finds himself sympathizing more with the usurpers, but when he finds out their next target is his own brother, he must choose where his loyalty most lies. [Let's see, I can be loyal to my family, in which case Mr. Perfect becomes king and I remain a disgraced laughingstock, or I can be loyal to my best friend, in which case I become king and have everyone who ever uttered a bad word about me put to death. Tough one.]

Thanks you for your time and consideration.


[Author's note: This is a revision to Face-Lift 541, but seeing as how it has been so long since that one (2008), and I changed most of the book, and the query, and the title...]


Notes

Here are some things you might want to squeeze into the query:

Why is Malakai considered a disgrace?
Why does the war break out?
Why are the conspirators conspiring?

As it is now, all we have is this: two brothers, who will be played in the movie by George Clooney and George Costanza, are sons of the king. No one likes Costanza, he's a failure, and he's thinking of helping to murder Clooney. Are we supposed to get behind this guy?

If so, we need to know what was so bad about life under the king and why life under Clooney will be no better. For all we know, the king and Clooney are benevolent rulers and the usurpers are power-mad villains.

If this is the same book as Face-Lift 541, I'm surprised to find no mention of the fact these characters are all lizards.

Cartoon 992

Caption: John

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Beginning 882

A hooded figure raced through the streets, feet splashing like giant water balloons in ankle-deep puddles. In her arms was a damp bundle, only identifiable as a baby from the small cry it gave. She ducked beneath a store’s awning to protect her child from the onslaught of rain. The baby cried softly.

“Shh,” she urged, stroking the child’s head. She made a fearful glance to her left, brushing her soaked, sandy blonde hair away from her eyes. “They might hear us.”

How anyone could hear over the pounding rain and constant thunder, one can only guess, but this woman quaked in terror. A flash of lightning illuminated her surroundings. For a moment, she thought she saw a shadowy figure silhouetted against the sky.

Though she tried to assure herself no one else would be out in this weather, the thought felt far from reassuring. After all, the only people who’d brave these conditions were those searching for her and her child. Little did it comfort her that they were as unaccustomed to the weather as she.

Suddenly, a spotlight flared in the distance. The shadowy figure was illuminated. The man leaned into the raging wind and pelting rain. His windbreaker flapped wildly, yet his perfectly coiffed hair was motionless. How was that possible? Was he one of them? He had to be; why else would he be out in this downpour?

He looked familiar but she couldn't place his face. Something about his eyes . . . Then suddenly she realized who it was. Sal Salmbocco, WNNZ weather reporter, the only other person crazy enough to be out in this weather.


Opening: Ryan Mueller.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 991

Caption: Evil Editor

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Face-Lift 951


Guess the Plot

The Travelers

1. Raels travels from Australia to attend college, and meets other travelers. But these travelers become obsessed with her. Two of them just want to get her in the sack, but one of them wants her dead, because she's a danger to all of . . . the Travelers.

2. Some of the gods hang out in heavenly Olympus. Others are Travelers who roam the universe and make occasional visits to our world to cause trouble, get laid, do battle, whatever. This is their story according to a talking Liverpool cat who was formerly Prime Minister of England.

3. Take one map, one car, a girl with no sense of direction, a mysterious hitchhiker and toss out the map. Wherever The Travelers go, trouble and romance follow.

4. When Mark and Mason Colbert, the twin singers who founded the 60's folk group "The Travelers", are found stuffed together in an antique steamer trunk, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: someone took the group's old song "Bound Together" a little too literally; and h
e'll be stuck dealing with aged hippies all weekend.

5. A scrappy band of exiles from planet Zora-nai agree to transport land-dwellers infected with the Red Plague across hostile skies to quarantine in exchange for a full reprieve. But the Plague looks curiously like political dissent, and reprieve looks less and less tempting.

6. Mo, Dixie and their week-old daughter Sunsprout hop a Greyhound from Utica, New York to Seattle, Washington. But when they get off in Billings, Montana to buy diapers, they find themselves mistaken for spies who've come to trade Soviet-era nuclear weapons for gold stolen from Fort Knox.


Original Version


Dear [Agent],

I am seeking representation for my 100,000-word young adult paranormal novel, The Travelers, a story about an Australian girl who discovers a link between two handsome students and ghost stories in her college town.

When 18-year old Raels starts her freshman year at Algonquin University, strange things happen from the moment she steps off the train. A shockingly attractive stranger guides her to her dormitory, then vanishes in mid-air. [Was he/she in midair during the entire trip to the dormitory? Because if someone hovering in midair offered to guide me somewhere, I'd hail a cab.] [There are enough attractive people in the world that I doubt it would be shocking to encounter one.] Dark shapes seem to follow her through the forest when she goes jogging. [I thought this was a list of strange things that happened as soon as she stepped off the train. Why is she jogging through a forest?] The mystery turns sinister [What is the mystery?] one night when she witnesses a woman pushing a man off of Ulysses Tower—but when she peers over the edge, there’s no body below. [He vanished in midair. Happens a lot in this place.] [Isn't it odd for a freshman girl to be on top of a tower at night? That sounds more like a sophomore guy thing.]

Masquerading as PhD students, Zane and Severin are actually members of an elite group of djinn who sojourn in the human world. They call themselves Travelers. Witty, sly, charismatic and cruel, Zane thinks he has seen it all before. Aloof and quietly observant, Severin is Zane’s protégé. [I'd dump these adjective lists and focus on what happens.] But neither knows what to make of Raels, a human who has an aura almost like the djinn. Zane and Severin's friendship is put to the test when they both start pursuing her.

Like _Twilight_ or Becca Fitzpatrick’s_ Hush Hush_, this [book could be a huge moneymaker, possibly for you. It] is a story about
[You already said what it was a story about in the first paragraph. Choose the description you like best and live with it.] an ordinary girl [I don't think a girl with a djinnish aura qualifies as ordinary.] who discovers around her a hidden world of powerful, attractive, and sometimes dangerous creatures. There is a mystery to unravel: who are these beautiful men with pale eyes, and what are their designs on the girl? And there is also an unfolding romance, one which is threatened when an unknown Traveler decides that Raels is a danger to all djinn.

The novel’s fictional college town is based on Princeton University, where I studied [and first encountered Travelers hovering in midair]. [And here I thought it was based on Algonquin College, in Ottawa. This is like saying it's set at fictional Harvard, based on Yale. Sort of.] I currently teach anthropology at a university in Australia and I am the author of an award-winning nonfiction book published by University of Texas Press. Unfortunately, this may not be of much help in marketing the novel [But it will help when they're making the movie trailer: From the producer of The Hangover and the director of Lord of the Rings and the writer of The Archaeology and Anthropology of Aboriginal Society comes . . . ] since the overlap between readers of ethnography and paranormal genre fiction is not huge (if the snickers of my colleagues are anything to go by), [Your colleagues are idiots. Paranormal fans are into vampires, wolfmen, zombies and Bulgarians, four of the leading ethnography . . . things.] but I will shamelessly promote the book amongst the 1000+ students I teach every year [Welcome to Anthropology 101. The three textbooks for this class will be Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, The Human Species: a New Perspective, and The Travelers.] [You claim you teach 1000+ students about Anthropology every year? Maybe fiction is the right fie
ld for you.] with promises of extra credit for anyone who reviews it on Goodreads.com. [Do they have to read it or just review it?] ["I gave your fucking Travelers five stars on Goodreads! And you give me a C?!! WTF?"]

Thanks for your time and consideration. Enclosed are a short synopsis and the first three chapters. Please let me know if you would like to review the full manuscript.

Sincerely, etc


Notes

Once you've set up the situation, you lapse into listiness and vagueness. What's the story? What happens? Who is Raels (really), what danger is she in, what is she gonna do about it, and what happens if she fails? Don't describe the book's aura; tell the story.


Cartoon 990

Caption: John

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Stop Abnormal Gag

Comments on yesterday's Classic inspired me to seek out some of the anagrams I've found in queries to determine how many times (if any) I've been careless. Turns out I'm too lazy to check my work, but below are some of the excerpts. Amazing how many character names turn out to be anagrams.

Nasan Rattlingbones [Anagram: brainless antagonist.]

Kwakwaka' wakw [Anagram of Waka Waka Waka, the noise Pac-Man makes.]

theourh [anagram: U R The Ho.]

Manuel Armijo, [Anagram for jaguar lo mein, a staple of the diet of the Chinese working on the Transcontinental Railroad.]

... is a suspenseful contemporary story for adult readers who appreciate the work of authors such as Chuck Palahniuk and Bret Easton Ellis. [The only thing I know about Chuck Palahniuk is that his name is an anagram for Haiku Lack Punch. Here's a Haiku he wrote, and it definitely does lack punch:

Bret Easton Ellis
If you can stand him, you'll love
Chuck Palahniuk]

Rune Inger [Anagram: ruin genre.]

Nayla Ebriony [Anagram: brainy alien] is a sixteen-year-old Yeeod [Anagram: yodelayheehoo],

Now he hears the rescue ship he’s on is taking him to Merivale, [Anagram: Evil Realm.]

...and their monstrous master, Esaun-Namhiroth. [Anagram: An author in shame.]

...has struck a bargain with Ehkron, [Anagram: Honker. I think you should call him Honker. Seriously, he could be the comic relief. He's always blowing his nose, making a honking noise.]

Nikki Kashyap [Anagram: khaki yakskin.]

Private investigator Peri Minneopa [Anagram: Minneapolis pimp]

Thank you with all the apperication [Anagram: appreciation.] of the "The Apprentices" [Anagram: apperication.] Manuscript.]

It's the end of the world - and Christine Temetri [Anagram: termite.] is worried about her linoleum. [Anagram: lion mule. I get it, whenever we encounter a word we don't think belongs, it's an animal anagram. Clever.] Christine has become rather jaded about the prospect of an imminent Apocalypse. [Calypso ape.]

Upon their return, they are plagued by inaction until Resk, the Iphesian capital, is destroyed – by rogue kyters! [Anagram: Turkey ogres. It would help us get a visual image of your mythological creatures if they were turkey ogres instead of rogue kyters. We have no idea what a kyter looks like but we can mentally combine a turkey and an ogre. Consider describing the kyter (a simple description like "dragon-like" or "troll-like" will do) or going with turkey ogres.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Cartoon 989

Caption: Whirlochre

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

New Beginning 881

Peels of laughter assaulted Huff as he leaned up against the wall, one knee bent, one boot sole pressed against the store’s bricks. His well-rehearsed, devil-may care persona was as firmly in place as the wide-brimmed hat sitting on his head.

The children squealed again and joyously clapped at the puppet dancing before them.

The puppet with no strings.

It twirled as it pounded its hands together to clang the tambourines tied to its tiny, wooden lifeless hands.

The children cheered louder.

Now it marched around the circle, its stick legs shooting straight out into the air only to be slapped into the dust before shooting out again.

Behind all of them was the puppet master, the magician. He weaved his hands in the air, smiling, laughing as he used the power. His expression was no less gleeful than the children’s, perhaps even more so.

Huff stuck a long straw between his teeth, tightening his jaw. He resisted the urge to spit.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Hacking Horace making his way through the square. His torn, dirty brown cloak and scraggly grey hair, sharply contrasted the well-oiled, leather sheathed strapped to his side.

Hacking Horace pulled his sword from its sheath and hacked at the air above the puppet. It continued its dance. "See," Hacking Horace proclaimed. "No strings."

He then turned to the magician and hacked off his head.


Huff swallowed the straw.
The puppet danced on.

"See?
" Hacking Horace said. "No magic. It's just a dancing midget."

The children wandered off, muttering things like, "Ripoff" and "Con artist" and "Bullshit scam."


Opening: vkw.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Cartoon 988

Caption: anon.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Face-Lift 950


Guess the plot

Martin Mason and the Man in the Crystal Prison

1. Not at all based on Harry Potter. Not in the slightest. Honest.

2. J.K. Rowling's lovechild by Evil Editor pens a scathing tell-all in the tradition of Mommy Dearest.

3. In the prison is the iron-fisted tyrant Samuel Wade, who just happens to be Martin Mason's father. Martin has the ability to turn invisible, but should he use this power to break his father out, or should he hang out in the women's locker room at the local gym? Or should he just stare at a blank wall?

4. Martin Mason, middle aged Irishman, tumbles into a rabbit hole on his way home from a pub in Limerick and discovers he's actually a wizard with a very important mission in life: guard the wee evil elf in the crystal prison on Fiona's key ring and don't let him out until the ransom has been negotiated with Glimmerella. But Martin accidentally lets the elf go. Hilarity ensues.

5. Martin Mason, teen-aged musical prodigy, learns that his music teacher/mentor has been unjustly incarcerated in the Crystal Prison and sets out to free him by smuggling in a high-F# tuning fork with which to shatter the walls.

6. Mild-mannered accounting clerk Martin Mason is troubled by a recurring dream of a man confined in a prison with crystal windows and bars. He takes an hallucinogenic herb to deepen his dream state, and finds himself in a crystal prison where he dreams of a mild-mannered accounting clerk.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Thirteen-year-old Martin Mason spends his evenings staring at a blank wall in his school’s basement. [A fascinating character about whom I would like to read an entire novel.

Chapter 12

Man, I still can't get enough of staring at this blank wall. It's like a giant canvas for my imagination. Hey, I never noticed this, but the wall isn't quite white. More of an off-white. Egg shell, maybe.

I wonder if they'd mind if I brought in a poster to hang on the wall. Just to break up the monotony. Nothing gaudy, of course, maybe a photograph of Tolkien or a still life of a fruit bowl with no apples, just Kiwi fruit and limes and prunes. Not that the wall is that monotonous. It is slightly brighter in the middle and darker in the corners. Though that could be a trick of the lighting.

Someone should paint a mural on this wall. A mural of characters from Dr. Suess and Looney Toons. I wonder if the Cat in the Hat would have as much trouble catching the Roadrunner as Wile E. Coyote does. The Cat's pretty smart, and the Roadrunner isn't necessarily smart, he just survives because the coyote keeps buying his contraptions from Acme, which makes crap. How does that place stay in business?

Whoa, what's that spot? Was that little spot there yesterday? I couldn't have missed that, could I? It looks like someone came in and drew a little dot with a Sharpie. Someone . . . lefthanded. Who walks with a limp. But why? Wait . . . IT'S MOVING!!! What the-- Oh. It's a spider. Shit, I'm losing it. Hey, I never thought about it, but I wonder . . . what's behind this wall?] Behind this wall lies a device designed to free tyrant Samuel Wade from an impenetrable prison. [Whattaya mean, "tyrant"? Are we talking Stalin or the Vice Principal?] [Is this supposedly impenetrable prison the crystal prison of the title? Gimme a sledge hammer and stand back.] Though Martin doesn’t know about this device, he does know three teachers who used to work behind that wall have mysteriously disappeared. Well, that, and he’s the prime suspect. [Why?]

To solve these disappearances and clear his name, Martin must first master his mind’s rare ability to manipulate its surroundings. Turning invisible was great for playing pranks at his old school back home. But sneaking around unseen at night tends to arouse suspicion at a school where Martin’s talent isn’t so unique. [If he's unseen, and others have the same ability, why is he the one they suspect?]

Martin must then decide who deserves his trust in this secret, seemingly idyllic world of self-driving cars and death-defying medical technology. His best bet is the teacher who supposedly saved him from life as some government lab rat by dragging him to this school in the first place. But Martin suspects him in the disappearances. [If Martin suspects him, then why is he the best bet?] There’s also the school Director. But he suspects Martin. [Why?] As for the police, they weren’t much help during Samuel Wade’s iron-fisted rule five years ago. [Rule of the school? Usually impenetrable prisons are reserved for the worst criminals. What did Wade do?]

What’s really getting to Martin, though, is the discovery that Wade is his biological father. [Aha! It's Star Wars. Martin is Luke, Wade is Vader, and the blank wall is the Force.] Despite Martin’s affection for the adoptive parents who raised him, he feels drawn to his own flesh and blood. If Martin is to stop Wade’s return, [If he doesn't know about the device designed to free Wade, and Wade is in an impenetrable prison, why does he think he needs to stop Wade's return?] solving the mystery of the blank wall won’t be enough; he must also resist his father’s temptations. [Wouldn't it be more accurate to refer to the mystery of the missing teachers than the mystery of the blank wall?]

MARTIN MASON AND THE MAN IN THE CRYSTAL PRISON is an upper middle
grade fantasy, complete at 73,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

Martin is trying to stop Wade's return? Meaning if the device is used to free Wade, he will regain his power?

What is Martin trying to do, mentally create a door in the wall? There must be some way into that room besides manipulating matter.

Once you get to Martin must master his mind's ability etc. you lose the main plot thread. Dump the pranks and self-driving cars and focus on what Martin plans to do once he masters his ability. Instead of listing those who don't deserve his trust, tell us whom he does trust to help him, assuming there is someone. What, specifically, is the danger, and what can Martin do about it?

Cartoon 987

Caption: Whirlochre

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Face-Lift 949


Guess the Plot

From the Diaries of Anna Butcher: Have a Great Summer

1. Mrs. Hoffman gives her first-year German students an assignment to be completed over summer vacation: translate into English the diaries kept by Holocaust victim Anna Butcher in Dachau.

2. When her best friend hooks up with her main crush, Anna is devastated. Life isn't worth living. Or at least it wouldn't be if it weren't almost time for . . . the annual summer mango festival!

3. A guide to making great sausage, scrapple, and mincemeat from roadkill you can pick up for nothing. Recipes presented in the form of humorous haiku.

4. On the eve of reconciling with her philandering husband, Anna Butcher sells his vintage guitar collection, quits her job, and hits the road in search of the perfect martini lounge.

5. A serial killer is hiding under the boardwalk, just up the beach, ten yards down from the ice cream stand. This is her story, in her own words. Don't order the Cherry Surprise.

6. After her junior year at Western High, Anna Butcher is ready for a summer of partying with her friends. Then her little brother Kirk scans all the pages of her diaries and posts them on the Internet. Maybe she can talk her parents into moving the family to Alaska.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Thirteen year old Anna Butcher leads a cursed life--- or, at least, that's what she believes. [Commas aren't needed around "at least." Actually, nothing after the dash would be needed if you inserted "believes she" after "Butcher."] Being a Butcher means relationships never work and [your clothes always smell like raw meat and] all the odds are stacked against you. [Leading a cursed life means the odds are stacked against you. So we already know the odds are stacked against her. Make that sentence more specific or dump it.] And just when things are looking up at the end of her eighth grade year and she begins to entertain the idea that maybe the curse doesn't exist, her best friend and life-long crush hook up at the Spring Fling. [Life-long crush? She's 13. Has she had this crush 13 years?]

Friendless [Her best friend was her only friend?] and heart-broken, Anna enters the summer before her ninth grade year anticipating nothing exciting except the annual Mango Festival and her dad's second wedding. But when her no-good cowboy boot wearing [boot-wearing] cousin from New Jersey, Rosalind, comes to town, Anna's summer goes from uneventful to frustratingly interesting. [In what way is Rosalind no-good?] Can all the chaos happening with Anna be mere coincidence, [I don't see this as chaos. Can you add a couple examples of frustratingly interesting chaotic incidents?] or is it the product of a curse put on her family long ago? [Was a curse put on her family? How was the curse worded?]

From the Diaries of Anna Butcher: Have a Great Summer is a contemporary middle grade story, complete at 42,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration; I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,


Notes

This is mostly setup. Once you set up the situation you need to tell us more about what happens than that Anna's cousin comes to town. And we need to know about the curse. Start with something like this:

According to Anna Butcher's grandmother, back in the 1600s a wronged Gypsy's dying words cursed the entire Butcher family and their descendants to never have a fulfilling relationship for eternity. So it comes as no surprise when Anna's best friend, Rosalita, hooks up with Anna's long-time crush. 8th grade can be such a drag.

With nothing to look forward to but her father's second wedding and the always-lame mango festival, could summer vacation be more horrible? Apparently so. Anna's cousin Elvira rolls into town and recruits Anna for an arson and murder spree.

Now you need to add a few sentences about how Anna deals with the chaos and how the curse is ultimately broken or disproved.

The title is unwieldy. Where do the diaries come in? Is it in diary form? Is Have a Great Summer supposed to be sarcasm? No will know that. They'll think it's about a great summer, and no one wants to read that. I recommend a simple title like My Shitty Summer, or Season of the Bitch.

Butcher is a lousy name. It makes people think of people getting butchered.