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Friday, August 30, 2013

The kiss

*Technical Difficulties*

Sorry for the delay folks...not sure why I couldn't get this to post. Hopefully this time it will...trying a different avenue!

Ok...

Apparently...rashes are a bit slow moving... so to speak...
That's ok. Lets try our hand at romance...

"But did you kiss him?" I couldn't believe I had to ask my sister that question again after everything we'd been through.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

You might want to get that checked...

This is why I love doing these Round Robin stories. You never know where they're gonna take you! Love it!

Space Zombies! Awesome. New Blockbuster film...I can see it now...

So today's prompt is short and sweet. Let's see what we do with it.

It all started with a rash on my...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Field Trip

So I think what we're going to do is write a collaborative story together for publication!

Nice job again yesterday!

Today...switching of the genre...

The massive yellow rocket-bus powered down slowly as it eased into the airlock. All 42 kids jumped up and started to gather their bags. They had been planning for this trip for years. And finally a space had become available."Everyone! Quick! Look out the view ports! You won't believe it..."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Life Raft

Awesome Job yesterday!! :D I love it when a twist occurs...

Let's keep up the momentum with today's prompt!


She pulled on the rope, dragging the life raft closer to shore. The pale hand hung limply over the side, almost dragging in the balmy water. This had definitely not gone according to plan. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Case of the Mystery Doorbell

This week because I am IN CONTROL! *Bwahaha* And I think they're fun...

And it's good to get the creative juices flowing every so often...
We're doing Round Robin Writing!

I'll start....Then you all chime in in the comments section.

Today's Prompt:

Bryan lifted his head from the sink, toothpaste dribbling down his chin. That's odd, he thought. When did we get a doorbell...


Friday, August 23, 2013

Critting FADE INTO ME: why it feels flat

For a change of pace, YA fantasy -- "still feels flat," the author says...

I opened the portal and prepared to leave the realm of humans behind me. With the fabric of time and space in flux, all I had to do was set the destination. The coordinates floated behind my closed lids as my mind linked into the system. One step, a tugging sensation, and I stepped into in a palace. Strands of magic swirled around me revealing more vibrant colors and smells than on the human side of the barrier. It was good to be home.

The foyer and grand staircase were empty, the halls quiet. Even today, the second busiest day the palace staff would have this year, my world exuded peace. Granted, most of them were overseeing details for my sister’s wedding on the human side.

I followed the corridor to the back door and walked outside. The colors of the garden danced in the sunlight—shades of red, white, yellow and green jumped from plant to plant, mingling, changing. They wrapped themselves around the sound of buzzing insects and the humming of bird wings. This is what I missed the most when living among the humans—this symbiosis of sight and sound. Human ignorance of the threads of magic kept the colors glued to one spot.

Mother straightened from her spot by a rose bush bursting with drooping flowers. Their soft peach coloring swirled around her arms in a gentle caress as she placed the cuttings in a basket.

"Caedmon? What brings you home? I thought you’d be busy with pre-wedding parties." At almost four hundred years old, Mother's dark hair had started to streak with gray, but her skin remained flawless like her rose petals.

"That’s not really me. I think Sedonia’s wedding drove how close my own is. Mom, I’m not ready and it’s two months away. I wanted to ask for more time."

“Sweetheart, your sister’s wedding was the deadline and we can’t change it. As it is, you might have a hard time convincing a human woman to marry you only two months after proposing. Kathryn looks to be your best option. Is there anyone else?”

 “No, but I want more time to look for my soul mate. What’s a few more months, or years for that matter? Can’t you ask them to give me more time?” I stepped closer.

"Son, you must take a human bride, Anamchara or not." She rested her hand on my shoulder. "Finding your soul mate is very rare, you know that. But this is the year of the Reparation. You must choose and marry a human girl by the end of the week you turn a hundred and twenty-five. That’s two months and can’t be changed."

For most of my kind, the one hundred and twenty-fifth birthday wasn't a big deal, but for me, Prince of the Reparation, it signified the beginning, or the end. I wasn’t sure which yet.

"It’s just tradition. Come on, one more year?"

"Caedmon—"

"Everyone else gets more time."

Her shoulders slumped, but she smiled up at me. "I wish this were easier for you, but it’s your duty. Try to think about your people."

"Fine." The rose bush beside me wilted.

“Shame on you!” Mother shook her head at me. “Put it right.”

With a sigh I pushed all the negative energy out of my body. I knew from experience I couldn’t manipulate the threads of life when angry. Once calm, I focused on the colorful swirls around the rose bush, looking for the break in the pattern. A nudge and a stroke and the patterns were repaired. The roses brightened and the petals plumped and smoothed. Mother nodded in approval.

"Before you leave, take some time to visit the gazebo. The Oracles may have a message from the council for you."

"What else could they have to tell me? My whole life has been spent preparing for this."

Mother’s hand clenched on my arm, "Shh, it's an honor they speak to you so frequently. They want you to succeed. Trust in that."

"But it's impossible. Why do they still punish us for the mistakes of the ancients?"

Mother frowned, "We’re not being punished. Even the ancients had to earn the right to ascend to the home world. The only difference now is we don’t get a chance to prove we’ve grown until the reparation succeeds. You are the hope for our generation."

"But humans will never be able to feel the threads of magic, much less control them."

Mother placed her hand on my mouth. "The Council is always listening. You must look deep within yourself and find compassion for the humans."

So many thoughts and questions ran through my mind, but only one really mattered at that moment, "What are the chances my Anamchara is a human?"

"Caedmon, most of us never find our soul mates. You have as much chance of finding her on the human side as you do here among Abhithians. Open your heart to love and you'll find it. Anamchara or not. Just keep the balance." She kissed me on the forehead. “I expect you to be at the wedding tomorrow.”

“I’ll be there. At least she picked the Botanical Gardens so it will feel like an Abhithian wedding.”

It's the dialogue and the lack of tension. 

The dialogue is very expository right now. They're talking about things they both know, which people don't do. People never talk about the elephant in the room. And let's be honest, which is more interesting for the reader: walking into a well-lit room and seeing an elephant wave hello, or groping their way through the dark hearing deep, whuffed breaths, sensing a huge mass shifting, maybe brushing against rough hide...? 

Tension: Caedmon doesn't want to marry right now. His mother is mushy and apologetic about it. He's not taking any risks, here, and he's not reaping any consequences. Therefore, there's no tension. Maybe Mother is the wrong person for this scene? Who would slam Caedmon against the wall and remind him just how vital his marriage is? And if it's not important enough to do that, why is it an issue a all? (I don't know how big a part of your story's conflict this is, I'm just guessing it's important.)

Also note the complete lack of red ink in the text. Good job. :) 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Critting THE SERENDIPITY LABS: internal consistency builds reader trust

The author of Operation Daffodil bravely submits a second story...

Chapter 1

Natalie could hear them moving around her. The soft padding of shoed feet. The clean squeaking of the cart and the delicate tinkle of glassware. She could smell the antiseptics and the perfume on the nurse’s wrist as the woman misted something from a spray bottle onto her face. Peaches and vanilla. >>is that what was in the spray bottle, or the nurse's perfume?

“This might sting, sweet.”

It doesn’t, Natalie wanted to reply, but she found that she couldn’t move her mouth. >>What did the nurse do that didn't sting? Did she mean the spray? why would something for your face (and eyes) sting?

A doctor—she guessed he was a doctor from the way he spoke to her in a calmness that only a professional would have mustered—came in a little later. He leaned in over the bed, ID tags around his neck falling onto the blanket over her stomach, and hooked a animuscope to Natalie’s scalp. The rubber suction cup burped close to her ear. She imagined that it must have been cold against her skin.

Skin.

Half her hair had been shaved off. Natalie realized with the same numbness that encased her from the neck up, possibly because it was a realization that didn’t quite translate in her mind. >>if she can't feel cold, how would she know she's been shaved?

“Ms. Laenus, do you remember what happened?”

What happened…what happened…

It was dark, for one. And wet. Dark and wet—yes, she had been in the dungeons. And then…

“Good girl. You were in the dungeons. And?”

A flash of white, not the color but the sensation. White, blinding, blinding white for pain.

An unrecognizable feeling, a heaviness, settled in her stomach, bunched in her throat. She ignored it at first until it became harder to breathe.

“There, child,” said the doctor. “Don’t be afraid. Relax.”

What am I experiencing? What am I…

“There now. Relax. Just go to sleep. Things will be better in the morning.”

Tell me what happened—

With a hiss, the suction cup was removed from her skin. With the same softness in step as he had when he entered, the doctor left.

The heaviness squeezed at Natalie’s throat, ever-present until she at last drifted from one black world to another.

#

Where are the parents?

Her pain had been white, tender and white like corneas and soft-cooked eggs.

With the social worker on the third floor. 

Everything about the man had been unyielding, from the structure of his jaw to the set of his shoulders. And yet, he had been broken, as prisoners often were.

Did they have a breakdown?

He had asked for a tin of water.

Of course they did. Hydrochloric acid. Strong stuff. Burned half her face off. 

She had fetched it.

They say that the father works as the prison keeper, that an inmate did this to her. Is it true?

But before she could push it past the bars, it fell out of her hand.

I wouldn’t be worried about that. It’s none of our business. >>this is pretty good as expository dialogue goes, but it always rings false in my ear. It smacks of TV dramas where the writers don't trust the audience to think for themselves. This would actually be a more intriguing, and realistic, conversation if you told us less. Plus, now that you've told me she's lost half her face, the rest of her implied injuries don't fit in.

The tin hit the cobbled ground with first a clatter, then a splash.

Poor child. She must be so afraid. 

And then the white.

She is not feeling any pain. We’ve cauterized what remains of the epidermal nerve endings. 

I know. But still. To wake up alone, in the dark…

Oh well. We did the best we could. I say, I’m a little rusty. People only ever die now. Neat endings, not this. >>this line is much better, it makes me curious.

And the water had trickled, dark and thick through the valleys of the cobblestones as the white engulfed her.

The people in her dream and their voices shuffled away. >>we know they're not a dream, don't try to pass them off as that.

Wait, thought Natalie, I remember. But without the animuscope, she was mute, and they left anyway.

#

The doctor returned the next day and went through the same procedure of leaning over her bed and hooking the suction cup to her scalp. This time, Natalie thought she could feel a little bit of the cold plastic.

“Talk to me, Ms. Laenus. Just think what you have to say.”

Is this really it? Will I never get better?

“You will acclimate with time.”

Can you…can you show me? Can you take my hands…

Silence.

Please.

He took her hands as if they would break and lifted them to her face. Gingerly, Natalie touched. >>she hasn't done this already, on her own? why not?

Pocked. Wrinkled. Uneven. Hard and crusty where it had seared. What was left of her skin was coated in a sticky gel substance that coated her fingers, confirming the reality of it all.

An overwhelming weight that washed over Natalie, trickling between her toes, her fingers, and sucking the warmth out of her. She pressed her hands into the soft bandages around her mouth until her flesh burned, closing her eyes though it did not make a difference. She didn’t want the doctor to see the wetness welling from the bottom lids.

The whispering people in her dream had not mentioned one thing outright, and it so happened that the one unspoken thing screamed the loudest.

So it was true. She would never see again. >>how does she know that?  

#

Natalie!

Restrain him! Damn you, just restrain the kid. He’s going into shock.

Let me see my sister! Let go of me!

Tarq…I’m right here. Come see me.

#

Someone was opening the door to the room.

Father? Mother?

Silently, the person approached. It was neither her father, who walked with a slight limp due to one leg being longer than the other, nor her mother, who liked to rub her dry hands together, nor any of the hospital personnel, who weren’t truly silent. >>Given that she only has hearing left, if the stranger truly was silent she wouldn't know he was approaching. Unless there's something else giving him away...

“Are you scared?” asked the person when he was three yards or so from the bed. His smooth and civil voice belong to someone between the ages of a boy and a man.

As if he could hear her thoughts without the animuscope, the bandages around her mouth came off. A soft rustle; he had set them aside on the bed stand.

Natalie had assumed that her lips would be in the same state as the rest of her face, but they felt normal enough as she formed the word: “No.” >>if she can talk, why were they using a gadget to question her?

“You aren’t lying.” A statement—mildly surprised but not a question. “Are you angry?”

“No….“

“He attacked you,” he pointed out.

“I-I’m not angry.”

“Then what are you, Ms. Laenus?”

The heaviness returned, this time to her stomach, growing like a mold. It bubbled up and expanded, pressing against her diaphragm. For the second time, Natalie tried to place it. Was this fear? Was it anger?

Her next words came out funny, as if she couldn’t pump enough air into them. “What is this…this feeling?”

He knew without her elaborating. He knew she was talking about the weight in her stomach. Natalie knew he would. >>POV shift toward omniscient. You've been in a tight third person limited, so far; there's no way she could know this.

“Dread.” A heavy syllable to match the feeling.

“I didn’t know.”

“You wouldn’t have,” he said curtly. “It’s your first time experiencing it.” In a softer voice, he continued, “What is it that you want, Ms. Laenus?”

“Want?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t know. I wish…I wish I could…”

“You wish you could see again?” From across the room he appeared by her bed. He moved  incredibly fast. >>wasn't he already by the bed? or is this a second man?

“You’re not from the hospital.”

He chose not to reply, instead touching his fingers to her forehead. They were cool. >>POV slip again

“You’re not from the hospital,” she repeated, and then whispered, “Who are you? How do you know my name.”

“This was a mistake. A technical failure. This was never meant to happen.”

“What—“

“Do not question.” He put a slender finger on her lips with the pressure of a secret. “Think nothing of it. Tell no one of this. It’d be better if you forgot.” >>this is kinda blatant drama-mongering... can you be more subtle? Does saying things like this really fit in with his objectives in seeing her right now? 

IMO, this is much more organized and clear than Daffodil was. Better voice. Solid style, despite the few POV slips. (not to say that Daffodil was bad, of course -- it has the potential to be a lot of fun -- it just needs more work.)

Most of my crits are linked to internal consistency, as you can see. I'm a stickler for covering all the bases; it's one way that you project confidence as a writer and earn the reader's trust. I've thought of everything and I can explain, so trust me. 

I hope this helps. Keep writing!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Critting THE LAST ORPHANS: just needs some tightening

A sci-fi/adventure YA called The Last Orphans goes under the red pen...

Chapter 1

Dad twisted around and glared, the veins in his leathery neck and temple bulging.

“You can’t keep carrying on about it, Shane,” he yelled. “She’s dead! That’s the short and sweet. Time to grow up and face the fact.>>IMO, you don't need that line.

“Bill,” Jackie shrieked, “look where you’re going!” >>I see why you need her name in here, but there must be some way to avoid breaking up the tension in her words. "Bill! Look where you're going!" Aunt Jackie pointed at the oncoming truck beyond the windshield. 

Spinning forward, Dad jerked the wheel. The tires screeched, and the car veered back into its lane. Shane’s body whipped hard to the left and then right, his head slamming into the window with a loud thunk. A lifted pick-up almost flattened the ancient station wagon. It swerved toward the opposite shoulder, roaring by with its horn blaring and the driver hanging his finger out at them. Rubbing the lump growing on the side of his skull, Shane almost wished the truck had put him out of his misery. >>This sequence had me thinking Shane was much smaller and younger, maybe 10 or 12, until later in the scene. 

By the time Dad got his window down and hurled a mouthful of curse words back at the truck, it was already a quarter-mile down the road.

“Such a tough guy,” Shane muttered sarcastically under his breath.

“What did you say, boy?” Dad shouted, his knuckles white from gripping the steering wheel so hard. At least this time he kept his eyes facing forward.

“Nothing,” Shane replied and looked out at the rolling hills covered in brown fescue, pastures separated by stands of twisted pine trees and rusting barbwire.

Jackie lit a Virginia Slim, her hands visibly trembling. She took a deep drag and rolled her window down a crack to pull out some of the disgusting smoke.

“You have got to be the worst driver alive,” she seethed between puffs.

“Well, it’s that one’s fault,” Dad retorted with a defensive whine in his tone, like he always did when she laid into him. Pointing his thumb at the backseat, he glared at Shane in the rearview mirror, the car drifting across the centerline again.

“You still cry’n?” >>who said this?

Shane was, but it wasn’t like he sobbed inconsolably. The silent tears in his eyes trickled out for two very good reasons. One—Shane had loved Granny. She was the sanest person in his jacked-up family. She had always been there when he needed a place to run to, a place where he could find a minute of peace. And now she was gone. It felt like a round bale of hay—those big ones full of moldy thistle that they fed to cattle—sat on his chest. Reason two—Shane’s boiling anger towards his dad made him want to punch something. With each passing moment, the pressure of his bottled-up rage increased, forcing hot tears to seep out of his eyes. Dad getting drunk and being a prick to him in private was one thing. Spewing all that crap about Granny at the reception—for that he deserved to have his nose busted. And he didn’t even have the decency to wear a suit to the funeral, showing up in his greasy blue work Dickies with his stupid name above the shirt pocket.

Dad slammed on the brakes and swerved off onto the shoulder. Gravel tinged against the corroded bottom of the musty old car, and a cloud of dust engulfed it as it skidded to a halt. He jumped out and ran around the front to get to Shane’s door, squatting down so he could glower at him the whole way. Dad pulled Shane’s door open so hard, it was a miracle it didn’t come off its creaking thirty-year-old hinges. >>Heh, difficult to run when you're squatting. Needs clarification.

“Get the hell out!”

Shane stared up at him, unsure how to proceed.

“I said get out, damn it,” Dad repeated, spittle flying from his mouth. “I won’t have a sixteen-year-old boy bawl’n like a little girl all the way home. Man up or walk.”

Too much wine had left Dad’s teeth and lips stained red, and Shane could smell the alcohol, even over the foul stench of Jackie’s cigarette. His aunt had whispered an apology to Shane, saying she’d only provided wine because she didn’t think his dad would drink it. What she hadn’t realized was that Dad had become such a raging alcoholic that he would’ve drunk turpentine if she’d put it out.

His father’s eyes widened, and his fists balled up. Shane expected Dad to grab him and try to drag him from the car. >>new paragraph

“You know what?” Shane shouted. Gritting his teeth, he climbed out. He had grown a lot in the last two years; he wasn’t the little boy scared of the big man anymore. Continuing in a quieter yet meaner voice, Shane put all the hate he could into each word, “I want nothing more than to be out of your stupid car.” >>I'd make that last line shorter. When people are angry, they tend to say less IME.

Standing there with his arms crossed over his chest, Shane stared down at his father’s sunburned bald head, ready to swap blows. Dad pulled his oil-stained hand away from the car door and straightened up in an obvious attempt to be taller. He huffed angrily, and his breath smelled like another DUI in the making.

Was he daring Shane to hit him? Why not, it might do him some good, Shane thought. And if he could knock him out, he’d be keeping him from driving drunk. It’d be a community service.

Dad leaned back a little, like he sensed Shane’s thoughts. The whiskers of his thick red and gray mustache pulled down on the sides and twitched. The muscles in his forearms, swollen from twenty years of work as a mechanic, rippled. His big scarred knuckles protruded outward as his fists clenched tighter. Shane braced himself, ready to fight. He’d taken a thousand hits on the football field; he could certainly handle one from this old man.

“Don’t come home ‘til you’re done blubber’n,” Dad growled with faltering bravado.

“I wasn’t planning on it,” Shane replied and slammed the door so hard the car’s decrepit suspension complained with loud reverberating squeaks.

Hesitating, Dad appeared indecisive for a moment. And then he pivoted away and stomped back around the front of the car. He hopped in and must’ve floored the accelerator, because the engine groaned for a moment, threatening to stall. With a noxious puff of black exhaust, it roared to life and spun the bald rear tires in the dusty gravel on the side of the road.

Shane turned away and covered his face just in time. Once the rocks stopped pelting him, he picked one up and threw it with all his strength at the smoke and dirt cloud into which the car had disappeared. His shoulder hurting from the effort, he stumbled away from the road to get out of the choking plume and fell. When he rolled to a stop at the bottom of the ditch, he just lay there on his back in his Sunday finest. >>seems unlikely, if he's a football player

Granny had bought him the black suit to wear on special occasions, getting it a little on the bigger side so he’d get use out of it for a few years. She’d be sad to see it abused like this. It upset Shane something fierce. He felt more important when he wore the suit, felt like he was going places, like he could escape Loserville and go see the world. Of course his dad had to ruin it, just like he ruined everything else.

After Shane had calmed down and caught his breath, he decided it felt good just to lay there on the cool ground for a minute. Granny had always loved dirt, saying it strengthened her connection to God when she touched it. She liked to walk barefoot around her small garden where she grew most of her food. He remembered sitting next to her on the cool strip of grass that grew down the center, trying to count the stars. How could he know that last Saturday was the last time he’d ever get to do that with her, that she’d be dead two days later?

Biting the side of his tongue and rubbing his nose, Shane tried to suppress the tears. Granny was in a box, in the dirt, and there wasn’t jack he could do about it. The idea of being buried after he died gave Shane the heebie-jeebies, but it didn’t bother Granny. On that last night, laying in the yard, she’d said that she didn’t even need a coffin, that she’d rather have the cool soil right up against her skin. It was like she knew she’d die soon, even though she had seemed fitter than Shane at the time.

Against Granny’s wishes, his aunt who’d flown in from New York bought the finest box she could afford and spent a mint on the reception. He knew that was just her way of doing something nice for Granny, but he wished she hadn’t provided booze. Dad wouldn’t have acted like such an idiot if it weren’t for the wine. In this small town, it seemed everyone knew everything about everyone else. Shane expected the commotion Dad had created would be popular gossip for the next few months.

I suppose I should comment on the lack of sci-fi, but I figure it'll come even though I have cast the late-70s Volaré station wagon that my parents used to drive in the role of Shane's dad's car. That steel dinosaur was about as far from sci-fi as you can get, lol. 

You've got good voice, except for a few lapses which I hit with the yellow highlighter. Dad's bits of slang don't seem entirely necessary, TBH. I think you've done enough to demonstrate that he's drunk.

As a beginning, it's a little soft but the voice and the obvious problem between Shane and his dad carries it. You started with drama, which is the right place to start. Thumbs up, overall. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Critting OPERATION DAFFODIL: needs focus

It's my week to host here at Unicorn Bell, so you know what that means: long form crits! Send me up to 1,500 words of anything and I will throw red ink at it. Email unicornbellsubmissions at gmail dot com! 

So far, I have one submission from a YA scifi called OPERATION DAFFODIL:

“The number one rule on the theater of operations,” said the Viper to Tag on his first day in the Holding Hall, “is to avoid getting shot in the torso. Here, here, and here.” He tapped three critical areas on Tag’s netskin suit. “Your job isn’t to show how high-thinking you are. You, boy, are to keep your head firmly on your shoulders and not anywhere else.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I am the brain, You and everyone else, even the General of the Army, are my hands. Listen to my words, and you will not go OoC easily.”

And so Tag had, and in his three years serving in VirtuWar, he’d only been out-of-commission once. Such was the nature of the Viper’s advice. The incident that took Tag out hadn’t even involved a connection to one of the three points. Instead, an Asiatic grenade had blasted a boulder at the base, leaving the other half to land on Tag. He had vaporized almost instantaneously, dumped right back in the Holding Hall in his netskin with the Neuroreader hooked to his head displaying his homeostatic functions on the screen. >>Unclear. Blasting a boulder at the base would result in a pile of rubble, I'd expect.

HEART-RATE: 155 bmp.

“The ugliest OoC since VirtuWar’s invention,” fellow private Cavalier told him when the others returned to the Holding. “Can you imagine how you might have looked pre-V? Flat like a pancake, I suppose.”

Vree was unzipping his netskin. He shook free his wavy hair as he lifted the Neuroreader.  “A lightyear off, Cav. He’d be a splatter of guts and slivers of bone. Pulverized. A stain in the ground.”

None of them could begin to wrap their heads around the idea of a human being reduced to stain in the ground.

It could be possible, thought Tag, unzipping himself and signing out of the system. There was no cap to the gruesome pre-V. It could be possible.

“Enjoy the time, Tag,” his friend Ran had said, punching him lightly on the shoulder.  “We’ll miss you for four months.” >>why's he going to be away for four months?

“Who’s going to watch your back?”

Ran shrugged as if it hadn’t crossed his mind yet. “Cavalier, maybe.”

Tag didn’t mention that Cavalier was no scout. Cavalier was as slick as gunmen came, but he was no back-watcher.

That had been something, going OoC over some fallen boulder. Certainly not something he wanted to repeat.

The Viper had more or less the same thought. Just as Tag was about to step into the rewinder that would erase the last few hours of fighting Asiatic soldiers and deposit him back home, the masked strategist stopped him. >>why would they erase his memory? that makes no sense.

“If I give you A+B=C, boy, then you must learn how to derive A+C.” >>What does this have to do with getting crushed by a boulder? or with Cavalier?

“I’m sorry, sir.”

The painted slits stared at him long and hard. “Go,” the Viper said at last. He pushed the boy into the rewinder tube. “Return a little wiser.”

That had been a year ago. A lot could happen in a year when a war could be won in six months and three thousand people could die in a week. >>if this is a virtual war, why is anybody dying?

Now, Tag crept forward, staying low to the ground. The sun was beaming down on the parched, cracked earth, baking it to a yellow dust that covered the front of his netskin like sulfur. Sweat tickled the nape of his neck, but he dared not to scratch. The Asiatics were like cats. They picked up anything and everything.

In the distance, shots sounded as softly as popping a soda tab.

Tag waited for the shooting to stop. Then he tapped into the Umbilical embedded in his ear.

Status, Cav?

He had barely finished the thought when Cavalier replied.

Clear.

Everyone in the pod heard the word. They waited for the green from their co-commanders.

Green? Tag thought to Forbes.

Green, agreed Forbes

Tag tapped into the entire pod. Now.

With the hardest part of the job done by Cavalier’s crew, all Tag’s division had to do was crawl to the top of the hill. Within minutes, Tag heard the rain of Forbes’ fire from the west rim of the valley. By the time his soldiers reached the north rim, all that was needed of them was to neutralize the twenty Asiatic soldiers that remained from a company of fifty-five.

Easy. The elevation made it impossible for the Asiatics to aim as accurately as Tag knew they were capable of.

Lingo, a decent marksman but far from Cavalier’s level, took down the last one, completing the operation in 5 minutes and 1.19 seconds.

After he’d punched the status and outcome of the mission into his wrist band and sent the results back to HQ, Tag approached Digweed, the only one who had suffered a contact point. “You okay?” he asked, sizing up the flashing red nick on the tip of the boy’s ear.

The thick-set boy lifted his visor and spat into the dust. “Yeah.”

“How much horse-power did you lose?”

“5 HP.” He spat again. “Like missing a chunk of ear would slow me down.”

“You’ll regenerate by the next assignment.”

Forbes came over, cradling his visor under his arm. His white blonde hair was sticking up all funny.

He clapped Digweed on the shoulder. “Tag’s right. 5 HP is nothing.”

The rest of the pod, including Cavalier’s soldiers, had received Tag’s notification of END MISSION and were streaming in all along the rim. They had heard Forbes. Forbes had a great voice—strong, confident, and reassuring. Tag’s voice was just normal in on the other side, which meant it translated just normal in the system. >>so did they come because of the notification, or because of Forbes saying 5HP is nothing? 

“So what’s on the roll tonight?” asked Forbes when all the boys had convened.

Technically, they were supposed report right back to the Holding Hall, but neither Forbes nor Tag enforced that much, and the others appreciated the short breath of downtime before being hurtled back into the dull mundaneness of reality.

Cavalier moaned. “Don’t remind me. I have study for molecular bio. Did you know I hate—”

“You hate molecular bio as much as you hate girls that give confusing signals,” Vree finished for him dryly. “Sucks for you, Cav. I’ve got myself a date.”

“What’s she like?” Everyone wanted to know. >>LOL. These are boys, right? They want to know if she's hot, not what she's like.

“Witty, sweet, funny.”

“You’re just describing every semi-decent girl in the universe,” grumbled Cavalier. He to Tag. “What about you?” >>Needs a verb.

“Yeah, what about you, Tag?”

He shrugged. “The usual. School. My sister’s school play is tonight.”

That piped Cavalier’s interest. “Is she hot?” >>there you go. "Piped" is the wrong word... piqued?

Tag felt himself choke.

“Man, Cav,” said Ran, shaking his head. “His sister’s ten.”

“Oh.”

“Well,” said Forbes, placing his visor back over his head. His blue eyes were crinkled beneath the clear glass. “We should sign out now.” >>These (young, high-adrenaline) guys were killing time in virtual reality, where anything's possible, and all they did was chat a bit? Seems unlikely to me.

“Nice, clean work on the missions today,” added Tag.

The two commanders waited until everyone but themselves and their back-watchers—Vree for Forbes and Ran for Tag—had evaporated to nothing in the air.

As Forbes whistled while readying his sign-out, a glint amid the dust of the valley below caught Tag’s eye.

Strange. “I’ll be out in a minute,” he said slowly.

With a wink, Forbes saluted Tag just as his sign-out passed the system. Both he and Vree broke into tiny particles, as the others had, leaving Ran and Tag on the rim.

“What is it?” Ran asked as he approached Tag’s side.

Without words to explain it, Tag felt uneasy. He knew that Ran felt it, too, from the way his friend pulled out his katana from his Inventory. Ran almost hadn’t made the cut for the 61st Battalion because of the sword. It was a wicked looking thing—three feet of curved steel, black from generations upon generations of use—and Randal Juubei had insisted on carrying it with him into the system. It took a month just for the Council to clear it, and another to program it into the database so that its lacerations translated into loss of HP. >>"lacerations" are the wounds it leaves, not what it does. Also, if they honestly felt uneasy why didn't they call for backup? They're part of a military team, not loners. 

Now, Ran swiped his katana through the air, following Tag without further question—because something was off, they could feel it—climbing, skidding, grappling down the sides of the valley. To Tag’s dismay, they kicked up a lot of dust, but as soon as the dust settled the glint became all the more clear. >>Does Ran really want to be holding a drawn katana if it's that tricky to climb down the valley?

When his wristband said that they were 14.21 meters away from the object, Tag saw it for what it was; an Outdated. The tip of an M-16. >>how does one spot the camouflaged end of a muzzle from 45 feet away?

All across the battalions, the Asiatics were well-known for their camouflage skills. “Small tricks,” the Viper had told Tag dismissively, and yet it was these small tricks that made them near equals to the United Provinstate soldiers on the theater of operations. It was these small tricks that made it possible for the Asiat to leap up like a sting-ray from the sea-bed that very moment. Caked, yellow dust fell off his netskin in pieces. It rimmed his eyes and mouth in gold.

Ran was fast to leap in front of Tag, but the Asiat was faster to press the trigger.

Being a world-builder, that's what I will jump on first: what you're showing me doesn't add up. If this is a virtual war, so what if a boulder falls on you? Reboot and hop back in. It also seems like a really pointless way to fight a war, unless what you're fighting over is itself virtual. So a big question already is: why are we doing this?

And if Tag, Ran, etc., are in no actual danger, why should the reader be worried about whether they succeed or not? For that matter, what are they doing? Training? Playing a MMORP? Fighting WWIII?

Second thing I'll jump on is character: I haven't really met Tag yet, by the end of this, partly because you throw a lot of names out there and partly because he's not doing anything distinctive. The narrative voice is generic and bland, too, so Tag is coming across as a non-specific guy. Which is not particularly interesting, I'm afraid.

I get the feeling this is the first chunk of your novel? Tell me right off what's at stake, why it's vitally important, and what the cost of failure is. I need to know why I want Tag to succeed. You don't have to explain the entire universe -- it can be as simple as: we need to secure this position or the main servers will go down and if I get shot I'll be laid up with a head-splitting migraine for weeks. And I'm worried that mom's boyfriend is cheating on her. Or something.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Carrie Russell and Drowning Cactus

I think of Carrie as one of those still, quiet voices. I stopped and listened and, boy howdy, am I ever glad I did. She is a writing phenom, an author who burst onto the scene with her short story, The Break In. It is a tie in to her first novel, Drowning Cactus.

As one of the Musa Publishing family, I count Carrie as friend as well.

Tell us about yourself.
I’m a writer, book lover and tree hugger.

I studied creative writing at Columbia and Oxford before attending Harvard Law School where I temporarily lost my imagination. Fortunately, after working for a number of very rewarding years as an environmental attorney, my kids came along and helped me re-discover the joys of storytelling.

I wrote my first novel, Drowning Cactus, during naptimes.

Tell us about your book.
It’s so hard to promote my own work, so I’ll let other authors, who've given early praise, speak for me:
“With Drowning Cactus, Carrie Russell takes the reader on an exhilarating ride across the American landscape and into a brilliant quagmire of human obsession and desire. This is a dangerous, smart, and stunning debut.” – Laura van den Berg, author of The Isle of Youth
“Carrie Russell knows that serious stuff can be funny–even Saving the Earth.” – Heather Lockman, author of The Indian Shirt Story
Drowning Cactus is a novel about getting lost in the desert and finding direction.

If you could only have one superpower what would it be?
Instant transport. Just imagine the possibilities: Morning hike in Switzerland, afternoon swim in Mexico, dinner in Thailand. The only problem might be clothing selection. I’m pretty adept at layering though.

Who is your favorite character from one of your books and why?
I adore Gordon from my novel Drowning Cactus. He’s a wilderness addict, a lover of the outdoors like me, but he can’t seem to take a step without damaging the people and things he cares most about. Gordon is incredibly bumbling but also big-hearted. I’ve got a soft spot for underdogs and optimists. He’s both of those.

What are you working on now?
I’m in the editing stages of my second novel which, again, addresses environmental themes, but also looks at the power of storytelling—the way the stories we tell about ourselves and our world have the power to change experiences, to harm and to heal. It’s aimed at a young adult audience but would appeal to grownups as well.

What’s your favorite movie?
I love movies, including really bad movies, and can’t easily pick a favorite, but I’ve been thinking about Chariots of Fire lately.  I just moved to the town where the opening scene was filmed-- that famous beach run. Makes me want to go for a run as well.

What’s your favorite quote?
Not sure about a favorite, but here is one that is quite relevant to Drowning Cactus and has stayed with me, both because of the meaning and the rhythm of the words:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. –Henry David Thoreau
What genre do you write and why?
Contemporary fiction.  I write what I like to read. My second novel is dystopian and young adult, though.
I’ve been reading some young adult lately, along with the rest of the world, because there is so much good young adult writing coming out now.

Name five things that are on your desk right now?
I just moved so my desk is gloriously empty. Laptop only.

Chocolate cake, strawberry shortcake, apple pie, or pecan pie?
Apple pie in the fall after I’ve picked up apples from a local orchard, otherwise chocolate please!

How can readers find you?
My webpage and blog:
Twitter:
Facebook:
Goodreads:

Blurb:
Some find inspiration in the wilderness. Others find themselves hopelessly lost.
When his botched cactus theft is mistaken for an eco-protest, Gordon Burstein is thrust into the national spotlight and expected to speak for the land he loves. He panics and runs, beginning a journey of self-discovery that takes him from spring break in Mexico, across the Sonora, all the way to Thoreau’s Walden Pond.

Press and fans scramble to track him down, but no one is more determined than Mora Sullivan, a disgraced environmentalist who has fallen hard for Gordon. She treks into the desert, determined to find inspiration and love.

Gordon and Mora must survive the wilderness, evade the law, and confront the many lies they’ve told the world and each other—all before they attempt to rescue a truckload of cacti from drowning in a New England swamp.




Thursday, August 15, 2013

Charity Bradford and The Magic Wakes


Between Marcy, Charity, and myself I guess you could call us the Three Authors. Lives changed by association. Paths joined by friendship.

Published by WiDo Publishing, here is Charity.

Tell us about yourself.
The “Official” version—I’ve been a voracious reader ever since my 5th grade teacher introduced me to the world of books with Where the Red Fern Grows and Summer of the Monkeys. I’m the mother of four kids that keep me on my toes, constantly reminding me that imagination still makes the world go round.

Unofficially, I’m probably certifiably crazy. J I have entire civilizations living in my head and I tend to project hop with the best ADHD kids on the block.

Tell us about your book.
My first published novel is The Magic Wakes, a touch of science fiction, more fantasy, and a healthy dose of adventure and romance. It’s got a little bit of everything and not too much of any one thing. It’s just a fun ride and escape from reality.

If you could only have one superpower what would it be?
To travel at the speed of light. I have so many things that I need and want to do that there just isn’t enough time in the day to do them. If I could move faster I could get so much more done.

Who is your favorite character from one of your books and why?
Talia from The Magic Wakes and not just because she’s the only one that got published. All of her fears, insecurities and weakness are me all the way. I have to tell myself that she’s destined for greatness so I must be too.

What are you working on now?
Too many projects! My head is just so crowded that I keep chipping away at several stories at once. I do wish I could focus on one at a time and finish them. My top projects are: YA Fantasy—Fade Into Me, a science fiction short story anthology, novella to continue my Sendek Saga—Demon Rising, a romantic suspense—Last Christmas and a non-fiction book on dealing with depression and how writing saved my life. The last is not really a memoir. Instead it’s a religious “how to” aimed at other women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

What’s your favorite movie?
I have no idea! Can I list a few? Anne of Green Gables, BBC Pride and Prejudice, Star Trek (the new ones) and Independence Day. I can watch them over and over.

What’s your favorite quote? Do or do not, there is no try~ Yoda

What genre do you write and why? I’m all over the place. J Why? Because I can. I figure I need to try lots of things to figure out what I’m best at.

Name five things that are on your desk right now?
My purse, an empty pen holder, my ipod shuffle, the base to my computer with the built in fan (no computer
at the moment) and all the mail.

Chocolate cake, strawberry shortcake, apple pie, or pecan pie? Oo, I thought it was chocolate cake all the way until you hit pecan pie. I choose…a chocolate pecan pie!

How can readers find you?
Blog            
Website          
Goodreads      
Facebook       
Twitter                      


Blurb:


Scientist Talia Zaryn has always dreamt of an alien invasion and her own death. She’s kept it a secret, hoping it is nothing more than childish nightmares. But when the face in the mirror matches that of her dreams, she fears they are real. If she can prove that life exists beyond her planet, Sendek, perhaps people will then prepare to fight.

Her work at the Space Exploration Foundation leaves no time for personal relationships, but Major Landry Sutton isn’t looking for a friend. He’s looking for a traitor. His ability to sense emotions convinces him Talia is that traitor until a touch sizzles between them. In an instant their minds are connected and they can communicate telepathically. Just as the two begin to trust each other, the invading force arrives.

Talia and Landry must uncover the secrets of Sendek’s past if they hope to defeat these terrifying creatures. Talia is the key–if she can learn to trust the magic coursing through her veins.
View the trailer HERE.
Read the Prologue and part of Chapter 1 HERE.
 






Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tara Tyler and Pop Travel

In my writerly travels, I've discovered some of the best people on Earth. What other profession gives time, expertise, and virtual encouragement like writers do? 

Tara Tyler, author of Pop Travel is one of those folks so willing to help. Truly, she is amazing.

Published by CuriosityQuills, here is Tara.

Tell us about yourself. That's a loaded statement! How far back should I go? I'm a short girl with glasses and I love imagining stories. I'm also very organized, like to make lists, and have to write things down or I will forget, largely due to the fact that my three sons and husband drive me crazy! Love those boys!

Tell us about your book. Pop Travel is set in the near future where teleportation has replaced flying. Due to irresponsible corner-cutting, it has a deadly flaw the company is desperately trying to fix without causing a worldwide panic. Cooper is determined to expose the coverup, despite being chased and threatened, to keep his brother from becoming the next victim.

If you could only have one superpower what would it be? It’s a tie between making time stand still and snapping things clean, either would be wonderful!

Who is your favorite character from one of your books and why? Stephanie Plum – she's completely messed up and completely okay with it and never gives up, despite the odds.

What are you working on now? Simulation, the next techno-thriller book after Pop Travel.

What’s your favorite movie? How to Train Your Dragon

What’s your favorite quote? Anything by Mark Twain. Here's one: "Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please." and here's another: "Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life."

What genre do you write and why? Sci Fi, Fantasy, Thriller, Chick Lit, whatever strikes my fancy and sounds like a good story… all with adventure, humor, and a touch of romance. Pieces of reality, but more fun to read about.

Name five things that are on your desk right now? glass of water, pencils, journals, stack of ideas, and
post its.

Chocolate cake, strawberry shortcake, apple pie, or pecan pie? none of the above – chocolate chip cookies!!

How can readers find you? They can't, I'm a blur! But I leave trails of cookie crumbs at: my blog, on twitter @taratylertalks, and on facebook

Blurb: Pop Travel by Tara Tyler
A tale of deception and teleportation.

When a distraught client enters J.L. Cooper's small town detective agency ranting about a pop travel teleportation cover up, Cooper takes the case. He blames pop travel indirectly for his wife's death and would love to expose a glitch in it.

But the glitch turns out to be disintegrating travelers. And now, his client is dead, his secretary is missing, and a hitman is stalking him. Plus there's all the webcams watching his every move. So, Cooper has to find a way to expose the deadly flaw, while using pop travel to escape the maniacs covering it up, not to mention save a couple of tag-alongs he's not sure he can trust. No problem.



Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Marcy Hatch and Paradise

Marcy is one my first blogger buddies. We met in the fall of 2010 via our blogs and started trading manuscripts as critique partners. In the spring of 2011, with our co-moderator/conspirator, Charity, we opened UnicornBell for business. And never looked back. Sideways, yeah but never back. 

She signed with WiDo Publishing this year.

Tell us about yourself.
I’m a New Englander, born and raised on the East Coast, and except for a brief stint in California as a kid I’ve never lived anywhere else. That said, I’d trade my Maine winters for some California sun anytime – but NOT the summers! Summer in Maine is pretty near to Heaven as far as I’m concerned.

I live in what’s classified as the Midcoast area and can walk downtown to the Damariscotta River and the award winning Maine Coast Bookshop (can you tell I love my local bookstore?), which has a webcam on its roof and a cafe on the sidewalk. If you want to see what my town looks like from up there, head over to my blog at mainewords and click on the door on the sidebar. You’ll get a bird’s eye view.

Tell us about your book. 
It’s Tombstone meets Romancing the Stone with a little time-traveling thrown in.

If you could only have one superpower what would it be? 
To be able to turn invisible.

Who is your favorite character from one of your books and why? 
I have quite a few favorite characters but I must admit a certain fondness for Dara, a character in my as yet unfinished fantasy trilogy. She’s the daughter of a Prince forced to marry her enemy. I like her because she’s way tougher than I’ll ever be.

What are you working on now? 
I’m currently revising a work I thought was finished. Yeah.

What’s your favorite movie? 
Contact.

What’s your favorite quote? 
"You have to believe it to see it."

What genre do you write and why? 
I write a lot of genres. I started out writing historical romance, then fantasy, YA paranormal, NA contemporary and my latest completed work is an NA scifi – NO REST. I write what I want to read and I like to read a lot of different genres.

Name five things that are on your desk right now? 
A local magazine, a drink, pens, books, and a flashlight.

Chocolate cake, strawberry shortcake, apple pie, or pecan pie? 
Damn, that’s a tough one. If it’s summer I’ll want strawberry shortcake but if it’s Thanksgiving then I’ll probably have the pecan AND the apple pie. Any other time I’ll probably go for the chocolate :)

How can readers find you? 

Paradise (working title) Blurb
Katherine Kennedy has it all; she’s beautiful, she’s wealthy, and she’s engaged to the perfect man. There’s just one problem. She can’t marry him. Worse yet, she can’t say why. All she knows is there is suddenly nothing she wants.
Jack McCabe has little in the way of possessions, less in the way of wealth, no where to go and no one to go anywhere with. All he has is a vague sense of discontent, a restlessness that will not abate.
Both are drawn to Cristobel Island and Louis Cade, a man who offers them the unimaginable, something neither can quite believe until they actually find themselves over 100 years in the past, 1881 to be exact.
For Jack McCabe it’s the adventure he always dreamed of – until he meets a beautiful but deadly train robber. Katherine can't believe an ignorant bounty hunter has mistaken her for a criminal – until she sees the picture, which looks exactly like her. Neither of them can imagine how the past has a way of catching up with the present.

Set in the old west, this is a tale of mistaken identity, romance, and murder.

Monday, August 12, 2013

N.W. Harris and Joshua's Tree


Check out the GoodReads “most anticipated” Summer Reads list. Second as of today!

Tell us about yourself.
I've been an artist for most of my life and had dabbled in writing for many years. When my son was born, I decided to take the craft more seriously. I wrote the rough draft for my debut novel, Joshua’s Tree, and joined the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators where I met a critique group and found the help I needed to take my book to the next level. Fast-forward six years and stumbling into Query Con on the Unicorn Bell website (last fall). Query Con helped me to polish my query and put it in front of acquisition editors from several publishers. Lucky for me, I got requests for manuscript submissions, resulting in my book being published! 

Tell us about your book.
Joshua’s Tree is a young adult science fiction novel. When I started writing it, I noticed a void in the YA genre for books that would have a strong appeal for boys as well as girls. I wanted to address some of the emotions and issues teen boys experience, and my education and love of biology gave me a wealth of information to draw upon for the science fiction side of things. Joshua’s Tree is set in a future where a genetic engineering genius and megalomaniac has driven most of the life on the planet to extinction. The protagonist, Joshua, must team up with an overbearing warrior princess who believes he has come to save her people from annihilation, and kill the madman if he ever hopes to get home.  

If you could only have one superpower what would it be?
Ha, good question . . . Um, I suppose I’d want to be super fast like the Flash Gordon. Being the father of two young children, running my own business, and being a writer—I never feel like there is enough time in the day to get everything done. If I could move at the speed of light—maybe I’d clear my to-do lists a little more often.  

Who is your favorite character from one of your books and why?
Nadia, the overbearing warrior, from Joshua’s Tree is my favorite character so far. Despite her constant internal struggles, she presents as a strong and confident girl who never backs down from a fight. In her tribe, males are usually the warriors, and she manages to prove she is as good as any of them time and time again, yet she is still feminine when it counts. My daughter, a real live super-girl in every way, was the inspiration for creating Nadia.

What are you working on now?
I’m currently finishing edits for The Father, Joshua’s Tree Book 2, which will be published in December 2013, and I am writing The Truth, Joshua’s Tree Book 3, the final book in the series, slated to come out June 2014. I've written several other novels over the years that I like to pull out and tweak from time to time, though I’m not quite ready to reveal any of those.

What’s your favorite movie?
Tough question. I like lots of movies and books, new and old. I love picking apart the components of a story and figuring out what works. If I had to select one movie, I’d say ET (you know, Extra Terrestrial, that movie with Drew Barrymore from the early eighties). I think Spielberg was at the top of his game with that one, and I’ve watched it like a million times.

What’s your favorite quote?
“Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can be come great.” Mark Twain

What genre do you write and why?
So far, I write Young Adult (action adventure, science fiction, fantasy, etc.). My teenage years were a bit turbulent, though loads of fun as well. To me, there is no other time in life where the changes, both physically and mentally, are so dramatic. I enjoy reliving some of those days through my characters and addressing issues that I think other works in this genre fall short of doing.

Name five things that are on your desk right now?
Cold cup of coffee, MacBook Air (my baby), crayons, book of Tae Kwon Do forms (I’m a purple belt), and a big freak’n mess of papers that should be recycled

Chocolate cake, strawberry shortcake, apple pie, or pecan pie?
Chocolate cake please!!! (followed by pecan pie then the apple pie—you can have the strawberry shortcake, can’t stand the stuff)

How can readers find you?
The best way to find me is to go to my website/blog at www.nwharrisbooks.com. From there you can find links to my book, Facebook, etc.

Also, Joshua’s Tree by N.W. Harris is number 2 on the GoodReads 2013 Summer Reads List, and I love to get a few more votes to push it to number 1.


If you have the time please click this link and vote.



Joshua’s Tree Blurb:
When a skateboarding accident hurls 17-year-old Joshua Tyler into a dismal future overrun by flesh-eating mutants, he taps into the strength and courage hidden within him and manages to stay alive, only to discover his horrifying relationship to the scientific genius who brought all life on Earth to the brink of annihilation.

Aided by Nadia, a beautiful warrior student who believes he may be the prophesized savior sent to rescue her people, Josh learns to fight for survival. Terrified by the constant threat of a violent death, Josh wants nothing more than to get back to his own life. But the longer he survives in this strange place, the more he learns about its creation. Charged with the job of assassinating the enemy’s leader, Josh begins to uncover his connection to the army of cannibalistic monsters—a nightmarish truth that could prevent him from ever finding his way home.




Sunday, August 11, 2013

Query Con 2013


Think of us as a dating service that starts with a makeover.

First, we primp the writer’s submissions, pluck a few eyebrows, straighten the tie, and shine the shoes. At UnicornBell, we give you the tools, the virtual tweezers and the shoe polish. You provide ambition and your willingness to accept criticism.

And talent. The talent we see at UB is aMazinG.
What's more important: Talent or Persistence? Talent is more important, but useless, in the majority of cases, without persistence – Unknown
The key is Persistence. Combine it with Sense of Humor and the result is Published Author. But arriving at the destination of Published Author starts with a question:

What is your book about?

It’s called marketing. Yes, the word that all introverts like me dreads. Until you hook that editor or agent, you won’t get anywhere, no matter your talent or persistence.
You’re not finished when you’re defeated. You’re finished when you quit – Unknown
Last year, we started something, our Schools In Session or Query Con. Charity, our majorly divine moderator with a minor in superhuman powers, was the inspiration and absolute work horse for all of us at UB. Her efforts and jaw-dropping skills made the contest a success. Kudos to her. And my thanks.

Query Con 2013 starts in September. Get your manuscript polished to a mirror shine because we have a great line up of editors ready to look at that finished product.

It begins with a query and finding the Wow Factor.

It begins with Query Con.
Rejected pieces aren't failure; unwritten pieces are - Greg Daugherty

Friday, August 9, 2013

SERENITY part four


Today we have the second part of Connie's  second chapter - Jolin...

“Are you asking me or telling me.” He smiled.  He was older and his head was thinning.  He seemed nice enough. Why? What made him seem nice? Did he have a kind voice, an understanding smile? Show us.
            “T-t-telling.  I had a g-g-game.”
            “Yes you did.” He nodded.
            “It was three days ago, Jolin.  You’ve been unconscious for three days.”  My mom grabbed my hand and started rubbing it against her cheek, tears pooling in her eyes.
            The doctor shot her a frustrated look.  “Yes, you have been unconscious for a few days.  You had a severe impact to the head.  Helmet to helmet contact.” 
            My mind couldn’t process what he was saying.  If he was saying I had a severe concussion I’d be sidelined.  It was my senior football year.  (he seems younger than this in the first part of the chapter – just sayin…) I had colleges looking at me.
            “You also had an injury to your shoulder.  Rotator cuff was torn.  We’ll need to do surgery but wanted to wait until you woke up.” 
            “When?”  My words failed mey but I already knew the answer.  But needed to hear it someone say it out loud. 
            My mom brought my hand to her lips and kissed it, holding it there, unable to look into my eyes.
            “When?” I repeated.
            “Jolin.  I won’t be able to clear you to play again.  Your brain is severely bruised.  Your short term memory has been compromised.  Your speech has been affected.  If you had have another head impact, even minor it could cause serious damage. Even death.  You’ll never play again.”

My thoughts: I have to echo a comment from yesterday: this seems like a completely different story than chapter one. And I’m actually more interested in what happens to Jolin. How will he react to this sudden change in his place in the world? What will he do without football? How badly has the injury affected his brain? I’m curious and I would read on to find out. 

Your thoughts?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

SERENITY part three


Today we have chapter two of Connie's NA contemporary romance. My comments will again be in blue and we'd love if you'd add yours.

Jolin

            “M-m-mom?”
            “It’s okay honey.  I’m right here.” 
            I felt a hand grip mine and another rub softly up and down my arm. Instead of “I felt a hand…” how about, “A hand gripped mine…
            I turned my head to look for her but a sharp pain shot through my neck. 
            “No sweety don’t move.  I’ll call the nurse.”  She ran out of the room and left me on my own.  My eyes were dry (tell how his eyes feel…gritty? Burning? Also, there should be a comma after dry and probably one after times as well) and I blinked a few times trying to focus on my surroundings.  I was in a hospital room but I couldn’t remember why I was here.  My mom came back in the room followed by a doctor.
            “So how are we feeling young man?” The doctor took a stethoscope from around his neck and a light thingy from his pocket.  He leaned in (comma) shining the light into my eyes.  “How’s your head feeling?”
            I took a moment to see how my head did feel.  “It hurts…I g-g-guess.” I’m guessing he doesn’t need a moment to figure out that his head hurts.
            “Do you have any memory of what got you here,” he asked.
            I shook my head.  Pain shot through my neck again.  I cringed.  “N-n-no.”
            The doctor sat on the edge of my bed.  “What’s the last thing you remember?”
            I closed my eyes the words were in my head but didn’t want to come out of my mouth.
“P-p-playing football?”



My thoughts: This second chapter seems like an entirely different story. I'm also a lot more interested in Jolin (I assume that's the kid's name) than Ren but only because he's in a scary situation which has elicited my sympathy. Not that I don't feel sorry for Ren with her lush for a mother but the kid's situation worries me more. 

What do you think?


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Today

If you're stopping by today I hope you'll take a minute or two to check out Connie's first chapter, presented in two parts (part one, and part two) and give her some feed back on it. And if you already did and want more critting, I'm critiquing a fun first page at mainewords today.


Tomorrow I'll be posting Connie's second chapter. I'll leave you with some mid-week inspiration. Post what comes to mind in the comments.





Tuesday, August 6, 2013

SERENITY part two


Today we have the second part of Connie's first chapter. My comments are in blue and I hope you'll add yours.


SERENITY (cont)
            He nodded and wrapped up the service.  My mom stumbled through the wet grass in her heels, although whatever substance was in her system probably aided her imbalance.  Quill turned me and led me back towards the building that housed the offices of the Funeral Home. 
            “Ren.” 
            I closed my eyes and took a deep breath before I turned around to face my mom.
            “Ren,” she said losing her balance and falling forward into me.  I stepped back into Quill who grabbed my arms to steady me.
            She started petting at my hair and collapsed into my arms crying. How awful and embarrassing. Also a good way to make us sympathize with Ren.
“God dammit Quill get me out of here,” I stepped on Quill’s feet trying to retreat.
“C’mon Mel. Let’s go.  I got you.”  Her stupid ass boyfriend took her shoulders and pulled her away at the same time Quill pulled me to the car. The mom’s boyfriend’s sudden appearance is a bit jarring, imo.
“I hate her.” I gritted my teeth and balled my fist. 
Quill didn’t say anything, he just started the car and pulled out of the parking lot.
I dropped my head into my hands.
            I didn’t know what we were going to do. So who is we? Her and Quill? And what does she mean by this? Do about what? I think I’d like a little more clarity. Not about everything, because curiosity is what will keep the reader turning the pages, but about who’s who at least. It would be nice to know whether Quill is the protective boyfriend or relative. Otherwise I am interested in finding out more about what’s going on and who these people are.

Monday, August 5, 2013

SERENITY - critique

This week I'll be critting the first two chapters of Connie Michael's NA Contemporary Romance. You can find her at Loco for Libros. My comments will be in blue and I hope you'll add yours...


SERENITY


I couldn’t believe she showed up drunk or high or hung over or was here at all.  Whatever she was (what was she? This doesn’t make sense to me) she had sniffled and wailed through the entire service, continuously running her hand under her nose to wipe up a stream of snot.  Static had her dress bunched up around her knees and her hair was askew even though I could tell she had tried to do something with it.  What was worse was her current boyfriend, and I use that word loosely, came.  (As written this sentence strikes me as awkward. Maybe just cut the word 'came', since if she's seeing him, he's obviously there.) She hated my grandmother and now she had the audacity to cry at her funeral.
 I hated my mom. Wow, strong statement.
Quill put an arm around my shoulder and pulled me under his oversized umbrella.  I didn’t cry.  I loved grams but I’d ran out of tears years ago.  I couldn’t even remember the last time I cried but I was sure it was connected to my. Connected to my…?
I wouldn’t give her my tears again. Give who tears? Grandma or the hated mother?
“Ren would you like to say anything?” asked the pastor.
I looked over in his direction, my eyes taking a moment to focus.  Quill nudged me with his shoulder. I might reverse the order of these two sentences.
            I shook my head.  “No.  Thank you.”



My thoughts:   I don't know this mc very well yet but in this first page I've learned two things for sure; she loved her grandmother and she's got some serious mom issues. Is this what the story will be about? Her resolving that relationship and becoming less bitter, finding love? And who's Quill? A relative, bf? This is a very emotional beginning.

Your thoughts?