Friday, March 29, 2013

New Beginning 1000!

A boy--sixteen I guessed, short, scrappy--stood in the ring, landing punches on the speed bag. His timing didn’t vary: wappity-wap, wap-wap, wappity-wap, wap-wap. His hands moving so fast they blurred.

“Is he as good as he looks?” 

“Better than you.” Coach Sacconides let his fists shadow the kid’s movements. ”Best I ever coached but he only tips the scales at 93 pounds. Another twenty pounds he might get a match with some pathetic flyweight. Boxing commissioners take one look at him and refuse. They’re afraid he’s too delicate and might break.” 

“Uncle Charlie died, left me RobotWorks. Think he’d fight a robot?” My question snapped Coach’s head around. 

“Robots ain’t boxing.” 

“It will be when I’m done. Introduce me.” 

“Hell no. You ain’t no promoter.”

“Not now, but with his ability I can create robots that beat all contenders. They always have a human in the exo-controller.”  

“Then climb in the ring and fight him. If you win, you ask. If you lose, walk away.” He elbowed me. We jostled, snickering like little boys.

“You’re all heart.” 

“Forty gallons a minute.” It was a long time since we parted ways. He wouldn’t give me an easy out.

"Coach, you say robots ain't boxing, but what about Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots?"

"Oh, well sure, that's boxing, and damn good boxing. But that's robots fightin' robots. I'd like to see Robocop fight Terminator. Who wouldn't? Or Wall-E against R2-D2. But--"

"How about the Fembots from Austin Powers versus the Stepford Wives?"

"I'm beginnin' to see the attraction. Data vs. C-3P0?"

"Data would kill him," I said. "C-3P0 would be the worst robot boxer ever. Remember Ash, from Alien, who could still talk after he was decapitated? His head could beat C-3P0."

"I spose. There'd be too many mismatches."

"There'd be mismatches in human boxing if there weren't weight classes," I pointed out. "Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet against the robot from Lost in Space would be fair. But you wouldn't put Optimus Prime in the ring with Johnny 5 from Short Circuit."

"I dunno, might be entertainin' . . . for about five seconds. Anyhow, what kinda robot you thinkin' of puttin' my 93-pound weakling in the ring with?"

"No one he couldn't handle. Hymie the Robot from Get Smart maybe. Or Marvin the Paranoid Robot from Hitchhiker's Guide?"

"Hmm. What the hell. Go on, ask him. But if he says yes, you're still gonna need a good promoter."

"I was hoping you might want that job, Coach."

"Thought you'd never ask."

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Evil Editor 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Beginning 999

A girl with green dreadlocks cut Lina off. It was mass chaos with each individual on their own separate path being pulled by forces unknown. Each path rewarded with it’s own destiny and yet it all looked accidental. Merging carefully into pandemonium of the university cafeteria, Lina considered which path she should take to avoid what looked like an inevitable collision.

Everything felt alien to Lina. Strangers with metal pins decorating their faces, the flaring fire behind the counter, and the cacophony of smells and sounds. “Space, the final frontier,” thought Lina. “Captain Kirk obviously didn’t know about college campuses.” She smiled to herself.

She knew she didn’t belong but she hoped that she could blend in enough to get her lunch without incident. Everything was so foreign and industrial size. The university football stadium would encompass her home town. The university campus residency had a larger population than the 3000 she had come from. There were no warm friendly smiles from people she had grown up with. Lina was out of her element and was overwhelmed. She just wanted to find a quiet corner to take it all in and enjoy a little comfort food.

And then she saw the menu. Sashimi, tofu, wheat grass drinks, gluten-free bread, Jones cola, sustainable berries. Nothing but pretentious New-Age foodie selections. Sugar-free, fatt-free, and taste-free.

She sighed. When she'd last been in college, it had been getting bad; but this? Right about now she'd like her jello and hotdog. Maybe she should have just stayed in the nursing home.

Opening: Angela.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Success Story

Long-time (but lapsed without explanation) minion Robin reports that her novel The Hiding Place Girl is available as an e-book. The openings of several chapters of the book appeared here as New Beginnings, including New Beginning 223 and New Beginning 394.

More info here. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Success Story

Khazar-khum reports:

I have a SUCCESS Story!

I had it here as "Dinosaur Diaries" (Face-Lift 591). It's now from Pageturner Press. You bet I thanked you and the minions in the Acknowledgement pages.

Also, this is part of Buy A Book, Save A Dinosaur. A portion of royalities will go to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, where I was inspired by my husband wrestling with an allosaurus statue.

New Beginning 998

I wasn't what most people would've called "extraordinary." Scratch that – I wasn't what anyone would've called "extraordinary." Actually, I doubt they would've called me anything – they would've had to notice me first.

Like most people who are painfully ordinary, I led a painfully ordinary life. I was a senior at an ordinary high school where I usually made B's and C's. I had an ordinary part-time job on the weekends, an ordinary car to get me there, and the two most ordinary parents on the planet, who occasionally gave me an ordinary amount of grief.

Extraordinary things never – and I mean NEVER – happened to me.

Until the day I met her.

Yeah, like so many things, it all started with a girl. A beautiful girl. The kind of beautiful that would never look twice at a guy like me.

But this girl did.

And what a look it was. Her eyes weren't blue or green or hazel or brown or violet – they were all of those at once, encircling her pupils with slivers of color that spiraled inward to pour their brilliant hues into her soul.

Well, like I said, they were pretty amazing.

When she smiled at me I knew it came right from that beautiful soul.

She climbed into my ordinary car on that ordinary Friday afternoon. We drove to her place, the ordinary little Sunset Motel, where she was staying. I sat on the edge of that ordinary bed, knowing that what would happen next would be the most extraordinary thing to happen in my life.

And that's how I got arrested for solicitation of prostitution. 

Opening: A.M. Perkins.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

Monday, March 25, 2013

New Beginning 997

When the whistle of the 7:16 commuter to Chicago pierces the air, Devin stirs beside me. It wakes him every morning. I hate that train.

“Happy birthday, April,” he whispers in my ear, curling me close, stroking my shoulders and back. I still tremble when he touches me tender and soft as if I am someone he loves.

If Devin were a song, he’d be Stand by Me, by Ben E. King. I have long since given up wishing he was Moondance, by Van Morrison. Still, I savor the moment, inhaling him, his sweet-and-salty mix of yesterday’s chlorine and coconut sunscreen and sweat. In my head Fergie sings, ‘the scent of your skin lingers on me now,’ and it’s true. When Devin sleeps with me, it’s like I absorb him into my skin. It’s the closest I’ll ever be to him.

I’ve known Devin Trammel since I was five. He lives next-door and is best friends with Jake and Charlie. Devin’s eighteen, like them.

Everybody has secrets. Big ones, little ones, dirty ones. Devin is my dirty little secret, not because he sleeps in my bed, but because he actually sleeps in my bed. Several nights a week.

* * *

The fucking 7:16 transit screams outside the window jarring me awake. April's pushed up right against me and the thought of that train dipping into the tunnel doesn't help my case of blue balls. She shifts as she starts to wake and rubs against me. It's too much, I can't help it, I let it go. "Happy birthday, April," I say, and hold back a snicker.

Hoping she won't notice the mess, I rub it into her shoulders and back. Only someone as naive as her wouldn't recognize the smell, like sweet and salty coconuts and bleach. If April were a song she'd be "Come a Little Bit Closer," by Jay and the Americans. I've given up wishing she was "Come Together" by the Beatles.

Her friends keep asking her what makes her skin so smooth. She says it's nature. The truth? That's my dirty little secret...

Opening: Veronica Rundell.....Continuation: Anon.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Success Story

Ann Anderson reports: I have a rep - Jessica Sinsheimer at Sarah Jane Freymann Literary. Used your notes to revise my query ("Incomplete"), worked very well, so thanks a million.

Face-Lift 1113

Guess the Plot

The P Word

1. Featuring Pugh the porpoise and Poppy Platypus, this self help guide assists children with poor or no bowel control by raising awareness of encopresis. No brown trousers jokes...this is serious.

2. Seth is proud of his African-American heritage, but after rescuing a Basque girl from a sadistic lacrosse player, he falls for her. Will his pride or her prejudice keep them from becoming yet another interracial couple?

3. In Allison McQueen’s world, uttering “peace” gets you interned as a subversive. Half of her world is at war with the other half and they've been at it for 176 years. Allison’s PhD is in the history of war – but her passion is the history of peace negotiations. She’s determined to bring about peace but needs help and she can’t trust anyone.

4. In a place where people purloin pasta, pizza, and pretzels to survive, Penelope's parents prepare her for a paying profession...prestidigitation. Soon Penny is patella-deep in a police program to protect the populace from pinched pocketbooks.

5. Young Johnny is growing up fast. But every morning and every afternoon comes that one challenge in his life, The Potty. And each time, he has to try to do... The P Word.

6. Peer pressure. It's two words, but it's one idea, so you could call it the P-word. Especially if you hyphenate it. Anyway, it's the theme of the book, and it's set in high school and there's a suicide, but you probably already figured that out. That's all I'm saying except the main character is named Jeananne.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I’d like to offer my 60,000 word new adult novel, THE P-WORD for your consideration.

Black pride and white guilt is still a theme we see in today’s society. Our president is half black, claiming his father’s race with little regard to his mother’s. [Are you saying he claims to be half-black, and thus has little regard for the white race, whereas if he had high regard for the white race he would call himself half-white?] We don’t call this discrimination of skin color; it is love of race. [And you know this because he said so? I was thinking maybe he liked being thought of as the one and only black president instead of one of the 43 white presidents. Just as James Buchanan is often referred to as the only president who never married rather than as the 15th white president.] [By the way, is this a query letter or are you one of those people who get paid to visit websites and make incendiary political comments?]

This pride is where the story takes place. [Pride is more of a theme or a driving force than a setting.]

Seth grew up in the inner city of Oakland. Raised by his mother who taught him love of self, pride of race and righteous prejudice. Seth is a talented, ambitious black man, believing himself superior, until his curiosity is peaked [piqued] by Lina, a small town Basque girl. Against himself, [Huh?] and the promises made, [What promises? Did he promise his mother he wouldn't get involved with a Basque girl?] he is drawn to her and she becomes a catalyst for a system of characters. [A catalyst for some sort of action makes more sense.]

Lina Gilchrist was born with a “kick me” sign on her back. She hoped college would be different but her first week at the university put her on the radar of the star lacrosse player, with a dark obsession. [An obsession with Basque women?] Fortuitously, Lina also made an impression on Seth which complicated his life as he continually found himself rescuing Lina. [College is tough enough without having to continually rescue a Basque girl from a sadistic lacrosse player. My hat is off to Seth.]

In the vein of Jane Austen’s, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, that touches on a theme that is prevalent in **America, yet rarely represented authentically in literature. [That wasn't really a sentence, unless the first "that" was supposed to represent "my book."] [So Seth is Mr. Darcy. I can see that. He rubs people the wrong way because of his seemingly superior attitude. Lina must be Elizabeth, although I say that only because she's the female protagonist. I never saw Liz as having a kick-me sign on her back. The lacrosse player? William Collins. Obviously.] [It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a talented, ambitious black man in inner-city Oakland must be in want of a wife, preferably one from the Basque region.] These character’s [characters] transcend stereotypes, push the boundaries of friendship and circumstances, having those taboo conversations that offend and ultimately break their hearts.

Thank you for your time and consideration on my debut novel, PRIDE, PREJUDICE AND PROMISES. [Actually, the title is The P-Word. Or at least it was a few paragraphs ago. If you've changed it to Pride, Prejudice and Promises, that's going to remind people of Pride, Prejudice and Zombies.] [By the way, is the P-word "pride," "prejudice," "promises," or "president"?]

**One in 10 (5.4 million couples) are interracial according to the 2010 US Census. [This is relevant (if at all) only if interracial couples seek out books about interracial couples, and your book is about an interracial couple, neither of which is clear.]


Time to start over. Nothing about Obama, interracial couples in America, or Jane Austen. Your job is to summarize the story so effectively that we want to read the book. If you want us to know the book's theme, let it come across in the plot description.

Start by introducing your main characters. Raised in inner-city Oakland by a mother who instilled racial pride in him, Seth Rogan enrolls at Johns Hopkins, expecting to become the first African-American Nobel-Prize-winning microbiologist. There he encounters Lina Gilchrist, a Basque girl being bullied by the school's star lacrosse player. It's love at first sight, and I don't mean with the lacrosse player.

Now we need to know what happens. Presumably Seth and Lina become an interracial couple, but run into various obstacles like his pride and promises and prejudice. What big event brings the conflict to a head? Must Seth decide between love and career? Between Lina and Mom? What's in the way of reaching his goals, and what's he planning to do about it? Tell us the story, and make us care about Seth and Lina.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Face-Lift 1112

Guess the Plot

The Virgins of Kraa

1. Every year, the island of Kraa sacrifices one virgin to the great volcano. Right sick of this, this year the girls of Kraa have taken action, leaving poor, humiliated Henry the only virgin of the proper age. Hilarity ensues.

2. Wealthy yet innocent mogul Kraa has discovered one thing he doesn't own: a harem. He orders 40 virgins for his harem, and decrees they all must remain virgin, at cost of death. Boy, is he going to be surprised when he finds out what a harem is for.

3. Siddi is pregnant despite her chastity vow, and the priestesses think it's a miracle so they want to sacrifice the child to the goddess Kraa. Meanwhile a secret society wants the baby as their organization's figurehead. And Sid's parents want to murder her. It's a hard life being one of . . . The Virgins of Kraa.

4. The people of Kraa choose a perfect male for the noble honor of sacrifice to the gods, as has been done for time uncounted. Then waifish earther, Kami Sole, crashes on the eve of the selection tournament. Now the virgins struggle to find one reason to hop into the fire.

5. The dragon of Kraa had a discerning palate: he ate only virgins. Therefore Kraa’s rules of sexual propriety changed. Peghter was ten. Given a choice between an arranged marriage or the shame of the town’s concubine, he instead gathers heroes to defeat the dragon once and for all.

6. Emperor Kraa has not produced an heir, despite a harem of young women who are determined to be the mother of the next emperor. Follow their antics as they try to undermine each other and turn the emperor away from his beloved general and force him to perform.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I would like to offer my novel, The Virgins of Kraa, for your mockery.

Just because she was born on the goddess Kraa’s feast day, fifteen year old Siddi is expected to shave her head, don the white robes and serve in Kraa’s temple for five years. Forget it! Siddi soon finds ways to break her vows – especially the ‘chastity’ one – and enjoy herself while supposedly ministering to the poor in the teeming slums. [Is this book for teens? Usually if the MC is 15, the book is meant for kids a year or two younger than that. Whether parents want their 13-year-olds reading a book in which the 15-year-old MC is enjoying herself by breaking her chastity vows I will leave to those minions who actually have 13-year-old kids. Would the book be unfavorably altered if girls born on Kraa's feast day began their temple service at age 17?]

Pregnant, she flees from the temple, [I was under the impression she was breaking her vow to serve in the temple by hanging out in the slums.] knowing that her actions would bring shame on the family [This could suggest that she's hiding her pregnancy from her family, yet later she's fleeing her family. Do they know or not?] - and shamed families can only regain their honour by killing the child who shamed them. [That rule sucks. Especially if your friends' parents feel no shame even if their kids are mass murderers, while your parents feel shame if you wear clothes that don't match.] Siddi takes refuge in the slums and ekes out a living waiting for the birth of her child.

Arka, her only confidante from the temple, warns her that the priestesses believe her pregnancy to be a miracle, and a blood sacrifice of the baby will transform the goddess Kraa from a minor deity to the top of the pantheon, in accordance with prophesy. [Life would be so much better if we could just get Kraa to the top of the pantheon.] [I wonder if in ancient Greece there were followers of Pan, the god of goatherds, who sacrificed babies in hopes of elevating Pan above Zeus in the pantheon.] [Actually, for all we know, Zeus was originally the god of sandals, and only became top dog because sandal wearers sacrificed a lot of babies.]

Fleeing both Kraa’s followers and her outraged family, Siddi and the newborn are taken in by a secret underground society, the Naturalists. [As "naturalist" is a term that describes a large number of people in our world, maybe your small group in your world should have a different name. For instance, "Ferirama." I got that one using this fake word generator.] Their aim is to discredit the gods and build a society based on rational thought rather than superstition. But they need a figurehead to give their movement momentum – and who better than a baby targeted for sacrifice?

With a mad priestess believing herself to be the physical embodiment of Kraa now after the baby, and the king declaring the Naturalists a threat to the realm, Siddi really doesn’t need more attention being drawn to her baby and flees the Naturalists. She and Arka need to infiltrate the temple, discredit the goddess and make it appear that the temple itself is the threat to the monarchy.

Told in alternating viewpoints between Siddi and Arka, The Virgins of Kraa is complete at 80 000 words.


Pregnant, she flees from the temple.
Fleeing both Kraa’s followers and her outraged family...
Siddi ... flees the Naturalists.

That's a lot of fleeing. I would focus less on the fleeing and more on the one sentence that hints at Siddi doing something, namely: She and Arka need to infiltrate the temple, discredit the goddess and make it appear that the temple itself is the threat to the monarchy. We want to see the main character taking action to solve her problems, not fleeing every threat that comes her way.

I don't think we need all three groups (family, priestesses, naturalists) in the query. Possibly we can get by with just the priestesses. A paragraph introducing Siddi and stating that the priestesses want to sacrifice her unborn child is enough setup. That leaves plenty of room to tell us how she plans to save herself and her baby, what goes wrong, etc.

In my opinion, this society would have a law that if you get a girl with shaved head and white robes pregnant, you suffer a horrible amputation.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

New Beginning 996

“Fuck you, Dave,” Rob snaps.

I try. Honestly. No matter how hard I focus, I just can’t stop. I’m choking and my eyes are popping under the pressure of keeping my laughter in, Rob’s evil eye notwithstanding. Mary Elizabeth? Je. Sus. Our buddy, Jake, tagged her on Memorial Day, but he’d been shit-faced. And Jake had zero standards. Rob, he’s our Alpha Male. Leader of the Wolf Pack, for good reason. Girls cling to him like sweat on balls—and that’s usually where they cling, too.

“Later asshole,” he hisses.

“Wait! Just, hold on. I’ll,” I mean to say I’ll get my shit together, but I snort loudly and my ribs shake. He shoves me backward onto my bed and heads for the door. My cell buzzes. Despite himself, he can’t resist checking. He knows I let most calls go to voicemail. I’m not good at faking conversation with people I don’t know well. It’s easier if I can work out a strategy. Call ’em back on my terms. Or, not call them back.

“Unknown,” he mutters.

That can’t be good. “Let her leave a message,” I say, sure it’s my stalker. “Why’d you give Jessie my number, anyway?” I demand.

He ignores my question and flings the phone toward me.

Sure enough, it's Jessie. The voice confirms it, muffled but loud. "Don't hang up!" Like she read my mind.

"I've told you to stop stalking me," I tell her.

"I'm not stalking you. I've done something stupid and you're the only one who can help me."

"This better not be a game, Jessie. What do you want?"

"It's not a game. I'm trapped. Your bedroom closet doesn't open from the inside." 

Opening: Veronica Rundell.....Continuation: Anon.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Face-Lift 1111

Guess the Plot

Haven in Hell

1. The true story of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel's drive to turn a sleepy little town into the gambling capital of the US. Also, a bonus Sinatra DVD.
2. Demon hunter Aldrick will do whatever it takes to save the woman he loves. And by "whatever it takes," I mean bring about the complete extinction of humanity.
3. When Mother Mary Therese discovers her lifelong nemesis, the miserly old pornographer across the street, repented at the last minute and got to Heaven, she realises her only escape from seeing him again is to find... a Haven in Hell.

4. Code named "Haven," she's the coldest, deadliest assassin in the world. Until she dies in a freak baking accident. Luckily, the devil needs a good hitwoman and he's willing to make a deal.

5. The Haven, an abandoned hotel in the ghost town of Hell Arizona, is refurbished as a luxury bed and breakfast. But it’s built atop an ancient Apache burial ground. Bizarre events occur. Guests vanish from their rooms, a paranormal researcher is disemboweled, and Joost Kraa recruits three virgins. Gretchen Borden, the proprietor, swears she’ll get to the bottom of it or die trying.

6. Life is perfect for Carmella. No matter what she eats she's a perfect size 2. Guys swoon when she walks by. If only the hellfire and brimstone didn't scorch her hair every time she tries to get close to Luc, the hottest guy around.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

In a medieval age where daemons have brought the earth to the brink of apocalypse, HAVEN IN HELL is the story of a man whose well-intentioned choices unwittingly set humanity teetering toward extinction. [Choices don't actually have any wits. You could say . . . a man who, through his well-intentioned choices, unwittingly sets... Or you could just leave out the choices part.] [Also, if the Earth is on the brink of apocalypse, one might say humanity is already teetering toward extinction, no matter what this man unwittingly does. It's sort of like saying: With the Lakers trailing the Heat 122 to 31 and two minutes left, Kobe Bryant's charging foul puts the Lakers in jeopardy of losing.]

Aldric, sworn against daemons and their ilk, hunts any that worm their way inside Haven’s borders. [What is Haven? A village? A country?] So why can’t he bring himself to kill the young woman at his feet? [My guess: She's a young woman, not a daemon or its ilk.] [Although not being a daemon, I suppose, doesn't necessarily mean you aren't one's ilk.] [Are vampiresses and wolfwomen considered ilk, or is it just those possessed by demons who are ilk?]

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Calaia just saved his life. She claims that she is not possessed, that the daemon slowly devouring her soul has no power over her—but that's impossible. Right up there with Aldric owing his life to a warlock.

From that moment onward, Aldric’s beliefs crumble one by one as he discovers the truth about daemons, their soul-fueled sorcery, and the goddess who safeguards the last of humankind. When Calaia’s sorcery goes awry and threatens them all, his only ally is a daemon. Can he embrace the enemy to save the woman he loves?

HAVEN IN HELL, complete at 90,000 words, will appeal to fans of Peter V. Brett’s The Warded Man and C. S. Friedman’s Coldfire trilogy.



I'm making certain assumptions that aren't necessarily true based on the way this is written. I'm assuming Aldrick in paragraph 2 is the man from paragraph 1 who's putting humanity on the brink of extinction. I'm assuming Calaia in paragraph 3 is the young woman in paragraph 2 at Aldrick's feet. I'm assuming the woman Aldrick loves is Calaia, even though I have no reason to believe he ever met her until she saved his life a few sentences earlier. I could assume Calaia is also the warlock, as both Calaia and the warlock saved Aldrick's life. I'm not certain the goddess and/or the daemon who's Aldrick's only ally aren't also Calaia, though it seems doubtful. Now if the first paragraph read . . . story of Aldrick, a man who . . . and the 2nd paragraph read . . . bring himself to kill Calaia, the young woman . . .  etc., it would be clearer.

Saving the woman he loves, Aldrick's goal at the end of the plot summary, doesn't seem like such a big problem when at the beginning he had set humanity teetering toward extinction. Once you tell us we're all gonna die, we lose interest in whether Aldrick finds his soul mate.

Maybe you should introduce Aldrick as Calaia saves his life, then take us through the story up to the point where Aldrick is faced with the decision that will determine the fate of humanity.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Success Story

Matt Cramer reports:

Just wanted to say thank you...
This was one of the Face-Lifts from a long time ago - number 48. After one false start where it was accepted by an imprint at Penguin only to have them pull the plug on the entire imprint, it's now found a home with McGraw-Hill.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Face-Lift 1110

Guess the Plot


1. Nine-year-old Nur is forced to be caretaker of a gigantic, ill-tempered, mute creature that hates her. Think Beauty and the Beast, except Nur's face is covered with scars, so think Scarface Meets Mute Godzilla.

2. Eight-year-old Lisa is delighted when the mute button on the tv remote control also works on annoying adults and siblings. Even better, when she tries the fast forward button, it ages them by fifty years.


4. Talkshow host Adelaide Scherbotski comes home one day to find her six brothers have been kidnapped by a crazed former fan of her show. The fan is threatening their lives unless the show goes off air, putting Addy in a race against time to find her brothers. Till then... the show must go MUTE.

5. I'd like to tell you what this story is about, and I will, just as soon as I break out of this annoying invisible box. Oh, crap, that's MIME, not Mute. I've been so wrong for so long...

6. When homely Ongyala the bard bested the lich Manzikar in poker, he let her pick her prize: beauty, long life, or wealth. She chose beauty--at the cost of her singing voice. Now all kinds of people are willing to help her out. Should she sleep with everyone in hope of a cure, or should she remain--Mute?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I would like to submit my 130,000 word science fiction novel MUTE for your consideration.

Nine-year-old Nur learns an important lesson when the adults in her life decide to sell her to the lung-eating denpars: difference is dangerous. [The good news, daughter, is that we put you up for sale on Ebay, and someone actually bought you! The bad news is the buyer is a gang of creatures that want to eat your lungs.] [Do the denpars eat only lungs, or do they just consider lungs a delicacy?]

Because Nur is different. For as long as she can remember, she's had a horribly scarred face- [Her face is] so horribly scarred that it's common knowledge that no one will ever want to marry her, and in Nur's society, that's practically a death sentence. Fortunately for her, one member of her village takes pity on her and helps her get away to find a new life. Unfortunately, the [her] new life Nur finds herself leading may be just as dangerous as the one she left behind. She's been forced to be the caretaker of a gigantic, ill-tempered creature called Mash. 

Mash may not be [is un]able to speak, but he's very good at making his feelings known, and the main thing he feels is that he absolutely hates Nur. As she struggles to care for this unpleasant creature, Nur starts to understand [realizes] that he's hiding scars of his own- just not ones that she can see. Time passes, Mash grows larger and more violent, and Nur begins to realize [sees] the choice she will eventually have to make: save him from himself, or save herself from him.

A science fiction story that grounds itself [grounded] in themes of abuse, healing, and the fear of the unknown, MUTE is a love letter to the natural world [That didn't come across at all.] and the compelling relationship that exists between man and [lung-eating] animal.

The idea for MUTE was drawn from my experiences conducting studies of animal behavior, which range from mist netting for bats to assessments of the evolution of cat meows. My experience in running a college creative writing club was also invaluable during the process.

Thank you for your time and consideration!


This is mostly setup. Nur is forced to be caretaker of Mash. Then some vague stuff happens, like time passes and Nur realizes stuff. Does any specific stuff actually happen? Focus on the plot after Nur becomes caretaker of Mash. What does she want out of life now? What's she doing to get it? What's standing in her way? Be specific.

A lot of unnecessary words, which may mean you could cut the book down to 100,000 words, making it easier to sell.

If you escape from your village, it seems like you have a choice where to go. Why go to a place where you're forced to be Mash's caretaker? Why didn't she go to Pleasantville?

Mash hates Nur, and Nur doesn't seem happy with her new position. Can't they agree to an amicable parting of the ways?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

New Beginning 995

I’ve been at this school so long that nobody notices me anymore. But the new kid did. She came into the classroom, smiling at the staring faces, and did a double take when her eyes brushed past me. Which means looking, realizing something was different, and turning to look again, only harder. Then remembering it was rude to stare and pretending she wasn’t looking.

I gave her a sneaky rude sign when Miss Gordon was busy arranging a place for her next to me.

Her jaw dropped, but I knew she wouldn’t tell. One of the bad things about nobody noticing I was different anymore was I got into trouble just like everybody else. At the start, I got away with anything, because kids were too embarrassed to say anything, and the teachers didn’t know how to respond. Like they thought I couldn't possibly have known what was right or wrong, and I might melt into a puddle of tears if they stopped speaking to me like I was a deaf two year old. Which means talking, realizing that the person is deaf, and repeating what you said really loud and slow as if the reason the deaf can't hear is because people don't talk loud and slow enough.

Later I caught the new kid looking down her nose at me. Which means acting all superior, like humans are better than us sheep. So I gave her a dirty look. Which means I looked daggers at her, which means...

Opening: Jo Antareau.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New Beginning 994

The old sorcerer examined his hands in the dim dungeon light. Only one thing in his cell could cut sinew and bone. Because of his panacea, his teeth were perfect, and his jaw was strong. His little fingers were useless now so he began chewing. It was painful but not so much as death by fire.

The first phalanx came free and a moment later he gnawed the tissue off. He crawled on hands and knees, his shackles scraping the stone floor. With a bone to the right of the door, he sat back and began on the second phalanx. In an hour, five bones defined the points of the pentagram.

Next was blood. His fingers already clotted, he searched for something sharp enough for skin. A sharp iron point protruded from one of the door’s iron bars. Forcing his arm into it caused little bleeding and it healed immediately.

As he tried thinking of something else, he clicked his tongue as his mother had done hundreds of years ago. Then, he rushed back to the door. Using his shackled wrists, he forced his tongue into the iron point. He ripped it open and continued tearing it back and forth. Agony. But soon his mouth filled with blood. It was enough for the pentagram with plenty left for the priest.

After he finished, he sat back with blood in his mouth and awaited the young confessor. A fresh young body. It would feel so good to be young again.

By the by, a guard returned and peered through the bars into the dim cell. "Well, aren't you the messy one," he declared. "But at least you're still here -- were I you, I would have just conjured a doorway in the south wall and fled through the forest..."

The sorcerer considered the guard's words for a few moments, then rested his head on what remained of his palm. "Bugger," he said.

Opening: Thomas Harrington.....Continuation: Anon.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Success Story

Dave F. reports:

Perihelion published my short story -- Space Cadets of the Apocalypse -- which was New Beginning 974. The opening changed quite a bit as you can see and all to the good.

Here's the link

Face-Lift 1109

Guess the Plot

The Ten Hands

1. The adventures of Whitney Cross, 19th-century Canadian superhero demon hunter who must defeat ten evil spirits while leading an X-men-like team toward the Biblical end of the world. Also, super-pirates.

2. Joe Vanderberg thought it was a sure bet when he wagered his firstborn's soul on a game of tic tac toe. Now he must play poker with the Devil himself to reclaim little Aidan from Hell. Can he win...the ten hands?

3. When PI Rob Horwood opens a parcel to find a severed hand, he realises there's a maniac on the loose. When a second hand arrives, he knows this person means business. By the time the ninth has arrived, he's figured out the murderer's system. But can he prevent the villain from severing... the tenth hand?

4. John and Maye Hand raise eight sons on their Ozark farm. They grow corn and hemp. Their sons are wild and they too grow corn and hemp but sell moonshine and marijuana. The law takes an interest in the Hands and the Hands take an interest in killing lawmen. This is the history of the Hands from John’s and Maye’s courtship to the final gunfight that kills the last of their boys.

5. When Kim Moon, proprietor of the massage parlor the Ten Hands is found dead in his burned-out Audi, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, Moon didn't decapitate himself, and two, maybe he can get his wife to give him a massage with a happy ending.

6. Joon Merlin is a great pianist whom no one will work with because of his raging ego. His last chance for a concert career comes when an avant garde composer creates a dense piano sonata just for Joon - and four other handpicked keyboardists. Can Joon put his ego aside and share the stage? Or will he once again succumb to pianist envy?

Original Version

Dear ___________,

My story, The Ten Hands, is an 82,000 word supernatural adventure that combines science and religion in a new approach to the Super Hero genre. [Cool. I envision religious superheroes like The Cardinal, Lama Man and Deacon burning scientists at the stake. Is it set in the time of Galileo and Copernicus? If not, you can use time travel to go back and burn them alive. Each chapter ends with another scientist burning, the big finale coming hen they go after Charles Darwin.] This is a book for both Young and New Adults.

Whitney Cross, the girl who does not age, experiences the secret world of Heroes and Demons from the perspective of one with little physical strength of her own. During her adventures in the 18th and 19th centuries of Canada she is challenged with super-pirates, a life sentence in a Demon prison and ten evil spirits that pursue her across the centuries. [During the 18th and 19th centuries she is pursued across the centuries? Meaning across the 18th and 19th centuries, or meaning time travel? If the latter, does her team try to kill Hitler?] During her transformation from a regular young woman [Usually a regular young woman isn't introduced as "the girl who doesn't age."] into leader of a team of Demon hunting super heroes, she experiences unrequited love, challenges the prejudices of a paranoid society [Pretty much all societies are paranoid, and especially so when there are demons roaming around.] and learns that there is always a purpose for everything that happens, even the bad stuff. [For instance, when your house gets infested with the fleas your cat brought in, it's to aid the stockholders of pesticide companies.]

This is the first book of a trilogy and a part of a larger collection of stories [Usually best to confirm that people want to read one book before going overboard.] that uses the same world and a universal underlying plot, all building up toward the Biblical end of the world. The Ten Hands gives you a 19th century X-Men Origins story with action and moral undertones akin to The Chronicles of Narnia. [Really? Because to me it sounds more like Justice League of America meets A Wrinkle in Time.]

In the Brigham Young University-Idaho Fiction Contest (2011) my short story, The Legend of Chariot, was the top placing short story and runner up over all. Thank you for your consideration.



You call this a story, but you don't provide a summary of a story. You provide a list of general-to-vague events. You need to make us care about Whitney. What are her goals? What's stopping her from achieving them? What's her plan to overcome these obstacles? You need to make us care about her enough to want to read a whole book about her.

Why do the other superheroes accept Whitney as their leader? Is it the usual "weakest member gets to be leader because otherwise she'd never contribute" situation? Or does she actually bring something to the table?

Did she come into this world at the age of about 20, or did something make her stop aging when she got there?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Face-Lift 1108

Guess the Plot

Jack and Jill and the Talking Lizard

1. Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. But Jack fell down and cracked his cranium and now he sees an invisible talking lizard wherever he goes. Crazy bastard. Also, a villainous were-poodle.

2. The true story of what happened that fateful day on the grassy knoll. Spoiler: Jill was pushed.

3. Jill and Jack are gnome twins, eager to explore the world beyond their toadstool. But soon they're caught by the mean old raven who lives in the pines. Also, a talking lizard. Illustrated by the author!

4. Investigative reporter Jack refuses to name his source, "the talking lizard" after he breaks a story about a colony descended from aliens inhabiting a remote island. Jill, CIA assassin, needs to silence Jack before he finds out about the psychic weaponry the aliens are building with the government.

5. Jill and Jack graduate one-two from Boyd Law in Vegas and are hired by Delenio and Lizardo PLLC. Tacito Lizardo (aka Talking Lizard) takes them under his wing. Soon, they realize Delenio and Lizardo are into real estate fraud, money laundering, and the Mafia. They steal evidence for the Feds. But their FBI contact sells them out. They narrowly escape a car bomb and must run for their lives. Also, a plethora of hot sex.

6. Jill is an out of work barista with an unfinished degree in the Theory of Art. Jack spends his time in an inner city middle school classroom, ducking before the rubber band or a stray bullet can hit him in the head. A week after they fall in love, Jill is in a car accident and in a coma and a talking lizard named Fred appears in Jack's bathroom and tells him he must go to Hades to rescue Jill's soul (which looks like a jellyfish).

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Jill Jenkins is an out of work barista with 100,000 in student loans for her unfinished graduate degree in the Theory of Art from the University of Louisiana. She lives alone with her cat and wonders what the heck she's going to do with herself when she isn't avoiding this question for the thirtieth year by spending hours re-reading Kurt Vonnegut and P.G. Wodehouse while devouring cherry-filled chocolates. The question is answered for her after she falls in love at first sight with the man next door, a thirty-year old middle school teacher named Jack.

Jack, a cautious man who spends most of his time in an inner city middle school classroom trying to make himself heard above a din, a man who has learned to duck before the rubber band or wad of paper can hit him in the head, is new to the experience of "love at first sight" and has doubts. So when a week after meeting and falling in love, Jill is in a car accident and in a coma and a day later a talking lizard, Fred, appears in Jack's bathroom and tells him that he must go to Hades to rescue Jill's soul (it's stored in a jar and looks like a jellyfish), Jack hesitates.

Jill's accident left her in a coma [We know.] and split her spirit into fragments. Jill's body is in hospital, but her two largest spiritual fragments are Shadow Jill and Jill and they can move around. Athena, Jill's fairy godmother, who has been derelict in her duties until now, flips a coin and chooses to rescue Jill over Shadow Jill. Athena uses her retirement money to send Jill to a spiritual boot camp to help Jill to find a profession and learn how to clean. Athena will put a good word in for Jill with the Creator, and try to get Jill her life back if Jill finds herself a profession. Ironically, Jill decides to start a cleaning business and forms a partnership with some cleaning angels. Meanwhile, Shadow Jill, alone, uncomfortable, and semi-transparent is convinced by Fred that to return to life a living person must get her soul back from Hades.

Shadow Jill appears in Jack's apartment a week after the accident and begs Jack to rescue her soul. Jack waffles. Then, an angel appears the day after and persuades Jack to follow his heart, rather than his judgment. Jack, unlikely hero, follows the lizard and Shadow Jill through the inner city entrance to Hades.

Jack successfully battles underground locusts and arrives at the final barrier to Hades, the River Styxx. Charon ferries the three across, but ShadowJill finds herself irresistibly drawn to the waters and dives in. When they arrive on shore, Fred devours Jack's soul, which is vulnerable in the "land of the dead". Fred is really a scheming fallen angel, and uses the energy of Jack's soul to purchase an enormous amount of beer for his Fallen Angel's Beer Pub. Jack's body is left trapped on the shore. This purchase triggers a soul alert, as Fred is on the "Most-wanted Angels" List, and Athena is notified within a few weeks of Jack's unfortunate fate.

Athena tells Jill the sad news about Jack. Athena lets Jill know that Jack was dumb to trust a talking lizard, and that after all, Jill's soul is safely in her (Athena's) cupboard. Athena also tells Jill that Jill can do nothing for Jack and that if Jill leaves the boot camp, she won't be brought back to life. Jill, appalled, acts the part of the hero. Her "true love" for Jack gets her the help of the Angel Dostoevsky, who has the power to re-grow souls and fly into Hades. John is saved, [John?] and Jill is brought back to life by the Creator because she was heroic (and she has a successful cleaning business which the Creator approves of as it brings order into the Universe).

Jack and Jill live happily together with the cat. Jill's cleaning company enables her to pay her student loans, and Jill begins a line of cleaning products for graduate students. Jack continues to teach sixth graders. Athena visits for tea every once in a while.

The End.

Jill and Jack and the Talking Lizard is 50,000 words and magical realism.

Thank you for reading this.


Sorry, it's been done.

This is more entertaining than the average synopsis, but if it's a query letter it's way too long. It starts to feel like a list of all the funny parts, except when they come so close together the book sounds like a string of absurdities rather than the respected genre of magic realism.

Usually I complain if a query is all setup, but here I might recommend just going with the first two paragraphs, and maybe tack on a short paragraph that basically says, And that's when things start to really get interesting. Working in the fact that Fred is actually a villain is okay, but the Jill/ShadowJill bit doesn't excite me, and adding Athena and Doestoevsky just gives us more characters to keep track of.

With a James Patterson bestseller and an Adam Sandler bomb, the title Jack and Jill has gotten a lot of play recently. Did you choose those names because it's your favorite nursery rhyme? Seems like it should be Jack in the coma, as he's the one who broke his crown.

Friday, March 08, 2013

New Beginning 993

When I turned into Steve's street, I tried to walk more slowly. Tried to look less like you do when you're meeting the man you love.

Nobody would mind if I was a girl.

He opened his door the moment I reached it, and pulled me inside. He'd barely got the door shut again before he started kissing me.

My weight clicked the lock home.

"Thought you weren't coming," he said, when he paused for breath.



"All the time." I drew him to me and then we were kissing again. Everything else faded to the periphery: the ache in my fingers, the smell of polish, even the door cold and hard against my back. All that mattered was to hold Steve close and share kisses.

Then we had to breathe again. I tucked my head under his chin and he began stroking my hair.

"All dressed up," I said.

"Some friends invited me over for dinner. Invited us, rather. They want to meet you."

"Wish I'd known."

He cupped my chin in one hand so he could raise my head. "Well, I would've come round and picked you up, but you've never actually told me where you live."

"Down by the canal."
"The canal?"

"It's easier if I'm close to the water."

"Ah, of course. Anyway, I can lend you something suitable."


"Why don't--"

"I'll just go home," I told him, turning to leave. "Some other--"

Steve's hand was warm on my shoulder. "Slow down. I didn't spend half my life searching for you to let you get away so easily. We've got to get used to each other, that's all."

I smiled. Steve was right. This wouldn't be easy. Then again, being the only walrus-headed man in existence never had been. And, when his lips found mine again, I realized the difficulty would be worth it.

Opening: BuffySquirrel.....Continuation: Veronica Rundell

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Face-Lift 1107

Guess the Plot


1. Non-fiction treatise examining the link between the decline in the IQ of American teens (as measured by standardized testing) and increases in 'reality' TV show ratings.

2. Food tasters are supposed to prove whether a monarch's dinner is poisoned. But when both the food taster and monarch die from a slow-acting poison, it's up to Jovan, the new food taster, to find the guilty party and prove it--before he becomes the next victim.

3. Fiona lives a life of confusion, constantly taking everything literally. When told the expression 'the proof is in the pudding' she goes on a frenzied hunt through bakeries and supermarkets, buying all the puddings she can find. Will she ever find the proof she needs, or will she be arrested as a public nuisance?

4. Mark drinks a whiskey drink, he drinks a vodka drink, he drinks a lager drink, he drinks a cider drink. But when will he find the drink with the right proof? Time, and a damaged liver will tell.

5. James and Nadia stumble on a meth lab in their grandmother's basement. Grandma's side project is funding their uncle's medical treatments, but now they've discovered she's selling to kids at their school. When the lab and all its equipment mysteriously disappear, they are left wondering how to accuse grandma when they haven't any... proof.

6. Motive, opportunity, weapon, eye witnesses, forensics . . . it's all part of proving who committed a crime. But detective Saul Durbun specializes in getting justice when there's no proof to be had. Not through torture, but through trickery. This is his first case.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Tasting food for poison might not sound like the most appealing job, but proofing for the ruling Fijoldo has been Jovan's family's secret duty for over a century. [Using the word "but" leads us to expect you're going to tell us the job is appealing in some way. You don't.] [How about: Tasting food for poison has been the duty of Jovan's family for over a century.] And it's easier to memorise characteristics and symptoms when you're driven to compulsive, repetitive behaviour by a frustrating mental illness. [Not clear what that sentence is doing for you. Get rid of it.]

But his years of preparation [Training.] seem inadequate when his uncle's trained palate fails [Are you talking about Jovan's years of preparation or his uncle's? It's not clear.] and the Fijoldo dies. [Is that how food tasting works? I always thought the taster ate some of everything, and if he didn't die a horrible convulsive death or at least get a tummy ache, the Fijoldo felt safe. You're saying he has to be able to detect the presence of arsenic in a pot of spaghetti sauce?] Suddenly Jovan is the only one standing between the Heir-his best friend, Tain-and a traitor [Assassin.] armed with an undetectable poison. [If the poison is undetectable, how can you say the uncle's palate failed?] Then the capital is besieged during the funeral by the country's native people, somehow incited to rebellion. [Somehow? Is this related to the death or is it a coincidence?] Even if the city can withstand the siege, racial tensions threaten to tear it apart from inside.

Jovan, his sister Chalina, and Tain can trust only each other as they search for their enemy. The more they investigate, the more they learn about the rotten core of their beloved country and their own families, and they begin to sympathise with the native rebels. Even if they can find and stop the poisoner, breaking the siege to save the city might come at too high a cost. [The poisoner has already accomplished his goal as far as I can tell. Is there reason to believe he's a serial poisoner?]

'Proof' is a 120,000 word novel that combines elements of fantasy and suspense. Based in a fantasy setting but without a supernatural element, [Any setting can be a fantasy setting. The elements of fantasy should be fantastical, not just made-up place names. If it were set in England or Persia or Rohan would it be different in any way, other than the king or sultan would be dead instead of the Fijoldo?] Proof is a story about how three people, bound by ties of family and friendship, are tested by tragedy, danger and betrayal.

I have attached [synopsis and/or chapters, consistently with agent's guidelines]. Thank you for your consideration; I would love to hear from you.

Kind regards


Has Jovan become the new food taster now that uncle is dead (I assume uncle died from the same poison that killed the Fijoldo, but it was slow-acting poison)? Did everyone at the table die, or just the Fijoldo? I ask because Wikipedia suggests that the food taster would be responsible for preparing and serving the Fijoldo's plate (having incentive to keep the plate poison-free), thus requiring the poisoner to poison the whole pot of Bouillabaisse rather than just the target's bowl of Bouillabaisse.

Is this a murder mystery, in which Jovan must figure out which suspect poisoned the Fijoldo, and how? I'm guessing not, as that would work fine without the backdrop of a revolution. On the other hand, if the main plot is the rebellion, we're spending too much of the query on the poisoning. You could just say:

After Bullwachia's monarch is poisoned, his heir Tain must deal with a rebellion and with knowing that the poisoner may target him next. So far the army is holding off the rebellion, and as for the poisoner, Tain's best friend happens to come from a long line of professional food tasters. So all is well.

What's the deal with racial tension?

Seems like a family of food tasters would already be sympathizing with the rebel cause. It's not like food tasters are high in the hierarchy of the ruling class. It was often a job given to a slave.

I prefer "king" to "Fijoldo." And "Tain" doesn't thrill me. It sounds like a combination of stain and taint.

We can do without the sister. We can probably do without the rebellion, but I may be saying that because I like a good mystery. Or because local is more interesting than global.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

New Beginning 992

She lived back in the swamp, and her name was Delphie. The story was that if you laid eyes on Delphie and if she liked you back, she’d rub up against you and make your pecker turn to gravy. After that, you’d walk around town with your head hung low so that everybody would know.

Anyway, that was the story and as much as the old folks kept telling us it was nothing but a big lie, we chose to believe it. We ventured out toward the swamp on summer nights, on and off, just to see if we could catch a glimpse.

Sheriff Troy Hawkins, who’d served the county as its chief law enforcement officer way back when, said … yes, it was true that Delphie was nuts. He didn’t have any proof about the gravy thing, though, and he didn’t know of any men around town who had that sort of problem. Well, one or two, but the sheriff said it was more because of drinking than Delphie.

Sometimes, we’d go up on Artificial Hill and look down into the swamp, usually during the morning when it was sunny, hoping to catch a peek of the loony old woman. Going into the swamp was sort of scary.

Snakes and other critters.

“What if she likes you?” Jimmy would whisper. “I mean, your dick would turn to mush and then you couldn’t get a real date.” His eyes would get big and his nose would bob up and down, like he was in a circus.

 We were nine.

Now, sitting in this bar with cheap whiskey and cheap smokes, watching the cheap girls play pool in their short shorts, it's hard to believe we fell for all that stuff. Never did meet Delphie, and nothing turned to mush, unless you count the world around us. Everything's gone to shit since then.

Fuck, it's hard to believe that all happened only a year ago.

Opening: John C. Updike....Continuation: Anon.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Success Story

Amanda C. Davis, author of several openings on this blog (under a different name), reports that Wolves and Witches, a collection of stories and poems written by her and Megan Engelhardt, is available. "None of these stories appeared on the blog as openings, sadly, but we did have to query for it and write the cover copy, so thanks for all the practice!" More info here.

New Beginning 991

On the morning of the day before the first day of her life, she yawned and stretched. If it was raining, it didn’t matter. She stretched her long legs and found her robe on the floor. Not good. These things happen. “Hurry, you’ll be late!” The voice was firm, not from a harmless woman, but an understanding one. Unless, of course, she was late.

“How much?”

“Two kilos … and a loaf. Now, run!”

The young woman grabbed a light sweater, a canvas bag and bolted for the door. Yes, she would run. Another twenty minutes might be too late. No time for chatter today.

“Acknowledge me!” the acrid voice snapped, plowing through the misty morning.

The girl stopped and curtsied. “Sorry, sir. I was in a hurry. It won’t happen again.”

“I’ll speak to your mistress about your insolence.”

“Yes sir. May I be forgiven?”

He waved her along.

Down the broken sidewalk, around the corner and into the market, the girl stopped, out of breath. “Two kilos of sausage, sir. And a loaf.”

The storekeeper peered down over his glasses. “Cheese today, 75?”

She caught her breath. Cheese? The mistress did not say anything about cheese.

“I … I wasn’t told. Yes, no … oh, darn.” If she didn’t bring cheese and was supposed to bring cheese, that would be bad. If she brought cheese and wasn’t supposed to, that might be worse.

“Cheese? Yes, no … what do you think?” Her frustration showed. She looked at the sausages that hung from the hooks. Not many left. Not much cheese, either.

The storekeeper sliced the sausage. “You always take cheese, 75.”

“I … I know." She puckered up her face and tried to think. She stomped her foot. “I suppose so. Maybe not. I won’t be here tomorrow. Maybe she didn’t want me to bring it.”

The girl took the load from the storekeeper. She left with her faith renewed. It was the first time, when offering his sausage, a man had actually warned her about the cheese.

Opening: John C. Updike.....Continuation: Anon.

Monday, March 04, 2013

New Beginning 990

Behind me Moe and Larry played loud and vulgar pool in the sunroom extension, cigarettes passing between hands and lips. Their girlfriends danced to some headbanger’s screaming lyrics, tolerating the pool game in anticipation of getting laid. The steel counter in Bill’s Ugly-Assed Bar and Grill sparkled through the years of spilt beers, hard shots, and too many meaty abdomens leaning against it. I rested my head on my hand and regarded the bottle of tequila, like the unwanted ones, half gone and half to go. Call me Rycker. I was there sans hope, sans faith, sans happiness, sans everything but the shot glass, the friggen worm in my tequila, and Titus, that little guy, my keeper. If you thought I buried my best friend a week ago, you might be wrong.

“The Shrink wants to see us,” Titus said.

“He spoke?”

“He texted. You know text? That new thing.”

“The stool next to me is open,” I pointed.

“Not private enough, his office, noon tomorrow.”

Outside, brakes squealed, tires screeched, and with a bang, the lights went out. I heard arguing. Opalescent faces peered through the dim flicker of tea candles, the intimate ambiance of charnel house.

The fat guy behind the bar sighed at another night of dystopia.

I found his face in the candle-light. "Well, Bill," I said, "Whadda you think?"

Bill leant over the counter. "I think I should have chose a different name for my restaurant."

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Anonymous