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.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Beth Fred on How To Write & Eat At the Same Time

Before we get started, I'm teaching a blurb writing class in August. This is the method I used to query with a 50% full request rate and snag an agent and editor. You can sign up here.
I hear it all the time. Writers frustrated they work so hard and never make any money. I did a happy dance because I broke even last year. I even had a profit--four digits if you count what comes after the decimals. So how do you write and eat at the same time?
Believe it or not, there are a few ways.
Consider a day job that involves a lot of writing. Since writing comes naturally to you, it probably won't be as taxing as other days jobs and you may actually enjoy it. A couple of good contenders are technical writing/technical communications and marketing writing. Technical writers usually write procedural manuals for companies, though they are often responsible for other office communications as well. This field pays really well,but can be hard to break into. If you have an English degree you're trying to put to use, this may be the way to go. You'll need a degree and a writing portfolio. Since it is so hard to break into, some recommend rewriting a current manual to have a writing sample. Marketing writing allows more room for creativity, but doesn't always pay as much, though it often involves something everyone here knows well--blogging. And the writing samples you need to get this kind of gig you may already have.
But nonfiction might be where it's at! Why? Because nonfiction usually works a little differently than fiction. You approach a publication with an idea and they tell you if they want you to write it or not. You don't write 60,000 words and then not sell it. You write a pitch and move forward from there, and these publications often pay fairly well, at least in comparison to fiction. They also have quicker response times probably because they are dealing only with a proposal. So think about what you do at your day job, or what you did before you started writing and look for publications in that area of expertise. Then come up with something that might be interesting for you because it will probably be interesting for others in that field as well.(Stay at home moms, you can do this too. Parenting magazines!)
Short Fiction Pays More. Yeah. That doesn't make sense, does it? You have to think about the genre you're writing in and what publications are available in that genre, but this is sometimes true. I write romance and the only print venue I know of paying for short fiction is Woman's World but for 800 words which is barely a cute meet they often pay out like $800. I have not got an advance on a novel that amounted to that. And if you're churning out 2000 words/day for a novel how long will it really take you to write 800 words? (Longer than you think, because cramming a beginning, middle and some kind of end into that is not easy, but still). No where near as long as a novel.
Come back Wednesday! I'm going to be talking about how to write a nonfiction query.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Effigy

Today I am proud and a little bit surprised (okay, maybe more like shocked), to show off M.J. Fifield's bright shiny new cover for her upcoming book, Effigy. (If you follow her blog, and you should, you'd understand the surprise part.)

I can't wait to read this one myself.

The book will be released on July 22nd. The cover art was done by Ravven. I think it's stunning: 


Effigy

The survival of a once-mighty kingdom rests in the hands of its young queen, Haleine Coileáin, as it slowly succumbs to an ancient evil fueled by her husband’s cruelty.

A sadistic man with a talent for torture and a taste for murder, he is determined to burn the land and all souls within. Haleine is determined to save her kingdom and, after a chance encounter, joins forces with the leader of the people’s rebellion. She gives him her support, soon followed by her heart.

Loving him is inadvertent but becomes as natural and necessary as breathing. She lies and steals on his behalf, doing anything she can to further their cause. She compromises beliefs held all her life, for what life will exist if evil prevails?

Her journey leads to a deceiving world of magic, monsters, and gods she never believed existed outside of myth. The deeper she goes, the more her soul is stripped away, but she continues on, desperate to see her quest complete. If she can bring her husband to ruin and save her people, any sacrifice is worth the price—even if it means her life.


About The Author: 
Armed with a deep and lasting love of chocolate, purple pens, and medieval weaponry, M.J. Fifield is nothing if not a uniquely supplied insomniac. When she isn’t writing, she’s on the hunt for oversized baked goods or shiny new daggers. M.J. lives with a variety of furry creatures—mostly pets—in New Hampshire. Effigy is her first novel.

Links:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Stellar Cloud

Today Charity is taking some time from her summer vacation with the kids to tell us about her story collection. And she's agreed to answer the usual questions...

1. Where did the initial idea for Stellar Cloud come from?
All the short stories in Stellar Cloud started as blog fest pieces over the last few years. These are the ones that I really liked. The ones that took root in my mind and begged to be looked at a little deeper. After getting my first novel published I was curious how self-pubbing would be different and this pile of shorts was a great opportunity to try my hand at it.

2. Which part of the publishing process was most surprising?
I was surprised at how easy it was through Amazon. The hardest part was getting the formatting to work. It would show one thing on the screen, but when I ordered a print copy it was different. I think I "tweaked" for at least a week until things looked the way I wanted. I loved that if someone reported a mistake I could go in and fix it.

3. If you could give yourself any piece of advice before you started writing, what would it be?
Stop worrying what everyone else will think and just write the story in your heart. I worry too much what family or friends will think about certain elements in my stories. Sometimes it stifles me to the point of not writing at all.

4. Plotter or panster?
Panster! However, I'm learning how to plot on a macro level to help shorten my processing time. I found that if I plotted on the micro level I lost the desire to write. There was nothing left to discover.

5. Quiet room or noisy room when you're writing? How quiet do you need it? What sort of noise?
It really depends. Sometimes I need quiet, but other times I can slip into the zone and it doesn't matter what's going on around me. I love those moments. During the summer I love to sit in the shade at the pool and write. The sound of splashing and laughing kids is somehow comforting and doesn't bother me at all.

6. Your writing area/desk: a place for everything and everything in it's place or if anyone ever straightened it you'd never find a thing?
I like it clear of clutter. The only thing I want with me is a water bottle, a box of Junior Mints and my reference books.

7. What is your current pop culture obsession (book, TV show, movie, webcomic...)? What are the rest of us missing?
Summer has most of my shows on break, but I LOVE So You Think You Can Dance and Master Chef. Those are the only two I care about in the summer. I do however love Netflix. This summer I'm re-watching all of the X-Files in preparation for next year's A to Z Challenge. :)

Stellar Cloud
A soldier struggles with the emptiness left behind by amnesia until he learns he is more than the world would have him remember. The earth is desolate, and only one ship of humans remains. An assassin plays god, dealing out justice and mercy as he sees fit.

Explore the outer reaches of the imagination through these and other short stories. From brainwashed clones to winged aliens of destruction, the stories in Stellar Cloud will pull in any lover of science fiction and fantasy.

Links
Amazon 
Goodreads
Blog
Facebook

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Writing Through Release Day

Today Tyrean Martinson joins us to tell us how she copes with the stress surrounding the publication of one of her books. 

Every writer who has had a book, story, poem, or article published knows the stress of the last week before publication. What if I missed 1,000 typos? What if everyone hates it? What if no one actually reads it? What if my family members/friends read it and think strange thoughts about me? What then? What will I do? Have I based too much of my identity on writing? What if I was meant to be a rock-climbing travel guide even if I’m terrified of heights? (It might actually be less scary, really.)

As a story writer and poet with works published by paying markets under my belt, one might think that none of these questions would have cropped up when I self-published my first novel. Instead, it felt intensified a thousand fold. When release day came, I hadn’t slept well for a week, I had a nervous, maniacal laugh, and I wanted to become a hermit. My family took me out to eat and told everyone in the restaurant I was a published author. I wanted to duck under the table. Instead, I smiled, blushed, and tried to hold back my crazy-nervous laugh.

As I approached my second novel release date, I slowed down and tried to figure out how to handle that stress.

I decided to write through publication. It seemed too simple, but I thought it might work.

For each day that I worked on pre-release matters, I gifted myself with stress-free writing time. I wrote flash fiction, hint fiction, poetry, and journal entries. I worked on outlines for my next book, character-building writing prompts, and new story starts with no idea of where they might go. I gave myself creativity dates – time in a coffee shop or the garden with a journal and my laptop, and a mandate to not think about my novel for 45 minutes.

I can’t say that I reached release day without stress, but I did get more sleep and I skipped the maniacal, nervous laugh part. My family celebrated by cooking dinner for me at home. When I went through some post-release blues, I realized I hadn’t taken my “writing” sanity saving moment that day.

Just a few weeks later, I’m writing every day instead of stressing out over my sales numbers. I’m determined to move forward with this attitude: I am a writer, therefore, I write. I invite the words to daydream and dance with me. That’s it. It’s not a magical cure-all, but writing for joy has its own kind of every day power.

Champion in Flight 

A year after she won the battle for Septily, Clara feels trapped in Skycliff by the Allied Council. As the last pieces of information about the Healing Caves fall into place, Clara is attacked by an assassin. Covert Drinaii mercenaries and the Council aren’t going to stop Clara from her quest to heal her broken blade. As Champion of Aramatir, she must act.

Meanwhile, in the joint kingdoms of Rrysorria and Wylandria, the youngest and still cursed swan prince despairs of ever being whole again. In a moment of anger and desperation, Liam discovers a blood link between him and a dark sorceress.

Clara won the battle for Septily, but her battle isn’t over.

Champion in Flight is the second book in The Champion Trilogy.

About the Author

Tyrean Martinson lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest, with her encouraging family. She likes to write, read, teach, ski, bicycle, and walk.

Tyrean has been published in Overcoming Adversity, The Best of Every Day Poets and Sunday Snaps: The Stories. Dragonfold and Other Adventures, and Light Reflections showcase Tyrean’s stories and poetry. She is currently hard at work on the third novel in The Champion Trilogy: Champion’s Destiny.

Links
Blog
Facebook
Twitter
Smashwords
Goodreads
Amazon

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Broken Branch Falls

Today Tara Tyler's newest book, Broken Branch Falls, is being released. Go, download it now. We'll wait...

Tara has been kind enough to answer some questions for us:

1. Where did the initial idea for Broken Branch Falls come from?
Broken Branch Falls is an MG adventure about fantasy creatures in high school - I teach high school math and my boys play football. Watching football practice, I appreciated little guys holding their own ​,​ and​ I​ matched some fantasy creatures with the stereotypes in high school - had to write it!

2. Which part of the publishing process was most surprising? 
I was most surprised by the marketing - it's so hard to put yourself out there!

3. If you could give yourself any piece of advice before you started writing, what would it be? 
Be prepared to be rejected, a lot. But don't give up!

4. Plotter or panster? 
Plotter all the way. Idea, plot points, outline, notebook rough draft, type, edit............

5. Quiet room or noisy room when you're writing? How quiet do you need it? What sort of noise? 
QUIET! I love to write on my back patio, away from the noise, but i write in my car waiting for my kids' activities a lot, too. i guess i'm a one track mind, i need to concentrate and other things easily distract me.

6. Your writing area/desk: a place for everything and everything in it's place or if anyone ever straightened it you'd never find a thing? 
My desk is pretty organized, but my hub might disagree about that...

7. What is your current pop culture obsession (book, TV show, movie, webcomic...)? What are the rest of us missing? 
Game of Thrones (finishing the last book), Chopped, and excited about working on an anti-princess story with illustrations and songs for youtube!


BROKEN BRANCH FALLS (MG Fantasy)
by Tara Tyler
Release Date: June 24, 2014
Publisher: Curiosity Quills

Gabe is an average fifteen-year-old goblin. He’s in the marching band, breezes through calculus, and gets picked on daily by the other kids at school, especially the ogres. But Gabe wants to break out of his stereotype and try other things. He has his eye on the new ogress at school, and though it’s against all beastly rules, there’s just something about her.

Gabe starts a fad of mingling with other species, forcing the High Council to step in and ruin things, threatening to destroy the school and split up Broken Branch Falls. With help from other outcast friends, Gabe sets out on a quest to save Broken Branch Falls. They'll show 'em what different friends can do!


Add it to your GOODREADS list!

Tara Tyler has had a hand at everything from waitressing to rocket engineering. After living up and down the Eastern US, she now writes and teaches math in Ohio with her three active boys and Coach Husband. Currently, she has two series, The Cooper Chronicles (techno-thriller detective capers) and Beast World (MG fantasy) She's an adventure writer who believes every good story should have action, a moral, and a few laughs!


Also by Tara Tyler, techno-thriller detective series,
The Cooper Chronicles, Book One: POP TRAVEL


Monday, June 23, 2014

Indie Writers Monthly...Part 7

Today Briane Pagel joins us to... Well, I'll just let him explain...

TIME FOR PART SEVEN of what has been called THE GREATEST BLOG TOUR THAT YOU ARE READING RIGHT NOW. Actually nobody has called it that, but if you wouldn't mind just saying to someone nearby, hey, this is the greatest blog tour!and then finishing under your breath with that I am reading right now I would really appreciate it.

I'll wait.

"Question everything!" he said.
"Why?" she asked.
Thanks. Now, down to businesss. This is the latest installment of the IWM Blog Tour! "IWM", as was foretold by Nostradamus, means "Indie Writers Monthly," which is a blog and magazine put out by the world's five most powerful speculative fiction writers.  Together, these five individuals when faced with a challenge join forces and become one mighty... hang on a sec...

OK, what? 

Sorry. I'm being told by our lawyers that if I go any further with that then Voltron's legal team will smite me.  Anyway, it wouldn't have worked because I'm always late for everything and who needs 80% of a 

What now?  Seriously? Not even as a parody?

Stupid lawyers. Whatever.  All business. Fine, let's go with part seven of 




ALL THE REASONS YOU SHOULD BE READING
INDIE WRITERS MONTHLY
THAT ARE ABSOLUTELY FACT-BASED
AND IN NO WAY EXAGGERATED
SO YOU CAN'T SUE US PROBABLY.








That's a tough list to follow up, but Part Seven will definitely live up to it because Part Seven is all about me and what I am good at is...

...is...

*think man, think! These people are depending on you!*

...is...

HEY LOOK OVER THERE.  *tries disappearing through trapdoor in stage, remembers that he was going to put in the trapdoor last weekend but it was really nice out and so he ended up going outside and playing water balloon fights*

Dang.

Er, I mean, what I am really good at is...

Weirdness.

*flashback to high school*

No, it's okay, teenage me! When you get older, weirdness is okay!

I, as one of the IWM writers who somehow got invited in and I AM SURE IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MY WILLINGNESS TO DO ALL THESE BLOG TOUR POSTS RIGHT GUYS? YOU'RE NOT JUST USING ME... bring something to the table too, and while I'm not as prolifically inspired as PT Dilloway or good at villains as Rusty Carl or capable of using actual science to create stories that feel real even though they include parallel universes like Sandra Ulbrich Almazan or simply creating whole worlds that suck you in and make you never want to leave them like Andrew Leon, I am good at making stories weird.

Which sort of makes the the Hawkeye to their Avengers, but I'll take what I can get.

The thing that most interests me as a writer is the thing that interests me as a reader, and that is stories that feel new to me, that are unusual or challenging, and I not only try to do that in my own writing but I work on helping others to do it in theirs.  I've written stories as weird as one in which a villain named Wenceslas uses a "Xmas Machine" to try to take over the world, only to be thwarted by a nearly-failed UFO maker.  I wrote an entire novel in which a dead woman tries to find her way out of the afterlife with the help of William Howard Taft.  And my most popular book, Eclipse, features an astronaut who may not be an astronaut but might be insane.

So: weird, right?

Speculative fiction needs some weirdness to it: all those parallel universes and wizards and superheroes and killbots wouldn't exist if there weren't someone willing to take your basic buddy-cop story and weird it up a bit by having one of the characters be an unnamed clone of one of the other characters.

And on IWM, I help pass along tips on how to do that yourself; in our magazine I've got an ongoing series helping you write a story from beginning to end, while on the blog I've given you real-life horror stories as inspiration, writing prompts based on genies in space, and I also get serious from time to time like when I defended your right to publish as many books as you want

So you see, guys? I'm good for something!  Now, will someone let me in the clubhouse? I brought cookies!

The author.
Notice the lack of cookies.

The IWM blog's latest posts include a rap battle featuring Isaac Newton, Lies Writers Tell To Other Writers, and a cover reveal for Nigel Mitchell's latest book. Click here to read that stuff.

Did I mention we also publish an e-magazine? We also publish an e-magazine.  The June issue, "June Bugs" is just $0.99, and features three short stories, tips on coming up with titles, blog reviews, 65 pages of help and great reading!  Click here to go buy it. (Older issues are on sale, still, as well!)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

This week: long crits!

It's my turn to host here at Unicorn Bell, so that means long form crits! If you have a scene or two -- up to 1,500 words -- that you'd like critiqued, send it on in to unicornbellsubmissions at Gmail. Open to any genre, YA/NA/adult, and it does not have to be the opening scene.

Please include your WIP's title, genre, and any info the readers need to know if this scene comes late in the story. Specific questions welcome. This will not be a line/copyedit unless you somehow stump me into having nothing to say about your narrative voice, character motivations, dialogue, world-building, etc. That's pretty rare, but it has happened.

The hopper is currently empty. All submissions are anonymous. Go for it!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Query Critique - The Last Class

Original -

Dear Publisher:
Four children growing up in the small town of Sink, AZ showcase the trials of maturing without conventional parental figures in each of their lives. Neil, Sally, Kyle, and Nathan are each able to give their viewpoint on a scattered timeline of events from ages six to seventeen. All of the events build character and eventually hit the climax, which is The Last Class. The novel itself doesn’t follow established storytelling styles, though it does create numerous forms of drama.

Between bullying, rape, murder, and more, this novel adds as many of the world’s “evils” as possible while the reader becomes engulfed and the story unfolds. By the time the reader believes they have it all figured out, the story reveals what it’s been about the whole time. In the end, it leaves the reader contemplating. Not because they don’t understand, but because of the true bigger picture. A person can be miniscule in the minds of all the people they are involved with, yet, at the same time, that same person can be the difference between life and death. If something is true to the masses, does that make it right? Amongst many other things, the novel also shows that truly understanding anyone can only come from the inside.

Touching on many sensitive topics, The Last Class is mainstream and edgy. The Last Class is 79,000 words long. I would be honored if you took the time to enter the world I have created. I can send along sample chapters or the whole manuscript upon request.


Critique –

Dear Publisher:

Four children growing up in the small town of Sink, AZ (unless giving the state is important, I would leave it out) showcase the trials of maturing without conventional parental figures in each of their lives. Neil, Sally, Kyle, and Nathan are each able to give their viewpoint on a scattered timeline of events from ages six to seventeen. (very non-specific) All of the events build character and eventually hit the climax, which is The Last Class. The novel itself doesn’t follow established storytelling styles, though it does create numerous forms of drama.

This query ‘doesn’t follow established’ guidelines either. Not that it is bad. Sometimes it's good. Agents and editors might enjoy a different approach. But keep in mind that a query is your first marketing tool. You must sell your product to a total stranger. A person who doesn't know your characters or live in the world you have created.

Between bullying, rape, murder, and more, this novel adds as many of the world’s “evils” as possible while the reader becomes engulfed and the story unfolds. (hm. You are telling me what I should feel? Let me be the judge. Give me more information so I can decide for myself.) By the time the reader believes they have it all figured out, the story reveals what it’s been about the whole time. In the end, it leaves the reader contemplating. Not because they don’t understand, but because of the true bigger picture. (ditto the above comment) A person can be miniscule in the minds of all the people they are involved with, yet, at the same time, that same person can be the difference between life and death. If something is true to the masses, does that make it right? Amongst many other things, the novel also shows that truly understanding anyone can only come from the inside.

Touching on many sensitive topics, The Last Class is mainstream and edgy. The Last Class is 79,000 words long. I would be honored (I had an agent yell at me once for placating too much. Just say, “If The Last Class interests you, sample chapters are available.) if you took the time to enter the world I have created. I can send along sample chapters or the whole manuscript upon request. (and be sure to add ‘Thank you for your time’)

I’d like to see some specifics. It would help me to bond and care about the individuals. Let me give you an example that I created out of mid-air. I apologize. I don’t know your world so this is total fiction:

Growing up in these times is difficult enough. But the anguish felt by four children living in a small town without parental influence reaches a horrific new level.
Six-year-old Neil, bullied by classmates until he takes matters into his own hands. Sally, his older sister, finds her life changed when she meets a crush behind the gym and has nowhere to run. Kyle, seventeen-years-old and thinking he has nothing to live for. And Nathan, who has a terrible secret and no one to tell it to. 
Their lives intertwine in a chaotic mess of bullying, rape, murder, and secrets. Without guidance, they are headed for a life of heartache. Until a man, one who no one could imagine can help, steps in. Now it is up to them to listen and learn.

An unconventional query might spark interest in a jaded agent or editor. Or not. It is more an agent's personal preference. It might work. But if you receive multiple rejections, try going for a conventional one.  

Followers? Any advice?



Friday, June 13, 2014

Query Critique - No Title

Original - 

Once upon a time an angel and a demon conspired to save an innocent. Tried and convicted, they and their accomplices are sentenced to the worst of fates: to live as mortals, doomed to repeat the same lives over and over again throughout history.

Peace Murray doesn’t remember this yet, although she does have some pretty strange dreams sometimes, especially the one about the drowned girls. It doesn’t help having a father who wishes she didn’t exist and an ache in her heart for the twin and a mother she never knew. All she wants is a normal life like her best friend, but when she returns home from camp, everything changes after she receives a mysterious text: ‘Do you know what you are?’

Peace has no idea what this means but before long she discovers there’s a reason she doesn’t have a normal life. She’s a demon.

Mal doesn’t remember who he was either but he knows one thing, he’s sick to death of his father’s drunken ravings about some supposed war between Heaven and Hell and his cryptic clues about the past. It all comes to a head when his father conjures up something impossible and directs Mal to The Marble Cemetery where he finds a vault with his and his twin’s name on it – from 1814.

Escaping to St. Auburn’s Academy can’t come soon enough, but no sooner does he arrive than he meets Peace, the daughter of the Reverend who rents out rooms to boarders in this small town. Peace makes no secret of her dislike for him and Mal’s happy to return the favor – until he discovers the grave she frequents which just happens to have her name on it with some eerily familiar dates.

But the worst discovery is yet to come: they are both fated to die before their seventeenth birthday and begin the cycle again. Now the only way to solve the mystery of their existence and avert their fate is to work together to remember what they’ve forgotten.

My Critique –


Once upon a time(comma) an angel and a demon conspired to save an innocent. Caught, tried and convicted, then they and their accomplices (I’d leave out ‘their accomplices’. Stay with the couple to keep it simple) are (since you started the query as backstory, I’d stay in the past) sentenced to the worst of fates(my personal preference is to end the sentence) To live as mortals, doomed to repeat the same lives over and over again throughout history.

Peace Murray doesn’t remember this yet, (love this) although she does have some pretty strange dreams sometimes, especially the one about the drowned girls. It doesn’t help having a father who wishes she didn’t exist and an ache in her heart for the twin and a mother she never knew. All she wants is a normal life like her best friend (period) But when she returns home from camp,(is this significant? If not, I would cut) everything changes after   Then she receives a mysterious text: ‘Do you know what you are?’

Peace has no idea what this it means (period) But before long she discovers there’s a reason why she doesn’t have a normal life. She’s a demon.

Mal doesn’t remember who he was either but he knows one thing, he’s sick to death of his father’s drunken ravings about some a supposed war between Heaven and Hell and his cryptic clues about the past. (a very interesting but very long sentence) It all comes to a head when his father conjures up something impossible and directs Mal to The Marble Cemetery where (is this info needed?) he finds a vault with his and his twin’s name on it – from 1814. (holy crap. I definitely want to know more.

Escaping to St. Auburn’s Academy can’t come soon enough, (i have no idea what this academy is or provides. Maybe you can tell me why he needs to go there and leave out ‘can’t come soon enough. Or, use this example: Escape from his abusive father leads him to meet an annoying girl named Peace, daughter of the Reverend who...) but no sooner does he arrive than he meets Peace, the daughter of the Reverend who rents out rooms to boarders in this small town. Peace makes no secret of her dislike for him and Mal’s happy to return the favor – until he discovers the grave she frequents which just happens to have her name on it with some eerily familiar dates.

But the worst discovery is yet to come: they are both fated to die before their seventeenth birthday and begin the cycle again. Now the only way to solve the mystery of their existence and avert their fate is to work together to remember what they’ve forgotten.(OutFreakinStanding)

Although it is a bit long for a query, I want to know more. This seems a little chaotic though. The first paragraph, the hook, is great. It gives just the right amount of backstory to the rest of the query. TMI might be your downfall here. I don’t think I need to know what St. Auburn’s Academy is; just that Mal escapes his intolerable home life. Do I need to know that Peace went to camp or just that she received a mysterious text?

Note to the followers of UnicornBell:
This author is one of the most prolific, imaginative writers in my wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Her worlds vary from Pure D sci-fi to the supernatural. 

I pray that when I grow up, I can be just like her.




Thursday, June 12, 2014

Query Critique - Beacon

Original query - 

Dear [Super Editor/Super Agent],

When ignorance is bliss, Bliss is power.

Seventeen-year-old Macie Breen clings to her registered status in The Colony by the worn laces of her hand-me-down boots. Getting kicked out isn’t part of her plans, but going unregistered would mean fewer rules, no forced blood donations to feed the vampeer of society, and she could try her own search for her missing parents. Having a chance to make her friendship with Thane, her unregistered best bud, something more would be an added bonus. Yet when Bliss, the capital township of The Colony, announces selections of Attendees for the Jubilee celebration, Macie’s hopes crumble at her feet. She’s chosen, trapped as a registered forever. A life with Thane? Impossible.

Devil spawn, snarling beasts thought purged from existence, enter Macie’s township, all with fangs aimed for her. Amid the chaos, Macie narrowly escapes to the safety of Bliss’s walls. Beneath the façade of happy people, an underground resistance brings Jubilee’s true purpose to light, with Macie discovering her heritage as the Beacon of the fae. Fae blood enables vampeer to daywalk, so the fae keep their kind secret, awaiting the Beacon to guide them back to their home realm. Certain vampeer have a different agenda. The Beacon is the key, making Macie’s capture their highest priority.

Joining the resistance, Macie finds protection, but no peace, not after learning a high ranking Colony official, a vampeer citizen, holds her parents hostage. One chance to rescue them. No room for failure. If her powers land in the wrong hands, the whole world would suffer the cost.

BEACON is a Young Adult urban fantasy/dystopian that should appeal to readers of The Hunger Games. It is complete at XX,XXX words and has series potential.

I appreciate your consideration of my query. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Sincerely,

Critique -

Dear [Super Editor/Super Agent],

When ignorance is bliss, Bliss is power.

Seventeen-year-old Macie Breen clings to her registered status in The Colony by the worn laces of her hand-me-down boots. (oh, ExCellEnt) Getting kicked out isn’t part of her plans, but going unregistered would mean fewer rules (period) Like no forced more blood donations to feed the vampeer (correct spelling?) of society, and she could try her own searching for her missing parents. (break that sentence into two or three)

(This next section is IMHO overwritten.) Having a chance to make her friendship with Thane, her unregistered best bud, something more would be an added bonus. Yet when Bliss, the capital township of The Colony, announces selections of Attendees for the Jubilee celebration, Macie’s hopes crumble at her feet. She’s chosen, trapped as a registered forever. A life with Thane? Impossible.

Suggestion: She could make her friendship with Thane, her unregistered best bud, something more also. Yet when Bliss, the capital township of The Colony, selects the Attendees for the Jubilee celebration, Macie’s hopes crumble. She’s chosen and now trapped as a registered forever.

(I’m puzzled by her choice. To me, it looks like going unregistered is much better than registered. )

Devil spawn, snarling beasts thought purged from existence, enter Macie’s township, all with fangs aimed for her. Amid the chaos, Macie narrowly escapes to the safety of Bliss’s walls. Beneath the façade of happy people, an underground resistance brings Jubilee’s true purpose to light, with Macie discovering her heritage as the Beacon of the fae. (that sentence seems thrown in there. It left me scratching my head) Fae blood enables vampeer to daywalk, so the fae keep their kind secret, awaiting the Beacon to guide them back to their home realm. Certain vampeer have a different agenda. The Beacon is the key, making Macie’s capture their highest priority.

A lot going on in this paragraph. Maybe too much. Suggestion: When devil spawn, beasts the people thought were extinct, enter the township, Macie escapes behind Bliss’s walls. There she learns of the underground resistance. And of her heritage. And value. Unknown to her, she is a Beacon to the fae, a guide that will lead them back to their home realm. A person who the vampeer must capture by any means necessary. She is a valued asset to them, the key that unlocks the ability to daywalk.

Joining the resistance, Macie finds protection, but no peace, not after learning a high ranking Colony official, a vampeer citizen, holds her parents hostage. One chance to rescue them. No room for failure. If her powers land in the wrong hands, the whole world would suffer the cost.

BEACON is a Young Adult urban fantasy/dystopian that should appeal to readers of The Hunger Games. It is complete at XX,XXX words and has series potential.
I appreciate your consideration of my query. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Sincerely,

****

Ho, boy. If I were an agent, I’d have the full NOW.

There is so much going on that the reader might miss important details. I’d suggest going back over it and picking out the vital elements, storyline that can’t be cut and then delicately add to it.

I would break up some of the longer sentences. It’s probably only personal taste, but I like a certain rhythm to sentence structure. Example: a long sentence followed by a shorter one. Then a *really* short one. You can mix it up but IMO, it creates drama and keeps the words flowing.

Followers?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Query Critique - One Good Catch

One Good Catch - Original

ER Doctor Kate Maguire wants a normal life, a great career, quality time with her family, and for her nightmares to stop.
  
Ignoring how a recent trauma is affecting her everyday life, Kate engages in some high risk activities to try and feed her restlessness.

When her brother’s high school best friend comes back to town, it’s her chance for a ‘no strings attached’ casual fling with the man who still stars in her dreams.

Rhys ‘Mac’ MacGrath’s days of one-night-stands are long over, and he wants much more than ‘casual’ with Kate.

The pro-football player might be side-lined at rehab for a shoulder injury, but that doesn’t mean he can’t admire and desire the all-grown-up, so-damn-hot, version of the tomboy he once knew.

His sudden interest in Kate might be aggravating his best friend, but it’s her indifference to their mutual attraction that’s driving Rhys crazy.

For years Rhys refused to return home because of unresolved family issues, now they threaten to complicate the simple life he’s created.

Everything heats up when Kate’s nosy nature sets her in the line of fire of a suspected arsonist forcing them to deal with much more than just the sparks igniting between them. 
-
My name is (...). I’m a full-time mom and a part-time System Administrator for my local volunteer fire district.

One Good Catch is a standalone HEA story. It's the second book of three in the Maguire's Corner series.

My first published title, Maguire’s Corner, was one of the top 28 finalists in the 2012 Harlequin/Mills & Boon So You Think You Can Write contest.

The small publisher closed and the rights to Maguire's Corner have reverted back to me. I'm looking for a new home for these wonderful books to succeed.

Thank you for your time and consideration of my work.


Critique - 


ER Doctor Kate Maguire wants a normal life, a great career, quality time with her family. (My personal preference is to break the sentence to make it pop.) And for her nightmares to stop.

Ignoring how a recent trauma is affecting her everyday life, Kate engages in some high risk activities to try and feed her restlessness. (IMO, there are problems with sentence structure here. How about:) She ignores how her recent trauma affected her life by engaging in high risk activities.

(At this point, you need something to tie both paragraphs together. Suggestion :) But putting herself in dangerous situations isn’t enough to curb her restlessness. She needs something more.

When her brother’s high school best friend comes back to town, it’s her chance for a ‘no strings attached’ casual fling with the man who still stars in her dreams.

Rhys ‘Mac’ (Do you need the nickname? It doesn’t show up anywhere else and slows the flow.) MacGrath’s days of one-night-stands are long over, and he wants much more than ‘casual’ with Kate.

The pro-football player might be side-lined at rehab for a shoulder injury, but that doesn’t mean he can’t admire and desire Kate, the all-grown-up, so-damn-hot, version of the tomboy he once knew. (Interesting)

His sudden interest in Kate might be aggravating his best friend, (Why does it aggravate Kate’s brother? Suggestion:) who doesn’t approve, but it’s her indifference to their mutual attraction Do you need this phrase? that’s driving Rhys crazy.

For years comma Rhys refused to return home because of unresolved family issues, now they threaten to complicate the simple life he’s created. (Suggestion:) For years, an unresolved issue with his family kept him away from home. Now it threatens to complicate the simple life he’s created.

(I'm not sure that you need the above paragraph. Possibly it makes the query a little too 'busy'. Followers?)

Everything heats up when Kate’s nosy nature sets her in the line of fire of an suspected arsonist forcing them to deal with much more than just the sparks igniting between them.
-

An excellent bio.

Followers, what do you think?





Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Looking for Queries to Crit



Got a query you want to throw out into the wide world of publishing? 

Submit to me (no whips and handcuffs) and I'll give a fair critique of your baby.

unicornbellsubmissions(at)gmail(dot)com


Monday, June 9, 2014

Queries, Agents, and WTH

A real response to one of my queries:

Hello Carol, (my alternate ego)
Your story has an interesting premise, but is ultimately not for me. Thank you for thinking of [name redacted] and best of luck with your work.

You never know what you’ll get back when you send a query to an agent or publisher. Sometimes a pleasant but general reply. Or a personal response, a word or two that is helpful. Even less often, a request for more pages.

And then there are the crickets, the no-reply, no-automated response indicating that your query was received. Hate those more than rejections, btw.

Have you categorized the above query response yet? Really? Well, you’re wrong.

You might think it is one of those pleasant, inattentive replies and it is. But [insert laughter here] I received this email last Friday, June 6th.

I sent it March 21, 2012.

Bruuutherrrrrrr. Good thing I didn’t wait on this agent, huh.

Here is the original query:
I seek representation for THE ADAMANT, urban fantasy complete at 100 K. Please contact me if you are interested.  
The many talents of Shamira Kelley include running an ironworks forge, shoeing Clydesdales, and talking to animals. And she can kill a man with a glance. 
Shamira’s life has more tangles than last year’s Christmas lights. After her parents abandoned her at fourteen, she acquired a pendant made from the horn of a unicorn. Or it acquired her. The pendant seeks retribution by liberating the Earth of its human burden. To that end, the relic grants Shamira the unwanted ability to compel humans. Even to their death. But the sentient pendant didn’t figure on the iron will of its newest acolyte.  
It takes a chance encounter with Faelan, a man who has the same preternatural talents as she to answer her questions. But he keeps his true agenda from her. Faelan believes Shamira’s death would destroy the pendant and remove the threat permanently. For now, her self-control intrigues Faelan. And so he waits. Besides, he can always kill her later. 
THE ADAMANT is a stand-alone manuscript but shows promise as a series. Per submission guidelines, I am including the first ten pages.  
I blog at www.spiritcalled.blogspot.com and moderate a critique group at www.unicornbell.blogspot.com. 
Thank you for your time. 
The next time I send a query, I will adjust the bio to show that I’m a published author with a successful series and a member of the Missouri Writers Guild.

Thank the heavens I have a bio now, LOL.

Have you sent any queries yet? Got any cool responses? Advice? Crickets?




Sunday, June 8, 2014

Tips for Young Writers - SR Johannes

It's the Unstoppable book tour.

SR Johannes, successful author of The Nature of Grace series, is here today with advice to all writers, young and ahem, older. Er mature?

Top 10 Writing Tips for Young Writers


Starting out can be tough. It’s hard to know where to turn when you are just stepping into the industry. It can be overwhelming at times. There are a few thinsg you can do to get started on the right track:

1. Do your research. Find out what resources can help you find your way and read them. Harold Underdown’s guide to publishing is a great book.
2. Understand what you love to write and start there. Don’t follow the market, follow your heart. 
3. Make sure you set up a space to write
4. Get in a routine. Try to start with a schedule. It might only be 15 min but if you do it everyday, you start a habit.
5. Network. Meet other writers you can write with, critique, or go to with questions. SCBWI is the best resource.
6. Understand the business side. It is important to be aware that publishing is a business. (yes I know it sucks, but it’s true). Know this and it makes rejection and the tough times less personal.
7. Seek to improve your craft – no matter where you are in the field. This may mean reading books in your genre, taking classes, doing workshops, or joining a critique group.
8. Learn to take constructive criticism. This biz if full of it and you won’t get anywhere if you are not open to it.
9. Focus on the journey – your journey and that of your book. If publishing is your only goal, it might get discouraging if it takes longer than you expect so set some milestones to help you celebrate along the way.
10. Always be professional. It will take you a long way and this industry is small.

No matter what, love this process. Love your writing. Seek to improve and believe in yourself. Be prepared for ups and downs along the way. It is a tough business but it is a rewarding one. 

And if you are a true writer, it won’t matter, because you will always write – no matter what? And that love will take you far. 

* * * *

Discover more about this series.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Blocked

I recently read a great post about writers block over at Chuck Wendig's blog and I encourage you to go read it. Be warned, there are lots of bad words but all used oh, so appropriately...


So. What did you think?  I especially liked how Chuck labeled the various aspects of what we call writers block, because it doesn't always manifest the same way, does it? Doubt in myself was a problem for me in the work I'm currently revising, Peace & Forgiveness. Right around the half way mark I just couldn't persevere even though I knew where I was going. I'd lost interest and that meant my readers would likely lose interest, too. So I did exactly what Chuck suggested. I went back to the beginning  to see where I'd lost the magic. And I found it and finished the book.

Now I get to revise...but that's a story for another day.

How do you feel about writers block? What do you do when it rears its ugly misshapen head? Did any of Chuck's words ring true with you?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

First page critique - Last Christmas




The lights went out at the same time Katrina’s phone vibrated on her desk. She grabbed it with shaky fingers, saw her mom’s picture on the screen and swiped to answer.
“Hey, I’m just now leaving.” Katrina took another deep breath to calm her racing heart while her mom fussed at her for being late. “I’m sorry, Mom. Really, I just got busy and didn’t watch the time. They just turned the lights off on me so I’m packing up. It should only take about fifteen minutes to get there.”
Purse, laptop—check. Katrina flipped off her desktop and switched on the flashlight she kept at her desk.
“Mom, I’ve got to hang up or I’ll never get out of here. See you in a few.” She hit end and stuffed the phone in her purse, but she didn’t get up. Instead, she soaked in the silence of the empty office for another minute. It was better than what waited for her at her mom’s famous Christmas Eve party. Loud music, more people than could comfortably fit in the small ranch style home and whatever meat head her mother thought would make a great father for her unborn grandchildren.
With a groan, Katrina grabbed her stuff and headed for the elevators. Time to face the holiday with as much grace as she could muster. She left the elevator and stepped into the cold parking deck pulling her coat closer. The shadows stretched from the pylons, reaching for her with greedy fingers, the sound of traffic on the street below calmed her nerves. There were only a few cars scattered up the incline. She should have been able to see her silver Accord, but a large black van blocked her view. It hadn’t been there this morning.
Katrina glanced behind her. No one was in sight. She stood still and listened, but all she could hear was that same traffic that moments before had made her feel safe. There was no movement, no tell-tale legs that she could see standing between the van and her hidden car. Still, she walked slowly taking a wide berth around the van, heart pounding. When she cleared the van and saw her car sitting there, she let out the breath she didn’t know she’d been holding.
A small laugh escaped as she dug in her purse for her keys. She unlocked the car and walked toward it. Is that eyes in the back window?
The eyes grew larger, accompanied by the swish of fabric and two strong arms wrapping around her waist and neck. Katrina screamed, but the tall man in black just smiled at their reflection in the glass. He didn’t try to stop her from screaming.
***

My first impression is that this read very smoothly for the most part and I got a lot of character from this first page. Katrina works late (a lot?), shown by the fact that the office lights have gone off (although many offices don't go completely dark, at least in larger towns and cities). She's also not looking forward to her mom's Christmas party and less so to "whatever meat head her mother thought would make a great father for her unborn grandchildren." Loved this btw. But she seems nervous or uneasy (shaky fingers, deep breath to calm herself) and there's no explanation why, although there may be one later. I'm also unsure why she's looking for a bad guy when she gets to the parking area. Is she expecting something to happen? If so mightn't she have some mace or pepper spray? Just a thought. Lastly, I might reword this sentence: "The shadows stretched from the pylons, reaching for her with greedy fingers, the sound of traffic on the street below calmed her nerves." "Shadows stretched from the pylons, the sound of traffic on the street below calming her nerves." The reason I'd cut the greedy fingers is because these words seem like they belong more to fantasy or dark horror rather than suspense, but that's just me. Other than that, I thought this was a pretty darn good first page and I would definitely have read on to see what happens to Katrina. Nice start Charity :)

Now, what do you think of Charity's first page? Any thoughts or comments you'd like to share?
 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Market Report

Over at my other blog, mainewords, I occasionally post about the tidbits I find in Writer's Digest Magazine. Recently there was an article showcasing the market for genre short stories and I thought I'd share a few with you. Oh, and these are PAYING markets :)

Children's and YA: Cricket Magazine - circ 73,000 - Monthly magazine aimed at ages 9-14, seeking fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Crime, Mystery & Suspense: The Strand Magazine - circ 50,000 Quarterly magazine focusing on mystery and suspense in settings ranging from "Victorian England to turn-of-the-century Prage to modern-day England and America."

Religious/Spiritual: Alive Now - circ 70,000 Bimonthly magazine seeking religiously themed fiction, poetry, and prayers. 

Scifi/Fantasy/Horror: Shimmer Magazine - Quarterly magazine that "aspires to publish excellent fiction across lines of race, income, nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ages, geography, and cultures, and therefore encourages submissions of diverse stories from diverse authors."



Do you write short? I tend to write long (I can count on one hand the number of shorts I've written) but it can be a great way to break in, and it used to be the way a lot of authors got their start.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

First Page Critique - Spirit Mage




If only he could throw a bar of lava or Fire. Even a jet of Water would do in a pinch. But he couldn’t do that. Not without certain repercussions.
Orders kept Justus Aubre on a short, thorny leash, and the strictures didn’t include using his magical talents.
A medley of reporters was stood between him and a frowning politician in an echoing chamber made of marble and suspicion. The constant clickety, click, click of cameras tightened his mouth.
“A demonstration, you say.” Justus stroked his chin as if considering the request.
Request? More like the senator was demanding he jump and say, yes sir. Right away sir. The oily expression on the Honorable Senator Kendway’s face reminded him of a ferret eyeing a meal. Unctuous to a tee.
“Yes, Mr. Aubre. A demonstration of your ‘powers’ would be nice,” Kendway said.
“You have the folder. You know what we mages can do.”
“Yes. I have your group’s previous testimony and this deposition.” Kendway stroked the closed cover of the forty-page report with one long finger. “Frankly, it seems a bit...premature to evaluate the nature of these magical powers.”
Justus rolled his shoulders. “And the news reports aren’t enough to—”
“Excuse me, ‘wizard’, I haven’t finished.” The senator sat back and crossed his arms. “You come before us, delegated by your supreme leader.”
“Tiarra.”
Kendway curled his lip. “And now you believe we should take your word and some jimmied-up special effects and tricks? Without proof? You come before us with nothing and expect us to accept the rabbit-in-a hat illusion? Elephants disappearing on the stage.”
Justus frowned. “That mage in Vegas wasn’t sanctioned. We took care of it.”
“Oh, please. Don’t patronize me with silly stories. That was a sham performance.”
“Nah. It was all mage. Just not approved by the Tiarra. PETA did protest about using a live animal though.”
Kendway looked like he’d bit into a bad grape. “And yet here you are. Show me. Prove it or this masquerade ends now.”
“At this time, I am prohibited from such a display. Pity. But there it is.”
“Pity? Why is that?”
***
Ha! I can guess why it's a pity! A pity Justus can't turn Mr. Politician into a toad or something equally unpleasant!

Anyway...my thoughts: Having read the first two books in this series I'm already interested in what will happen next but...but that first line could be reworked to place readers better in this world, maybe by using Justus' name and his perception of where he is at the moment. For example, something like this: "Justus surveyed the crowd (or chamber or whatever) and (insert his perception here - are they all a bunch of oily politicians and ambulance chasing reporters? Is there someone else there that he might look to for support or encouragement? How is he feeling? Angry? Trapped?). If only he could throw a bar of lava or Fire. Even a jet of Water would do in a pinch. But he couldn’t do that. Not without certain repercussions."

Aside from that, I liked this first page and can't wait to read the rest :)