Writing, promotion, tips, and opinion. Pour a cuppa your favorite poison and join in.

Friday, September 30, 2011

if you're reading this...

it means my computer is still in the shop :(

However, there were some great submissions this week and if you haven't commented I urge you to do so. Have a great weekend :)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pop Travel

 Genre: Scifi Thriller

Scene setup, Cooper is at a library looking for info regarding "The Creator's" plantation to see if he can find a better way in. The FBI have been watching him and have sent agent Geri Harper to get close and see what he knows or if he has evidence.

As Cooper immersed himself in historic plantation legend, unsure of what he would find, a woman walked by his table and stopped to look over his shoulder at his book.
“Excuse me. But is that ‘Grand Ol’ Southern Plantations?’ I b’lieve my great, great, great, great grandaddy’s ancestral home is in that book,” she said with a thick drawl.
Cooper frowned and kept his head down. He didn’t want to acknowledge her so he covered his eyes with his hand like he was blocking a glare and scooted his chair away from her. “Oh,” he replied, hoping his body language would give her a hint to go away.
“Hee-ya, let me show you,” she said and reached over to turn the pages. “May I?” she asked. How could he say no? This lady was very pushy, making Cooper more uncomfortable with every minute in her presence. But she did smell nice.
He glanced up at her. She had nice, wavy, auburn hair, too. He shrugged and scooted his chair out. The sooner he let her show him, the sooner she would be on her way.

Oct 24 -

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

For Want of a Piglet

Hard fantasy (what does that mean? Hard fantasy?)

Snow still fell when Ilya shook me awake in the middle of the night. The patter of flakes on the overhead tarp blended with anxious whispers and sharp coughs. A pony puffed nearby and hooves shifted on the tarp.

“Ulf says stay close,” Ilya whispered in my ear. “Get the bedroll off and flat so nobody trips. Careful of Acorn, he’s right here.”

I blinked and rubbed at my eyes and a whiskery horse nose nudged my cheek. Acorn shifted away as I struggled out of my bedroll and to my feet. I put my arm over his neck for balance as I kicked the heavy blanket further off and tried to spread it flat. Puck snorted, close by too.

The fire was just outside our tarp lean-to, low and largely glowing coals. Ulf and Sir Kiefan stood on the far side with their backs to it, one with bow and nocked arrow, the other with sword in hand. Kiefan asked something of the woodsman and he muttered a reply. (is this necessary? If it is, maybe tell us what's being said, if not, I might cut it.) Beyond them, the black forest waited, crusted with a layer of snow glowing blue in the trace moonlight. Tumbling flakes kept up a quiet patter as we all fell silent, even the ponies. Really like the imagery.

Adrenaline was fast driving off any lethargy of being woken, but there was nothing to see in the clusters of squat pine trees and thickets. Ulf and Kiefan moved a few steps apart, tense and alert. I wanted to ask what was wrong.

Lantern eyes lit up beyond the fire, tracking by, and vanished. A shape moved past a snow-laden pine branch. That coughing sound again, from the shape, and it was answered from behind me.

Ilya, holding Acorn’s bridle beside me, whispered, “Mother Love, we’re surrounded.” Loved that!

Like this!

Faerie Wings

YA/New Adult Fantasy

Lead in: Ryanne (Ry) has just slipped into a private wedding. A magical compulsion of sorts is drawing her into her destiny. She just doesn't know it yet.
Question for you: What should I call the guy. Man sounds too old. He looks to be a couple years older than Ry, who just graduated from high school. Still looking for that YA/new adult voice. :)

The private paradise mesmerized Ry. For the first time in her life, she was surrounded by a beauty so perfect, it made her ache inside. She walked slow but couldn’t look at everything fast enough. The invisible force continued to pull her toward the center of the garden. Ry turned and walked backwards in an effort to get one more look at some tall spear flowers. And backed right into a pair of strong arms.
"Oh!” she yelped as those arms spun her around.
"Sorry about that. Didn’t have time to warn you.” The man whispered.
Time stopped.
Brown eyes with gold flecks looked deep into her soul. She breathed in his cologne, something close to reeds and rushing water with an underlying musk scent. In that one moment between blink and breath, Ry’s restlessness disappeared and she was home. 
"Are you lost Ma Cherie?" His slightly accented voice was warm and full of humor. 
I like this, but I'd like it even more if I saw a little more of the man/guy/dude who has captured her attention. Not a lot, mind, just a little, like show us how he looks to her eyes (college age? dark hair? Light? Is he smiling?) and I might consider putting this line  "In that one moment between blink and breath, Ry’s restlessness disappeared and she was home." (which I love) after he asks if she's lost and after she's shown us (the reader) how he looks.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Of Wishes Made

YA Contemporary Fantasy
Laughter caused him to frown but it wasn’t enough to make him open his eyes. Footsteps passed with a crinkle of shopping bags and banter. He inhaled and absorbed their life force as they passed like harvesting a single dewdrop from a field of wildflowers.  And in response, they swerved, unaware of the rattlesnake in their midst. He remained immobile, confident no one would touch him…If they're unaware why did they swerve? Or are they subconsciously aware?
He lurched as a body collided with him and would have fallen but for the cool fingers that gripped his forearm.
“Sorry,” said a female voice. “I didn’t see you, like, standing there. Mesmerized by JC Penney are we?”
He stared at the young, dark-haired woman who had barreled into him. Her narrowed eyes were benign at first then a flurry of emotions chased across her face, difficult to read. Fear? Concern? But the flash of determination that bloomed and stayed was simple to interpret. Her mouth firmed into a hard line.
The hand that steadied him tightened then released, slid down and brushed the back of his hand.
He waited for her reaction. It was not what he expected. What exactly did he expect, I wonder.
She lifted one shoulder when he remained silent and regarded him with eyes the color of burnt flowers. The teal collar of her shirt gaped, showing a fine gold chain that rested in the hollow of her throat, her respiration a counterpoint to the pulse at her neck.  Her lowered brow gave way to a shrug then she turned away and joined an older woman. A slim boy with pale blond hair stood by her, slack-hipped and curious.

The Lullaby

Genre: YA contemporary fantasy

A hand came down on her shoulder. She whipped around, her hand raised, ready to strike this new attacker, but she stopped short. The green-eyed boy smiled at her, a small smile of mischief. (Like that.) He was playing hero. His face turned cold, though, as he looked over her shoulder. She turned her head to see.
Redstone was standing with his hand pressed to his face. (If this is the first time we see Redstone I'd like to get a better picture of him.) When he moved it, Cassie saw a long scratch down his cheek where her nail had scratched him. His eyes burned straight into hers, “Get out! Don’t you dare ever come back, you little bitch!”
The boy led her out, keeping a tight hold on her arm. She glanced back, just in time to see Redstone slamming the door. It melted into the wall, as if it was never there, and what had just happened, hadn’t.
He started laughing about a block away from Redstone’s. Cassie stared as he let go of her arm to double over, his hands on his knees. “Did you…” he choked off, his sides heaving as he tried to regain his breath. “Did you see his face when you pushed him away?” He looked up at her, grinning.
Cassie gave him a dubious look but she could feel her own grin spreading across her face, “He did look a little funny.”
“A little? His eyes blew up as big as street lights and his face turned as red as a stop sign!” He had to stop talking as another fit of laughter ripped through his chest.
She couldn’t help it, she started giggling and she couldn’t stop. They stood together, the boy bent over and Cassie leaning on the nearest building, both of them laughing uncontrollably. People on the street gave them strange looks, some shaking their heads. The thought that they were all probably thinking the two of them were high crossed her mind. She started laughing harder. Interesting!

Monday, September 26, 2011

the first time

Well, here we are again and I'm looking for another round of submissions. This week lets look at the first time we, the reader, meet your main character's love interest OR antagonist. Let's keep it to around 250-300 words. Send your offerings to: marcy@tidewater.net and please put unicorn bell in the subject line.

Here is an excerpt from my novel Grimoire, when Lord Wyndham first meets Miss Devlin: 

     “Miss Devlin,” Adrian said politely, noting how still she sat and the way she watched him, her gaze frank and appraising. Her eyes were an interesting shade; just now they looked more blue but a moment ago he thought they might’ve been green. Her nose was straight and her lips generous. Her hair was an interesting tawny shade, streaked with gold and pale red lights and she might have been pretty, he supposed, if not for the freckles that spattered her nose. They made her look silly, he decided, focusing his attention on Grace again, wondering what sort of game she was playing. Because if there was one thing for certain Grace never did anything without a reason and this girl wasn’t here because Grace wanted company.

Friday, September 23, 2011


When enlightenment occurs, it is akin to sunrays bursting through the clouds. All the clich├ęs -- the light bulb switching on, getting smacked upside the head -- all true following an excellent crit session.

A big Thank You to all participants this week, submitters and critiquers. (If that isn’t a word, it ought to be. Especially, since it rhymes with ‘submitters’ LOL)

In our business, time is a valuable commodity. What all give, in their time and thought, is beyond price.

Next week Marcy is on deck.

Can’t wait to see what she has planned.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

#3 First Page

Title: The Magic Withheld
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Three agents have partials of Magic but I don't have a lot of hope that it will continue along the traditional route. I am considering E-pub.

The concert was over, the bulk of the crowd long gone. Stragglers paused then hurried by the two men that circled each other like predators under the streetlights. A third man crawled and hitched forward out of the light. His skinny legs scuffed the ground in sandpapery hisses, desperation in his movements.

Like a slow dance, Justus Aubre mirrored the steps of the mugger. When the night breeze lifted a tuft of hair into his eyes, Justus brushed it away in one quick motion.

Another scrape and groan came from the victim inching away but Justus ignored the old man’s struggle to escape.  Distractions made for sloppy defense. But his emotions…that was a different kind of cat. Irritation and anger built in waves and, after witnessing the attack on the old man, it melded with his outrage.

Wrath threatened to overwhelm him.

His grand plan to avoid attention, shot to hell at the sight of a mugger accosting an old geezer. For a goddamn watch.

What an idiotic thing to do, getting involved in someone else’s problem.

A whisper of magic escaped his control and coursed to his fingertips. He firmed his grip, placing the volatile emotions into a mental vise.

Calm, stay calm.

Justus chanced a look at the old man. The guy had made it to the shadowed edge. Relief, despite his internal rebuke, softened his irritation.

Good. One less thing to worry about.

The mugger chose that moment to engage with a hiss of metal.

Light reflected from a saw-toothed blade and made a barred pattern of the fingers holding the knife. Justus angled away, shifting to the side as the mugger’s stroke flashed wide of the mark. Justus shoved then danced out of the way. The mugger fell on the concrete and into an epic -- and very satisfying -- face plant.

It was the break Justus needed. He cast his senses into the dwindling crowd and prepared to gather the energies swirling around him. Comet trails of elements that only he could see spiraled in answer to his will. He began the first appeal, called to them in a soft exhalation, as a child blows to see their breath on a cold morning. The glittery energies brightened as he named them.

A deeper chill stroked his skin, lifting the small hairs of his arms. A sensation thrummed and vibrated over his forearms as if thousands of bees wriggled to break free.

His stomach dropped. Another magic maker, using the anonymity of the crowd to hide, was close. He released his will before touching the elements and the sparkles faded, mingling with the misty fog of his breath. Why hadn’t he listened to that little voice, the annoying one that warned him away from public concerts? Even in Iowa, others like him lurked in secret.

#2 First Page

Title: "For Want of a Piglet" or maybe something else LOL
Genre: Hard Fantasy
Word Count: WIP. 40K and counting.

“You couldn’t sleep either?”

At the whisper, I looked up from lacing my boots. My master stepped in, adding his lamp’s light to my candle’s.

“Why must I dress as a boy?” I whispered back. “Ladies ride in dresses when they please.”

New paragraph. Perhaps I was not so buxom, but I doubted I’d fool anyone.

“Patience.” Master Parselev placed his lamp on my work-table worktable and went to checked my packed bags. “They’re gathering at the chapel already. None of us got much sleep, it seems.”

The straw mattress creaked as I stood and the hose legs sagged between my thighs. I ran my fingers around my waist, under my layered cote and surcote, to check the drawstring. “Are these right, Master?” I’d strung the hose and braies together as best I could and as memory was my Blessing I had no lee in failing. Men’s underthings hadn’t been a subject of scrutiny for me, though.

“If it stays up, it’s right. Good. This too.” He slung a heavy felt cloak across my shoulders and pinned it on. Buried me in the hood; my blonde braid, wrapped around my head, would give me away.

“Master,” I asked, still whispering, “  No need for this dialogue tag. this journey will be long, won’t it?” Master Parselev had given me more clothes than I’d ever owned to pack in those bags. All winter woolens, too. “Shouldn’t you go, then?”

Good action and set up. Because it is fantasy, I know world-building means I must learn the language, so to speak. I love/worship-at-the-altar-of fantasy and do not have a problem with learning unfamiliar words. But you might consider dropping one or two of the three at least at the beginning. Keep one, either ‘cote’, ‘surcote’, or ‘braies’ and cut the rest. It will help the reader’s eye move along.

Most of my crits concern small things such as ‘work-table’. It is one word. Edit 'candle's' to 'candle'. And phrases such as ‘went to’. It slows the action. Read the sentence w/o it (and adding the ‘ed’ to check) OR you can edit like this: “Master Parselev placed his lamp on my worktable to check my packed bags.”
I adore fantasy. This sounds intriguing and I would read more. Because, well, I love fantasy. Or did I say that already?

# 1 First Page

Title: Secret Protection Society
Genre: MG

What a way to start the week. I’m stuck in the school gym and I’m bored. Our gym, like everyone else’s probably, is a big room where we have PE classes when the weather is bad, science fairs, and kindergarten shows, which are actually kind of funny. Today it’s being used for a spelling bee. The best spellers from the  Cut this as it echoes semi-finals fourth grade classes are competing in the semi-finals and the rest of us are being made to sit through it. If you write this as Show, it will sound better. ‘Now, here we sit forced to listen to the fourth grade spelling bee. Mrs. Hammond insists it will be a good experience. “It will be a good experience,” Mrs. Hammond said. She is our language arts teacher and loves this kind of stuff. She gets excited about books like they are video games or something. Well anyway, I think this whole contest was her idea anyway, just to get us more interested in reading and writing. Sure, whatever.

My name is Tanner Sims and I’m in fourth grade at Joseph Graham Elementary School in Charlotte, North Carolina. Mr. Sandowski, my social studies teacher, said that Joseph Graham was an important general in the Revolutionary War. A lot of things in Charlotte are named after war heroes, probably because North Carolina is one of the oldest states in the country and a bunch of the battles were fought around here. Anyway, I never heard of General Graham, but I guess it’s cool to have something named after you, even if it is a school. Okay, I love this. It is Voice with a capital ‘V’.

Well I know this contest is going to be boring and not because I got knocked out early.  This is great also. Makes me wonder if it is sour grapes, his attitude. But then you bog it down. Shorten the next sentences to move the story.

Example: Spelling isn’t my thing. Its science with electromagnets and blowing thing up, launching rockets with Mentos and soda. (at this point, dig into the story)

I’m smart. So people tell me. So how come I got knocked out of the spelling bee early and there’s Luke Johnson on the stage, still competing. Looking smug. Spelling just isn’t my thing; my favorite subject is science. I love the experiments with electromagnets or using light bulbs to make water evaporate. And then there are the exploding ones with Mentos and soda and launching rockets with baking soda and vinegar. I also like math and can do multiplication and division in my head, but that’s not as exciting. My parents tell me I’m smart, above average, and that’s good I guess because it’s better to be smart than dumb, but school kinda bores me. I like seeing my friends, but besides that, it’s hard to sit at my desk the whole day.

I planned on spending this morning figuring out how to save the ninja master on level ten in the new Way of the Warrior video game and deciding if looking on the Internet for clues would be cheating, but this is turning out to be more interesting than I thought.  At this point, my eye wants to skip the words. IMHO, you are giving too much backstory now, forcing the introduction to the MC. If you dig into the storyline, begin the action, and put off backstory, your MC will grow. I will connect better if I ‘see’ his interaction. Right now, you are in the ‘telling’ stage, and backstory. For one thing, Luke Johnson, from Mrs. Hammond’s homeroom class, is on stage with the semi-finalists. Spelling isn’t his best subject either. I’ve been in school with Luke since kindergarten and I’ve never seen him pass a test. Actually, I don’t even think he can spell his name. I can tell the teachers are thinking that too because they pointed and whispered to each other the minute he walked on the stage. 

Here’s my opinion about Luke; he’s not that smart and I don’t think it’s because he doesn’t study. He is just…well…below average would be the best way to say it. It’s no big deal, not everyone is good in school. He’s better in sports anyway, better than me for sure. It doesn’t help that I’m smaller than most fourth graders, but Luke is much bigger, about as tall as the middle school kids and sort of fat. He played football last year, and everyone said he was good, but he got kicked off the team. He doesn’t play well with others.

The truth is, Luke is a bully and he’s been one ever since I’ve known him. I know because he used to punch me to get the toy that I was playing with. In front of everybody too, which is pretty embarrassing when you’re in first grade. So that’s why it’s strange to see him on stage for something that has to do with reading or studying. It would have been much better to use him as an example during the no bullying lecture we had a few months ago.

Set the scene. Introduce the MC. Begin the story with action. Limit backstory. Show the story. Use Voice to introduce character traits.

Monday, September 19, 2011

First Page Critique Week

Back in the days when I had a normal life, ‘query’ was just another word in the dictionary. Now, it has the magical ability to pull my attention like an unexpected bang of a firecracker.

I want my First Page to generate the same response in an agent.

Except for the query, my first page and paragraph go through the most revisions. I read it one day and think, Oh cool. This is IT! Two days later, it looks like something the cat hocked up and I edit again.

This critique week, send your First Page. Don’t fret if we’ve seen it before *Yo! Tara* Send it and we’ll give it a look-see.

Last week, my youngest MS tiptoed from its shelter and into critter land, my debut effort at YA. It won’t be the last time it appears so prepare yourself. The perspectives the critiques give are beyond price and I thank all who contribute.

And to those who submit pages, loglines, and queries for critique: it takes courage to shove your precious MS out the door and into the spotlight. Just remember, we are all in the same business and have the same trepidations. We are all writers.

Send one or two pages of your manuscript to beccoff(at)nwmo(dot)net and we’ll roll up our collective sleeves and begin another week of critiques.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pitch #5

Title: The Way to Dendara
Genre: Fantasy

Lucy Akker, a young woman with bad dreams and a tragic past, has just
inherited a magic kingdom. Unfortunately, it's not the kingdom with the
fairies and elves and wood sprites. It’s the other one, the one with the
trolls and goblins and a half brother who’d like nothing better than the
throne for himself.

For Lucy, the hardest part will not be ruling the kingdom; it will be
keeping it.

Pitch #4

Title: Unknown
Genre: MG

How does Joseph Graham Elementary's resident bully, Benjamin Kelly, who has trouble spelling his own name, get into the fourth grade spelling bee semi-finals?  That's what Tanner Sims and his friends want to know. Their search for the truth puts them against the principal, reveals a friend's secret they must protect, and makes them targets of the bully who doesn’t appreciate them sticking their noses where they don’t belong.

Pitch #3

Genre: Epic Fantasy

For want of a piglet, the betrothal was lost and a girl was instead apprenticed to the kingdom’s master healer.

For want of an ally against the monstrous armies of a hungry empire, a fellowship was put under the care of the healer’s apprentice and sent into ice-bound wilderness. The mission tangles her fate with a ne’er-do-well knight and the kingdom’s only prince.

Her magic can’t heal the wounds they’ve inflicted on each other, but it’s her duty to keep them alive when the empire comes to destroy the kingdom.

Pitch #2

Title: Uriel's Fall
Genre: Fantasy
Word Count: 90,000

Ronnie’s job is to separate shadows from the humans they possess. It
should be easy, except the shadows are whispering in their holding
cell: her head. The gods know more than they’re telling her, and if
she takes too long to figure out the truth her descent into madness
will become a one-way trip.

Pitch #1

Title: Of Wishes Made
Genre: YA, paranormal
Shamira Kelley wants normalcy, college and a boyfriend. But she is a product of selective breeding, an Eversor. A Destructor. With little effort, she can control anything. Anyone. It is trust that comes hard. Especially when Faelan appears. Then she must decide if he is truly on her side or only using her like so many before him.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Call for Pitch Submissions

Just a reminder to send in your pitches (around 100 words) to charity.bradford@gmail.com.
Yesterday we had the comment that people "might might be getting sick of my submissions! (same old story, ha!)"

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE take advantage of every opportunity you have to get feedback. Most of us work on the same story for a long time. Carol started this blog because it's so hard to find people willing to look at your work and give an honest opinion on what's working and what isn't. Right now Unicorn Bell is new and our number of submissions is small.

Take advantage of this!

If you want to become a published author, no matter which path you choose, you must get eyes on your writing. You guys can submit the exact same 250 word opening as many times as you want if you still want another opinion on it.

Also, your book does not have to be finished before you work on your pitch. Many people start with a pitch before they start writing the book.

So send in those pitches people!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pitch that Book!

What's your book about?

It's funny how that one question can thrill and terrify you all at once isn't it? As writers we love to talk about our story, but sometimes we go on and on until that glazed look comes over the listener. Now if an agent asked you what your book was about this would be a disaster, right?

Today we will talk about how to streamline your answer, or "pitch", in order to get the information across and still keep the listener interested. Hopefully. ;)

In order to sell a novel you need three different-sized pitches: a one or two page synopsis, a one paragraph pitch, and a two sentence pitch, which you could recite if you managed to trap an agent or editor in an elevator with you. They actually call these two sentences an "elevator pitch," or sometime a "logline pitch," a term that comes from screenwriting. (Hilari Bell -sfwa member)
This is often one of the hardest things we have to do as writers. The good news is we can create these pitches and try them on the people around us. The next time a friend or family member asks, "What's your book about again?" You give the short and to the point pitch. Keep practicing it until you've got it down pat. Then if you ever do run into an agent, or score a pitch session at a conference, you'll be ready!

How do you write a pitch?

Just like everything else, there are no hard and definite rules. However, there are certain guidelines or tips that are good to keep in mind.

Tip #1:
Keep it short. Remember, we don't want to confuse the listener with all the little subplots that make us giddy. A pitch is like the query, we just want to entice them to read the story.

Tip #2:
Begin by setting up the situation. Since I write science fantasy and fantasy, I usually start with a bit of world building: "Sendek is a world rich with a magical heritage the people have forgotten in favor of science and technology". You don't have to start this way, and it may be preferable not to. Who knows for sure?

Now, I finish that sentence with an introduction to my main character: "but Talia Shannon's prophetic dreams foretell an invasion by scaled humanoids."

Tip #3:
Tell what the MAIN conflict is. Remember, don't bog things down with all the little subplots, even if its the subplots that make you giddy. Here's my example:
"Caught between her job as a scientist and her magical nature, Talia struggles to warn her people without revealing her source of information while trying to prove to the handsome Major Sutton that she is not a traitor to the crown."
Tip #4:
Feel free to add a hook. This all depends on what type of pitch you are working on, but really all pitches should be a/the hook.

"The arrival of the invading force makes one thing desperately clear--science cannot save them and magic is now their only hope."

Here is the complete pitch which weighs in at just 99 words:
Sendek is a world rich with a magical heritage the people have forgotten in favor of science and technology, but Talia Shannon's prophetic dreams foretell an invasion by scaled humanoids. Caught between her job as a scientist and her magical nature, Talia struggles to warn her people without revealing her source of information while trying to prove to the handsome Major Sutton that she is not a traitor to the crown.

The arrival of the invading force makes one thing desperately clear--science cannot save them and magic is now their only hope.
Now it's your turn. Send your 100 word pitches to charity.bradford@gmail.com, I'll post them here this week and everyone can help you streamline and polish it. 
Then it will be up to you to practice on the people you meet.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

#2 Fight Scene-Sendek

Title: Sendek
Genre: Science Fantasy

Talia hid her face in her hands and didn’t see the Draguman run towards her, but Landry did. He shoved her out of the way and met the mass of muscles and scales head on. Talia scrambled out of their way, watching helplessly as their hands locked around each other’s throat in a death grip.

It would only be a matter of time before one of them lost consciousness, and there was little hope Landry would come out on top. Talia searched the ground for something she could use as a weapon. All she found was Landry’s flashlight.

It felt heavy and solid in her hands as she tightened her grip and approached the Draguman from behind. She raised it high and brought it crashing down on the green head with all her strength. A satisfying crack, vibrated through up her arms, rattling her teeth, but her relief was short lived as the flashlight shattered in her hands. The Draguman let go of Landry and turned its attention to Talia.

The moons’ light flashed off its eyes, paralyzing Talia. It reached out with large hands, grasped her shoulders, and flung her against the cliff face.

The air rushed out of Talia’s lungs and her back shredded as she slid down the rock to rest on the ground. Her eyes watered and she panted for air. A sharp pain in her chest dulled the ache in her back. The tips of her fingers tingled and sparkles danced at the edge of her vision, but she could see the blurry form stalk toward her.

Talia willed her muscles to move as she struggled to suck in more air, but her body was spent and there were no reserves to pull from. She watched death approach and wondered that it was different than her dreams.

The Draguman reached down, wrapped its hand around Talia’s neck, and pulled her to her feet. Sharp talons pierced the sides of her neck. As her feet left the ground, Talia grabbed hold of the arm holding her, She tried to wiggle her fingers between the vice-like grip to get some air. Her heart raced and she found herself counting each beat.

How many do I have left? The roar of the waterfall faded to the background.

A great weight fell from above, knocking Talia to the ground once more. The Draguman was jerked away by Jewel. Talia watched the blurry form of Jewel pin the Draguman down with her strong back legs and then slice upward with her front talons. The Draguman’s scales sloughed off easily and when Jewel brought the clawed front leg to her mouth, something dangled from it. Long and white, the coiled intestines uncurled as she slurped them down. Jewel paused, part of the entrails caught in her teeth. She popped her head upward and the stringy material bounced, landing in her mouth. No one should die that way.

Talia’s stomach churned as the smell of warm blood washed over her. She tried to stand, but found it harder to breathe with each move she made. The darkness closed in and she no longer fought it back. Before losing consciousness, she felt Landry’s arms slip around her and the comforting presence of his mind.

“I’m sorry.”

#1 Fight Scene-Of Oak & Dragons

Title: Of Oak & Dragons
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
A gang threatens a defenseless woman. Alone and without visible weapons, Leah tries to dissuade them from confrontation. For their own welfare. Because she is lethal and they will die if she allows the rapier to control her actions in combat.

They laughed and I felt a chill. The leader took a step closer. I could smell his body; hear his heart, his breathing. His thoughts…

…and my essence expanded in a concentric circle, encompassing everything within the area…

Five adversaries, one close, his left arm in front, hand extends…all the others freeze in stasis…side step easily…check the others…turn back, fling assailant away. He falls into a rocky protuberance, unable to deflect his fall, his face smears with blood…spits out bits of white…stand away, glance at slower figures, back to man. Now he stands, wipes his mouth, and emits guttural curses. He pulls knife from pocket…crouches and lunges…

….glitter of gold and black….swing arm…must allow man to live…must allow to live…

The world rushed back to me, whirling into my body like a miniature maelstrom. In a moment of time, the briefest mote of time, I saw the other thugs at the edge of the clearing, their eyes wide and staring, utterly still in shock.

My arm is raised high and holding the long elegant rapier, the gold flashing in the sun.

The man who would not back down because his gang would see his cowardice stood with a bemused look on his face. His arm ended just above his elbow spurting blood, the hand - still clasping the knife - on the ground, detached from his body.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Outlines and Plotters and Arcs, Oh My

Looking for Fight Scenes this week. Email scenes of 250 – 300 word count from your MS (with a lead-in) to beccoff(at)nwmo(dot)net. Readers want authenticity and realism without minutiae bogging the story down.

How do you visualize your storyline? Or to put it succinctly, how do you write and plot to the whizz-bang ending?

Plotters and Pantsers or the Organized vs the Muse Method

Plotters are organized. They know where their characters are headed and how to get there. Maybe they don’t have every detail reasoned out but they have a grand plan with outlines and post-its.

Muse takes the wheel for Pantsers. They sit down not knowing where the gods of creativity will lead them. All they need is quiet time, a keyboard, and maybe a little music to coast along. Mood plays a large part in their storyline.

Arcs are a combination of both, plotting and muse. To do arcs, write the MC’s name on left side of the page. Draw an arc across the paper to the other side. The ending point at the right is the conclusion of your MS. In the middle of this arc, place an X to signify the Inciting Incident, or the point where an event changes the character’s life forever. At this spot, there is no turning back for him/her.

In between, make smaller Xs to signify how the MC came to this point of no return. At each juncture, make smaller arcs to connect these storylines into a cohesive whole.

As the arc grows, add secondary characters with their own arcs. Look at them as growth patterns, how they change over the course of the book.

Sometimes the patterns change and go a different direction like a homemade crystal made of sugar or salt.

My personal method is somewhat convoluted. I draw, use arrows and circles. Warning! This is a Gladiator spoiler:

Note that I circled the character’s names with the MC in the middle. Underneath each name are their personality traits and/or goals. Arrows lead to interaction with other names and relate how they interact.  In the lower right hand corner is the ending, how it all comes together.

Whether you hold the reins tight or drive by the seat of your pants, the story will evolve. The means is up to you.

Once again, I am looking for Fight Scenes this week, send 250-200 word excerpt with a lead-in to beccoff(at)nwmo(dot)net.

Tomorrow I will post one of my own for review.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Searching for Feedback?

Sometimes you need feedback on more than just the 250-500 words of your story at one time. Okay, we always need more feedback than just those few words, but lets face it, it's hard to get feedback.

If you're lucky, you've found one or two people that give you constructive criticism. It hurts, but you know they're right so you revise and polish. But how many times can you give the same story to the same people? At what point do they know your story as well as you and so miss certain flaws because they are no longer depending on the words in front of them?

For the last two months I've been taking advantage of a great (free) site. I know there are lots out there and you just need to find the one you are comfortable with. After trying several different sites, I've settled down at YouWriteOn.com.

Here's why in the order of importance to me:
 1. The YouWriteOn Top Ten Chart writers as listed on the first of each month will be read exclusively and receive feedback from editors from Random House & Orion who publish some of the world's bestselling authors, including John Grisham, Bill Bryson & Ian Rankin. Over YouWriteOn's history, members who have developed their writing on site have achieved book deals with Random House, Orion, Penguin and Harper Collins.

That was actually all the reasoning I needed. But here are a few things I've learned and enjoyed since joining the site.

2. You move up the chart based on your dedication to hard work. If willing to read and give honest reviews of other members stories you earn credits to assign to your own stories.

If I can't review for a week or two, I don't feel guilty for being absent. When I return I can review and get as many credits as I have time to put into the process.

3. Most of the reviews I've received have been helpful and thought provoking.

This is a website of writers. They may be in different stages of their writing, but they know something about how to write good stories. They catch things I've missed. They ask questions that in answering help strengthen my story.

It's kind of hard to ignore ten complete strangers who say X doesn't work.

And, here's another option for some great feedback. Janice Hardy, author of the Shifter series has a weekly Real Life Diagnostics post on her blog. She has three in her queue right now, so it's a good time to sign up. Click here if you want to read her review of one of my story openers.