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.

Friday, August 29, 2014

YouTube Content

Now we know why we need a YouTube channel and how to make one, so what do we put on it? Anything you want! (Don't infringe copyrights). Think of your YouTube channel like a blog. What do you put on your blog? Writing advice? Book trailers? Funny articles? Book reviews? (If you have a book out, you might even consider doing a reading).

You can put on these things on your YouTube channel. You're just going to have to get comfortable talking to a camera. Like blogs, the most trafficked YouTube channels are informative or funny. People want to know they're getting something when they come to visit you. I think the most popular author YouTube channel is John Green's, and it's not even always about writing. And you build your following the same way you built your blog. You become part of the reading/writing community. You comment on others' content. You follow channels you like and let them follow back. And you have a whole new platform. A place to reach people who may not be reading you yet.

Do you have a YouTube channel? What do you put on it? 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Make A YouTube Channel

On Monday, we talked about YouTube being a great new way to meet yet to be readers since FB and Twitter are slacking. I'd planned a post to tell you how to create a YouTube channel, but as I researched the topic (because this is something I need to do as well) I found an awesome tutorial. This video walks you through step by step with screenshots. Just click the link.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Move to Youtube

There's been a lot of chatter about it. I've seen people lamenting it in facebook statuses and in my twitter feed. What am I talking about? Blogs becoming a dying art. They aren't totally dead of course. You're reading this now. And some of us will always love blogs. Like me. But it's becoming increasingly harder to reach new people through blogs. You're really talking to your already fans. That is awesome. They buy your books. More importantly, they promote them. You want to talk to these people, and you should.
But you need an avenue to reach new people, and let's face it. Facebook will not be that avenue. You pretty much have to pay for anyone to see any content, and even then Facebook is selective about whom they show your statuses to.
So take your marketing efforts to YouTube. I know for a lot of authors (myself included) that's a scary idea. Many of us are introverts and love being able to hide behind our flashy purple blog with the sparkles. (I could be speaking only about myself here, lol). But you don't have to pay YouTube to make your content available. In fact, they will pay you. One more time. YouTube will pay you for your content.  If the problem is we can't reach new potential readers with our blog because 2010 is gone and FB is charging us to reach anyone with our statuses, then YouTube who is paying for content seems like a good alternative. I should also point out it's video which seems to be the trend of the day, so it is a good a way to meet potential readers, especially if you're writing YA. That's where the teens are.

I'll be back later this week to talk about setting up a YouTube channel and how to promote it.

Are you on Youtube? Are you going to move to YouTube if you'e not? What are your thoughts on this?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Returning in October

Thanks for joining me this week.

I am still open for book tours. If you have a new book to promote or would just like to highlight something that has been out for a while, hit me up.

My next week will be sometime in October, but you can reserve your spot now. Just email me at unicornbellsubmissions [at] gmail [dot] com. Put "Book Tour" in the subject line. And I'll get back to you.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Just Their Imagination

So, it looks like everyone is on summer vacation. And since I'll be busy moving IRL (don't ask), I'm just going to give you all a few brain teasers to get the writerly juices flowing.

On my blog once a week, I post a what if question. I'm not seeking answers but putting out there an idea that may or may not generate story. That's one thing in speculative fiction--ideas can come from anywhere and aren't limited by the mundane world we see around us.

I hope you'll play along. And maybe a question will be the jumping off point for your next novel.

Usually, I have a long intro into where the question came from, what sparked it, or something to give it some background. Not this time...

What if we are the figment of someone else's imagination?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Window to a Different Time

So, it looks like everyone is on summer vacation. And since I'll be busy moving IRL (don't ask), I'm just going to give you all a few brain teasers to get the writerly juices flowing.

On my blog once a week, I post a what if question. I'm not seeking answers but putting out there an idea that may or may not generate story. That's one thing in speculative fiction--ideas can come from anywhere and aren't limited by the mundane world we see around us.

I hope you'll play along. And maybe a question will be the jumping off point for your next novel.

Over a decade ago, I had a lovely little room where I was able to shut myself away and write. It was in the back of the house, and I used to look out the window and watch the comings and goings of the neighbors in their cars.

The room was above the garage, and it had no door to access the outside. The only way to get outside would be to climb out the window. But why would one do that when one could just leave the room and access an outside door.

But the outside door was far enough away that to reach it, one would no longer see out the window. So, if someone was outside and one wanted to go and talk to them, that person could be gone by the time one got there. Which is kind of where this odd thought I had came from...

What if you had a window in your house that looked out into a different time? (It could be different by five minutes or fifty years.)

I thought about this one for a long time. Would I be able to interact with those outside? Could I find a way through that window? If I did, would I be able to get back? Or was I doomed to just watch? And would it be a future I saw or a past?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Magical World

So, it looks like everyone is on summer vacation. And since I'll be busy moving IRL (don't ask), I'm just going to give you all a few brain teasers to get the writerly juices flowing.

On my blog once a week, I post a what if question. I'm not seeking answers but putting out there an idea that may or may not generate story. That's one thing in speculative fiction--ideas can come from anywhere and aren't limited by the mundane world we see around us.

I hope you'll play along. And maybe a question will be the jumping off point for your next novel.

In fantasy stories, there is a subgenre where people manage to travel through portals to other worlds, either to get into ours or to get away from it. These other worlds (the ones that aren't ours) always seem to contain magic...

What if our world was the world that was the most magical?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Effigy

Back in June, we were part of the cover reveal for M.J. Fifield's first novel Effigy. Now her book is out, and she's joined us to answer a few questions...

1. Where did the initial idea for Effigy come from?

Between my sophomore year of high school and my sophomore year of college, I wrote a series of eight fantasy novellas. The story was really over by the end of the eighth book; there was just no place else for it to go. Then the summer before my junior year of college, I found myself wanting to go back to that world and those characters and decided to write a prequel. The main character, Haleine Coileáin, popped into my head and wouldn't get out. And though it was meant to be a prequel, her story changed everything I had written before, so it became instead the first in a brand-new series. Effigy was born, and my eight novellas became history.

2. Which part of the publishing process was the most surprising?

I think maybe it was just how long everything took. I knew it wouldn't be a quick process by any means, but everything took just so much longer than I had thought it might. And having said that, I was also very surprised by how quickly my cover came together. The artist who did the work was really quite brilliant, and I adore her.

3. If you could give yourself any piece of advice before you started writing, what would it be?

I'd advise myself not to be so resistant to plotting things out ahead of time. I think I could have shaved some months off of my writing time if I had only done just that.

4. Plotter or panster?

I kind of answered this question already, but let me explain further here. I used to be a confirmed pantser. I would sit down to write and just wait to see where I ended up. I still do that on occasion—mostly during NaNoWriMo. But somewhere along the way while working on Effigy's sequel, I got stuck on what should have been happening when, so I started plotting things out. Because I am a visual learner, I chose the storyboard method and made my first storyboard on a six-foot bulletin board in my writing room. That was followed by my second storyboard which currently resides on three of my dining room walls. Now I'm rather addicted to plotting and growing ever more so. Never thought I'd say that, but it's so very true.

5. Quiet room or noisy room when you're writing? How quiet do you need it? What sort of noise?

The noise level in the room in which I'm working honestly depends upon what I'm working on. Most of the time, I need noise. Seems counterproductive, I know, but I can't always concentrate if a room is too quiet. I work with music playing (every WIP has its own playlist) or the television on. On occasion, however, the exact opposite is true, and a quiet room works out better for me. The most recent time this happened, I was proofing Effigy's proof copy. I needed absolute silence then.

6. Your writing area/desk: a place for everything and everything in its place or if anyone ever straightened it, you'd never find a thing?

Most of the time—and I mean, like, 99% of the time—my desk and office are incredibly neat. It's the only room in the entire house which can make such a claim. Everything has its place, and if something is not where it should be, it drives the OCD side of me crazy. Crazier. These days, however, it kind of looks like a bomb went off. There are books, notebooks, pens, and post-its all over the place. Publishing is, apparently, very messy. If you're me anyway. I hope to be able to reclaim my desk one day soon.

7. What is your current pop culture obsession (book, TV show, movie, webcomic…)? What are the rest of us missing?

My current pop culture obsession is Orphan Black. It's a show on BBC America which just wrapped its second season a couple of months ago. Its star, Tatiana Maslany, is a freaking genius, and the fact that she was not nominated for all of the acting awards in all of the world is a downright travesty.

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.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Cover reveal: DISCIPLE, PART V

But first, to answer my own questions...

Have you ever re-read a book until it fell apart? 
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe -- and yes, I still have it, detached cover, escaping pages and all. It was part of a boxed set of the Narnia series, and between that and the nearly-as-badly-wrecked copy of Prince Caspian, the books no longer fit in their nice little box.

Have you ever gone someplace or done something exclusively as research for a story? 
Recently, I had a chance to fire pistols of a variety of sizes and that is something that any writer should do sometime, if possible.

But to give an answer that's more relevant to Disciple, I did take the chance to walk in the woods outside my parents' house during one Christmas visit. It had been 15 years since I'd been in a New England forest during the winter, and a big chunk of Disciple is set in that environment. Standing there in the thin snow, half tangled in brambles near a tiny, frost-glazed creek -- I could almost hear Nipper's bridle jingle as he shook his head. Could feel my characters there in spirit. That left me with damp eyes.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've gotten?
That your first million words are your apprenticeship to the writing craft, and nobody needs to ever see them (if necessary). I needed all million to learn to write, believe me! And I have seen the need to "only write something worthy of publishing" paralyze writers because they aren't willing to "waste time" while they learn how to write.

Disciple, Part V
Kate faces winter with a broken heart: betrayed by one lover, the other lost to her.

Kiefan will not give up on the alliance his kingdom desperately needs — even though the Caer queen refuses to speak to him.

Anders, alone and despairing, faces the Empress’s seductive offers of power and privilege.

Each of them must carry the ongoing war in their own way, whether cold, alone, or backed into a corner. Each must patch together a broken heart as best they can. Duty will throw them together soon enough and they must be ready.

on sale August 29, 2014!
meanwhile, download Disciple, Part I for free!
at AmazonB&N • or more retailers
and catch up with the entire series



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Thursday, August 14, 2014

3 questions for: Tray Ellis

Have you ever re-read a book until it fell apart? (YA reading level or above) Which book and why?
No, but that would only be because I’ve always been extra diligent to be kind to my books.  I want them to last so that I can always go back and read them again.  The book I’ve read the most often, though, and would probably have fallen apart if it hadn’t been a hardcover was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  It’s always been a fascinating, captivating read for me, and even now, as an adult, I often pull strength from it, and the strength of the main character, Sara Crewe, to soldier on even when things seem darkest and the most impossible.  It has been a book I often give as a gift to the children of friends and family.

Have you ever gone someplace or done something exclusively as research for a story? Where/what?
 All the time!  In fact, when I feel the least like going somewhere, usually after I have been invited, this is often the reason that motivates me to leave my cozy little home and go in search of adventure. It doesn’t have to be a distant, unknown location, sometimes the most unknown places are those closest by.  Just spending time with people doing something out of my skill set, even if it might seem nothing but the most ordinary of events to them, can be the source of much useful knowledge.

What was the best piece of writing advice you've gotten?
 Write it now, it’s always easier to edit something that’s there than something that isn’t.  I’ve always found this to be true.  Creating something from nothing is the hardest first step.  Editing it later, when even just one sentence is there, is much easier.  Writing is supposed to be a process, and it very rarely flows out perfectly the first time, so there shouldn’t be any worry about if it is ‘good’ or not.  It won’t be good if it isn’t even there.


How Sweetly the Whippoorwill Sings
On the day of Molly and Irving’s wedding the usual hiccups and snags happen, but Irving’s best man, chemistry professor Everett Donnelly, is there to smooth them over, keep everyone organized, and make last minute adjustments based on the lists he keeps. If only he weren’t distracted and reeling from his strong attraction to Molly’s brother, police officer Jake Mountbatten, whom Everett first met at the rehearsal dinner.

In between boutonnière crises and wedding photos, the two men have ample opportunities to catch each other’s eye, but the obligations of the wedding interrupt them time and again. Finally, all the speeches and traditional activities are over, and Everett finds Jake to see if they can make a little romance of their own.

3 questions for: A. Morell

Have you ever re-read a book until it fell apart? (YA reading level orabove) Which book and why?
I'll say yes, but with the stipulation that this only really affects the paperbacks on my shelves.

  • Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman: Because even as a preteen, I loved her feisty and feminine voice.
  • The Gallaghers of Ardmore trilogy by Nora Roberts: Because I feel Roberts was at her best in this era, and the storytelling woven with the mythology as well as the progression of time combines into a series I always want to start reading again the moment it's over.
  • Harry Potter books 1-3: Because Harry Potter.

Have you ever gone someplace or done something exclusively as research fora story? Where/what?
Oh yes. Probably my most fish-out-of-water experience was going through gun training and practice while doing research for an assassin character of mine. Turns out I'm not a bad shot. :)

What was the best piece of writing advice you've gotten?
I can't say I've sought it out, but the best advice I've seen, and that's proven true for me, is that you really do need to write every day. Even just a single line will keep that part of your mind engaged. If you lose touch with it, getting back into the swing of writing can become one of the hardest things in the world.


Puncture Wounds
James is at the end of a long crusade for vengeance against the vampire clan that destroyed everything he held dear. He has Ren, the final and most dangerous of them all, cornered at last in London. But victory remains just out of reach when Ren sets a feral vampire on James and makes his escape. With no other leads, James is forced to take in the feral until he can use its connection to its sire to track down Ren. But in caring for the vampire, James sees they might not all be the monsters he thought them to be. Faced with an ugly truth, his quest for revenge becomes a war for retribution, and the discovery of what it truly means to be human.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

3 questions for: Andrea Speed

Have you ever re-read a book until it fell apart? (YA reading level or above) Which book and why?
Yes. The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy. Because it is pretty much the guiding philosophy of my life.

Have you ever gone someplace or done something exclusively as research for a story? Where/what?
Not really, not yet. But I hope to do so in the future.

What was the best piece of writing advice you've gotten?
Always read. You need to keep reading, because if you don't, the well runs dry. Reading is good for you!


First Time for Everything
There’s nothing like the first time. Whether it’s a first crush, first date, first kiss, or finding tolerance and approval for the first time, for gay, lesbian, bi, and trans teens—or those still exploring and discovering their sexuality and identity—these important firsts can shape the rests of their lives. Gathering the courage to come out to their families, admit their feelings to a friend, or go to school presenting as the people they really are can be a struggle. But with the support of their allies and their own inner strength, the brave young people in these stories take the first steps toward happiness and living on their own terms. From sweet stories of newly discovered love, humorous accounts of awkward dinners and dances, to fights for acceptance and even survival, the teens in this anthology must face new challenges and rise to meet them. These are the first times they’ll never forget.

3 questions for: Jay Hawke

Have you ever re-read a book until it fell apart? (YA reading level or above) Which book and why?
That would probably be Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I just can't read that enough times. The book is insanely quirky and filled with such hilarious characters that contrast so dramatically with the very normal and boring, protagonist, Arthur Dent. I guess I can also identify with everything around me seeming so crazy on a cosmic scale, and I wish I had a guide to get me through it. Finally, it offers the best advice to every problem - "Don't Panic!"

Have you ever gone someplace or done something exclusively as research for a story? Where/what?
My novel, Pukawiss the Outcast, has a culminating scene that takes place at an Chippewa powwow. While I've been to many powwows, I hadn't actually been to the one I featured in this book, so it required a special trip to get a feel for the place.

What was the best piece of writing advice you've gotten?
Engage the senses! It's tempting as writers to describe a scene visually. But it really helps bring the reader in if you also awaken some of their other senses - smell, taste, touch, etc. This can add so much dimension to even a very simple environment.


Pukawiss the Outcast
When family complications take Joshua away from his fundamentalist Christian mother and leave him with his grandfather, he finds himself immersed in a mysterious and magical world. Joshua’s grandfather is a Wisconsin Ojibwe Indian who, along with an array of quirky characters, runs a recreated sixteenth-century village for the tourists who visit the reservation. Joshua’s mother kept him from his Ojibwe heritage, so living on the reservation is liberating for him. The more he learns about Ojibwe traditions, the more he feels at home.

One Ojibwe legend in particular captivates him. Pukawiss was a powerful manitou known for introducing dance to his people, and his nontraditional lifestyle inspires Joshua to embrace both his burgeoning sexuality and his status as an outcast.  Ultimately, Joshua summons the courage necessary to reject his strict upbringing and to accept the mysterious path set before him.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

3 questions for: Sam Leonhard

Have you ever re-read a book until it fell apart? (YA reading level or above) Which book and why? 
I often re-read books, although not until it crumbles to dust. The Terry Pratchett books are on my regular reading list, Stephen King, Barbara Hambly and Robin Hobb. I especially love and re-read the Night Watch series by Pratchett

Have you ever gone someplace or done something exclusively as research for a story? 
No, since I mostly write fantasy. The few real life info I need I get on the internet.

What was the best piece of writing advice you've gotten? 
Write the first draft for yourself, then sit down and cut out at least ten percent.


Crow and Firefly
The laws of man and nature are harsh and decisive: Unwed mothers are not allowed to raise their children, and shapehifters must wed and consummate the marriage to satisfy the magic that would otherwise render them beasts forever upon the morning of their twenty-third birthday.

With the life of his sister and newborn nephew at stake, shapeshifter Ari is trapped in a castle and compelled to accept a situation he’d dreaded: he is forced to marry Lord Dagur, a man he’s never met. A man called “The Cruel.” A man he fears, and not just because he fancies someone else.

3 questions for: Louise Lyons

Have you ever re-read a book until it fell apart? (YA reading level or above) Which book and why?
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. It was the first book my dad bought me as a gift when I learned to read. I was crazy about horses and I loved the story with a passion, and consequently read it over and over.

Have you ever gone someplace or done something exclusively as research for a story? Where/what?
My first novel, Conflicted, is based around the scene of drag racing and exhibiting cars.  I wouldn't say I specifically made a trip for research purposes, but that my own love of cars, racing, stunts etc has made me very familiar with a drag racing strip and showground in the UK, which inspired the basis for Conflicted.  Since it was written, I have actively hunted around such shows for the same cars my characters drove, in order to grab photos for promo reasons.

What was the best piece of writing advice you've gotten?
Don't let poor reviews spoil your passion for writing.  Let's face it - everyone is different. The most famous, best selling authors in all genres will have people who don't like their work for whatever reason. There is always going to be someone who doesn't like what you write, just as there will be people who do like it.  I allowed a couple of unkind comments in the past to put a temporary halt to my writing, which is something I very much regret. Practice makes perfect and the more one writes, the better one gets. If writing is your passion, as it is mine, keep going!


Conflicted
Two competing gangs of car and drag racing enthusiasts with a shared history of pain and rivalry leading to outright hatred. Two men from opposite sides of the tracks, yet more in common than they’d like to admit.

Paul Appleton is a troubled man who has never been in a relationship, having lost everyone he cared for in his life. His mother died when he was very young and subsequently, he lost his brother and his best friend. Now Paul is convinced love will always end in tears.

Greg was living on the streets after his parents died and was stabbed by a junkie, ending up in hospital. The Buchanans took Greg under their wing while doing charity work, and Greg joined their loving family when he was adopted. He and his siblings are also car enthusiasts with much more money and therefore better cars than Paul Appleton’s gang.

When they eventually find a connection, Paul fights his feelings and tries to convince himself his lover is only a temporary bit of fun, but Greg has other ideas.

Monday, August 11, 2014

3 questions for: Helen Pattskyn

Have you ever re-read a book until it fell apart? (YA reading level or above) Which book and why?
Only the first copy I bought and only because I'd had it for almost fifteen years before it died. When I replaced it, I got a library bound copy (stronger spine!). Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones has been my favorite book since I was thirteen. (It's YA fantasy). It has everything a good book should: a great heroine, a hero who starts out as kind of a jerk but evolves into somebody worth caring about, a couple of really awful bad guys, oh yeah, and lots of mythology (which for me is always a bonus.

Have you ever gone someplace or done something exclusively as research for a story? Where/what?
Frequently, although nowhere exotic. I'll walk through neighborhoods I'm writing about or visit restaurants I want my characters to go to. It's one reason I prefer to set my stories in my home town (Detroit, MI). Not ever book is set here, but it's a lot easier to do research when the locations are in your backyard.

Later on this year, I'm going back to the Ohio Renaissance Festival because I have a character who works there (I worked it nineteen years ago and I'm sure lots has changed.)

What was the best piece of writing advice you've gotten?
Write the story the way it needs to be written.

You can't write for the trends or because of what you think is going to be poplar. You have to write the story that's in your heart and soul. That doesn't mean you should never take advice or listen to people, it just means that if you don't love what you're doing, it's going to show in the final product.


Hanging by the Moment
Pasha Batalov has lived his whole life doing what a good son is expected to do. He dropped out of school to help run the failing family restaurant, and ever since he’s put up with his difficult business partner, who also happens to be his father. And, of course, he keeps his sexual orientation a secret from his conservative Russian family. After being closeted costs him his first serious relationship, Pasha resigns himself to one-night stands and loneliness.

But after a chance encounter with lost delivery truck driver, Daniel Englewood, Pasha starts to question all of his assumptions about life. Daniel is sweet, funny, smart, drop-dead gorgeous—and for the last six years, he’s been living with HIV. Pasha worries that he won’t be strong enough to help Daniel if HIV turns to AIDS, but he can’t walk away from their deepening attraction. He also doesn’t know if he can be strong enough to face the hardest task that a relationship with Daniel demands: coming out to his family and friends, and risking losing everything else he holds dear.

3 questions for: Ariel Tachna

Have you ever re-read a book until it fell apart? (YA reading level or above) Which book and why?
I reread Destiny’s Temptress by Janelle Taylor until it fell apart. It was the first adult romance novel I ever read, and it was my writing primer for the formative years of my fiction career. Any time I had a question about something I couldn’t get right in my own story, I went to see how Janelle did it in her story.

As an addendum to that, I met Janelle at Romantic Times two years ago (cue fangirl squeeing) and it turns out she’s as wonderful a mentor in person as she was through her writing thirty years ago. I’m thrilled to be able to call her a friend.

Have you ever gone someplace or done something exclusively as research for a story? Where/what?
I tend to do the reverse. I tend to go somewhere and let that inspire a story. My upcoming release, The Path, is a perfect example of that. I went to Peru because I’d always wanted to hike the Inca Trail. I hadn’t been there twenty-four hours before I had started taking notes for a book.

What was the best piece of writing advice you've gotten?
Follow your heart. All the career plans and careful plotting of books doesn’t do you any good if your passion is engaged elsewhere. You might write the book that’s next on your schedule, but it won’t be as good as the one that’s calling to you. (Thank you, Janelle!)


The Path
All his life Benicio Quispe has dreamed of being a guide on the Inca Trail. He gets his chance when the top travel agency in Cusco, Peru hires him. Alberto Salazar, his assigned mentor, fits Benicio's idea of a perfect guide, but he's also everything Benicio never dared to dream of in a boyfriend.

Alberto learned a long time ago to be discreet about his sexuality. It's a necessary sacrifice to keep the respect of the guides and porters whose help is critical in a successful hike. So he pushes aside his attraction to his new junior guide and goes on as usual. But when a group of old friends arrives to hike the trail again, they convince him a relationship with Benicio is worth pursuing. His newfound resolve is enough to get them on a first date, but no amount of courage can change the attitudes of their family and friends. The risks on the trail are easy compared to finding a path through the challenges keeping them apart.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

3 questions for: John Inman

Have I ever read a book so many times it fell apart?
That's a big yes.  My favorite book (or books) of all time is the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I reread it every year from start to finish.  I'm now into my 20-something reading and I'm on my third set.  Even when they fall apart I can't bring myself to throw them away, so all three sets are still on my shelf.

Have I ever gone anywhere to do research on a book? 
The book I'm working on now is a romance titled Chasing the Swallows.  It's about a couple who meet in the garden of the mission at San Juan Capistrano.  My partner and I went up there a few weeks ago on the train so I could get some material for the story.  It's a beautiful old mission.  I also once spent a day at the Museum of Man in San Diego to do research for a children's book I self published called Tonk and the Battle of the 200.  I needed the research because one of the characters was a Mexican museum mouse called El Curador.

What is the best piece of writing advice I ever heard? 
I read once where C.S. Lewis once said, if you can't the sort of book you want to read, then write it yourself.  So that's what I do.  I write books that I enjoy. (It's always a nice bonus if a few other people like to read them too.)


Head-on
At twenty-six, Gordon Stafford figures his days are numbered. At least he hopes they are. Wearied by guilt and regret stemming from a horrific automobile accident two years earlier in which a man was killed, Gordon wakes up every morning with thoughts of suicide. While the law puts Gordon to work atoning for his sins, personal redemption is far harder to come by.

Then Squirt—a simple homeless man with his own crosses to bear—saves Gordon from a terrible fate. Overnight, Gordon finds not only a new light to follow, and maybe even a purpose to his life, but also the possibility of love waiting at the end of the tunnel.

Gordon never imagined he’d discover a way to forgive himself, and in doing so, open his heart enough to gain acceptance and love—from the very person he hurt the most.

This week: short interviews

I usually offer long crits but there haven't been any takers for a while... so let's do something different. Short interviews!

I have a novella coming out from Dreamspinner Press sometime around the turn of the year, so I thought it would be interesting to hear from authors in a variety of genres. I sent three interview questions out and got lots of response.

And on Friday, I will reveal the cover of my forthcoming Disciple, Part V! Five parts down, one to go!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Book Tour Week Coming Up

Do you have a book you'd like to promote? 

The week of August 18th through August 22nd is Book Tour Week here at Unicorn Bell. At the moment, Tuesday through Friday are all available for any authors who have books they'd like us to highlight.

Hit me up. Just email me at unicornbellsubmissions [at] gmail [dot] com. Put "Book Tour" in the subject line. And I'll get right back to you.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Marabella - First Chapter, part III

And the last installment of Marabella, Discovering Magics

            “Um.” Wesley seemed to consider for a moment.  “Okay, then.” He resumed brushing her hair and spoke in even tones.  “I was only five years old at the time, traveling with my cousin, Benji, he was Nan and Henry’s son, and my father. He was trading in Riverton on the south bank.  Geremiah was there too. He had a ring made that day.  We went to the silver-smith with him. He asked me to hold it, well the bag anyway.   He and father must have known the ferry was in trouble. It's all a blur to me. Still, I remember that as the ferry reached the middle of the river there was a loud snapping sound and the ferry began to spin.  As it lurched downriver there was the cracking sound of splintering wood, and ladies screamed.  Next thing I knew, the big hunter man, Geremiah was putting me into an empty flour barrel with the saddlebag.  I could hear my father’s voice say not to be afraid as they pounded the lid tight. Then they threw the barrel toward the shore. I was terrified.  I was barely five.” Wesley looked over at the fire, remembering. “I recall it felt like flying. The barrel seemed to sail on the wind.   Hours later, I was found by searchers shivering with cold and clinging to the saddlebag sitting amidst the remains of the broken barrel in the rocks near the shore. *this part of the dialogue seems a little stilted. Not natural. Try placing yourself in the mind of an eleven-year-old and reading it aloud. See how it sounds to you*That's what people say anyway. I don’t really remember being found; just lots of sad people, crying, things like that.   The bag was Geremiah’s. “      
            “We still have it.” She mumbled. Marabella sat quietly, thinking about the story Wesley had told her.  *let the reader come up with the reason she is sitting quietly. Explaining too much inhibits the imagination. Fewer words*Finally she spoke.  “That was the most I’ve ever heard you talk.” She turned to look at him.  “Thank you for telling me.”  He met her gaze and smiled a crooked grin that made Marabella smile back.  “Could you read to me while we wait?” Marabella gave Wesley her sweetest smile.  He shrugged an affirmative and glanced over at the books on the nearest shelf.
The previous paragraph needs broken up to highlight the conversation and give dramatic flair.
            Wesley's nervousness seemed to *seemed to? Either it did or it didn’t :)*disappear as he ran his finger along the spines of the tomes.  He chose and sat back comfortably. “This is Adventures on the Pelagus Sea. There's a story in here about the Pelago Sea Stone. It gives the bearer the ability to swim like a fish and breathe underwater.”  Marabella climbed up into the chair next to him and looked at the book.  The puzzled look on her face made Wesley grin again.  “It's written in Pelago.  It's easy. Just follow along.”
            Nan peeked out from the kitchen to see Marabella and Wesley sitting side by side in her chair with a large book open on their laps.  Both the children were looking intently at the page as Wesley read.  It made her smile.  She turned back to her work, grinning.*you jumped from Marabella’s POV to Nan’s. Can you show this and still remain in Marabella’s mind?* After an hour of baking and wrapping and loading items on to Wesley’s goat cart, everyone was ready to go.  “May I go wake Mother?”  Marabella was anxious. “I’m supposed to take her to Festival.” 
            “You will, child.” Ma Nan chided. “Just be patient and let the sun climb a little higher before you wake her.  We’re only going to set up in the meat shop.”
            Marabella frowned and stomped her foot as she walked beside the big Billy goat pulling the overloaded cart.  “Well, I’m not looking at anything until Mother gets here!” The adults chuckled and continued on to the shop. Once there, they began to unload the cart.  The children were instructed to stay outside with the cart while Henry, Nan, and Ruth set up inside. Nan took baby Natan.  The morning air was still quite chilly but the brightening blue sky promised a beautiful day. 
            The little market square was beginning to teem with activity.  Tempting aromas wafted through the morning air.  Vendors from all about the area set up makeshift stalls around the square and every building. Fresh bread, pies, and sweetbreads *sweetbreads? Or sweet breads? There is a difference* caught Marabella’s attention.   Front and center stood the colorfully painted wagons known as caravans.  To Marabella they looked like little rooms on wheels with their doors and windows with curtains.  Bright cloth awnings were attached to each caravan giving the square the look of a great uneven tent.  Marabella fidgeted restlessly and looked at the brightening sky.  That moment Nan leaned out the meat shop door.  “All right, you may go wake Mara now.”
            “Thank you, Nan.” The child yelled over her shoulder as she ran toward Narrow Alley.  The six year old stopped a moment to catch her breath then knocked on the door of the small room she shared with her mother and baby brother.  She knew the door would be barred.  Mara always barred the door. She heard the thick oak plank scraping on the inside and the door swung inward revealing a bleary eyed Mara.
            “Good morning my darling.” She yawned.
            “It’s time!” Marabella smiled, bouncing on her toes.  Mara could see she was ready to go.*oops. You changed POV here. We were in Marabella’s head and now Mara’s.
            “You’ve been up since dawn, haven’t you. *is this a question?* I’m awake but I do need to get cleaned up.  You go back to the square.”  The child frowned at the floor.  “Have a look around and I will be there when I'm dressed. “ Mara stepped to the shelf by the small fireplace.  She took a few coins from the wooden box.  She looked earnestly at Marabella handing her the coins.  “I want you to find something special for my breakfast, and don’t forget the sweetbreads.” *sweetbreads (pancreas of a calf) and sweet breads are two different things. Which is it?*  Charged with such an errand, Marabella skipped back to the square.
Rounding the corner by the meat shop, she spied Wesley.  He was leading the empty goat *my mind read this as ‘golf cart’. Did I ever do a double take, LOL*cart toward the blacksmith’s stables.  It appeared that Wesley had stopped to talk with some boys*suggestion: Several boys had stopped him and formed a ring around him. She broke into a run when one of the boys shoved Wesley to the ground.  “Goat boy!”  She heard him spit at Wesley.  Another of the three threw a handful of pebbles at Wesley.  None of the adults setting up or milling about seemed to notice the altercation.  Furious, Marabella skidded to a halt in front of the Tanner’s shop.  The three boys still taunted silent Wesley.
            Marabella picked up a stone the size of her six-year-old fist and hurled it at the first boy catching him squarely on the side of his head.  “LEAVE MY WESLEY ALONE!” *don’t use caps or exclamation marks* she screamed and reached for another rock.
            “You let a little girl fight for you, goat boy?”  One one of the boys teased.  Wesley started to rise *started to rise but stopped? This makes it sound like he is half way between the ground and standing up*but remained mute.  The boy took a step toward Marabella and she let fly with another stone striking him in the shoulder.  “Ouch.” He winced, now angry.
            “I’m bleeding!” the first boy she had hit exclaimed.  He too turned toward *alliteration* the girl.  At that moment, Halsta, the blacksmith, stomped away from his forge, blocking the boys’ path to Marabella. 
            Still clutching his heavy hammer, Halsta growled. “You boys find something else to do.” When the three bullies hesitatedcomma he shook his hammer and barked, “NOW”. *caps* The three kicked up dust heading for the west end of the square. With a grin, the red-faced man went back to his work.
            Wesley dusted himself off and proceeded to walk his cart to a suitable place to tie it up.  He looked at his defender when she sauntered up. “Your Wesley?” he questioned. 
            “Well, yes” she stated matter-of- fact. “You’ll always be my Wesley.”  He shrugged.  Finishing his task, he took Marabella’s hand and led her back to the meat shop.  Mara was just arriving.  It was time to enjoy Festival.
            Marabella walked hand in hand with her mother.  They strolled from wagon to wagon and stall to stall. There were vendors selling fruits and vegetables, fine paper and ink, wooden toys, colorful fabrics, and sturdy pottery bowls.  Each day of Festival Marabella spent the morning perusing the various vendors, watching the acrobats, and helping her mother with baby Natan.  When the sun started to fall in the sky, she would take Natan to Ma Nan while her mother went back to Narrow Alley to prepare herself for the evening.  Marabella was allowed to purchase one thing each day.  The first day she filled her belly with sweet breads.*sugary treats rather than calf innards I hope* The next, she bought a book from a woman in a big floppy hat.    She watched as her mother bought a bit of fabric from a wagon with stacks of material and sewing notions.  Mara eyed a little box of silver needles, glanced at the few coins in her hand and sighed, pushing the needles back to the vendor, shaking her head.  Before Festival ended, Marabella also had a new pair of shoes and some fragrant soaps from Wesley's mother.  Festival was over far too quickly for Marabella. It was soon time to return to day to day life. 
***

            One day while Mara helped out at the meat shop and her friend Tufa watched baby Natan,  Marabella was left to her own devices for entertainment.  “Go outside and find something to get into.” Ma Nan was saying to the six year old.  Mara shot her a look. “Well,” Nan chuckled, “she will anyway.” The women exchanged a smile.  “But try not to throw any more rocks at boys, won't you.  I had to put four stitches in that child's head.” Nan called to Marabella as she headed out the door. 
            She walked out of the meat shop.  There was a gathering of men and some sort of commotion down at the corral. *i'd re-write the previous sentence. Kinda clunky* At the center of the excitement was Hough, one of Helfin's few men of wealth.  She had seen him at the black smith's *blacksmith is one word* getting a new wheel on the fine carriage he had for his family. Hough and another man were trying to rope the horse that was tearing around the corral.  The magnificent red beast was having none of it.  He galloped around the corral, pawed at the dirt and tossed his mane.  The men watching cheered and jeered as the two in the corral made one attempt after another to no avail.  Hough's young son watched from the other side.  The stallion reared and bucked, kicked and huffed before bolting again out of reach.  “How are you going to break him Hough?” one man asked. 
            Hough scratched his head and looked over at his small son, just a few years older than Marabella.  “Not sure. The boy is still a bit young for such a spirited colt.”  Marabella climbed up on the fence and watched as the two men tried again to get a rope on the horse. 
            “Be careful, little girl.” Another man spoke to Marabella.  “He's wild...might knock you right off that fence.”
            Marabella gave him her sweetest smile. “I'll be careful,she said and kept climbing.  She sat on the top rung of the fence, watching the boy scramble down from his perch to avoid the rowdy beast as it tore by a bit too close. 
            After a while the men seemed to give up.  “Let's let him settle a bit.” Hough said, red faced and out of breath.  The men began to disperse.  “I'm sorry, Geoffrey, he may just be too much horse for you...or me for that matter.” He patted his son's head with affection.  Geoffrey looked winsomely at the young stallion and sighed.
            Marabella watched as the breeze ruffled the boy's hair and something in his liquid brown eyes touched her heart.  She reached into her jacket and pulled out an apple.  She eyed the horse pacing around the corral now free of those trying to tame him.   She took a bite. MMM, good apple, she thought. The horse stopped and pricked up his ears.  She sat quietly on the fence.  The horse huffed loudly and pawed the ground.  Marabella took another bite and looked the horse right in the eyes. Come here horse. That’s a good boy, want a bite?  None of the men still present even breathed as the beast walked calmly over to the little girl and took a bite of the apple in her hand.  He did not flinch when she patted him on the side of his face or nip when she stroked the softness of his nose.  She leaned forward and spoke softly and the beast too, leaned in as if to catch every word.  The men stood in awed silence as the young stallion, which had, moments ago been trying to trample two grown men, nuzzled the little girl sitting on the fence.  She spoke quietly to the horse a while longer and then planted a child's kiss right on his nose. 
            “He seems to favor you.” Hough smiled at the girl with dirt on her face. 
            “Henry says I have a way with animals.” she smiled back. “What's his name?”
            “What do you think we should name him?” the boy spoke up.
            “I thought you wanted to call him...” Hough started but Geoffrey cut him off.       “No father. That was not a good name.” Then to Marabella, “so what do you think?”
            She looked hard at the mighty beast, his auburn coat shining in the morning sunlight.  She stared the horse directly in the eye again.  The horse tossed his head and pawed at the ground.  “I like Red Storm, but I think he would just like to be called Storm.”
            Hough laughed. “Well, that certainly fits.”
            “Storm it is.” Geoffrey smiled.  “How did you do that, get him to quiet like that?  What did you say to him?”
            Marabella shrugged her shoulders.  “Oh, he was just scared and kinda' angry with everyone running at him and all. Don’t you think?  And he really likes apples.  I told him you were probably a nice boy and would treat him well and give him an apple every day.”  Storm tossed his mane and pawed the ground.
            “I will.” Geoffrey turned to the horse.  “You'll get an apple every day.”  With his father's help, the boy slipped a leather halter over the Storm's head.  The stallion stood calm and patient.  When Geoffrey looked up again, the strange little girl was gone from the fence.*changed POV* Several of the men standing around murmured as she walked past back to the meat shop.
            The seasons turned and turned again.

My last advice concerns formatting. Be sure to check formatting marks and see if there are errors. Don’t use tabs ever.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Marabella - First Chapter, part II

Here is part II of Marabella - Discovering Magics.       

     Having eaten, Marabella pleaded. “Please let me feed the scraps to Sam and Fetch.”
            “Henry, see to her would you. I’ve got to put Natan down.  He’s fallen asleep already.”  The baby’s bright red curls fell across his pale face as his head bobbed with sleep.  Nan lifted his chubby frame and wiped his face and hands as he struggled, half asleep. 
            “Marabella is perfectly able to handle the dogs, Nan.  I don’t see why…”
            The butcher’s wife cut him off with a look.  “I’m not worried about the dogs.  She handles them better than you, I know.  But I also know that girlcomma and she’ll be down the street before you can find your head.  Now go!”  She hefted the toddler to her shoulder and headed for the bedroom.  *a most excellent paragraph*
            The little girl had already disappeared out the door.  When Henry stepped outcomma he saw her *I feel like the POV changed here. We were in Marabella’s head. Now we have Henry’s perspective* standing on the top rung of the front fence as steadily as he stood on the stoop.  The dogs were lapping hungrily at the remains of the stew.  Henry smiled.  “I know that you won’t fall or anything but if Ma sees you on that fence, she’ll chew my ear off the rest of the night.”  Marabella giggled like a little girl should and jumped lightly to the ground.  She looked up at the big man suddenly serious.
            “Did you know my father?  Did he really die or is Momma just protecting me?”
            Henry was taken aback at the sudden maturity in the little girl’s face. *now that we’ve changed to Henry’s POV, it is important to stay there* Her eyes burned into his and he could not but tell the truth.  *suggestion: “...he could do nothing but tell the truth.” “I know how people talk but your mother really cared for your father.  He was killed same time as my brother and my boy on the ferry.”
            “But some say you can’t know who…” she spoke up. *cut this attribution. It isn’t needed and slows the dramatic moment. Also, regarding the use of ellipses: Use ... to imply hesitation or the voice dropping off. Use an em dash — for interruption. It sounds like Henry interrupted her*
            “Never you mind what some say” he assured her.  There’s no mistakin’ YOUR*better to italicize than to capitalize* father. You have those same green eyes.  You look like your mother but I’ve only seen those eyes once before.” 
            “You knew my father.”  The child moved closer to Henry and held him with her gaze.  “Tell me about him.”*into action now. I can forgive the earlier descriptions if this continues*
            “I really think this is something Mara should tell you first.” Henry began.  But he was no match for Marabella’s stare.*try showing this not telling her effect on him. Example: But her emerald eyes tore through his resolve like a cat hitting a cobweb. *Begin a new paragraph here*“I can tell you this.*I would add an attribute. Example: “I can tell you this,” he began slowly, “your father was Geremiah.  He was a woodsman and a damn fine hunter.  He was my friend and the best supplier of wild game I ever had.  He hunted the mountains, this valley, the next, and far beyond.  That is, until he met Mara.  Then he seemed to stay closer around these parts.”  Henry suddenly struggled for words.  “You should ask your Momma to tell you this story.  This just ain’t my story to tell.”  The dogs bristled and growled as some revelers ran past, breaking the spell. 
            “They‘re just boys passing by” Marabella soothed the beasts.
            Henry wiped his face with a ham-like hand.  “Well, let’s be off to bed with you now.”   He saw his chance to distract her from her seriousness*note: some might see this as ‘telling vs showing’ but here it is needed and desirable. Good job. I would cut the last three words though* “You’ll be wanting to get an early start at the festivities tomorrow and there’s lots to do. How's about I read you a story, maybe something from The Traveler’s Tales?
            “Oh yes,” Marabella clapped her hands and smiled brightly, a child once more. “The one about the Moonfire Ring! I like that one.”  Henry agreed and ushered the child inside.
            In the square, the raucous throngs crowded around the brightly painted wagons.  Revelers danced by torchlight to the lively music.  Among them moved Mara, her hair billowing down her back in dark ripples that shown in the light.  Despite the cruelty the years had wrought upon her, Mara still caught the attention of men.  She moved gracefully in and out of the crowd.  The curve of her cheek and the line of her neck were still true and beautiful.  Mara smiled brightly, her full lips rouged and perfectly formed.  Only a keen observer would notice that her smile never reached her eyes.  Most of her patrons thought it was her way of being coy, averting her eyes from them, glancing shyly through her dark lashes.  But in truth, she preferred not to look into a man’s eyes.  This was her way of maintaining the facade her profession required.  Many eyes looked admiringly at Mara this evening.  Festival filled the village with so many new faces.  *I’d start a new paragraph here*Mara tightened the red sash (the sign of her profession) around her tiny waist.  She positioned herself in the eye line of the well-dressed men loitering around the outdoor tables of the drinking house.  She kept her eyes on the musicians and the makeshift stage set up in front of the wagon caravan but she could feel the eyes*you are using the word ‘eye’ too much* upon her as she swayed and twirled to the music.  Mara was a good dancer, graceful and light on her feet.  She knew it would not be long before one of the men approached her.  She let the music wash over her and engaged her internal detachment. *ah, no. Find a different way to say this. It’s like missing a step in the dark. The words are modern vernacular and very out of place* *Begin a new paragraph here*“You dance well.”  Mara’s first customer had a deep voice.  His name was Pavitch.  His rough hands were those of a workingman but his fine clothes said money.  *a good way to say this and leave the rest of the scene up to the reader’s imagination. Good job*

            The sun was barely up when Marabella popped her head out the bedroom door.  She regretted leaving the big soft bed but she was anxious to begin the day and get to Festival.  She closed the door quietly so as not to wake her sleeping baby brother and crept toward the kitchen.  A fresh fire was already crackling in the great-room hearth. A sure sign Henry is up she thought.  Easing her way into the kitchen, she stood silently watching Ma Nan *I’d use less ‘ing’ words. Example:” She eased into the kitchen, stopped, and watched Ma Nan...”bustle about preparing puffy meat pies for baking. The delicious smell of meat, onions, and peppers cooking made her mouth water. She could hear Henry outside at the well. She watched Nan move about the kitchen, her long light brown hair in a loose braid down her back.  Nan’s chubby fingers pressed out the dough then rolled it flat with the smooth round stone.  She trimmed the edges with a knife before spooning the meat mixture onto the dough circle and folded it over pressing it closed all around.  Then she painted the pastry with a brush. Completely engrossed watching the process, Marabella asked, “Why are you painting them?”  *try beginning your sentences with something other than ‘she’. It breaks the monotony. Yeah, I know, I used ‘she’ also, lol*
            Ma Nan yelped with surprise. “I didn’t hear you get up.  I’ve been so blasted busy this morning.  I swear I’m going to hang a bell around your neck.  You are the quietest child…sometimescomma” she added grinning.  Nan's round face was pink from her toil but her gray eyes danced with mirth when she looked at Marabella.
            “Why are you painting them?”  Marabella questioned again. 
            “Oh.” Nan smiled. *attribution isn’t needed* “It ain’t paint, little darlin’. It’s egg water. A little water, a little egg…it makes the edges stick and makes ‘em golden and crisp when they’re done.” 
            “Ah.”  Marabella nodded.  Just then Henry came through the door with two big buckets of water. 
            “Fill the pitcher and basin.” Nan ordered, turning back to her chore. 
            “And the rest goes on to warm, I know.” Henry interrupted glancing at Marabella with a wink.  “Ruth and Wesley just rounded the corner. They’ll be here momentarily.” He added.
            “They must rise in the middle of the night.” Nan fretted.  “They are always early.”
            “But never late.” Henry smiled as he filled the pitcher.  He picked up the buckets and headed for the great-room.
            “Don’t spill any of that.” Nan squawked.
            “Yes, my lady” Henry bowed and sailed from the room. 
Note: cut attributions whenever possible. It increases the pace.
            Nan’s cheeks flushed pink for a second and then she was back to business.  “Now you young miss”.  She turned her attention back to Marabella. *why did I strikethrough this phrase? Because what other young miss is there? Just Marabella* “Wash your face over here and go get dressed.”  Marabella obeyed, dipping her hands into the basin.  The shock of the cold water made her squirm.  She heard Wesley and his mother Ruth outside.  Drying her face and hands on a clean towel, Marabella turned to Ma Nan.
            “Mind you visit the privy, then get dressed. And try to drag a brush through that hair. I’ll be in to tend to Natan, first chance I get.”  Nan kept busy as she spoke. “Ruth and Wesley will be in here in a flash and I need to make some room for us to work.”  Ruth was the wife of Henry's brother Anton. She was a nervous woman with a harsh voice.  Belle *who is Belle? Marabella?* was one of the few who knew how truly kind Ruth could be. *telling* She had often sent milk and cheese to them with no expectation of payment and the message that she just “had too much”.  Marabella had heard Henry say that when Anton was alive, she laughed and smiled often and loved to sing, that his death had made her fearful and sad, and as everyone knew, overprotective of her son, Wesley. 
            Marabella struggled to pull the brush through her dark tangle of curls.  Ma Nan and Ruth were in the kitchen preparing meat pies and bundles of herbs to sell at Festival.  Henry had volunteered to give Natan his bath.  Wesley, Henry’s nephew watched silently from the corner for a few minutes then said, “Can I help?”
            Marabella looked out from behind her veil of snarls. “Yes please.”
            Wesley guided her to the footstool and sat behind her in Nan’s chair.  He began to gently brush her hair, separating the tangles with his fingers.
            Wesley was eleven years old, five and a half years older than Marabella.  But he was small and thin so he seemed younger than his years.  He rarely spoke.  In fact, some people of Helfin assumed he could not speak.  Many around the village also thought him an idiot due to his silence.  Marabella had heard gossips comment that the ferry accident had rattled his brain. She knew his brain was just fine, as she’d seen him read many of the books on Henry’s shelves. However, he did seem almost *either is or isn’t. Skip almost. It slows the narrative* unnaturally quiet.  He and his mother eked out a living growing herbs, raising goats, and selling soap, goat milk and cheese.  His mother Ruth was also an herbalist and tended the sick in much the same way as Ma Nan. 
            Marabella could feel the tension flowing out from Wesley as he sat behind her. “You’re good at this. Nan always pulls when she is in a fret like she was this morning.”  *new paragraph*She encouraged, wanting to fill the silence.  Wesley relaxed slightly. 
            “She gets in a hurry is all.”  Wesley’s voice was barely above a whisper. He continued brushing her hair in silence.  Finally Marabella sighed and blurted out, “Did you know my father, Geremiah? He was a hunter.” 

            Wesley stopped mid-stroke with the brush raised above her scalp.  “Well, yes I do remember him.  He helped my father save my life when the ferry broke free.  That was just after my fifth birthday, before you were born.” 

            “So tell me about it.”  Marabella was eager to hear anything she could about her father, even the story of how he had perished. 

Part III tomorrow.