Monday, October 31, 2011

New Beginning 897

Bert was entering Dr. Carneival’s House of Freaks when he was snatched from behind. Now, he laid upon a surgical table surrounded by severed birds’ heads, pigs’ ears, and gators’ tails; the remainders of their bodies hung above his head. A lamp came on and glinted off jars of frozen eyes, while hands like chicken claws placed a row of knives and needles near his fingers. His trembling fingers stretched towards them, but his hand would not follow.

“No point tryin’,” an old voice laughed.

The hands clutched his eyes open and a woman’s face like melted candle wax appeared; eyes that poked sideways swiveled over his face, resting for a moment on his eyes.

“I don’t wanna die” He croaked.

“If you was gonna die, then you’d be dead.” The woman placed one of the jars beside the table. The eyes bobbed up and down in their gray liquid, each pupil burning a hole into his skin. She threaded the biggest needle and jabbed it into an eyeball, squishing gray liquid everywhere. He tried to sit up; he tried to run; but his head just rolled side-to-side.

“Don’t worry,” the woman patted his cheek. “I’ve done been through four jobs afore this one, and I can ‘sure you, this pain won’t be nothin’ to what you already feelin’.”

It was his own fault. Bert had been swayed by blind ambition, lured by Carneival's promises of riches; of never again having to beg for money. And his exit had been dramatic:

Today's show was brought to you by the letters "F" and "U", and the number two million dollars!

But no one walks away from PBS.

Bert heard a sound. A scuffle at the edge of his vision. A familiar figure approached the table.


"Yes, Bert, it's me. You can never leave, you know. And once Lydia here is finished, you'll never again be tempted to have some other guy's hand up your ass."

Opening: Anon......Continuation: anon.

Witches and Warlocks!

The 2nd Witch Guess the Plot Quiz.

The following plots have appeared in the Guess the Plot feature, but not all of them were fakes. Can you remember which three were the actual plots of minions' novels?

1. 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?

2. Nausicaa's motto is No stranger to danger. She's made it her mission to rescue witches from the executioner, but who is going to save her, now that her fellow freedom fighters are about to go to war with the oppressive government, and she's lost her memory? If only she could find the man of her dreams…

3. Thumbelina has been wandering the pathways of the Alderton Maze in search of a way out for seven hundred years, when at last she encounters the wizard-hedgeman with his magical clippers. It's spite at first sight, but they must work together to forge an exit before that wicked witch, Tiffany, returns from the hairdresser's -- or be lost forever.

4. Hoping to avoid looking fat in their graduation gowns, a coven of witches summon a demon who can freeze time and allow them a few extra personal training sessions before the ceremony.

5. When Rebecca Thompson realizes there is another dimension that mirrors earth, where our shadows live and breathe, she enlists the help of her best friend Gregory--a warlock--to transport her there. If Rebecca can steal her mother's shadow, she can use it to get her mother out of a coma. But Greg has other plans for his "best friend."

6. Potions don't come cheap. Meg has stayed young and beautiful for centuries by cheating mortals out of their hard earned cash. But when her used car business goes under, Meg is forced to take swindling to an even higher level: Infomercials.

7. In the sleepy English town of Swindle Witch, Postmistress Wendelin May sells eye of newt along with stamps and sweets. But when Sir Edward Fezziwig chokes to death on a newt eyeball, Wendelin must turn amateur sleuth to clear her name.

8. Octavia Bly, the last witch in Massachusetts, used to intoxicate people with love potions, poison their soup, fly around at night . . . old-fashioned stuff like that. She loves the 21st century. She's in overpriced real estate, tech companies that make only virtual products, and Internet dating sites. Which brings her to the attention of the Chinese Dragon Society -- a group of witches who want her dead.

9. When a creature kidnaps her parents and sister, Patricia's magic isn't strong enough to get them back. So she accepts an offer of help from a witch named Lillian. But this witch is also a liar and a murderer and a thief, so Patricia isn't sure she can trust her.

10. Investigative journalist Martha Jameson poses as a witch to infiltrate the local Wiccan group, whom she believes are manufacturing amphetamines. Imagine her surprise when they actually turn out to be vampires!

11. The village of Swindle, Massachusetts is known for never letting a wayfarer escape with his shillings. But when the problem comes to the attention of the Bay Colony authorities, the villagers all blame Strange Maggie. Can amateur sleuth Patience Goodbody keep them from stringing Maggie up?

12. 17-year-old Alanian and his sister Anneallan must steal the Sword of Azallyan from the Hall of Allazynan to save the Kingdom of Allazhean from destruction at the hands of evil Emperor Annazealhan. That is, if bumbling warlock Fred doesn't ruin everything first.

13. 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?

14. In ancient times a young Chinese witch learns to weave silk ribbons that can change fate, a skill she vows to use for only good. But she is forced to marry an evil emperor and must decide whether to serve and obey him like a good wife, or magically bind his life to the fate of a chicken.

15. The boys' camp always won the Muddy Lake fishing contest. But this summer the girls have an advantage, as Wiccan counselor Kate Hecky adds enchantment to their fishing rods. But their lures attract a lake creature older and bigger than anyone expected. Can Kate and her novice witches send it back into the deeps?

16. The Garlia Elves call warlock Jarak Blackfist a vengeful tyrant. Indignant and outraged at their slander, he destroys their race, razes their cities to the ground, and salts their lands, figuring that'll teach 'em.

17. Selma Baker has kept her position as head secretary at Consolidated Megaplex Holdings, Inc. despite her unpleasant phone manner and poor typing because she's the only one who can get the office copier to work properly. But when friendly and efficient Tassie Jones fills in during Selma's bunion surgery and the copier doesn't jam once, Selma dusts off her cauldron and spellbooks in order to hang on to her job.

18. When the Midvale Book Club and Wiccan Circle miss a syllable in their incantation to the earth mother, the ladies reach the wrong deity and accidentally set loose Shiva, goddess of destruction. Can they appease the goddess before she smites them all?

19. Yet another hot teen witch enrolls at Crossland High School. It's getting so there's no room for bicycle parking anymore, with all the broomsticks.

20. A Wiccan wannabe sets out to train an orangutan to perform religious rites. Hilarity ensues when the ignorant ape guzzles the ceremonial ale and then starts grinding the ritual cakes into the derrieres of female attendees.

21. Practicing Witch Deirdre Connelly's reward for procuring the Star Stone is dinner with her crush, actor Rob Addison. Hilarity ensues when the Star Stone becomes permanently fused into Dierdre's hand, causing her to keep setting Rob on fire.

22. Vesta Marcotte knows there are only three ways to become a witch: innate talent, years of study, or paying someone from the occult black market to steal some witch's powers and transfer them to you. Having chosen the easy way, hilarity ensues as Vesta tries to master the powers of Allora, the most powerful witch in the western hemisphere.

Answers below

The actual plots are:

Numbers 2, 9 and 22

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Guess the Plot


1. Panic sets in at Glitzy Gloria's Hair and Nails Emporium when all of Tuesday morning's ladies turn up with pasty white complexions and a taste for brains.

2. When her parents quit their jobs and move the family to Tennessee, Cami ends up with a summer job putting zombies back into their graves. Talk about your dead-end jobs.

3. Gelsey's an ambitious young ad executive with a credit-stealing boss, a sassy back-talking best friend, and a cute but mysteriously shy handyman who just may be the face of her next ad campaign. Oh, did I mention they're all dead?

4. When Lucy Contreras realizes Fernando is watching TV not because he really likes animal shows, but because he's dead, she invites her girlfriends to come over and celebrate. Upon discovering that he can still move about and obey simple commands, they send the monster out to rob a bank. Hilarity ensues.

5. Professor Henchly has a theory about the brainless dolts in Economics 101. He decides not to tell Dean Rodafescu the university has a serious problem, and tries to proactively solve the problem with a spray can of insecticide but his theory is wrong and everything goes horribly awry.

6. Dr. Jane Sarah's sweetbreads program is helping Seth maintain normalcy, and so is the personalized "therapy" Dr. Sarah administers, but when his primary physician gives up the ghost and his deli goes belly-up Seth reverts to type and starts eating live brains. Will Dr. Sarah's special brand of tough love work on a Zombie?

Original Version

Camielle Moreno never imagined that she'd be spending the summer before her senior year putting zombies back in their graves, but when her parents sign a contract with the Wrights, one of the secretive Families responsible for dealing with the undead, quit their jobs, and move the family to Tennessee, she doesn't have much choice. [It's true. If you move to Tennessee you have little choice but to deal with the undead.]

[She doesn't have much choice? Thinking back to my high school years, I'm trying to imagine how this would have played out.

Me: I've been invited to spend the summer with Jessie. Her family has a cottage on Cape Cod.

Mom: Oh, didn't we tell you? We signed you up for a summer job in Tennessee capturing zombies and putting them back in their graves.

Me: Funny. See you in September.]

Now her family's future is in her hands. If the Wrights like her, her parents and younger sisters will have money and advantages they never dreamed of. If they don't, the Morenos will be jobless and penniless. [I know zombie work pays well thanks to the extra hazard of possibly having your brain eaten, but isn't the kid gonna go back to school after three months? Can one summer of zombie re-interment really have the family sitting so pretty?]

With no friends, a mentor that hates her [Why?] [Wait, there's a person whose job is to mentor zombie re-interment officers?] and a job that involves re-killing small children and family pets, [I could never kill a zombie hamster. A zombie kid or cat, yes, but not a zombie hamster. In fact, I would let it eat little bits of my brain. They say we don't use 90% of our brains anyway. I would say, "Here little fella, have a morsel of medulla oblongata."] Cami doesn't think things could get any worse. But then Gramps, the Wright patriarch, dies, and things get weird. A rival Family decides they want Cami for their own, abnormally intelligent zombies appear wherever she goes, [Zombies who eat only the brains of geniuses would be abnormally intelligent. They would quickly become leaders of the zombies. But would they gravitate to politics and education, or the arts? A zombie orchestra would be cool.] and Cami's mentor is suddenly begging for her help.

Can she figure out what's going on before someone gets hurt?

Written for the young adult market, Zombie is complete at 60,000 words [Just Zombie? Not Zombie! ? You can expect the publisher to change that.] and may appeal to fans of Maureen Johnson or P.C. and Kristin Cast. Sample pages are available upon request.

Thank you for your time,


There's too much information in your first sentence. Cut it off after "graves." Then you can say: Unfortunately, her parents signed a contract with the Wrights and moved the family to Tennessee, so what choice does she have?

Mind if I pick your brain for a minute? Is there something about Cami you're not telling us? Usually an inexperienced high school kid isn't in such demand. We need to know why she's the one. Why would the Wrights want Cami over any other human being? Why are her parents willing to bank everything on her?

I don't like the use of "things" as a general catch-all, as in: . . . Cami doesn't think things could get any worse. But then Gramps, the Wright patriarch, dies, and things get weird. Try something like . . . Cami is having the summer from hell. Then Gramps, the Wright patriarch, dies, and the weirdness escalates.

Selected Comments

BuffySquirrel said...It strikes me that Cami sounds old enough to be sent to Tennessee by herself. Why do the whole family have to up stakes? (sorry) It might be useful to have a line of background on why/how Cami has the necessary zombie-burying skills, and how the Wrights found out about it. And isn't killing small (even already dead) children a bit OTT? I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to read that. But then I'm old :D. I found the story of all the families getting turned into Hands in Abhorsen too much for me. Old! I rather liked the sound of GTP #4, whereas zombie stories in general leave me cold. Sorry.

Mary said...Author here: The only reason the Wrights agreed to take Cami on as an employee is because her parents created a monitoring system that the Wrights really wanted to get their hands on. Letting Cami (and potentially her younger sisters) have a shot at breaking into the zombie-slaying market was the perk that kept her parents from selling to another Family. The rival Family wants her because they've had a chance to see how well her parents' system works and they want it for themselves. None of which is clear in the query, so that's my fault. And I hope a publisher will change my title! I'm not attached to that sucker at all. Thanks for all your suggestions and questions; this was really helpful!

Adam Heine said...This sounds like an interesting story. It's certainly original, and most of the logical flow is already there in the query. As you take the advice of the other minions, be careful not to let your query get too bloated as a result. Also, Mary, if you don't like the title, you need to change it. I don't know if an agent/editor would reject a story just because of a lame title, but it won't help you any. Like Dave said, you know the story best. You have a better chance than a publisher of finding a good title.

Evil Editor said...There's nothing wrong with the title. Though perhaps it should be plural. My only suggestion was to add an exclamation point to it.


AC said...This sounds like a fun read--takes "crazy summer job" to a new level. I would definitely pick it up at the bookstore or library.

Sarah Laurenson said...I love the concept and the voice. Does need a bit of work. I think EE covered everything I thought of and then some. Good luck. I'd love to read this when it comes out. Sounds like a lot of fun.

Crimogenic said...I agree with EE, it seems like that's something special about Cam that's been left out. What makes her perfect for the zombie fighting business?

Dave F. said...What I wasn't prepared for was the fact that there are "Families" who handle paranormal things and that they can buy and sell other families to do as chattels or peasants. It's a feudal society. If it is set in the modern age with cars and backhoes and cell phones, that's fine. It's the feudal part that surprised me.

wendy said...Zombies tend to bore me, but this is interesting: "The only reason the Wrights agreed to take Cami on as an employee is because her parents created a monitoring system that the Wrights really wanted to get their hands on. Letting Cami (and potentially her younger sisters) have a shot at breaking into the zombie-slaying market was the perk that kept her parents from selling to another Family." Zombies go high tech and become competitive in the marketplace! Oh yeah, nice twist.

chelsea said...Killer Summer? One HELL of a Summer? Halloween in July? The Undead Meet the Unwed. Ok. I'll stop before I hurt someone. (But that last one is a GREAT title... For an entirely different book.)

Let's Get Serious.

In addition to EE's comments about shortening the first sentence, you could also shorten "Camielle Moreno never imagined that she'd be spending the summer before her senior year putting zombies back in their graves" to "Seventeen year old Camielle Moreno never imagined she'd be spending the summer putting zombies back in their graves..." I just felt like "spending the summer before her senior year" was a wordy was of pinpointing Cami's age.

In the first paragraph, you outline the stakes as: the Morenos will be jobless and penniless. These seem like incredibly low stakes for a girl who works for a mafia and kills zombies. I feel like the bigger threat is the possibility of Cami being "taken care of" by the Families or having her brain eaten by zombies. Those, to me, are scarier than losing a job. Plus, the Morenos are inventors of things people want. So . . . joblessness doesn't seem like an issue.

In fact, I don't know that the part about the Wrights liking Cami (or not) needs to be in here, because death or becoming a zombie are higher stakes, and more relevant to the plot.

I also am not sold on the relevancy of the mentor in the query. How important is this mentor? If the answer is "very," I feel like the query needs more info on her/him.

It sounds like the Families are what really set this story apart from other undead-slayer stories, and I'd like to know more about them.

Brenda Bradshaw said...I was much more interested in it when you explained the rivalry and why the parents are there. I think if you add those aspects to the query, it'll tighten it up a lot and give editors/agents more to go on. I like the concept and it's definitely something that would interest my kids.

Anonymous said...I think that this sounds like a possibly very good read, but the query letter is doing what I really find annoying, and that is giving bits of info and not following up. It's a big series of teases, and ends up making you look like you cannot write coherently because you haven't written a paragraph that explains anything. You just drop statements and then drop more apparently unrelated statements. And a lot of what's there seems unneeded.

150 said...Wait wait wait. If the Wrights don't hire Cami, Cami's family is penniless. The Wrights are hiring Cami's family so that Cami's family sells them their exceptionally good product. If the Wrights don't hire Cami, her family will sell their exceptional product to someone else and not be penniless.

Is Cami getting hired a perk, or a problem? Because either way it all seems easily solved. 1. Cami gets a job, the Wrights get the product, and the Morenos get rich. 2. Cami doesn't have to have a job, someone else gets the product, and the Morenos get rich. Something's not adding up.

writtenwyrdd said...Also, I like lots about this story, but it's not well represented by your letter, Author. You might start off with saying that Cami's folks have something the Zombie slaying Wrights want, and why the cachet (or whatever) about being a zombie slayer is something that Cami should want, but doesn't, yet her parents lock her into it anyhow. You make it sound like her success is the family's only hope, like they are at the edge of disaster without this big opportunity panning out. And you hint that Cami has a special ability to make smart zombies. If this is so, you should not be coy about it in a query; you need to flat say it. Keep trying. This sounds like it could be good.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Vampires appear frequently in fake plots, but they're also popular in actual fiction. As Evil Editor failed to create a vampire Guess the Plot Quiz last year, you have twice as many plots to consider. Do you remember which 10 of the following were minions' actual plots?

1. 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.

2. Sammy's mother was bitten by a vampire while pregnant with Sammy. At least, that's Sammy's excuse for not liking garlic, having fangs, and wanting to be a hemotologist.

3. Mankind ended the devastating vampire war long ago by stopping the rotation of the Earth and living on the bright side. But now the vampires have found a way to start the world spinning and humans who have never seen a vampire will have to face their first sundown.

4. She's your typical fifth-grader, with a dog, a cat, a Wii, and a vampire for a brother. And you'll want all the other books in the series, too.

5. When a duke confesses to killing his mistress's brothers, their affair is over. But he later realizes that he's in love with her, so he tells her he lied and her brothers were actually killed by a vampire. Turns out the duke and his mistress are also vampires. Pretty much everyone's a vampire.

6. Vampires! They don't turn into bats, sparkle or have fangs, and they do have reflections, but they will drink your blood! Oh, hang on, they're just highly organized, deranged serial killers! And they're after the protagonists, who are smoking hot and scantily clad!

7. Kindar has found a cure for vampirism. Now he has a posse of seriously pissed-off vampire fiction writers wanting him dead and the cure lost forever. But Kindar has zombies as allies. After all, they want writers to portray them as romantic souls, too.

8. Investigative journalist Martha Jameson poses as a witch to infiltrate the local Wiccan group, whom she believes are manufacturing amphetamines. Imagine her surprise when they actually turn out to be vampires!

9. Amy Williams is the world's most unusual vampire, but can she get a date? The beauty gene never even sniffed in her direction. Maybe it's time to head to the gym and set sights on brooding rogue cop Drake Heattrew. If he ever finds out she sucks sin out of mortals, he'll book 'er - but by then, Amy might just have reformed this bad boy.

10. Larry and Sam set out to be the best web designers in Milwaukee, but it all goes bad in a bout of rum-fueled madness in which Larry kisses their first and only client on the lips. Mistook him for a girl, somehow. Turned out he's a vampire. And now, so is Larry.

11. Private investigators Amar, Shiv and Chiranveen are quadruplets who communicate telepathically with their dead sister Yami in order to solve crimes in Kolkata. Which comes in handy when American vampires tire of hamburger-flavoured blood and set out to snack on Indian street food vendors.

12. On Halloween night, Ashley takes a shortcut through the graveyard and gets simultaneously bitten by both a vampire and a werewolf. Crap. This is going to put a crimp in her plan to snag All-American Josh Burrell as her prom date.

13. 6646 BC. Most of the human race died out two thousand years earlier under the reign of King Arvaker. Now, just as we're making a comeback, a new threat arrives: vampire orcs. Humans go underground and morph into dwarfs to await their savior, but when he finally shows up, he's kind of lazy.

14. 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?

15. Grant, Sevars and Tony are in a 60's folk band stuck in the Summer of Love. Trouble is, they're vampires--and while neither they nor their music may have aged, the same can't be said of the fans. Also, lots of panty-tossing Boomers.

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

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

18. Everyone in the tenth grade at Wharton Memorial High is a vampire. It's so last-decade. But when Steve Chance, a moody, glitterless boy from out west, moves to town, Chastity falls head-over-fangs for him. Trouble is, every other girl in the tenth grade wants a piece of him. Preferably, his jugular.

19. 17-year-old ocean lifeguard Kortney has Red Cross WSI certification, a stellar employment record, and a terrible secret. She's a vampire. And when a group of foster children on an outing gets caught in a rip tide, she has to make a difficult choice.

20. Jason wants to go to Six Flags ("More flags, more fun!") but his dad insists on Nine Worlds. Little do they know a ride-operating vampire will take control of the Vampire Bat Hellcoaster and roll them into the Tenth World at midnight.

21. Countless biographers have recounted the life and times of Queen Elizabeth. I'm the one you want to pay attention to, however. Only I maintain the proper history of the vampire herself, who, in the proper circles, was known only as Elizadeath. But as I translate the records from vampiri to English my own life becomes threatened.

22. Julia, 28 and lovely, is alone in the world after her parents die in a fire that left only a mound of ashes and two silver stakes. Rex Hamilton, the handsome executor of their wills, informs her that as the mortal child of two vampires, she must atone for every life they took or become a vampire herself. Horrified, Julia pleads for Rex's help -- but eventually she decides being a vampire is worth it. Could it be she saw Rex's billing rates?

23. Vampires Gabriel and Michael move to the little city of Oskaloosa to harvest blood from the unsuspecting--only to find their home besieged by vampire-crazed teenagers. Maybe they should have stayed at that retirement home on Key West.

24. After being dumped by “Ivan the Terrible” of Miami, Isabella and her friends plan a trip to Isabella’s dream destination—Transylvania. But when the ship is attacked by vampires, Isabella’s new date—Todd, a dentist—may have more work than he’d ever bargained for.

25. Can't a girl catch a break? It was bad enough getting murdered and waking up as a vampire. But now someone's ripped out one of Hannah's fangs and transported her back in time to medieval days where a hunky knight in shining armor is all that stands between her and an ancient bloodsucker who wants to make her his mindless slave.

26. Bensimon is a failure as a vampire--so bad Dracula broke off one of his fangs. Now he has to use a little silver dagger to feed. Trouble is, he gave it to Missy Stevens as a love token, and now she's dating hunky Jayden Saunders and won't return his calls. Does he swallow what's left of his pride and ask Dracula for help--or should he talk to Mr. Cobbs, the werewolf who teaches art?

27. Mikhail is humiliated when a broken fang sends him to Madeleine Schickelgruber, vampire dentist extraordinaire, for an implant. Madeleine thinks she's come up with an innovative new treatment...but then Mikhail comes around from the anesthesia and reminds her how vampires feel about silver. Malpractice suits ensue.

28. Brought to the dentist about a terrible case of upper canine overbite, a teenage girl devours the specialist when he refers her to an oral surgeon. A kindly hygienist then opines that Izzie might be a born bloodsucker. Mystery solved. They celebrate by feasting on the receptionist.

29. In the 41st century a World War breaks out between humans and Elytes. Elytes are vampires, but note that vampires is spelled with an "i" rather than a "y." On the other hand, Elytes is spelled with a "y" instead of an "i" so you probably all hate me anyway.

30. After the zombie apocalypse kills us all, Marley discovers that brains taste sweeter when he's shambling alongside Dixie Adams. But then the vampires show up and ruin everything.

31. David Taylor is a high school student, a vampire, and a pyromaniac. He plots a fiery death for his classmates, but a chance encounter with Lucy Ballentine sets his cold heart smoldering. Will Lucy fan his flames of desire or will the whole school end up . . . Embers?

32. In the war between the werewolves and the vampires the vamps have one great advantage. With all that howling and jaw chomping the wolves can't sneak up on ANYBODY, while silently the Vampires slink through the darkness, their jeans-clad thighs making no whisk-whisk sound.

33. 400 years of respectable human children--and then wham! Vampire. Ella's dad blames her mom's questionable ancestry--but it takes two to make the recessive gene appear, which spells out a family feud for Ella. Now Papa's out for Great-great-great-grandpa's blood via stake--and vice versa via fangs.

34. A brilliant scientist fuses the DNA of two vampires and a jaguar with a human embryo, creating the world's first human with vampire genes and spots. But the creature longs to be a normal human, so he looks into stem cell research for the answer.

35. Tom Fraser has problems. He's unpopular at high school, his parents have split up, he can't talk and he's a vampire. As Twilight mania sweeps his school, Tom hatches a plan to turn his vampirism into popularity. Tom works on his dark moody look and buffs up a little, but when he tells everyone he's a vampire he's still unpopular.

36. Vlad the Ruthless has a secret. Though by night he terrorizes New York, by day he does genetic research at Sloan Kettering...and he just may have discovered a cure for cancer. But will vampire hunter/nurse Michelle stop him before he can make the discovery known?

37. Third-grader Isabella is determined to show everyone how grown-up she is, but how can she when she doesn't have her fangs yet? Be careful what you wish for, Isabella. When she finally gets her fangs, she also gets a humiliating lisp!

38. On an island inhabited by warlocks, werecreatures, shapeshifters, witches, etc., Sarah's life is constantly in peril. How many times can she expect the strange angelic man who's actually a vampire to save her neck?

39. High school student Damira is the one person who can stop Vampyre Israith from becoming all-powerful and destroying the world, but to do so she must travel to the mountains of India and kill Israith at midnight on her 18th birthday. Maybe her Vampyre guardian will help. But is it worth missing her birthday party?

40. Cornered in his mountain hideaway, Dracula escapes by time traveling to 1942 to join forces with Hitler. But a secret government agency uses equipment discovered in Roswell, New Mexico to send a super-powered agent after Dracula.

Answers below

The actual plots are:

5, 13
, 16, 25, 29, 34, 37, 38, 39, 40

Friday, October 28, 2011

New Beginning 896

Winter broke late this year. Snow gave way to rain. Gray landscapes gave way to green leaves of hope. It was thus in Jules Stevens' heart, if not in the city as a whole. He rotated into the Central City's Equine Patrol an assignment heavy with community public relations; horseback riding for kids, scheduling the ball fields, hiring the lifeguards and shepherding the golfers. He picked out a handsome stallion for his mount; Chestnut, a Morgan named for its coloration.

The weather was still cold a week later when the Chief of Detectives called Stevens to his office where he paced back and forth like a man waiting for a chimpanzee to wax his testicles.

"Your buddy, the one with the funky name and weird friends on that society blog that the kids love and the mayor hates. Aubrey's it? Well, he's misbehaving again in our park," The Chief of D's said. He moved in jerks and spasms as if seeing insects, swatting at them and then not seeing them. Stevens recognized an obsession curse and it came from pictures attributed to Aubrey's Weekly Blog on the Chief's computer screen. The Weekly snitched to Stevens, his secret source, the best in the city.

"So, uh, what's Aubrey done?" said Stevens, shifting in his seat as if encouraging a leech on his right buttock to move on to the next boil.

It was the first week of April, the cruelest week, mixing squishy mud pies with half-chewed gummi bears dropped by toddlers who would have retrieved and eaten the gummi bears if they could have found them among the mud pies.

"Molested some golfers," the Chief replied, scratching himself as though he might find the Hope Diamond in his own scrotum, then not finding it but keeping on scratching anyway because it felt good. "I know everyone says golfers just wander around the meadow and take orders from dogs, but this time one of them complained about it. The molesting, I mean."

Stevens said, "OK, boss. I'll deal with it."

As Stevens swore quietly under his breath and headed to the door, the chimpanzee sat quietly to one side and mumbled, "You think you've got a tough job?"

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: John/Anon.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Face-Lift 965

Guess the Plot

Clear Cut

1. Nan loves Timmy, but she begins to doubt her choice when Bob Bigford comes to town and she sees the longest chainsaw in the world stowed in the back of his pickup.

2. Laid off by the FBI, Mary Hudson needs a new gig. What is an woman over 50 to do? The answer is clear-cut. She removes every trace of experience and education from her resume, dons her tallest shoes and shortest skirt, and gets hired as the receptionist at Mumford, Blackwell, Jones and Dupont, a law firm.

3. Forensic artist Sophie Langley has a great life. Great boyfriend, great job—even a consulting gig on a hit TV show. But when hunky actor Dirk Beefcake makes it clear he wants a relationship with Sophie and her boyfriend, her future becomes anything but . . . Clear Cut.

4. Finally Diana gets a station at exclusive Clear Cut, salon for Hollywood nobility. Maybe an agent will notice her. Or an actor? Either way, she needs to stop dyeing everyone's bangs green.

5. The rules are clear-cut. In order to reach her career goal, Nanoken Riverborne must first perform three impossible tasks. The first of which is to find some wiggle room in the word "impossible."

6. Everyone laughed when Dr. Adam Tandashian claimed to have perfected the invisible laser, a surgery technique so powerful it leaves no scars. Hollywood beckons, but first he wants to rid his pesky ex-wife of her brain.

Original Version

Dear Evil,

There are three impossible tasks in the world: helping the helpless, redeeming the irredeemable, and changing the unchangeable. [It's certainly not impossible to help the helpless. For instance, a person who's paralyzed might be called helpless, and you could help him by washing his feet or changing the channel on his television. "Helping the unhelp-able" is more in line with the rest of the list, but the list is silly. You may as well add to the list of impossible tasks: slicing the unsliceable, stabbing the unstabbable, painting the unpaintable, editing the uneditable, etc. They're impossible by definition. Also, your tasks are all vague. They aren't tasks, they're categories of tasks. Driving a car from New York to Bermuda in twenty minutes is a specific impossible task. It's easy to grasp. It doesn't seem to fall into any of your categories, however. If your list is not the only three impossible tasks, you need to provide some reason that these are the three you've chosen to list.] That's not supposed to stop priestesses. Just to finish her training, Nanoken Riverborne has to do something impossible. [When she reports that she did something impossible, won't her superiors say that it quite obviously wasn't impossible?] There's no way Ken will fail. She'll do anything to be a priestess. Her family owes priestesses everything. [Does her impossible task have to fall into one of the three categories you listed? If so, drop the first sentence and open something like: Nanoken Riverborne has been training most of her life to become a priestess. To complete her training, she must feed a starving child, reform Borgo the Disemboweler, and prove that pi = 4.] [Note that I've made the tasks more specific.]

Traveling across the continent to the purple pools proves a quester is worthy to be a priestess. [If the Purple Pools are worth crossing a continent for, they're worth capitalizing.] [If making it to the Purple Pools makes you worthy of being a priestess, why do you also have to do the impossible?] It's also a great way to encounter people in need of exorcisms, something only priestesses can do. [But she isn't a priestess.] That's one way to help the helpless. Some others include protecting the weak, small children, and the mentally ill, like Ken's mother. Ken will help the helpless, all of them she can find, even if it kills her. [First you claim helping the helpless is one of the three impossible tasks; then you list numerous ways to do it. Define "impossible."] [By the way, if I haven't made it clear yet, I recommend leaving the part where she has to do the impossible out of the query.]

Finishing her training also means choosing a bodyguard from convicted felons. Ken chooses Rafe after he pulls a rapist off her. [Whoa. She has to choose from convicted felons while she mingles with them at a party? How are these felons close enough to attack her?

Head Priestess: Here's a group of convicted felons. Get to know them, but you may not ask them what their crime was. Choose one as your bodyguard.

Ken: For starters, I'll eliminate the one who's currently raping me. Let's see . . .

[Why would the rapist attack her before knowing if she's going to choose him as a bodyguard? If he's chosen, he can wait till later and rape her when there's no one around to pull him off.]
It doesn't even matter that Ken's the only one in her class not allowed the juicy details of his crimes; he's just three years older than Ken and says she reminds him of his sister, tidbits that convince Ken he'll be easy to redeem. [If he's easy to redeem, he's not irredeemable. She needs to redeem the irredeemable, so she should choose the guy who's so irredeemable he rapes her during the bodyguard-choosing ceremony.]

Changing the unchangeable means freeing a slave. [Why don't you just say she has to free a slave instead of change the unchangeable?] Ken has no interest in that. Who wants to convince a lazy, conniving slave to walk across the continent, anyway? [Where I come from, a lazy conniving slave is a dead slave.] In a thousand years, no slave's completed the journey that dozens of questers make every year. Ken thinks they don't want to be free.

[Premise 1: To become a priestess you must free a slave and convince her to walk across the continent.
Premise 2: No slave has completed the journey for a thousand years.
Conclusion: There are no priestesses (unless they live more than 1000 years).]

One does. Saphron can't do simple math, has never ridden a horse, and her religious knowledge is so lacking she may as well be helpless. [I'm just wild about Saphron.] Ken can't not help the helpless; it's all she's ever wanted to do. That's a problem [because it's impossible]. Freeing slaves is supposed to stay impossible. Too bad Ken vowed otherwise before the priestesses told her.

Clear Cut is a complete YA fantasy at 110,000 words. It should appeal to fans of Graceling.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.



This is all setup. Is there a villain? Someone who doesn't want Ken to become a priestess? Or are the whole 110,000 words devoted to accomplishing three tasks? Dorothy travels to Oz and performs some tasks, but someone's out to get her. Does Ken have obstacles other than the fact that her tasks are "impossible"?

The Purple Pools just doesn't have the same ring to it as Mount Doom. No one would cross an entire continent to get to purple pools.

The title doesn't give any indication of what kind of book this is.

Start over. Keep the setup brief. To become a priestess, Ken must cross the continent with a freed slave and a convicted murderer while doing a, b and c. Then tell us the story. What happens? What if she fails? Who wants her to fail? What does she learn about herself, life, the world? The slave and felon may be what makes this different from other quest books. Make sure you mention how instrumental they are.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


The 6th Annual Zombie Guess the Plot Quiz

The following plots appeared in the Guess the Plot feature during the past year. Were they all fakes? Or was any of them the actual plot of a minion's novel?

1. On the cusp of her 100th birthday, Oya is chosen as the Peace Maker. But what can one woman do against a terrorist with an army of zombies? Shouldn't they have chosen a 17-year-old high school girl for this?

2. Takisha and Bud learn their credit cards have all been canceled, the phone goes dead, and the zombie who lives next door leaves a mess on their sidewalk. Bad luck comes in 4's, so . . . What's next?

3. Peopled by blood-splattered retirees, Dismal Key is the only remaining zombie habitat in the southeastern United States. And a Florida real estate developer has her eye on it.

4. Kindar has found a cure for vampirism. Now he has a posse of seriously pissed-off vampire fiction writers wanting him dead and the cure lost forever. But Kindar has zombies as allies. After all, they want writers to portray them as romantic souls, too.

5. It's 1793, and Captain Andrew MacDougall of HMS Relentless navigates dangerous seas as his crew dies off man by man of a mysterious illness. Then they all rise as mer-zombies and force his ship to sail to various hellholes that zombies like.

6. After the Zombie Non-Discrimination Act passes, Oliver Penworth sees an opportunity to expand his formaldehyde trade. But when he hires a few of the undead, he learns valuable lessons about tolerance, respect, and proper ventilation in the workplace.

7. The latest fashion at Swan's school; shiny. One little capsule and you'll glow in the dark for 24 hours. Everyone's doing it. Is it Swan's imagination, or do they get more and more zombie-like with each dose?

Answer below

#1 was someone's actual plot.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


In the past, our annual Guess the Plot Quizzes have appeared in December, when submissions tend to dwindle, but as we're down to 0 openings and 1 query (still needing fake plots) in the queues, and as it's Halloween week and most of the GTP Quizzes involve creatures of the night it's the perfect time for . . .

The 4th Were-Creature Guess the Plot Quiz

The following plots involving were-animals appeared in the Guess the Plot feature during the past year. But four of them turned out to be the actual plots of minions' novels. Which ones?

1. Someone is murdering teens in nearby towns, and suspicion falls upon Lily's school, where all the students are super-powered freaks. If Lily can't lead her team of future X-Men in solving the murders, the school may close. And Lily will never get a date with that really hot werewolf.

2. After 500 years, the slow rotation of the planet Ficksia is finally taking Lurhon City - and the last slice of land on the lit hemisphere - into the dark zone. If Ariadne and her ragtag team of werecats can't reverse the planet's spin by engineering a supervolcano explosion, it'll be sundown for everyone... forever.

3. Just as vampires overrun Valparaiso, a massive storm cuts it off from the outside world. Wolfsbane Joe, stuck in town after his werecheetah wife ran off with a waiter, is Valparaiso's only hope. But can one drunken ex-prizefighter werewolf take on a vampire army?

4. Chased by a werewolf named Simon, Rachel, a werewolf, ends up in Morgantown where she joins a local pack of werewolves and begins to wonder if it's really that bad to be a werewolf when pretty much everyone is a werewolf.

5. Harvey Jones has seen it all: fights, murders, sex, love gone bad. But that's pretty much what you get when you run a bar that caters to vampires and werewolves. Also, a silver dagger.

6. Aimee thinks she has the perfect solution to the animal instincts that overcome her when the moon is full and she becomes a werewolf: a cabin in the wilderness, fifty miles from civilization. And it works fine until the month she arrives at the cabin to find that a scout troop has set up camp nearby. Carnage ensues.

7. When Emily goes for her jog at Dume Park, she discovers all but a single trail are closed for maintenance. Determined to get her cardio at any cost, she follows the unfamiliar trail, soon realizing that something hungrily stalks her from the bushes. Suddenly that legend of the Dume Park Werewolf doesn't seem so silly.

8. Coyotes aren't the problem; the werewolves can keep the coyote population down. No, the problem is that Jo Redfox's mother has vanished and the only person who can find her won't--unless Jo lets him screw her on the hood of her truck. Hey, that's life, at . . . Camp Coyote.

9. On Halloween night, Ashley takes a shortcut through the graveyard and gets simultaneously bitten by both a vampire and a werewolf. Crap. This is going to put a crimp in her plan to snag All-American Josh Burrell as her prom date.

10. 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?

11. Kat's new boyfriend carries a terrible burden: he's a werewolf. Kat has her own burden: a phobia of dogs. Their families hate each other. It's like Romeo and Juliet, only with werewolves.

Answers below

The actual plots are numbers:

1, 8, 10, and 11

Monday, October 24, 2011

New Beginning 895

Sergeant William Edward Blake, known in the Department as ‘Web’, looked at Lieutenant Rivera as they walked through the sprawling Loves Travel Stop building that housed the Greyhound terminal. Blonde eyebrows rose over blue eyes as he asked, “You really think he’ll be on the bus?”

Gray-haired Rivera was the oldest Lieutenant in the Department of Public Safety (DPS), Arizona’s state-level law enforcement agency. He popped a Tums, chewed it as he walked, looked at the thin young sergeant beside him and remembered what the Chief said when asked why he’d been saddled with the kid: “Web’s sharp; earned his stripes six months ago, already gained minor fame for some shrewd busts. Problem is, he’s still wet behind the ears; he’s gonna step on himself if we aren’t careful. I figure hitching him to a crusty old warhorse like you oughta fix that.”

The chief of Criminal Investigations Division was a man Rivera respected. The two had met in the Highway Patrol, worked their way up to CID. But Rivera refused promotion beyond Lieutenant, preferring to stay out in the field, while his friend rose to become the division chief.

The CID was the top echelon of the DPS, Governor Fallon's attempt to create a specialized unit not unlike the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) on his favorite TV show, Criminal Minds. Other departments of the DPS referred to the CID as Fallon's Folly.

Governor Fallon's rise to power had been fast, starting from city council in Sedona (later mayor) and then lieutenant governor in the scandal-ridden Colson administration.

Jimmy "the Bulgarian" Colson bought his election to the governorship with bribes and blackmail. It was Arizona's darkest hour, and Colson's inevitable impeachment was Fallon's good fortune.
Whether Fallon's connection to the Colson administration would hurt him in the next election remained to be seen.

Rivera popped another Tums and turned to Web. "Yeah, kid," he said. "I think he just might be on the bus."

Opening: Dixon.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Guess the Plot

Crimson Courtship

1. In this companion book to her best-selling Mauve Marriage and Russet Romance, Designer Lucinda Head explains how you too can have the color coordinated relationship of your dreams.

2. They come from different worlds. Can a star quarterback from the University of Alabama ever win the heart of a Harvard editor?

3. It's Brokeback Mountain on the high seas! Literary favorites Captain Blood and Horatio Hornblower live - and love - once again in this touching thrill ride of action and emotion!

4. Patricia falls in love with the Earl of Hawksworth. But when he discovers that she is a mere gardener, cruel words fly--interrupted by the arrival of an obsessed serial killer.

5. An artists' commune in the Roaring 20's sets the standard for the latest crazes in decor. Last year, it was all about Turquoise Tryst; the year before, Azure Affair. But no one is ready for the furor when Paolo paints his entire lodge, inside and out, Crimson Courtship.

6. Set against the vibrant backdrop of revolution, Randy Pitts attempts to woo Bolshevik beauty Natasha by growing a truly epic mustache.

Original Version

Dear Literary Agent,

I am seeking representation for my novel, Crimson Courtship. It is a historical romance set in Regency London, and is complete at 92,000 words. Also enclosed is a short synopsis and sample chapter.

I have always loved historical romances, especially if there are multiple books connected by common characters. However, I have been frustrated that it always seems to be a group of brothers, or male cousins or friends. [This will be a fascinating topic of conversation at your next Romance Writers of America chapter meeting. In the meantime, let's skip to the part where you tell your prospective agent specifically what it is you've written, so she can skip to the part where she guesses whether it will put any money specifically in her wallet.] In Crimson Courtship and the three books that will follow, the story of each of the women from Hillgate Manor is told.

For a young lady in 1815, being presented to London society is the most exciting time of her life. However, with the sudden death of Patricia’s father, [They need a last name. I recommend Vandermere.] everything changes. She is left penniless and alone, forced to take up residence with an aunt she has never met. There she takes up the post of gardener, and says goodbye to the dream of a season of her own. [Are her three sisters penniless as well? Or are they already married, in which case Patricia could live with one of them instead of with a complete stranger. Just asking.]

Fate is working in her favor, when by chance she meets and falls in love with Gordon Bray, Earl of Hawksworth. There’s just one problem… he doesn’t know that she is merely a gardener, and not the lady she has been pretending to be. [I get that when a lady's father died, all his property went to his son(s). But did that demote her to non-lady?] When Gordon discovers the truth, tempers flare and cruel words fly. Will the two of them reconcile and live happily ever after? Or will an obsessed serial killer have the final say? [KaBoom!!] [Whoa! Where did that come from? You might as well have written, Will they live happily ever after? Or will they step through a wormhole and find themselves in a Turkish prison in the year 2342?] [Will they live happily ever after? Or will a crocodile bite off Bray's legs, forcing Patricia to decide between pushing his wheelchair everywhere for the rest of her life, or leaving him and starting a small landscaping business?] [Is there an obsessed serial killer? If so, you might consider mentioning it a bit earlier than the last sentence. Try the first sentence: My novel, Crimson Courtship, is the story of the worst month of Patricia Vandermere's life: first her father dies, then her rhododendrons die, then she falls in love with Hannibal Lecter.]

Thank you for your time and consideration. I will be happy to provide additional material upon request. [How did you manage to write a query letter for a regency romance without using the word "ton"?]


Revised Version

Note to author: use only the red-colored phrase that applies correctly to your novel, and ignore the others. Evil Editor wasn't sure which section of the book the obsessed serial killer was in.

Dear Literary Agent,

I am seeking representation for my novel, Crimson Courtship, a historical romance set in Regency London.

For a young lady in 1815, being presented to "the ton" is the most exciting time of her life. But not for Patricia Vandermere. With the sudden death of her father at the hands of a serial killer obsessed with wiping out his entire family, Patricia is left penniless and alone, forced to take up residence with an aunt she has never met, an aunt who proves to be an obsessed serial killer. There she accepts the post of gardener, and says goodbye to the dream of a season of her own.

Fate is working in her favor, when by chance she meets and falls in love with Gordon Bray, Earl of Hawksworth. There’s just one problem… He's an obsessed serial killer. Also, he doesn’t know that she is merely a gardener, and not the lady she has been pretending to be. When Gordon discovers the truth, tempers flare and cruel words fly. Will the two of them reconcile and live happily ever after? Or will the obsessed serial killer have the final say?

Crimson Courtship is complete at 92,000 words. It is the first in a series of novels, but unlike most romance series, which seem to focus on groups of men, be they brothers or cousins or obsessed serial killers, this series will tell the stories of the four women of Highgate Manor, and of the obsessed serial killer who stalks them all.

Thank you for your time and consideration. A short synopsis and sample chapter are enclosed; I will be happy to provide additional material upon request.



As you are telling the stories of the women of Highgate Manor, you might mention who the other women of Highgate Manor are, in relation to Patricia. Do any women of Highgate Manor actually live in Highgate Manor now that father is dead?

Has Patricia really said goodbye to the dream of a season of her own? If she has, why is she pretending to be a lady?

Evil Editor hopes there's a serial killer, as without one, there doesn't seem to be much to distinguish this from what Evil Editor imagines other regency romances would be like, if he actually read them.

If you Google "regency romance sisters" you'll find that men do not have exclusivity in regency series.

Selected Comments

Anonymous said...HEE. This was very funny, and also very useful commentary. One side note: how on earth does the woman get a job as a gardener in Regency times? Housemaid, governess, lady's maid, dresser, hatmaker...sure. Gardener? I don't think so. Unless it's just in an 'unpaid drudge' capacity?

BuffySquirrel said...What struck me, reading this query, is that being a lady isn't a matter of MONEY, it's a matter of BIRTH. So even though Patricia is penniless, she's still either a lady or she isn't.

Anonymous said...Of course there is really a serial killer, however, he isn't any of the people mentioned, so I just don't know how to work it in. Is there somewhere in there I can mention the bodies of the young girls that are found without throwing everything else off? You have given me some great ideas and direction. Thanks Evil Editor. (Although I don't really think you're evil.)

Dayna_Hart said...A common theme, EE, is that you are not as truly evil as you would have us believe. That being said, I must agree that "Warmfuzzy Editor" lacks all the zing of "Evil Editor", plus it loses out on the whole alliteration thing. I guess, as one of your ragtag group of Evillettes? Evilles? In any case, I suppose you're going to have to resign yourself to being the "Not So Evil Editor" to us...

Termagant 2 said...Let's see, we can't call you semi-Evil, or partly-Evil (is that like Mostly Harmless?). How about Mid-Evil? Maybe you are channeling a scribe from around the time of the Black Death, living at Syon Priory...

Evil Editor said...If they will refrain from broadcasting it incessantly, Evil Editor will tolerate his original followers finding him only mildly evil.

Carolyn said...Evil Editor, this is the funniest thing I have read in so long. I have gone through most of these letters, though I am saving some to read tomorrow. And perhaps you will have more new ones! I feel I have entered a different and strange universe. I don't know why the people are sending you these particular queries, yet they are, and you respond so funnily, and then it happens again.

Tawny Taylor said...Speaking for everyone (I have such an ego, LOL), we keep posting letters because we can look past EE's his snarky comments about our heroines named Abby and Veronica and our sex-crazed-man-beasts (or whatever it was). EE's giving some fabulous critiques and his revised versions are tight and compelling. How often do writers get this kind of feedback?

Dayna_Hart said...Hey, I like Mostly Harmless. That one works in a big way...
As for why send in query letters?
1) the feedback given is brilliant. (not to inflate your head, EE)
2) the feedback is amusing to read
3) Why not?
4) shredders are expensive.Writerious said...I haven't laughed so hard over good writing advice since the Deluxe Transitive Vampire. I may have to pluck up the courage to send something in, if only for a good laugh. And Lord knows I can use a good laugh these days.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Guess the Plot

Don't Forget the Death Ray

1. A team of astronauts arrive in a new world, only to discover the atmosphere is full of poppy-gas that adversely affects their cognition and makes them vulnerable to kidnap by flying monkeys, green women, and singing midgets.

2. Zorpha Qv'naul has had to deal with one too many creeps who think, just because they paid for immersion in the nutrient vats, she should drop her carapace and become brood-host to their natal swarm. So she's written a handbook of practical advice for the single female tentaculoid playing the dating game on Eta Horologii IV.

3. All mad scientist Lysander Schultz wants to do is take over one, maybe two continents so his mother will finally stop complaining he's never accomplished anything. But then Mama Schultz gets wind of the plot and decides her baby boy can't possibly do it without her assistance...

4. What happens to megalomaniacal arch-villains whose powers fade as they proceed into their golden years and find they can no longer remember exactly what they were going to do with the world once they dominated it? This is the story of a most unusual assisted-care facility where, more often than not, weapons of mass destruction are found in the refrigerator rather than in that tray on the dresser where they belong.

5. Ironic hipster Lance McAllister's blog, "Don't Forget The Death-Ray," is a send-up of science fiction cliches and alien abductions. It's all fun and games, until the Reticulons show up and the anal probes start.

6. The ultimate reference work on how to write comic books. Includes invaluable advice like: Don't put an alien's third eye on the back of his head; Never make a spandex costume pink; and of course . . . Don't Forget the Death Ray.

Original Version

I'd like to sell a fun and informative book about how to write superhero novels and comic books. Don't Forget the Death-Ray! would be aimed at readers aged 13-18.

My main writing credential is that I run Superhero Nation, a writing advice website that has had 150,000 readers in the past two years. My superhero writing advice is credible and effective. [Evil Editor is a good name for a superhero who gives writing advice (though my advice is incredible and ineffective). And thanks to my laser vision I can also battle super villains. Here are my arch-enemies:]

In addition, I have three years of experience writing for college newspapers.

I am better-suited to reach teen readers than most of the authors currently writing in this field. Most of them are 40-something or 50-something comic book writers. They have experience that would be absolutely critical to older readers, but teen readers also value relatability. [Better to say you are well-suited because teens relate to you, than to say you are better-suited and then put down the forty-somethings. You may be sending this to someone who's not so young.] I believe that the success of my website is evidence of that. [Actually, it's evidence that the same twelve people visit your site 20 times every day. And I should know.] As a college senior myself, I relate to teens very easily. Additionally, the experience I have-- winning a grant to write a superhero novel manuscript-- is more relevant to young readers. I'm very familiar with the ground-level of the industry and how to succeed as a newcomer. [Did you succeed as a newcomer?] In contrast, most competing authors broke into the industry twenty or thirty years ago. [As shown in the following chart, old people are behind the times when it comes to superhero powers:

Old Superheroes (low relatability)

Superhero.................. Talent

Green Arrow ............... Good at archery
Aquaman .....................Can hold breath a long time
Batman ........................None
Superman.................... Everything
Spiderman ...................Senses danger
Mr. Fantastic .............. Can stretch really far
Silver Surfer .................Can surf without water

New Superheroes (high relatability)


Mall Babe ....................Expert shopper
The Controller..............Really fast thumbs
Guitar Hero .................Really fast fingers
The Idol .......................Karaoke Master
Rapper .........................None
Tweeter ........................Conciseness
Textgirl ........................Cryptography

Please let me know if you would like me to send a proposal. I can be reached at [e-mail address] or [phone number.] [Asking if they want a proposal is inviting them to say no. A proposal is not so long that you shouldn't just send it. What is it, two or three chapters to give them an idea what your book is like? It's the least you can send, as your query letter tells them nothing about what your book is like.]

Thanks for your time and consideration.



There's nothing about your book in the letter. The entire thing is your credentials. And you don't have any.

If you don't have the credentials of others in your field, your strategy should not be to send a query that mainly states why your lack of credentials is actually a plus; your strategy should be to show that your book is so creative and original it shines above other works in the field. Give an example or two of your book relating to teens in a way that will make teens prefer your book to others.

A nonfiction book doesn't need to be finished, but unless you have credentials, you need to finish some of it and send it on to demonstrate that you've got the goods.

The number of thirteen-year-olds who can (and want to) write a decent novel, with or without your advice, is limited. Maybe you should just do comic books.

Selected Comments

Anonymous said...1) Where's the book? What will the book be about? Why should I read this book? 2) The more you say you're qualified, the less I believe you. It gets to a point in this letter, actually, when I just want to write you off as 14 and clueless. Repetitiveness is very rarely your friend. 3) Would an adult reading this also get anything out of it? Because you make it sound like only kids will like it. Just because that's your target audience, realistically, most teens are more interested in the How to Draw books than they are the How to Write Comic books. My credentials: I work in a library putting the books back. I know. So if the book can be read by older audiences also, without offending them, mention that at least in passing.

Whirlochre said...I feel like I've been bitten by a radioactive plot vacuum.

Anonymous said...Those GTPs were brilliant and I loved the superheros, esp. Pencilhead.

writtenwyrdd said...Seriously, EE, you rocked this one. I almost peed myself. Author, this is a bad query letter. Those whom you don't insult, you imply they are gullible. If you can't see that, you need to set this query aside for a while, take a chill pill, and go back and visit it again. As a past master of doing this, I can tell you, what you said isn't what you think you said.

Now you show a great facility with language in this letter. Obviously your writing ability is there; but you need to consider the subtext of what you are saying just a teensy bit when you read what you wrote.

And focus on telling us about your book.

freddie said...Yikes. You may not have meant it this way, but you managed to insult professional writers while talking down to teens. You may have written a book about how to WRITE, but no agent or editor is going to bother with this unless you've had some works published. If your main credential is a website, I'm guessing that hasn't happened yet. Put this aside and focus on getting hired as a comic book writer. In my experience, teens are turned off by people who try to 'relate' to them. It will smell like bullshit to them every time.

Mother (Re)produces. said...Oh boy. What they said in spades. Maybe you're just a really nice person trying to sound confident and sell her/himself, but you came out sounding pompous, and worse yet, you tell us no details about your proposed project. Do a bit of research and find out how to write a non-fiction book proposal. Yeah, and write some comics. Like The Tick. Whatever happened to The Tick? I loved The Tick.

Adam Heine said...Crap, I was hoping this would be fiction. I'm tempted to write GTP #4 myself. EE joked about your readership stat, but he's right. "150,000 readers in the past two years" is not worth mentioning. Most likely this is page hits, which does not translate directly to readers. Even if it is readers, it means you have an average readership of 200 people (i.e. that's how many people visit your site each day), which is bigger than any website I've run, but not big enough to sell your book to a publisher. The only statistic worth citing is your readership - the number of actual people that visit your site regularly. And that's only worth mentioning if it's 5+ digits (probably).

Dave F. said...I will say one thing, you come off as cheery and fun, bright and breezy in your style. That's good.

Steve said...The problem with advice books, I think, is that if they're going to be credible, they've got to come from someone with credentials to give advice. Which, in practice, usually means someone with a track record of success in their field - the longer the track record, the more credibility. And it takes time to develop that track record.

If you've not got the track record, you're going to have to show us what you do have; putting other people down isn't an acceptable substitute. As things stand, I'd take Stephen King's or Neil Gaiman's advice over yours any day of the week, fogeys though they may be.

So: what have you got that gives you credibility as a source of advice? Tell us about that.

Anonymous said...It's not unknown for a successful blog to be sufficient platform to become a book. It has happened. Maybe the mistake here is assuming the recipient of the query is going to go check out the blog and see for themselves. Truth is, if they were going to do that, they probably already would have.

Eric P. said...We have early frontrunners for best response of the year! Huzzah! The query could get an award too, but maybe a different kind...

Author... how do I put this tactfully? If I wanted a book on how to write comic books, I'd look for one by a writer whose "main writing credential" was that, oh maybe, they had actually written some successful comic books. And not just on a website that they ran themselves. Sorry.

If it's any consolation, I've been there-- somewhere in my files is an unfinished manuscript of writing advice that I wrote as a teenager. Yeah. Harsh reality is, 1) My advice is almost certainly not nearly as valuable as I thought it was when I was young and green, and 2) in any event, nobody's going to pay me to read it unless they know I'm a good writer-- of other books.

If you do have good ideas on how to write comic books, why not put them into use and write some comic books and graphic novels of your own? Then get them published. Once you do that, make a few hits, and get your name out there as a good and/or successful comic book writer, then maybe you'll find a receptive audience for your sage advice on comic book writing. Until then, keep on blogging!

Dave F. said...Since this is a non-fiction book and you won't have it written, it would make sense for you to have a chapter outline and one of the chapters. That way, someone reading the query and thinking it was a good idea, could request the outline and chapter to get an idea of what the book would contain and it's tone.

Your Blog is a platform for advertising and marketing the book.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...I'm confused. If you're lucky enough to have a grant to write a novel, why not write the novel first and then write the how-to book? It seems like that would give you a much stronger platform.

150 said...When I googled "winning a grant to write a superhero novel" -- because I'd never heard of such a thing and frankly I gotta get in on that -- it came up with the Xeric Foundation, which provides grants to help underwrite the cost of self-publishing comic books. If that's what you got, I don't think anyone will consider it a legitimate cred. If someone bought your superhero novel with intent to publish, that's different. Please clarify, I'm really curious.

_*Rachel*_ said...Greetings from Grammar Girl (because I will never admit to being Infodump). I would read 3 or 4 in a heartbeat. Why don't you write those instead? Or draw them! Your credentials don't really impress me, especially because they feel redundant. I'd rather hear some of your advice, which will give me a better idea of whether this thing is worthwhile. If you wrote your own comic books and those did well, you could use illustrations and examples in an advice book and you'd already have a fan base waiting to buy it. I wrote and illustrated "The Third Grade Mystery" and "Terry the Termite." "The Third Grade Mystery" was my first book ever--can you guess when I wrote it?

vkw said...I am not going to belabor the point that this query letter is bad. I was actually interested, however, when I thought it was spoof on how to write a comic book. That could be funny. However, if I had received this letter, I would debating whether or not to call child protective services. A college senior has no business relating so well with teenagers. By the way 40-50 year old crowd you just assulted are providing free room and board and buying the books for those minions you relate to so well. I think I may having a better grasp on what teenagers like - because I'm the one buying the crap. In other words - you may relate good to teenagers but not so much to me. You need a better pitch.

Dave F. said...Unlike fiction, you are selling a concept of a book. Your query has to demonstrate that you understand how to teach teenagers and older folk what it takes to draw successful comic books or graphic novels.

That's why I said earlier that you should develop an outline and a chapter. You don't necessarily have to have written a comic or a graphic novel but you have to understand what the basics are so you present them or teach them.

You have to demonstrate that you can prepare a book to guide the wannabe author along the right road. Your query has to reflect the ability to explain what it takes to write a comic book. You can't assert that and have people believe it. You have to guide eager teens and older folk through what not to do and what it takes to prepare a story in graphic form.

Kings Falcon said...While you might be right that you are the perfect person to write this book, you're alienating your reader. Think of it this way, most of the people who read your proposal are going to be 40 and 50-somethings. As a soon to be 40, I'd put the query down once you called me an old idiot with nothing to teach the "younger" generation.

The title is fantastic. The idea is also pretty solid if you can also reach those 40+ people who want to write comic books too.

Tell me what your book will address and how you are the right person. But not why everyone else is bad.

Meri said...Loved, loved, loved Evil's comments and advice. I experienced the big "O" upon perusal of the superhero picts. (Anal man is my fave!!) As I'm still experiencing after-glow, I'll have to cut short my comments.

150 said...Aaaaaaand Meri is the new champion for comment-thread TMI. I really thought nobody could top EE's cruise missile tattoo. Any challengers?

Robin S. said...I have absoluetly nothing useful to say to the author, but I had to stop in here and say I loved these super heroes a lot. Especially Pencil Man. (What a hottie!) And looking at lists makes me happy as hell I know more about list 1 than list 2. Thanks for making my day at work today, EE.

Anonymous said...I'm very familiar with the ground-level of the industry and how to succeed as a newcomer. Weren't the Newcomers the aliens in Alien Nation? Maybe this guy does know his stuff!

Phoenix said...I do think some agents ask for the full proposal for NF the way a partial for fiction is requested. The full proposal usually includes target audience demographics, marketing comparisons, table of contents, synopsis, credentials, and a sample chapter or two. Around 30 pages total. Depending on guidelines, you either send a simple query letter, an abbreviated proposal of 4-5 pages, or the full, expanded proposal.

Author, because you were getting plenty of advice on the relevancy-to-teens issue already, I went away and mulled this over a bit. Now, I happen to be in one of those category ages you are so distanced from, so make of it what you will. But I hung a bit with some fairly well-known comic book writers and pencilers and illustrators back in the hey-day right before the Crash of the early 90s.

So my Q is this: How is writing advice for the teen set different from advice for the not-so-teen set? I could maybe see if you were pitching a career book, but it sounds like you may be pitching a nuts-and-bolts how-to book. (Hard to tell when you don't really let us in on just what you're pitching.) Is the difference in the way you present the content? Is it done in text-ese? Twitter-ese? What makes the content relevant? And if teens are going to be competing with the older generation for shelf space, why should the content be different? That's your hook. That's what you need to lead with. IMO.

B. Mac said...Hello! Thanks for reviewing my query, Evil Editor. I also appreciated the comments, which were very helpful. Confidence does not come naturally to me, and I fear that I overcompensated in my query. Fortunately, I think that the comments offered a lot of solid advice about how to sell the concept without coming off pompous and obnoxious.

If I could clarify one thing, when I said 150,000 visitors, I meant "absolute unique visitors." That's what Google Analytics calls them, anyway. In a typical nonsummer week, I'd say I get hits from around 2500 separate people.

I considered including the full proposal as well, but it's around 25 pages. (Good God, the annotated table of contents alone is 4 pages).

Thanks again for your help!

--B. Mac

Author said...

Dear [Agent's Name],

I'd like to sell a fun and informative book about how to write superhero novels and comic books. Don't Forget the Death-Ray! would be aimed at readers aged 13-18.

My main writing credential is that I run Superhero Nation, a writing advice website that has had 175,000 readers in the past two years. My audience includes a sizable cohort of dedicated readers. 18,000 readers have been to my website more than 25 times, including 9000 that have visited more than 100 times. These dedicated readers probably represent a substantial amount of sales. According to a reader-survey, 56% of respondents said that they would definitely or probably buy my book. Only 14% said that they were definitely not or probably not interested.

I attribute this success to a writing style that is very teen-friendly.

* Like my website, the book consists of a series of articles that are generally 250-500 words long. I’ve found that these articles are long enough to be informative but not so long that the reader gets bored.

* Teens are skeptical readers. As a result, my writing style focuses more on facts than values judgments. I don’t want to get bogged down in a frightfully heated debate, like whether capes are stylish. I’d rather focus on objective questions: do caped heroes sell? No. Only one caped superhero (Batman) has had any comics reach the top 20 slots on the bestsellers list in the last three months. Additionally, very few of the major superheroes introduced in the past thirty years wear capes. Using these uncontroversial facts, I’d conclude that a comic book author will probably increase his publishability and sales potential by avoiding capes. By avoiding a values judgment like “capes are unstylish,” I can inform my audience without angering readers that are inclined to disagree with me.

* I am well-qualified to analyze the superhero writing genre in an informative and fun way. In addition to my online writing, I have three years of experience as a college news reporter. As of next May, I will have a BA in Political Science from Notre Dame with a strong background in data analysis and statistics. Although teens are very receptive to uncredentialed advice like Wikipedia, I think that many readers will value my analytical background. I have what it takes to analyze trends within a $300 million market and conclude what is likeliest to succeed.

I’ve completed a manuscript 50,000 words long. I’ve included a copy of my table of contents. Please let me know if you would like me to send the complete proposal. I can be reached at [email address] or [phone number]. Thank you for your time and consideration.


[The query goes on to include the entire table of contents, but blogger won't publish a comment that long, so I'll post it in the next comment--EE]

Evil Editor said...

Table of Contents

1. Are You Writing a Comic Book or a Novel?
2. Heroes.
1. Character Creation Questionnaire.
2. Screw You, Adjective-Man! How to Make a Catchy Superhero Name.
3. Picking Superpowers That Work For Your Story.
4. Giving Your Superhero a Day Job.
5. The Fine Line Between Superpowered and Overpowered.
3. Villains, Thugs, Politicians and Other Lowlifes.
1. Satisfying Villains: A Checklist.
2. How Evil is Too Evil?
3. Villainous Plots that Fit Your Story.
4. Motivating Evil.
5. Henchmen and Side-Villains.
6. How to Make Your Villains Stylish.
7. How to Write a Story With a Villain as the Main Character.
4. “It’s Time For You To Die,” He Explained: A Guide to Superpowered Dialogue.
1. Five Guidelines of Good Dialogue.
2. Common Dialogue Mistakes.
3. No Chatting!
4. Keep It Clear!
5. Will Your Story Survive to Page 2? Most Don’t.
1. How to Launch Your Story.
2. When to Start the Story.
3. What’s Your Hook?
4. Where’s the Drama?
6. Plotting and Pacing.
1. Give Your Characters Urgent Goals.
2. Don’t Let Your Heroes Walk Away.
3. Teams Vs. Individual Heroes: Pros and Cons
4. How Large Should Your Cast Be?
5. Make Your Story Intriguing, Not Cryptic.
6. How to Beat Writer’s Block.
7. Is Your Story Contrived? Fix It!
7. Brawls, Heists and Other Superpowered Action.
1. How to Do Fight Scenes.
2. Common Mistakes With Fight Scenes.
3. You Don’t Need a Fight to Kick Your Reader in the Face.
8. How to Strike a Chord With Your Readers.
1. Managing the Mood.
2. Make Your World Interactive.
3. Get Visceral!
9. How to Write Titles That Will Turn Heads and Blow Minds.
1. Six Tips to a Winning Title.
2. Identify Your Niche!
3. Ten Words That Will Probably Kill Your Title.
10. Common Stumbling Blocks for New Writers.
1. Cause of Manuscript Death: Mechanical Error.
2. You Don’t Need a Crowbar, But It Helps: How to Break Into Publishing.
3. Keep Moving! Perfectionism Doesn’t Pay.
11. Novel-Specific Advice.
1. How to Use Chapter Breaks to Intrigue Readers.
2. Should Chapters Be Titled?
3. Structuring a Novel that Sells.
4. First Person vs. Third Person Narration: Which Fits Your Novel Better?
5. How to Handle Multiple Narrators.
6. The Medium of Novels.
12. Comic Book-Specific Advice.
1. What a Writer Needs to Know About Art.
2. How to Lay Out Panels.
3. Common Paneling Problems.
4. How to Format a Script.
5. The Medium of Comic Books.
13. Finishing the Job: Getting Published.
1. Publishing Requirements.
2. Writing a Proposal/Query.
3. How to Write the “Comparable Works” Section for a Superhero Novel.
4. Steps of the Publishing Process.
5. Improve Your Odds of Getting Published.

Evil Editor said...You're still not talking about your book. Most of this is about your blog, and the paragraph about capes is comical. If I started a blog titled It IS Brain Surgery! and it was entertaining enough to get people to visit it despite my lack of knowledge about brain surgery, no publisher would buy my book about performing brain surgery. Your only hope is to submit sample essays from your book and hope a publisher finds them highly entertaining and educational. Your blog isn't worth a mention. I still don't see 13-18 year old kids caring about writing novels, so I'd stick with comic books.

If you are confident you have 4000 sales in the bag, you ought to self-publish. You have the buyers, you have access to them, why give most of the money to a publisher and booksellers?

Adam Heine said...The paragraph on capes assumes correlation proves causation. In other words, just because the top sellers have no capes does not imply that capes don't sell.

Wikipedia is not "uncredentialed advice." It is an encyclopedia based mostly on verifiable, external sources. This sentence simultaneously insults teens, Wikipedia, and anyone who uses it.

I like EE's points as well, esp. his point on self-publishing. Unless you're exaggerating the numbers, that sounds like a really good way to go.

vkw said...Oh my -I don't even know where to begin. I love Batman - I don't care that he wears a cape. I never even considered he was the only one. I don't care if he is. But I want to know - how come it worked for him?

I read a book called the Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. He talked about writing an article for an encyclopedia and commented he is not that concern that wickipedia is not that "researched" because neither was the encyclopedia article he wrote for (the publishers didn't check his work at all - he could have written anything) - but there are millions of critics for wikipedia, most willing to point out a mistake. Anyway, I thought that was interesting. I suggest everyone should read his book.

It looks like to me that you are writing your book from the internet site you ran for so long. I suggest this: Self-publish your book and sale it to your loyal following. I know someone who thought about doing this and I wish now he would have because the site is gone and so are his loyal members. The opportunity was lost. I would have bought a copy and treasured it. I loved the site.

I think this book would be great if it was a spoof. The table of contents alone was funny. I think everyone would find it funny. Your readership could be hundreds of thousands then. I think your missing the mark here with 13-18 years old as your market.

Can you name one comic book author who submitted his/her work before the age of 18, which was published?

You should know this right off the top of your head - this is your expertise.

I am going to give you credit for having good self-esteem and for going to Notre Dame.

(One of the many fighting irish in the world)

P.S. I did see a lot of improvement. I think your writing credentials were far more interesting that your site.

B. Mac said...Hmm. Towards the end, EE, Adam Heine and the anonymous Domer recommended that I consider self-publishing if the audience is large enough. I feel that I have a good deal of dedicated readers ( ), but I'm not sure how many of them I can convert into paying customers.

Survey-respondents indicated they were very interested (56% said they were likely or very likely to buy a copy). But there’s a self-selection problem because the people that are dedicated enough to take a survey are probably more enthusiastic than most other readers. Possibly drastically more enthusiastic—we’re talking about ~200 survey respondents out of around 23,000 readers that have come 25+ times. (Also, the margin of error is an uncomfortably high 6.9%).

Guessing conservatively, I think it would be reasonable to hope that…
--4% of the readers that have come to my website 25-50 times will buy a copy.
--8% of the readers that have come 50-100 times will buy a copy.
--12% of the readers that have come 100-200 times will buy a copy.
--16% of the readers that have come 200+ times will buy a copy.
(Just to clarify—having never tried anything like this before, I’m guessing on these projections. I have no idea what’s typical. If you have any data, please fill me in).

Going by these guesses, I feel that I can reasonably expect to sell 188 copies to the first group, 416 to the second, 564 to the third and 1232 to the fourth. That makes for a baseline of roughly 2250 copies. Based on the extreme sketchiness of these projections, I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual figure fell between 1125-4500 copies. (I’d be very pleased if the 7700 readers that have come 200+ times resemble the 56% of survey-respondents that said they were very likely or likely to buy the book).

Do these projections seem reasonable? If so, how would you recommend I go about self-publishing this book? I’m confident that my comic book artist can do an excellent cover and that I can edit myself well enough to avoid the horrific typos and other mistakes common to self-published books.

But, if I wait 12-18 months, I think I’ll be published as a comic book writer. My script and sample pages go out in February and, although it’s frightfully difficult to get published (let alone predict that you’re going to get published), I suspect that a preexisting audience would probably be more significant for a comic book. In the relatively specialized world of comic books, 5000 sales would beat more than a few minor Marvel and DC titles and place a comic in the top 200 bestsellers for that month.

Getting published would obviously make this how-to book substantially more publishable. However, as EE suggested, “You have the buyers, you have access to them, why give most of the money to a publisher and booksellers?” Gaming this out, if I wait 12-18 months and do get a CB series published in the interim, would it be worthwhile to seek professional publication? In most cases, I wouldn’t recommend that a first-time author even consider self-publishing cases, because we generally do not yet have a professional grasp on marketing and writing, let alone printing and cover design. However, with a comic book published and the experience of having run a fairly successful promotional website for three years, I think I could pull it off. Could I plausibly expect to make more money self-publishing than publishing professionally?

Evil Editor said...Regarding your projections, I have nothing to go on except my own self-published Evil Editor books. This blog gets a thousand visitors a day. I suspect most are repeat visitors, and I doubt 10% have purchased any of my books, though many have purchased all five. The fact that what's in the books is available here for free means those without plenty of spending money won't buy.

If the price of your book is $10.00, and it's professionally published you'll probably see about 0.60 per book. If you self publish you'll get $10.00 minus what you spent creating the book. Maybe you'll end up with $6.00 per book selling off your website. Minus what you pay some company to process credit card orders. You can also get the book on, but they'll take 55% and you'll have to ship to them at your expense.

A real publisher can get the book into bookstores. If it'll sell well in bookstores, it's worth going for that. If it won't, it depends on how long you're willing to wait to find a publisher, because the money is probably similar either way when you have a niche audience.

A big advantage of a pro publisher is that if it doesn't sell well, the expenses aren't out of your pocket. But you can always start with a small print run if you self-publish, to see how it's selling. If no one's buying you aren't out much, and these days they can print a new batch quickly if they sell like hotcakes.