Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New Beginning 905

Falcon blocked Dionisio’s lunge, and converted the motion into a parry. He jumped back. She lunged. Her footing slipped in the dry sand. She’d wanted to practice closer to the high tide line where the ground didn’t shift so much. Of course, that’s why Dio wanted her to work here. Too far away to lunge, he closed and cut from above. She sidestepped the blow. His momentum carried him forward. She thumped his back with the practice blade. Air exploded out of his lungs,. He staggered forward.

“Time,” Dio wheezed. Strands of his ginger-colored hair had escaped his braid and clung to his cheeks. He brushed them away.

“Sorry.” She winced. She hadn’t meant to swing that hard.

Dio rubbed the weal on his back as he straightened. “Don’t be. Keep this up and I might make you a member of the guard yet.”

She laughed. “I like my current assignment better. You work too hard.”

“I’ll bet you do.”

Slow clapping came from further up the beach. They turned to see Prince Rompf picking his way toward them. A lone member of the guard shadowed him. Dio waved at the man, and he dropped further back.

"Who's that?" Falcon asked.

"Rompf," Dio replied.



"Common courtesy," Falcon said, wiping her brow, "demands, Dio, that you turn your head to the side when hacking up phlegm."

Opening: Nancy D. Greene.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Synopsis 29

Guess the Plot

Paintings on the Wall

1. Pope Julius II hits the ceiling, so to speak. "I said EYE level, not SKY level, you nincompoop! I'll get whiplash looking at that thing!" Can Michelangelo repaint the Sistine Chapel in time for his holiness's birthday bash?

2. When Caitlin was dragged by naughty sister Midge to the male strip club, she could never have guessed she would be lured to a room where tattooed zombies had disguised themselves as . . . paintings on the wall.

3. As a couple in their late 40s walk through an art museum, they recount to each other a series of vignettes from their marriage, each called to mind by a painting on the wall. You kind of have to be there.

4. Jared gets pulled into a painting on the wall where he befriends a boy dressed as a skunk. Together they attempt to rescue people dressed as animals from slavers who want to turn them into mules.

5. A child elfin prodigy leaves messages in graffiti across the city. He is severely dyslexic; he can't manage handwriting on the wall.

6. It's a regular night shift at the art museum. Barry the security guard digs into his customary bowl of pudding when the paintings on the wall start talking to him about everything from bananas to philosophical revelations. Has Barry stumbled upon evil magic at work, or did his rival spike his pudding?

Original Version

Paintings on the Wall tells the story of a boy finding his way in a world that is not his own. Upset when his uncle doesn’t show up on his ninth birthday, Jared hides in the study where his mother’s painting collection hangs. His uncle appears and Jared is pulled into one of the paintings. [Did his uncle finally appear at the birthday party or did he appear in a painting?] Once inside, Jared is introduced to a group, hiding from the slavers, [What slavers? Is it a painting of slavers?] who dress as animals. [The slavers dress as animals?] He becomes friends with NEMO, the skunk. [A real skunk or someone dressed like a skunk?] [What's the point of dressing like animals? No one's gonna be fooled by a person in a skunk costume.]

The boys, though not allowed, slip away for a day of adventure. [All the boys? Just Jared and Nemo?] When they return to the forest, they find it burning and the animals taken as slaves. [The real animals or those dressed as animals?] [If I'm in the study looking at the painting, do I see the forest burning?] Their fate is to be mules, bringing goods in from the outside world. [The world outside the painting?] For each day anyone over the age of ten spends outside the [picture] frame, they age a year, dying quickly. Nemo is also captured and with Uncle Remy nowhere to be found, Jared is left alone.

Unsure when or how he will return home or what will happen to Nemo, Jared is scared. The dryad, DREE, offers him solace inside her tree. The trunk opens and Jared is tempted, [period or semicolon.] however, as he is about to accept, his uncle returns. Relieved, Jared tells his uncle everything. He hopes Uncle Remy will enact a miraculous rescue but his uncle declares it a lost cause. Feeling betrayed, Jared approaches the dryad. She promises to help him, in memory of another stolen child, Jared’s mother who went missing when she was eight. [This makes it sound like she's been missing since she was eight. Apparently she showed up long enough to give birth to Jared.] Jared climbs inside.

Remy wakes to see his nephew disappearing into the tree. [He was sleeping?] Unbeknownst to Jared, Remy is a slaver, having traded a life of servitude for his sister’s freedom. He captures slaves and it was his information that led the slavers to the animals. It is only when Jared rescues the animals that he learns of his uncle’s betrayal. He pushes aside the anger and hurt to complete his self-appointed task. [He just rescued the animals. What's this task that isn't yet completed?] His uncle helps in the end, getting injured in the process.

Jared learns about forgiveness, as he rescues his uncle from his role as a slaver. While Remy recovers, Jared charges him with taking the slaves to safety. His uncle agrees under the condition that Jared return home. While Jared is initially reluctant, Dree agrees, saying that it is time for Jared to be a child once more. But how can he return home when he learns that he has been replaced? [The end?]


We spend an awful lot of time on Jared getting into a tree. Do we really need to know he gets into a tree? Does anything crucial happen inside the tree?

Did Remy pull Jared into the painting? If so, why?

The characters you keep referring to as animals: are they all people dressed as animals?

When the boys slip away for an adventure are they going outside the frame? If so, why do they go back in? If not, then it seems there's more to the world of the painting than just what's visible, in which case, why can't they go somewhere in that world to get goods instead of going outside the frame?

What gives this nine-year-old kid the ability to rescue anyone from slavers?

I find this lacks clarity and focus. Focus on Jared and his main goal. I'm not sure the dryad and the skunk are vital to the synopsis. I'd rather hear about the rescue.

Monday, November 28, 2011

New Beginning 904

"At the end of the day you have to sit back and admit to yourself... she meant nothing."

Linc abruptly looked up from the shot on the bar counter, searching for the owner of the words that dared to interfere with his self-inflicted misery. The only person in the bar, besides the biker wannabe bartender, was a bombshell blond. Her legs looked like they could go for miles, and her face reminded him of Marilyn Monroe. "Who asked you?"

"No one. But you're hunched shoulders and 2-day growth scream woman issues," she said easing herself up onto the bar stool next to him. He couldn't help but look down to see if her heels matched the tight, banana colored dress that hugged all the right places, they did.

"And if she meant something you wouldn't be here drowning your sorrows in-" she paused leaning close to sniff him, "cheap whiskey. You'd be buying roses and throwing yourself at her feet to take you back."

Her words were like honey pouring out of a bottle onto his sour dough biscuit demeanor. Linc wasn't in the mood to let'em soften him. "Shows what you know."

The bombshell straightened. Her lips curved in a sly smile. "Well," she said breathily, "I do know the difference between 'your' and 'you're', and 'blond' and 'blonde'. And to hyphenate multiple-word adjectives. And when to use a semicolon instead of a comma."

From a nearly invisible pocket in her tight yellow dress, she somehow produced a business card, which she slid face down across the bar. He picked it up and looked at it.

Melinda Trawes
Freelance Copy Editor

He slipped the card into his back pocket. Apparently this night wouldn't be a total waste after all.

Opening: Linda Graf.....Continuation: Zachary Gole

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New Beginning 903

In the land of Noachian, there were women who sowed and reaped and women who counted the harvest and bartered with the priests in the temple.

When famine threatened the land, the leaders of the women who counted the harvest kneeled before Judith and Ruth, the chief women of those who sowed and reaped.

The leaders beseeched Judith and Ruth. “Look, look,” these women said as they held out their soft hands. “Our hands are soft and our backs are weak. We cannot work in the fields. The women who sow and reap must not allow us to starve. Consider. If we become too weak, who would count the harvest and barter with the priests to obtain the best price for your wheat? If you will give us one third of your wheat, we promise that in addition to counting your harvest and bartering with the priests, we will also sing and dance for you.”

Judith and Ruth agreed because they knew that the women who worked in the fields were afraid to barter before the priests in the temples and they loved to listen to beautiful music and watch graceful dancers while they rested from their labors in the fields.

The famine began to pass and the women who counted the harvest, bartered in the temple and sang and danced for the sowers and reapers, conspired to deceive the workers.

"Turn it off," Mrs. McGowan said. "I've heard enough." She shook her head hard and slapped herself across the face. "Look, doctor, when I asked you for something to cure my insomnia, I was thinking a prescription for mild sleeping pills, not a coma-inducing audio book."

Opening: Jane Little.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Face-Lift 971

Guess the Plot

Christina RIP

1. Hopeful writer Christina Brown considers herself a Rowling in potentia, and that's how she signs her query letters: "Christina, RIP". But it's not working. So she comes up with a new plan: she'll deliver her queries in person, as Strip-o-Grams. Law enforcement ensues.

2. You work your whole life to get ahead, to make a home for you and your family, to have something decent for a change...and then the miserable whore goes and sleeps with half the neighborhood because she's 'lonely'. Well, "Mr. There-For-You" wasn't, when I had the gun, was he? Enjoy your dirt nap, bitch.

3. Though a host of YA novels have convinced Christina that after her suicide her life will really get interesting, and everyone will be sorry they were mean to her, that turns out not to be the case. Instead, she's doomed to an eternity haunting the school lunch room listening to the Mean Girls say mean things about her.

4. Christina, RIP. Has a problem. No matter how she manages her diet, she can't stop farting, RIIIIP. Nobody will sit next to her in class, RI-RI-RIIIIP; and she's a pariah in the lunch room, rip. Just when it seems it can't, POOT, get any worse for Christina, RIP. She gets invited to the cute quarterback's firework party, RIIIIP, KA-BOOOM!

5. Being dead hasn't brought Christina peace, so she takes possession of her cousin Tiffany's body. Tiff always hated Christie, so she'll do anything to drive her back out. Conflict ensues. Also, an evil witch.

6. At the funeral of their classmate Christina, several students reflect on what they could have done to prevent her suicide. Pretty much all of them had a hand in it. They agree to get together later that night for a party.

Original Version

I am offering my novel, CHRISTINA RIP for your consideration.

Christie’s life took a turn for the strange after she died. She can see and hear people, but nobody is aware of her presence. [I believe the technical term for her condition is "ghost."] Her best friend blames herself for Christie’s demise, [Technical term: "murderer."] but Christie herself has no memory of what happened. [I'm starting to wonder why the title isn't Christie: RIP.]

Her nerdy spirit guide is no help, dispensing confusing information about what she needs to do to pass to the “next level”. [The levels after death include ghost, zombie and vampire. Possibly you go ghost-zombie-ghost, as your spirit wouldn't know you were going to become a zombie till after you were a ghost (you go back to ghost when someone shoots you in the face or cuts off your head). With vampire, the spirit knows you'll be a vampire because it saw a vampire bite your neck, so the first ghost level is set aside until someone manages to drive a wooden stake through your heart. Eventually everyone's a ghost and the next level, according to the Doctor Strange saga (see Marvel Premiere #8-10, 1973, in which The Ancient One dies) is becoming one with eternity.] Maybe the joke about not wanting to be ‘seen dead’ with a geek like him wasn’t such a good idea after all. Seems there’s a family curse, involving her evil witch Nonna. [Her evil witch? What does that mean?] And if Christie doesn’t want to fade to nothing for eternity, she needs to lift the curse.

But she is experiencing increasingly longer periods of nothingness, and figures that unless she can undo the curse pronto, she will fade away forever. [You just said that in the previous sentence.]

So when her cousin Tiffany organises a séance, Christie takes this opportunity to possess her. [Ghosts can possess people only during seances? Convenient that Tiffany is staging one.] But even back inside a body, answers still aren’t that easy to find. [No need to say "still" when you've already said "even." Also, "that" can go.] Christie needs to ease her bestie’s guilt, and undo the family curse, all the while struggling to keep control of Tiffany’s body. Tiffany hated her while she was alive, and hates her more now she’s taken over her, so will do anything to drive Christie out. [Terrible sentence. Better to drop it than to fix it.]

Christina, RIP is a 70,000 word YA paranormal with comedy elements.


Why is Tiffany organizing a seance? Surely not to talk to someone she hated.

This needs a major organizational overhaul. The setup:

Christie doesn't remember how she came to be dead. All she knows is that her best friend blames herself, and that a family curse is preventing her spirit from moving on to the next level. According to her nerdy spirit guide, she will fade to nothingness if she can't lift the curse.

The conflict:

Breaking the curse and easing her friend's guilt will be easier in human form, so Christie takes possession of her cousin Tiffany's body. Tiffany hated Christie when she was alive, and she's none-too-happy about this new arrangement. She'll do anything short of killing herself to drive Christie out.

The wrap-up:

Wherein you tell us how Christie plans to deal with her problem, what goes wrong, etc.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Twitter War

Like most sane people, Evil Editor avoided Twitter like the plague. The writing skills of humanity had declined enough without putting a 140-character limit on the only literary output being produced by the computer generation.

Then Mrs. Varmighan secretly became a Tweeter, which was okay until the day she came into EE's office and asked him to tweak her tweet. To EE's mind, this was the day he'd been waiting for; he'd been trying unsuccessfully to tweak her tweet since the day he'd hired her. Turned out she just wanted him to edit her unauthorized biography of him down to 140 characters.

The final straw came when EE returned from vacation to find that Mrs. V had appropriated a major portion of his blog's sidebar with her tweets, most of which were cartoons mocking him.

EE immediately opened his own Twitter account. A few days later, EE boasted that he had as many followers as Mrs. V, but she pointed out that the statistics were misleading; her tweets were available on his blog, so it wasn't necessary for those who followed her to follow her. Fuming, EE immediately hired a techie, at a nominal charge of $804.99, to figure out how to put his tweets on the blog.

That's where we stand today. EE has declared he will stop tweeting if Mrs. V reaches 100 followers before he does. Mrs. V has accepted the challenge; she'll do the same, as long as he agrees to let her tweets stay on top of his in the sidebar, and not to take advantage of his engagement to Lady Gaga by asking her to encourage her followers to follow EE.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Success Story

Kate Walton reports that her novel Cracked (Face-Lift 683, where it was titled Everything's Not Lost ) will be published soon (Simon Pulse ~ Simon & Schuster January 3, 2012).

Also you can go to her site for info on her Make My Book Trailer contest.

Face-Lift 970

Guess the Plot

My Life as a Damsel in Distress

1. ...was really crappy. Guys wouldn't stop to help me change a flat tire, the fireman who rescued my cat from a tree gave it to a Korean family... You get the picture. Then I got a boob job. Whoa, way better.

2. The long-awaited autobiography of Lindsay Lohan.

3. Princess Peach's shocking memoir reveals that she is, in fact, the mother of the Koopa Kids.

4. Imprisoned in a tower, Princess Sophia has no Prince Charming, no fairy godmother, no one at all to rescue her. So she sits around being bored, hoping someone will save her, but no one ever does. That's about it.

5. The true story of the Chevalier of Rohan, a notorious cross-dresser who used his skills to catch the unwary at Louis XIV's Versailles.

6. As the prettiest damsel in all of Smilesville, Christabelle has her pick of suitors and is due to inherit a fortune. Then Dad loses the estate gambling and moves the family to Distress County. How will she cope, now that everyone’s too bothered with their own problems to compliment her hair?

Original Version

Dear Agent,

Princess Sophia, a bona-fide damsel in distress, seems to have gotten the short end of the stick in this being an imprisoned princess thing. [I'd go with "has" rather than "seems to have." And "the" instead of "this." You don't need "being an." And I wouldn't call it a "thing." Try "deal" or "arrangement" or "situation."] No fairy godmother, no enchanted sleep, no dwarves or talking mice to keep her company, and most importantly, no prince on his way to set her free. Instead, she’s just bored. Totally and completely bored. And she’s been that way for a dozen years.

When the wicked witch moved into Sophia’s kingdom, everything went downhill quickly. Her mom disappeared, her dad was bewitched, and she ended up a damsel in distress. Kidnapped as a child and [was] locked away in a [the obligatory] tower in the middle of nowhere,[.] Sophia spends her days reading stories to the dragon who guards her (and just might eat her if she reads the tale about the dragon being slain one more time), losing terribly at chess to the strange, old man who works for the wicked witch, and watching wannabe rescuers completely fail at making it past the obstacles that surround her prison. [I'm less sympathetic about her lack of dwarves, talking mice and a prince trying to rescue her now that I know she has a dragon, a chess opponent and wannabe rescuers.] [Start a new paragraph.] But now she’s decided to write it all down - everything. Why she’s in the tower, [Why is she in the tower?] who put her there, [The witch.] what she’s been up to all these years, [Chess.] and maybe, just maybe, what happens once she’s able to escape. [What does?] Secretly hoping she’ll be able to get her story to someone so her family or friends back home will hear about her plight and mount a rescue squad (assuming they haven’t all been turned into frogs or bewitched), [The fact that she has wannabe rescuers suggests that her imprisonment is common knowledge.] Sophia dreams of the day when, just like in the books that keep her company, a knight in shining armor or Prince Charming himself will appear. He’ll make it past all of the insane obstacles that keep her away from the rest of the world, rescue her, and sweep her off her feet. And, to top it off, find her mom, fix her dad, and get rid of the wicked witch. Yeah, it’s a long shot, but a girl, especially a girl locked away in a tower with not much to do, can dream. [That's it? She sits around hoping for rescue? She's your main character. She needs to outwit her captors and get her butt out of there. Presumably she does, so you might want to mention this. Even something as vague as "But after twelve years of waiting, Sophia is beginning to realize that if she wants to escape, she's gonna have to do it herself." would be better than giving the impression she's totally helpless.]

MY LIFE AS A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS is a YA fantasy novel complete at 75,000 words. My book will appeal to readers who enjoy the fairy tale retellings and magical worlds of Jessica Day George or the whimsical stories of E.D. Baker. (Add personalization about specific agent.)

Thank you for your time and consideration. The full manuscript is available on request. I look forward to hearing from you.



The voice is nice, but if all that's going on with Sophia are chess games and story time, maybe it would be more interesting to set the story back with mom and dad and the witch, and whoever is trying to figure out where Sophia is.

Does she have a supply of paper and writing implements? Aren't her captors curious about what she's writing? People are already aware she's being held in the tower, and trying to rescue her, so writing a memoir that concludes: Get me out of this tower that's in the middle of nowhere! isn't going to have much effect. Nor is: Hey, idiots, knock it off with the incompetent rescue attempts and take this memoir to the kingdom I lived in 12 years ago and deliver it to . . . let's see, my mother disappeared and my father's bewitched and a witch is in power . . . screw it. Anybody got a really tall ladder?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

New Beginning 902

News flash – funerals are boring. I’ve no idea which old-family-friend-relative has fallen off the perch this time. Probably some second cousin of Nonno’s who I last saw at somebody’s wedding and tried to dodge knowing they would want to kiss me and I’d end up with gravel rash across my cheek thanks to their feral facial hair. This treatment comes equally from the men and women.

Ok, even I have to admit it’s disrespectful. I’m sure Mama told me who died - probably between the times we were shrieking at each other - but right now I can’t even remember the conversation.

I’m slouched in a pew, hoping the heating will get turned up. More people drift into the church. Oh, there’s Celine. What’s she doing at a family funeral? Drama queen Celine, all dressed in black like a crow and hugging everything in sight. She’s more at home here than I am. My relatives think that if they don’t wail and howl and throw themselves onto the coffin everybody would disapprove because they’re not grieving enough. Celine’d remind me whose funeral it is if I asked, but then she’ll sit at this pew and I’d be stuck with her.

Luckily, she doesn’t stop, just walks past me. An usher is handing out booklets, but she doesn’t give me one. I peek over somebody’s shoulder.

The photo jumps out at me. Somebody screwed up. Big time. The girl is wearing the dress I wore to Maria’s wedding, with her hair done the way mine was.

And her face is the face I see in the mirror.

Wait. It's coming back to me. Maria's wedding . . . My reclusive great aunt Phyllis slouched in a garish muumuu, her long frazzled hair falling onto a plate of fish. God, I remember that fish. It had the weirdest taste. I'd managed to choke down half of it and then swapped with Phyllis for her chicken.

"Poor Phyllis," Uncle Ernie sighs. "Food poisoning. On what should have been such a happy occasion, too."

"I heard she wasn't found for a week," his wife adds. "No one bothered to check until the neighbors complained about the howling cats."

Food poisoning from the fish? I think, leaning back to enjoy the organ music. Maria must be feeling sooo guilty right now.

Opening: Anon......Continuation: Tamara Marnell

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Survey Results

A mere 16 voters. Giving 0 to 5 points (5 if the account was rated highest) the results are as follows:

Evil Editor: 63
Public Confessor: 46
Kind Serial Killer: 41
Unethical Attorney: 39
Evil Psychiatrist: 30
Erick the Strange Angelic Man: 18

Someone already has an account called EvilEditor, someone, I might point out, who opened the account in 2009, tweeted once, and never used it again. However, I've noticed during my short time on Twitter that a lot of famous people use their name preceded by "The" or "The real," to distinguish themselves from fraud tweeters. And @TheEvilEditor was available.

So now there's a Twitter account @TheEvilEditor, but Evil Editor refuses to start tweeting until he has at least as many followers as Mrs. Varmighan. It's a matter of principle. So . . .

I've heard that if you don't have a Twitter account you can't click on the links in Mrs. V's tweets to see the cartoons. If that's true, it'll be true with Evil Editor as well. Opening a Twitter account requires you to give an email address so they can email you to confirm you're you and not someone else posing as you. But you don't have to give your real name or any other personal info, and you don't have to tweet if you'd rather not.

National Book Awards Guess the Plot

Each of the titles below belongs to a book nominated for this year's National Book Award (fiction). You should have no trouble figuring out which of the plots are fake and which are real.

The Sojourn

1. In a distopian future America, a man and his children struggle to make their way to the safety of San Diego.

2. A passionate journey of the senses that explores the boundaries of time and space, transcending the barriers of race, class and religion, to ultimately triumph in a joyful celebration of life, love, and what it means to be human. Also, mad scientist penguins on rollerblades.

3. Jozef leaves Colorado and goes to Austria-Hungary to be a shepherd. But then World War I breaks out, and Jozef finds himself enduring a perilous trek across the Alps.

4. Ralph and Edna have traveled worldwide and this is their story, a story of roaches, dusty sheets, parking lot views, thieves in the night, and rude clerks. Around the world on a shoestring of hellish motels.

5. When his motorbike breaks down in Kenya, Chenda must spend three days at a hotel that caters to rich tourists in an animal preserve. Though he has long ached to be wealthy himself, he finds that the wealthy tend to be assholes.

6. Emily, a harassed mother of four children under five years steps out of her life for a few days. In her hotel room, she overhears a terrorist plot to poison the water supply. Does she have to do something about it when all she really wants is some goddam sleep?

The Tiger's Wife

1. Soft-spoken Rarrgh and his new mate Aragha must make a perilous journey across India with their cubs to the fabled Shangri-La as the ice-cap flows down from the poles in the next ice-age.

2. Investigating her beloved grandfather’s death, Natalia searches for clues in his worn copy of The Jungle Book and the one story he never told her: the legend of . . . The Tiger’s Wife.

3. Carlotta is delighted with her new transgendered self. Next challenge: a transpecies change involving genuine tiger fur. And romance with a handsome tiger might be in the cards, and d'you know what? He's even looking at rings...

4. They call him The Tiger because he's ferocious in the boxing ring. But at home in Santo Domingo, he is tormented by his cruel, overbearing spouse. Perhaps his success in the ring stems from imagining his opponent is his wife?

5. In the schoolyard game they play, Garrett is the tiger who chooses a wife-- Alice. But lately, Garrett's been playing with the new girl, Sandra. What Sandra doesn't know is that when Alice gets really, really mad she turns into a REAL tiger. Sandra should have stuck to Duck, Duck, Goose.

6. In a distopian future America, the widow of a baseball player killed by Detroit cops struggles to lead her children to the safety of San Diego.

The Buddha in the Attic

1. A group of Japanese mail-order brides come to America and have miserable lives with their new husbands. At one point Haruka places a laughing Buddha in the corner of the attic, where it is still laughing to this day.

2. Stoners Bud and Rick's house is so smokey and ripe with green growth that their attic reincarnates the Buddha, much to the delight of Bud and Rick--but will anyone follow these two new prophets of peace and love?

3. In a distopian future America, a young gay Malaysian-American man struggles with coming out while joining his family on the road to the safety of San Diego.

4. Kumiko finds a ceramic Buddha in her uncle's attic. She asks him about it and he spends hundreds of pages telling her the story of his life, leaving her wishing she'd kept her mouth shut.

5. Uncle Frank looks just like Buddha, what with his beer gut and bald head, always sitting cross-legged on the floor of the attic. If he really was Buddha, it would make sense how he knew all about those girls who went missing. The F.B.I. don't seem to think that explains it.

6. When Steven and Lisa find an old Buddha statue in their grandmother's attic, they are transported back to ancient Tibet and have to foil a plot to kidnap the child Dalai Lama.

Binocular Vision

1. When Professor Priscilla Goodspeed publishes the definitive description of the evolution of binocular vision, Evangelist Royce Penis kidnaps her and tortures her until she recants.

2. Superhero Opticman can see great distances. Not only has he found his power to be virtually useless in fighting crime, he can't read a book unless it's two kilometers away. Which makes it hard to turn the pages.

3. In a distopian future America, a gay Chinese man, his Mexican undocumented worker boyfriend, and three blind boys band together on the road, seeking the safety of San Diego.

4. Jack Henner is pleasantly surprised when his son Brent requests binoculars for his thirteenth birthday. He's glad Brent has an interest in nature. There certainly hasn't been much for the boy to do since the park across the street was replaced by a boarding school for morally corrupted young ladies.

5. A young girl is shocked by the suicide of a neighbor that she has spent months spying on with her father’s binoculars. Also, the deathbed secret of a young girl's forbidden forest tryst with the Russian tsar and shoplifting old people.

6. John the optometrist volunteers his time to help the visually impaired who can't afford glasses. He kindly treats a few impoverished zombies who then terrorize the city far more effectively with their vision restored.

Salvage The Bones

1. The discovery of a mass grave in Poland has forensic scientists working around the clock. But someone doesn't want the dead disturbed, and is willing to do whatever it takes to prevent it.

2. As hurricane Katrina approaches, a family prepares for the possibility they'll be without food and water for themselves . . . and their pit bulls.

3. A heartwarming tale of how Chef Boyardi salvaged the neck bones from the slaughterhouse and created his world famous red sauce.

4. Maryanne Perski, author of The Cheapskate Files, abhors her neighbor's lavish lifestyle, so she kills him. But Mary can't bring herself to dispose of the corpse, with all that fat to render, and then there's the hair. Will the neighborhood discover her secret before Mary can . . . salvage the bones?

5. A mission to Mars has returned with photos of what appear to be dinosaur bones. Billionaire Louise Chen attempts the first private spacecraft to the red planet to beat the government, but someone or something is determined to sabotage her.

6. In a distopian future America, a cynical former editor and his plucky band of minions scavenge the remains of other, less-fortunate travelers on the road seeking the safety of San Diego.

Correct answers below

Fake plots by Dave F., AA, Anon, Khazar-khum, and Evil Editor

The real plots, in order, are:

3, 2, 1, 5, 2

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Outpouring of affection appreciated

. . . but I wasn't really considering exclusively editing tweets. This reminds me of Face-Lift 500, wherein I declared I would henceforth replace the blue comments with pictures of my facial expressions, bringing forth a gusher of complaints.

On the other hand, some of those ideas for new twitter accounts [Read the post just below this one if you haven't already] sound like they'd be highly entertaining. For me at least.

The Decline of the Blog

So, it's been a week since our last Face-Lift, and there are no queries in the queue. Except for a few NaNoWriMo openings, we haven't posted a New Beginning since October, and there are no openings in the queue. [Update! Crisis temporarily averted. We now have openings needing continuations and queries needing fake plots. And more to come, I hope.] Comment trails are shorter all the time; writing exercises were discontinued due to lack of participation; rarely do more than five people show up for a Book Chat.

The handwriting is on the wall. If it's longer than 140 characters, it's too long. Maybe that's what's killing the publishing industry. They demand books of 80,000 words, when readers want books of 140 characters. Preferably fewer; those who use the full 140 characters need to be more concise if they want to make it as writers today.

The only way to survive as a blogger is to adapt to the changing world.

What does this mean for this blog? Basically, two things:

1. Instead of editing openings and queries, Evil Editor will edit tweets. Minions submit tweets they are planning to publish, and Evil Editor fixes them so that the tweeter doesn't sound like an illiterate twit. Or, say your tweet is longer than 140 characters; EE makes the cuts that make it legal.

2. Currently, EE's blog is a place you can read Mrs. Varmighan's tweets if you don't care to officially follow Mrs. Varmighan. This will be expanded so that each day the tweets of Mrs. Varmighan, Evil Editor, Evil Psychiatrist, Unethical Attorney (in which a defense lawyer ignores privilege and tweets his thoughts during a murder trial), Erick the Strange Angelic Man, literary agent Hannah Rogers, Public Confessor (in which a priest takes confessions in tweet form), and Kind Serial Killer are posted.

To ease the transition, we'll still be accepting queries and openings, at least until we hit #1000.

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Beginning 901

The kidnapped cook's cat looked as brilliant as his reputation: green eyes, fine gray stripes, white paws, a lively tail. Plus, he was so inquisitive. Who could ask for a better oracle? Justine reached into her pocket for the stolen slice of salmon, loosened the parchment wrapper, and set it on the stone floor. Mr. Whiskers sniffed at the fish. He tested it with his paw, started purring, and devoured it, exactly as the cook described his usual manner.

The feline licked the parchment clean, batted it away, and meowed, looking into Justine's eyes. She said, "Answer my question truly, and you shall have more." Mr. Whiskers purred and rubbed against her ankle.

The maid felt giddy enough to dance. In a moment she would know the truth about her heart's desire. She used her best Latin to bless the basketful of knotted silk ribbons with a whispered Ave Maria and emptied it, tossing stolen ribbons toward the roof as she called the question, "Does my Lord James love me?" The knots fell silently and lay scattered across the nave. Justine stood with her back against a column, hands clasped as if in prayer, hardly daring to breathe as she waited for Mr. Whiskers to choose the ribbon that would tell her fortune.

Mr. Whiskers looked at the ribbons on the floor. Then he flopped onto his side and looked up at Justine with half-closed eyes.

"Now look here, Mr. Whiskers," Justine murmured menacingly. "You will tell me what lies in the heart of my Lord, or it's back to Meow Mix for you."

Mr. Whiskers looked up at Justine blankly. Then he sat up and stuck his leg out to lick the white fur on his belly.

"A pity," Justine mused. "Perhaps Mr. Whiskers will change his tune when he joins the cook and my Lord James in that small, dark closet in the scullery."

Opening: Susan Brown.....Continuation: Tamara Marnell

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Guess the Plot Prep

National Book Award nominees for best fiction book of 2011 have been announced. I need you guys to submit fake plots for any or all of the titles. Meanwhile, I'll look up the real plots and we'll have a quiz this week. Here are the titles:

The Sojourn
The Tiger's Wife
The Buddha in the Attic
Binocular Vision
Salvage the Bones

Saturday, November 12, 2011

For no good reason, I did some googling around for the first 50 queries subbed to EE. While I probably missed some that changed not only titles but character names, this is what I came up with:

1. Par for the Course, published Samhain 2009

2. Mark of the Beast, as Animal Urges (Mark of the Beast & Touch of the Beast) published Ellora's Cave 2007

4. Coiled Revenge, published Wild Rose 2007

5. The Pele Project, as Hot Contract, published Wild Rose 2008

10. Stripped, published Freya's Bower 2007

23. Bad Ice, published Champagne Books 2008

30. Dressed to Kill, published Changeling Press 2007

32. The Last Lion of Sparta, published as The Last King of Sparta, published OakTara 2011

45. Portal to Murder, published Virtual Tales 2008

48. Mods 101, possibly as Performance Fuel Injections Systems, published HP Trade 2010

50. When Sid was Sid, as The Loudest Firecracker, published Tranquebar 2009

Some took the self-publishing option:

6. Tierra Red, via Outskirts Press 2009

8. Little Rituals, via Smashwords 2009

14. Trevor's Song, via Smashwords 2010

31. The Teen Queen and I, as A Song Apart, via Createspace 2011

41. Honor Lost, Honor Bound, as On Guard for Thee, via Fastpencil 2011

46. Live, Love, and a Polar Bear Tattoo, via Createspace 2009

Friday, November 11, 2011

New Beginning 900!

The fence that surrounds The Institute for Criminal Rehabilitation is not electric. It is not covered in barbed wire, and there is no behemoth wall to protect the massive factory-turned-prison, where rehabilitees serve life sentences. There is no need for such protection when the facility guards are the best in the Republic of Canada. Prospective guards could apply at age sixteen. After rigorous background checks, to make sure all applicants were First Class, with no criminal history for three generations, and had at least one family member who had fought for the Caps in the war. Those whose applications past the test and caught the attention of the hiring committee were trained at any army camp for a year. A select few are then brought to The Institute to begin an apprenticeship that lasts for five years. After the five years are over, his or her mentor and a team of guards evaluate the apprentice to decide weather the person is worthy of being kept. Only then would they be offered a job as a guard. I knew all this, for I had successfully completed the interview process and the training camp. The Institute was all too eager to hire their dead Deputy Guard’s younger brother.

"Fascinating." Callie swirled the wine in her glass. Her cousin had said this date was going to be different, that she wouldn't be stuck with some drummer from a failing rock band or a 40-year-old poet who hadn't left college. She wasn't kidding. This was a skull-breaker. Just what she needed. Maybe she'd finally found the one guy who could eliminate her ex once and for all.

Opening: Hannah McCarthy.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Beginning 899

The sturdy cocoon of the gray Saab sheltered Nina from the cold dark world, but it was the silence inside the car that she feared most. The stuffy heating and the lingering taste of mulled wine made her slump in the passenger seat. “Thanks for dinner, babe.” She tried to sound casual. “Your best one yet.”

Kirsten frowned. “It’s fine.”

“So are you coming to the concert?”

Kirsten hit the brakes when a swift figure jumped over the slippery asphalt. Bad luck, Nina thought. All cats turn black during a power outage.

“You know I have to get up early on Sundays.” Kirsten had cut her curls short and dyed them a mousy brown. Her appearance had become an issue now, though she had never shown the urge to conform before. In high school it was what had distinguished them from the tangle of pink leggings and hoop earrings. That was twenty years ago; back when they had first seen Anarkistisk Paradoks play on an improvised stage in the back of a barn. They had to travel four hours by bus just to get there.

“You used to love them,” Nina tried.

"Who?" Kirsten asked, concentrating on the road. "The Antarktik Pakyderms?" She navigated carefully under a ladder supporting an electrician working on the downed power lines.

More bad luck, Nina mused.
"No," she corrected her friend. "The Anarktivistik...the Anakronistik...isk... Paradymes" She stuck her tongue out to loosen it and try again. The mulled wine wasn't helping any.

"That's when I was hip enough to pronounce their name," Kirsten snooted. "Now I have...oh shit!"

The Saab spun out on black ice and slammed into a tree. Nina stared at her bloodied reflection in the broken side-view mirror. Lady Luck just wasn't on her side today. "Damn," she thought, as the world faded from dark to black. "Now I won't get to hear the Aardvarkistik Parabolas...the Arnarkistiskisks...."

Opening: Nicolette Vern....Continuation: Tamara

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

New Beginning 898

His body is such a hanger. Not even a nice hanger, but one of those wired ones that get bent and twisted. Plug your nose and say each syllable of Massachusetts real slow, that’s Russell. He is one of those little birthday horns that you include in the goody bags for your toddler’s birthday party. That plastic twang that makes the air stale. Now all the other parents hate you. This is how I hate Russell sometimes. He turns around and looks at me from the passenger seat.

“We pulled your name first for this round so you have to fill up the tank.”

“Yeah, we pulled my name first but you already volunteered before we took names down so you have to first.” I look nowhere but outside my window. I hate that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks cliché but I always think of this when Russell is in one of his moods. Convincing him to do something is like trying to fix that coat hanger; you can try but it will never work out perfect. Now you want a new coat hanger, or maybe even a new dog.

Or I guess you could use the hanger to fix the dog. But Russell's first name is Jack, so he is the dog. And the hanger. And Massachusetts and a birthday horn. The trouble with a guy like Russell? He uses up all your metaphors on the first page.

Opening: Fred Whittle.....Continuation: Anon.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Face-Lift 969

Guess the Plot

Unlocked: A Journal

1. A three-word text message turns 16-year-old Tiffany's blood to ice. If someone has read her private short story, "What Happened When Me And Justin Bieber Were Locked In A Closet Together," she'll just DIE!!!

2. Pages from the diary of locksmith Henry Pickler tell the tortured love story of a reformed burglar trying to go legit and a beautiful detective who keeps misplacing the keys to her unmarked cop car.

3. Due to prison overcrowding, serial killer Richard Snead is released after three months of incarceration and ordered to keep a log detailing all his activities. This is it.

4. Looking forward to a new school year, Gwen is kidnapped and locked in a shed. Her captor explains that she must save the world from three magicians who want to take over. She agrees. Hey, when someone locks you in a shed, you'll pretty much agree to anything.

5. Rapunzel reflects on 25 years of marriage to her prince. Was it worth losing her locks? On the whole, she thinks not.

6. 2079. When the crew of the Martian explorer Dragon recover the crashed remains of a Russian ship on Olympus Mons, they discover a journal amid the wreckage detailing sex, aliens, alien sex, and murder. Wait--murder?

7. Locksmith Doug Carlisle thought it would be an easy $200 to unlock Pandora's newly found diary. And it was, except for the legions of vampires, zombies and werewolves who burst from its pages and started to hunt. Now Doug and his useless apprentice have to round them up.

Original Version

Title: Unlocked: A Journal

Two thousand years after the Romans took control of a small kingdom in Britannia, its story remains unfinished.

Gwen is settling into her new home on the west coast of the United States. She is looking forward to a new school year, but her plans are ruined when she is kidnapped and awakens in a garden shed with only a stranger for company. [I think we can lose the phrase "but her plans are ruined." It pretty much goes without saying that when you get kidnapped and awaken in a garden shed, any plans you had are ruined.] She is convinced that Kian, her captor, is a raving lunatic. But, when he shows her visions of a past life, Gwen begins to remember another place and time . Her curiosity is ignited, [Passions are ignited; curiosity is piqued.] and she agrees to listen to Kian's story. [She agrees? She's his captive. Who's in charge here?] [Also, as this appears to be Gwen's story, I suggest opening the query with this paragraph rather than with the Roman conquest of a kingdom in Britannia.]

He tells her of an ancient kingdom, magical warriors and three magicians who sought to take the earth for themselves. Today, they are still present and their powers are growing. They want the world, and only the magical battle that emerged so long ago can stop them. [If they couldn't take the Earth 2000 years ago, when its population (rounded off) was zero, do we really need to worry?] [While I feel certain these guys can be stopped, I don't think it's by a battle that emerged so long ago. Emerged from what?] But Gwen's power is hidden inside her ancient soul, and the only way to recover it and be strong enough to win the bi-millennial war [Is three guys against a teenaged girl really a war?] is to remember her past life. As she embarks on the journey to recover [recovers] her magical strength, she suffers the physical consequences of a divided soul, and soon finds that some memories are better left forgotten. [For instance?]

Together, Gwen and Kian travel across the Unites [United] States and England to find the three others of her kind and stand a chance against the Magicians. [Ah, so instead of three against one it's four against three. Now we're talking war.] Battling the past-lives that threaten to consume them, Gwen and her new friends need each other to piece together their memories and solve the puzzle of their last days in ancient Britannia. [Are the three others of her kind locked in garden sheds getting briefed on the situation? Or does Gwen have to convince them to drop what they're doing and save the world from three magicians? Because if a teenager tried to persuade me to join her in a war against three guys who were capable of taking over the planet, I would come up with an excuse to decline.] They are only as strong as what they remember, but a troublesome history threatens to tear them apart and leave the Magicians to inherit the earth. Even as Gwen works to reconcile reality and her former life, Kian's own desire to go home to the past may pose the greatest risk of all. [This is all vague. If you can't be specific about something, don't bring it up at all.]


Those last two paragraphs are vague. What does Gwen have to remember, and what happens after she remembers it? What exactly can these magicians do to inherit the Earth? Be specific.

Would the world be worse off if these magicians ruled it? How much worse off could it be? Shouldn't we let them have a shot?

You need more than a summary. Is this YA? How long is it? Is it in the form of a journal? This is supposed to be a business letter.

At the moment, I don't feel three magician are much of a threat to the modern world, and if they are, I don't feel confident that Gwen is the person to save us. You need to tell us what kind of power Gwen will have once she gets her memories back and explain what will happen to us if she fails.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Face-Lift 968

Guess the Plot

Dandelion Teeth

1. When a love spell gone wrong shrinks Lizzie to 3 inches high she wonders how she'll ever impress hunky Brad from next door. But that's the least of her problems when she discovers the vampiric weeds in her back garden orchestrated the whole thing for one purpose...dinner!

2. Just as dandelion leaves have tiny teeth that annoy you if you lie on them naked for a while, Julia Marsh's family have kept secrets from Julia, secrets about family members Julia didn't even know existed. Which annoys Julia. See, it's an analogy.

3. A new serial killer leaves a bizarre signature - he hacks out his victims teeth and puts dandelions in the gums. As investigators waste time arguing over whether his nickname should be "dandelion mouth" or "the floral dentist," he manages to kill three more times.

4. Going to Lewanski School for Witches wasn't that hard for Megan. Dragon Handling, Wand Making, Potion Brewing--all cake. But when Mr Larch, orders them to get deadly dandelion teeth from the Troll Swamp, suddenly that nursing school all the other girls went to doesn't look so bad.

5. What's a witch to do when alien plant monsters invade, cats go on strike, and the town council condemns her condo? Create a better love potion with the help of an Egyptian zombie. Also, illicit fertilizer usage.

6. 10-year-old Lizzy loves Dandelion wine. Too bad some of the crushed dandelions get stuck in her teeth. Too bad—for her parents—that they decide to make fun of her for it. And . . . maybe they should have hidden the family axe.

Original Version

Dear EE,

23-year-old Julia Marsh gets a mysterious voice mail from her father: he must talk to her face-to-face and is catching the next plane to Chicago. When his plane crashes, Julia returns home to mourn and find out what her father thought was so important. Coming home isn’t what she expects. Instead of comforting each other, her mother turns to a friend and her younger sister keeps pushing her away. [But all] her attempts to learn why her father had to see her [questions] are met with deflections.

Julia discovers an old version of her father’s will that divides his assets between her and Amy, a girl listed as his eldest daughter. [Nothing to his wife? Easy to guess when that marriage hit the skids.] The more Julia pushes to learn about Amy, the more her mother retreats and the angrier her [younger] sister becomes.

An estranged uncle crashes the memorial service, revealing an extended family Julia’s parents worked hard to hide. Desperate to hold onto her father through memories, hers and other’s, [others'] Julia seeks out her uncle, even after her mother sends him away.

Julia learns that Amy had a fatal chromosomal disorder and died as an infant. While her death wasn’t unexpected, [It rarely is when you have a fatal disorder.] the circumstances and family stories Julia is just now hearing make her wonder if her father actually killed Amy. [That's why he wanted to talk to her face-to-face. It's unlucky to leave a murder confession on someone's voice mail.]

Pursuing the truth about a sister she never knew existed and a trying to connect with a family she never knew she had could cost Julia the only family she’s ever known.

Dandelion Teeth is a 52,000 [-word] women’s fiction novel.

Thank you for your consideration.


[Author's note on title: Dandelion leaves have minute teeth on the ends that you may not notice at first, but if you lay on them for any length of time (Julia is a runner who, at one point, collapses on a dandelion-filled lawn), they start to dig in, annoy you and cause pain. Much like secrets.]


This seems a bit long, so I've indicated a few lines that can go. Also, you might combine paragraphs 3 and 4.

Something feels like it almost doesn't add up. What's the chronological order of these events:

Amy is born.
Julia is born.
Parents learn Amy has chromosomal disorder and will die.
Father has will drawn up leaving all to Amy and Julia.
Amy dies as an infant.

You have two daughters--both are infants and one has a fatal disorder--and you make time to have a will drawn up splitting all your assets between the girls?

It sounds like Mom and Sis and Unc all know the big secret. Usually a small number of people are keeping a secret from everyone. Here, everyone who matters except Julia is in on the secret. Why would they tell Julia's younger sister but not Julia?

The secret is that Julia was adopted because they were afraid a second child would have the same disorder. Wait, no, they were twins. Or Julia's father isn't her biological father. Or the mother killed Amy. Or Amy isn't dead. The father wasn't on the plane when it went down. Or he was and Mom and Sis planted a bomb on the plane to keep Dad from telling Julia the secret.

Why don't you tell us the secret, and we'll tell you whether it should be in the query.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Face-Lift 967

Guess the Plot

Summer of the Flood

1. Stranded on the roof when the river breaks its banks, Elsa bludgeons her abusive husband and casts him into the deluge below. But her actions are witnessed by a ghostly child who taunts and goads Elsa the entire summer.

2. Sixth-grader Annie wants to stage a production of Hamlet with local children, while her cousin Maggie wants to jump in the rising river and drown herself. Either way, there's gonna be a tragedy.

3. Abby and Jake may be only 14 years old, but they know they're in love. Can Abby get her dad, Noah, to give Jake a place on his precious ark?

4. That was the year. The year we all despaired. The year red heels were found washed up on the beach. The year glue-on mutton chops sold on e-bay. The year NaNoWriMo happened in June.

5. Everyone in the valley is making fun of that crazy old religious man, for building that giant boat. When storm clouds roll in, however, and a parade of paired animals begins making its way through town, folks start getting nervous.

6. When a hurricane leaves Galveston Island flooded, residents are forced to wade to school and work. The wet clothes and shoes are bad enough, but the worst part? Sharks.

Original Version

Dear E.E.,

The summer before Annie starts sixth grade, her cousin Maggie goes crazy. The kind of crazy where she runs away from home and tries to commit suicide.

Maggie’s parents don’t know what to do with her. They think a summer in Northern England with her recluse grandparents – former Shakespearean actors who sing to their sheep [Baa baa baa, baa baa baa ram.] and haven’t left their house in six years – will clear her head and get her out of their hair. [Nice. Their kid tries to kill herself and they want her out of their hair.]

Annie – she’s coming too, with a grand plan for their English summer that includes finding clues about the mother she never knew, getting Maggie’s mind off jumping in another river, and convincing her grandmother to stage Hamlet in their backyard, cast with children from the local village.

[Quotes from 6th-grade Hamlet:

Neither a borrower nor a lender be
You may not borrow nor shall I lend my iPod.

Give every man thy ear, but few thy comic books.

Something is rotten in the refrigerator.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than baseball cards, Barbie dolls and Xboxes.

Get thee to a video arcade.

Bieber or not Bieber -- that is the question.]

Maggie – she’s not having any of it. Her heart’s still set on running.

SUMMER OF THE FLOOD is a middle grade novel of 51,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


How old is Maggie?

You've given us the characters: Maggie, Annie, reclusive grandparents. You've set up the situation: the two girls are spending the summer in England. Now . . . What happens?

You can cut the setup to something like:

The summer before Annie starts sixth grade, her cousin Maggie runs away from home and tries to commit suicide. Maggie’s parents decide a summer in Northern England with her reclusive grandparents will set her on the right track, and Annie goes along, hoping to find clues about the mother she never knew--and to keep Maggie’s mind off jumping in another river.

Now give us two more paragraphs in which you relate the plot.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The 3rd Serial Killers Guess the Plot Quiz

As we wait for a couple more fake plots to come in, here's another Guess the Plot Quiz. In honor of our coming book chat book, The Serialist, here are some serial killer fake plots that have appeared here recently. And mixed in are three plots that turned out to be the actual plots of minions' novels. Which three?

1. Make the coffee, Brooker. Fetch us some donuts, Brooker. File our reports, Brooker. Sexism is one thing, but can sharp-eyed Vivian Brooker overcome the emotional frailty inherent to her gender long enough to capture a serial killer--before she becomes his next victim?

2. Seventeen-year-old Veronica is staying alone at her family's remote beach house overnight. She's fully prepared for the first serial killer--after all, she's seen all the movies. The second one, though, proves harder to kill. By the time the third is mincemeat, she's exhausted. Can Veronica face . . . The Last Slayer?

3. Mckluskey Harvey is enjoying his summer in the Florida Keys--until human traffickers swoop in, kidnap his girlfriend, and turn her over to a serial killer to satisfy his cravings. Mcklusky tracks the traffickers through a mangled maze of mangroves to Dismal Key. But is he too late to save his sweetie?

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

5. Author Buck McClain's life takes a turn toward terror when he discovers that the serial killer bestseller he wrote plagiarized was actually written by a real serial killer who's not happy with Buck making bucks off his book.

6. College student Leah Martin must stop the killing spree of a serial killer known only as The Shadow. But every step Leah takes toward The Shadow is a step toward her own dark desires.

7. In the midst of investigating a supernatural serial killer, Robyn is hired to cure a child who is turning into a dead tree. Then she learns that she's the chosen one who must defeat the invincible entity known as "The Cloud." Ever have one of those days?

8. Lost in the woods at night, Kirene sees a distant flash of light. Is it a cabin? And if so, is it the cabin of a witch or a kindhearted soul or a serial killer? To find out you'll have to read the book, because the query only takes you as far as the door.

9. 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.

Answers below

The actual plots are . . .

numbers 1, 3 and 7

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Face-Lift 966

Guess the Plot


1. The new girl at Huntford High is hot, but why did she list her age as 342 on admissions papers? And, why does Brad shun bright light ever since he took her to the movies? Lisa, Brad’s ex, is dying to know why her answers to those questions seem so . . . guarded.

2. At midnight cat burglar George Florin is put in a car to be driven across Wyoming by a pair of deputies. But a huge elk crosses their path and the car swerves into a tree, killing both deputies. Jack regains consciousness in the arms of a beautiful woman: a shape-shifting sorceress who takes him to 5th-century Byzantium.

3. Carrie Bell is trying to make it as a private eye, but an underworld kingpin wants something from her. Luckily, she has the ability to create "Guards," metal plates that give her powerful magic. But can her Guards guard her from . . . a demon?

4. Blane tries to sweep Lucy off her feet, but she pushes him away after every swoon-inducing pass. Lucy has a secret. She's in Witness Protection after turning state's evidence against her last boyfriend, a serial killer. That's why she must remain . . . guarded.

5. The worst thing about your mom being the president is having a carload of Secret Service goons watch every move you make, so of course Tiffany is thrilled to meet a witch with invisibility potion. But she soon realizes there's not much point arranging a clandestine meeting with Todd behind the Lincoln Memorial if he can't actually see her.

6. Congressman Mike Schiller weighs every word he utters, lest an out-of-context quote demolish his career. He's especially careful explaining why his wife no longer campaigns at his side. If word leaks that he's had her locked in the basement since a werewolf bit her, he can kiss that committee chairmanship goodbye.

Original Version

Dear Mr Editor,

Like many people, 25-year-old Carrie Bell’s struggling to come to grips with the demons of her past. Except in her case, it's one demon in particular. Lathan. After escaping Lathan’s mind-warping bridal boot camp four years ago, [I would like to have a better idea of what you mean by "mind-warping bridal boot camp."] she returned to her world; a world she hardly recognizes. Now werewolves, fae and other kinfolk live covertly side-by-side with soccer moms and workaholic dads. [It sounds like you're using "kinfolk" to mean "supernatural creatures." If so, you might put it in quotation marks the first time you use it. Better yet, come up with something better, like "supernatural creatures."] [Was this change in the world evident as soon as she returned, four years ago, or did it manifest recently?] Ever the ardent believer in denial, Carrie plays along with their kin charade. Who’d believe her anyway? [What is their kin charade? Are they pretending to be kin of the soccer moms?]

Her job as a P.I. offers plenty of human drama to distract her, and is certainly a step up from her original plan of hiding in her closet. But her life once again becomes overshadowed by magic when she finds herself in possession of a butt-ugly statue. [She's been back four years and only now notices she has a statue? Was it here all along?] While the statue’s esthetical value may be debatable, its power is not. It has garnered the attention of an underworld heavyweight with seemingly limitless access to kin thugs. [Kinfolk, kin charade, kin thugs. I guess if you keep saying "kin," eventually we'll figure out what it means.] He calls himself GOD, [He capitalizes all three letters of his name? Not even God is that self-absorbed.] and his megalomania doesn’t end [with excessive capitalization.] there. He intends to use the statue to open a permanent portal to Alethia [Why? He's already king of the underworld with his unlimited access to kin thugs. Opening a portal that lets Lathan through will make him second banana. It's like The Joker deciding his criminal enterprises in Gotham City would go better if he invited Satan to be his partner.] – Lathan’s homeworld and the source of Carrie's nightmares. Now that reality’s hitting her over the head with a frying pan, she can no longer afford to close her eyes to the kin-filled world around her.

In the middle of her mouse-meet-world predicament, her libido skyrockets, upgrading every male in sight from “maybe” to “hell yeah.” [Before her libido skyrocketed, every male in sight was "maybe"? Sounds like her libido was in the stratosphere to begin with. Most women have huge categories called "Fat chance" and "Not if he was the last man on Earth."] Of course, when your father turns out to be a satyr and you’ve reached the age of sexual maturity, no man is safe. [25 is the age of sexual maturity?] Just when she gets her head back in the game and is about to untangle the identity of GOD, Lathan slithers back into her life, transforming her night terrors into reality. Luckily, bad dreams aren’t the only thing Carrie took away from Alethia. She also gained the skill of weaving Guards, metal plates that shape energy into powerful magic. And with her enemies closing in, she’ll most definitely need them. [Nice of her Alethian captor to look the other way while she developed a magical power that can defeat him.] [What are these plates? Do they look like dinner plates?]

GUARDED is an urban fantasy novel of 96,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.

Yours sincerely


Is Carrie the only person aware that the world is crawling with kinfolk?

After your definition of "kin" goes mainstream, people watching reruns of The Beverly Hillbilles will wonder why the werewolves and zombies never show up.

I think we can do without the sexual maturity/libido info in the query.

It feels like girl-next-door gets captured by demon, escapes, is trying to forget her past and live her life but can't because her enemies want something from her. Then at the very end you reveal that By the way, she's the daughter of a satyr and she can shape energy into powerful magic. I'm sure her power is revealed early in the book, but in the query it's a deus ex machina.

I'd open with something like: While she was the demon Lathan's captive, Carrie Bell learned to wield powerful magic. It's a talent that sometimes comes in handy in her current job as a private detective, but she'd like to put the past behind her and live a normal life. Not gonna happen.

An underworld kingpin who calls himself GOD wants to use Carrie to open a portal to Lathan's world.

You can take it from there. What is GOD up to, what happens if he succeeds, what does Lathan want, and what does Carrie plan to do about all this?