Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 New Beginning Awards

Once upon a time bodies lay thick on the ground. Most were dead but there were a few who were soon to be made so. Postules filled with blood and pus, then burst. The mixture burned the skin of the living and dead alike.

I am Death. I have sinned. This is my confession.

"Death, you say?" I tugged on my collar and swallowed. "Well, let's see . . . This is most unusual, and I'm a bit new at this, but . . . you're going to need to say twelve million Hail Marys and thirty-five thousand Our Fathers. Yes, I think that should be about right."


Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: Eric




Journal, if I am going to keep you we need to get one thing straight. I am keeping you because I want to, because I choose to and because I wish to share my experience and pessimism with any travellers fortunate enough to find you (if there are any nuggets of wisdom in my words, I apologise for that now). Most importantly, journal, this means I am not keeping you because Miss Perfect Susanne asked me to. I like to think that more than a flimsy shopper’s notepad and bank pen lies between me and insanity, thank you very much.

I would also like to point out that I’m aware you are an inanimate object, even if I refer to you as ‘you’ – it’s just easier that way. Given that I’m one of probably only a handful of sane people left on this planet, I thought you’d understand.

Not that most people nowadays are insane; they’re just dead.

Dresser, don't think I can't hear you sneaking up behind me as I write this. That's an expensive hardwood floor you're tearing up. Just keep your distance, and if I need a pair of clean underpants, I know where to find you.

Television, you turned yourself on and now you can turn yourself right back off. Or at the very least, switch away from Jersey Shore re-runs. If there's any silver lining to the bizarre force that has breathed hellish life into Earth's inanimate objects, it's that reality TV "stars" were among the first casualties.

Toilet ... we need to talk.


Opening: Naomi Reynolds.....Continuation: jrmosher




The girl screamed in delirium as she lay on the white bed twisting the stiff, starched sheets under her. A stain of sweat and blood spread below her raised and shaking legs. A musky smell hung in the air as the girl struggled. Outside the rain streamed down in a torrential rush beating in a tinny, rhythm on the windows of the back room of the one-floor medical office.

Doctor Britton’s right hand slid inside the girl up to his wrist as he pushed down on her bloated stomach. She screamed again as he touched her monstrous belly. Then her lungs and strength gave up and she trailed off into ragged whimpers.

“The head is turned. Get me the forceps!” He yelled to the nurse with cropped, gray hair. She swiftly identified the instrument from the table near her and placed it in Doctor Britton’s outstretched left hand. She trembled next to him. In her 40 years as a nurse she had never seen a pregnant woman scream so hideously through the birth process. Something was wrong, terribly wrong.

She wished there were other attendants here for this birth besides herself and the doctor – and the unseen man outside who waited to finish this night for them and take this baby. She glanced at the back door where he waited. She wondered what kind of man would wait in the rain for such a job.

[Slow dissolve. Fade in on man in brown uniform waiting patiently.]

Voice-over: UPS: For your most difficult deliveries. Ask about our guaranteed pick-up service.


[Fade to black.]


Opening: Donna Galanti.....Continuation: Anon (Probably ril)

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Cartoon Caption Awards

3rd

Caption by Khazar-khum



2nd

Caption by anon. (probably ril)


1st

Caption by Whirlochre

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Beginning 912

He stood in the afternoon sun, studying three dead bodies littering the Victorian Townhouse. The occupants had moved out overnight, stripping the furniture and decorations and leaving their dead; one withered, one pumped full of embalming fluid and one with his neck ripped out but devoid of blood. None of the neighbors heard any noise or remembered the occupants. Detective Lieutenant Gimbles prepared for magic that would bring a vision of what happened here.

***

There was a knife in Whitlaw Hamilton's chest and it dripped blood. The thief stared as the blood covered his hand. Not hot vital blood but cold unnatural blood. Whitlaw sneered, not dying. The thief stepped back, wiped his shaking hand on his sweatshirt with panic spreading over his face.

"You shouldn't have done that. It's hurts to have a knife stabbed into your heart. Did you ever have a knife stuck in your chest?" Whitlaw asked. He bent over in mock pain, grabbed the knife in his right hand and yanked it out of his chest. Blood gushed over his naked abs and down his legs. The thief babbled and turned to run.

***

The defense attorney cleared his throat and spoke carefully. "So this, uh, 'vision' of yours, Detective--"

"My magic vision," Gimbles clarified.

"Yes, your . . . magic vision of my client being stabbed in the heart told you to arrest him on three counts of first-degree murder? Did you have any other reason to charge him?"

"Well yeah, he's a vampire," Gimbles explained, exasperated. "Look!" The decorated detective seized a cross from under his collar and held it dramatically toward the defendant. The bailiff wrestled it away from him as the prosecutor looked down in shame.

"Unless the prosecution can produce some tangible evidence," the judge declared, "I order the immediate psychological evaluation of Detective Gimbles. Case dismissed."


Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Tamara Marnell

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Face-Lift 981


Guess the Plot

No

1. Two dogs attempt to speak in English, but their vocabulary is so small . . . hilarity ensues.

2. Convicted of treason in the Andromeda galaxy, Lachette is given the ultimate sentence: banishment to Earth! Her response upon learning this: "NOOOOOooooooooo!"

3. Look, let's just cut to the chase and say that this is my answer to your query.

4. An author attempts reverse psychology to sell a novel about the childhood of an evil genius as an autobiography. It's a meta thing.

5. Whether it followed your sales pitch, marriage proposal or drunken pick-up line, if anyone's ever asked you, "What part of 'no' don't you understand?" then this is the book for you. Over 300 pages of clear explanations and real-life examples, plus chapters on etymology, pronunciation and spelling. Soon you'll be able to say, "Baby, I'm an expert."

6. A complete guide to successful parenting, from toddler to teen.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When Lachette, one of a species of humanoid aliens composed entirely of fire called Fianites, [And you thought you were burned out?] [Is it the fire that's called Fianites?] is banished from her home planet in the Andromeda Galaxy [If she was on her home planet, why is she referred to as an alien?] for high treason, she is sent to Earth. Her crime: revealing the planet's most highly guarded secrets to the enemy in the midst of war. [In the midst of war, a space ship would have better uses than transporting a criminal to another galaxy.] [I've never thought of planets as having highly guarded secrets, though admittedly, our scientists are always trying to figure out what causes the strange noises coming from Uranus. What are Earth's most highly guarded secrets, and from whom are we guarding them?] [Apparently we haven't even been able to keep the fact that Earth is the perfect place to send your worst criminals secret from planets in the Andromeda galaxy.] After befriending a few humans--two girls named Rex and Kaz, [Would a human name a girl Rex?] and two boys named Justin and Andre--she dodges the United States Armed Forces as she keeps in contact with her best friend and princess of the planet of Fianate, Zatini. [Wouldn't Zatini die of old age in the time it takes Lachette's message to get to Fianate?] [Also, isn't Zatini a pasta?] All together, they gather evidence, examine it, and send it back to the Elder Council of Fianate to prove Lachette's innocence [There's evidence of Lachette's innocence on Earth?] and uncover the one who framed her, all this within a deadline. [Twenty-seven light years.] [Yes, I'm aware light years are a measure of distance, not time, but would you have thought it was as funny if I'd said Twenty-seven exaseconds?] [(One exasecond = 32 billion years.)] She has one month to leave American territory or the President will give clearance to hunt her down and capture her as United States property. [Why has she been dodging the US military if they haven't yet been given clearance to capture her?] [Also, the US is already crawling with millions of illegal aliens. We hardly ever manage to capture any.]

No is the completed second book in the unfinished Uncertainties Series at 52,016 words. [There's nothing Uncertain about No. Change the title to Maybe, Maybe Not.]

Thank you for your time.


Notes

I wasn't sure if this was a real novel until I realized that "RexKazJustinAndreLachette" could be anagrammed to form "EE in drunk sex tryst in Uzbekistan."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Face-Lift 980


Guess the Plot

Hollywood Endings

1. Detective Krinsky is called to the Chateau Marmont to investigate the murder of a paparazzo. The LAPD chief of detectives tells him the murder is not as important as the victim’s collection of photos of the most famous Hollywood derrières. Krinsky must solve the murder, and recover the photos sought by three different groups that will kill for them.

2. Courtney isn't looking for fame and fortune when she heads for Hollywood, just a chance to make the world a better place. Then she meets hunky model-turned-actor Justin. Will publicity tours, red carpet premieres, paparazzi, tabloids, Justins' crazed jealous ex, and hobnobbing with jet-set celebs change Courtney? And is there more to Justin than his perfectly chiseled body, piercing blue eyes and adorable dimples? Based on 1000 true stories.

3. Monsters emerge from a UFO. Strategic use of a fire hose can save mankind, or at least teen psychic Chas Cramer and his girlfriend Wendy. Cross-country chase scenes. Also, a massive explosion, an angel choir and bright lights, helicopters, bazookas, massive icky sticky goop, etc.

4. Ghostwriter Tom Evans can turn any stupid monster movie into a blockbuster by rewriting its final scenes, but he yearns for an Oscar. He retreats to Wyoming to write like a modern-day Thoreau, but his insightful meditations are disrupted by wolves, grizzly bears, gun-freaks with basement distilleries, nudists, forest fires, and that seductive witch -- Roxanne.

5. Hitler, Napoleon, and Attila race chariots towards a row of exploding shopping carts where clones of zombie Marilyn Monroe line dance. More things explode. A sensitive monologue about the cost of explosions on the environment ensues. And things explode some more.

6. Each time Ludlow ditches a girlfriend, the event is more spectacular and heart-breaking than the time before, so when Dakota Jones suggests Ludlow stop writing feeble screenplays and make a documentary about his own love life it all seems brilliant -- until Tiffany finds out what the camera was for and decides to murder him.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When Midwesterner Courtney Robbins moves to California, she isn’t looking for love, fame, or fortune. She’s determined to finish law school [Imagine her surprise when she discovers the Happy Ending Bar has nothing to do with the California Bar Association.] and do her part to save the world by handling the legal matters of a local women’s shelter. [It's where women go after working on a Michael Bay film.] After a chance encounter with Hollywood’s next big thing, Justin Erikson, leaves Courtney reeling, [Is reeling good or bad?] she is forced to reevaluate her plans. [Someone else can save the world; as Justin Erickson's girlfriend, I have a shot at being on Dancing with the Stars.] When Courtney is with Justin, a hunky model-turned-actor, the sexual chemistry is undeniable, but the couple seems to have little else in common. [No need to state the obvious.]

As Justin’s career continues to thrive, thrusting him into the spotlight more than ever, Courtney assumes the relationship is doomed and focuses on enjoying the ride while it lasts. In between Courtney’s classes and Justin’s filming schedule and publicity tours, Justin shares the perks of his lifestyle with Courtney, whisking her away to Vegas, escorting her down the red carpet at movie premieres, and flying her to the set of his newest hit movie where she meets other celebs. [Between classes in law school you may have time to grab a doughnut. Flights to Vegas and movie sets sound more like between-semesters activities.]

As the passion between Justin and Courtney flourishes, they must overcome typical relationship obstacles, like the disapproval of Courtney’s parents and the antics of Justin’s starlet ex-girlfriend, [Overcoming the antics of a starlet ex-girlfriend is a typical relationship obstacle?] in addition to the challenges unique to Hollywood’s select few, such as the ever-present paparazzi and Justin’s controlling publicist. Justin struggles to shelter Courtney from the paparazzi and to ward off the crazed scheming of his jealous ex, but his own reputation continues to haunt him. [What reputation?] Meanwhile, Courtney begins to appreciate that there is more to Justin than his perfectly chiseled body, piercing blue eyes and adorable dimples, and finally accepts her true feelings for him.

As a couple, Courtney and Justin feel complete and unstoppable, but their two worlds continue to clash. When a tabloid rumor instigated by Justin’s ex-girlfriend threatens both Justin and Courtney’s careers, they must decide what price they are willing to pay to stay together.

Complete at 97,000 words, Hollywood Endings is a sexy romance-glitz novel sure to entertain anyone who has ever fantasized about the Hollywood high life or a romantic tryst with a famous heartthrob.

The full manuscript is available at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

This mostly sets up the situation while listing a few general things that happen. The tried and true plot of a romance would have Courtney and Justin being in love but kept apart by various misunderstandings and obstacles. These two seem to be together and simply contending with their problems. We need to see that Courtney is desperately in love but the relationship is doomed. Then we can get behind her as she fights for true love.

Focus on Courtney. Set up the situation in paragraph 1. Then get to the main obstacle, which seems to be the crazed scheming of the jealous ex, and especially the tabloid rumor she's responsible for. What's the rumor, how does it threaten Courtney's happily ever after, and what does Courtney plan to do about it?

As it is, Courtney has the life "anyone who has ever fantasized about the Hollywood high life or a romantic tryst with a famous heartthrob" wants, and we can't tell if she's happy with it or wishes she were working at a shelter. If you don't show us how miserable she is about something, we won't cheer her on to happiness. We'll just hate her for complaining about the minor irritations that come with having it all.

In short, less about the Hollywood lifestyle, and more about Courtney's hopes and dreams.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tongue Twisters

Sometimes Evil Editor notices that certain phrases in writers' query letters are difficult to say five times in a row really fast. Thanks to Google I've been able to collect these examples:

Stepmom's swan song

Leftshwich

ski sash

Rod-legged oil rigger

ruthless duelist

Laleena llama

Friday, December 23, 2011

Face-Lift 979


Guess the Plot


Tyger, Burning

1. One of the world's most accomplished and eminent scientists offers a solution to the impending world fuel shortage.

2. A famous golfer/womanizer intentionally misspells his name at Heaven's pearly gates, but Saint Peter is on the ball for a change and sends him to Hell.

3. William Blake is transported to 21st century Indonesia, hires a local guide, and goes in search of the last remaining Sumatran tigers. But when a forest fire breaks out, can he rescue the cubs?

4. Gay super-villain Tyger, a man who can transform into a burning tiger, escapes from his cell and goes in search of his arch-enemy Kallie, a lesbian superhero with scalpels for fingers.

5. A poet stricken with cancer fights to stay alive as he hopes his daughter will visit him in the hospice. A heart-wrenching story broken up by the inclusion of the main character's hope-filled poetry.

6. Professional wrestler Tyger, who dresses in a tiger costume, realizes that he should have sprung for the flame-retardant version when he discovers he'll be wrestling washed-up superhero "The Flamethrower."



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

People with abilities they shouldn't have. Abilities that are impossible. A man who can transform into a tiger, apple core eyes, and orange, black stripes, burning. A woman with metal fingers instead of flesh, scalpel-like. [An author who needs no verbs.] They are called Caps.

Kallie is a Cap. She is stronger than anyone she's ever known, and she aches to be the hero she could be. She shatters bones of those who would steal, spills blood of those who would kill. [How does she determine who would steal and kill? Even if she reads minds, you can't just walk up and break someone's bones on the grounds that he would have stolen in the future. Does she always arrive at just the right moment to catch criminals who are about to steal or kill? ] When the man who maimed her years ago is broken out of his padded cell, Kallie knows he will find her again. John Doe plucked the fingers from her hand, and he must remember how she tastes, and now she finally has the chance to hurt him like he hurt her.

TYGER, BURNING, a gay/lesbian superhero novel [A what?] complete at 90,000 words, is written from two points of view: The woman preparing for her final encounter with John Doe, and the man responsible for breaking him out. It is my first novel. I have a B.A. in creative writing from Eckerd College.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration [and evilness].


Notes

It's not obvious whether John Doe is the guy who can become a tiger, or if that's the guy who breaks John Doe out. I would expect a tiger to have done something more violent than "pluck" Kallie's fingers. Like at least rip them off.

If "Tyger" is the name John Doe goes by: Most superheroes and their nemeses have secret identities, but we don't call them John Doe, we use their awe-inspiring super names. If this is a world in which super powers are known to exist, JD would be referred to as Tyger.

Thus if Tyger is the character who breaks Doe out, I'd refer to him as Tyger, the super-villain responsible for breaking him out.

This is all set up. Kallie's arch-nemesis has been sprung from prison and she wants to capture him either to make the world a safer place or for revenge. Now, what's her plan? What's making it difficult? What's at stake? Is this guy out to destroy the world, or does he just want to pluck Callie's toes now? Tell the story.

I think you can do without the first paragraph. You might want to open: TYGER, BURNING is a gay/lesbian superhero novel complete at 90,000 words. This makes it clear what we're dealing with, and you can describe the characters' powers as you introduce them.

I assume you've thought about whether the gay/lesbian aspects of a gay/lesbian superhero book need to be brought out in the query letter, and have determined that they don't? After I'd read the summary, it came as a surprise when you declared it a gay/lesbian superhero novel. Possibly that's because I'm so naive I didn't realize that spelling "tiger" with a "y" is code for gayness. Is this a superhero book whose main character happens to be a lesbian, in which case I'm not sure it's even necessary to call it gay/lesbian? Or is it a book you don't think would appeal to those who aren't gay/lesbian?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Success Story

David Gaughran reports that A Storm Hits Valparaiso (Face-Lift 716) is available as an ebook from Amazon.

This link to the first chapters was taken from his blog:
A Storm Hits Valparaíso by David Gaughran – First Six Chapters

Evil Editor in Art


Back before they invented photography, one could preserve one's likeness for posterity only by hiring da Vinci or some other artist to paint one's portrait. Today, when every Tom Dick and Harry is suddenly a member of the paparazzi, and thus at least tangentially a murderer of Princess Diana, an artist's rendering is once again the classiest means of showing the world what they long to see, namely celebrities such as Evil Editor.

You'll recall that EE has been the subject of numerous artists' works in the past, including, but not limited to the following:

Self portrait in oils, now hanging in EE's home


Evil Dad, by Evil Jr., created for the Ocuritz pince-nez advertising campaign


Evil Editor, by Anthony B, created for the 2nd Blogiversary celebration, 2008


And the latest addition to this pantheon of pulchritude (and I say this hoping it makes sense, as I have no idea what "pulchritude" means, having used it only for its alliterative qualities):

EE at Work, by James Catlett


Clicking on individual paintings may result in enlargement. Contact the artists for prices on originals or prints. Evil Editor not responsible for marital discord resulting from the hanging of his portrait anywhere in your home, especially on the bedroom ceiling.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New Beginning 911

Niko saw his first Shadow the moment he set foot in Aldemyr.

He followed the other passengers off the steamship gangplank onto the harbor landing and there it was, a grey filmy thing scuttling beneath a heavy cart.

"Out of the way." His little sister, Sandy, shoved him from behind.

"All right, all right." Niko gripped his bags and walked up the crowded sidewalk, keeping pace with the cart, his eyes riveted on the thing as it rippled along the street.

At first, he'd thought it was part of the cart's own shadow; he could see the cobblestones through it. But then it jumped forward and danced beneath the horse's clopping feet, darting between each hoof that hit the ground. Niko shivered in the summer air.

Sandy dragged her bags over beside him, her short plump legs kicking at her long skirts, while Mama scanned the area for their escort.

"What is it?" Sandy followed his gaze. "I don't see anything."

Niko shook his head. "I don't know."

As the cart drew near, the thing leapt into the shade of the gutter, just inches away. Niko jumped back, his heart pounding, but the creature only hovered a moment, a puff of dark smoke. Niko had the feeling it was staring at him, though he could make out no face, or even a discernable head. Then it skittered up the street and vanished around a corner. No one else on the crowded sidewalk gave it any notice.

"Look, there's another one!" Niko leant down to his sister's level and pointed toward a nebulous blob behind the horse. "Under the cart! It's some kind of Shadow Creature!"

Sandy frowned and scrunched up her eyes, trying to focus on what her brother was pointing at. "There's no such thing as Shadow Creatures; that's a lot of horseshit."

Turned out she was right. It was.


Opening: Laurie A. May.....Continuation: Anon.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

If Santa Were a Hard-Boiled Dick

video

New Beginning 910

They told him it was a psychological condition.

Of course they were very sorry, but they were unable to continue employing him in his current position. There were other opportunities available: the company sponsored a racing team and ground-based branches of the company always needed flyers. If he preferred to seek employment elsewhere they would be happy to give him a very nice separation package and a stellar recommendation. Or, if he wished to retire, they would pay all fees associated with the PDT.

They told him that too.

He returned to his company-owned apartment which they would graciously allow him to use for two more weeks. After activating pre-set queries on the terminal next to his bed, he slept for sixteen hours. When he awoke he examined the results: low-density population centers sorted by price of living and correlated with his savings to obtain a short list of planets where he could live comfortably for more than eighty years. The planet farthest away would take anywhere from four to nine months to reach depending on riftquakes and how well the ships were piloted. More importantly, the trip would require transfers at low-tech space ports -- opportunities for him to disappear.

****

"This is very interesting, Lenny," Dr. Schmaltz encouraged her patient. "It's so good to see you expressing yourself creatively. But sixteen hours of sleep is much more than you need, and you still seem preoccupied with this idea of 'disappearing.'"

The psychiatrist set Lenny's journal on her desk and picked up a pen. "I'm increasing your Prozac by another 20mg per day," she said, scribbling down the prescription. She tore off the top sheet and offered it to Lenny with a smile. "I look forward to seeing what you write for next week."


Opening: Faceless Minion.....Continuation: Tamara Marnell

Monday, December 19, 2011

Twitter War Results

In retrospect, it was inevitable that I would crush Mrs. V in our race to 100 followers of our Tweetness. The stakes, you'll recall were that the loser had to quit tweeting and do some actual work around here for a change.

In addition to that penalty, I've also moved Mrs. V's tweets not only below mine in the sidebar, but also below the blog archive index. It's kind of like being forced to sit at the kiddies' table at a family gathering even though you're fifteen and bigger than half the adults. In short, abject humiliation.

Fans of Mrs. V will be happy to know I'm considering allowing her to post tweets on my blog on weekends. Now, gotta get back to my own twitting.

Face-Lift 978

Guess the Plot

Niko and the Shadows

1. Shy child Niko Jones is so terrified of the school bus, when the 1st day of kindergarten comes he runs to hide in the shadows -- and is never seen again! This humor-horror picture book will help children realize going to school is better than the alternatives.

2. It snows in Paris and Niko, a young alley cat, nearly freezes until a family of Shadows takes him in. Together they merrily haunt the Louvre until evil busybody Dr. Debut decides to fumigate. Plus, a 12-year old pickpocket named Nell.

3. The wizard king switched his infant son, Niko, with a pizza delivery dude's kid to protect him from the Shadows, a rough syndicate of magical thugs. But Niko could never pass as ordinary and at 17, he blows his own cover with a reckless spell. Trouble ensues. Also, a girl band and winged cats.

4. Niko heads for the city, where he's heard magic is common, but the only magic he sees are creepy shadow creatures. Invited to attend the king's grandson, Niko is soon caught up in court intrigue and an assassination. Now it's up to Niko to save the day by following the shadow creatures through the Valley of Monsters to defeat a powerful necromancer.

5. Sent away to live in exile with other surly teens, Niko soon realizes something sinister lurks in the shadows. Vampires? But unlike the ones on TV they all look hideously dead and smell worse. Maybe they're zombies? No, they are Zombires, a new kind of biting monster that really is impossible to kill.

6. The Shadows, a one-hit wonder twenty years ago, are on the comeback trail thanks to acapella rap. Niko's Lounge, desperate for a live group, hires them for Christmas. Niko needs a miracle: he promised his mother a real tree and a turkey dinner. If he can get the shadows to turn their jackets inside out, rip off a couple of sleeves and lower their pants 6 inches maybe there's a Christmas miracle in the offing.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Fifteen-year-old Niko grew up in the one place where magic doesn't work [Earth.], though he's read about it all his life. Unfortunately, when he moves to the ancient city of Aldemyr, he finds no magic swords or eldritch wands. [Why is this unfortunate? Did he move there because he needs a magic sword and an eldritch wand in order to become a wizard?] Instead, he can see the scarpies, creepy little shadow creatures who live in darkness and feed on black magic. [Why "instead"? That implies an either/or situation involving opposites, as in: I expected it to be hot in the Sahara; instead it was snowing. Even if Niko found an eldritch wand, he still would have seen the scarpies. Instead of "instead," you want something like: In fact, he sees nothing supernatural . . . except scarpies, creepy little shadow creatures who live in darkness and feed on black magic.] Most people can see a few of them here or there, but Niko sees them in the hundreds, creeping around the city, stalking people, or throwing themselves against buildings, trying to get in. No one takes the scarpies seriously; Niko's cousin calls them spectral rats. Niko just tries to ignore them.

But when Niko is invited to court to attend the king's young grandson, the king's son and heir is murdered by a mysterious magical attack. [That sentence isn't connected to the previous paragraph well enough to start it with "But." Either start it with "When," or make the connection, which I'm guessing goes like this:

No one takes the scarpies seriously.

But when the king's son and heir is murdered by a mysterious magical attack, it's the scarpies who hold the key to the assassin's identity.] Later that night, the scarpies lure Niko to the remains of animals killed in a black magic ceremony. Coincidence? Or is there a connection? [Lure him, or lead him? "Lure" suggests they don't have his best interests at heart.]

And then there's the strange arrogant girl, Julian, who came to Aldemyr the previous winter carrying a corpse on her back. [Did anyone ask her for an explanation? Or did she just drop the corpse off in front of the morgue and check into a Motel 6?] She tracks Niko wherever he goes and the scarpies are as drawn to her as they are to the black magic remnants they discover. People tell Niko she's a monster. She tells him they're right. Is she an ally, a murderer, or something even worse?

With a court barely held together by an ailing king, warring factions vie for power and control. Niko is certain his new friend, the young prince, now heir to the throne, is in danger. Niko is forced to accept Julian's help and follow the scarpies through the darkest places in Aldemyr, even through the Shadow Mire, the valley of monsters, to stop a necromancer before anyone else is killed.

Niko and the Shadows is a YA fantasy novel complete at 70,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Revised Version

Fifteen-year-old Niko grew up in the one place where magic doesn't work. Seeking an escape from the boredom, he moves to the ancient city of Aldemyr to live with his cousin, expecting to find wizards wielding eldritch wands, changing dogs into dragons and dragons into dogs. Instead he sees nothing unusual . . . unless you count the scarpies, creepy little shadow creatures that live in darkness and feed on black magic.

No one takes the scarpies seriously (Niko's cousin calls them spectral rats). But when the king's son and heir is murdered by a mysterious magical attack, it's the scarpies who lead Niko to the clue that could reveal the assassin's identity.

Then there's the strange arrogant girl, Julian, who came to Aldemyr the previous winter carrying a corpse on her back. She follows Niko wherever he goes. People tell Niko she's a monster. She tells him they're right.

With the court barely held together by an ailing king, warring factions vie for power and control. Niko is certain the young prince, now heir to the throne, is in danger. Teamed up with Julian, he follows the scarpies through the darkest place in Aldemyr, the Shadow Mire, to stop a necromancer before anyone else is killed.

Niko and the Shadows is a YA fantasy novel complete at 70,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

With warring factions trying to gain control of the court, why would a kid who just moved to the city be invited to attend the king's grandson?

Not clear whether Niko moves to Aldemyr just to witness some magic or to become a magician or just coincidentally.

Do these kids really have the ability to take on a powerful necromancer, or are the scarpies doing all the dirty work? What does Niko bring to the table? I'm assuming Julian has some powerful mojo that will be useful against the necromancer. If she doesn't, we probably don't need her in the query. Of course, I couldn't walk 50 feet with a corpse on my back, so Julian gotta have something going for her.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Face-Lift 977


Guess the Plot

Aisuru, To Love

1. A dictionary for (use: next: year; when {our electronic overlords gain intelligence and enslave homo sapiens }) Also, includes an appendix of binary for unctuous sycophants; Goto 7734; 1011011011100110101110

2. Giirble, to Appreciate. Oisni, to Despise. Ignibble, to Confuse. 1001 words you'll want to learn, from Jaspimbe Froivfer's new crossword puzzle language.

3. Learning the language is only one challenge for Shelly, an expatriate artist living in Japan. But why is it she never seems to remember "aisuru", the Japanese word for "to love"? Is it just a coincidence? Or does she have a mental block thanks to a loveless childhood raised by a rodeo clown father?

4. She's a high school student trying to survive her senior year. He's the prince of the demon realm, tired of all the bickering in his family. Together, can Sakura and Kazuki find true aisuru?

5. When Jake develops amnesia after a bout with bad fugu in Osaka, he can remember only one phrase. It might be the name of his hotel. When he asks a sharply dressed tattooed man, his vacation becomes one he'll never forget. Also, Nyotaimori.

6. Japanophile Robert Billings has landed his dream job--teaching English in Tokyo. He'll finally be in the land of anime, hentai and lolita fashion. Will he find the perfect little waifu--or will all the girls just think he's a baka gaijin?

7. Melanie goes to Japan as an exchange student, expecting a year of fun and sushi. However, she gets trapped in a truly awful anime, and needs somebody to fall in love with her character to escape.



Original Version

Dear [Agent Name],

High school senior Sakura Takeshi has less than a year left to live. In the eight years since she was brutally attacked, she'd known her body would fail before she reached adulthood. [Was that her prognosis at the time of the attack? You have nine years to live?] She thought she'd come to terms with it until she meets [a] wounded demon prince.

Kazuki came to the human realm hoping to avoid a family dispute while spending time with an old friend. [Also to have his wound examined by a human doctor. There's a lot to like about demonhood, but the medical profession is still in the dark ages.] Instead, he learns his friend died years ago, leaving his adopted daughter behind. Though Sakura tries to hide her illness from him, it is clear that she is struggling to take care of herself and her house.

After agreeing to give him shelter, Sakura is surprised at how quickly Kazuki becomes a part of her life. [It seems to me that inviting him to stay with her a while would make more sense than agreeing to give him shelter. Did he request shelter? Is he in danger?] He brings fun and laughter to her life, even love. [Are we talking parent-child type love or romance?] [I can't tell if Sakura knows Kazuki is a demon. Does he look human? Are demons bad in this world? When you call someone a demon, I assume he's a villain. Maybe that's racist. I'm the same way with terms like "monster," "fiend," and "satanic serial killer." Normally I wouldn't expect a high school student living on her own to invite a demon to sleep over. If she doesn't know he's a demon until after they've formed a bond, I'd hold back his demonhood in the query until after they form a bond. They fall in love and then he says, "By the way, did I mention that I'm the prince of a demon kingdom?"] But continued troubles at home are threatening the peace in his kingdom, [Peace is the last thing I'd expect to find in a demon kingdom.] leaving Kazuki torn between his devotion to Sakura and his duties to his people. [I'm looking at Sakura as the main character. Thus I'm expecting the big finish to be her dilemma (Is she torn between finishing high school and running off to the demon kingdom with Kazuki?), not Kazuki's.]

Set in Hokkaidō, Japan, AISURU, TO LOVE is a 60,000 word young adult paranormal romance. [So, they're romantically involved. As Kazuki was a friend of Sakura's adoptive father, it would be easy for the reader to assume he's too old for her, and their bond is not romantic. How old is he? Does he at least look like a teenager?]

Thank for your time and consideration,


Notes

In what way is Kazuki wounded?

How old was Sakura when she was suddenly on her own? Seems like there'd be some system in place to help someone whose only parent died when she was thirteen.

Was the adoptive father a demon? It seems unlikely a demon prince would have human friends he drops in on for visits.

The writing isn't a problem, it's just that I expect a paranormal romance to be exciting. This sounds like literary fiction. We want more of the danger and romance.

You have two paragraphs of set-up followed by one very general paragraph telling what happens. Cut the set-up to one paragraph, something like:

Sakura Takeshi, struggling with illness, high school and living alone ever since her adoptive father died, is visited by Kazuki, an old friend of her father. She invites him to stay in her guest room while he's in town, and soon they've fallen for each other. Then Kazuki reveals that he must leave; he's needed to prevent a war in the demon realm, where he's a prince.


Now, if Sakura does know Kazuki's a demon, it could go:

Sakura Takeshi, struggling with illness, high school and living alone ever since her adoptive father died, is visited by Kazuki, an old friend of her father, and prince of the demon realm. She invites him to stay in her guest room while he's in town, and soon they've fallen in love. Then Kazuki reveals that he must leave; he's needed to prevent a war in the demon realm, where all hell is breaking loose.


Either way, you're left with plenty of room to tell us what happens. Does he want her to go with him? Does she want to go, or has she grown attached to the human realm? What happens when they get to Demonland? Can he offer her health and happiness? Whatever he offers, can he be trusted? After all, he's a demon.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Evil Editor, Gift Counselor


Although it's not too late to order from Evil Editor's store, for some of you it just wouldn't be Christmas shopping if you couldn't do it at the mall. The good news is that if you choose the right mall, you might spot EE in his annual gift-counselor kiosk.

Below are a couple videos of EE at work.

video



video

Monday, December 12, 2011

Face-Lift 976


Guess the Plot


Skin Deep

1. Being a flea is tough especially when your entire village was destroyed by poisonous fumes and giant brushes. Is a journey worth a jump to find a new home?

2. When spunky redhead Gidget meets hunky Bert, she falls hard for him. Only one problem--he's a popular athlete, and she's just your average ghoul. Can she make him see that looks and being alive aren't everything?

3. Polly Microbial is a concerned Necrotizing Fasciitis – a flesh eating bacterium. To keep human scientists from trying to eradicate her kind with new antibacterial medicines, she implores her fellow bacteria to consume sparingly to save the host. For this, she becomes a pariah and is ridiculed as an enviro-nazi.

4. Being the only shapeshifter in the junior class sucks, especially when you haven't learned to control your power yet and you're talking to that hawt senior, Johnny Post, and you start to sprout scales.

5. An accident leaves a teenager horribly disfigured, but also gives her supernatural powers, powers she must quickly learn to control if she's to rescue her mother from the mad plastic surgeon who's taken her hostage.

6. Mad scientist Max Magma invents the top secret nuclear-powered magnetotron. He'll drill into the South Pole, bore along the planetary axis to the North Pole, install a drain to suck the Arctic Ocean through the molten core, and spew out a giant geyser on top of the Antarctic ice fields, saving Mae Wong's secret tropical island paradise from climate-change flooding.

7. Linda Lampquist, biochemstry major, finds a thumb drive containing the secret formula for a miraculous wrinkle cream. Who lost it? She has no idea, but she's determined to beat them to the patent office and cash in on this bonanza.

8. A tattoo artist comes back from lunch and finds the waiting room full of green space aliens who all want a rose and I LOV U and they promise to vaporize his wife Loretta if he screws up, but OMG, their skin is like rawhide.


Original Version


Dear Agent:

I am currently seeking representation for a 60,000 YA horror novel titled Skin Deep. [My attempt to determine what a horror novel could have 60,000 of that's abbreviated YA turned up "yoctoamperes," a unit of electrical current equal to 10−24 amperes. I don't actually see how you could torture someone with such a tiny amount, but maybe if you were trying to create life by combining body parts of dead fleas in a novel called Frankenflea...]

Quinn is the only survivor of a bus crash which leaves her horribly scarred, mentally and physically. After months in the hospital and an attempted suicide, Quinn is finally ready to go home. ["If you're gonna try to kill yourself, we recommend doing it at home where there aren't dozens of medical personnel hanging around hoping for the opportunity to keep you alive."]

She even meets a doctor who says he can completely cure her scars. [I don't get the meaning of "even" in that sentence. It implies a stronger relationship between this sentence and what's come before than has been established.]

But the doctor has a secret supernatural agenda. [Which is?] His tools for restoring youth and beauty to the jet-set are a trifle … unorthodox. And he’s bored. [Using my supernatural powers to remove the scars of mildly disfigured people bores me. Where's the phantom of the opera when I need him?] Quinn’s disfigured flesh is just the challenge he’s been looking for. He’s even willing to take Quinn’s mother hostage to get control of Quinn. [Better use of the word "even." But it's not clear why he has to take Mom hostage. Doesn't Quinn want his cure? Why not?

I can make you beautiful again.

Okay, let's get start-- Wait a minute, do you have a secret supernatural agenda?]


Fortunately for Quinn, her close brush with death has left her with a few supernatural secrets of her own. [The bus crashed into a nuclear waste facility.] Will she learn to trust them before it’s too late? And will she be able to find her mother in time to put them to use? Or will she fall under the control of a madman in a last-ditch effort to save her mom? [A lot of questions. Got any answers?]

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


Notes

This is a new query and a new title for the book formerly known as Quinn's Law (Face-Lift 955).

What are Quinn's supernatural abilities?


We're now out of queries and openings. And as soon as we get some we'll be needing fake plots and continuations. Is it your turn?

Face-Lift 975


Guess the Plot

Daughter of the Woods

1. Each Spring the elves of V'Larnye drug a strong young male and tie him to the Brach tree, where he will wait to be taken away by the Daughter of the Woods, never to return. When Evar'D is chosen as the sacrifice, he is resigned to his fate...until he sees what has come for him. Also, a talking owl.

2. Bob and Terry Woods were thrilled to finally have a daughter, but OMG, Missy grew so fast: at age twelve she's over six feet tall and weighs almost 300 pounds. Terry made her a grizzly bear costume for Halloween and that was fun, but now she won't take it off. Plus, she's hoarding apples and walnuts in a den out behind the shed. Bob wonders: is she part Sasquatch?

3. Having been labeled a criminal, Cassie flees into the woods, pursued by an entity that will stop at nothing to destroy her. That's about it. She's in the woods. And she's somebody's daughter.

4. Hank and Myra Woods's two-year-old daughter, Jayden, is just as cute as she can be. But why have the cats run away, and why does the poodle quiver and yelp whenever Jayden comes near it? And why has the family's hard drive melted?

5. Pinocchio gets a hardwood action-figure girlfriend who sets out to clean the toyshop using the apprentice's broom, but it turns out to be cursed. Plus, a witchey cat.

6. Ann is the pride of the Woods family. She graduates summa cum laude and works for the State Department. Bureaucracy is so boring that she also works as a CIA assassin. Then State sends her to peaceful Bhutan. Desperate for action, Ann sneaks out at night and murders innocent people.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I appreciate your review of this middle grade query which melds Native American fantasy and a coming of age adventure, together in a dystopian milieu.

Like others in the Great Forest, fourteen year-old Cassie's face is etched with a mystical tattoo that aims to define her. When it labels the timid girl a criminal, however, her life changes. [So the tattoo changes from day to day?] Now, fleeing the dark order that marked her, she travels a dangerous road. Her fledgling talent to weave spirits with animals could protect her, or embroil her so deeply in a rebellion that the Blessed will stop at nothing to destroy her. [Who's rebelling against whom? Who is the Blessed? What happens when you weave a spirit with an animal? Why would a dark order mark Cassie as a criminal?]

Her mentor, White Feather, finally catches up, but only hastens the impending collision [Who's colliding with whom?] when he sends her to find his friend, Danvin. [Why does he send her to find Danvin?] Cassie discovers he's been imprisoned, and must choose between her own safety and the wellbeing of those she loves. [She doesn't love Danvin, so how is that her choice?] Like her father once said, "Even when no choice is good, you still have to make one." [Father was a master of the obvious. We can do without him in the query.] No one's surprise could top her own as she rushes headlong back toward the fortress she had escaped. [What fortress? There's been no mention of a fortress.] In the end, she unearths secrets, not just about the Blessed and her forest home, but about a strength hidden within her.

DAUGHTER OF THE WOODS is a tale of confidence and perseverance. Complete at 48,000 words, this fantasy adventure stands by itself, and also has strong series potential.


Notes

I realize you're writing to an adult, but I expect the tone of a query for a middle-grade book to be lighter. This sounds like a query for literary fiction. Let's start by getting rid of the first sentence. We want to focus on Cassie. You can meld stuff in a milieu at the end if you absolutely must.

There's way too much vagueness. I can't say I know much about what happens in your book. Here's my guess:

Imprisoned in a fortress, fourteen-year-old Cassie wakes to find the mystical tattoo on her face has morphed into a scarlet "C", labeling her a criminal. Knowing this means she'll be hanged at dawn, she escapes into the Great Forest where her mentor, White Feather, sends her to find his friend Danvin, just to get rid of her. Sort of like the Wizard of Oz making Dorothy go get the witch's broomstick. Turns out Danvin is imprisoned in the fortress, so Cassie breaks back in to rescue him. She gets him out and he reveals to her that the Forest is enchanted and she is destined to become the legendary . . . Daughter of the Woods.


Turns out I didn't need to mention the Blessed in this version. That's probably a good thing.

Start over. Tell us what happens and why, focusing on Cassie. What are her goals and obstacles? What happens if she fails? Tell us the story in clear language that convinces us you can write in a voice that would appeal to a twelve-year-old.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Face-Lift 974


Guess the Plot

See You Soon

1. An ancient letter from France is the only clue Nell and Jack have about the fate of their long lost great-grandfather. The war was over, but Major Nelson never got on the boat home to New York. Now, these runaway teen detectives are on their way to Europe to find out why.

2. True confessions of a stalker, in the form of a series of letters sent from the prison where he is serving 18 years for disappearing his last girlfriend. Also, a bungling detective.

3. Kindergarten teacher Wendy Watts is being stalked by a former student from twenty years ago. But little does he know Ms. Watts is no Itsy Bitsy Spider... she packs a piece, and can drop a Very Hungry Caterpillar at 500 yards.

4. Soon is an exchange student from Asia who couldn't adjust to dorm life at Washington State. On his way home his plane is hijacked and lands in Kathmandu where he starts a wild adventure involving a yak, proving that education is not dependent on a set curriculum. Thin air makes him strong.

5. Joe hates saying good-bye, so he always says See you soon. But now that he's about to die of cancer, it seems kind of silly to say See you soon. But he says it anyway, to his happily married ex-lover Anne, who must now decide whether to see him soon even though he dumped her and broke her heart.

6. Leelee has been enjoying Beryl's deployment to Iraq. No fussing about the dust, no bitching over dishes in the sink, no clean-the-goddamned-cat-box-now. But when Beryl calls to say she's on her way home, can Leelee clean the place in time--or will she just have to hire the witch who lives next door? Also, a talking cat.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

After losing a baby at seventeen, now twenty-six-year-old Anne Donnelly wants nothing more than to live a simple life, free of stress and temptation. Because stress produces dreams of her baby, [and temptation produces dreams of Cherry Garcia.] dreams of tiny, pink fingers wrapped around her own. [If you drop the "because" we won't still be waiting for the subject of the sentence when the period shows up.] But her life turns upside-down when she meets Joe, a talented, reclusive musician. After an intense, whirlwind romance, he breaks her heart.

Mickey, her brother’s best friend and business partner, is there to pick up the pieces. He confesses long-held feelings for her. She finds comfort again in his devotion and calm, laid-back personality. [Whattaya mean, "again"?] Until the night she receives a phone call from Joe.

Diagnosed with cancer, his prognosis is fatal and fast. [That makes it sound like he died of a heart attack when they told him he had three weeks to live. The prognosis is death and soon. That sounds a bit harsh. Why not just call it inoperable esophageal cancer?] No matter how much she fights it, the memories of his honeyed voice and their time together come right back. His news causes the circumstances that ended their relationship to waver. [She goes from hating him for dumping her for a fourteen-year-old whore to forgiving him for dumping her for a twenty-five-year-old nurse.] [It's not the circumstances that waver. Her memory of the circumstances recedes with his news.] Though he doesn’t ask, would never ask, Anne’s left to decide whether to be with him in his dying days or stay with Mickey, her comfort, her rock. She will lose Joe. She fears losing Mickey, too. [Mick, I'm off to spend a month or two with my ex-lover. See you soon.] But can she live, soul intact, if she allows Joe to die alone?

SEE YOU SOON, a 75,000-word contemporary fiction novel, is about the people we meet, the decisions we make, and how, good or bad, they define us. [That's so vague it could apply to any novel.]


[Author's note: The title is what Joe says to Anne because he hates good-bye.]



Notes

This is a new title and new query for the same book we did in Face-Lift 901.

Maybe the reason Joe didn't ask, would never ask, is because he's phoning all of his dozens of ex-girlfriends to say good-bye, and he only wants to spend his last days with his family or with that special girlfriend, by which I mean the one he dated for three years during which they lived together and formed a true bond of love and friendship, not the one he dumped after a whirlwind romance.

Sure, losing a baby stays with you forever, but after ten years there's been some healing. I'm not sure why the baby is even in the query. Anne is living a comfortable, stress-free life with her devoted [husband?] Mickey when she gets a phone call from Joe, her ex-lover, the one who dumped her for a teenaged bimbo. Seems he's dying of cancer and wants to say good-bye. Anne will have to move fast if she wants to get to Joe's deathbed in time to drive a stake through his heart.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

New Beginning 909

Whoever thought sending a bunch of high school seniors to a graveyard for a field trip was a good idea, had to be crazy. But, crazy or not, it was mandatory.

The local graveyard was an area of rolling hills surrounded by a thick forest. Mr. Weston, my high school English teacher, boasted that over one thousand people were buried here. I wasn’t so sure that was something to be proud of.

I sighed as I wandered from stone to stone. Some were so old the engraved words were unreadable while others were so recent grass hadn’t grown over the plot yet. A large pillar caught my eye and I walked over to it. Some kids from my class were bent in front of it, rubbing the tombstone engravings onto their paper while others lined up behind them.

“Whose grave is that?” I asked Katie, a girl who stood at the back of the line.

She pushed her glasses up on her nose. “That’s Lucinda Sutton’s grave.”

“Lucinda Sutton?”

“Do you pay any attention in history class, Emma?” Katie rolled her eyes. “Lucinda is the big mystery of the town. They say she disappeared on her wedding night.”

"Oh, right!" I said. "The woman who went mad and cut off her groom's--"

"Yes, yes." Katie rolled her eyes.

I shuffled my feet for a while. "How long must we wait in line?"

Katie sighed. "Emma. Don't you pay any attention in math class? w=C(s,a)*(1/1-p)*(t/s), of course!"

"Oh, right," I said, little the wiser.

Staring at the long queue ahead, I realized people had cameras instead of paper and crayon. "Why are they taking photographs of it?"

Katie huffed. "Really, Emma? Do you pay no attention in economics class? Because of its unusual design, they can sell photographs of it on e-Bay for ten bucks a piece!"

"Oh. OK."

We shuffled a couple paces further forward.

I studied the pillar in front of us and tapped Katie on the shoulder. "What's so special about it, then? What's it meant to be?"

"Jesus, Emma! Did you sleep all the way through biology class?"


Opening: Emily Feustel.....Continuation: anon.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Face-Lift 973


Guess the Plot

Prosthetic Gods

1. The Prosthetic Gods are hailed as heroes for their proficiency at attaching hands to chins, the latest worldwide craze. Then the dormant computer chips awaken and the stranglings start.

2. Beautiful Kim Moseley has a secret--she stands on prosthetic legs. Meanwhile, Dr. Brandon McKay works to perfect a set of hands that grasp and feel like the ones he lost two years ago. Will a chance meeting between them lead to romance?

3. Three plucky young Indian-American orthotists fresh out of grad school start up a new shop and name it Prosthetic Gods. A trio of cranky, anti-immigrant techs down at Middlebrook Orthopedics, Inc. don't appreciate the competition.

4. On the run from the US Marine Corps for destroying their trillion-dollar killer robot, Jackie is rescued by a psychotic cyborg circus owner. But can she now survive invisible assassin bots and the world's deadliest lawnmower to take down the former Secretary of Defense?

5. They're called "prosthetic gods" because they're the best at what they do. But can they meet their biggest challenge yet, providing a prosthetic head to a decapitated cab driver?

6. Installing spare parts on robots isn't all it's cracked up to be. Especially when the robots like their original limbs and see no need to replace them with more advanced models. That's where Bill Bluto comes in. His job: convince robots to accept the latest technology, thus averting a second robot-human war.



Original Version


Sergeant Jackie Woolcombe has just made the worst mistake of her life. She's killed a trillion-dollar project in the form of the latest and greatest of killer robots, and is on the the run from the US Marine Corps. She is rescued from the fate of eternity in the stockade by Bone, a psychotic cyborg circus-owner, [Is that a circus owner who's a psychotic cyborg, or a psychotic who owns a cyborg circus or a regular guy who owns a circus of psychotic cyborgs?] and his cybernetic technical support guru Steve. Steve and Jackie discover they have a shared homicidal hatred for the former Secretary of Defence, [Defense] Steve's foster-father, and they are conveniently capable as a pair to wreak vengeance on him. Too convenient – a cabal of interests has brought them together for just this reason. Jackie and Steve must find a way to execute the plan under the eyes of a conspiracy, and escape from the certain death that awaits them when they have served their purpose. They must overcome nano-swarms, invisible assassin bots and the world's most deadly automatic lawnmower before riding the Space Elevator to meet their destiny. [Does everyone ride the space elevator to meet their destiny?] [Divide that paragraph into two or three paragraphs.]

Prosthetic Gods is a science-fiction novel complete at 113,000 words. It has been critiqued by a writers group that includes by [by?] (recently well reviewed writer X) and your own (agency's author Y). [If this is of any interest to the reader, and I'm not saying it is, I'm guessing she would want to know what the critique group (or at least author Y) thought, not just that the book was critiqued.] I am seeking representation and offer it for your consideration.

Your [Yours] sincerely,


Notes on the title: The title comes from a Sigmund Freud quote and is intended to allude to the (mis)uses of robots and technology: “Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God. When he puts on all his auxiliary organs, he is truly magnificent; but those organs have not grown on him and they still give him much trouble at times.” [Would his switching the discussion from prosthetics to troublesome non-growing organs be considered Freudian slippage?]


Notes

Is Jackie immortal, or are you exaggerating when you say she'll spend eternity in the stockade?

Did you name the circus guy "Bone" as an homage to Freud?

Now that he's the former Secretary of Defense, what good does it do to kill him? What's his current job? What has he done to make Steve and Jackie want vengeance? Plenty of people wouldn't mind seeing Dick Cheney dead, but few actually take action, and if they did, he'd probably shoot them in the face.

Over the course of the entire book, the wacky highlights you've chosen to mention in the query may be welcome comedy relief. But packed together in these few sentences, they seem over-the-top. Thus I recommend getting rid of at least two of the following phrases: psychotic cyborg circus-owner; world's most deadly automatic lawnmower; riding the Space Elevator to meet their destiny.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Face-Lift 972

Guess the Plot

Elementals

1. AU loves Fe but Fe only has eyes for the nobles, like sexy little Argon. Meanwhile it's H to Oh! behind the bleachers.

2. When the elemental gods of Earth and Air get into an argument over the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Fire burns the paper and Water rusts the scissors. Rock wins.

3. Lori, Max and Nellie start a band whose name is composed of their initials (L, M, N-tals, get it?) but learn they can only get a record contract if they agree to let drug smugglers use their apartment for storage.

4. The last 2 letters of Anna Thompson's first name are the atomic symbol for sodium. The last two letters of her last name are the symbols for oxygen and nitrogen. No, it's not relevant to the plot, but who said there was a plot?

5. A team of superheroes, each of whom has control over an element from the periodic table, take on a quartet of villains, each of whom controls one of the classical elements. Will the Hydrogen Twins join forces with Oxygen Girl to destroy Fire Man?

6. Watson (working on crossword puzzle): Holmes, what's a 10-letter word for mythological beings first appearing in the alchemical works of Paracelsus? Holmes (playing Paganini's Duetto Amoroso on violin): Elementals, my dear Watson.


Original Version

Dear Agent:

18 year-old Anna Thompson has been cursed by a locket and is running out of time. [How much time does she have? What does she have to do before that time runs out? What happens if she fails to do it? We'll be much more concerned if we know she's going to die than if we think her hair will turn green.] When she meets a mysterious young man named Bristan, she thinks all of her problems will be solved, [What makes her think that? What's mysterious about him?] but she couldn’t have been more wrong. Others are after the locket [Who?] that cursed her and are willing to do anything to get it [Does Anna have it? If so, why is she keeping it? If not, what difference does it make if others get the locket?] and Bristan isn’t as innocent as he seems. [Who said he seemed innocent? All you said was he was mysterious.] [If someone used the locket to curse Anna, state that she was cursed by the evil witch Grimblech, not by the locket. If the locket itself is somehow able to curse people, why do people want it? They should be trying to stay clear of it.]

Complete at 95,000 words, ELEMENTALS is a young-adult fantasy novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

This is nothing. Start over. Write a plot summary that answers my questions with specific information. It should sound like this:

18 year-old Anna Thompson has been cursed. If she isn't married by the day she turns 19, her locket will explode, scattering her remains throughout the kingdom. Is there no one willing to marry Anna the sewage collector?

When she meets a young locksmith named Bristan, she thinks all of her problems are solved, but he informs her that she doesn't need a locksmith, she needs a locketsmith. The only locketsmith in the kingdom lives in the Bog of Death, so Anna sets out to find him.

But the Beagle Boys want the locket; they can use it to curse Uncle Scrooge and finally acquire his riches.
They trail Anna through the Bog of Death, hoping to grab the locket as soon as the locketsmith removes it from around her neck. Now, unless Anna discovers the sewage has given her power over the elements, allowing her to call forth a rainstorm of beryllium and tungsten, Scrooge McDuck is doomed to become a pauper.

Monday, December 05, 2011

New Beginning 908

The National Institute of Mental Health stood like a giant medieval fortress, casting a dismal and imposing figure against the orange sky. Flanking the Institute’s entrance were two battered towers, remnants of the war. And atop each tower, a sniper sat in waiting, laser rifle in hand, his index finger lightly caressing the trigger. On most
days, however, there was no need to use his weapon. On most days, no one visited the Institute.

But this evening, Joe Raymond had the snipers’ trigger fingers at the ready. Joe immediately spotted the shadowy figures atop each tower, and his stomach gave an unsettling lurch. He hastened his pace.

Not that it would have mattered. As soon as Joe stepped within fifty feet of the entrance, red dots appeared on the stone walkway in front of him. They slid up his legs, his torso, his nose—finally coming to rest on his forehead. Their red glare floated just outside his vision.

Though he had never visited the Institute before, Joe knew the drill. Legs quivering, he raised his hands above his head slowly, deliberately.

"You have a question?" The voice boomed out from the forbidding building.

Red dots danced around him again, and Joe realized they came not from the snipers' towers, but from the darkened windows of the institute.

"N-- No... I'm just here to fix the--"

"Come inside."

The dots traced his path into the building.

* * *

An hour later, Joe's work was done, the bright halogen lamp replaced. Exhausted, he exited the Institute's Business Management wing and left its residents behind, their laser pointers focused back where they belonged, on the key elements of the PowerPoint slides.


Opening: Ryan Mueller.....Continuation: anon.

Friday, December 02, 2011

New Beginning 907

"What do you mean, no presents for children this year?” Santa Claus was puffing on his exercise bike when the new Head Elf marched into his office.

“We’ve looked at the records of every child, Santa. Each one is bad and deserves no present. You and the reindeers can have a quiet night at home this Christmas Eve instead.”

“No good children anywhere?” Santa Claus tumbled off the bike in panic. “But... the world will be full of disappointed kids on Christmas morning.”

“Well,” the Head Elf said with a shrug. “That’ll teach those horrible brats to behave.”

"What have they done that's so terrible?"

"It's not what they've done, it's what they HAVEN'T done!" the Head Elf said, his muttonchops quivering. "Not a single one of the runts has submitted a query, an opening or even a fake plot to m... er, Evil Editor's great blog."

"Since when do kids have to... say, is that my Santa suit you're wearing?"

"Had to. The elf outfits were way too small. Now to my Christmas list. Let's see: 12 tweeters following, 11 minions commenting; 10 readers book-chatting; 9 queries awaiting...."


Opening: JAS.....Continuation: John

Thursday, December 01, 2011

New Beginning 906

The Gunpowder Guild called the rockets chrysanthemums. The shells exploded into gigantic flowers of burnished gold, trumpets of unearthly blue, spirals of blood red and silvery-white streamers. Phoebe Gomear and her date, Philippe Nasreau, stepped lightly into the alley behind the back of the Moulin Rouge where a carriage waited.

"I've never seen anything so spectacular."

"That's the ee-leet's fireworks. You best not look at them too long. They might be jealous and come steal your eyes." A derelict with a hoary beard, stringy hair and ragged clothing wagged a finger at her from the doorway opposite the Embassy. Phoebe laughed and tossed her hair to one side.

"Oh pish-tish-pooh, no one can steal your eyes." She turned to Philippe, a smile on her thin red lips. "Isn't that the silliest thing you ever heard?"

"Beyond silly, my darling, but your eyes are so lovely, so like deep ocean in moonlight that angels might be tempted simply to gain a glimpse of that which lies beyond," Philippe answered. His eyes caught hers and sparkled. He could see nothing but her beauty while Phoebe's eyes saw only the derelict rising from the doorway, transfiguring.

A monstrous figure emerged from the torn, dirty cloak. Horns sprouted from the stringy hair; the nose sank into the pale, demonic face.

"Look out!" the demon shouted.

He pointed behind Phoebe at Philippe, who had whipped out a giant sword to carve out her ocean-like eyes. A dagger whizzed past Phoebe's shoulder and pierced Philippe's heart. He slumped forward, revealing the two white wings poking out the back of his jacket.

"Angels can be sick bastards," the demon grumbled. "All that talk about pulling your eyes out to see your bleeding brains, and you couldn't figure it out? Even after I warned you?"

Phoebe babbled incoherently in shock. The demon rolled his eyes, mumbled something about blonds, and vanished into the night.


Opening: Dave.....Continuation: Tamara Marnell