Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Beginning 920

“Five agents! Five!” Sergeant Mallory slammed his fist onto the desk, making the bones of his wrist tremble like an abacus. “Five! And now you want to try?”

Sharmayne met his gaze, her softly-glowing green eyes bright in the dim office. “I think I know where they may have gone wrong, sir.”

“You?” Mallory straightened up, the white of his skull reflecting the light. “How long have you been here? Three months?”

“Yes, sir, but I—“

“Three months! You know how long I’ve been doing this?”

Sharmayne held her ground. “Two hundred, forty seven years, eight months and four days.”

“Damn right! And I’ve got at least another century to go before I can retire. And if you think you know more than me, you’ve got another thing coming!”

“Can I at least tell you my idea?”

“Go ahead! It’s not like I have anything important to do.”

She took a long breath. Unlike most Awakened, she had kept her lips, nose, ears and breasts; except for the pallor of her skin and her glowing eyes, she could be mistaken for a human. “What I was going to say, sir, is that I think they approached this farmer Stanton the wrong way. I think that a quieter method might get better results.”

“Oh you do, do you?” Mallory leaned back, red eyes glittering. “And just why do you think that? These were some of my best men! And they were shot down dead by Stanton. You really think sweet-talking is going to help?”

“It can’t possibly hurt.” She folded her arms across her chest. “At school they said that there are better ways of dealing with humans being tried now in Europe. That’s all I want to try.”

“School.” Mallory shook his head, gray hair wagging. “Listen. When I started here, we didn’t have crap like schools. We just went out there and did our jobs. And we didn’t take any guff from farmers!”

“You have to go to school,” she began. “If you want to—“

“—to have any chance of succeeding in the world today. Yeah, I know. I hear it all the time.” Mallory sighed, blowing papers astray. “All right. I’ll let you go. But if you get killed, don’t say I didn’t warn you!”

“Thank you, sir.” She hesitated by the office door. “I won’t let you down.”

“See that you don’t.”

Retrieving the Stanton dossier from the out box, Sharmayne left.


Sitting there in his office, sensing that somehow he'd just lost yet another argument, Mallory couldn't help but feel aggrieved that she got to keep her tits but he hadn't been able to hang on to his balls.


Opening: Khazar-khum.....Continuation: Anon.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Face-Lift 985


Guess the Plot

Bibs, Burps, and Bottoms

1. One woman's warning to those young and foolish enough to be considering maternity. Told entirely in limericks.

2. I just had to get my experiences feeding, bathing and entertaining my children from infant stage to toddler stage down on paper. Now I share those experiences with the world.

3. Did you see that CSI episode about the grown men who liked to dress in nappies and be bottle-fed? Well, this is their story in their own words.

4. When the body of hunky film star Jeff McNeal is found wrapped in his adult baby fetish wear, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: nobody in Hollywood is what they seem; and he's got a lot of movies to trash when he gets home.

5. The law firm of Bibs, Burps and Bottoms are legal champions of the diaper-clad, representing those with gripes about mushy peas, chafed butts, and unrequested circumcisions. Eat your heart out Grisham.

6. After mob boss Johnny “Bibs” Bibbiano finds Jesus and confesses—it takes nineteen hours and three shifts of priests—he returns to the pole dance emporiums. He buys beer and lap dances so he can talk to the girls. Only this time, between burps and sighs, he proselytizes and they throw him out.



Original Version

When a baby or toddler is difficult to manage, most new parents console themselves by saying “at least it wasn’t twins”. But imagine having not just one, but two sets of twins, within eighteen months!!! [One exclamation point is sufficient to convey this level of staggering wonderment. Two exclamation points covers quintuplets+. Three is reserved for events like three sets of triplets in eighteen months.]

This is the story of raising my babies from newborns to toddlers.

My manuscript consists of stories from my days looking after four demanding infants. [That's pretty much what the previous sentence said.] It starts as a tale of sheer survival, calling favours from friends and relatives so I was able to have a shower and a coffee away from the newborns [Your main child-care tip is to get other people to take care of the kids?] who screamed for twenty hours per day. [Twenty hours a day!!! What were you doing to those poor kids?] [This is sounding like Mommy Dearest, only from Mommy's POV.]

It includes the indescribable joy of getting all four off to sleep at the same time. [One person's indescribable joy is another person's indescribable horror--my horror of putting all the readers to sleep at the same time.] It’s a celebration of our ingenuity when we designed and constructed a pram so all four could be taken out with only one parent. It includes tales of how I kept them fed, clean and entertained during long rainy days. [In short, it's a testament to my greatness.] [This is reminding me of the query for An American in London. Either you're highlighting the boring parts and saving the good parts for when we read the book, or you don't have any good parts, in which case you need to make some up.]

You might laugh at my supermarket tantrum horror stories. Or share the sheer terror of having one little absconder who bolted whenever my back was turned.

Bibs, Burps and Bottoms is ultimately a story of triumph. I hope to share practical parenting advice and funny tales. [You need to share funny tales in the query if you want us to be convinced the book contains funny tales. Give examples. Possibly you can embellish your experiences to make them more entertaining. For instance, which of the following is more entertaining to read:

1. You might laugh at my supermarket tantrum horror stories.

2. I take the kids to the supermarket instead of going alone while my husband takes them for a walk in the Quatropram™, and they all have tantrums. Everyone is staring at me! Imagine my embarrassment!!!

3. When I tell Billy he can't have a honeydew melon he screams and reaches up and upsets the entire display of melons, which come tumbling down, burying him alive. A nearsighted customer happens by and, thinking Billy's head is a honeydew, grabs it and places it in her cart. I'm about to say something when I realize that raising three kids would be a lot easier than raising four.]

It is 50000 words long. It can be a stand alone story, with series potential. [I don't think I'd call a series of anecdotes mixed with practical parenting advice a stand-alone story. Is there a plot? Check out Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors and the film Big Business for how to build a plot around two sets of twins.] I am simultaneously working on my anecdotes of the twins as school children (including the time we went overseas with them), and stories of the four kids as adolescents.


Notes

Here's what this is coming across as: You invite a bunch of complete strangers to your home, and as the evening's entertainment you bring out 25 photo albums that span the years from birth to toddler of your children.

I can pretty much guarantee you'll have a better book if you take the best parts of those three books and combine them into one 50,000-word book. You don't have to throw away the three-volume set; you'll enjoy reading it every few years after the kids are off to college and you're free, free, FREE!

I don't know about including practical parenting advice. When there are a couple billion people around with parenting experience, you may need more credentials than you've mentioned to get people to respect your advice.

Remember, your stories don't have to be 100% true, as long as they're based on true stories. In fact, if you call the book fiction, there doesn't need to be any truth!!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Face-Lift 984


Guess the Plot

The Star Bear Odyssey

1. Microbrewer Dave Fitzsimmons thinks he's found a winning name for his secret lager. He dreams of hitting it big. Then there's a mistake at the printer. Hilarity ensues.

2. A space bear travels to Earth and meets a tragic end, but his cells serve as the building blocks of life on our planet. Written entirely in haiku.

3. Sam and Belle Star, horse and cattle rustlers, stop in a bar where a depressed stockbroker says there’s a bear market at the Chicago Exchange. So the Star gang raid Missouri and Iowa zoos, stealing bears and herding them toward Chicago.

4. When Olga Petrovna, the lead bear in the Moscow Circus's bicycle act, is kidnapped by a rival ringmaster, plucky 11-year-old acrobat Ivan Ivanovich must cross Siberia to far off Irkutsk to recover her.

5. A crew of astronauts set out on the most dangerous mission ever, a voyage from Mizar in Ursa Major (The Great Bear) to Polaris in Ursa Minor (The Little Bear). Apparently they're obsessed with bears, although this is carrying it a bit far.

6. Seventeen-year-old Kendra Langton sets out to follow the path of Odysseus in her sailboat, Star Bear. It's supposed to be an educational vacation, but when she encounters Charybdis and then gets attacked by a Cyclops, she realizes she's in for rough sailing. Could Circe be behind this?

7. Every solstice, Grock the centaur makes the pilgrimage to the Ring of Stones to learn about his destiny from the Star Bear. This year, his oracle is silent and Grock needs to find out why the stars' voices have been stilled.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Attached please find my 523 word very haiku horror picture story for all ages, [If it's haiku, we don't need a word count; we need a syllable count.] [Not sure what the word "very" is modifying. Very haiku? As opposed to somewhat haiku? Would a somewhat haiku book be written using a lower percentage of haiku, or would it just have some inferior haiku, like with eight syllables in the middle line?] The Star Bear Odyssey. You mentioned that you would be interested in seeing it. [Note to self: Henceforth no more than two beers per night at a writers conference.]

The crash-landing of another traveller, expelled from his own star, rudely interrupts a small water bear space traveller’s journey. [These strings of modifiers (very haiku horror picture, small water bear space) don't help your cause, partly because they seem like randomly chosen words.] [Here's a haiku I just composed using your word-string method:

Small water bear space
Very haiku horror pics
Charge tennis cow spring.

Is that what the haiku in your book are like?]

The empathetic star bear is glad to receive company and agrees to take care of the foundling. A tale reminiscent of a twining of Roald Dahl’s dark humor and Poe’s psychological distress unfolds.

[Edgar Allan Poe
And Roald Dahl entwining.
Wackiness ensues.]

On one level it is a simple story of survival. On another level it is about depression, abuse, and the betrayal of trust.

[Depression, abuse,
And the betrayal of trust.
Sounds like a downer.]

The outcome is necessarily tragic, but also a pyrrhic victory, in that the star bear’s cells serve as a fragile evolutionary bridge on earth. Panspermia is an unlikely but possible scientific theory for the sustenance of life on earth. [For those who don't want to look it up, panspermia is the theory that sperm from a star bear traveled through space until it encountered the egg of an Earth mammal, resulting in the creation of Yogi Bear.]

I wrote the book during a period of severe depression, for which it served as a kind of catharsis. I have had it edited professionally by Hat Trick Rooster, a published Xanaduian poet. [I Googled the words Xanaduian poet but Google insisted I meant Canadian poet. I guess that means they never heard of a poet from Xanadu. (Personally, I'm surprised they've heard of any poets from Canada.) Then I Googled Hat Trick Rooster and got this 1961 Australian ad for Red Rooster's Hawaiian Hat Trick box of food.] [I had no idea Australian ads were as annoying as American ads. "Chunks and chips." That sounds appetizing.] [Does a haiku author really need a haiku editor? Haiku are only about eight words long. I guess the editor can confirm that each line has the right number of syllables. And some words do have questionable syllabic totals. For instance, Xanaduian. If you pronounce it Zan a du ee an it's five syllables, but if you pronounce it Zan a du yen it's four. If I were writing a haiku, I'd go with four syllables. Otherwise it takes up the entire first line. To illustrate, compare these haiku:

Xanaduian dome
Brings pleasure to Kublai Khan
But not to students.

Xanaduian.
It describes Rooster Hat Trick,
Whoever that is.

As haiku, they're equally great, but the first one has more words. That's the point I'm trying to make.] [Wild guess: Xanaduian TV ads are less annoying than Australian TV ads.]

I am at a loss as to what type of publication (other than/self-publishing) it might appeal to. (which I won't mention) [I agree that it's a mistake to mention in a query that you believe self-publishing is your best bet.]

I am an artist and aspiring illustrator-author, an avid reader, and fascinated by the evolution of books, reading and technology. The illustrations for Star Bear are done on smooth, bleed proof paper in mixed media. The haikus are written in calligraphy as part of each illustration. I found the physical act of handwriting in itself therapeutic. [I don't even remember how to perform the physical act of handwriting.]

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,


Notes

Maybe this would be a hit in Japan. Or maybe it would be cool for teachers to use when covering poetry in elementary school.

Clearly you need to include sample pages so editors can judge the quality of the art, calligraphy and haiku. If they like what they see, they will probably want a lot more of the story than you provide here. The mention of horror/Poe/Dahl leads me to believe there's a plot. Are the bear and the foundling the only characters? What happens when they get here? What's this about betrayal? Summarize the story. Then add:

Haiku book, complete
With space bear illustrations.
Request manuscript?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The 6th Annual Oscar Guess the Plot Quiz


Each of the following films has been nominated as best picture of the year. Your job is to figure out which of the plots are fakes, created by Evil Editor and his Evil Minions, and which is the actual plot of the film.


1. The Artist

A lonely autistic man paints haunting images of the Holocaust.

In depression-era New York City an artist who was the talk of the town must deal with the fact that no one has any money to buy art.

Silent film about a silent film star who produces a silent film to prove that silent films aren't dead.

Serial killer "The Artist" rearranges victims' faces to resemble Picassos. Corrimer is an art critic-turned-detective, hot on his trail. But now the Artist is stalking the critic due to a scathing critique of the last crime scene.

A world-renowned sand sculptor must move to snowy Colorado to care for his ailing father.

That's what they call him, Jean-Baptist LaClerc. He has painted and screwed his way through most of French nobility, but can he seduce Marie Champlon? Her eyes say 'yes,' but the key to her chastity belt says 'no.' His reputation is at stake, confound it!


2. The Descendants

Aidan and Andrew, a married gay couple in NYC, struggle to come to terms with the deaths of their grandparents in the Holocaust.

With his wife in a coma, a lawyer takes his children to meet the man their mother was having an affair with. Dramedy ensues.

Their grandfather and their father were bosses in the nation's biggest crime family. Now twins Carlo and Carlotta try to make a life for themselves with a home-made pasta business while the family's enemies seek revenge.

Picasso's nude model descended the staircase only once for that iconic picture, but did she descend it again for Picasso's arch nemesis?

Eleven houses in eight countries on four continents and yet, people always figure it out; 'John Smith' and his family are direct descendants of Adolf Hitler's love child. His wife, Zelda wonders if it might be John's mustache. Nah. Better move again.


3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

A young woman from the midwest visits the big city for the first time and comes to regret sitting next to Evil Editor at the all-you-can-eat Mexican buffet.

Jon thinks winning front row tickets to an AC/DC concert is a dream come true. But ten days later, he and his date still haven't recovered their hearing.

After buying their dream house in Georgia through an Internet realty firm, Californians Paul and Marcie move across the country and discover their home is located next to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

After Oskar's father is killed in the World Trade Center attack he befriends an old man who hasn't spoken since he witnessed a bombing in WWII. They become close and Oskar notices the old man is a lot like his father. Hmm...

Jeremiah is sick of his conjoined twin, Jeremy. Jeremy yells when watching sport on TV, which he does constantly when not making appalling jokes and laughing raucously at them. Can Jeremiah find a way to kill the idiot without harming himself or doing time?

Two siblings, both nearly deaf, come of age in frontier America.

A group of high school friends take a road trip to see their favorite band live and from the front row . . . 30 years after the band's heyday.


4. Hugo

An unconventional dark comedy about Hugo Weaving, the man who brought both Agent Smith and Lord Elrond to life.

Charles Beaumont refuses to heed the warnings as Hurricane Hugo approaches Charleston, SC in 1989. When his child is killed by glass from a shattered window, he must spend the rest of the movie feeling guilty and enduring his wife's glares.

An orphan named Hugo is living with his uncle. When the uncle vanishes, it's up to Hugo to get his uncle's mechanical man working.

Hugo the elephant is so big and fat he flattens every circus that'll have him — until the ringmasters all gang up to have him shot. Can Dumbo-crazy toddler Biffy Stumpo save the massively-trunked quadruped? Or will he too be squished to a pulp and everything EVERYTHING end terribly?

A biopic of mad scientist Hugo A Gogo – you know, from the 60’s cartoon, Bat Fink. What do you mean you can’t remember? It was a classic, man, a classic.

The sqeezable soft bear from the Downy commercial makes his silver screen debut in a heart-warming family comedy. Bear does know best.

Never heard of him? No? Who has? It sucks being Igor's little brother. “Igor, fetch more brains.” “Igor, check the contacts.” “Igor throw the switch.” “You? Errrrm... Go scrub the loos, there's a good lad.”


5. Midnight in Paris

Vacationing with his fiancee in Paris, a writer is transported every night at midnight back to the 1920s, where he hobnobs with the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

During WWII, a pair of lesbian jazz singers--one Jewish, the other African-American, struggle to come to terms with both their love and their project to smuggle crippled Polish children to NYC.

Midnight: cute kitty by day, avenging panther by night. Follow Midnight's adventures as she stalks and wreaks bloody vengeance on those Parisians who are far too superior to bother scooping up after their pooches.

The thrilling end to the romantic trilogy that began with "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset."

Is it midnight? Who can tell, with all these bloody lights! Just once, Michele wants his children to be able to see the stars. Calling in every favor he has, he conspires to shut off all the public outdoor lights at once. Will party-pooper Mayor Adele Richard thwart his plan?


6. The Help

Mexican-American illegal immigrants who mow the lawns of suburban soccer moms, and their secret lives.

Maids, footmen and cooks at a 1915 British estate gather nightly in the kitchen to gossip about the family that employs them. Pretty funny if you can understand their accents.

Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, every 100 years, twelve superheroes are born. The Healer. The Fighter. The Sympath. The Honest. The Courage. What does Melda get? A lifetime of emergency silver-polishing and deviled egg-making.

Fresh out of college, Skeeter wants to be a writer, so she interviews a number of maids working in Mississippi, compiles the interviews into a book, and sells it to Harper Collins. The book is a success and Skeeter goes on to a career in publishing. A fantasy.

Imogen is the angel assigned to help Sahira leave her slum home in Mumbai and rescue her family from grinding poverty. When local bullies discover and kidnap Imogen, Sahira has to help her “help”.

Documentary about the rumored 6th Beatle - the copy editor who was the real driving force of the band's success.


7. Moneyball

It seemed like a good idea at the time to drop an enormous ball of cash in the poorest area of DC. Several trampled politicians later, Senator Mitchel has been arrested on multiple charges and his cellmates have come up with a new nickname for him. Guess what it is.

A pair of crooks try to break the bank at Atlantic City while seeking a place that will perform their gay marriage.

The general manager of a hapless major league baseball team devises new methods of scouting players in order to contend with his team's puny payroll. At one point they win 20 games in a row, and would have won the World Series, except it's based on a true story, and they didn't.

After winning the $50,000,000 Powerball lottery, Sheila Stone discovers relatives she never knew she had. When her generosity leaves her bankrupt, she uses her last ten dollars to buy lottery tickets. You'll never guess what happens.

John Nathan just wants to throw the perfect birthday party for his 12-year-old, as part of a ploy to regain the favor of his estranged ex-wife. But when it turns out that bank robbers stashed their ill-gotten gains in the baseball-shaped pinata he just bought, it's gonna be one hell of a party.


8. War Horse

The Trojan War from the horse's perspective.

Battleaxe. Steamroller. All of these apply to Carol's mother-in-law. Husband Lennie tries to convince Carol it's serious, and when they come home to find MIL in a chalk pentagram pulling the heads off chickens, she does. But is there still time to run?

A gay, autistic African-American soldier in WWII obsessively draws images of horses on bombers heading to Germany.

A rocking horse is possessed by demons after a children's birthday party gone wrong. Breaking free from the house, the horse sets off on its mission to start a world war and, hopefully, ensure the destruction of the planet.

Albert's father sells their beloved horse Joey to a British officer during WWI. The officer is killed and Joey is captured by the Germans. After the war, Albert discovers that Joey is being auctioned off and collects money to bid on him. Sadly, he's outbid by an old French guy.

Rock band War Horse are the new Hot Things. Follow their rise to fame and fortune, their boozing and drug taking, the stalker groupie, the tantrums, the leaked sex tapes with nobodies, the manipulative manager and internal rifts over the artistic direction they will next take, the split, the appalling solo releases, and their final degradation – hosts on televised talent quests.


9. The Tree of Life

Three generations of Jewish African Americans struggle to come to terms with their autistic LGBT descendants' marriages.

When he sees a tree being planted in front of a building, Jack O'Brien reminisces about his life as young teenager during the 1950s. Also, the origin of the universe and dinosaurs.

Just as the Circle of Life describes how death leads to more life, the Tree of Life describes how growth leads to the raking of leaves.

The Giving Tree fights back.

Oh, you thought it meant your life? Come closer my pretty, and I will tell you a tale of the last surviving carnivorous cypress in the Bayou. A bit closer. Closer.



Answers below



Fake plots created by Evil Editor, Khazar-khum, Anonymous, Mother (Re)produces, Jo-Ann, Whirlochre



The actual plots are:


1. Silent film about a silent film star who produces a silent film to prove that silent films aren't dead.

2. With his wife in a coma, a lawyer takes his children to meet the man their mother was having an affair with. Dramedy ensues.

3. After Oskar's father is killed in the World Trade Center attack he befriends an old man who hasn't spoken since he witnessed a bombing in WWII. They become close and Oskar notices the old man is a lot like his father.

4. An orphan named Hugo is living with his uncle. When the uncle vanishes, it's up to Hugo to get his uncle's mechanical man working.

5. Vacationing with his fiancee in Paris, a writer is transported every night at midnight back to the 1920s, where he hobnobs with the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

6. Fresh out of college, Skeeter wants to be a writer, so she interviews a number of maids working in Mississippi, compiles the interviews into a book, and sells it to Harper Collins. The book is a success and Skeeter goes on to a career in publishing. A fantasy.

7. The general manager of a hapless major league baseball team devises new methods of scouting players in order to contend with his team's puny payroll. At one point they win 20 games in a row, and would have won the World Series, except it's based on a true story, and they didn't.

8. Albert's father sells their beloved horse Joey to a British officer during WWI. The officer is killed and Joey is captured by the Germans. After the war, Albert discovers that Joey is being auctioned off and collects money to bid on him. Sadly, he's outbid by an old French guy.

9. When he sees a tree being planted in front of a building, Jack O'Brien reminisces about his life as young teenager during the 1950s. Also, the origin of the universe and dinosaurs.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why Haven't I Heard from Dancing with the Stars?


As my Twitter followers are well aware, my Twitscription is: World's most famous editor. Does that qualify me to be on Dancing with the Stars?

Now you may say, Of course it doesn't. Most people have never heard of Evil Editor. To which I say, I just examined the list of celebrities who have appeared on Dancing with the Stars, and had never heard of 64 of them until they made their appearances. Which is not to say that no one's ever heard of them, just that the list of celebrities sports fans have heard of doesn't necessarily intersect with the list soap opera fans have heard of. One viewer's Kelly Monaco is another viewer's Clyde Drexler is another viewer's Evil Editor.

Here are some of the fields from which celebrities have been invited to compete on the show: Rodeo cowboy, fashion entrepreneur, disk jockey, chef, son of famous singer, brother of reality TV star, daughter of ex-governor, beach volleyball player, daughter of famous singer, idiot from New Jersey, and unicyclist. No one from the publishing field has competed.

I'm sure they'd love to have Julia Roberts and Bruce Springsteen and Tiger Woods on the show. Those are top celebs in the acting, singing and sports fields. Instead they get such c-list stars as actor Ralph Macchio, singer Marie Osmond and football player Chad Ochocinco.

The point is, Evil Editor is the Julia/Bruce/Tiger of editing. King of the hill top of the heap A-number 1 New York, New York. A-List all the way.

It must be embarrassing for the producers when they introduce the "star" to his dance teacher, and the dance teacher is more famous than the star. The star is some geezer who played Ernie, the 4th son on My Three Sons, 50 years ago, while the dance teacher has 20,000,000 Facebook friends and gets invited to state dinners at the White House in hopes that he/she will endorse the president in his bid for reelection.

It's a joke every season when they announce the names of the Stars and people are saying Who? Who? Who?!! And the producers say, He played drums in Bette Midler's stage show in 1987. She's a real housewife from Omaha. And she once served a sandwich to Lauren Bacall.

Of course they might prefer to go with a literary agent rather than an editor, but no agent is higher than B-list, the only B-list agent is Kristin Nelson, and according to a source on her staff who wishes to remain anonymous, Nelson has two left feet.

The only reason I can think of why I haven't received an invitation is because they're afraid I'll win, and they prefer that the winner be a TV star. Have they looked at my picture? I'm fatter than Penn Jillette, less attractive than Steve Wozniak, and older than Cloris Leachman. And none of them even made it to the final four. I could dance like Fred Astaire and I wouldn't make it past the fifth week.

Too bad I don't have 20,000,000 followers who could bombard the producers with suggestions/demands that I be invited. I need to become a TV star. Is there a network that might be willing to cast me in a sitcom about an editor who's always at odds with his most famous client, John Grisham? Call me.

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Beginning 919

The little puppy my (then) husband handed me looked at me with a quizzical twist of his Doberman head. He was all feet and nose. A red Dobie, all mine. My then husband had to travel a lot and we lived in a huge estate home on a golf course and lake. All my neighbors had been broken into. We hadn't been only because I insisted on burglar proof windows when we built the three story mansion. The cruds had tried but didn't have the skills to get into the house where I lived most of the time without a husband but with his mom and my two daughters. I was a nervous wreck.

I didn't sleep much most nights, I looked out windows and paced. Our back yard faced onto the seventh tee of a golf course. Easy way to get to a house, by the golf course. My neighbors had a yappy dog who slept through the night of their burglary. I suspect the dog was awake but kept quiet. Wise move.

I bought a gun. It was a glock. I went to the firing range and learned how to use it. I went to the RCMP and registered it. The member of the force told me "Good choice" as he examined it. I got my licence. I wasn't a hunter although my dad had been when I was a kid. I had had a few break in attempts. Hence the gun and the dog. This silly little red dog, like he could protect my kids, my mother-in-law and me. He weighed maybe nine pounds when he arrived in my arms.

I couldn't sleep that first night. Dobie lay at my feet on the bed where I slept alone most nights. My then husband had said he was "working late." Like I would believe his lies after so many years. Like I couldn't hear his secretary showering in the background when he called from "the conference hotel."

When the door to the bedroom creaked open, the girls had been asleep for hours. I pulled the Glock out from under my pillow. Dobie looked at me dolefully, but kept quiet. Wise move.

That was the night my husband became my then husband. As his body lay in a pool of his own blood on the carpet, I enjoyed my first peaceful night of sleep in years.


Opening: Wilkins MacQueen.....Continuation: Tamara Marnell

Friday, January 20, 2012

Face-Lift 983

Guess the Plot

Flesh and Steel

1. The sociopath known as the Butcher of Kafran-Helai falls in love with a local villager, and has second thoughts about creating an army of robot werewolves to overrun the village.

2. Lois Lane once got goose-flesh just thinking about her hunky man of steel. Turns out his feet are cold as ice, he's too heavy to be on top, and she can't friggin' breathe when he hugs her. Also, grabbing a magazine and announcing "I'm off to the Fortress of Solitude" was only funny the first hundred times.

3. There's a war. People die. There's a plague. More people die. There's a smith and a doctor. They philosophize about life, do business, and die to the ZOMBIE HORDES!!!!!!

4. Jerome, lives in a world of science. He switches places with his alternate reality self who lives in a world of magic. They're both happy until they find out their universes are now colliding. If they destroy technology in both universes will they be able to stay where they are?

5. Vegas show promoter Roxy has what she thinks is the perfect concept for a new act: naked sword fighting. Rehearsals soon prove that the idea is not without a few hitches.

6. Afflicted with a rare bone disease, Charles Garvin agrees to an experimental treatment in which his bones are replaced by steel rods. He decides to become a superhero known as Captain Steel, but it turns out he weighs so much he can't even get out of his hospital bed.


Original Version


Sfanior thought she was going to be killed when she [added a silent "f" to her name so that no one could spell or pronounce it.] demanded the Butcher of Kafran-Helai stop stealing and desecrating her village’s dead. [When someone named the Butcher of Kafran-Helai comes into my village, I'm overjoyed to find he wants only the dead.] [Take our dead; they're obstructing goat-cart traffic anyway.] Instead, the sociopathic and strangely charismatic Friché merely imprisoned her in a castle maintained by automatons, patchwork combinations of human, animal, and machine. [Robot werewolves.] Despite Friché’s difficulty grasping concepts like respect for the dead, Sfanior is drawn to her. [This sociopath may have fed my dead father to his hogs, but I'm a sucker for anyone with the "it" factor.] Compared to the stuffy rules and stifling traditions of the village, life in Friché’s castle is freedom. [Except when the moon is full and the robot werewolves run amok.] Sfanior soon finds her growing feelings eclipsing her desire to defend her home, especially when Friché finally returns her love. [Question for discussion: Did Clarisse ever return Hannibal Lecter's love?]

Sfanior is ready to turn her back on her former kith and kin when Friché receives a client who offers her a job. Make that a noble from the capital, who offers the very secret assignment of creating an army of automatons for the queen. Friché is overjoyed, but Sfanior is suspicious (why approach the Butcher, of all people?) [Wait, Friché is the Butcher? Am I the only one that wasn't clear to? I thought she was one of the Butcher's minions.] [I guess I'm just not used to women being nicknamed the Butcher of Anywhere.] [Also, whaddaya mean, Why approach the Butcher? The Butcher has a castle full of automatons, and thus seems like the obvious person to approach if you want an army of automatons. My question is, How do you keep your assignment secret when it involves creating an army of anything? There's a reason Hobbits didn't often travel to Mordor. Word quickly got around that there was an army of Orcs being created.] and she cannot help feeling abandoned when the work sucks up all of Friché’s time. [Hey, when you fall for a sociopath, the price you pay is having to play second fiddle to her "work."] Her suspicions are soon realized when she discovers how the client intends to tie up loose ends once the job is done – with an execution. [I can live with the fact that you've hired my lover to create an army of robot werewolves that will destroy my home village, but I will not stand for an execution.]

As Friché draws [Withdraws?] further into herself and the noble’s threat hangs over her head, Sfanior has to decide what is most important: her kin and kingdom, or her love.

FLESH AND STEEL is a romantic fantasy of 60,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Notes


Can't Friché program/train the army of robot werewolves to protect her from the noble if he should betray her?

Usually people who have armies aren't that interested in villages. They want to attack other kingdoms. Is it her village that Sfanior wants to defend from the army of robot werewolves?

Also, usually in a romantic fantasy, neither of the people who are in love is a sociopath creating an army of robot werewolves. It may be difficult for readers to root for the heroine to live happily ever after with someone known as the Butcher of Kafran-Helai.

What I'm saying is I'm sure in the book the Butcher has a softer side, but that needs to come across in the query if you're going to describe the book as romantic.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe

If you were hoping to read lots of Poe-inspired writing exercises today (see Writing Exercise, January 10), sorry, no one submitted one. But here for your viewing pleasure is a film made from an earlier Poe exercise.

video

New Beginning 918

Boone Dawson’s motorcycle rolled to a stop. He turned off the engine and gazed at the crooked sign in front of him. It had once belonged to a suburban shopping center. Now, it was covered in spray-painted letters.

“Hope City,” Boone read in a low voice. “What kind of fucking moron names their town Hope City?” Shaking his head, Boone turned the bike back on and maneuvered it carefully through an obstacle course of rubble. Twisted shards of metal, power poles, and old wooden planks littered the streets.

As Boone’s bike crawled it way toward the center of town, he spotted people huddled close together around small fires. Their clothes were ragged and covered in dirt. Their faces were devoid of hope. But all Boone cared about was what they were holding in their hands. He hadn’t eaten in days, and these people had no doubt found food among the rubble of this old Midwestern suburb.

The savory smell of canned meat filled Boone’s nostrils. He smiled. Canned meat. Boone hadn’t eaten canned meat in more than a year. Salivating, he dismounted from his bike and stepped deliberately toward the group. Rocks crunched beneath his heavy boots.

Memories of Sunday dinners at his grandparents' home flooded back. Potted meat food product. Pickled pig lips. Spam, of course. And on special occasions, pork brains in milk gravy.

To his surprise, the others welcomed him openly. Perhaps they recognized a kindred spirit; or safety in numbers. Boone joined them -- the six men and three women -- and crouched in front of the fire.


Gratefully, he took the offered portion, served up in the can that had kept it fresh for decades, and spooned some into his mouth. Moments later, he was retching the vile-tasting sludge onto the ground.

He couldn't understand how the others were enjoying this foul concoction, until he looked at the can.

Whiskas.

Preferred by nine out of ten post-apocalyptic survivors.


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

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Face-Lift 982

Guess the Plot

Coming of the Dukebarr

1. Oh God...oh God... Oh GOD...Yes YES YEESSS!!

2. In a wild west inhabited by humans, giant trilobytes, and various aliens, a gang of renegade Martians terrorize Tombstone. But the town may be saved by the . . . Coming of The Dukebarr.

3. Cara is outraged. She's thirteen years old, and she still has to have a babysitter? She's old enough to be a babysitter! But her anger is quickly forgotten when the Dukebarr shows up.

4. On a distant world, the dominant habitants have plundered the natural resources and driven the magnificent fauna to the edge of extinction. The last surviving Dukebarr pines for its recently deceased mate, from which only a few viable eggs could be harvested. If the species is to survive, it is up to Slaffus to gain the beast's trust. And a sample of its semen.

5. Angie needs a prince. What she gets is Dukebarr, a slobbery dog. Sure he claims to be an enchanted prince, can outwrestle dragons, command rats, and the harvest has tripled since he came. But Angie needs someone human to marry. Then she meets Earlpubb, the street sweep.

6. Everyone laughs at Joe for his obsession with aliens. But when the Dukebarr armada is spotted heading for Earth, Joe jams on his tinfoil hat and prepares to save the world.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Cara, a rebellious and stubborn thirteen year old, has recently decided that there is no Creator. Her beliefs, if discovered, are considered high treason and grounds for exile in her village. [Fortunately, she should be safe as long as she doesn't reveal her treasonous thoughts to the high priest or the apprentice priest or her father or her babysitter.] Desperate to protect his daughter, the High Priest of the village
assigns an apprentice priest to babysit his daughter and help recover her faith. [Having a babysitter when you're 13 is embarrassing enough, but...

Cara: It's time for American Idol.

Babysitter: Turn off the TV and open to Proverbs 3, Verse 5.

Cara: Before we start, let me get you some coffee. Arsen-- Er, cream and sugar?]


Needless to say, Cara isn’t pleased. But her anger is quickly forgotten when foretold signs of a coming apocalypse, the Dukebarr, begin to appear. [The Dukebarr? That word just doesn't have an apocalyptic ring to it. It sounds too much like jukebox. Put a quarter in the jukebox and play "Duke of Earl," Father.] [The thesaurus lists numerous synonyms for apocalypse: Armageddon, cataclysm, catastrophe, decimation, devastation,end of the world. Note that they all have four syllables. Even a made-up word for apocalypse is required to have four syllables. You can't express something apocalyptic in two syllables.]

Cara begins to question her beliefs as her society starts to crumble around her. [Just so I've got it straight, she was questioning her belief that there is a Creator, and she's now questioning her belief that there isn't a Creator?] When the Dukebarr finally arrives her village is devastated. The surviving townsfolk shelter in nearby caves, praying for redemption. Cara, however, realizes something is amiss. [So she's now questioning her belief that she was wrong to question her belief that . . . never mind.] How [Why] can no one remember the attack? Why do people have claw marks on their arms? [Invisible cat army. It's the only explanation that fits.] And why will no one believe her? [What is she saying now that no one will believe?] Cara is on a mission to discover the truth [Whatever the truth is, the book can only be improved if you make it an invisible cat army.] and rescue her village from further devastation, and she’s the only one who believes it’s possible. [Or at least that's what she believes today.]

COMING OF THE DUKEBARR is a completed 53,000 word fantasy for young adult readers. I have one published short story in Byline Magazine.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

I wonder why O'Neill's play wasn't titled Coming of the Iceman.

Young adults tend to be in high school. I would think they'd rather read about kids older than 13. Is there a reason this isn't considered middle grade?

The setup paragraph does its job, but the next paragraph is general. What happened? Are they still in danger? What does Cara plan to do about it? Does she have any allies? Is there a villain? Give us specific information.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Beginning 917

Brian Armitage stepped out into the cold and muffled a cough with his fist. He told himself nothing was wrong, as he picked his way down the narrow concrete path, determined not to let the ice take his legs from under him in the darkness. When the door clicked shut behind him, he knew he should have turned and waved, but foremost in Brian’s mind was the need to urinate.

“Never use the bathroom,” was what Shrewsbury had told them, paraphrasing the manual. “That puts you at a disadvantage. It gives ‘em time to talk. Also, you’ll feel indebted: especially if you splash the carpet. You don’t want to feel indebted: it’s not conducive to business. You don’t want to give ‘em an edge.

"You can take a cup of tea, of course, that’s just being polite; and a biscuit’s OK, but never take the last one. Many a deal’s been lost over the last custard cream -- folks are funny like that.”

Shrewsbury wasn’t funny -- Shrewsbury was a prick. And Brian’s bathroom avoidance was less to do with sales tactics than it was a shy bladder: the thought that they might be out there listening to him pee would wrap itself constrictor-like around his urethra and make relief impossible.

Circling around his car, Armitage unzipped, and began urinating on the conveniently located rose bushes lining the driveway. His stream hissed as it vaporized in contact with the ice. He sighed with satisfaction, having emptied his bladder without soiling his clothing.

Armitage
then returned to the front door, knocked twice -- Shrewsbury's recommended number for an immediate and expected return to a client's home (one knock possibly being interpreted as a clanging pipe and three as aggressive overkill) -- and said, upon being greeted, "Much better. Now...where were we?"


Opening: ril.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Beginning 916

She crossed her legs as if to keep him out, but he had already come and gone. Before he left he threatened to return. He punched her and knocked the wind out of her, so that he could get away before she could scream.

“All the time I lay there curled up, I could still feel his knife at my throat.”

She chewed her nails. When her nails were chewed away, she chewed the skin at the end of her fingers.

“I call the police nearly every day. They must be tired of me by now. They never have anything new to report. I'm just another statistic that everyone wishes would go away.”

Young, pretty, Caucasian brunette with short hair. Whatever the serial rapist was targeting it wasn't physical. In previous victims every one of those variables had changed.

“What do you want me to do?”

Unemployed secretary. Types 60 words per minute. 75 after her fingers heal. He might have found her online. Twitter. Facebook. RapeNet.

"Do you sell colored chalk here, mister?"

She knew he'd be back. Just a matter of time. She'd bought a crossbow.

"Hey, Ginny! Either turn off the television or turn off the audio book. It's driving me crazy."


Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Beginning 915

What was I doing on this diving board?

I was so high up, a plane might graze the top of my head. It hadn’t seemed that far when my feet had been on the ground. The kids in the line before me had no problems. Some had dived off, others jumped, and one had flip-flopped.

I’d been fine going up the ladder. It wasn’t until I reached the platform and looked down that it all went wrong. The diving tower must have stretched and grown on my climb.

My stomach felt heavy, like it did after Christmas lunch when I'd had three servings of pudding. Except worse, because my heart was thud-thudding in my ears. My legs felt wobbly, and I needed to sit down. The life guard asked if I was ok, but I couldn’t answer.

There were only two ways down. The kids waiting on the steps were starting to point and giggle. Think how much harder they’d laugh if I climbed back down.

"Hey mister. Nice swimsuit," one of the brats called out, setting off a round of snickers. "What do those two E's on your butt stand for, Enormous Elephant?"

The nerve of that pipsqueak, mocking my custom-made Speedo! I'd show him. I shuffled out to the very end of the springboard, which sagged sickeningly. It was a mile down. Why did I have to take Grisham up on his stupid dare?

As it turned out, I never had to jump. With a loud crack the board gave way. Must have been all that pudding. My belly flop stung like hell, but at least I had the satisfaction of splashing out so much water that they had to close the pool for the day and send those twerps home.


Opening: JAS.....Continuation: John

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The 4th Annual Write-Like-Poe Exercise


It's been a while since we've done a writing exercise, but with Edgar Allan Poe's birthday approach- ing, it's time for another opportunity to demonstrate your inner Poe-ness. You'll find the previous Poe exercises in the archives on 1/19/11, 1/17/10 and 1/25/09.

300 words max, please. Send as a comment to this post or as an email. Deadline 1/15.

Monday, January 09, 2012

New Beginning 914

“Auntie! Is this right? You MET Ernest Hemingway?” my niece, looks up from my journals with her hands around the single diary I want to keep. I can’t take much to the assisted living home. Ginny sits cross legged on the floor, I’m in my mother’s rocker, setting an easy pace.

My niece is here to pack and sort me out for the assisted living\ nursing home. I nearly burned the house down with me in it a couple of months ago. I got confused. The kettle cord and the toaster oven cord look alike. Ginny stepped in. She’s my guardian now.

Ginny, my niece, I think I said that already, but anyway Ginny is the girl I took care of while her mother suffered one of her annual crises years back. The crisis occurred as soon as school finished and dissipated mid August. The crises went on until Ginny graduated high school. She’s terrific at organizing. My journals are splayed out on the Persian rug before us. I always kept a journal. The journals are the proof of my life.

“Yes dear. I did.” She reads swiftly, her fingers turn the pages swiftly. She reads, laughs, reads, flips more pages and looks at me in amazement.

“You had an affair with Ernest Hemingway?” Her eyes are big and bright.

"Oh, yes, dear. He was a marvelous man!"

Ernest. Ernie. The man my mother couldn't stand. Or was that Ralph? I don't know. All I recall is that he was a writer, something to do with books. Books and a beard. An amazing beard that tickled whenever he-- Well, Ginny's a little young yet, I don't want her to read-- "Hey, gimme that diary! Who said you could look at my private stuff?"


Opening: Wilkins MacQueen.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

Thursday, January 05, 2012

New Beginning 913

Gather ‘round my children, come closer. I will tell you the tale of the Walker on Rainbows and the Moonbreaker, of the White Mage with long clinging shadows.

The Moonbreaker was a greedy one. It stole the thoughts of the stars and the ideas of the clouds. It claimed the might of the sun and depth of the sky. The only thing it could not take by trick, trade or temptation was the light of the Sybilline Moon. So that became the one thing it desired above all else.

Oh it tried all it could to obtain that light. It cheated and lied, bribed and seduced, threatened and cajoled. But, the light always remained just beyond its grasp. So it searched and it scrounged until at long last it found the keys of the ancients, the hidden door with crystal locks. “Aha!” it thought to itself, “this will give me the path that reaches the light of the Sybilline Moon.”

And as if in reply to that unvoiced thought: "He should use the space shuttle."

"What?"

"Obvious really. See, that's why Sean Connery was better."

"What?"

"Sean Connery. Blows Roger Moore in his sleep. Connery was the best Bond."

"You're thinking of
Moonraker."

"What's
this then?" "This is Moonbreaker. It's completely different."

"Well no wonder I didn't have a fucking clue what's going on. Sod this then, I'm off to play Word of Woolcroft."



Opening: Faceless Minion.....Continuation: Anon.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Success Story


Minion Chelsea Pitcher reports that her short story, "The Raven and the Razor," has been published in author Francesca Lia Block's Love Magick anthology, now available on Amazon.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

2011 Guess the Plot Awards


Hungry Coyote's Gambit

1. Coming down from the mountains and into what the people call a town is a risky business... but it’s a risk this hungry coyote’s gotta take.

2. Tired of chasing the uncatchable roadrunner and enduring mishaps that ought to have killed him a hundred times over, Wile E reviews his tactics and settles for easier prey: naïve Route 66 tourists.

3. Ever since Priscilla opened her diner, she’s had her doubts about the name. Selling eggs and sausage to truckers at one in the morning is tricky business, but she never expected her place to become the new hot spot for roadrunners. And who sent her the huge Acme brand anvil?

4. A Chicago business tycoon believes his days of struggling for existence are behind him--until he catches a glimpse of his old rival running down a back alley. This time, he swears, things will be different. This time he OWNS the Acme company!

5. All his life, Lloyd Coyote's felt someone's stacking the cards against him. Then he finds the contract between his dad and a Native American shaman, selling Lloyd's successes for 100 bucks and a keg. Now Lloyd is off to find Raven and Badger. Can he trick them into giving his successes back?

6. Nezahualcoyotl is tired of people pronouncing his name wrong, so before he sets out to take his land back from Emperor Tezozomoc, he changes his name to Hungry Coyote. Now, win or lose, at least historians will get his name right.





Sins of the Past

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

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

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

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

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

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



Alannian and the Sword of Azallyan

1. Alannian, an Iranian, battles Azallyan, an Albanian, for a sword made of uranium. Basically, a Mesopotamian echolalia. Plus an azalea.

2. With his sword of Azallyan, pubescent adolescent Alannian (an incarnation of Elyyian), and his shaman companion must avert armageddon.

3. Actually Alannian is short for Alannianovichinovakoff, and the Sword of Azallyan is actually the Sacred Sword of Azallvaneepsiepoopoovah, and it is best known as the weapon Alligatorman uses to annihilate aliens.

4. 17-year-old Alanian and his sister Anneallan must steal the Sword of Azallyan from the Hall of Allazynan to save the Kingdom of Allazhean from destruction at the hands of evil Emperor Annazealhan. That is, if bumbling warlock Fred doesn't ruin everything first.

5. Alannian the Aelf attempts to avert the annihilation of ancient Aelfswood by acquiring the amazing sword of Azallyan, advancing to Andromin and attempting the assassination of Aggrok, the administrative assistant of the Assailants Association.

6. Alannian was born in Tazmania and hates the rhyme of his name with his nationality. It's easier to move than to change names, but never one to think things through, he makes his new home in Romania. His treasured sword, a relic from Azallyan, is stolen, and thanks to the Internet, the catchy ditty "Alannian the Romanian lost his sword from Azallyan" catches on as the new little girls' skipping game. Alannian finally finds peace in Bouctouche Canada, which rhymes with nothing.




Actual Plots

6
3
2