Saturday, June 28, 2008

If you have time to search the archives of Evil Editor's Blog for the writing exercise results, you'll find that each exercise produced many outstanding submissions. Here you'll find a few examples, some of my favorites. Coincidentally, many of my favorites were written by myself.
Inducted June, 2008

It was a dark and stormy night...

The task was to write a scene in which Evil Editor shows up at your door on a dark and stormy night.

I slogged through the muck and the torrents of sheets of rain like an ox plowing a Cambodian rice paddy, drawn to the only light I'd seen since I abandoned the DeLorean three miles back. Another half mile through a malodorous, mephitic hog farm and I was on the front porch, dripping like an ice sculpture in a sauna. I knocked.

The woman who answered seemed to recognize me, despite the fact that I looked like I'd just crawled through a cranberry bog. "Evil Editor!" she said. "I was just rereading your blog!"

"You have me at a loss," I told her.

"It's me! Your favorite minion!"


"No, silly. Anon. Now come in and dry off. The guest room is clean. I'll get out my manuscript; I wrote it following all your guidelines. It's lit fic with sharks and zombies in chapter 14."

I turned on my heel and headed back the way I'd come. One night sleeping in a fetid mud pit with 200 reeking hogs wasn't going to kill me.

--Evil Editor

Detective Story

The task was to write a scene in which a hard-boiled detective meets a client.

She burst through my door like a hurricane waiting to happen. The broad was definitely not my type. She looked like she was on the right end of twenty-five. I like my women middle-aged and desperate. Makes ‘em easier to please. I’m a sucker for dames in short skirts and high heels; this runty thing was wearing sweats and flip-flops. She coulda used the height, too; couldn’ta been more than five-nothin’.

And her accessories—a kid balanced on each hip. Judging by her belly, either she’d hit up Chang’s All You Can Eat Buffet one too many times, or there was another ankle-biter on the way. This girl was trouble.

Dodging around the smaller rugrat’s attempt to shove a car down her shirt, she fixed her glare on me. “You Malone?”

“Yeah,” I growled. I didn’t know why she was here, but I knew I wanted her business like I wanted another hole in my head. Her kids started screaming her name, and the scotch in my desk started screaming mine.

“I’m here to hire you. I’ve lost something.”

I chuckled to myself. “Clearly. Lemme guess: your mind?”

Faster than I could say “Cash in advance,” I was thrown out of my chair and pinned to the ground, her forearm slowly choking the life out of me. I’d never seen anyone move like that—and she was still holding one of the brats; the other was perched on my desk. It was my own stupid fault, too. The number one thing they teach you in PI school? Never underestimate the arm-strength of a woman with toddlers.


Evil Ads

The task was to create a print advertisement involving Evil Editor.

Evil Editor


Evil Jr.


Evil Editor


Evil Editor


Flight to Hell

The task was to write a scene in which you are seated next to Evil Editor on a long flight.

‘...and as for slicing straight across at an angle of ninety degrees oh no no I couldn’t bear to cut a sandwich like that has to be diagonally every time from the squarest corner and then all the way across but hey I’m a Virgo so whaddya expect has to be perfect for me boy I tell ya I went into this diner one time and the guy says what can I get you so I said how about a cheese and tomato with a dash of mayo on unsalted wholemeal bread and he says yeah sure so I watch him and he goes to cut at ninety degrees can you believe it and I’m like whoa man I can’t eat ‘em like that brings me out in a rash just thinking about it and another thing I can’t stand it when the bread ain’t buttered right up to the edge so like there’s bread with nothing on it pressed up close to your cheese or your ham or whatever so but never prawns or seafood oh no I just get this icky this horrible icky in my throat makes me wanna retch it’s like I can smell the water you know with all the salt like when I got drunk the first time on brandy and had to make myself sick you know where you mix up a little salt in a glass of water and gulp it down real fast I guess this whole sandwich thing goes back to my summer camp in ‘74 remember the camp I told ya about the guy with the blonde hair? Hey, mister? Mister? Jeez, somebody get a doctor. I think this guy’s dead.’


I was just settling into my seat when she tossed her backpack next to me and said, "Mind if I have the window? I'm claustrophobic."

"Sorry," I told her. "Emergency exit row. The last thing we need is a claustrophobe panicking and opening the door at 20,000 feet just because of minor turbulence."

"Bite the big one," she said, grabbing up her backpack and plopping next to me. She opened the pack and pulled out a laptop computer and started typing away.

You couldn't wait till we were airborne? I thought. What are you typing, your will? I glanced over; it looked like she was typing a novel or story. I caught sight of the first sentence: None of us were crazy about the idea, but someone had to kill Mendelbaum. Catchy opening.

"None of us was crazy," I said.

She looked at me. "What?"

"None of us was crazy. You typed None of us were crazy."

"Nosy bastard. Look out your precious window. Besides, it's "were."

"Madam, 'were' is a plural verb. Plural is more than one. Your subject is "none." Which can hardly be called more than one."

She turned to the man who'd taken the aisle seat and asked him to switch with her. He claimed his bladder problem forced him to use the rest room frequently, so he needed the aisle seat. She called him a jerkoff and returned to her typing.

I tried to stare straight ahead, but a compelling need to learn why Mendelbaum had to die drew my eyes to her screen. She was at the top of page 2, where I read: We were waiting on Murphy; he was bringing the cheese grater, which was the key to our freedom.

"Waiting for," I said.

She slowly turned toward me.

"Waiting 'on' would be if he was a customer in a restaurant," I explained.

She thanked me, but as she turned away she made a sudden leap across me and grabbed at the emergency exit handle. I fought her off until the flight attendant arrived and asked what the problem was.

"I suggest this woman be removed," I said. "If this flight takes off with her aboard, I predict none of us live to see tomorrow."

"Sir," the flight attendant replied, "I believe you meant to say, none of us lives to see tomorrow. I'm afraid you'll have to come with me."

As security dragged me down the aisle I yelled to the woman, "I must know . . . What happens to Mendelbaum?!"

She ignored me, typing busily away, in the window seat.

--Evil Editor

Out of breath and sweating, I slid into my seat as the doors were closed. “Just made it,” I said panting. The woman to my left, over whose delicate knees I’d just climbed, pretended to sleep; the man to the right of me hid behind his newspaper. I shrugged and staked my claim to both armrests: the God-given right of the middle-seater.

After the safety demonstration, I reached for my complimentary copy of “Plummet -- The In-flight Magazine of Wingan Prairie Airlines.” This month’s special feature was: Great People in Publishing. There was an interesting profile of Steve Guttenburg, the man who invented the printing press, and a retrospective of Marion Folsbream, inventor of both embossed foil lettering and those little round adhesive stickers. But it was the profile of Evil Editor -- the man who discovered literary humor -- that sent a shiver down my spine.

My neighbor, who had finished his newspaper and was now pretending to study the distant landscape through the plane window, was easily recognizable as the man in the story. I tugged at the velvet sleeve of his coat. “Excuse me. You’re Evil Editor!”

He sniffed. “Thank you for clearing that up. I was wondering.”

“Sorry, I mean, uh, I was just reading about you.” I pointed at the article. “This is so incredible!”

“I’m having trouble believing it myself,” he riposted.

“This is awesome,” I added. “You, uh, don’t mind me talking to you, do you?”

He sighed like a broken radiator and turned to face me. Facial hair quivered and pince-nez glinted beneath the reading light. “OK, let’s hear it...” He raised his eyebrows. “So, you’re a writer, then?”

“Uh, no. I’m in sales, actually. Industrial shredders.”

An enormous grin lit his face. “My man! Let me buy you a five dollar cocktail: We need to talk!”


Deus Ex Machina

The task was to write a scene with a deus ex machina ending--an utterly preposterous event that miraculously saves the day for the main character.

Sophie rolled closer and kissed me again.

‘Can’t believe I found you,’ she said, smiling.

We held each other for a while, watching the afternoon shimmer at the window like a slow beautiful film. Most days, I’m tense - all knotted round my neck and shoulders - but as we lay there talking, all my cares evaporated.

And that’s when I farted.

It was barely audible, like a bush baby clearing its throat, but the moment it crept from my crack, I felt its damp warmth ooze up my back, sucking goosebumps from my flesh and threatening to be a real stinker.

I edged backwards onto my hip, trying to work the amorphous shibboleth of its impending nasal assault back under the duvet, but Sophie took my impromptu spasms as a come-on and nuzzled her nose into my ear.

‘You smell real sexy,’ she whispered. ‘Come on. Let’s fuck.’

My eyelids flared like a pair of Hendrix’s pants.

Outside the window, a small cartoon buzzard hovered in the air looking serious. It wore a trim blue uniform with a slender aqualung affair strapped to its back, both emblazoned with a gold motif reading Fart Patrol. It gave me the thumbs up with the tip of its wing and began feeding a length of plastic hosepipe through the window and operating numerous levers on the aqualung.

Sophie straddled me playfully. She was hot stuff - but the localized suction stripping the hairs from my thighs was something else.


‘What was that?’

‘Static,’ I said, relieved. ‘C’mere.’

She bent down low to suck on my cock. Over her shoulder I saw the buzzard signal two hundred on a flash card as it dropped an invoice onto the carpet. Then it flew off, clutching its cell phone.


Valentine's Day

The task was to write a scene in which your romantic Valentine's Day dinner is interrupted by the arrival of Evil Editor at the next table.

I had the ring in my pocket; my plan was to pop the question over dessert--if I could wait that long. And the setting was as perfect as the joy in Helen's eyes . . . until he walked in.

270 pounds of flab in a suit that looked like he'd worn it every day for two years. Wheezing from his cab-to-front-door stroll like he'd just run a marathon. Hair like an abandoned bird's nest. In retrospect, I should have asked for a new table when he was seated next to us.

The staff was all over him like he was some hotshot movie star. Orson Wells, only bigger and more full of himself. "No menu," he said. "Bring me Scotch, a whole bottle. Tomato bisque. And a deep-fried leg of lamb." He moaned loudly as the waiter ran off. Then he looked at me and said, "What are you looking at, loser?" To Helen he said, "You can do a lot better than this fuck, honey."

Mercifully, his bottle of Scotch arrived, distracting him. He chugged a quarter of the bottle and then grunted like a rutting water buffalo. Helen was looking at him with pure disgust, like he was some mutant hog who'd just climbed out of a vat of raw sewage.

The gargantuan slob took another swig and howled like a wolf as his soup arrived. He groaned and fell face-forward into the tomato bisque and came up looking like the angry sunburned ass of a Hamadryas baboon. I glanced at Helen. She was heaving like a dog preparing to puke up the roadkill possum it ate two days ago.

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a devastatingly handsome gentleman with muttonchops came up, forcibly escorted the bloated ox-creature out of the restaurant, and returned, taking his table. Then, as if I weren't even there, he turned to Helen and said, "I'm Evil Editor. I know of a more romantic place, if you'd care to join me?"

The nerve of the guy! And Helen went with him! I couldn't believe it. I sat there in a stupor, feeling angry and deceived and screwed . . . and yet at the same time, feeling wildly jealous . . . of Helen.


Write like Cassie Edwards

The task: Write a brief scene in any genre, and at some point during the scene, launch into an inexplicable nonfiction explanatory passage.

The bathroom smelt just like her. He surveyed the wrinkled Ikea shower curtain, the bottles and jars, the stain where the tap dripped. He looked at the underwear tossed in the basket, and the sight of it made him tremble; he wanted to touch it.

“You ready?” Kate’s voice came from just outside the door.

“Uh, yeah. Almost done.” He squeezed a dollop of Crest onto his finger and rubbed it over his teeth, then reached over and flushed the toilet.

She was on the bed when he emerged; a plain cotton sheet covered her lower half. His eyes fell straight to her breasts, full and firm, the nipples bigger and darker than he had expected.

Kate arched her eyebrows. He pulled off his T-shirt and shucked off his underpants.

“My, you are ready,” she said, and pulled the sheet away. He was transfixed for a moment by the dark shock between her legs. A brief wave of panic flicked at his stomach.

“I-- I don’t... Do you have, uh, protection?”

She gave him a look. “Sure, I always keep this baseball bat handy . . . ”

“No, I mean--”

“I know what you mean.” She reached into her side-table drawer. “Here.” She held the foil square between her thumb and forefinger. “America’s number one brand; four times the market share of Durex. You know, Trojans have been around since 1920 when they were first manufactured by Young’s Rubber, which later became Young’s Drug Products Corporation before being absorbed by Carter-Wallace Incorporated in 1985. Carter-Wallace sold their consumer products lines to Church and Dwight in 2001, putting Trojan alongside staples like Brillo, and Arm and Hammer. Then, in February 1987, Trojan-- Jesus! What did you--?”

“I-- I’m so sorry. I’m a bit of a history nut . . . I--”

“Here. Use this Kleenex -- a registered trademark of Kimberly-Clark Worldwide Incorporated . . . ”


Last Man Alive

Evil Editor has just discovered that he is the last person left alive on Earth. The planet was destroyed, but EE happened to be inside his personal force field at the time. He finds a tape recorder and decides to record his thoughts so that when aliens visit they'll have a record of what humans thought about.

So, I'm all that's left. I guess someone had to be the last, and it's only fitting that it be someone willing to tell it like it is.

Earth. It was the laughingstock of the solar system . . . until scientists discovered revolting noises coming from Uranus.

At the end there were six billion of us. And yet no one could make a decent cheese danish.

This resembles that Twilight Zone episode where the guy's the last man on Earth and all he wants to do is read books, and then he breaks his glasses. Resembles it in that all I want to do is get drunk on Dom Perignon, and I can't find a fucking corkscrew.

Anyway, if anyone should ever find this recording, know that when I die I will die with no regrets . . . except having lent twenty dollars to Kaczman last Tuesday.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Inducted December, 2007

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Detective hired by . . . "It."

She looked like any other dame with blue hair and a Miss Universe body, but she had a voice like Zuul, from Ghostbusters. What she was doing in my office remained to be seen.

"I am here from the Fourth Realm," she told me. "I need your assistance in eliminating mankind, thus paving the way for my dominion over the Fifth Dimension."

A nutcase. But she had on Giuseppe Zanotti shoes, so I figured she could afford a two-bit dick like me. Besides, the Zuul voice was kind of sexy. "I charge two hundred a day plus expenses," I lied.

"Money will be unnecessary when you are the last remaining human subcreature," she intoned. "I shall make you my second-in-command. You shall rule armies of equestrian wolfmen."

"A hundred a day, and I get to wear one of those velvet-covered riding hats."

Flames shot out of her eyes. "Three hundred a day. No hat, but a red leather riding crop."

"Deal," I said.

Demons. They're evil through and through, but they have one weakness: they're lousy negotiators.


Miss Snark, Literary Agent, Was Thrilled . . .

. . . to find herself trapped in an elevator with her favorite actor, George Clooney, but the strict method actor refuses, even under such dire circumstances, to abandon the "pirate" persona from his current film, O Laddie, Whar Be Thee? After two hours, the "act" has begun to wear thin. Even Miss Snark has her limits.

"Look, George, it's been two hours. Obviously they're not trying to rescue us. We could be trapped here for days."

"Aaarrrrrgh! Right ye be, Missy."

"We could die here. I could be the last woman you ever see . . . touch . . . kiss . . . "

"Aye, me last wench. 'Tis--"

"Listen, bucko, could you do me a favor till we get outta here, and can the pirate lingo?"

"Aaaarrrrrrgh! Nay, ne'er, matey." He adjusted his eye patch.

"You realize you're ruining ten years of delicious fantasies, don't you?"

"Avast, ye smarmy--"

"Fuck. I knew I should have gone with Hugh Grant or EE. Look, George, someone's gotta climb through that door in the ceiling and figure out how to get help."

"Aaaaarrrrrrrrghhhh! Ye can't lift me that thar high, I be too heavy for the likes o' ye. I'll 'ave to lift thee."

"Fine. Whatever. Maybe I'll get lucky and there'll be someone in the elevator shaft who speaks English."

George squatted below the escape hatch. "Stand on me shoulders. That's it . . . Aaaaarrrrrrrgh!"


"Yer stilettos! They're diggin into me shoul--"

"Wimp. Dog, did I ever have you figured wrong."

"Can ye open th' hatch?" He looked up. "Whoa!"

"Now what?"

"Missy, I've plundered me share o' booty in me day, but that's the prettiest booty I e'er did lay me eyes on."

Miss Snark dropped to the floor and threw her arms around George. "Why Cap'n," she said. "Be that a cutlass in yer breeches, or arrrgh ye just 'appy t' see me?"


EE's Birthday Party

Evil Editor showed Jessica Biel out of his penthouse condo. His birthday party, attended by numerous celebrities and his minions, had finally ended. Never again, he thought, will I stage this event in my own place. What a mess. Animals, all of them. He stepped into his bedroom.

"You're still here?!" he exclaimed.

"We're your birthday present," they said in unison.

EE scanned the bed. His old flames. Julia Roberts. Angelina Jolie. Amanda Peet. Miss Snark. Eva Longoria. Hallie Berry. And Maria Sharapova. "Listen," EE said. "I'm another year older. "There's no way I can handle seven women anymore."

"Well then, you're just going to have to choose," Eva said, fluttering her eyelashes.

EE looked them over, each set of eyes more hopeful than the next. Finally he said, "Okay, okay, I choose . . . Angelina. Sorry, kid . . . you're the one who'll have to leave."


"You said she'd be here, Evil. You promised."

"Well she wasn't. Now go home."

"I'm not going home. I don't want to be alone."

"Look, George, I don't give a flying fuck what you want. But you're not going to not be alone by being with me. Now leave."

"All right. All right. I'm going. I got what I came for, anyway."

"You did? What?"

"This glass stiletto I found under your bed. All I have to do is find its mate."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever." EE showed George to the door and triple-bolted it behind him. Three locks should be enough for tonight. Thinking better of it, he turned back and locked the rest.

He returned to the bedroom and stepped into his walk-in closet. Sprawled beneath the rack of trousers, clad only in a single glass stiletto and stinking of gin, was the last straggler.

There's always one.

--Dick Margulis


Like autumn's dead leaves
unused Guess the Plots litter
Blogger cyberspace

--Marissa Doyle

Gentle fall of words
Shredded on a blog that proves
those who can't, critique.


Oh My Evil One!
Smear your blue ink over me
And correct my tense.


Miss Snark's Therapy Session

"I did as you suggested in our last session, doctor. I quit blogging." Miss Snark kicked off her stilettos to avoid gouging another hole in the couch.

"Good," Betelbaum said. "It's not easy to beat an addiction, but we'll get through it."

"But Dr. Betelbaum, something doesn't feel right. I don't feel . . . discrete. It's as though I'm losing my sense of self." She glanced nervously at an old painting of New York City on the wall.

"That's normal. You see, Miss Snark, you are a fiction. A composite of the ordinary and the spectacular from the life of another, with a dose of the unreal. The feeling of addiction that you have felt was the projection of another. Being cut loose, you begin to exist only in memories, which are unreliable."

Miss Snark reached down and picked up Killer Yapp. As she stroked his head, her hand reached deep into his fur -- too deep, seeming to pass through his skin. "I'm afraid."

"Don't be. It's part of the natural order. We grow, we change, and parts of us are lost in the process." He pushed a plate of toffee toward her, but she refused. "Even as you pass on, just picture all of the lives that you touched. Will that let you smile on your way out?"

Miss Snark stared at her hands, slowly passing them through one another. Little sparkles of light flitted about inside like faeries. She forced a smile. "Yes. Thank you, Dr. Betelbaum." She rose, drifted over to the painting with Yapp in her arms, and faded out through its cracked surface.

"It was my pleasure," he whispered at the wall. He checked his watch, smiled, and faded into his chair.


"I did as you suggested in our last session, doctor. I quit blogging." Miss Snark kicked off her stilettos to avoid gouging another hole in the couch.

"Good," Betelbaum said. "It's not easy to beat an addiction, but we'll get through it."

"I'm not so sure I shouldn't have kept the blog and quit my job. The blog made me the most famous literary agent in the world. Now it'll probably be Kristin with her damned iPod."


"It's unbelievable. Kristin Nelson's form rejection slip:

STATUS: Plowing through the slush that built up while I was off at yet another conference. Currently reading yours.

What's playing on the iPod: KEEP YOUR DAY JOB, by The Grateful Dead.

We apologize in advance for this form letter. Best of luck elsewhere."

"Getting back to you, Miss Sn--"

"Even when she's submitting her clients' manuscripts to publishers, she manages to work in what's playing on her fucking iPod. Christ."

"Are you finished?"

"Look, Betelbaum, I've made a mistake. What's more satisfying? One of my Snarklings hitting it big, or unloading one of my clients' crappy books on some clueless publisher?"

"Has one of your Snarklings ever hit it big?"

"Of course not. They're all nitwits. But they're my nitwits." She sighed. "If I could just find a client capable of putting out a mega-seller, I could afford to retire and go back to blogging."

"Have I mentioned to you that I've written--"

"Quiet, Betelbaum, I'm thinking. I wonder if Evil Editor's planning Novel Deviations 3." She grabbed her purse. "See you next week. I got an email to send."


What Am I?

Guess what's being described. Then use your cursor to highlight the answer.

Slowly, fearfully she inched forward, hoping beyond hope that all of their wishes might be granted. They had come so far, endured so much . . . he couldn't deny them. One by one the three before her made their requests, and seemed pleased with his responses. But her . . . would he give her what she wanted? Could he? She didn't think so. There's no place like home, she thought. She so wanted to be back home, to have this over with. She asked him. Lightning flashed, thunder crashed, a disembodied voice crackled unintelligibly. Overwhelmed with fear, she held her ground and meekly repeated her request. -- EE Going through a McDonalds drive-through on a stormy night at closing time.

It was my favorite part of the grocery store. The aromas wafted over me like a neap tide of mango puree. Tomatoes. Avocados. Peaches the size of apples. Apples the size of Casabas. Casabas the size of volleyballs. And then I saw them, calling to me from the tropical fruit rack like the sirens to Odysseus, like a bird feeder to a squirrel. I had to have them. I squeezed them. Soft and yet firm. I buried my face in the entire rack and sniffed deeply. A state of perfect ripeness. Did I dare sneak a taste, here in the store? Could I even resist? -- EE
The breasts of Kroger produce clerk Margarita Sanchez

I looked at the framed glass rectangle before me and was struck not by the natural beauty, not by the classic wool coat or the pince-nez, but by those magnificent muttonchops. Try as I might, I could not take my eyes away. -- EE
Staring out the window at a bespectacled man hacking a sheep to death with an ax.

Detective Story

I had just wrapped up an ugly divorce case and was pouring gin in my office when in walks this leggy dame. One look at the lamé stilettos and the coiffed poodle in her arms and I knew this broad was class. "What can I do you for?" I asked, sitting down and propping up my wing tips.

"I need to find someone. Tonight." She leaned across the desk, gravity doing a number on her blouse. That got my attention fast. Damn yap of a dog had to spoil it by growling.

"Yeah? Who? Boyfriend? Ex-lover?"

"Editor. I've got a hot title going to auction. I need to know if he wants a piece of the action. Seems I picked up one of his minions for a client and she insists he get a look. Nitwits -- both of 'em."

She was an agent with attitude. I liked that. "Got a name?"

"Evil Editor. That's all I have."

"Got a tight deadline there. It'll cost. Two bills."

"You get one. Half now, half when you deliver."

She was a tough negotiator. "Deal." I held out my hand. She slapped a pen in it, then tossed a contract on my desk. Funny thing was, I knew this Evil Editor. Not him personally, but his type. Big shot wanting to pretend he's just some normal working grunt. Scamming his way through life. I must have seen it two, three hundred times in my line of work. Finding him? That was easy. There may be eight million people in the Naked City, but really, how many are brilliant editors?

So I hooked the agent broad and editor up. Now they've got this sweet deal. Some 10-book series about zombie cows and brutal eunuchs. Me? I got a great story idea out of it. Just gotta get it down on paper. Then . . . hell, how hard can it be to write a query letter?


It began like any other manuscript, a divertissement of words and phrases, a Dionysian triptych of archaic discourse veering off into idiom destined to assault the modern and celebrate the old.

"Are you this PI Frank Malone?" EE said, perusing my work.

"Who else?"

"Mary, Queen of Scots." EE's eyes scanned pages faster than a taxi leaving a slum. "There's no ending, no climax, no ejaculatory, meaningless denouement to satisfy the reader."

"I've got sequels," I told him.

"Sequels. Ambitious case, detective, ambitious case." EE looked at me, resplendent in my grubby fedora.

"It's the epic story of a PI struggling with money and marriage, a narrative of a hard, fast and furious life." My trenchcoat flapped like an old oscillating fan. The squalid fragrance of long abandoned manuscripts filled the air.

"Hah! Most people . . . " EE stopped to scan another chapter. " . . . want Paris jailed, Lohan showing snatch, Britney naked. Not sheep farmers becoming pope or self-discovery during the enlightenment. They want sweaty musclemen dying senseless, bloody deaths with swords. They want violence and profanity."

"But this is a razor-fine rendering of contemporary mores with intelligent characters learning about life as good and evil outcomes are visited on subsequent generations." I folded my arms, hardened my gaze, set my feet.

"You brought me autobiographical literary fiction?" EE paused to swallow a mouthful of cold java before continuing. No need to wait for affirmation. "Make your main character a sexually ambivalent midget, introduce some aliens, invent time travel, include a crazed, Cassandra-like prophet and add druggies, prostitutes and car wrecks. Then you might have something." EE dangled the manuscript back like a dead fish. "Shorten by half, Malone. Make it hard-bitten and resubmit. Meanwhile, NEXT CASE!"


I had a temp dame minding the outer office while Chimera was on vacation. She buzzed, me, said there was a client waiting. She showed him in. He reminded me of Ben Franklin. Long gray hair. Pince-nez. Kite. Called himself Evil Editor. Sounded like an alias. "That how you're gonna sign the check?" I asked him. He tossed a wad of bills on my desk. I riffled it. Sounded like twenty G's. He had my attention.

"I've written a book," he said. He had a voice like a man who'd smoked two packs of Camel unfiltered a day for twenty years and then switched to Virginia Slims. "Romantic comedy. Funniest book since the sixth Stephanie Plum mystery."

"I'm listening," I lied.

"I need an agent with a sense of humor. One who'll appreciate my work. I need Miss Snark."


"That's what she goes by. All I can tell you is gin is her beverage of choice, she has a yappy poodle, and she wears Manolos."

"You just described half the women in the 212," I told him.

"I didn't say it was gonna be easy," he said. "Can you find her or not?"

"Depends. Twenty grand don't go far in Manhattan."

He tossed another wad of hundreds onto my desk.

"And an acknowledgement in the book?" I asked.

"Of course."

I reached into my bottom drawer and pulled out the directory and flipped to S. I scanned down until I reached Snark Literary Agency. That was easy, easier than buying a politician in an election year. I circled the number, tore out the page, and handed it to Editor.

"You're kidding," he said. "It's her real name?"

"So it seems."

He grabbed for the forty grand, but I was quicker. He walked out wearing the same scowl he came in with.

Something tells me I won't be getting that acknowledgement.

--Evil Editor

I usually don’t work for mobs. It turns ugly real fast. They walked into my office calling themselves The Minions and gave me a sob story about their missing Evil Editor. With a name like that, I knew right away the guy had to be a flimflam artist. He probably took the run-out after giving them the Chinese squeeze, and now they were looking to dress him in a wooden kimono six feet under. But they had the dough, and I needed it worse than a hood needs a dame after a three spot. So I took the job.

All I had to go on was his name and a picture. But the picture looked like it was drawn by my idiot nephew, and the harlots on 42nd didn't recognize the face. The rats and the stool pigeons weren’t talking either, even after I put the screws on. So I did what I always do on a tough case. I dropped a twenty on Sammy’s bartop and waited till it turned into bourbon. “Tough one, Frank?”

“Maybe.” I slipped Sammy the picture. “Seen this guy around?”

But before he could answer I was jostled by a scarred up skid who smelled like a half-eaten tuna sandwich left to cook on July asphalt. He shoved an empty glass at Sammy and grunted. Then lurched his way toward the back room.

Sammy tapped the picture. “Sure, I seen him, Frank. He’s back there right now. With the skids.”

“This guy? You sure?”

Sammy nodded. “They been here a week straight.”

“I’ll be damned.” I threw another twenty down for Sammy and stood up. There must've been twenty of them packed in the room, and there was Evil Editor, right in the middle, dancing a jig on the table and chugging straight tequila. It had to be him. Those gray muttonchops were unmistakable.

Who woulda figured he liked to party with zombies?


Pirate Literary Agent (Also, a Parrot)

When I walked into the room, I expected to pitch my book, but I was put on the defensive immediately: "Come in, come in, sit down . . . My God, I can tell just by looking at you that you'll never make it in this business. Why don't you take up painting or knitting and save yourself a lot of grief and save me the trouble of having to break it to you that you'll never amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world? You couldn't at least dress like a professional instead of wearing that ridiculous Evil Editor shirt? Is that supposed to impress me? And now I suppose you want to pitch your truly unique novel. No! Don't tell me, let me guess, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back. But with a twist. Did I get it? Wait, I know, it's about vampires! That's original. Vampires on the Titanic! They drain the captain's blood so he can't steer around the iceberg, and then while everyone's drowning, the vampires turn into bats and fly to Maine. Nice try, but vampires on the Titanic is the third most submitted plot, right behind soul mates meeting but thanks to a series of incredible misunderstandings hating each other's guts for 350 pages at which point they laugh it all off and live happily ever after, and going back in time to kill Hitler. Anyway, time's up, thanks for stopping by, and send in whoever's next."

"Listen," I said, "I came here to pitch my novel to an agent. Now would you shut your damn parrot up so I can get a word in edgewise?"

"Arrr, matey."

"And while you're at it you can tell feather-face he's way off; it's vampires on the Andrea Doria."

--Evil Editor

Once upon a noontime dreary,
While I wandered lost and weary
Searching for that agent most respected,
I came upon my doom when I came upon the room
Where my appointment was expected;
Where I hoped my work would be selected,
Sweet novel now perfected.

With no further hesitation,
I went in with aspiration
Eager to confirm what I suspected.
When with a flirt and flutter, the agent moved to utter,
"Sit yer arse down and let's be 'earin' yer suggested."
Though her dress and mien were unexpected
I quickly did as she directed.

I marvelled at her breeches velvet,
Leather sash and satin jacket --
A pirate captain? So her clothes suggested.
But what struck my fancy fair was the bird upon her chair,
A parrot poised, and by my presence unaffected.
"Well, hello there!" I ejected.
Quoth the parrot, "You're rejected."

Still I'd come to make a deal,
So I plunged into my spiel,
Determined that my talent be detected.
"Aargghh," the agent scritched, when I finished up my pitch.
"That there book should be quartered and dissected."
"But if you'd just read it," I quickly interjected.
Quoth the parrot, "You're rejected."

"Time's up!" The agent swore, pointing cutlass at the door.
I felt trod down, unworthy and dejected,
She'd rammed my life's boat and left my dreams afloat,
So from that wretched room I fast defected.
And in my soul it echoes still, the judgment thus inflected:
That cruel refrain, that oft-heard strain, "Author, you're rejected."


Miss Snark, literary agent, spends Friday night . . .

blubbering. In the morning she burns the shoe boxes and computer containing her seven unpublishable novels, and gets a new tattoo in preparation for her blind date with Arnold Patterson, pizza driver. Is she at rock bottom yet?

The dame had finally come unhinged. Papers were strewn everywhere. The room smelled like bathtub gin, smoke, and failure. Only the smoke was new.

Lemme start by saying I've killed before. Not proud of it, but it keeps the kibble in my bowl. I once shot a man just fifteen feet from his old lady. Don't get me wrong; he'd been scamming prose-pushers for fourteen years. He had it coming to him. His old lady, though, she had nothing to do with it. I let myself feel sorry for her. She cried the carpet wet enough to drown a fish.

That woman had nothing on my dame.

I've never been good at dealing with nothing on two legs, so I decided I'd grab myself a London Dry and get out of her way. If I stayed, she'd throw something, and I'd be stuck cleaning up the mess. Then I saw it: her arm'd been inked. “Arnold Patterson,” written in a blood-red heart. My own heart just about stopped. They say the boy delivers for Paccinis, but my mole tells me what's in those boxes don't taste good with parmesan.

The name's Yap. I wear a tam.


EE's New Year's Eve Visitor

Evil Editor's unpaid assistant had been reading slush sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, ever since college had let out for Christmas vacation. "I want to go home," she said. "It's Sunday, it's New Year's Eve, and it's freezing in here."

"I told you before," Evil Editor told her again, "if you get cold, shovel some manuscripts into the furnace. Heating fuel is expensive. Manuscripts are a dime a dozen. And not my dime."

"But I worked Christmas. And I have a date. Have a heart, Master."

"All right, already," EE told her. "Anything's better than listening to your whining. Be back by five A.M., or you can forget about that job recommendation."

Five minutes passed. There came a knock on the door. "Now who could that be at eleven o'clock New Year's Eve?" Evil Editor grumbled.

He opened the door. "Ah, Veronique," he said. "I was afraid you'd forgotten about our annual get-together."

"Don't call me that! Someone could be listening."

"Where's the poodle? What's his name again? Vaseline?"

"That line wasn't funny when you used it last year. And nothing's gonna be funny now, not after reading 700 crappy hooks in two weeks. Pour me a tall one."


"No, nitwit, skim milk. Of course gin."

"I couldn't help noticing that by the time you reached the 400's you were panning obvious Pulitzer prospects and requesting pages on mule crap."

"I'm surprised you could tell the difference. I printed them off, put them on the floor, and whichever ones KY peed on I asked for pages. Hell, I'd have been working till August if I'd kept reading them."

"Look on the bright side, you dashed the hopes of 90 percent of them, and next week you can take down the other 10 percent."

"Aw, Eb. I mean EE. You always know the right thing to say to cheer me up."

"Maybe we should start our 'celebration' a little early. I've changed the sheets since last year."

"Sheets? No, I have a better idea. Tip over those piles of manuscripts and spread them on the floor. We'll give the authors what they deserve--literally."

"Ah, Miss S. Happy New Year."

Opening: EE....Continuation: Anonymous

Evil Editor's Vacation Disaster

Evil Editor stood in his stocking feet while his loafers and duffel bag made their ponderous journey under the security X-ray. Whistling the Trini Lopez version of “Lemon Tree,” he stuffed his hands in his pockets and tried to avoid eye contact with the pear-shaped woman who had just run the wand over him. She’d noticed not only that his socks were different colors, but that one was a sports sock, and the other wool. Her grin was insufferably smug.

Clutching his economy-class boarding pass, Evil tried to think of Margaritas, white sand and thong bikinis, but his reveries were interrupted when he noticed another guard and his supervisor arguing over the contents of his duffel bag. What the hell? All he had in there were a couple manuscripts--self-flagellation in case he started to actually enjoy his vacation.

A moment later, the supervisor disappeared into a back room, and the guard returned and grabbed Evil by the arm. “If you’ll come with me, sir?”

“I don’t understand,” Evil said as the guard dragged him toward the door. “Is there a problem?”
“It’s best if you just come quietly, sir.”

Evil’s stomach flopped when he was thrust through the door and saw what awaited him. The supervisor stood inside, clutching a horribly recognizable package. An eager gleam lit his eye. Behind him, Evil heard the snap of latex as the guard pulled on a rubber glove.

“No . . . ” Evil protested weakly, knowing it was useless.

“I saw those manuscripts in your bag,” the supervisor began. “I was wondering if you’d look at my novel--it’s a 250,000-word thriller. If you do, I’m sure the cavity search can be avoided.”

Evil Editor shook his head and threw up his arms in obsequious resignation. “Okay," he said. "You leave me no choice. But while you're in there, could you check my prostate?”



Accretivizing – adding word count to your novel by going through everything you’ve taken out and slowly but surely putting most of it back in--Robin S.

Biblioenvy - A jealousy disorder that strikes unpublished writers when other unpublished writers score a book deal--whoever

Countarrhea - A condition that causes the writer to uncontrollably spew words onto the page, resulting in excessive word count; usually accompanied by . . .

Countstipation - the inability to trim said word count--whoever

Despondensase--The emotion that follows the realization that you failed to include a SASE with the query you mailed yesterday--Evil Editor

Ejacugiggle: Orally, or nasally, spewing a beverage on to computer hardware in a fit of uncontrollable laughter.--blogless_troll

Fraudspew: Falsely claiming to have ejacugiggled in order to gain the acceptance of one's peers--blogless_troll

Hara-Query: The act of writing a query so bad that it kills your chances of getting a request for a partial.--Bunnygirl

Insuffishink - The inevitable condition of a printer that's been told to print your entire novel, such that when you return to the room, all but four pages are too light, and must be reprinted--EE

Masqueriade - a query pretending to represent a good manuscript--Church Lady

Mass Market - book marketing relying mostly on prayer--Bill Highsmith

Optimisappointment: The disconnect between the initial enthusiasm a writer feels upon submitting a work for critique and the soul shredding contempt the work receives once people read it--blogless_troll

Plotvomit: A query writing technique in which an author spews a multitude of random, irrelevant, and often pointless plot lines into a query, in the hopes an agent or editor will welcome the author’s artistic brilliance in lieu of a story--blogless_troll

Pomposify: To make a work of fiction more literary by adding “: A Novel” to its title--blogless_troll

Pseudohook: An engaging, attention-grabbing first sentence having no apparent connection to the remainder of the query or story--blogless_troll

Queranality - retyping your query six times, each time making one inconsequential change, in the fear that the recipient is as hard-nosed as you are anal--EE

Querialization - the act of sending out a batch of queries where only the names and addresses of the recipients is changed--Smidly

Querivelocity - the speed with which a plotless and crappy query sails from an editor's/agent's hands into the trashcan--Robin S.

Submission Guy Lines - Elaborate rules surrounding the process of becoming published, which, like the ones outside a tent, you know are there, but you trip over them anyway--ME

Synapsis - Jangled nerves, often caused by the realization that the synopsis you sent off sucks--EE

Uniqueryism: The belief that the person to whom you're sending your query has not seen ten identical queries in the past 24 hours--EE