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Friday, May 31, 2013

The Wreck

Ah, Friday. Happy Friday.

All week I’ve been starting stories for you to finish in the comments. All the commenting threads are still open, so feel free to go back to any day this week and continue the story. Or, for today…

Melvin regarded the wreck of his former car. Questions crowded his brain.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

OMG!

So, this week I’ve been starting stories, hoping you might finish them for me. In the comments. Feel free to go back to any day this week, or you can jump right in with today’s new story.

“Oh. Em. Gee. Did you just hear what she said?”

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Soccer Ball

Here’s today’s story beginning. Play along in the comments, continuing the story. No limit as to how much you write. Just make sure to continue where the story left off with the last commenter.

The soccer ball bounced once. Twice. Then it came to an abrupt stop.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

An Empty Cage

This week on Unicorn Bell we’re writing stories together. Okay, it’s more of that game… What’s that game called? You know the one. I start the story, and you continue it. Anyway, feel free to go back to yesterday’s post and continue with that story. Or, you can jump in with today’s new beginning…

They stood around, mouths agape. No one should have been able to escape that cage, yet there it stood, empty.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Heat Dilemma

Would you like to play a game?

I bet you’ve done this one before. I start us off with a sentence. In the comments you continue the story.

Write a sentence. Write a paragraph. Write whatever you’re moved to write. Just make sure to continue the story as left off by the last commenter. And feel free to return later to see where the story has gone or to jump in and add to it some more.

Here we go…

It was the hottest day of the year so far. It was so hot it broke records. Nola wasn’t sure what to do.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Confusion is spreading!

Alicia's lost her internet for today, so I'll confess something...

Defenestration. Excellent word, easy to say -- but why would you need a word specifically for removing windows? Does it really happen that often? You'll see old brick buildings with a patch of younger bricks where they've obviously been defenestrated...

Oh, wait... throwing people out of windows. Not the most common thing either, but hey.

What words trip you up? Which ones do you feel a need to double-check every time you use them?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sticks and Stones

Two girls face each other across the foggy battle field.

With silent acknowledgment, they raise their sticks swords.

"En guarde!" The blood thirsty yell could be heard echoing across the barren field. A challenge!

The clash of weapons rings out, filling the air! The challenge is met! The battle has been joined!

The girls circle each other, their swords grasped double fisted. Beating each other until their writs are numb with shock and their shoulders are aching with strain.

Finally, the younger girl starts to weaken. The elder sees her chance and moves in for the kill.

She draws her sword high above her head and swings it around, sticking the death stroke.

"Touche!" She yells!

*******

My sisters and I used to play this game all the time. And I'm not sure how it started, but for the longest time, we thought that's what you were supposed to say when you 'struck' someone with a sword. Fencing style.

I can just see my mother laughing her ass off in the kitchen window now.

Because it would be hilarious watching kids poke each other with sticks of wood yelling, "TOUCHE!" At the top of our lungs.

Were there any fun word games you used to screw up as a kid?


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I swear, Fantasy books make up words.

There's a huge drawback to reading a lot of fantasy.

First off. Try playing Words with Friends with some of the words In G.R.R. Martin's books. It breaks the game.

Secondly, you get used to reading 'fake' words and just rolling with it. Ascertaining the meaning by either the author telling you outright, or by clues in the text.

The drawback here is that when you come across a REAL word that you mistake as being fake and you make up a definition for it...you have nothing that will tell you that this is wrong.

One of the biggest Real Word Masquerading As Fake that I can remember is the word Penultimate.  

I know. Pretty standard, right? Except that in most of the fantasy books I read it was followed by some noun, or something pretty major and game changing.

"This was Thor's penultimate challenge before he was kicked out of Olympus for good!"

WHAT? Whoa! That's pretty heavy! And then some crazy challenge would happen... chaos would ensue. Stuff and crazyness...and Thor gets some woman pregnant (isn't that the story? or am I confusing my gods here?) And gets kicked off Olympus.

And then again in some choose your own adventure books...there was always a Penultimate Choice. Which at this point in the story, again, no matter which way you chose...Chaos and anarchy! Terror, terror, terror death and hell. Then... The End.

So in my brain this word came to mean Very Important.

Which is close. Sort of. But not really. And for most of my life, (right up until I saw it on my SAT's, and I almost said "What the Fuck?" out loud...) I really thought it was a made up fantasy word.

Have you ever made up a definition for a word and not realized your mistake until much later on in life?

 Preferably not when you're taking a placement exam for college...


Monday, May 20, 2013

Wherein my amazing knowledge of German Screws me over

Growing up, I was forced had the AMAZING opportunity to take Latin for four years.

It was A.W.E.S.O.M.E. Though I can say, without the least bit of sarcasm...that it did help with my ability to learn how to break words down to their roots, and thereby determine their meanings. It does NOT help with spelling. At all.

Just a side note.

In case you were wondering.

Anyway. The Latin teacher we had Also knew German (as well as 5 other languages...). This came into play because she would mutter to herself in German when she got especially upset. But it was this odd mix of English, German and I think Italian. (Not sure). But teaching 4 kids Latin couldn't have been very, um, fun. Shall we say. And one word she would mutter over and over was Schadenfreude. Which I thought was German. And I deduced the meaning of this word by putting my Amazing powers of Latin deduction and word-breaking-down skills to work *insert majestic heroic music here*...

Coming up with...!

Afraid of Shadows.

Obvi.

Which is how I used this word for YEARS. Because this is a pretty kick ass word. Granted I spelled it wrong as well. Because phonetically it's spelled shadenfroyda. But still. Kick ass word!

I remember very well when I found out I had this word wrong. Of course it was my older sister who told me...or rather Laughed hysterically in my face and said, "You dork dumbass! That's not what that means!"

"Well! If you're so smart...what does it mean then?"
"If you don't know I'm not going to tell you!"
"You don't know do you!"
"Do so!"
"Do not!"
"It means you enjoy other people's pain!"
"...huh?"
"Sigh..."

Which come to think of it...that whole conversation was pretty ironic...

I think I was 12 at the time. This concept meant nothing to me at the time.

Still. A Kick ass word. And a concept I use quite regularly in my characters.

Can you think of any examples of Schadenfreude in literature or popular fiction?

Oh, Alanis

I think I was in High School when Alanis Morissette's Song "Ironic" came out. And got immediately overplayed on the local radio station. To be honest I wasn't a HUGE Alanis fan to begin with, but hearing that song over and over and over. And over.

And over.

And OVER. Didn't help.

But what it DID do, or so I thought, was help me understand what Irony was.

False.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Irony is Not a Black fly in your Chardonnay. That's just gross. And shitty bad luck. Or rain on your wedding day is actually supposed to be good luck. Non-Smoking sign on your cigarette break COULD be argued as good luck as it's trying to save your life! But essentially, is just bad luck. As is just about EVERYTHING else in that song.

Bad luck is not irony.

And I was using that word wrong for YEARS, thanks to that bitch.

I can't remember the circumstance when I figured it out, but it was like a light-bulb going off.

Irony is many things and somewhat hard to explain. But first off it implies the opposite of what it actually states, generally used to explain something that is totally contrary. (A huge dog named "Tiny".)

It can be a statement made by one person to another that is exactly the opposite of what they wanted to convey.
"Her head is soft as concrete."
An identical twin saying "You're Ugly!" to his twin.

One of the most famous uses of Irony in literature was in Romeo and Juliet. The whole Death Scene....(Spoiler Alert...they both die...)

When Romeo returns to Verona and finds Juliet drugged. Thinking her dead he kills himself. She wakes up, finds him dead and kills herself with a knife.

Other Literary examples would be banned books that are constantly on the top 100 best seller list, like Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.

Other examples:

~ Posting a video on Facebook about how boring and useless Facebook is.
~ Vegans wearing Leather
~ A Firehouse on Fire
~ A class on "Planning and Scheduling" getting cancelled due to poor planning.
~ "Stand By Your Man" was sung by Tammy Wynette who was married six times.
~ The dictionary entry for "Short" is really long.

So there you go!

Now that you have that song stuck in your head...

Can you think of any other examples of Irony?

Friday, May 17, 2013

For comparative analysis...

Now up at Shadow of the Unicorn: my "mechanical" and insufficiently emotional sex scene, for comparison to the one I wrote with more emotional investment.

This one, I'm nervous about posting because I know it's not up to snuff. It could be improved, of course, by adding emotional context for at least one of the characters. But I haven't touched it much since I wrote it, and it's at about the same revision level as the other scene. Sometimes the writing comes out well, sometimes it needs a lot of improvement.

I saw a blog post over at The Bookshelf Muse about Donald Maas lecturing on just this topic. He also suggests an interesting writing exercise to help you think outside the dialogue when it comes to conveying your characters' emotions.

The free-written snippet Angela included in her post includes a lot of plot-related telling but only little bit of emotion -- IMO, the usefulness of tapping into your own experience of emotions is in finding descriptions of the physical impact of emotions and creating your own descriptions of those. Your jittering stomach. How you can't stop clicking that pen.

What sorts of descriptions have you gotten out of your personal experiences with strong emotions?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pushing your envelope

The boundaries of what's permissible on a television show, at various time slots, has always been a moving target. We can all think of past TV shows that "pushed the envelope" of what was acceptable --  nudity, violence, awful-but-realistic situations -- and which of those things have "stuck" and which haven't. I remember a time when you never saw somebody get hit by a car on-screen. Now it happens all the time. I remember when car crash perspectives first shifted to inside the car, seeing that oncoming car over a character's shoulder -- it was brutal, the first few times. I still wince.

On the other hand, most TV shows have contented themselves with Strategically Placed Sheets in bedroom scenes, or the polite fiction that everyone's wearing underwear after a romantic evening. There have been various pushes toward more nudity, but it seems to me they've slowed down.

Books have far more flexible boundaries. There wasn't anything envelope-pushing about the content of 50 Shades of Grey. The unusual aspect was that a niche genre sold so well in the general market. Readers pushed their own envelopes, in reading it.

I don't think it's the writer's job to challenge their readers -- writers have limited control over who their readers are, after all. It's the writer's job to push her/his own envelope and reveal the depths of her feelings about the subject at hand.

Must you? No, of course not; it's your story, write what you want.

But I believe, and I even have a little data to back it up, that when you do challenge yourself to write about something you feel strongly about, it shines through the page. And readers respond to it. Passion -- strong emotions, no sexual connotations -- is powerful stuff.

Caution: you may not get a positive response. That will hurt.

To provide an example, consider the gay sex scene I posted on Monday (over at Shadow of the Unicorn). I was anxious about that partly because it was a subject I'd never written before, and as a woman I can't fully know what m/m sex is like. But mainly, I was anxious about posting that because all of the emotional content of that scene... came directly from personal experience. So did a fair amount of the physical mechanics.

Everyone has strong feelings about sex, and I'm no exception. I can directly compare that scene -- which people have said kind things about -- to other sex scenes I've written without that emotional connection. Critiquers latched right on to the lack of emotion, in that case. It startled me that it was so obvious. (Posted here for comparison.)

What scenes in your story tapped into your passions? Did it push you outside your comfort zone to reveal such personal things, even in the disguise of fiction?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Second victim on the table

Our second submission for critique, over at Shadow of the Unicorn. Viewer discretion advised!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

First victim is on the table...

Join in critting our first (anonymous) explicit scene submission over at Shadow of the Unicorn! CAUTION (if you missed it yesterday) VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED.

If you have a 1500-ish word scene involving explicit and/or socially unacceptable behavior, you could still squeeze in this week! Send it to unicornbellsubmissions at gmail dot com.

Would a blog where you can get (anonymous) crits of your nastier, sexier, messier scenes be useful to you? Looking for advice on how to write them? Would link lists of research material other writers have sifted from the vast cesspool of the internet help? Tell me!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Step into the shadows...

We've moved this week's critting to a new blog: Shadow of the Unicorn. CAUTION: EXPLICIT CONTENT.

This way, Unicorn Bell won't get into any trouble for the posts' content. And since it's a whole new blog, what we'll do with it is open to suggestions. Maybe we'll do open critting. Talking about the difficulties of writing difficult material? Tell us what you think!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Anyone else willing to BE BRAVE?

I have only one submission to the 1500-word BE BRAVE critique for next week -- and I will post the gay-sex scene I mentioned for you all to crit, though believe me, I'm shaking in my boots at this point -- so I'll ask again if anybody has a difficult scene they want critted? Sex, drugs, rock'n'roll -- explicit violence -- taboo subjects -- you won't be alone. And you'll be anonymous.

Otherwise, I'll have to talk at you all about pushing envelopes, or something. The horror! :)

Email it with the subject line BEING BRAVE to unicornbellsubmissions at gmail dot com.

Friday, May 10, 2013

What I learned in school today

At some point in our writing lives we will all - hopefully - be signing a contract with a publisher. Some of us will be fortunate enough to have agents to help us through the process. But for those who don't, it's probably a good idea to learn as much as possible about contracts, rights, and the publishing business.

Today I'm going to tell you about your rights as an author, which ones you typically sign away, which ones are negotiable, and which ones the author should always keep. This is a brief overview and not meant to advise but rather inform, ie, I'm no expert and there's a lot more info out there on this subject.

The following are rights the publisher always keeps: reprint rights, book club rights, and serial rights. The profits derived from these are split between the author and publisher. Reprint rights generally refers to paperback editions of the book, but, according to Donald Maass, "...in some cases--a small-press deal, for instance--we withhold these rights." Book Club rights are what they sound like and serial rights are excerpts of the book - in magazine, or in other books. First serial rights, which are sometimes negotiable, are excerpts of the book BEFORE publication; second serial rights are excerpts AFTER publication.

Negotiable rights include foreign language rights, foreign English language rights, audio rights, and electronic rights. These are the rights the author needs to negotiate with the publish over. For example, an agent might sell the foreign rights if she can keep the electronic rights, or, maybe the publisher will increase the advance if it can acquire the audio rights. It goes without saying that electronic rights are a lot more valuable now than they were say, ten years ago.

Lastly there the rights the author keeps - always. These are Performance rights, as in television, film, plays, video game, etc., and merchandising rights, like calenders, action figures, stickers, dolls...anything based on the characters of your book.


Are you a small-pub author? Care to share your experience?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Shadow of Time...(part four)


SHADOW OF TIME...my crit
After Hannah tapped out a text message to her old friend, she and Ben walked down to the beach and sat down at a table on the deck of ‘The Winking Shrimp’. (this an abrupt switch from their cottage to the restaurant. How long of a walk was it? I want a better picture of the walk and might actually use some of what you've got from when they're at the restaurant.) Hannah let her gaze wander over the calm water of Lake Powell, where people were swimming, riding paddle-boats or walking along the shoreline. She took in the red rocks of Antelope Island across the water, their almost luminescent shapes like ancient castles in the setting sun. The nameless small island just off the coast looked like a dark, blood-red stain on the water.
“We have new neighbors, by the way,” Ben told her. “The cabin to our right was bought by a couple with two daughters our age. Ivy and Amber.”
“Oh, really? That’s great! Let’s organize a barbecue and invite them sometime.”
“Good idea. I took the old barbecue from the shed yesterday and cleaned it. I was in one of those moods again.”
“A cleaning mood? What do you mean, ‘again’?”
Ben smirked. “As friendly as ever. Come on, pick something from the menu. I want to order.”
She quickly decided to get the trout before reading the text Emily had sent her back. Ben put in their orders.
Hannah put her phone down. “We’re going to have lunch at a vegetarian restaurant opposite the pharmacy tomorrow. I’m eager to find out how she’s doing! Do you think I’ll still recognize her?”
“Sure you will. I recognized her too. She hasn’t changed that much in four years.”
Hannah nodded. “You have a point. I haven’t changed much either.”
“Of course you have, Han. You look so much smarter, and prettier, and more grown-up…” Ben summed up in faux admiration.
Hannah raised her eyebrows. “You’re beginning to scare me. What do you need from me? Forgot your money?”
Ben opened his mouth to say something, then fell silent. His eyes widened. “Oh,” he mumbled, patting his pockets. “Oh, damn.”
“Yeah, right. Drop the act.”
“Look, I’m really sorry. I think I left my wallet in my car.”
She laughed. “No worries. I am used to your chaotic lifestyle by now.”
“What do you mean, chaotic? I’m getting better at planning my life all the time. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice I brought my textbooks.”
“I saw a pile of something in the living room, yes.”
“Well, that pile means I’m going to catch up on stuff from last year,” Ben said, a self-satisfied look on his face.
“Do you have exams straight after summer?”
Ben didn’t reply. He was staring at the water. “Oh, I think Josh is on the beach.” He got up from his chair. “Hold on, I’ll tell him we’re sitting over here.” He walked off the deck toward the water. Hannah tried to see where he was going, but the beach was still quite crowded and soon she’d lost sight of him.
In one corner of the deck, a band of three guitarists and one saxophone player had set up. They started playing soft music, giving the perfect backdrop to a slow and warm summer night.
Hannah put her handbag on the floor and turned in her chair to see whether Ben was coming back yet. His glass of beer had been on the table for a while, and her brother hated lukewarm beer – with a passion. (Do we care about this? Just asking...) She spotted him down by the jetty with the small rowing boats, enthusiastically waving his arms and telling a tall guy next to him some elaborate story.
Hannah swallowed hard and squinted against the sunlight. That guy next to Ben – but that couldn’t be. She couldn’t believe her eyes. That was the Navajo guy. The guy who’d laughed at her poor attempt at singing. The guy who’d playfully said hello and given her this intense look, while she was gaping at him like a dumbstruck idiot. So Ben knew him?
Her heart skipped a beat when she suddenly realized why the local native hunk with the divine body was walking next to her brother.
That was Josh.

I think in this part there's a lot of seemingly unnecessary conversation and details that don't seem important. I'm not talking about description. Seeing where we are is a good thing but knowing that Ben doesn't like warm beer doesn't give me any great insight into his character.  I think this chapter could be much shorter and tighter, which would increase the pace for a YA book. But my best idea for this chapter (in my ever so humble opinion) is to have Hannah realize the cute guy on the bike is Josh as soon as he leaves the gas station. That way her embarrassment over the incident will be even greater and the reader will be dying for the moment when Josh and Hannah meet again, which creates tension, which ups the pace.

Now, what do you guys think? Am I right, or what?  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Shadow of Time...(part three)


Today we have part three of Shadow of Time - my crit will follow later...

“I’ve already made your bed,” Ben pointed out, coming in after her and putting the suitcase down.
“Thank you so much. That really helps. My back hurts from all the driving.”
“Let’s go out for dinner tonight, then. We don’t need to cook. There’s a nice new place at the beach with grilled fish on the menu. We could try that.”
“Sounds great!” Hannah went out to get the rest of her stuff from the car. In the meantime, Ben grabbed two beer cans from the fridge. He and Hannah toasted when they sat down on the porch.
“To a long and carefree summer,” Hannah said.
Ben grinned. “A good thing Greg’s out of your life. He never wanted to visit this place. St. Mary’s Port has missed you.”
“How’s Emily, by the way? I was thinking about her at the gas station. There was a Navajo guy walking around there from the same clan.” She felt herself blush and quickly took a swig of beer from her can.
“She’s fine! She was asking about you.” 
 “Does she still live in Naabi’aani?”
Ben nodded. “Yeah, she just finished her studies. She’s a certified naturopath now. Her practice is on the rez, in Naabi’aani, but she also works at the homeopathic pharmacy in town.”
“Wow! Good for her. And what about Josh - have you seen him yet?” 
“Sure. We meet every summer. He still lives there with his parents. He just finished high school.”
Hannah smiled, staring out over the lake spreading out at the bottom of the hill like an unfathomable, giant mirror. It was great this place hadn’t changed in her absence. Everything was still as beautiful as she remembered, and their old friends were still around too.
Hannah glanced down at her watch. “When does the pharmacy close? Do you think I’ll have time to say hello to Em?”
“She’s not working today.” Ben dug up his cell phone. “But she will be tomorrow. She asked me to tell you to call her. I have her number here.”
“I’ll send her a text. Once Emily starts talking, there’s no way to stop her.” 

Yeah, I'm going to have to say this drags a little (sorry). It's just small talk going nowhere and none of it tells us too much except updating us on Ben and Hannah's old friends Em and Josh, all of which could've been taken care of by a few lines of Hannah thinking about the same update her brother already gave her off screen. The only other thing it tells us is that Hannah is still thinking about the hot guy at the gas station. However, I do have an idea how to make this first chapter way more interesting and I'll be sharing it after we finish our critique of the whole thing. Thank you to those who already stopped by and offered their opinion and welcome to those about to!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Shadow of Time...(part two)


part two...my crit


 
The motorcycle driver was clearly a Navajo from the reservation. His red-brown skin was dark and offset by the white of his sleeveless shirt. (Was his skin red-brown, or dark? I'm thinking red-brown...) He had a small hair braid on one side, a turquoise bead and a red feather decorating the bottom. That feather had to be the symbol for one of the local clans. Her once-best-friend on the reservation, Emily Begay, also belonged to the Feather Clan. (This sentence implies that the cute guy belongs to the Feather Clan but the one before just says he belongs to one of the clans, not which one.) Emily should be about twenty-one by now, just like Ben. Hopefully she’d run into Em this summer.
Or into him, perhaps. (yeah. That's what I'd be hoping, too!) She kept staring at the Navajo motorbike owner as he entered the small building of the gas station. He had an absolutely divine body.
Oh well. She’d better stop drooling and daydreaming about meeting him again. In all likelihood, Mister Local Hunk was going to stay far away from her, her incompetent vocal chords and her desperate stares.
Just to make sure, Hannah completely filled up her Datsun so she wouldn’t be short on fuel anytime soon. When she was done, she went into the building and got in line for the pay desk.

There. The Navajo guy had just paid for his gas. He stuffed the receipt into the pocket of his jeans and sauntered to the exit, passing the shelves with chewing gum and candy bars. And then, out of nowhere, he looked her right in the eye.
“Hi.” His voice was deep and beautiful and just as impressive as his looks. He stared at her through his tinted sunglasses, a hint of a smile on his face, like he was amused by some private joke.
Hannah looked up at him dumbfounded. Wow. He wasn’t blanking her. He was still talking to her. So maybe she should talk back.
  “Um – hey,” she stammered feebly and stared at him all owl-faced. (Love that - I have a cat who gives us the wide-eyed owl look so I know it well!) For a moment, it seemed he wanted to say something more, but he didn’t. He just gave her another sunny smile before leaving the building. Navajo Hunk started his motorbike and put his helmet on before tearing off at break-neck speed.(Now that's typical boy behavior, lol)
She groaned inwardly. Way to go with the conversational skills. Where was her language? A comatose patient could have come up with more syllables than that.
Hannah paid for the fuel, her face like thunder. She sped the last couple of miles to St. Mary’s Port, praying there were no speed cameras installed anywhere. If she didn’t get there soon, she would starve to death in her car or eat herself up out of frustration.
It would be nice to cook a big meal together with Ben. Or maybe they should go to the local restaurant. Ben wasn’t famous for his culinary talents, and the last thing she needed (Why? The word need doesn't work for me here. Do you mean 'the last she wanted to do now was to slave away in the kitchen by herslef...?) now was slaving away in the kitchen herself. Hannah fumbled around in her bag to find her phone. One missed call, from her brother. She phoned him back.

“Heya sis!” Ben picked up on the second ring. “Where the heck are you?”
I’ll be there in ten minutes. Where the heck are you?” That sentence seems out of place to me.
“On the beach. Where else? I’ll come home and help you unpack.”
“Okay, cool. See you soon!” She clicked off.
When Hannah turned into the driveway next to the log cabin, Ben was sitting on the stairs leading up to the porch, smoking a cigarette. His dark-blonde hair had already turned a lighter shade in the sunlight. He was wearing a big, showy pair of sunglasses that were hiding eyes just as bright-green as hers.
“You’re here!” he boomed enthusiastically, jumping up and giving her a bear hug.
“Hi bro. How’ve you been the past few days?” 
“Incredibly hot. I’ve been on the beach a lot.” Ben dragged Hannah’s suitcase up the stairs, while she carried two heavy bags with food and toiletries. She put the food in the kitchen and walked to the door of her old bedroom.
Opening the door, she fell silent for a moment. Everything was just as she remembered it. The big, comfortable bed in the corner, the sturdy table against the wall, the flowery curtains in front of the window looking out on the lake – it was like no time had passed at all. 

There were only two things that bothered me about this second section, and they're both easily rectified. One is that there's some extraneous information that isn't entirely necessary - imo. Cutting these bits would help with the second problem, which is pacing. For me, it's slow, especially for a YA book. I have a solution, but I can't tell til we get to the last page because it's a spoiler - not that some of you haven't guessed how this chapter will end. Anyway. That's really it for me. What do you think? Is the pacing slow for you? Have a comment for the author? If so I hope you'll share :)


Sahdow of Time (part one)

Chapter One -my crit...


     Come on, car. Just a few more miles.”
     Hannah Darson sighed so hard she blew the strands of dark-blonde hair from her face that had slipped out of her ponytail. She tightly (I think gripped implies tightly) gripped the steering wheel of the old, gray Datsun, trying to relax her tense shoulders. Not to mention the rest of her body – she could almost feel the frown on her lightly tanned face settle in on her forehead permanently. For some reason this jarred me a little.
     Hmm. She was probably just too tired to unwind, having been on the road since early morning, driving from Las Cruces to her mother’s log cabin close to Lake Powell. All this driving was beginning to get the better of her – she was completely drained. And hungry. Even more importantly, she was anxious – she was practically out of fuel. And out of options. She hadn’t passed any gas stations for a while.
     Hannah shot a nervous glance at the fuel gauge on her dashboard. It had been in the red for some time now. The route through Navajo Nation hadn’t exactly taken her through densely populated areas. And still the empty road stretched out ahead. Come on. Local people had to get gas somewhere too, right? Had she missed something? It sounds like Hannah didn't plan her trip well. Is this true? Just asking...
     The road curved to the left, and suddenly Hannah spotted a small gas station next to the exit to Glen Canyon Dam. Hallelujah! Danger of getting stranded without fuel averted.
     “Whoohoo!” she shouted at the top of her voice, gunning her Datsun to the entrance of the station. Nothing would rain on her parade now. Summer had started, her first year of teaching – which she’d survived without lethal damage – was over, and she was going to spend July and August here, in Arizona. Ben, her younger brother, was already waiting for her at the log cabin in St. Mary’s Port. She’d missed the place. The last time she’d stayed in their cozy little cabin was four years ago, when she’d still been together with Greg.
     Her ex-boyfriend liked the buzz of the big city, and he had never really warmed up to this place. (I might switch the two previous phrases like this: Her ex-boyfriend had never really warmed up to the place; he liked the buzz of the big city.) Well, in the end, she hadn’t liked him enough to stay with him either. She was a girl with a feel for village life, about to enjoy the peace and quiet of St. Mary’s Port once more. Endless days on the beach and sipping drinks in the shade of umbrellas lined up on the deck of the local restaurant were awaiting her. Plus, there would be countless trips to the Navajo reservation. Lake Powell was bordering on Navajo Nation, so it was a given to explore the reservation again. (This makes me curious. Why is she so eager to explore? Is there something drawing her back?) She and Ben even had childhood friends there.
     Humming happily to herself, Hannah parked her car next to gas pump number two. "It’s raining men!" she sang-shouted, blaring along to the song on her car stereo.
     The guy standing next to pump number three was just done getting gas for his motorbike. (Do you mean motorcycle? I think of a motorbike as something different, smaller/slower. Hopefully our readers will chime in on this.) He looked sideways and his mouth curled up in a smile. The Datsun’s roof was down, so he’d caught her shouting her lungs out.
     Hannah bit her lip. Damn. Her neighbor turned out to be a total hottie. She shot him a look that lasted a tad too long, then blushed, rummaging through her bag to find her money and pretend she’d already forgotten about him. As if. 
      Furtively, she looked him over again as he was strolling off to pay, helmet in one hand and sunglasses on. Yup, this was typically her – scaring off the local hunk by being a total retard. She rolled her eyes at herself. I can totally relate to this girl - lol. 


So, nothing too exciting happening except we're getting a glimpse at our mc, Hannah. She's caught a glimpse of the local color and likes it and is looking forward to spending time on the reservation for reasons that aren't clear yet. I am curious about this so I hope my interest pans out. I also like Hannah who's a little flirty, but not overly confident, which I can relate to. I like her. For me, this means I'll read on a little further. 

What do you think?

Shadow of Time (part one)

Yes, it's me again, taking over Huntress' week since she's wicked busy with revisions and such, and I have another first chapter to share and crit with you all. This week, it's Jen's first chapter from SHADOW OF TIME, a YA paranormal. Click on the pic top buy :)

All Hannah needs is a nice and quiet vacation after her first year of teaching French at a high school. She joins her brother Ben for the summer in their mom's log cabin in Arizona. There, she meets Josh again, Ben's childhood friend from the Navajo reservation. The little boy from the rez has grown up fast, and Hannah can't help but feeling more for him than just friendship.

But fate apparently has something else in store for her. And it's not peace and quiet. Night after night, Hannah is plagued by strange nightmares about the past of Navajo Nation and terrifying shadows chasing her. They seem to come closer - and why is Josh always present in her dreams?

 

Chapter One -


     Come on, car. Just a few more miles.”
     Hannah Darson sighed so hard she blew the strands of dark-blonde hair from her face that had slipped out of her ponytail. She tightly gripped the steering wheel of the old, gray Datsun, trying to relax her tense shoulders. Not to mention the rest of her body – she could almost feel the frown on her lightly tanned face settle in on her forehead permanently.
     Hmm. She was probably just too tired to unwind, having been on the road since early morning, driving from Las Cruces to her mother’s log cabin close to Lake Powell. All this driving was beginning to get the better of her – she was completely drained. And hungry. Even more importantly, she was anxious – she was practically out of fuel. And out of options. She hadn’t passed any gas stations for a while.
     Hannah shot a nervous glance at the fuel gauge on her dashboard. It had been in the red for some time now. The route through Navajo Nation hadn’t exactly taken her through densely populated areas. And still the empty road stretched out ahead. Come on. Local people had to get gas somewhere too, right? Had she missed something?
     The road curved to the left, and suddenly Hannah spotted a small gas station next to the exit to Glen Canyon Dam. Hallelujah! Danger of getting stranded without fuel averted.
     “Whoohoo!” she shouted at the top of her voice, gunning her Datsun to the entrance of the station. Nothing would rain on her parade now. Summer had started, her first year of teaching – which she’d survived without lethal damage – was over, and she was going to spend July and August here, in Arizona. Ben, her younger brother, was already waiting for her at the log cabin in St. Mary’s Port. She’d missed the place. The last time she’d stayed in their cozy little cabin was four years ago, when she’d still been together with Greg.
     Her ex-boyfriend liked the buzz of the big city, and he had never really warmed up to this place. Well, in the end, she hadn’t liked him enough to stay with him either. She was a girl with a feel for village life, about to enjoy the peace and quiet of St. Mary’s Port once more. Endless days on the beach and sipping drinks in the shade of umbrellas lined up on the deck of the local restaurant were awaiting her. Plus, there would be countless trips to the Navajo reservation. Lake Powell was bordering on Navajo Nation, so it was a given to explore the reservation again. She and Ben even had childhood friends there.
     Humming happily to herself, Hannah parked her car next to gas pump number two. "It’s raining men!" she sang-shouted, blaring along to the song on her car stereo.
     The guy standing next to pump number three was just done getting gas for his motorbike. He looked sideways and his mouth curled up in a smile. The Datsun’s roof was down, so he’d caught her shouting her lungs out.
     Hannah bit her lip. Damn. Her neighbor turned out to be a total hottie. She shot him a look that lasted a tad too long, then blushed, rummaging through her bag to find her money and pretend she’d already forgotten about him. As if. 
      Furtively, she looked him over again as he was strolling off to pay, helmet in one hand and sunglasses on. Yup, this was typically her – scaring off the local hunk by being a total retard. She rolled her eyes at herself. 

Okay. So here's the first part of Chapter One, sans crit. Later I'll add my thoughts and I hope you'll add yours.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

NEXT WEEK: be brave!

Next week -- starting May 12th -- is my turn at the helm of Unicorn Bell, so you already know this much about next week: it'll be scene-level crits, up to 1500 words.

Crits of what? Well, recently (last night) I wrote a scene that included something I had never tried before. Despite that I've been writing since high school (a long time ago) I had somehow never tried to write a scene that included... gay sex. (why? I don't know... I never wrote fanfic?)

I believe in pushing your own envelope, as a writer. I believe in tackling "taboo" subjects and finding the common humanity in the characters who engage in such things. Getting critiques about explicit, sensitive material can be difficult.

So send me your most uncomfortable, envelope-pushing scene that you'd like to get a crit on. Maybe it's sexual. Maybe it's violent. Maybe it's a subject that squicks you out for reasons you can't explain. (I'm squicky about eyeballs. Flying guts, brains, etc., okay. Just stay away from the eyeballs.)

If you haven't seen my crits here before, I tend to focus on character motivations, voice, logical flow, world-building... I will try not to be too caustic. I never post writers' names with my crits. I'll post "Viewer Discretion Advised" reminders.

Send scenes of up to 1500 words (with some forgiveness to finish the scene, if it's more like 1600) with the subject line BEING BRAVE to unicornbellsubmissions at gmail dot com before Friday, May 10th.

P.S. I will be brave, too, and post the aforementioned gay sex scene for you all to crit. It's explicit, and hopefully steamy, but the actual action is only a couple hundred words out of 1300.

Friday, May 3, 2013

MOM DROPS THE ULTIMATUM...(part five)



     “No way.”
     “Think about it, Bernie. It’ll be something to take your mind off your eating problems—“
     “I don’t want to take my mind off anything,” I hissed. Good Bernie was starting to retreat, poking her head back into its shell as my newfound, nastier side sprung free. This topic of discussion always brought out the worst in me. “These are my problems. Not yours. If I want to take my mind off it, then I’ll do that on my own.”
     Half the times, I didn’t believe in what I said. But I’d caved into everything else but help. If I didn’t fight, then I’d have no character. I’d just be Bernadette Lisel, the Girl With An ED. (I'm not sure what ED means)I hugged my arms around myself and suppressed a shiver. Without the heater, the cold was starting to seep into the car.
     “Fine,” my mom said finally. “I understand.”
     A twinge of surprise made me catch my breath. “You do?”
     She nodded somberly. “You want to be independent, am I correct? From now on, I’ll let you do things on your own. I’ll rescind your name from my credit card. Alana lives nearby, doesn’t she? You can move in with her.”
     I couldn’t say anything.
     “Or.” Her face lightened and she looked over at me devilishly. “You can get a job.”
     All of my dread suddenly melted into something hot. “Mom, are you blackmailing me?”
     “No. It’s an ultimatum.” My mom started the car again. “Think about it Bernie. I really think it’s for the best.”
     But only an idiot would have to think about it. I may be a lot of things, but an idiot I am not. I put two and two together.
     No house. No money.
     No food. And this tells me that food is a lot more important to Bernie than she lets on.


Of course, to me, mom demanding she gets a job during her gap year hardly seems like something to get so worked up about. Especially if she's over 18 and basically living off her mom, who appears to be a single parent (I haven't heard any mention of dad). In fact, I'd think she might feel a little guilty for not having a job. Nonetheless, I'm curious how Bernie will react to all this and what sort of job she'll get and most importantly, what will happen when she does. 

I'm not a huge fan of contemporary tales but I will say I'm interested to see what happens next to Bernie. Nice job!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

MOM DROPS THE ULTIMATUM...(part four)



     God, I hated that, the use of the full-name by the Adult In Rage. I looked out the window and pretended that I wasn’t nervous.
     “Bernadette Lisel,” my mom repeated. Then she got real quiet. “You of all people should know better.” See, this is why the scene need to be written out, because we don't know exactly what was said and therefore don't completely get what mom means here. Know better than what?
     That had stung. My mom was using her leverage, and she wasn’t playing around.
     She sighed, then started to back out of the space. “I’m very disappointed in you, Bernie. Can you imagine how it must have felt?” Her red curls bounced as she shook her head. “You never know what kind of impact the things you say will make on someone’s life.”
     “If she gets major depression because of what I said, then I can’t guarantee she’ll go very far in life,” I shot back. I was still pretty steamed from the argument.
     “You’re not getting it, are you?”
     I shoved in my seat belt and looked away. “I don’t really get anything nowadays, do I?” I muttered.
     For a long time, neither of us said anything. My mom focused on the road and I focused on the patch of condensation on the window from my breath.
     “I’m worried about you,” my mom said at last. Her voice was soft, as if she knew I’d started to bristle. “I don’t think this gap (what does 'gap year' mean?) year is doing  you any good. You need to get out—“
     “Do you want me to be even more of an outcast? It’ll have to be the apocalypse before I enter college two months in—“
     “That’s not what I’m saying. Bernie, listen to me.” Suddenly, she turned off the main road and drove us into a little alley, some unloading space. She cut the engine.
     “What are you doing?”
     My mom pressed her hands into her lap. “I’ve been thinking about it.”
     I waited. My stomach started to turn, which wasn’t saying that much since I’d been getting random attacks of heartburn since last month.
     She turned her eyes on me. “I think you should get a job.” I think this might have more impact if we knew what the gap year was and why it was and what's the big deal about Bernie getting a job? Lot's of parents tell their kid they need to get a job but this is said like it's a Big Thing.

So as stated before that argument needs to be in the story even if Bernie doesn't think it was a big deal. You can even write it that way but whatever happened, and whatever was said, we readers need to know about. That way the rest of the chapter will make more sense - imo. 

Now, what do you guys think?
   

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

MOM DROPS THE ULTIMATUM...(part three)

Today we have part three...your comments are both welcome and appreciated! And please forgive me for the formatting of the first line - blogger is being a C...dink.

“What the fuck?” was the first thing I said. I stood there, frozen for a second, then held that stupid blouse in front of my eyes to show that no way in hell was I interested in seeing a naked, fat girl. But of course, the blouse had to be see-through.
     “Get out!” she shrieked.
     “Okay, okay!” I backed out. “Geez, lock the door next time.”
     “It was locked!”
     Now, I have a Thing against people who argue for the sake of arguing. So, hearing that, and knowing that it hadn’t been at all my fault, that she was lying, I kind of let my mouth loose.
     “Locked?” I made my eyes wider. “You’ve got to be kidding me. How else do you think I could have just barged in? Not to see your fabulous body, obviously.”
     In retrospect, I kind of enjoyed that argument. Now I can add hypocrite to the list of wonderful things I am. Long story short, I said a lot of horrible things. It got pretty loud and the security got involved, and then the girl’s mom got involved, and of course, my mom, the peacemaker, had to get involved. Okay, now I know suspect why you didn't include this scene here. You probably thought it was too long and you're trying to keep the story moving and maybe, you weren't sure how to write it, but as someone who has done the same thing I will tell you what my critique partner told me. Write this scene out. The reader will want it. Every awful detail of the argument, mom, security, everything. Otherwise the reader is going to feel cheated. I did.
     In the parking garage, my mom was visibly fuming as she slammed the car door and jerked the engine to life. No joke—it was one of the colder days and I could see the air coming out of  her nose. She was as ticked as I had seen her in a while.
     “Bernadette Lisel,” she began. Oh dear. You know when your mom uses your full name you are in TROUBLE!
    
I really liked this third part. But you absolutely have to include the big argument. It goes to character and it's necessary. Anyone else agree - or disagree?