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.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

When Do You Write?

When you write can make a difference to the quality of writing. I'm learning this the hard way. You may have to try several plans before you find the right fit. However, the important part is that you write.
 
You have to make the time to write. If you don’t, the writing won’t happen.
  • No one is going to come to you and say, “Let me clean your house today and do your grocery shopping so you can write.”
  • If you don’t say, “This is my writing time” and turn off the phone and internet, and lock yourself away from your family, TV, whatever it is that distracts you—you will continue to be interrupted and the writing will suffer.
  • Fifteen to twenty minutes here and there is better than nothing, but if you’re like me, you need at least that long to remember where you left off and where you’re heading. For this reason, I prefer to get at least an hour block, but two is my goal.
  • Be willing to sacrifice for your writing. Get up an hour earlier, skip that sitcom or crime show and write at night, whatever it takes.
Here are my questions for you today...

When do YOU write? What kind of environment do you prefer for writing? Music? Chocolate? Peace and Quiet?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Why Do You Write?

This is a complex question. And the answer may/will change over the course of your writing career. You may also have several reasons for writing all at the same time. The point is to really think about it and figure out the main reasons you write because it will help you keep writing if you can understand your motivation.


Yeah, it's like that. Lot's of people start writing, but not all of them actually finish and move on to publication. Those who continue on the journey have a lot of things pushing them forward--motivation, ambition, passion, determination, etc. All of those things come to you when you have a clear goal in mind and you really KNOW why you want to reach that goal. You could argue that the ambition and passion direct you toward your goal.

Let's make a list of reasons why you write. Everyone chime in!
 
Reasons We Write:
To understand myself better
To share a good story
To help someone forget their troubles
To clear out the voices in my head--aka to get some sleep ;)
To teach
To preach
To make people think
To shock
To discover how the story ends or begins (the backstory)
To help me face my problems
To help the characters solve their problems
To keep from going insane!
To express myself
Because I can't NOT write
It's my passion

Monday, July 29, 2013

Motivation Week Kick-off! Who and What?

This week I thought we could talk about the things that keep us writing. The goal is to help you ask yourself some questions about why you write, what you want to accomplish and how you are going to do that. We'll touch on who, when and where along the way.

Today is easy.

What?
Writing, that's what. Feeling things in your heart, seeing things in your mind, meeting characters and visiting new worlds and then trying to put all of that into words on a page.
 
That's what.
 
Not always as easy as we hope, but always rewarding when we put in the time and effort. Worth it when someone reads a snippet and says, "Is there more?? I need to read more of this!"
 
The second What question will have a different answer for almost each and every one of us.
 
What do you write?
 
Answer for us in the comments! All of us at UB would love to hear from some of you more quiet lurkers. We have big things coming up this fall and we need to know what you write so we can tailor it to fit YOU!

Who?

Well, you of course!
 
If you are here, then you have an interest in writing. All of us have different reasons for writing, different approaches and different goals, but we'll save those for another day. But YOU are a writer. You are WHO is going to accomplish great things, share wonderful stories, make people laugh and cry over your characters.
 
Do it!
Know it!
Believe it!

And when people feel your mind with doubts, sing this song at the top of your lungs.
 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Wilder Mage - Cover Reveal

Subtitle: Shameless Plug 



To all the writers on the road to Published Author; you will hit potholes, speed bumps, and maybe a ditch or two. But all the frustration, heartache, and multiple rejections are Worth It.

Especially when your book comes to life with the first glimpse of the cover. 

Glory be and Hallelujah! 



Friday, July 26, 2013

Yay or Nay Friday

A submission!! *evil laugh* Now it is MY turn to rend and claw.
The sudden brightness of the massive kitchen stunned me. Then, just before my stomach reminded me how hungry I was, the earthy scent of roasting meat overwhelmed my starved senses. My knees felt suddenly weak.
My alter ego, Mistress of Metaphor, wants to insert phrases that would bring this paragraph to life. Allow it to breathe. Yes, like Frankenstein's monster.

My thoughts and suggestions:

Cut 'suddenly'. "My knees felt as if I'd just finished a four-minute mile."

Love 'earthy scent'. 

"I squinted my eyes against the brilliant sunlight pouring through the windows. A massive kitchen, bigger than some dwellings greeted me."

* * * *
What say you?

Cover reveal tomorrow!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

It Be Another Day of Yay or Nay



I didn't receive any subs for critique. What? Are you scared? Can't take it? Worried that someone might tear your precious words piece by piece, phrase by phrase, noun from verb?

Yeah. Me too.

Here's another one:
His face changed from slack interest to wide-eyed panic as a varmint reacts to the shadow of an overhead hawk.

*sigh* Beat it now. Mutilate. Stomp it. Grind it into the dirt. Killkillkillkill...

And tomorrow, if I don't receive any submissions, you get to see my book cover reveal. 
Bwhahahahahaha


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Yay or Nay – Scenes that Anchor

Today we are beginning a new feature at UnicornBell called Yay or Nay. Submit short phrases or sentences for quick responses in the affirmative or negative.

* * * * 
Anchoring the reader to the scene involves taste, smell, sight, and sound. It is vital to the bonding process, pulling the reader into your world. Your audience does the rest with their imagination. 

Here is my example:

The acrid smell of warm mead hovered over the festivities like a fog. The odor of the horse dung was a sad counterpoint.

Rules: Comment below, Yay or Nay. Add your short phrase and I’ll post it for review.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Point of View

This week I've been talking about the lessons a writer can learn from reading poorly written (or perhaps just poorly edited) books. The kinds of books you find for free on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

One issue that comes up time and again is head hopping. But I'm not an expert on this.

My novels are written in first person. My main character is the only point-of-view character. This is easy for me. It means that some information remains hidden as the main character doesn't know it, but I don't have to worry about whose head I'm in.

But what is the proper way to shift from one point-of-view character to another?

I thought it should only be done at chapters. Or, at least scene breaks. I've seen it done in the middle of scenes, though, and I don't know if that is the way to do it.

So, I'm asking. When is the best time to shift point-of-view? Is there a proper way to do it?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Your Turn

This week I've been talking about free ebooks and the lessons we writers can learn from the bad ones. Or, at least the lessons I learn from the bad books I've read. (We each have our own issues when it comes to our development as writers.)

But that's just me. What about you?

What writing lessons have you learned from bad books you've read (whether free or not)?

What things will cause you not to finish a book?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Important Back Third

On Monday, Alicia commented: 
I don't generally end up finishing the really bad [books]. I can learn from the good ones as well...and I have precious little time enough to read to be wasting my time reading bad books! :D
And it's true for me too. If a book is really terrible, I won't bother to finish it. But the ones I have finished have taught me another really important lesson.

I downloaded a free novel that had an interesting description. I was enjoying the story. The plot was fairly predictable, but there are many times when I just want something comforting and predictable to read. But a little over halfway through, I noticed something strange.

While before there had been a couple minor typos, towards the end, more typos cropped up. And then there was a glaring grammar error. Then a sentence that didn't quite make sense.

(And then I was whacked upside the head with a ludicrous plot development, but that's beside the point.)

The first two-thirds of the book were pretty well done. The last third looked as if the editor got bored or tired and kind of gave up.

Since then, I've noticed a few books with this same problem. It starts off good. But once I'm into the story and nearing the end, the editing problems start to crop up.

I know it's important to make sure the first chapter is spotless. Beginnings are vital to hooking a reader and keeping him/her reading. But endings are important, too. And the later chapters of a book need just as much care and attention as the earlier ones.

How careful are you with the later chapters of your books?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Naming Mistakes

Last week I downloaded a free ebook that sounded semi interesting. It was about a woman moving to LA to start a new life.

It was short. Something like 50 pages. By page 20, I was done with it.

It started off readable enough. The MC met her love interest in a fairly implausible way, but I was willing to let that slide. But things got worse from there.

The two met up later. They had a conversation. It went something like this (this isn't the conversation; I'm just using it to illustrate my point):
"Mr. Smith, what a nice place this is."

"Ms. Jones, I'm so glad you approve."

"Mr. Smith, I'm curious as to why you asked me here tonight."

"Ms. Jones, I thought you would enjoy a nice night out."
And on and on and on it went. Every single line of dialog had one character referring to the other by name. And not even by their first names! (Although, at one point Mr. Smith did ask Ms. Jones to call him John.) I think I read about two pages of this awful dialog and put the book down, never to be finished.

Although, at least this author made sure each character address was punctuated with a comma. I've noticed in a few different books this particular rule being forgotten.

It's kind of jarring, to be reading along, not seeing any major grammar errors, only to be stopped cold when I see:
"Nathan where are you going?"
Rather than:
"Nathan, where are you going?"
Thinking that it's just a typo. Moving on. And then encountering the same thing again.

Most of the time, I can figure out that one character is being addressed, but there were a couple times when I wasn't quite sure.

But the worst naming error I've come across wasn't a terrible shock. The book was bad. I'm not sure why I continued to read it. Perhaps I'm a glutton for punishment. Perhaps it was late and I didn't want to start something new. Perhaps I was in a I'm-going-to-finish-this-one-if-it-kills-me mood.

In chapter two, the character's name was Chrissy. In chapter three, her name was Christy. Same in chapter four. In chapter five, the character's name was Chrissy again.

Don't ask about the plot of that one. Trust me, you don't want to know.

What are some glaring naming mistakes that you've noticed?

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Value of Free

I've been reading a lot of free ebooks lately.

I do so for many reasons. I don't want to commit to a book I might hate. I read a lot. And a lot of the freebies tend to be short. (I have been known to stay up reading until 7 AM if a book sucks me in. This is especially not good on me the next day.)

I find a lot of good writers and good series via this method. Several of my favorite series I only started because book one was free. I've found some wonderful writers I would have been reluctant to try otherwise.

Some self-published authors do an excellent job. Others...not so much.

Which is another good thing about reading free ebooks. The bad books.

What good is reading a bad book? Well, for a writer, it's a valuable teaching tool.

When I read a good book, I tend to get pulled away into the fictional world of the novel. I read. I drift. I enjoy.

When I read a bad book, I think. What is wrong? What's bothering me about the story? How could it be improved? Am I guilty of similar bad writing?

Do you read free ebooks? Or do you shy away from them, fearing that they are all bad?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Personal Think Tank

Quick post...as I'm Dashing out the door. Busy day!

I'm curious though. What do you want to see created? Built? Developed? Brought to LIIIIIIIFFFFFEEEEE!  In regards to our craft. Technology wise.

Anything?

Is there something you thought of in the wee bitty hours of the morning that you went, "Man, writing would be so much easier if I could just...."

Or did you recently watch an episode of Torchwood, and after wiping the drool off your face from eyeballing Barrowman for 45 minutes straight, you thought, "Wow. That gadget would be Really Useful!"

Personally. I want them to develop a way I can e-mail someone a document and I don't have to choose the TYPE of document to send. RFT. PDF.  DOC. DOCx. WRD. QRTY. JKASS. Whatever. I  get so annoyed with this because inevitably the type I choose isn't going to work with wherever I send it. They have a Mac. I don't. They have a typewriter, I have an telegraph. Something to that effect. I want 'them' to figure out how to hit 'attach to e-mail' and THAT'S IT! Just send the stupid thing. BAM! Done! And the person on the other end can open it no problem because THEIR computer is freaking smart enough to figure out what Type of document it needs it to be translated into to read it! *tweak*

Ok. I've had some whiskey. I'm ok now.

So what fantastic new technological advancement have you thought would make huge improvements to our writing craft?

And why hasn't it been done yet?!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Blockage


I know we don't like to talk about it. I know we all like to just pretend that it doesn't exist.
But Foot Fungus is here, and you really should use that cream.

So too for Writer's Block. Wouldn't it be great if there were a cream for that?

Breaking out of writer's block is hard. Generally I set things aside and wait. And wait. Things will stew in my brain, for lack of a better term, all on its own. And suddenly the plot point that was sticking will wake me up at f'ing 2am and not let me get back to bed until I write it down.

However. Sometimes. I find that if I write about something completely different and totally trivial and 'throwaway'. Something that has less importance. Something that doesn't make me feel like the whole balance of a world I'm creating is going to get thrown off kilter if I screw it up. I get my rhythm back.

In the Less Technical Days of Yore, I would sit and write really horrible poetry. Angsty love poems. I was a very angry lover apparently. Or maybe I was just having a string of bad days. Hence the writer's block.

NOW, however, there are some Great sites that you can go to that provide you with writing prompts. For Book ideas even! (If you can't come up with one on your own...) These three are the three that I go to most regularly. Where do you go?

Creative Writing Prompts!

One Minute Writer Blog!

Tumblr Writing Prompts!

My favorite is the tumblr. Mainly because, along with everything else, I'm a very visual person. So seeing a giant picture is great for getting my creative grey matter pulsing.

What do you all do when that giant wall of writer's block doom looms? Besides curl up in a ball, muttering to yourself about the evil leprechauns in super tight pants that stole your brother from his crib.

Should NOT have watched that movie last night....

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Method to the Madness and Technology Fail

Speaking of using technology. If someone could explain to me how Dropbox is "supposed" to work. That'd be great. Thaaaanks.... Grrr. Been trying to get/find/load a picture of my workstation for the past 20 minutes. Not happenin'. Anyhow...

My idea for today! Send me pictures of your glorious work stations! We're all curious how we all work! Don't "clean for the maid" either. I want to see How You Work >;) In all your fantastic mess! Hey. Whatever works for you. If it's as neat as a pin. Orderly and color coordinated...then Obviously you don't have to share your space with anyone else.

Send them along to unicornbellsubmissions@gmail.com and I'll do a big post on Saturday. Sort of like the funnies.

Also. I'm curious to know about you. Mainly because this whole 'serious' writing thing is a fairly new endeavor for me. (Only maybe 2 years or so). And it's been interesting trying to fit it in with my regularly scheduled life, so to speak. My husband is very supportive. In a Mommie Dearest sort of way..."Are you finished writing your novel yet? Can you start looking for publishers yet? Are you famous yet?" Sorry sweetie. Gotta pay the bills the normal way for One More Week!

When do you write? Morning? Evening? I generally get my writing done in short bursts. Few hours in the morning. Longer stretches on the weekends. (If I have time, like if it's raining...) Maybe an hour found here or there. And then I do my edits between clients. I found this GREAT app. (Don't laugh!!) for my phone. Have you heard of the Pomodoro method? There's an app for that! No. You don't NEED an App. But it was free. And it forced me to focus in the short amount of time that I had available to write.

Do you listen to music? I never DID. But then my husband had surgery on his ankle. So now, when I write on the weekends, he's in the very next room, which is literally 4 feet away, on the couch watching TV. Can't be helped. So I need something in my earbuds to whitenoise the tv away. I tried Jazz (Cause I love Jazz.) Too distracting. I can't have words in my playlist. Just ambient floaty noise. Being a massage therapist, I'm REALLY good at Ambient Floaty Noise. For example...This guy...

Do you Munch on things? (Twizzlers...or Popcorn...) Drink Liquid Libations? (I generally wait till AFTER. My plots make far more sense the less whiskey I pour on them...)

Last but not least...Are you a One Hit Pony? That makes no sense. HA! Do you work on one story at a time. Pour your last drop of blood and marrow into it. Or do you work on several at once flitting from one to the other making each your Favorite Ever! Personally, I work on one thing at a time. All consuming. I've tried the other way. It breaks my brains.











Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Writing In a Digital Age

Things have changed SO much, so fast, from when I first started writing.

If I was really clever I would be posting some cute meme here that shows a timeline of a notebook, to a typewriter, to a wordprocessor to a computer. But I'm not. No idea how to do that.

I think the changes are Great! I, like a poster yesterday, get hand cramps if I write long hand for too long so the computers really opened up the world of writing for me!

The trouble is...the Choices! #firstworldproblems

Which word processing software to use?

Now I know. Probably a good 80% of you are going, Word, It's the only way! (Or the Apple equivalent....)

But I can't trust that program after it devoured all my writing back two years ago. ALL. of my writing. Yes. I had backed it up. But there was a 'glitch' in the Word program that I had that didn't allow it to talk to my external hard drive...so no...it wasn't really backing things up, even though it went through all the motions like a good little program. Then, when I turned my computer on one day and Word was just simply NOT THERE?! (uh?) The computer guy I have informed me of the known issueS (plural) that version of Word has with things.

I'm sure Microsoft has fixed it. As Word has a pretty high rating. But I just can't do it....Not without lots of therapy. Therapy and whiskey.

But I did find Scrivener! Which kicks ASS! Anybody else out there use Scrivener? It's amazing. It basically looks like the inside of my brain when I'm writing. It's a program developed BY writers, FOR writers. It's Cheap. I got the whole shebang (Well...my husband bought it for me for our anniversary :D ) It included a disk with the program, so I can put it on another computer, the download, and the manual. $60! It does take some time to Learn. But once you realize this ISN'T Word, doesn't work anything Like Word. It's pretty intuitive. It's a Huge program. Check it out! Scrivener Website!

I also found this website in my wanderings trying to find info about word processing software. Software Review Site! My first thought when I saw it was, holy crap! Wordperfect is still around??

SO!  What do you all use!? And how do you like your choice? Would you change it if you could or are you happy with it and it's working for the way you write?







Monday, July 8, 2013

Technically Speaking

So I was just up in "The County" of Maine for about a week.

For those of you that don't know this is Aroostook County. Land of Potatoes. Get to Portland Maine and head about 4 hours North. Then. To get to where I was, head another hour further North. Lots of trees.

And Mosquitoes. CRAZY mosquitoes.

Anyway. The first night I was there was the 3rd of July, and my hometown does this celebration called Midnight Madness where all the local businesses stay open till Midnight and serve free stuff, games in the streets for the kids, bands playing...all sorts of fun stuff! So I went to that. And I didn't get to my parent's house till maybe 11:30pm or so. Long after they'd gone to bed.

Much too late to wake them up to ask them for the password for the Wi-fi. Crap.

Now. For most of you this may not be a problem. But I, thinking I was being all clever! SOOOO clever! Stored what I was working on at the moment on google docs cloud. (I HATE hatehatehate Word...but we'll get into that later) Thinking I could just access it all week and then zip it back into scrivener when I got home.

Bam!

Nope. Need the wi-fi's to do that. Damn you google doc's!

So that night I just took the night off from writing and read...(poor me.)

Then I got to thinking...I was REALLY dedicated, used my Drive App on my phone. As annoying as it would have been.

Which got me thinking about how much I use my smartphone for my writing craft.

Which made me remember a blog post I read a while ago someone had posted asking what apps people use that pertain to their writing craft.

So I'm curious!

How low or high tech do you go? Are you a notebook and pencil kind of person? Or do you have a laptop/computer that you'd be lost without? Are you constantly scribbling notes and ideas on slips of paper? Or do you have an app on your phone for that? Or are you like me and kinda somewhere in between?

The next day I asked my dad for the wi-fi password. He said, "I gave that to you the last time you were here! You don't remember it!"

"Dad. I haven't been here for over a year. You haven't changed your password since then?" (Stalling cause no I didn't remember it...)

"Of course I have! Let me check..."
Yah...he'd forgotten the password too...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Long form crit: EVERGREEN

Thanks to Jadzia Brandli for submitting! And apologies for the lateness -- my day took an unexpected turn. This is the first chapter of her YA contemporary WIP, EVERGREEN.

Chapter One

Chimerical—imaginary. Improbable. Unrealistic.

“The whole life you have thought up in your head is chimerical.”

I said this exact sentence to myself in the mirror this morning. I needed an example sentence for my word of the day and it was the first thing I thought of. I didn’t like that sentence, because it debunked the fancy I had been carrying around for some time now, that the life I was living wasn’t real and, instead, it was the life I had playing out behind my eyelids that was legit.

“Legit,” I said, while staring at my waffles.

That’s a word for another day.

-- >>Delete this. There's no scene break here.

Dad had this chimerical idea that if he ignored me every chance he got, I’d disappear. Crumble. Become nothing. No more Elliot. No more cancer. No more failure.

That’s me.

A failure.

When you wanted a girl—which is weird, because don’t most dads want little boys just like them?—you got a boy, and that boy managed to botch every single attempt at living up to his father’s expectations, then said disappointment of a son gets cancer and your wife gets hit by a car two days before Christmas, you deem practically everything in your life a failure.

At least, I’ve always assumed this is the way Dad lookeds at everything. It was 's palpable by the look on his face whenever we encountered each other in the house or he got gets a call from work. He wasn’t isn't satisfied with his life. >>he's describing the state of things at that time, therefore present tense. It insinuates that his assumption still holds in the time that Elliot's narrating from -- does it? If it doesn't, "I’ve always assumed this is" s/b "I'd always assumed that was".

Well, Dad, neither am I. Thank you.

I didn’t even attempt to start a conversation this that morning. Dad shoved a waffle and a half in his mouth, drank half a bottle of syrup—not kidding, lips to the bottle, head tilted back, chugging—and wiped his mouth on the hand towel by the sink.

He left the kitchen a mess and didn’t say a word to me.

The garage door screeched.

Honda Civic screamed out of the driveway.

He was gone.

Chimerical—my idea that doing the laundry and keeping the house clean would garner me any positive attention from him.

I cleaned up his mess anyway.

I even cleaned his bathroom and made his bed.

Check. Sucking up for the day—complete.

Then I sat in the living room with my socked feet on the coffee table for twenty one minutes. >>a kid with no internet life?

Chimerical—my social life.

“Love you, summer,” I said to no one.

At least during the school year, I could pretend I had friends. Going to school every day and mingling with the other juniors in class and in the halls, made me feel like I wasn’t as alone as I actually am. As alone as I am in this house. As alone as I am nearly every day of my life.

But now I had nothing to look forward to but hospital visits, headaches, and a massive heat wave coming in from the west.

I threw on a clean t-shirt and went outside barefoot.

The sky was mocking me. >>how?

It was blue with huge, white clouds floating around. If I stared at one long enough, I could track its progress across the sky. If I stared at one long enough, I could almost imagine I was one of them, sailing through the sky like it was an ocean and I was a ship.

Then a car honked at me and I realized I was standing in the middle of the street.

Chimerical. >>IMO, you're milking this word kinda hard. You could ease up.

I’d never be a cloud ship.

I walked down the sidewalk, careful not to step in the road again. I had enough people staring at me—everyone on my street knew who I was. Except for Mrs. Taylor. But she was psychotic and close to two hundred years old, at least.

I looked at her windows as I passed. When was she going to die?

I didn’t much care for death.

It was coming. We all knew it. I knew it for a fact—I was playing chicken with it at this very moment. But I refused to be the one who blinked and veered off course. I’d face it with a smidgeon of dignity if that was all I had left, but if it was up to me, I’d hold onto all the strength and dignity I had until someone pried them from my iron fingers. I’d look death in the eyes and laugh.

Promise numero uno—laugh at death.

I made promises to myself—and wrote them on my bathroom mirror with sharpie—relating to my cancer and the fact that I was sure this next round of chemo wouldn’t do anything but make me vomit and start balding like Uncle Larry.

Oh, and pass out in public bathrooms.

That’d happened once before. It was a movie theatre and I was taking a leak in one of the urinals when I practically fainted on some guy. He must’ve been the Michelin man or something. I bounced right off him and hit the floor. He stared at me—my pants down and all—until Kevin walked in to see what was taking so long.

Kevin was my last friend.

He moved to Toronto to live with his mom three months ago.

I know he didn’t leave because of me—why would you move to Canada just because your friend has cancer and passed out with his pants around his knees? But sometimes it still feels like things would have been different if I were normal like him.

Instead of taking my daily walk around the neighborhood, I’d be making plans with friends. I’d be going to see a movie or hang out at the park. I wouldn’t have these rules and rituals that gave me the tiny feeling of stability in my life that kept me from thinking about the tests and the medications and the tumor pressing on my brain all the time.

I stopped walking, the sidewalk hot against the soles of my feet.

I stood in front of a house I’d never really looked at before. The siding on the house was blue and the front lawn was greener than most—especially for how hot it’s been lately. Two red bikes leaned against a large, white Ford truck, and a black motorcycle sat in the open garage.

For some reason, I got a good vibe from the place. The family living here was happy and, even though it felt absurd to me, I didn’t doubt the feeling settling over my chest. A feeling like the warmth Mom used to spread throughout the house—something I’d never have again.

I turned toward home.

The feeling was gone by the time I walked through my front door.

>>This is a well written scene. Because I'm a finicky, jaded reader, it's one long demonstration that nothing is going on here and I wouldn't read any further because I'm already tired of listening to this kid whine. 

He whines well, though. Good voice. Good, conversational subject-wandering to get to all the important points smoothly and naturally. The one-line paragraphs get to be a bit much, IMO. Some of them could be doubled up, like the garage door and the car screeching away. 

But overall, thumbs up. Except that I'm desperate for something interesting to happen. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Intermission: back cover blurb

I'm working on a crit submission for tomorrow's post. You can still get yours in. I work on holidays -- obsession doesn't take a day off. Send up to 1500 words of anything to unicornbellsubmissions at gmail.com.

Meanwhile, I've been trying to hack out the back cover copy for my third book, a gritty fantasy romance called Disciple, Part III. Unlike query letters, back covers need to entice a general audience (could be anyone from a long-time fantasy reader to someone who never reads the genre) to take a closer look at the book. Like queries, they've got 200 words, at most, to do that. 

So take your red pen to this! 

Kate fought for her place as a healer in the war’s front lines. Serving her homeland has been her goal since her magical gifts earned her a coveted apprenticeship with the kingdom’s greatest healer. She believes she’s prepared.

But nothing’s simple when defending a besieged capital city — or her heart.

She loves the prince, who wants to protect her but his duties as a knight keep him on the battlements, defending the city.

Kate’s husband is the one who checks on her, lingers over dinner, and slowly but surely charms her. She’s all too aware that her beloved prince threatened to kill him if he touches her.

As the enemy army thunders against the city walls, the kingdom need more from Kate than just her healing magic. Every disciple must put aside their tangled feelings and stand in the homeland’s defense.

Kate believed she was ready for the war. Nobody ever is, in truth.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Long form crit: LEGACY OF THE EYE

My turn to take a week here at UB, so you know what that means -- long form crits! Send up to 1500 words to unicornbellsubmissions at gmail.com and I will take a stab at it. 

Thanks, Patricia, for sending in your new opening to LEGACY OF THE EYE!

CHAPTER 1

David: Proposal

It might have been a symbolic gesture, but I was not budging. My hand covered the keypad inside the traveling pod as I faced the old instructor. "Come on, Max. We're leaving the school anyway, why not let me punch the code?"

Arms crossed and hat in hand, the instructor's black outfit obscured the doorway. "The council should have made you wait until after graduation like everyone else."

Cat and I had been confined in the school since we were two. What difference would two weeks make after sixteen years? "We've earned the distinction."

"Next you'll ask to stop for a black uniform on the way out," Max said.

We probably earned that too, but I knew how to pick my battles. If the council accepted our petition, the Governance Department would not be able to deny us a position in their faculty.

Cat's hand pressed my shoulder. "David, we'll be late."

"Tell him that."

"You're only making him more stubborn, Max," she said. "You know we have no reason to run away."

The instructor hesitated. Would he make us miss our appointment with the council? The fastest way to the front entrance was by pod, but the motorized spheres did not travel at the speed of light. >>Personally, I don't like throwing a question in the narrative like this -- there are more useful ways to get the information across. The meeting was in fifteen minutes; my nerves jangled at the thought of being late. But that's a matter of voice and style.

"CO3X04W." Max pointed his rolled up hat at me. "If you don't behave, I'll deny you my recommendation and the council will veto the Tutor Program."

He must be bluffing. I doubted we needed his help to defend the proposal. We had discussed the idea with students and faculty for months. Plus, Cat had written a meticulous petition.

"We don't have our hats," Cat said as I turned to the keypad and pressed the first two letters.

Max stepped out of the pod. "Then go get them." >>Max was in the pod? BTW, how big is the pod? You haven't set the scene yet...

I finished inputting the destination code to the front entrance and grabbed Cat's hand before she could exit the pod. The doors sealed us in and the sphere descended into the network of tunnels underneath the Academy of Demia. >>This would be a good place for some description

She held onto a handlebar as the pod gathered speed. "What have you done? You never said anything about leaving without Max." >>?? It seemed obvious to me -- and to Max -- that David meant to go without him. Why else would Max just step out of the pod? 

I pulled down two of the four jump seats. "Thanks for getting rid of him."

"We'll be in so much trouble when he catches up with us. They'll deny us the directorship of the Tutor Program."

"They won't. By the time Max summons another pod, we'll be beyond the gate. He won't interrupt the proposal defense to yell at me." And after the council approved the new program, we would not be his students anymore. >>if Max meant to shoot down the proposal, why wouldn't he interrupt?

She sank into the seat next to mine. "Maybe we should go over your speech one more time."

"Five times today isn't enough?"

"Four. And you're still forgetting to mention that the tutors will be traveling to their pupil's home planet. That's a big point in the proposal."

"Do you want to give the speech?"

She bit her lower lip. "No."

"Then stop fretting. If the council hadn't liked our idea, they wouldn't have requested an audience."

"They probably read the proposal once. How much do you think they grasped? You've read it a dozen times and you still forget some of the details. I should have made you write it."

I grinned. "Then it wouldn't have been perfect."

"Or written at all."

The corners of her mouth twitched. I could make her smile if I kept the bickering going. But I yielded instead. My speech needed to be perfect if we were to merit directing the program. And I was grateful for Cat's help, not only today, but also convincing our instructors that we should be present at the council meeting. Without her cool-headed argumentation, we would have had to wait in the Governance Department while Max petitioned for us. But this was our project. The idea to send tutors to the other colonies in the Tetracoil Galaxy was ours. We should be the ones defending the proposal and managing the program. >>arguments?

When the pod opened at the main building, there was no one waiting for us. Apparently, Max had not asked anyone to intercept his runaway students. Cat and I walked to the heavy pine door that led to the outside and I pulled it open. The bright afternoon light spilled into the hallway. She walked out first, but stalled at the front steps, her dark gray uniform not quite blocking my view of the gates.

She turned when the door slammed, eyes squinted. "We should have brought our hats."

"It's after the ninth hour. The light's not so dangerous anymore." >>Just wanted to note that this is the single most interesting thing you say in the whole scene.

She gnawed on her lower lip. "I'm not sure it was a good idea to leave without Max."

"Relax. We'll be fine."

I reached for her hand and she smiled tentatively. She latched onto my fingers as if she could milk them for the courage she lacked. I led her down the front steps towards the open gate, a hundred feet away. The gravel crunched under our feet. Cat glanced back at the door to the main building.

"We're supposed to be here," I said.

"With a chaperone."

"If we want to be taken seriously we need to stop behaving like students." She needed to relax.

We stepped through the wide-open gates and out of the Academy grounds. The thought that we were probably the first students ever to leave the school before graduation made me smile. I smelled freedom in the cool afternoon air. Our future started today. >>if students aren't allowed out, why are the gates open?

Cat's hand tightened around mine. I doubted she even noticed the huge garden in front of us.

"Stop worrying and look around you," I said. "Have you ever seen so many flowers in one place?"

She stared at the bright-colored plants as if they would swallow her alive. "Now we know why everyone talks so much about the Center Gardens. Do you even know where to go?" >>if students aren't allowed out, who talks about the gardens? 

"Third building to the left, according to a book in the reading room."

She turned to skim the garden.

"We're early," I said. "Let's walk through the park. If Max shows up, say we're waiting for him." If she did not calm down before the meeting, there was no way they would let her direct the program with me. >>why?

"We don't want to be late."

"Then don't waste time arguing." I guided her down the closest footpath, which started by a two-tiered stone fountain marked with the letter W.

We walked toward the larger waterspout in the middle of the garden. The flowerbeds on either side were in different shades of blue, dark-colored at first then lighter the deeper into the park we walked. The fragrance in the air shifted and intensified with each step we took. By the time we reached the lilies, I realized why the book had called this a sensory garden. Some of these plants were edible; the park could stimulate all five senses.

Cat pulled me towards the lilies. "How do you think they water the flowers?"

"Underground capillaries."

"How come you always have all the answers?"

Just the ones found in books. "Why do you think instructors don't trust students?"

"They do."

"Not without supervision."

She stared at the lilies by the fountain. "Remember Paul and Solana?"

Last year, they had snuck up to the roof after curfew. They let biology get them in trouble. "That was different."

"Why?" She was looking at me intently. >>she's asking how nooky on the roof is different from a presentation?

I had no answer. We had been classmates for eight years. Best friends for just as long. Even more than that--we were a team. I needed her. And not just to write my reports. She had been in my life since I was ten and I could not imagine a future without her. Together we could conquer the galaxy.

The fountains seemed to ask why I had never kissed her. We had never been alone. At a ratio of three to one, instructors were always monitoring students at the department. Maybe I could convince Cat to come back to the garden after the proposal defense. If no one showed up to rush us back to the Academy. We would not get another chance to be alone until after graduation. Two weeks was a long time.

She stepped closer. Her tongue moistened her lips. I swallowed hard as my body responded to the invitation. This was not the right time but I did not know how to tell her. I needed blood in my brain not where it was flowing.

Cat did not give me the chance to think. Her hand reached for my neck. She rose to her toes and pressed her mouth to mine. My arms tightened around her. She interlaced her fingers into my hair, her warm body pressed against mine. I did not want her to stop. I wanted to pull her clothes off and lay her down where we stood.

>>Overall, this is pretty good. First time I read this, nothing jarred me enough to stop and add notes. 

But while it's good, it's not... grabbing. You're laying out the situation and the relationship, and that's well and good but it's all rather straightforward. Except that one point of interest I noted. That intrigues me. Something weird and different there. But it's only two little sentences in all this.  

I think my question to you is: what's the risk here? A project passing or failing... meh, happens every day. Hoping to get a kiss, that's nice. What's the real, personal, even deadly risk they're taking?