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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Query #1 - The Sinner Rose

Love the title of this query, :D

Original:
Query:  
In Mithos, where white magic is fueled by purity and black magic by passion, True Love is known as the Intolerable Sin. It’s the most unstable and dangerous source of magic in the world. The punishment is simple: a quick death.

Martia is a Love Child, the daughter of True Lovers. Raised within the walls of Siris Academy, she’s been taught to hate both True Love and herself. Now that she’s graduated, Martia is out in the real world, doing what the Academy trained her to do: hunt down those who’ve committed the Intolerable Sin.

Then she meets her True Love, Narin. Martia refuses to fall under the lulling spell of the Intolerable Sin. She knows a mere caress between True Lovers could send out a flare capable of eating through skin and bone. But Narin's kind words and gentle smiles make Martia wish she could be more than a brutal executioner. When the Academy discovers her crime, she has a choice. Follow her training and kill Narin, or give into the black magic that betrays her past and risks her future.

Complete at 90,000 words, THE SINNER ROSE is a stand-alone fantasy with series potential inspired by the question “What if classic fairytale true love was evil?” The (first chapter, etc.) has been included in the body of this email. Thank you for your time and consideration.
    
35-Word Pitch:
In Mithos, where passion fuels black magic and True Love is known as the Intolerable Sin, executioner Martia must make a choice—kill her lover as trained or give into their deadly new power.

Logline:

In Mithos, where black magic is fueled by passion, True Love is known as the Intolerable Sin. When executioner Martia meets her other half, she must decide between killing him as trained or learning to control their deadly power in secret for a chance at happiness.


My Critique:
In Mithos, where white magic is fueled by purity and black magic by passion, True Love is known as the Intolerable Sin,. It’s  the most unstable and dangerous source of magic in the world. The punishment is simple. : a quick d Death.

Martia is a Love Child, the daughter of True Lovers. Raised within the walls of Siris Academy, she’s been taught learned to hate both True  Love if it is possible(!?), delete the word “True” because of the repetition and herself. Now that she’s graduated, Martia is out in the real world, doing what the Academy trained her to do. Hunt down those who’ve committed the Intolerable Sin. Personal preference here. I adore fragments. It highlights this important point.

Then she meets her True Love, Narin. Martia refuses to fall under the lulling IMO, “lulling” is the wrong word. Alluring? Addicting? Tantalizing? spell of the Intolerable Sin. She knows a mere caress between True Lovers from Narin could send out a flare capable of eating through skin and bone. But Narin's kind words and gentle smiles make Martia wish she could be more than a brutal executioner. When the Academy discovers her crime, she has a choice. Follow her training and kill Narin, or give into the black magic that betrays her past I don’t understand why it betrays her past. You mean it lets everyone know she is a Love Child? and risks her future. IMHO, there aren't enough consequences here.

Complete at 90,000 words, THE SINNER ROSE is a stand-alone fantasy with series potential inspired by the question “What if classic fairytale true love was evil?” The (first chapter, etc.) has been included in the body of this email. Thank you for your time and consideration. Good closure.

In the first paragraph, you could place "Death" in its own paragraph to jar the senses.
   
35-Word Pitch:
In Mithos, where passion fuels black magic and True Love is known as the Intolerable Sin, executioner Martia must make a choice—kill her lover as trained or give in to their deadly new power. “...has no choice but to kill her lover as trained or learn to live with hate. 

Or break it down even further. “Where passion fuels black magic and True Love is hated, Martia has no choice but to kill her lover as she was trained to do or be hunted herself.” 

As in the last paragraph of the query, I don't feel the consequences are severe enough. IMO, "...give in to their deadly new power..." means nothing to me.

Note the space between "in" and "to". "Into" means, I placed the book into the bag. If Martia gives in, she'll be in a heap 'o trouble.

Logline:
In Mithos, where black magic is fueled by passion, True Love is known as the Intolerable Sin. When executioner Martia meets her other half, she must decide between killing him as trained or learning to control their deadly power in secret for a chance at happiness. Hm. This seems rather long for a logline. Can you shorten this to the essentials? 

Example:  In the world of magic, Martia must kill her Love or be hunted herself.

Or: In Mithos, where True Love is a Sin, Martia must kill her Love or be hunted herself.


Readers? Any suggestions?








Monday, September 29, 2014

An Agent's Take on a Query

 Critiques not only help with flow, grammar, etc, they show different tastes and enjoyments. Opinions do matter.

I had the pleasure of hearing an agent's critique of one of my queries. What was so cool about this crit is it confirm all my betas' opinions as well. 





Diamond Black is a wip that is waiting in the wings until I finish several other projects—my third book in The Magic Withheld series, for instance. I'll polish up Diamond then.



So what do you think? Still looking for queries or loglines. Send, send.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Crittering. Queries aka Blurbs aka Dust Covers

Queries, that all important first marketing tool.





Also known as blurbs or the back cover of a novel, it is your first tippy-toe into the marketplace. 

Convincing a total stranger to read your hard work, that it's worth their time and/or money; it ain't easy.






Send to unicornbellsubmissions(at)gmail(dot)com

Hit me with it. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Out of Touch - last part

(Read part one)
(Read part two)
(Read part three)

Today I have the last part of OUT OF TOUCH from Robin at Your Daily Dose.




"What?" In contrast to her whisper, my what sounded like a sonic boom. "He left you for Mr. Krueger?"
"What are you talking about?" she asked.
"You. Gary. Mr. Krueger."
"What does Gary have to do with Mr. Krueger?" 
This felt like a round of Who's On First.(not everyone will get this reference but I do - lol)  "Nothing. I thought you were telling me something about Gary and Mr. Krueger."
She laughed."That is ridiculous." She leaned in closer and whispered, "Klein & Klein does Mr. Krueger's taxes." Franny worked for her uncle and his son, Jimmy, since she graduated.
"Mr. Krueger of Krueger's Deli."
She nodded and scooted her chair closer to mine. "Among other things. He also owns a coin laundry over on Piedmont, Suds & Fluff, and that hole in the wall bar on Main Street, known as The Joint to the regulars. The sign fell off the door years ago and it was never replaced. He has a few rental properties, too, and that pay by the hour no-tell motel, The Flamingo." Franny curled her lip at that last bit of information, as did I. 
Unfortunately, Franny and I already had the displeasure of seeing what amenities The Flamingo does not possess. Two years ago, Franny fancied herself in love with Douglas Finn. It was love at first sight for Douglas and Franny. Everyone thought Douglas was "the one" until his two-timing days came to an end thanks to one of my visions after he dropped his car keys. I scooped them up and saw Rhoda Carlisle and Douglas at The Flamingo, accompanied by a feeling of lust that made my stomach queasy. Franny and I staked out The Flamingo for two days before we caught Douglas and Rhoda in the act.
From the look on Franny's face I could tell she was reliving the Douglas escapade, too. "You have to admit it was a little bit fun zapping Rhoda with the stun gun," I said.
 She hooted with laughter. Then she cleared her throat and lowered her voice. "I spent all afternoon trying to reconcile his taxes. I added each line item for every one of those businesses to find the error. Would you believe it took me all afternoon and I am still---"
 "You two want your usual?" Bev, the waitress who was working our side of the room, finally made it to our table. Bev went to school with Franny's sister, Mary Margaret. Bev always looked like she'd worked back to back doubles and was on the verge of passing out, but she had a knack for remembering everyone's order and never carried a notepad. Franny gave a nod to Bev and she was off.
"Where are you, Gigi? You look like you're a million miles away." Franny asked.
"I saw Leo today."
"Leo." She dragged out the "o" and then sighed. "Was that weird for you?"
"Eight years and he is still the same."
"It sucks that he broke your heart."
"He didn't..."
The back of my neck tingled at my hairline. I looked up into the mirror hanging over the bar and my eyes locked with a pair of intense blue ones under black hair. Leo. Oh crack. I sank slightly lower in my seat.
"Hello ladies," Leo said. Franny became a smiling temptress while I pressed my back hard into my chair and focused on breathing.
"Hey sis. Gigi," Sean said. 
"Hi Sean," I called out enthusiastically."Leo," I said in a strangled voice.
Franny oozed charm. I sensed a smirk on Leo's face and snuck a peek in his direction. Yep. Smirking.
"Sean, Mom is getting real tired of you missing her Sunday night dinners. I am even more tired of hearing about you missing Sunday night dinners." She paused for a breath. "Leo, you are also invited to Sunday night dinner."
I couldn't believe Franny invited Leo to Sunday night dinner. Panic swallowed me whole. My face flamed scarlet. I go to Sunday night dinner. Leo's mouth turned up at the corners.
"Gigi, are you sick?" Sean asked.
 I numbly said, "Sunday night dinner." 
The wattage in Leo's smile went up. 
Franny continued. "Leo, will you be there?"
"Wouldn't miss it," he said.
"Great," Franny said. "Look forward to seeing you then." I was choking, but refused to  make a noise until Sean and Leo were out of range. 
Franny waited until I was done hacking like a cat coughing up a fur ball."Why didn't you tell me that Leo still has a thing for you?"
"Because he doesn't still have a thing for me."
"Right."
"He doesn't."
"I can tell you still have a thing for him. Didn't you notice the way he looked at you tonight even though you're wearing Mickey Mouse. That has to mean something."
I picked at a hangnail.
She followed it up with, "You have to admit he is still hot."
Hot was Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Hot was the sand in West Palm Beach as you hopped one foot to the other for the water. Hot were the knock off purses sold in Washington Square Park. Leo was the sun. I like this.
I nodded reluctantly.
"So, you will give it a chance?" she asked.
People who yearned for the sun inevitably were burned. I shook my head.
"Why not?" She looked like a bulldog intent on its favorite bone. 
"If I ask you to give up on this No Questions Asked, will you?" I'm not sure I get this reference.
She didn't answer, so I started to wonder what I was going to do about Sunday night dinner. I wanted to bail, but couldn't stand for anyone to think I was chicken.
I would be there.
***

My thoughts: My first thought is that there's too much description. Does Franny really need to tell Gigi all that stuff about Mr. Kreuger? Could it be said in less words? And the whole Douglas escapade. I wonder if this could go somewhere else. I like it because it's a good example of Gigi's talent but I think the pacing could be improved by cutting it. Same with Bev. Unless she's an important player I'd just give her one or two attributes, enough to form an image in the reader's mind.
My last thought is that by the end of chapter one, I want some idea of what Gigi is facing. Is it simply to be at peace with her ability and resolve her feelings for Leo (either by falling back in love or letting him go for good)? Or is there something bigger at stake. I'm hoping there is and that it has something to do with Gigi's talent and if that's the case then I want at least a hint by the end of this chapter. I'm more invested in Gigi and her ability than in her romance - past or present - with Leo. 

Now, readers, what did you think? Any suggestions or comments for Robin?



Thursday, September 25, 2014

Out of Touch - part three


(Read part one)
(Read part two)

Today I have the second part of OUT OF TOUCH from Robin at Your Daily Dose.




Lying on my bed, I stared at my ceiling. Images of Roger Brown and Bambi assaulted me. You're fired. I imagine Mr. Brown just told you the good news. Smack. My stomach rolled over.
Why was it so hard for me to just roll with it? People have secrets. Always. If I had better self-control, I would have pretended I hadn't seen it. I pounded my fist into the mattress and remembered the first vision that started me on this debilitating rollercoaster ride. I think this transition to Gigi's memory could be improved. For example: "If I had better self-control, I would have pretended I hadn't seen it. But I had no more control over what I saw than I did the first time xx years ago." Then the next paragraph follows logically and naturally.
It was the Saturday after my sixth birthday. My father just died and I spent more and more time with The Fitzgeralds. My best friend, Franny, her mom, and I set out for a morning of garage sales. Our first stop was Pattersons. We chose it for two reasons: the merchandise and the gossip were known to be in abundance. (Better: We chose it because the merchandise and the gossip were known to be in abundance.) Mr. Patterson left Mrs. Patterson a month ago and tongues were wagging. Mrs. Fitzgerald's eyes opened round as wagon wheels when she saw the contents on the lawn. 
Franny asked, "Do you think there is anything left in the house?"
Mrs. Fitzgerald hustled out and we bounded out after her. It seemed that the house had vomited up the sum of its contents all over the yard.
When I picked up the ivy trimmed teacup my life changed forever - and I can't say it was for the better. 
A feeling of panic engulfed me. Mr. Patterson drank from that teacup, clutched his throat, while his face turned a mean red, and then he pitched face forward into the table and looked...dead.
The cup slipped from my hands, I started screaming, and I tripped and fell into a wheelbarrow that was parked on the grass and marked with a "For Sale" sticker. Then it happened again...
This time the feeling was satisfaction. But not the good kind. It felt black and mean. Mrs. Patterson wheeled Mr. Patterson in the wheelbarrow across the backyard to the garage. She took a shovel, dug a grave, put his body in it, and parked her Oldsmobile right on top. Her car, right this minute, was sitting on top of Mr. Patterson. 
That was when it sunk in that  I was sprawled where his dead body used to be. I couldn't get out fast enough. However, my brain and muscles no longer worked in tandem, so I just flailed around like a beached fish. Mrs. Fitzgerald hauled me out and we all made a beeline to the car.
I told Franny and her mom what I saw and felt when I touched the teacup and wheelbarrow. Mrs. Fitzgerald (and Mrs. Fitzgerald instantly believes her? Why? Just asking...) called in the tip on Mr. Patterson anonymously. The next day the headline in the local newspaper read, 'WIFE BURIES HUSBAND UNDER CAR."  
After my first vision, Mrs. Fitzgerald  made me promise not to tell anyone, not even my mom, (again, why? I want to know!) so she, Franny, and I are the only ones who know my secret. I have spent my life trying to avoid objects that might have an emotional fingerprint attached to them. It has created friction between me and my grandma, who wants me to take over the family antique business, and has cost me friends, boyfriends, and jobs. Franny calls it a gift, but she isn't afraid to touch.
"God, do you hear me? These visions are the worst. Please take them away. They are ruining my life!"
I needed a pep talk. The clock on my nightstand indicated it was 5:30. I picked up the phone and dialed Franny's apartment, which is about five minutes away. Franny Fitzgerald, best friend, trouble maker, partner in crime, and Certified Public Accountant would transform this day from a thunderstorm into a rainbow.
"Hey Franny."
"I am so glad you called." There was a hitch in her voice. "Gary left me. He said that the relationship wasn't going anywhere and he couldn't take it anymore. He also said something about not loving me like he should. Can you believe that? And then Sean called to tell me about you. I hate this day. I need pizza."
I nixed the rainbow. It remained cloudy with a probability of pepperoni.
"Franny, I am so sorry about Gary. Yes to the pizza."
"Okay.  Girabelli's in an hour," she said. Girabelli's was the premier pizza place, inexpensive and delicious. It lacked atmosphere, but no one seemed to care. By the time we got there it would be packed.
***
Franny was surrounded by several admirers when I arrived. Apparently, word of her single status spread like wildfire through New Dub.(here's a spot where you could add in that description from earlier)  When we were in grade school Franny was all arms, legs, and red hair. Beside the definition of "gawky" in the dictionary was a photo of Franny. That changed when she turned fifteen. Her brothers, who used to tease her mercilessly, weren't having nearly so much fun now. Sean was rethinking his career in law enforcement before Franny met Gary. His job just took a turn for the worse. 
Tonight Franny dressed to dazzle. She was a firework in sequins mounted on four inch heels. I stepped behind her and whispered in her ear, "Shame on you. I picked up an eyeball on my way in here."
She laughed on a tinkling breath that I knew she'd been practicing and excused herself from her admirers."Thanks for the save," she said. "I was afraid you were never going to get here."
"I can tell you were miserable." She batted her eyes in innocence and elbowed her way to an empty table. "You never know when Mr. Right might show up and I want to make sure that he notices me. "
"Couldn't miss you wearing that."
"You are never going to meet anyone dressed like that."
I looked down at myself. Blue jeans, my favorite Nike sneakers, and a Mickey Mouse T-shirt. Everything was clean. "What?"
"You don't see it?"
"No stains."
She reached across the table and slapped me on the side of the head.
 "Ouch What was that for?"
"You are such a dope." She enunciated each word slowly. "Forget it," she said. "Very bad day. I am sorry you lost your job. Want to talk about it?"
I leaned across the table. "Bambi slept with my boss to beat me out of a promotion. Can you believe that?"
"I heard you decked her."
"After she smacked me."
She lifted her eyebrows.
"After I called her out on sleeping with a man twice her age," I said.
"Vision?" she asked.
"What else? One misplaced cufflink and my life unravels." I was tired of rehashing this already. "Your turn."
I prepped myself for thirty minutes of non-stop Gary.
"You can't tell anybody this because it's supposed to be confidential." I made a sign of the cross over my heart. She nodded and continued in a stage whisper. "It's Mr. Krueger."
***

My thoughts: Aside from my blue pen, I don't have much else to add. I'm still interested in Gigi and what's going to happen next.

Readers, your thoughts?

Tomorrow, I'll have part four...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Out of Touch - part two


Today I have the second part of OUT OF TOUCH from Robin at Your Daily Dose. When we last left Gigi, she had just gotten fired after blurting out something she shouldn't have known: that Bambi got the promotion because she slept with the boss.

I left the building with a police escort. Sean Fitzgerald, one of Franny's (who's Franny?) older brothers, and  his partner, and my ex-boyfriend, Leo Connolly, performed the honor.  
Leo marched back inside Brown and Bell to talk to Bambi once I was safely removed from the premises. Meanwhile, Sean gave me the hairy eyeball in the rearview mirror, along with a scalding lecture on moral responsibility. He finished and glared at me expectantly.
I stared back and tried desperately not to touch anything. Police cars were ripe with visions. All I could see in the mirror were piercing green eyes boring holes into me. They were topped by auburn eyebrows. His hair was no longer than a quarter inch. Even though I couldn't see them, I knew that he had the whitest, and possibly straightest, teeth of anyone I knew. However, good looks weren't going to sway me. We were next door neighbors and family. My history with the Fitzgeralds was long and tight-knit. After my father, John Reilly, was killed in the line of duty when I was one week away from turning six, they pseudo-adopted me. The oldest sister, Mary Margaret, married and produced the first grandchild, Kelly, a few years before my father died. When Kelly named her grandparents Grady and Mimi, it wasn't long before they were my Grady and Mimi, too. Do we need to know all this now?
"It wasn't my fault. At least not ALL my fault."
"Is that your statement?"
"Yes. I think I will stick with that."
He twisted in his seat so that we were facing one another."What is it with you? The only other time you've clocked someone was  Kenny Ross back when you were in kindergarten. Of course, he did sort of have it coming."
"Exactly" I  punctuated my point with a hand slap to his front seat. I yanked my hand back like the seat was laced with herpes.
"You're saying she had it coming?" He looked doubtful.
I nodded enthusiastically.
He shook his head before reminding me, "As I recall, all that netted you was a spanking that didn't allow you to sit down for a week and a new name that stuck to you like glue."A smile lit up his face that made my cheeks burn.
"Hey, buster, easy on the smiling up there. It wasn't that funny." 
The front passenger door opened and Leo angled in to the seat. He absorbed all of the air in the car.  His hair was black, eyes blue, and his lips skilled. Leo was my first serious boyfriend and I thought it was love. We spent one idyllic summer together between my junior and senior year of college. I still didn't know why it ended. 
When I heard through the grapevine that Leo and Sean became partners, I figured the odds were fairly good I'd see him again. Prior to that, I only glimpsed him in passing since he moved back home. I avoided him like spandex, poison ivy, and small, yappy dogs. The memories of that summer still had teeth and my heart was carefully stitched together with dental floss. The slightest puncture and it could all come undone. So, despite living in the same town for the last four years, this was the closest we had been since that summer. I expected awkward. What I didn't expect was a flash of desire that prickled the nape of my neck, as well as a place further south. Leo was still dynamite and a smart person didn't play with explosives.
"How did it go?" Sean asked Leo.
"Let's just say she decided not to press charges after some careful consideration. Several secretaries corroborated your story that she smacked you first. What was odd was that none of the men saw anything." I rolled my eyes."She made a lot of noise about pressing charges anyway. So, I told her that was her right, but with the eyewitness testimony I didn't see it going anywhere."
"What did she say?" I asked.
"She crossed her arms over her chest and pouted."
Undoubtedly she was pushing her breasts up in order to sway Leo. Maybe Roger Brown granted me a favor by sleeping with that tart. Never again would I have to watch Bambi flaunt around the office with overflowing cleavage and short skirts. What kind of name was Bambi anyway? A deer name. That's what.
"So, is she pressing charges?" Sean asked.
"No," Leo said.
I shifted my line of sight over to Sean, trying to ignore Leo. I A rivulet of sweat ran between my shoulder blades. I needed to get out of this car. "Sean, does that mean I can go home now?"
"Gigi, please go home."
I stepped into the sauna that was July. Sweet, sweet relief.
***
The address of my license has always been 3118 Edgewood Drive, Newfield, New York. As a New York City suburb, half of Newfield lines the train station platform for the daily hour plus commute. I live in a three square mile chunk of homes made up of mostly Irish families that the locals refer to as New Dublin or New Dub. (I'm not sure we need this info either. I'd rather have a description of the neighborhood once she enters it.) Since I have yet to reach the high water mark of six months of steady employment, that is the same address on my mother's license. It was tempting to detour to anywhere else because I dreaded the confrontation with her. However, it went out on the police scanner, so in a matter of hours, it would be all over New Dub and served up with the pot roast for dinner.
Eileen, aka  my mom, was waiting for me on the front porch swing. She didn't want me to call her Mom in public after my dad died (why?) and it didn't take long for her to become Eileen all the time. Only an emergency drove  Eileen outdoors in July.
All of the houses on our street look pretty much the same. They are all big and lumbering with wraparound porches meant for sitting outside and gossiping, with scraps of front yard, decorated with an oak tree or two that umbrella out like a quilt. Most houses have four stories, if you include the attic and cellar, and a bay window. Good description.  
She lit a cigarette as I stopped the car. That meant seven to eight minutes of conversation about my latest employment fiasco. The set of her shoulders indicated her tension. She was dressed for work at Last Call, a local bar, in a white blouse and black slacks. Her blonde hair was knotted at her neck. She was beautiful, like a Roman statue, or a Rembrandt painting, and just as untouchable.
I decided to attack this situation aggressively and took the steps to the porch at a quick clip. I settled myself on the swing beside her without her even missing a beat in her forward backward motion.
"Nora called to say that there was an incident at Brown and Bell." Eileen threw out the opening gambit and then waited for the criminal, which would be me, to offer up the details and incriminate herself. This was an old dance step, so I knew better than to open my mouth.
She flicked the ash off the end of her cigarette into the brown ceramic ash tray on the porch railing. The lines around her mouth tightened and she continued. "Nora said that Sean Fitzgerald was the officer at the scene and that you were involved." Whoever talked now lost and it was critical that it not be me.
She sighed and continued, "Nora said that you punched another employee in the nose and it might be broken."
"Really? I broke Bambi's nose?" Oh, crack. I should tape my mouth for these interrogations.
"So, it's true. You really did punch Bambi in the nose?"
"Yes, but it wasn't my fault!"
"This is starting to sound like Kenny Ross."
"Exactly! Bambi is a slut who will do anything for a promotion and I hope I did break her nose."
 She took a long drag on her cigarette and then exhaled. Without missing a beat in the swinging, she tapped the ash off the cigarette directly into the ashtray.  
Most people say that I am a carbon copy of my mother, which is untrue. I am  5'6" to her 5'2". There is a horrifying gap between my front teeth and I feel everything, while I wonder if she feels much of anything. However, we share straight blonde hair, blue eyes, straight nose, pale complexion, and an athletic build that is completely deceptive. On me, anyway. Eileen moves like a cat.
"Well, I hope you remembered that your thumb goes on the outside of your fist this time. You were lucky you didn't break it on that idiot, Kenny," she said. She smiled and I knew the worst was over.
"Yeah," I said, and grinned back at her.
"Do you remember the lessons I gave you on self-defense after Kenny?"
How could I forget? Even Franny spent that month over at our house learning Eileen's heretofore unknown self-defense techniques. My favorite was still the "kneecap to ankle" maneuver which can only be performed if you are wearing hard soled shoes and the "perp" gets you from behind. You placed the sole of your shoe on the top of his kneecap and pressed as hard as you could, sending it down to his ankle. The idea was to inflict maximum pain, disable him from pursuit, while you ran like hell. We didn't actually "practice" that one, but I've executed that move a hundred times in my imagination. She said my dad taught them to her when they were dating. 
"So Brown and Bell is history?"
"Yep. Even before the knockout punch."
"You want to talk about it?"
"Not really." It was embarrassing to be unemployed again. My capacity for losing jobs was starting to become legendary. If I continued at this rate no one was ever going to hire me.
"I could ask around at the diner or the bar..."
I cut her a look and she grimaced. She had already called in both of those favors. I had been fired from both the diner and the bar for the same reason: my income to outgo on the destruction of glassware were not in the same league. 
She took one last drag on her cigarette.
***

My thoughts: My first thought is we need to know who Franny is so that any reference to her makes sense. My second thought is that some of the descriptions are unnecessary while others would be perhaps be more useful in a different spot. My third is that I'm curious about where Gigi will go from here. I also wonder about her relationship with her mom. Why does she call her Eileen rather than mom? Does Eileen know about Gigi's little talent? Understand why all the jobs haven't worked out? All of this is enough for me to want to read on and find out what happens next.

Readers, what do you think? Any thoughts for Robin?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Out of Touch


This week I'm critiquing the first chapter of OUT OF TOUCH.

Chapter One
It was astonishing, when a person actually thought about it, how little a resume revealed. Littered in amongst my vast and dismal Job History, Experience, and Education were no real clues to who I really was or what I could really do. In the past, my "gift" tended to lose me jobs, but today was going to be different. I gleamed shiny as a newly minted silver dollar. I traced my finger over today's date on my calendar and was tempted to write down "promotion" to inspire destiny to hurry. (Love this revised first paragraph)
Roger Brown, my boss, stood over my desk. "Gigi, can I see you in my office please?"
I smoothed down my suit jacket and tried, with a modicum of success, to erase the goofy grin painted on my lips. Destiny had arrived wearing a golf shirt and Polo and wanted a private meeting.
He settled into his chair, cleared his throat, and fidgeted with his name plate. When I sat down, the a sharp pain in my thigh caught me off guard. I groped for the offending object and was instantly (I know, instantly is an adverb and we generally like to use as few as possible but here I think it helps to show the violence of the vision - imo) assaulted by a vision when my fingers made contact. It felt, as usual, like an endless fall into a nightmare.
Lust gripped Roger Brown so hard his breaths were haggard. Bambi draped herself over his chair wearing nothing but a smile. She said, "I promised you I'd be the best fit for the job."
Roger said, "Indeed." His fingers, temporarily forgotten on the diamond cufflink, burst into action. When he dropped it, the connection severed.
I stared at my hand, and the cufflink, in horror. I wanted to take a bath in rubbing alcohol.
"…understand that Bambi is more qualified for the promotion," Roger said.
Bile rose in my throat. Bambi had stooped lower than I dreamed possible to beat me out of a promotion. I shook my head in an effort to erase the scene of them together.
"I realize this is a tough break," he said, "but refusing to accept it doesn't change anything." But she hasn't refused to accept it.
"What?"
" I know this is a disappointment. "
This was more than a disappointment. This changed how I felt about Roger as a boss. As a man. As a human being. "You and Bambi had sex…." Time stopped. My brain reconnected to my mouth and I sat there frozen in horror. I wanted to suck the words back in, but it was too late. The damage was done.
Roger Brown's eyes opened wide and then narrowed to slits. He morphed from an easygoing guy who made his living writing witty ads about toilet paper to every boss I'd ever had.
 "Oh, crack," I muttered to myself. When I was a kid, and things went sideways, I said, "Holy firecracker." Over the years it became just crack.
I desperately needed time to think this through and had none. Roger Brown stared daggers at me. I could try to laugh this off. In the past, that occasionally worked. But, I would still have to work here. For him. With her.
He shrank into the chair like a Lay Flat To Dry blouse run through the dryer. I watched him mentally calculate the risk of keeping me around.
The whisper of the ax cleaving the air preceded his verdict. "You're fired."
In less time than it took to solve for X, my fate was decided and my time at Brown and Bell finished. I shouldn't be surprised. After college, I ran through jobs faster than a line of cars in a McDonalds drive-through at noon.
As I walked down the hall toward my desk, I thought again about everything a resume didn't say. Life would be so much easier if everyone told the truth. Bambi Greer: Will sleep with boss for promotion.  Greta Reilly: Receives visions from emotionally charged objects and Irish temper.
My parents named me after Greta Garbo. In kindergarten, a pipsqueak named Kenny Ross started playing around with my name, Greta Garbo's name, her initials, and it somehow shifted into Gigi. He started chanting "Gigi" repeatedly in a sing-song voice. I got so mad I don't know what happened, but all of a sudden Kenny was on the ground with blood spurting out his nose, and my fist was on fire. My parents got a phone call, and I got a spanking from my dad I will never forget. Anyway, the name stuck and Kenny still avoids me.
I cursed under my breath. Not only did I lose another job to a vision, but Bambi waited for me with a smirk of victory.
"I imagine Mr. Brown told you the good news." Her high-pitched, chirpy voice dripped onto my former desk and solidified beside my former stapler. lol.
"Yes, he did," I said. "You are one lucky girl." If she wanted the promotion badly enough that she was willing to do that for it, she could have it.
"Are you going to congratulate me?"
"You bet. Congratulations, Bambi." I grabbed my picture of the Fitzgerald family portrait from last Christmas and tossed it in a box with my I Love New York mug. I considered adding my desk planner, but the word "promotion" mocked me. "Bye." I flicked her a wave.
 "You're leaving?" A look of incredulity crossed her face. "You quit because of this? You can't stand to lose, can you?" Her smugness infuriated me. 
"At least I didn't sleep with a man my father's age just to get a promotion," I said. Oh, crack! I clapped my hand over my mouth.
Her hand shot out and connected with my cheek. The next thing I knew Bambi was holding her nose, my fist was on fire,(this is the second time this expression has been used. Is this another talent in addition to being able to get visions from objects?) and I had a sinking feeling this was going to end a lot worse for me than a spanking from my father.
***

My thoughts:  Well. Having seen the first page a few previous incarnations, I have to say this is way better. I love the opening paragraph, and I love the voice. I do have one question for Gigi, though. Why would she care about spilling the beans that she knows how Bambi got her promotion. I might have said woops when I opened my mouth in front of Roger but I would taken great delight in letting Bambi know I know. Ha. Let her think Roger told me! That would serve them both right. Anyway. Those are my thoughts and I hope you, dear reader, will add yours :)

OUT OF TOUCH was submitted by Robin. You can find her over at The Daily Dose. On Wednesday I'll be critiquing the next few pages of chapter one.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Author Interview—Rebecca Belliston & A Giveaway!

Today, we have author Rebecca Belliston here to talk about her latest novel, Citizens of Logan Pond: LIFE. Welcome, Rebecca!

Thanks for having me! I’m excited to be here and share a little about my new book.


Tell us a little about Life. Is it a stand alone book or part of a series?

This is the first book in a trilogy about a little band of neighbors in a small Midwest town who pull together after a global financial disaster wipes out their money, jobs, transportation, food supply, and basic way of living. At the heart of the story is quiet, unassuming Carrie Ashworth (23) who struggles to raise her siblings after her parents’ deaths. Without meaning to, she’s caught between two men: one with the power to destroy her clan, and the other with the power to crush her will to survive.

The series is entitled Citizens of Logan Pond, and the books are subtitled Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit.

*Oh wow, I love the premise of this series! -K.S.


What inspired you to write the series Citizens of Logan Pond?

Six years ago, I got stuck on a single question. “What if the end of civilization as we know it doesn’t come from some huge war or catastrophe? What if it comes from the absence of one small thing: the dollar?” This question wouldn’t leave me alone and has grown into this series.

I also wanted to explore what kinds of things would survive if everything is taken away from a person. Namely family, friendships, and love.

*What a great 'what if' question! And those can lead to some stellar novels! -K.S.


Is there a message in your novel you want readers to grasp?

Definitely! I want readers to remember that the human spirit is strong and amazing. That love goes on, regardless of circumstances. That people can be good, in spite of what life throws at them. As a race, we are natural-born survivors. I want my readers to believe in people and themselves.

*Love this message! -K.S.


When writing a novel, do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, what do you do to overcome it?

Yes. More often than I like. A few things have helped me push through it.

1) Walk away and let the scene stew in my mind for a while. Sometimes months.

2) Jump ahead and write what comes next in the story. This works really well. Usually after I figure out what happens later in the story, the earlier parts come more easily. I can go back and fix the scene that has me stumped.

3) Stop and dissect what I’m trying to write. The best advice I heard is that when the writing is coming slow, it’s probably not good writing. This is because when the story is awesome, amazing, and engaging, we can’t wait to get it onto paper. We can’t type fast enough. So if the story isn’t coming, the key is to figure out why. Easier said than done, right?


*I tend to jump ahead too! It does help, doesn't it? -K.S.


If you had a book club, what would they be reading, and why?

Hmmm. I have so many favorite books. I’m not sure I’m intelligent enough for many book clubs, though. They often read really deep, or profound books. Personally, I love reading sweet YA romances, so I’d have to have friends in the book club who also enjoy those. My favorite series I’ve read lately is “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer, or “The False Prince” by Jennifer Nielsen. Both are well written and fun reads, so I’d start with them.

*Oooh, sweet YA romances are the best. Good choice! -K.S.

And now for some FUN questions! :)

If I came to your home and looked in your fridge, what would I find?


A mess. Sorry, but it’s true. I’m getting to it eventually, I really am. Just not until after I get this book release out of the way.

Oh, you meant food? Milk. Cheese. Fruit. You know, the basics. Hopefully enough to keep my kids out of my hair. ☺

*Lol. Too funny! -K.S.


What is your favorite quote?

Non-writing quote: Men are that they might have joy.
Writing quote: Good books aren’t written. They’re rewritten.

*Love both of these quotes! -K.S.


If given a chance, what would you like to be for a day?

Do I have to pick one thing, because it’s really hard to choose? You didn’t specify, so here are a few: A sky diver, a film-score composer, a world traveler, and a NYT bestselling author. All at the same time. ☺

*Haha! Yes, all at the same time. Although with all your talents, it might be possible... ;) -K.S.

What takes you out of your comfort zone?

Social settings. I’m not exactly shy, but I’m not a big-group kind of person. I tend to sit on the edge of the crowd and find one or two people to talk to.

*I'm not a big group person either! I prefer small groups or one-on-one. ;) -K.S.


What’s your favorite thing to do in the summer? Fall? Winter? Spring?

Summer: beach with the family and a good book
Fall: park with the family and a good book
Winter: couch with the family, blanket, and a good book
Spring: starting my flower garden

*I get the feeling you like books... :) -K.S.


Thank you, Rebecca! It was great having you on Unicorn Bell today!

Thanks for having me, and thanks for the fun questions!




Author Bio:

Rebecca Lund Belliston is the author of the romantic suspense novel, Sadie, and it's sequel, Augustina. Rebecca also composes piano and vocal music. When she's not writing fiction, music, or chasing her five kids, she can be found cuddled up with a good book. She and her family live in Michigan.

Find her online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest










Book blurb: Citizens of Logan Pond: LIFE

Her home. Her parents. Her freedom. Gone.
His dreams. His sister. Himself. Lost.
Two people.
One future.

The economy crashed, the country is floundering, and Carrie Ashworth struggles to keep her siblings alive. She has two jobs in her newly-formed, newly-outlawed clan: growing crops to feed thirty-six people, and keeping Oliver Simmons, their local patrolman, happy. Carrie’s life is almost content when Greg Pierce shows up. A man with the ambition to help them survive. A man determined to hate her.

When a government raid nearly wipes out their clan, Greg realizes the true reason behind their safety. Patrolman Simmons has fallen for Carrie. Greg takes it upon himself to give the socially-awkward patrolman what he wants. Only Carrie doesn’t like Greg throwing her in Simmon's path, especially when Greg’s brusque exterior melts, and she catches a glimpse of the real man underneath. Carrie is forced to choose: follow her heart or save her clan.

Life won’t let her choose both.


You can follow Rebecca on her Blog Tour. And be sure to sign up for the Giveaway and a chance to win a signed copy of Life AND a $25 Amazon gift card! Sounds awesome, right?




And now for the Giveaway!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Author Interview—Elizabeth Briggs

We are so excited to have Elizabeth Briggs, author of the New Adult novel MORE THAN MUSIC here with us today. Thanks for joining us, Elizabeth!

Thanks for having me!


Tell us a little about MORE THAN MUSIC.

MORE THAN MUSIC is about a geeky guitarist who joins a rock band and goes on a reality TV show like The Voice but for bands. It’s a light, fun, sexy read with lots of pop culture and music references, and it’s completely stand-alone – the other books in the series will be about Maddie’s friends going on other reality TV shows. I’m also working on a prequel novella now, called MORE THAN EXES, which I hope to have out in October.

*Rock band and reality show...sounds like a fun read! -K.S.


Even though you have an agent, you decided to self-publish MORE THAN MUSIC. What influenced that decision?

When I wrote MORE THAN MUSIC I’d already been on submission for years with my YA books and was pretty burnt out by it all. I decided MORE THAN MUSIC would be a perfect book to self-publish since New Adult generally does better in ebooks than print anyway. Also, the book has a lot of pop culture references in it and I wanted it to come out now instead of two years from now or more. I knew that by self-publishing I would have control over the content, the release date, the price, the cover, the interior format, and so forth – and I’d keep all the rights and the profits, too! Giving up all of that for a traditional deal didn’t seem worth it for this particular book.

*Sounds like a smart decision, especially considering the circumstances. -K.S.

What inspired you to write MORE THAN MUSIC?

I went to high school for a short time with Adam Levine and the other guys in Maroon 5, back when they were called Kara’s Flowers. They played at our school dances and I sat behind them in class and was completely in love with them. Of course, they had no idea I existed! Many years later I saw Adam Levine on The Voice, and had the idea of a geeky girl joining an up-and-coming rock band at her school and going on a show like The Voice, and MORE THAN MUSIC grew from that.

*Wow, such a cool inspiration and fun story! I wish I knew Adam Levine in high school... -K.S.


What has been the most difficult part of your publishing journey? Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

The most difficult part was learning that great books often don’t sell because of the market or for other reasons. I hit a really low point after going through this myself, but it led to me writing and self-publishing MORE THAN MUSIC, so I wouldn’t change anything about my journey.

*Very true, sometimes great books don't sell. Love that you wouldn't change anything about your journey! -K.S.

Some writers may be scared to self-publish because they aren’t sure how to market or promote their book. Do you have any advice for marketing or promotion? How did you get your book “out there?”

One thing to consider is that even if you traditionally publish you will end up doing a lot of the marketing and promotion yourself, so it’s not too different when you self-publish. Promotion is one of the hardest things for all authors because it’s difficult to tell what works and what doesn’t. To get my book out there I did a cover reveal and some blog tours, and I also put my book on Netgalley to get early reviews and buzz going. I tried a few other things too, such as Facebook ads, but I’m not sure how effective they were. But I believe in trying everything once to see if it works, if it’s worth the time, and most importantly, if you enjoy doing it. I think it’s especially important to be a real person on all of your social media and to think about other ways to get your name out there that isn’t about selling your book. For example, I mentor other writers in Pitch Wars and The Writer’s Voice, and I do it because I love helping other authors – but it’s also good publicity, too.

*Great advice! -K.S.

I’m headed to a writing conference in a couple days, and I’m working on my elevator pitch. What would yours be for MORE THAN MUSIC?

MORE THAN MUSIC is a New Adult romance about a geeky guitarist who joins a rock band to compete on a reality TV show and ends up falling for the tattooed lead singer. When the show pressures them to remain single they have to keep their relationship secret, and she must decide if following her dream is worth losing her heart.

*Oooh, love the pitch! You made me want to read it! :) -K.S.

Okay, now for some fun questions that have nothing to do with writing, but more to do with getting to know you!

If you had to wear a T-shirt with one word on it for the rest of your life, which word would you choose? Why?

“Rawr!” This word just works for so many different situations.

*Lol. Great word! :) -K.S.


Describe your ideal romantic date.

Having dinner at a fun, casual restaurant, followed by seeing my favorite band in concert.

*Fun! -K.S.

Tell us something nobody knows about you.

When I was 13 or 14 my mom wouldn’t let me go to Lollapalooza, so I lied and said I was going to a friend’s house… but then I went with this friend and her super cute older cousin to Lollapalooza anyway. It was awesome, although nothing ever happened with the hot cousin, sadly. Even as a kid I was all about rock music + hot guys!


(I really hope my mom never reads this interview…)

*Haha! Your secret is safe with me...and the rest of Unicorn Bell... -K.S.

What is the craziest thing you’ve done lately?

I recently played Cards Against Humanity with my mother-in-law and one of her friends. It was pretty embarrassing, but also hilarious because these two older British women ended up being dirtier than the rest of us!

*Lol. Too funny! -K.S.


What is your absolute favorite thing about being a writer?

My absolute favorite thing is hearing from fans that they loved my book, read it in one night and couldn’t put it down, and can’t wait for the next one. It’s truly the greatest feeling in the world!

*Aww, love that! -K.S.

Thank you, Elizabeth!! It was great having you on Unicorn Bell! And best of luck to you and MORE THAN MUSIC! :)

MORE THAN MUSIC blurb

Music major Maddie Taylor just finished her junior year of college and has a summer internship lined up with the LA Philharmonic, yet every night she practices guitar and secretly dreams of a louder life. But geeky girls like her don't get to be rock stars. That is, until tattooed singer Jared Cross catches her playing guitar and invites her to join his band on The Sound, a reality TV show competition.

Once on the show, Maddie discovers there’s more to Jared than his flirty smile and bad boy reputation – and that he’s just as big a geek as she is. With each performance their attraction becomes impossible to ignore, but when the show pressures them to stay single they’re forced to keep their relationship secret.

As the competition heats up, Jared will do whatever it takes for his band to win, and Maddie must decide if following her dream is worth losing her heart.





Author bio:

Elizabeth Briggs is a full-time geek who writes books for teens and adults. She plays the guitar, mentors at-risk teens, and volunteers with a dog rescue group. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and a pack of small, fluffy dogs.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Newsletter