An unselfish wish made on the horn of a unicorn will come true. Our wish? To support the writing community by giving constructive tips and criticism through submissions. Check out the submissions tab for more information. We can survive the crucible of fire together.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Interview with L. Blankenship

Welcome to Unicorn Bell! (That's for all the A-Z'ers!)

We here at UB aren't 'technically' doing a theme...but I wanted to do something fun that helped promote newly published authors...

So I put together a fun little interview for these newly published authors to answer...

This week I will post their answers! Let's Begin!


1) Name of you and Title of your Book.
L. Blankenship, author of Disciple, Part II. Oh, and Part I also. More about L's books here.



2) Do you prefer to write in your PJ's or Jeans/t-shirt?
Jeans and t-shirt. But no shoes.

3) Salty? Sweet? Or Carrot Sticks with Hummus?
All of the above!

4) If you were going to be stranded on an island alone for a year what three things would you be so glad to not have to deal with for that year?
1. Housecleaning
2. Squirrels in the attic
3. Holidays

5) TV Shows or Movies? Why? (We all know Books come first...!)
That's a tough one, but I'd take a well-written TV series over a movie. Because the series can tackle longer storylines…. assuming it doesn't fall on its face in the process.

6) What is your absolute Favorite part of the writing process? 
Brainstorming! Closely followed by world-building

7) What secret, non-writing related, skill do you have?
Knitting/crocheting. It helps me think.

8) Who do you most wish would knock on your door, RIGHT NOW!
Someone who could patch the squirrel-sized holes in the attic for free.

9) What is your favorite flavor Jolly Rancher?
Don't care for any of them, actually.

10) Write a 50 word (or so) flash using these 5 words. 
 TURTLE, GLADIATOR, CRAMP, TOAST, KEY

Be a gladiator, they said. Hear the crowd roar, take your pick of the groupies. Nothing about the cramps or the sunburn, needing lock and key to keep your gear safe… or stumbling down to the kitchen and finding a turtle eating your toast. I must've finally lost my mind.

Thank you L.! Make sure you head to Amazon, and Goodreads to find her marvelous books!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Action crit #4: strong language

Last one! I have nothing planned for tomorrow, but if you pitch a question in the comments I'll be glad to take a swing at it.
-----
High and low flutters resonated from a flock of rising pigeons. Alerted by fresh scuffs on the ground ahead, Raymond crouched under a fern beside Torsi and peered through the cover of tree trunks. Two men shuffled along, carrying a burden in a net. Hides of long, shaggy, black hair covered their shoulders.

Kicking kings! They hadn't . . .  Tension replaced tiredness as Raymond examined the bulk sagging in the centre of the net. The unconscious Sentry, with his skin intact. "They've got the dog!"

"Men from Beartown," Torsi whispered. "They live close to Lant and the swamp. Low lives." He gestured with his finger, signalling to circle the men. "Watch out for their knives."

Enraged, Raymond dodged through trees until he reached the spot opposite Torsi with the dog thieves between them. He nodded to Torsi, who hunkered lower and advanced. They'd gone through the tactic many times in Hailing in case they met enemies and needed defense during a hunt. >>Need a better phrase here... in case they had to ambush enemies? In case they ran afoul of enemies?

Raymond sprinted out of cover. The roar he gave should keep all the attention on him. He flung his spear at the closest man. The tip bounced off the shaggy hide. The men dropped their burden although Sentry didn't move. With grunts of rage, they grasped their knives and faced him, knees bent and elbows spread as if ready to fly at him. >>You said the hide was just on their shoulders -- why didn't he aim lower? Plenty to hit.

Raymond growled and gave a hand signal to his friend. He charged while Torsi advanced on bent knees. When the man slashed out, Raymond twisted out of reach. Both fur-clad men faced him. With Torsi in place behind their knees, Raymond attacked, knocking their chests with the heels of his hands so they toppled backwards over Torsi. >>How'd he hit both at once, and how was Torsi under both at once? Because while he's knocking one down, the other should be stabbing him...

 A sharp pain stung his arm. He and Torsi dived on top of their bodies and wrestled their knives away.

Determined to maintain the upper position, Raymond pounded the head of the smelly man below him. The smacking sound sickened him, but he fought on. A jab caught him on the chin. Swallowing a spurt of sweet irony blood, Raymond punched again. Unable to dodge the fellow's fist, pain exploded beside one eye. He landed a desperate jab on the fellow's throat. His opponent squawked and sagged. Raymond's arm throbbed. Relief battled with his regret although the unconscious thief deserved punishment. >>Irony: wrong adjective. Unable to dodge: this sounds like it's describing Raymond's punch, but it isn't. Regret: what? If he wants to keep beating on the guy, he certainly can.

Grunts and groans came from the other scuffle. Breathing fast, Raymond grabbed his spear and revolved to face his friend.

The fur-clad man struggled out from under Torsi, who smashed the guy's bloodied nose and straddled him again.

One of the fellow's hands scrabbled beneath his garments, but came away empty. Smearing his bloody nose with a swipe, the near-sighted badger gurgled, "'Kay, I give up."

Raymond brandished his weapon. "We'll take our dog."

"Go on. Didn't know he was yours." The man bared his rotten teeth. "My mistake." He leered. "Bear food. She likes to kill her prey."

Raymond growled through his pain and shortness of breath. "What have you done to him?"

The stranger eased onto his elbow. "Put his head in a bag of rotten gas to make him sleep." He studied his companion, who sprawled nearby. "Is he all right?" >>What's Torsi doing?

"Don't know and don't care." Raymond jerked the man's arm to ensure his attention. No sign of the knife, which must be beneath his thighs.

"We've got to get away from this place before the blue men find us." The badger's eyes darted around.

"You should have thought before you came." Raymond pricked the fellow's chest with his spear for good measure, rolled him and snatched the knife. "Stay where you are." >>A spear kinda needs two hands to be effective...

Torsi jogged over to Sentry. "He's breathing."

Scowling, Raymond used a low, threatening tone. "He'd better be." He jabbed the knife in the fellow's direction and growled, "Keep perfectly still."

The bloodied man raised his arms, palms forward.

Using his foot, Raymond pushed the fellow's upper body down again.

"I won't give you any bother."

"You'd better not." Raymond strode over to the prone dog. They could slip away before the conscious man straightened up anyway. >>I doubt it

He and Torsi hoisted up the carrier. With another scowl towards the conscious man, they left at a jog, carrying Sentry slung in the net. >>An excellent time to be attacked -- with their hands full

"Nice net," Torsi said.

Raymond glanced at Sentry's relaxed face, tongue lolling. "That seemed way too easy," Raymond said. "Better run."

Chapter 49

The jolt in her tender ankle pitched Ginny sideways. She grasped at one of the rough wooden logs inside Larna's dwelling and leaned against the wall. Inhaling, she gritted her teeth and tried again with additional support. Could she manage on her own?

A fresh afternoon breeze swirled into the room. Larna, carrying the container of food scraps, traipsed outside. >>maybe it's just me, but "traipse" always sounds childish to me, or at least judgmental. (oh, he's traipsing around out there wasting time, I bet.) Be more specific.

Ginny stared at the open doorway, then limped to the exit. This might be her chance. Determined to try, she gripped the rail outside and eased one foot after the other down the steps, hoping Larna was in the rear garden.

With a lurch, she headed through the gate, each breath laboured. The pain from the next steps told her to sit, but she emerged through the gate after ten trembling paces. >>where is she now?

"Ginny." A man's voice, familiar in its deep tone.

She turned, unsure what to expect. Relief surged through her at the sight of Eric. "Where did you come from?"

"No time to explain. You need to stay here."

Confused, she gasped, "Wha ..." She grasped his arm for support.

"I'll get you out tonight. Be dressed and ready." His firm grip guided her back over the short distance towards captivity.

Defeated, Ginny melted like ice in the sunshine until nothing remained of her substance. However, she could never have reached the end of the walkway alone to breathe the tempting fresh air under the trees. >>But she did, you said she got through the gate...

When she studied the man beside her, a memory rose of another time--of friendship during their childhood together in the rare moments when she snatched time to play before sleeping. >>why is this relevant?

Eric had come looking for her but how did he find her? Could this be real?

Larna appeared from the rear of the dwelling, frowned and hurried over. "Hey, you. What are you doing?"

Eric's disarming smile revealed familiar crooked teeth. "I found her wandering."

"Oh, the poor wee thing. She's not strong enough to walk on her own." Larna nudged Eric aside and took Ginny's arm. "Here, lean on me." When they reached the entrance, Larna swivelled back. "Thank you, stranger. Where are you staying?"

"With Bruce and May."

"Ah. That's all right then." Inside the warm cocoon, Larna closed the door, then her face dropped.

Ginny studied this particular spider's smooth, wooden floor. No escape from the web unless she took the help Eric offered.

* * *
Breath ragged, Raymond slowed the pace and adjusted his hold on the front of the litter ahead of Torsi. A trickling sound drew him on. At the stream, Raymond paused. "Put him down." With a grunt, he lowered the unconscious dog in the net snatched from the bearmen. Torsi's movement jolted his arm. A searing sting sent a fresh reminder of the wound. "Are you all right?" >>You've been deliberately vague about this, despite that in this situation he ought to take a good look at it. Unless the wound happened before this scene?

"A bit sore." Torsi ran his knuckles over his cheek. "Glad we got away with our rescue."

"Me too. I'll see if he'll drink." Raymond couldn't shake off the sensation he'd lose Ginny forever if he let Sentry die.

Torsi, long hair dangling over his face, leaned over the animal. "Water might bring him round."

"I hope the thieving badger told the truth and they haven't poisoned him with sap from the yew tree. I hate that tree." >>Not relevant. Also, are they getting water for the dog or are they just standing there?

"No, look." Torsi pointed. "His eyes are open."

A weapon walloped Raymond's head. Buckling, he shot a glance at the crumpling Torsi. Pain seared through his skull, dulling his senses. Pinned with his face in the dirt, he huffed out soil. >>See below. This is a good paragraph with that one line deleted.

A menacing voice, hollow and disconnected, rang in his ears. "You didn't think we'd let you get away, did you?"

>>This is where he glances at Torsi, sees that he's down too. Torsi's chest moved, so he wasn't dead.

"This is better than a dog," a deep voice said. "Which man shall we take?"

"Why not both?"

Raymond thrashed about. The other bearman must have recovered. >>Think first, then thrash.

"Yeah. Maybe one of them can survive the pit."

"The harvest won't go well unless she produces a baby." >>People don't talk about things they both know unless they're in a TV show. Keep this info for later.

"Take the dog too. They'd like that."

"No. We need our arms for the men." >>Given that they only take one of the two, why "men"?

Words drifted like dandelion seeds while Raymond struggled to rise.

"Hit him again."

"Then we'd have to carry him too. Let's take this guy. He can walk. It's a long way back to Beartown."

"What about the other fellow?"

"Leave him with the dog." The muffled voice faded. "Is he out?"

"I'll wallop him, just to be sure. Don't want him following."

The voice beside Raymond rose in volume. "Get up. We've got to move."

Kicking kings! Darned if he would move. >>"darn"? LOL. This situation calls for stronger language!

"Douse him in the stream."

Arms grabbed him. Raymond dug his shoes into the earth, disturbing stones and soil while they dragged his unwilling body towards the bank. After an intake of breath, chilled water engulfed him.
-----

Green highlighter is phrases and words that feel weak, that water down the action, or are redundant. Notice that they stop toward the end! I kinda wish you'd left out that middle scene so we could see more of what's going on in the woods. (they're in the woods, right?)

In general, action scenes call for strong language -- mostly the verbs, though swearing works too. They're going to feed me to a bear. Darn! :) This ties back in with the idea that short sentences feel fast. Short, strong verbs feel fast, too. Kick, punch, hit, bite, stab, thrash, rip, slam, crush, bang -- you can practically hear the thudding and splattering. Break complicated moves into shorter pieces, whenever you can.

It may feel... stupid, using a lot of short, simple sentences, but they'll read faster. Save the longer stuff for a moment of emotional reaction, to break up the action.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Action crit #3: fighting against a greenscreen

Author says: Landry's magical power is the ability to use other mages powers as his own when in proximity or when touching. Talia is his wife, they communicate telepathically.

-----
The transport didn’t make it to the palace. Half way there the alarms sounded and Landry patched into the COM system.

“Talia, we’re needed in the commercial district. Promise me you’ll stay inside.” Landry pulled a HEP (High Energy Plasma) out of a locker and strapped it to his hip before grabbing a CC2 off the wall.
“I thought you didn’t like using the crowd controller?” Talia watched as the other men grabbed their weapons.

“It’s a last resort. Now stay inside.” He kissed her on the forehead as the transport landed. “I mean it.”

Landry led his men out the door and Talia heard the roar of angry voices before it closed behind him. She raced to the cockpit where the pilot sat listening to the COM chatter. >>Quibble: who did she race?

“What’s going on?” She sat in the copilot’s chair.

“There was an altercation between two men at this restaurant that has grown into a full blown riot.” He pulled up a view screen to show the scene outside. A cluster of men brawled in the street while others circled to watch. Fists pummeled faces and bodies as the struggle progressed. And then Talia saw it. >>Definition quibble: riots involve large groups of people acting en masse to destroy property and attack individuals/small groups. What follows here sounds more like brawl, to me. A fracas. Perhaps a melee or a donnybrook (that's a fun word.) Partly because the soldiers don't use usual police tactics for breaking up riots -- no tear gas, no mention of billy clubs -- and just join in. Partly because I'm not clear on how many people are involved. 

A flash of light blossomed and a man flew backwards.

“He’s using magic! Why is he fighting with magic?”

The pilot mumbled something about playing dirty, but Talia was distracted as Landry and his men moved into the fray. The fighters ignored the command to break it up but several onlookers scattered. Talia gasped as one of the mage sent a blue wave of energy toward the soldiers. The weak pulse caused men to stumble but it didn’t stop them. >>one of the mages -- though this implies there's more than one? How many are there? And why is the mage bothering with a weak pulse?

Soldiers grabbed men and pulled them off of each other. Landry took a fist to the face. Talia jumped up determined to help but the pilot grabbed her by the arm.

“The Colonel said to stay here.”

“He needs my help!”

The pilot laughed. “You don’t know him that well then. He’s not called the Iron Fist for nothing. Just watch.”

Talia sat on the edge of her seat. The Royalists were now mixed in with all the other men. It took a moment, but she found Landry sparring with a big guy who couldn’t decide between punching and electrical pulses. >>Blue highlighter is me trying to figure out how many groups of people are involved here -- the generic "men" gets in the way a bit. Soldiers = Royalists? How many mages are there, and whose side are they on? How big is this fight? What's going on around it?

Landry grinned as he swapped punch for punch. Whenever the guy tried magic, Landry waved his hand until he had absorbed the wave and shot it back. >>it sounds like that takes a while? Fewer words = quicker action. 

“See, he’s playing with the guy.” The pilot laughed. “Maybe having a Colonel with magic is a good thing after all.”

Talia just stared. It did look like Landry was enjoying himself. How could he stand causing another person pain? Eventually the mob was subdued and loaded into another transport to be taken in for questioning. Landry didn’t look too bad when he returned to the transport, but he did have a busted lip. Talia stood with her hands on her hips waiting for him. >>Subdued... arrested? Tasered? Beaten to a pulp? Be more specific. And how does Landry deal with the guy he was fighting? Let's see him earn that nickname...

“I should leave that lip to heal on its own.”

Landry wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her into the private compartment. Once the door had shut, he backed her up against it.

“I can just do this.” He bent down and bit her lower lip before capturing her mouth. As they kissed, Landry used Talia’s magic to heal his lip and a bruised rib she hadn’t seen. >>LOL, so they have to have equal injuries first?

You can be so frustrating sometimes.

But you love me anyway.
-----

Needs scenery! All I know is that the fight started at "this restaurant" and now it's out "in the street."  That can't have been a graceful transition. And I doubt it's good for rush hour traffic, or whatever's appropriate for this world.

And one question: what's the goal, in this scene? It seems like a brief distraction from whatever else is going on. Nothing's at stake and nothing's gained. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Action crit #2: be specific!

------
"Saved?" his father replied from his place somewhere in the ranks of Herald's siblings, his voice deathly low. "Harbinger, show him what I think of his offer."

With a wild grin, his brother raised his sword high and lunged at the man.

Light flared across the courtyard. Herald threw up his hand, furiously blinking away the glaring after-effects. The faint smell of scorched flesh drifted on the wind. Just like when his newest sister, now the tenth youngest, had once attempted to walk outside. Sunlight. They'd brought the sun inside? But how could that be? They were meant to be safe in the shadows.

He lowered his hand to the sound of his brother's snarl. Harbinger had recoiled from the man, scrubbing madly at his face. >>who's this man?

The man's lips pressed into a grim smile. "So be it." There was a brief flicker of a small object as he tucked away whatever strange weapon he'd used and stepped into the shadows. Calmly drawing his sword, the man attacked the still distracted form of Herald's brother. >>again, who? 

Herald rushed forward to stop him, a cry of warning humming through his throat. >>a cry and a hum are very different things... which was it?

He was too late. The man reached Harbinger first and, with his brother still rubbing his eyes, the metal met no resistance as it slid into living flesh.

His brother stiffened. The hand dropped from his face. Mouth agape, he stared at the sword imbedded in his chest. Blood coated the blade sticking out the back, dripping from the point onto the dry ground. His lifted his head, gaze searching then locking with Herald's. He stretched a hand towards him. "Broth-"

No. Herald watched as the blue and whites of his brother's eyes turn black. All colour drained from the barely tanned skin, leaving it ghostly pale. If it wasn't for the dark stripe the shining object had left across his brother's face and the faint stubble adorning his chin, he would've been the exact image of their father; even the dark-brown hair looked black. >>the sword? or something mentioned in a previous scene?

"An unborn," the man hissed, eyes widening as he stepped back to stand on the edge of the shadows. There, he fumbled with the straps of his beltpouch. "So the legends are true." >>this guy needs a name or something...

Harbinger made no effort to answer the man, merely laughing as he fingered the sword hilt. The bleeding had stopped. Hauling on the bloody blade, he slipped it from his body as easily as it had gone in. In one quick move, his brother twisted the sword in the air and, before the man had time to react, dashed forward to jab the weapon up through the man's head. 

Herald stepped back from the pair. The tang of blood drifted on the wind, the scent wriggling its way into his nose. That grin ... The way it twisted his brother's face was not natural. With a giggle that sent a shiver down Herald's spine, Harbinger held up the corpse via the sword, wriggling the blade deeper into the skull until the slack jaw sat against the hilt. Herald shuddered at the grating of metal on bone. >>maybe you've established that Harbinger is really strong, but the human skull is tougher than this. "Jab" doesn't sound violent enough to skewer a skull.

He wasn't one to miss an opportunity to defeat an opponent, but he'd never seen his brother take such delight in mutilating a corpse. The most he'd ever seen Harbinger do to another was drink from the unborns back in hell. Despite the occasional failure, they took care not to kill humans, for his father did not like feeding from dead flesh.

With a sneer of disdain, Harbinger threw the corpse back out into the sunlight and turned to face his siblings. Behind his brother came the cries of horror as the man's companions learnt the full extent of his fate.

Herald hastened to his brother's side. Harbinger didn't appear harmed. Not where it was obvious. But what about his mind? What damage had been done there as he joined his father in becoming strigoi? "Brother-"

"Listen to them," Harbinger said, his voice high with more than amusement. He cocked his head, though the cries were anything but muffled. "Listen to how they mourn their leader's death, like orphaned goats bleating for their herd."

Silent, Herald stared into a face he was longer sure he knew. One look into those inky-dark eyes and the suspicion that his brother was insane fast switched to a surety.

"How strange." His brother's head twitched. Harbinger's eyes narrowed, the chilling gaze boring into him. "I can ... taste your concern." He gave a short laugh. "Do not worry so, brother. I am fine. I now have all the power and strength and freedom to do as I please." He clasped Herald's shoulders, fingers digging into flesh until it bordered on being painful. "You cannot imagine what it's like!"

"You're right." He stepped back, pulling free of his brother's grip. "I don't know." A handful of his siblings had suffered the misfortune of becoming strigoi in the past couple of centuries they'd been here. "And I don't want to." All of them had lost their minds. Many more had gone on to lose the remainder of their lives. And now you're dead. Dead, but still living. Still moving. Still feeling. Still feeding. He didn't want Harbinger to be the next one to share that fate. >>who?

"You don't get to choose, brother." His eyes were wide. Faint images danced along the glossy blackness. "Just one mistake, Herald. That's all it takes. One chance for your heart to stop beating and ...." Laughing, he spread his hands.

The flicker of movement over his brother's shoulder caught his eye. Two men crept forward, poleaxes thrust far ahead of them. Before Herald could utter a word of warning, the spikes jabbed through his brother's body. Harbinger snarled, pain twisting his face, banishing the madness from his eyes.

The men pulled and his brother staggered back towards the open gate. He clasped Harbinger's hand, trying to stop the men from dragging his brother out into the sunlight. His boots slid along the worn cobbles, heels grinding against the dust. >>Pronoun currently refers to Harbinger. And wouldn't he slide off the spikes from all the pulling?

Together, with his brother's strength, wounded though he was, they were enough to stop the two men. Herald tugged, pain flaring in his shoulder. They could halt the men, but not win. Behind him, he could hear the shuffling of his siblings. Were none brave enough to aid him? "Help me!" he screamed over his shoulder.

Beyond the barrier of shadows, he spied another couple grab hold of the shafts. The men hauled and regained ground. He fought to stay put. Keep his brother in the shadows. Harbinger screamed as he stepped into the light. His brother struggled, howling anew as his actions only caused the wounds to enlarge. >>isn't he being dragged?

His grip was slipping. He squeezed his brother's hand harder. It made no difference. The men were strong and kept the spikes pressed hard against his brother's sides. He needed his other hand, but he daren't relinquish his sword for surely the men would attack him. >>this pronoun currently refers to Harbinger. Be more specific about how they're dragging him. 

Ten seconds, he thought. We've ten seconds. Too short a time to bring his brother back into the safety of the castle. Even so ....

Sensing a presence coming at him, he glanced to one side. A sword blade, the steel glinting in the noon light and heading for his head. Herald ducked, his own weapon raised to ward off the blow. His hand slipped from Harbinger's grasp, the sudden lack of resistance throwing him to the cobbles.

Scrambling to one knee, he reached out, blindly seeking his brother's hand. A finger entered the sunlight. An unseen fire licked at his flesh. Teeth gritted at the sensation, Herald shoved aside the pain and reached further. A thousand tiny daggers stabbing at his palm would've hurt less. >>what happened to the guy who distracted Herald? Why's Herald reaching blindly?

Sweat glistened off a face agony had twisted into a sick parody of itself. Harbinger fought to clasp hands. Their fingers briefly touched, missed and touched again. Then .... >>be more specific about why he couldn't grab his brother's hand. I don't see any reason that he couldn't.

Dust.

For a moment, one pure moment, his brother stood before him, brownish-grey ash replacing pallid flesh. Then a gentle breeze blew across the entrance, scattering the frail image over the men sprawled across the ground. Harbinger's clothes crumpled to the ground.

Herald stepped back, faintly aware of arrows flying by his head, the wind of their passage disturbing his hair. Men screamed as they were struck. The hot, heady scent of blood filled the air. Harbinger? Tears welled as he watched the gritty cloud that had been his brother dissipate. >>Herald was on his knees, last we heard. Also, I assume the arrows are coming from Herald's siblings, shooting at the people outside, which makes the next paragraph confusing. The siblings wouldn't go into the deadly sun to grab the fallen clothes, and I don't know why anyone outside would brave arrow fire to grab them? 

Hands grabbed him, hauling him further from the entrance. No. He shoved the people aside and dove for the entrance. There had to be something left. Some small piece of him that could be revived. Brother. Men fell over the clothes. Blood seeped from their wounds, soaking into the ground. Mingling the dust into the age-compacted dirt. Dust to stone. It was no different here. They hadn't escaped hell. They'd brought it with them.
-----

Green highlighter marks words and phrases that could be stronger and more visceral. Mostly, your word choices are pretty good, but the vague/generic stuff comes in clumps here and there. And this "the man" needs a name, even if it's only one that Herald gives him. "The man" is vague and generic, too. Be specific.

Another point: Herald doesn't seem to do much until Harbinger's being dragged away. Maybe you've established why already in the story, but it comes across as not caring too much.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Action crit #1: perceived time

(cracks knuckles and sharpens red pencil -- let's crit some action!)

-----
There are no windows, but bulbs on the ceiling shed plenty of bright, white light. For every few feet along its length stands a Genocider, gun held across the heart.  

We walk slower. 

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” says Mindy for the first time since entering the hole. She whispers without moving her lips.

I take in the white porcelain tiles that line the sides of the tunnel. It’ll be easy to wash off the blood. “Holocaust.”

Mindy nods. “Gas Chambers.” >>Lowercase

“Before Gas Chambers. When they lined them up in ditches and shot them one by one.”

“One of the classes I didn’t pay attention in.” >>So these people are called "Genociders"... but we're not sure what their intentions are?

We keep on shuffling. I start to think out loud. “Wonder if they’ll start in the back or the front. Not in the middle. That will create too much of a panic.”

“Where are we?”

I can’t tell too well. “A little closer to the front from the middle,” I guess. >>than, rather than from

“At least we’re closer to the end of the tunnel.”

“Maybe there’s no end to the tunnel.” The words slip past my lips. “The way we came in could be the only way out.”

I don’t regret the broken look on Mindy’s face. Optimism has gotten me this far, but now I leave it behind me. This is our situation and I’ll tell it as it is. I won’t do what I did to Joanna, for the sake of both Mindy and me. I take her hand and squeeze.

“By the devil I swear.” Mindy mutters. “We’re going to make it out. You’re going to make it out, Sibyl.”

A guard is looking at us suspiciously, so we stop talking. 

My shoulders tense up as we continue walking nowhere. I roll them back, hunch them up. I don’t know what’s taking them so long. It’s inevitable that they have to start killing at some time. There are too many of us. I know that.

But still my body takes over when I see the glint of a raised pistol. I find myself pushing a girl in front of me forward. The bullet arcs behind her skull and hits the porcelain wall instead. >>use a more active description here

The front receives an order to stop moving. Genociders swarm up and down our line. They pick out a boy from my School called Sloane. It must be his arms that give him away as a Boxer. >>first sentence: a gunshot in a tile-lined hall is going to be pretty loud. I would think panic would break out instantly, and it'll take a lot more than an order to stop the crowd(?) of victims. Second sentence: you already said there were Genociders standing in the hall at regular intervals. Why do they need to swarm?

“Maim her,” a woman Genocider commands, a grin on her face. Sloane looks at her, uncomprehending. >>Who?

“If you don’t…” She clicks her pistol. >>cocks? 

Sloane’s jaw hardens as he crosses the distance between us in three strides. I don’t even see his fist coming. 

But then it’s in my stomach. And I’m still alive. It takes a quarter of a heartbeat to realize what he’s done. I double over his fist and force out a gasp that scratches my throat. I pretend I cannot support myself. My hair curtains my face as I lean on his fist, stare at the tendons and veins that bulge in his forearm. >>Be more specific.

Maybe I am supposed to cough up blood. Or die. Because the woman shoots Sloane anyway. And the spray of red makes up for my lack of it. He shudders, then falls on me. I stagger under his weight. Mindy cries out my name.

And the massacre begins. 

# >>Implying passage of time... I don't know if that's a good idea. See the comments below. 

“Sibyl.” 

I want to reply. Tell whoever it is I’m not dead. But I must be taken for dead, because death rages around me but I’m far from the target of the killing. >>Seems unlikely, given the scenario.

The person calls again. >>Use a stronger verb

“Mindy,” I wheeze. I push helplessly on the weight that crushes my organs and bones, that squeezes the air out of me. Sloane’s body is killing me and shielding me at the same time. 

I hear a grunt, then I’m no longer seeing black but the tiles of the tunnel ceiling. Once, they were white. Now, they are splattered with blood.

Mindy drags Sloane’s body aside. “You have to get up,” she pleads. Blood drips from a long scratch between her collarbones, which protrude as she leans down to tug on me.

I yank her down. “Play dead,” I say to the haunted look of prey in her eyes, the prey that I can’t save should it decide to bolt. She starts to protest, but I cut her off. “Just for a minute.” >>Speaking to a "look in her eyes"... ergh. Let her be a whole person. And a she, not an it. 

Mindy finally gets my point. “There is a door at the end.” The screams of the dying and wounded keep our voices to our ears. “It’s open.” >>Putting mouths near ears is what keeps the voices there. Screams would be drowning their voices out.

“Are we closer to that door than the other one?”

“Yes.”

This is it. The next words come out in rush, before I can lose control over the fear that sours my mouth. “We’ll make a run for it on the count of three. One—“

 “Sibyl, you can’t run.”

“Yes, I can.”

“No, you can’t. Not in a way that will save your life.” Mindy’s brown eyes lock mine. 

It dawns on me. “You…” I shake my head. I open my mouth, ready to argue. But I don’t. Because we don’t have time. Because I’ve grown up with Mindy. If there’s one person that I can’t argue with, it’s her.

“When it gets louder,” she says. “We’re fooling no one but ourselves, but I like to think the noise distracts them.”

When she finishes speaking, our noise comes. They must hit a boy somewhere non vital, because his screams are like that of a pig being gutted alive. >>The constant gunfire isn't loud enough?

We leap to our feet. Mindy bends her knees. I jump onto her back.

We’re off. 

The tiles melt into a continuous tunnel of white. We’re going at speed that makes me dizzy. Every step of Mindy’s pounds into my body. Her breathing starts to hitch, but she doesn’t slow down. We fly by limbs. Caved in faces, shattered faces, florets of brain and tissue. They melt, too, and puddle as one with the flying ground. 

They’ve noticed us by now. I hear shouts. Getting closer. Mindy goes faster. A bullet blasts a hole into the wall. I get a whiff of an odd smell. Singed hair. My hair. Then it’s gone. Mindy goes faster. >>See previous comment about the hall already being full of Genociders.

But we can’t continue to ignore the bullets from behind. When we are about four hundred meters away from the door, one nicks me on my arm. A sound escapes my throat before I can silence it. Mindy’s face begins to turn. 

The fresh image of a shattered face grips me. “Don’t.” I mutter into her ear. “I’ll cover your back.>>You mean something else here. Spotting?

Too exhausted to argue, she only pants. The sound makes me want to drag myself down and let her run without me, find a nice body and hide beneath it, But Mindy’s words ring in my ears. 

We’re going to make it out. >>Given your description of the speed they're moving at, it's what, a mile to this door? Through a corpse-cluttered hallway surrounded by executioners with guns? Maybe you've done the world-building already that explains why they haven't tripped, slipped, or been shot yet... but at a glance this looks pretty impossible. 

Then I remember. I grab the compact that I put in the blouse of my dress and wrestle the top open. The mirror shimmers with stray glitter and the mottled green of camouflage.

“Right.”

Mindy swerves to the right. The bullet whistles past.

“Right.” 

Another swerve. Another miss.

We’re down to the last hundred meters.

“Left. Right. Left. Left. Left.”

They catch on to what I’m doing. Multiple bullets fly at the same time. I want to shout them all out to Mindy, but I can’t do that. I’d kill her if I did.

So I bet on luck. “Left.” 

Miss. >>You said multiple bullets. Now there was only one?

“We’re almost there,” gasps Mindy. “Hang on.”

I’m shaking. My hands are slippery with sweat. I don’t know if I can decide on something like that again. I pray that we can cross the last fifty without another round.

In the mirror, they take aim. >>No, they're already aiming because they've already been shooting. Also, I'm assuming they're wielding semi-automatics or full automatics, so they can just spray the victims with maximum speed, minimum effort. Which makes this whole dodging sequence iffy. Though maybe you've established what their guns are before this scene. Though also, if they knew the ability to dodge bullets existed, they ought to have something in mind to deal with that. 

Left right left right left right?

Too many lefts so far in a row. I should say right. But maybe its a trick—logic will expect me to say right. Yes. Maybe I should stick with left. But it still doesn’t feel right. Too many. Should I… >>Taking too long. She's got to go on instinct; cut this.

I think I scream left. 

In a flash, we’re at the end, bursting through the doors. I’m thrown to the ground by Mindy’s sudden stop. An awful retching sound fills the silence; I lift head and see Mindy vomit on the ground. It’s not a pretty sight, but Mindy has a habit of vomiting after ultramarathons and the familiarity comforts me slightly.

“We made it,” I rasp. I reach out a hand to my hazy image of Mindy. I just need to touch her, feel a brush of fabric or hair on my fingers. >>What's stopping everyone in the hall from following them? Firing out the door? Several people saw them run...

We made it.

My hand freezes. I’ve been breathing through my mouth, but now I sniff. There’s something other than the smell of bile that sways my head.

Mindy’s still vomiting, but now ice seizes my limbs. One by one, the nerves in my hand melt away, until I only see myself reaching out, don’t feel. I am frozen, unable to do anything, as a brilliant crimson dribbles from the corners of her mouth. My eyes search desperately, from the top of her dark head to the veins in her feet. And finally, I see. The dark spot, waxing like a crescent right in the side of her waist, that spells my failure. >>Bleeding from mouth = wound in mouth, or blood coughed up from the lungs. Her lungs are not in her waist.
-----

The trouble I had with this scene is how time is passing. I don't see how the scene break could be more than a minute or two, and I don't see why there needs to be a scene break. Then the action stretches out what could not have been more than thirty seconds -- the rush to the door.

I don't know how many victims there are for each shooter to kill. But given that this seems to have been planned and done before, these Genociders should be prepared to deal with those who try to bolt. The amount of description put into the running and the dodging makes it feel like a long time -- and honestly, in the time it takes to say "Left!" the bullet's either hit you or missed already.

Stepping back from this critique, the perception of time in stressful situations is different. Some people experience "stretched-out" time; for others five minutes is reduced to a blur. How readers perceive time passing is different too -- and it can be as simple as more words take more time to read, so more words = more time passing. Short, precise sequences feel faster.

There's a fascinating discussion about perceived time in Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. It's worth reading. We're not drawing comics here, but we are creating images in the reader's head...

Friday, March 22, 2013

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Day Four

*note to self: must have photos reminiscent of LolCats*

Caption anyone?


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Third Day of Caption Week

This is a golden oldie. The captions for this one created a stir once upon a time.

What caption would you put on this one?



Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Have Picture. Will Caption

Remember the TV show, Have Gun Will Travel?

If so, you. Are. Old.


Today's picture that is in need of a caption:


Monday, March 18, 2013

Create a Caption


The Muses were the ancient Greek goddesses of inspiration. Literary scholars depended on them to provide a spark of ingenuity. Not so much now. Especially since we have LolCats. 

Creativity comes in many forms. The arts, poetry (limericks are my fave with Robert Frost a close second), music, haiku, and short stories limber up our senses to write our novels.

Anyone familiar with Icanhacheezburgers knows about the LolCats and Epic Fails. That site has grown into a monster.

It is Caption Week

Add something funny or sweet to these pictures, LOL or thought provoking. Exercise your mind and funnybone at the same time.

It can be a line or two, a paragraph, or a short story. I'll leave it to your personal Muse to decide which.

First up:


What is your caption?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Submissions for NEXT WEEK

March 24th - 30th is hereby declared ACTION WEEK.

L will happily crit up to 1500 words of wrestling, sword duels, car chases, spaceship dogfights, jousting, battlefield carnage, whatever you've got. It doesn't have to be 1500 words of wall-to-wall violence, but the action should be a good chunk of it.

Clarity and logical flow are always challenging, in action sequences. That's what we will be critting for.

Email your submission to unicornbellsubmissions at gmail.com and put ACTION WEEK in the subject.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

judge that character #4



Sadly, no one has sent me another character, which means you must suffer with another one of mine...


     “All rise.”
     Arlen Howard rose to stand before the Council – the witch’s equivalent of court – dressed in an outfit she knew would do little to elicit mercy. The plaid skirt was much too short and the overlarge cashmere sweater didn’t hide the white tank beneath it or the snake tattoo that curled around her neck. She looked up sullenly at the five men who sat behind the raised curved desk, all dressed in their black judicial robes. Just like the courtroom across the hall. Except this court was reserved for offenses of a magical nature.
     “Do you have anything to say regarding the events culminating in the destruction of your parents’ barn?” one of them asked.
     Arlen had known they would ask her to speak. But every time she tried to think all she saw was the barn going up in flames. Even now she could almost smell the way the air had been fragranced with the last scents of summer and smoke from the burning hay. She could see in her mind’s eye the way the fire had grown so quickly, leaping like an acrobat, orange flames climbing like vines through the structure. And she remembered the heat of it – so hot – like hell, she thought, wondering, just for an instant, what it might be like to walk into that fire and burn. But what could she say? How could she make them understand how seductive the flames had been? How could she explain the way it felt to be so close to burning?

    
Now, feel free to judge my character, or, better yet, send me one of yours. Two or three paragraphs from your chapter one should be sufficient to: unicornbellsubmissions@gmail.com. There are still two days left!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

judge that character #3


A big thank you to Chris who submitted his character, Charlie, for judgement...



The rush of water pelts my back as my right hand clutches the sliding glass door of the shower. My head compresses with the force of a hundred headaches as I squint through a maze of mist and steam. I struggle for control of my suddenly limp body, like steering a car after its brakes have failed. My knees buckle and hit the tile floor. Shampoo soaked water pools around me, so I turn the dial with my last ounce of strength.



I never let money drive a wedge between friends. Music? Maybe. Girls? Definitely. But not money.
“How about this," I say to Sam. "If Skyla is my girlfriend by the end of September, you have to help me fix the lighthouse.”
"Pfft. That place is a dump. No deal."
I knew it. He's still pissed at me for quitting his band.
"Come on, Sam. Your scrawny ass could use a little manual labor.”
"Fuck off, Charlie.” He slams on the gas pedal. The car jerks ahead. “Get one of your meat head jock friends to help you.”


Amber's face hardens. “You heard the rumors."
"No." I shake my head.
“Liar!” She leaps to her feet. "Admit it, Charlie. You think I'm a shameless little slut."
"No, I don't!"
Her slight frame towers over me. "Then why are you rejecting me?"
I stammer, searching for one more excuse. I'm all out.
“Yeah. that’s what I thought.” She grabs her backpack and heads for the exit. “Good luck with your lighthouse.” She scoffs, disappearing down the stairs she helped build. 

Amber waits for me on the lighthouse steps, digging a dirt path with her bright red Chucks. She flips over the door key in her palm. 
“You talked to my dad, didn’t you?” She says to the dirt.
“About what?”
Amber turns to me. “Don’t play dumb with me. He’s being an attentive parent. He even apologized. Kinda."
“Really?" I smile. "What did he say?"
She purses her lips. Her mouth opens, closes, and opens again. "He misses her." Her voice cracks.
I nod. An uneasy silence thickens the air between us. I clutch the railing and pull myself up, wincing as I ascend the stairs.
Amber extends her hand and offers me the key. “You want this back?”
I unlock the door and push it open. “Only if you’re breaking up with me.”


Overall, these are perfectly good paragraphs, but I didn't think any one told me much about Charlie. In the first one he's in pain, the second he's trying to get a friend to help with the lighthouse, the third to find an excuse why he can't date Amber, and the last looks they're making up. Depending upon where these all sit in the story, I'd want to see more of Charlie's actions and reactions to what's happening to him. For example, in the first scene, what is Charlie thinking while he's in this much pain. Is he concerned? Upset? Scared? That's what will tell the reader who Charlie is, make the reader care about Charlie and hopefully, read on. Same thing with the second paragraph. Is he mad that his friend won't help or does he understand why he's refusing? Showing Charlie's reaction to the things that happen to him will give the reader insight into Charlie, make him want to follow Charlie. Third paragraph, he might not want to tell Amber why he's refusing her but his thoughts should tell the reader why and maybe let the reader know he wishes he wasn't - assuming that's true. The last paragraph...hmm, I kind of like it as it is, but Charlie's wincing and pulling himself up the stairs indicates a problem and if it's a physical problem/issue, he probably thinks about it a lot, worries about it. I think what's missing here is either inner dialogue or some sort of reaction from Charlie to show the reader how he's feeling, engage our sympathy. 

Now, what do you guys think of Charlie? What's your impression of him? How could Chris write Charlie better?


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

judge that character #2


Our second submission comes from Patricia's wip, DEAR KATHERINE...



 
My life began the day I turned eighteen and fell off a planet for the first time. Up until I left school, I hadn't started living--I had just existed.
By the time I landed on Millanos, I had fallen on and off most of the colonized planets in the Tetracoil Galaxy. But even after fourteen years, I still felt exhilarated every time the synchrotron was powered down and gravity took hold of the spacecraft. The adrenalin rush from those seven minutes of free-fall, not knowing if the hovering jets would engage in time, lasted me days.
My heart was still racing when the hatch opened and fresh air rushed into the passenger cabin. I smelled brine in the air--my first greeting from Millanos. I unfastened the straps holding me to the seat and stretched my back. Through the internal passageway, I could see the three pilots moving around the cockpit. One of these days, I would learn to fly just to be able to ride in the fun seats. But first I had nine more planets to visit and Millanos was just a few steps away.
[a couple of paragraphs about what she sees]
My instructor's advice from all those years ago came back to haunt me. Make sure you find food and a safe bed for the night as soon as you land. I had ignored her advice only once and I still regretted it. After that I always made sure I had enough money to last at least two days, just in case. I glanced at the tables dispersed in front of the few restaurants close by, noting the dishes others were eating. Breads were popular and vegetables were served raw. Then my eyes met the sign for a tattoo parlor and I forgot about food.

Well this is certainly interesting! I assume the term falling off a planet is another way of saying leaving the planet...but maybe it means something different. Either way, very intriguing. As for our narrator, she (I'm making an assumption that our narrator is female) reminds me a little of my own character who also loves spaceflight and finds both the idea of it and the reality thrilling. So, is our narrator a thrill seeker? Hmm, maybe. 
I'm a little confused and curious about the instructor's advice. Isn't there any food on the ship? Isn't it safe to stay there and sleep? And why the word safe? Not just any bed, but a safe bed. Finally, she sees the tattoo parlor and forgets entirely about food which leads me to believe she's heading there to get one. Now, getting a tattoo isn't necessarily risky behavior anymore, but it used to be and combined with her love of 'falling of planets' I think it's safe to say this person likes a little excitement in her life.  

Now, what do you guys think about this character? What's your first impression of her?




Monday, March 11, 2013

judge the character #1


A big thank you to Joan for her submission. Let her know in the comments your impression of her character(s) below...

“Hey.” I slow down to catch my breath. “I like your jacket.”
“It’s okay,” Joanna says. She drops her voice. “You can tell me it looks ugly. I think it looks ugly.”
“I don’t think it looks ugly.”
“Thanks.” She looks around us, then pulls me closer. “Here, take a look at this.”
She pulls her pockets open and I catch a flash of metal. I lean forward.
Guns. Pistols. Canisters and twine and many little bottles of antiseptic.
“Why are you showing me this?” I ask.
Joanna releases her pockets and the fabric shuts again. “Your head didn’t seem 100% in the party. I thought you were like me. Worried.”
“Worried about…” I trail away.
“You know about it, Sibyl,” she presses. Mindy’s stopped for a breather and sees the two of us. She waves, then frowns.
I take Joanna’s hand and make her dance. But even then, I know our expressions are not right. My mouth feels tight and my cheeks are sore from smiling.
“Sure I do,” I say. “I just choose not to think about it.”
“That’s stupid.” Joanna stops moving. A few heads turn in our direction, but we don’t hold much attention. “It’s right outside, Sibyl. It’s all around us. Ignoring the G—” She falters, then grabs my arm and shakes it. “Ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away. Look at them,” she snaps all of a sudden, fingers digging into my skin. “Dancing as if it’s their last night. What will they do when it turns out to be true?”
           “Stop,” Deep in my stomach, I know I’m being silly. But there’s a time and place for everything, and right now I don’t want to hear Joanna. I shrug my arm out of her grip. “It’s graduation night. Nothing is going to happen to us.”

My very first impression is that the narrator and Joanna are very good friends - if not best - indicated by the way Joanna drops her voice and asks for honesty, and then shows off what she's got. I was confused by the mention of Mindy and surprised by Sibyl's reaction to the arsenal Joanna shows her. It looks like Joanna is about to go on a killing spree. The question is what prompted this? and why is Sibyl acting like she's in denial when Joanna's words indicate she's well aware of the plan? All of this leads me to think that Joanna is the stronger of the two characters and Sibyl the follower. I'm definitely very curious about what's going to happen!

Now what do you guys think about these characters? What was your first impression?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Practice

In my opinion, character trumps plot almost every time. It's the first thing I look for in a book: a character to care about or at least, interest me enough to follow them for an entire book. It's also the first thing I work on when I have a new project. Figuring out who my characters are and what they want and how they're going to get it. Here are a few ways to do that:

Know thy character! Who is she? What does she care about? What does she like/hate? How does she act? Does she have a lucky charm? A tattoo? A motto? There are tons of books and articles about creating characters but two of my favorites are The Weekend Novelist and Wordplay's Crafting Unforgettable Characters (which is FREE!!!).

Change. Whoever she is, she isn't going to be the same person at the end - or if she is, there better be a compelling reason why. Most characters begin as imperfect, lacking something. Your job as the author is to help your character evolve, devise ways to make this happen.

Sacrifice. Call me evil, but I find a good sacrifice satisfying. When people have to give up something important or pay a price for whatever it was they wanted, well, that makes for a powerful ending and some serious evolution.

This week, I'm hoping you'll join me in some practice. Send me (unicornbellsubmissions@gmail.com) the first intro to your main character (keep it under 300 words) and lets dissect it and see if it's doing what you what. If you have specific questions or concerns, mention them. For example, here are three paragraphs from ch. 1 of my current wip, one from he beginning, one from the middle, and one from the end: I'd like your first impression of this character. Does she interest you? Can you tell what kind of a person she is? Would you follow her into the next chapter?

 
I paddle out, breathing evenly in the early dawn, mist rising from the water. The whole place is quiet and still and silent except for Grandfather. He tells me to hug the shore. The oars are light in my hands. I’ve been practicing since the ice melted. My arms are strong.

I start to shake my head but Grandfather says, “Something to take with you when you go,” and I understand he wants to buy me something, a going away present. It isn’t like him but I think maybe he’s feeling sentimental so I take a step closer, looking hard at what the peddler’s got.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my grandfather, more than anyone. More than the father I never knew but heard so much about, and more than my mother who thought nothing of leaving me. But he is old fashioned like a lot of old people. Always thinking things were better when he was a kid, that ‘the worlds have devolved and all that was good is slowly leaking away.’ I think he’s being a little dramatic, or maybe just remembering wrong. 


Now, send me your characters so we'll have something for tomorrow :)

Or, if you prefer, you could use this prompt to practice: you are walking along the beach when you come across a man's wallet. What do you find inside? What do you do with it? Remember, this is fiction...




 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tell Us About Your Story #5

Here's another exciting story for us to talk about. My comments are in purple below.

My name is Katie Teller. I'm an Author with Curiosity Quills and this is a MS I'm planning on subbing to them once my trilogy is out. I'm 26, born and raised Aussie but now live in the US. I'm a mother and wife as well as a clerk and student.

Lainey Scott is an academic. Her journey to find the lost city of El Dorado is for that purpose alone, so she can write a strong thesis. But when she adopts three orphaned jaguars her journey seems to take a life of its own. They guide her and her team to the city where Lainey discovers artifacts about Ziyah. 

Ziyah is a believer of the old faith, the faith which if you are discovered practicing it you are exiled. So when the High Judge’s son shows interest in her, a pauper and half-breed, her faith is used against her to force her from the city. 

Lainey and Ziyah’s lives are drawn to each other over the space of time as each sees visions and has dreams of the other. The more artifacts and records Lainey finds about Ziyah, the more alive they become to each other. 

But there is a dark force in the city, sealed in from Ziyah’s time which seeks Lainey’s blood. Both their lives are at stake if they fail to understand one another and vanquish the shadows which lust for their souls. 

City of Gold is a Paranormal Romance which is complete at 113,000 words.

This sounds like it could be really interesting. Especially if the historical part is rich in details from good research.

Lainey Scott is an academic. Her journey to find the lost city of El Dorado is for that purpose alone, so she can write a strong thesis. What does the thesis have to do with it? You don't mention it again so it doesn't seem important. But when she adopts three orphaned jaguars her journey seems to take a life of its own. How is the jaguars leading her different than her finding it on her own? Does she know they are leading her? This could be a good spot to start the paranormal twist. They guide her and her team to the city where Lainey discovers artifacts about Ziyah. This was a little confusing in spots. I think you can combine the first two sentences into one. Something like: Lainey Scott's search for El Dorado is strictly academic. Also, I think you need a bit more than "about" Ziyah. I thought it was a place at first, not a person. 

Ziyah is a believer of the old faith, the faith which if you are discovered practicing it you are exiled. So when the High Judge’s son shows interest in her, a pauper and half-breed, her faith is used against her to force her from the city. I don't think you need any of this for the pitch. It sort of muddles the focus. It's important for the story though.

Lainey and Ziyah’s lives are drawn to each other over the space of time as each sees visions and has dreams of the other. The more artifacts and records Lainey finds about Ziyah's life, the more alive they become to each other. You were talking and focusing on Lainey the first half of the sentence and then you switched to both of them. Stay focused on Lainey and it's easier for the reader to get where you're going. Something like: "The more aritfacts and records Lainey finds about Ziyah's life, the more real she becomes." Then to get across that the story jumps POVs and time frames you can add a line about Lainey seeing through Ziyah's eyes/through dreams/ or whatever it is that happens in your story. 

But there is A dark force lays hidden in the city, sealed in from Ziyah’s time, and now it which seeks Lainey’s blood. Why? Both their lives are at stake if they fail to understand one another and vanquish the shadows which lust for their souls. But one of them has already been dead for hundreds (thousands?) of years. How will Ziyah be affected? Why does it want Lainey? Will her blood free it to roam the earth? We need to know what the stakes are.  

City of Gold is a Paranormal Romance which is complete at 113,000 words. This seems a bit long, but I could be wrong. Somewhere between 80k-100k? I haven't check averages in a while though so this might be fine. 


What do you think? Would you read this and why?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tell Us About Your Story #4

And pitch #4. A little steampunk anyone? My comments are in purple at the bottom.

Dr. Jekyll is tired. He's tired of living in these blasted floating dirigibles. He's tired of keeping these Half human-Half Clockwork useless creations working in a mobile lab with sub-standard equipment. He's tired of horrible tea. But he'll be damned if he's going to acquiesce and bow to her wishes, just like in University! All this fuss over a simple misunderstanding... 

Dr. Jekyll is terrorizing Victoria's England. And she's furious. She's amassed the strongest Automaton armies in history, and still he persists. He refuses her demands for parlay. And refuses her requests to tea. If he keeps this up, she doesn't care what happened at University, she's bringing out the big guns. 

Owen Straff, Detective Inspector First Class, is set the impossible task of saving the Empire from one of the worst threats to cross their boarders. First he must bury, or confront, the ghosts of his past life. Depending on the way he chooses will decide the fate of the Empire. Can these three find common ground and build the Solid Empire that ultimately they all want? Or will it all spiral down into chaos, leaving the Empire vulnerable to an even bigger threat that only one of them has yet to glimpse.

I've been in a steampunk state of mind lately so this had me squealing with delight.

Dr. Jekyll is tired. He's tired of living in these blasted floating dirigibles. He's tired of keeping these Half human-Half Clockwork useless creations working in a mobile lab with sub-standard equipment. He's tired of horrible tea. But he'll be damned if he's going to acquiesce and bow to her wishes, just like in University! All this fuss over a simple misunderstanding... Okay, I'm not going to be good on this one because I loved this whole paragraph. There's voice and things to peek my interest. My favorite line is about the tea. It just oozes personality. 

Dr. Jekyll is terrorizing Victoria's England. I would rearrange this so you start with Victoria. At first I didn't realize we had switched POVs. And she's furious. She's amassed the strongest Automaton armies  army in history, and still he persists. He refuses her demands for parlay. And refuses her requests to tea. Love the tie in about tea. If he keeps this up, she doesn't care what happened at University, she's bringing out the big guns. Interesting. It seems they see their shared University experience differently. Looks like a lovely misunderstanding indeed.

Owen Straff, Detective Inspector First Class, is set the impossible task of saving the Empire from one of the worst threats to cross their boarders. First he must bury, or confront, the ghosts of his past life. Depending on the way he chooses will decide the fate of the Empire. I'd swap this sentence around to make it stronger and more active: The fate of the Empire rests on his decision/choice. Can these three find common ground and build the Solid Empire that ultimately they all want? Or will it all spiral down into chaos, leaving the Empire vulnerable to an even bigger threat that only one of them has yet to glimpse. I don't like this last paragraph as much as the first two. It seems too vague and doesn't have that voice I liked above. Is there a way to leave Owen out of it and focus on the first two? I know as a query we need to keep things simple. I'm guessing that Owen is the only one that's glimpsed the bigger threat and that's why he's mentioned? 

I don't think you need the last paragraph since I'd read more just from the first two paragraphs.  

What do you think? Would you read this and why?