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

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Time to Vote on the 1000 Words Blogfest!

First off, thank you to everyone who participated in our first blogfest here at Unicorn Bell. The quality of the entries was amazing, and it was very hard to narrow the field down to our top four choices. If you haven't had a chance to read all of them click HERE for the linky to all of them. Update: Mr. Linky disappeared! Silly thing. If you participated, can you please leave a link in the comments to the actual blogfest post so people can find you? Thanks!

Now, we loved so many of the stories, but we had to narrow down the field to a workable number for voting. After some discussion we narrowed it down to four plus one. That's right! I loved one so much I decided to add it in for voting.

I can't share how the other judges picked there favorites, but I chose the ones I connected with on some level. The ones that I kept thinking about. They might not have been the most perfect, but the story was so compelling for me that I didn't notice any flaws.
This was SOOOO hard!

Okay, our top five choices in no particular order:
Alicia C at Saffron Wine for The Tree House Tea
Misty Waters at Writer's Block
Aldrea Alien at Thardrandian Thoughts
Tyrean's Writing Spot for The Identity Crisis of Captain Wrath
Julie Dao from Silver Lining

Because of the Subjective nature of things we couldn't agree exactly on the top four. So, here are some personal favorites that deserve an--
Honorable mention:
Colin Smith the Precious Reward
Justin Parente at In My Write Mind
1000th Monkey for her dark trip into the Woods

Please visit these entries, read them and then come back to vote in the sidebar by 7PM on Saturday (US Easter Standard Time). The winner will get to choose between a first chapter critique or an Amazon gift card.

We will announce and contact the winner on Sunday.

Since Mr. Linky disappeared, here are the other links.
Tara Tyler The Guardian Tree
Tracy Jo The Unknown
Donna Hole
Brooke Busse Show Me Your Fangs
Angela Brown Fallen
Beth Fred Lost
Rek The Dance: New Beginnings
Stu sharp
Sheena-kay The Spider King's Mistress
Elaine Smith Adain, Down
Greg Hamblin

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Picture Paints 1000 Words Blogfest

Today's the day! I can't wait to make the rounds and see what picture you chose and what story you came up with. Hopefully, I'll get mine up in the next hour. I'm such a procrastinator. :)
1. Sign up in Mr. Linky below.
2. Tell your friends any way you want and send them over to sign up for the party.
3. Choose a picture to inspire your short story (the story can be about what you see in the picture, or just something that it sparked in your imagination.)
4. On Monday-Wednesday (March 26-28), post your story of 1000 words or less and go around to visit the other participants. You may want to post early, see below.
5. The four of us at UB will do the same and pick our four favorites to post links to on Wednesday night.
6. On Thursday you get to read the four and vote for your favorite.
7. The winner will be announced on Friday. This winner will have a choice between a first chapter critique from those of us at UB, or a $20 gift card to Amazon (courtesy of me).

And now, the pictures. I found the first half on Fantasy Art Design, the rest were on my computer in the sample pictures.
CD, Marcy, Jeff and I can play, but will not be in the running for prizes. :)

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hunger Games, Genre, and Confusion

As most of our followers know, the movie version of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games opens in theaters today. If you haven't read the book, you are missing out on a helluva roller coaster ride.

My confusion stems from the book’s genre. 

In my opinion, the genre doesn’t fit. Yes, the age of the MC is correct for YA. But the Voice? 

IMO, ah, not so much.

Others would say the violence, teens killing teens on ‘reality TV’, is a point against the YA designation. But with so are many examples of drug use, explicit sex, and murder in other popular tomes, I don’t see this as an argument.

According to several agents, Voice is the key to whether a book is adult or YA. The MC in Hunger Games, Katniss, speaks in adult tone and manner and therefore the book is not YA. What do you think?

I’ll see Hunger Games next week after the crowds thin out a bit. One thing I’m curious about is how it made the transition from page to screen. The books were *sigh* fantastic but after a director gets a hold of a book and the screenwriter and the producer and the actors, well, boy howdy things can go downhill fast. 

Twilight is an excellent example of this kind of face plant. I loved the books. No. That is too ordinary. I lived and breathed those books. Yes I realize as a debut author, Ms. Meyer’s writing was not all it could be. Which she acknowledged. But I never skipped pages/paragraphs as I do with nearly all books. I read every word. Several times. Actually double digits even.

But the movies. *groan* Horrible acting combined with a stumbling script equals Cee R A Pee.

The Harry Potter movies are the other extreme. Great acting. Excellent direction. 

And Holy Cannoli, could you find anyone other than Alan Rickman to play Snape? I tell ya, he shoulda received an Oscar nomination for his performance.

My question to our followers who have read Hunger Games:
Is it YA? Or adult? Are you going to see it? 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gutting a Sentence

“The vole was huddled in frozen terror under the crumbling bark of a fallen tree.”

How would you re-write this sentence composed three years ago in another life?

My snarky answer: Since ‘huddle’ implies fright, why add ‘frozen terror’? Sounds like an echo to me. The same is true of ‘crumbling bark’ and ‘fallen tree’. The tree is down so the bark isn’t in good shape. Why repeat it? And what's with the double verb? Dump 'to be' verbs whenever possible.

Editing version of the above sentence:

The vole huddled under the fallen tree. Silent.

Later, on the same page or paragraph, I’d repeat the ‘beat’ of this sentence followed by a single, fragmented word to increase the tension.

By the way, every one makes mistakes. Even uber agents.

This agent's blog: "...they will only 'except an' ms or query from an agent..."
*snicker* Okay, I shouldn't laugh. But....

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Too Many Words Spoil the Message

When I critique another’s chapters, I leave comments such as ‘use simple verbs, simple nouns’.

My reasoning is clear. Keep the message simple so the reader isn’t looking through a mesh of adverbs and adjectives. 

This is especially important on the first page.

Look at it this way. You are introducing me to a stranger. I know nothing about this person and it is up to you to tell me without overburdening me  with unnecessary detail. I’m already in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by tension from unknown sources. Don’t flood me with information.

At this time, Voice is more important than descriptions.

Avoid the wishy-washy phrases such as “The car seemed to drift to the right” “People tend to say the stupidest things when confronted by a moose” and “Cotton fabric sort of wicks the moisture away”. Either they do or they don’t. Take a stand, dang it.

Another no-no is flamboyant phrases that Explain Too Much.

How would you re-write this sentence?
“The vole was huddled in frozen terror under the crumbling bark of a fallen tree.”

The rules to that all-important first page:
  • Simple nouns
  • Simple verbs
  • Voice as opposed to Descriptions 

Now go forth and show me your edit.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Our Brains and First Drafts


First drafts are meant for no eyes but your own your eyes only. It shows your brain’s progress. It highlights a secret process;  It shows how your brain works.

I can’t know for sure know about you but I for darn sure don’t want anyone to see in that.  I prefer to keep this process to myself.

The My first draft is messy, full of redundancy, thinking out loud, and falling-down-two-flights-of-stairs onto a concrete floor awful. 


Then along comes Second Draft.

I make deep cuts; edit out the shitty crappy poor grammar, the echoes, and all unnecessary words that do not contribute. Words that bubble out of my brainpan do not necessarily flow as well on the page.

Because my first drafts were so shitty crappy bad and the edits extensive, I wondered if I was alone wrestling the story my brain was putting out into a coherent tale.

Enter two books 

Writing Tools 
by Roy Peter Clark 


On Writing by Stephen King.

Both show the authors' first drafts and then their edited versions with strikeouts and re-writes. One of Mr. King’s comments struck a chord. He said this process is true even for ‘professional writers’, following the roller coaster ride that is your brain.

Like life, it can get untidy, this editing process. Don’t get discouraged.

Birth can get is messy. Creating a story is no exception.


Friday, March 16, 2012

A Picture Paints 1000 Words Blogfest

And because this looks like fun and there are lots of intriguing pictures from which to choose from, I hope you'll consider signing up for our first ever blogfest. I'll be posting my entry on my blog on Monday the 26th but it goes without saying I'm not eligible for the grand prize of either a first chapter critique by those of us at Unicorn Bell or a $20 gift certificate to Amazon courtesy of Charity. So go on, sign up, what have you got to lose? Oh, and just in case you were wondering, I chose the above pic to spark my story. Now to cut those last 61 pesky words...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

first chapter - Thinking of You

Today we have the first chapter of Brooke Busse's novel, THINKING OF YOU. She'd like to specifically know whether the reader is confused or wants to read more. My comments will be in purple and please add yours below. Oh, and yesterday's genre was YA - Post apocolyptic :)

Question: Are you confused or do you want to read more?

Chapter One: We’re In
The Enclosure stood solitary and alone. (solitary and alone pretty much mean the same thing. What I might say is this: The Enclosure stood alone on the plain.) Waving grass went on forever, broken only by the long road connecting the Enclosure to the rest of the world. A peaceful scene, but it left a nasty taste in my mouth.
Rebbsie. Look. Tasss voice broke through my concentration.
Her pointing finger indicated a delivery truck, the size of a small semi, puttering down the road. Most likely a food shipment. They were due for one.
My body reacted instantly, knowing the plan before I did. Ground flew under my feet as I ran. My legs stretched, the muscles pulling taut. It felt wonderful after squatting in the grass for so long. The wind felt cool and free against my skin. Strands of my dark hair flew in my face and I shook my head, trying to clear my field of vision. Without looking, I knew Tass was behind me just as, without me telling her, she knew what I was going to do. We were going to hitch a ride. And we couldn’t exactly ask for it.
The truck sped toward us. I could see the drivers face, every detail down to the zit on his chin. He was nothing but another young hot shot who took the job to have a car. His eyes hooded, he bobbed his head to the music blaring from his speakers. He hadn’t noticed me yet, but when he did, it was going to be a problem. Might as well solve it sooner rather than later. I launched a wave (a wave of what? A wave of thought? Intent? I wonder if you can define what is she's sending him?) at him, the pulse of it starting at the base of my skull. I couldnt hide myself, I wasnt a senses Trol, but I could do the next best thing. [Check out that jogger. Man, shes built. Must be from running around this huge ass field.] He peeled his eyes all the way open to stare at me. He was drooling too much to even notice Tass, the pig. My hand came up, fingers wiggling. With minds like his, it was easy to fit myself into a situation where I didnt belong.
The old engine revved, the vibrations pounding against my skin. Before the vehicle passed me and his face disappeared from sight, I caught his smile. Oh, how impressive he thought he was. I didn’t mind. He had done exactly what I wanted him to.
The surface under my feet turned hard and inflexible when I touched concrete. Breath rasped through my throat as I raced across the asphalt after the truck, waiting for my chance. It was all about timing. The vehicle slowed. Perhaps the driver thought that would help him locate me. I leaped, my trained legs propelling me beyond normal human heights.
My knees collided with the top of the metal container and I resisted the urge to curse, biting my lip. The landing was already too much noise. My neck swiveled, searching. Tass crouched beside me, her eyes shining from the adrenaline. We were so in sync, we jumped at the same time.
Reassured, I turned my attention to the cab. The music blared so loud the lyrics werent even recognizable as words. That meant nothing. The punk might have heard something. Another wave crawled forward, bouncing his thoughts back to me. [What was that? Should I pull over? Mr. Finley will kill me if Im late again.]
He would be doing all of us a favor. My teeth poked out when I smiled, the ragged edges rubbing against my lips. I suppressed a giggle. This was going to be easy. I sent him a new thought [I cant stop. It was probably just the music anyway. I dont know why I listen to this dumb shit.] and waited. We kept moving.
Splayed out against the carrier top, I watched the Enclosure grow taller. I craned my head back to see the reflective top. My tongue popped out and I wiggled it, showing the enemy that I didnt care one teensy bit. Youre a little bigger than me, so what? Okay, a lot bigger. What are you going to do about it? Nothing, because you cant move. I felt clever for a few seconds, basking in my victory. Then: Im bantering with a building. Lord, strike me from this Earth. On second thought, dont. I have things to get done.
The truck creaked to a halt and the music mercifully stopped. A guard stepped forward, gravel crunching under his boots. I could hear the murmur of voices as he spoke to the driver, but I paid no attention. I was more worried about being seen.
The world lurched beneath me and I slid sideways. I scrambled for purchase, trying to dig my nails into the unyielding metal. Tass grabbed my thigh. The truck stopped, its U-turn complete, to switch gears. The carrier maneuvered beneath me as my heart thumped away. A beeping noise split my ears as the driver switched into reverse.
Nice way to see that one coming, Tass grumbled, crawling up beside me.
“You could have made us handholds or something just as easily. Now, shh.”
I cautiously poked my head over the side. A man stood motionless beside the entrance, staring off into space. That made only two guards. I could take them both on a bad day.
The semi crawled backward inch by inch until it stopped a little shy of the Enclosures double doors. They swung open and I slunk forward, staying flat on my stomach. Tass moved alongside me like a shadow.
I stared into a huge storeroom. Shelves lined the walls from floor to ceiling. They sat packed with supplies, many for children. There were assorted junk foods and some candy, probably sugar free. There were clothes of all sizes, from newborns to fully grown adults, every garment white. I even saw a row of small teddy bears, their glass eyes dull and dusty.
That all faded into the background when I caught sight of the children. Chained together, they took materials from boxes and passed them along until they reached the end of the line, where another child scurried up and down a ladder, placing things where they went. No one looked up, their faces hid behind slumped shoulders. There were more than I was able to count in one glance. And this is only a fraction of the kids theyve taken.
Acid shot up my throat. I swallowed it back, my body quivering, disgust morphing into anger. Tass laid a light hand on my shoulder, so light we almost werent touching. I wrenched my eyes away. I needed to concentrate.
The path into the building was clear. Time to make my move. I swung my legs over the side and dropped. For two seconds I was in free fall then my feet made impact. A jolt went up to my knees, to my spine, to the roots of my teeth. It hurt, but I didn’t have time for pain, the guards stared. I quickly sent out a wave, letting my anger seep into it. [About time she got here. Just like her to try and get out of unloading.]
Their stares turned into dirty looks. I resisted flipping them off until they turned their attention back to the truck. A loud screech bounced off the storeroom’s walls as they opened the carrier. I glanced up and met Tass’s eyes. The guards were preoccupied with organizing lines to unload the new supplies. I nodded. She rose and slid one foot down onto the nearest door. Her eyes closed and she shivered. The metal expanded outward. It had always been a specialty of hers. She walked across her makeshift balance beam with the eloquence of a ballerina. When she reached the end, Tass returned the metal to its proper width with another shiver as the wave passed through her body. Then she carefully rose up on her toes and turned. Barely applying any pressure, she jumped, landing next to me, the door forming a barrier between her and the Enclosure’s workers. None of them noticed. A pleased smile split her face.
I huffed. “You’re such a Control freak.”
“Only when it comes to raw materials,” she said.
One of the children turned at the sound of our voices. A sort of dampness hung around him as if he had been rained on earlier in the day. Either an element or a weather Trol. He stood at the front of the line, a leader. His gaze swept over me, a spark of curiosity on his face. Then a strange look of recognition crossed his features and he grinned, his lip slipping up to reveal his top teeth. He took his box and turned back to the shelves, other children following him. His eyes stuck to me like glue, that smallest of smiles still in place. I smiled back. This is why Im here. They are why I’m here.
I strode through that room like I owned it. Confidence is key. If you dont act guilty, people wont think you are.
A door hid in the back. The doorknob was cold when I grabbed it. Cold and heartless like that place and the people who ran it. I turned and the door swung open. Dun, da da daa.
I stepped forward, Tass right behind me. We were in.

I think if you name what it is Rebbsie can do, maybe even describe it in one or two sentences, any confusion would be eliminated. And I definitely want to read on, find out why all those poor kids are chained together, what the enclosure is, and who Rebbsie and Tass are. 

What do you guys think? Were you confused? Interested?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

first chaper - My Protector: The Calling

Today we have another first chapter, this one from Hope Robertson's novel MY PROTECTOR: THE CALLING. My comments are in purple and I hope you'll all tell Hope what you think in the comments below. Also, what genre do you think this is? I'll be posting a third first chapter tomorrow.


Going to the river was forbidden. I knew this, yet it didn’t keep me from stepping off the gravel path or walking into the field. Why, I wonder? What is causing her to break the rules now? You don’t necessarily have to reveal any of that here but you should know the answer.
            My heart banged against my ribs. The space in my lungs folded in on itself. I sucked in a shallow breath, enough to nearly taste the crisp grass beneath my feet. I’d choose just one of these descriptions. All three is too much – imho.
Stop your feet, Eri.
The early moonlight sparkled off the few remaining patches of snow, and even it knew better than to dwell there. A gong sang out across the village, ringing through my insides. The warning bell.
Half way between the nearest cluster of cabins and the safety border, I glanced over my shoulder to find the dark smudges of people fleeing for refuge, their shouts dying across the distance growing between us. I should have turned back. But the charcoal sky and inky river invited me forward. I’d shorten this up because this should be a very tense scene. Maybe like this: I should have turned back. Behind me people were running, their shouts dying across the distance between us.
An overwhelming need tumbled and collided like the rapids crashing against rock. Conflicting thoughts swirled through my head and I reached up to steady myself, squeezing my eyes shut against the confusion. I pressed my hands over my ears, begging the pounding inside to leave me alone.  “Please stop, please stop, please stop, please stop, please stop—” Again, here too, I would cut words. Things are happening quickly here so make your words reflect the pace.
A current of adrenaline flooded my core. The blood tsunami in my veins propelled my legs faster, rushing through the forbidden, content (I'm not sure if 'content' is the right word here.) to ruin me. My brain searched for one sane thought, something to stop my muscles from carrying me out there.
Suicide. This is suicide.
Something broke through the tree line. Blurry with speed, eerily dark within the dusk, features impossible to decipher.
A blanket of anger draped over my world, muffling sound, wrapping me in rage.
Logic told me to turn and run for my life, but my feet rooted to the frosty ground, waiting for it. From somewhere deep inside the fibers of my being, I knew I belonged there.
I crouched into an aggressive stance. Knees bent, primed and eager to spring forward, waiting. Ready.
The nightmare sped toward me, instantly closing the gap. Moving more like water than animal, swift and fluid in the gloom, seconds separated us. I had to do something. I tried to let my senses guide me, to give way for the adrenaline and hatred to force me into motion. On the verge of running directly at it, my actions no longer mattered.
As if descending from flight, the beast crashed into the ground like a meteorite falling to Earth, digging an elongated hole, mounding the dirt around itself as it slid to a halt inches from where I stood. The creature’s head advanced, rolling past my earth covered feet, coming to rest somewhere behind me. From my last comment to this point, I’d cut the word count in half. Make this beginning scene tense and short. Then when this next part happens, we’ll be happy to take a little breather and learn more about this world and our mc. 
The evil we all feared lay before me. Dead. The most abhorrent thing ever. The it that only moments ago bared down on me with the sole intent of killing me and feeding on my flesh. Despite this revelation, fear did not fill me. Instead, I teetered on the brink of elation and curiosity.
Though I wasn’t sure why I was still alive, my eyes devoured every feature of the devil at my feet, relishing each detail: its enormity, the dark sheen of its hide, the absence of fur, four powerful legs, thin tail, and no wings though it seemed to fly a second ago. My brain starved for information, needed to fill the gaps from the stories before the evening light ran out.
I turned away from its body in search of the head and found the inside of its skull. Blood and gore held together by a ring of thick, leathery skin. Its eyes stared toward the village, away from my view. I stepped over the beast crater still deciding if I wanted to get a better look at the atrocity when I caught the whisper of movement. I was a little confused by what happened here…until I read on. I wonder if there’s a way to make it a little more clear?
Dread fluttered through me for the first time. I shrunk into a defensive crouch as a form emerged from the end of the beast.
“Are you all right?” the man asked.
I gawked, wide-eyed. In three long strides, he latched a hand on my arm.
“Are you okay?” he demanded.
A large presence towered before me, face angled down toward mine.
“Um, yeah,” I stammered, still piecing together what he was, where he came from, and why he was there.
The handles of his swords protruded from above his shoulders, out from behind his back. Sweat streaked his uncomprehending face. Blood covered the back of the hand gripping my elbow. His blue eyes pierced into my brain, probably trying to figure out why in the world I was out there.
I thought I was dreaming. It had to be a manifestation of distant memory and dreary dramas the grown-ups delivered at dark. The inexplicable spike of emotions, drawing me toward the place we were never to go. Watching the monster emerge from the obscurity of the trees, witnessing it fall to the ground, head sliced off by one of the Protectors.
He shook me with both hands. “What in the hell are you doing out here? Didn’t you hear the bell?” His tone grew harsher, eyes turning from concern to irritation.
I hadn’t noticed we were walking, more like marching, back toward the village. I tried to stop and turn back, but he held firm to my elbow, forcing me to jog along beside him in order to keep up with his long strides. Even then I lagged a little.
Merely following along in a stupor, I caught myself staring at him. I had seen him before. I think everyone noticed him. He embodied all myth and legend shrouding the secret guardians. Plenty of rumor and speculation circulated around who held the elusive title of Protector. No one knew for sure. The only people who could identify a Protector were the Protectors themselves. Only men could be Protectors, we knew that much, and they were not exactly like us. He belonged with the Protectors.
With the space stretching between us and the dead creature, his persistent rescue infuriated me. I wanted to go back there, relish in the moment a little longer. I needed it. Moreover, I wasn’t ready to face my parents. Wandering to the river after a warning bell wasn’t exactly a light infraction. It wasn’t like I forgot to collect firewood or ripped my one decent pair of pants. I could’ve died.
I tried my hardest to plant my feet in a futile attempt to stop walking, as if I could come remotely close to holding my own against him. I was about to throw my weight in the other direction when he wheeled on me. Here is where I might like some explanation as to why she’s behaving this way, why she’s defying the rules.
“Listen kid, you don’t belong out here! You know the rules. That beast could have mutilated you. It would’ve liked nothing more than to pick you up and take you back to his friends to have some fun with their little snack.” His face hovered inches from mine, his sneer mocking me. He leaned in close enough for his breath to heat my cheeks. “They do like to play with their food, you know.”
My head filled with images of the beasts tossing me around, from one to the other. Ripping little pieces of my flesh bit by bit, trying to make their snack last as long as possible. Until there was nothing left except blood on their snouts and uneatable scraps on the ground. Those details never made it into any of the stories I heard.
A faint chill shook my body. His sneer turned into a teeth-bearing smile. I stuck my chin out and tried again to head in the opposite direction of his handhold.
I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go back to see the slain creature, but his condescension challenged me. I was bent on going back there. Maybe it was curiosity, maybe I realized I might never get a chance to see one again. More than likely, if I ever came across one of the monsters, it would be right before it ate me.
“All right then.” He turned so swiftly it took me a second to figure out he led me in the direction I wanted to go.  
In less than ten forced strides, I smelled it clinging to the inside of my nose, tasted it in my mouth. Something akin to the scent of wet dog, mixed with the metallic smell of blood and fresh dirt. Thankful for my lack of a gag reflex, I swallowed hard against the stench saturating the night air as he held me over the mutilated predator.
“Have a good look, kid. Are you happy now?” He pulled me closer than I ever dreamt I’d get to a beheaded creature. “Is this what you wanted?”
I flinched, closing my eyes tight and tried to pull back.
“Look at it! Remember it,” he seethed.
I wiggled against him holding me less than a foot from the monster. I tried to control my feelings, knowing what would follow. It came anyway. He relinquished his iron clutch on my arm, I struggled to stand upright, staring at him as the tears spilled over my lashes. I turned, heading back home, hoping he wouldn’t follow, knowing I wasn’t that lucky.
I threw back my shoulders, telling myself over and over I wasn’t scared. Just because the dead thing back there barreled down with an intention to feed, I wasn’t scared. Just because a Protector sliced its head off so deftly I hadn’t even noticed his presence a nanosecond before the monster sank its teeth into me, I wasn’t scared. Just because I had broken the holy rule of our people by going out there in the dark, I wasn’t scared. And just because I was about to get hand-delivered to my parents by a Protector, whose identity would no longer be speculation because of my selfish actions, I was not scared.
He granted me a five step head start before following, never trying to catch up, although I knew he could have if he wanted to. At least he afforded me that dignity.
I longed for the hatred from earlier. Instead, the closer we got to my house, the dumber I felt. I swiped at the tears the best I could without making it obvious I still cried. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
The chill of the winter air seeped into my thick sweater by the time I made out the porch light burning next to my front door. The light grew brighter with each step, amplifying the guilt consuming me.
The scenario with my parents played out in my head. I heard their perturbed words, saw the disappointment on their faces, felt the embarrassment that was sure to come. It was going to be awful, humiliating because he would be witness to my shame.
I paused at the threshold of my house, wishing for something, anything, to keep me from having to enter. I reached for the handle, holding my breath, ready to face my punishment when my father pulled open the door and yanked me inside.
“Thank God!” my mother said as both parents engulfed me in their arms, smoothing my hair, grateful for my safe return after a warning bell. Their fears of losing me fell away with every thankful tear.
Wrapped in their devotion, I forgot about the man watching until he casually cleared his throat from behind us. My parents released their hold, staring back in shock at the stranger filling our doorway.
My nightmare continued.
It was my turn to explain where I was, what happened to me. “Umm, I heard the bell, umm,” I stammered, unsure how to start the story.
“I saw her running over by the main well.” He took over with his version of my rule breaking. “She was so terrified, and I was far from my home, so I took her with me as I ducked into the Chamber’s house—they’re friends of mine—until the safe bell rang.”
My mouth hung wide open as his words filled my parents’ ears.
He covered for me. Why?
I snapped my mouth shut when my parents shook his hand with grateful appreciation. Surely they would notice the blood on their hands after touching his. There wasn’t any. My eyes darted to his back for the telltale sword handles jutting up from his shoulders. They were missing as well.
What in the world? Had I dreamt it? Maybe he did grab me and pull me into safety where I bumped my head, knocked unconscious long enough to dream up the unimaginable evening. Maybe. I guess it could’ve happened.
As my parents turned to embrace me again, I saw the look in his eyes. I saw the expression from when sweat streaked his face and blood covered his hands.
It happened. I knew it was real. The steel in his eyes told me so. He must have ditched his weapons and cleaned himself up on the way back to my house. Somewhere along the way, while I bawled like a baby, he was busy de-Protectoring himself and figuring out what story to use on my parents.
Then it occurred to me. He didn’t do it to cover for me. It was necessary to conceal his identity as a Protector. I was the one who unearthed his secret. He was the only one who knew where I ventured to and what I witnessed. Interesting. Love this turn. You had me convinced she was in trouble but instead you’ve given her a secret. Nice.

My overall suggestion is to cut words. Especially in the first part when things are happening. Make the words reflect the pace. Skip the flowery prose/description. Use active verbs. The second part can move a little slower and have more information but I still think the word count could be reduced a bit by rearranging sentences. Now, as far as the story/character goes, I am definitely interested. I want to know why our mc is breaking the rules. Is this the first time or is she/he a habitual offender? I want to know more about the monsters, too. What exactly are they? And I want to know more about the Protectors and their role in this society. But most importantly, I want to know what’s going to happen next. 

Now, what do you guys think?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

First Chapter (part two)

Here's the second part of Donna Hole's first chapter from her novel  NOT HER MOTHER’S FATE. My comments are in purple and don't forget to tell Donna what you think in the comments below.

“Wow,” Amy muttered as the mysterious stranger sauntered away.  “Who’s that?”
“Robert Crane,” Joy said, rolling her eyes.  “You don’t remember him?”
Amy shook her head as she watched him moving through the crowd.  Not quite strutting, but with a sure stride.
“Well, he’s noticed you.  Told Brad you were a stone fox!”
Amy sneered her nose at the term.
“That’s a compliment, Amy.”  Cienna nudged Amy’s shoulder.  “Most girls would die to have the interest of a guy like that.  I wouldn’t be complaining if he’d just kissed me that way.” 
“Leave her alone,” Joy said, pushing Cienna out of clawing reach.  “Anyway, he doesn’t really fit in with Brad’s usual crowd, but Robert’s close friends with people Brad wants to get to know. ”  She shrugged as Robert glanced their direction.  “Cienna’s right about one thing though - he’s definitely too good looking to ignore.”
“Back off bitches!  I saw him first.” Cienna cursed, gave Amy an angry sniff, and strutted off towards her intended prey.
“Ignore her,” Joy yelled over a blast of steel guitars.  “I’ll see if Brad will get the music changed.  Something slow and sensuous.  Maybe he’ll find you a guy to nuzzle against.  Bet Robert would be willing.”
Amy rolled her eyes at Joy as she moved away.  Her gaze settled on Cienna, and she watched as the girl pushed and shoved her way through a group of rowdy young men with Robert at their center.  He was laughing and rubbing his lips as he talked, and Amy imagined Robert was bragging to the men about his stolen kiss, making up a story about how eagerly she’d responded, maybe even telling them she’d invited him to her bed later.  Her cheeks burned with anger.  Men!
The men whistled as Cienna grasped Robert around the neck, pulled him down for a long, passionate kiss.  She wrapped a bare, slender leg around his hip, and he straightened, bumping his groin into the exposed opening.  The beer he was holding dropped to the floor as his hands went instantly to her curvaceous hips.
Just another asshole looking for a quickie, Amy thought bitterly.  She bit her lower lip, trying to chew away the memory of his kiss and how unexpectedly comfortable his arms felt around her.  Somewhere she’d lost her own drink, and she turned away from Cienna’s triumph before it finished.
The kitchen was miraculously empty.  After mixing herself a drink, Amy eased her way through the throng around the keg and out the back.  The March air was chilly and damp, but felt good after the stuffiness of the party.  She could still hear and feel the throb of bass, but it was faint over the heavy thud of her own heartbeat. Finding an unoccupied corner in the dark, Amy sat on a low brick planter and listened to the sensuous moans of lovers as she sucked on the strong brandy drink. 
Why do I care who he makes out with?  Amy asked herself.  She worked grave yard at 7-11, and when she’d applied for the job a year ago, she thought she’d never get used to night work.  But when the manager had warned her the shift would effectively end any chance of future relationships, Amy had immediately signed on.  The job was exactly what she’d needed at the time.
The benefits of the forced solitude were wearing thin, however, as Amy watched more and more of their group pairing off, marrying or moving in together, having families.  Amy was beginning to see herself as a spinster, (this implies she sees being unmarried/unattached as a negative thing. Is that what you want? Just asking.) and she didn’t like that vision at all.  Tumultuous and abrupt as they were, at least Cienna had lovers.  She’d had several one-night-stands last as long as three days.  Joy was only two years older than Amy, but had already been married and divorced, and every so often, a new picture of her son would arrive in the mail. 
The last one came about a month ago, and after Joy cried herself out, she threw out her birth control pills and told Amy it was time for a new family.  Brad seemed more than willing to be caught in marriage, as he spent enough time at the house to be living here, though Amy doubted the ceremony would settle either of them down.  Still, it was Brad and Joy’s growing romance that put Amy in a lonely mood.  Disgruntled as she was, Amy knew there had to be a man out there somewhere that wouldn’t hurt her.
Her mind returned to Robert, and how quickly he’d fallen into Cienna’s clutches. She shook her head against the tears of betrayal that burned her eyes and took a large gulp of her drink.  It was just a kiss, Amy.  She licked her lips, remembering the soft feel of his lips on hers.  Amy heard a deep, sensual moan, and for a moment, thought it came from herself.  Then she realized the sound was getting heavier, drifting closer, and two shadows wiggled closer out of the dimly lit patio.
“Move off,” Amy yelled at the couple.
“Shit.”  The girls laughter joined the man’s curse as they stumbled off, straightening clothes as they went.
Amy was torn between disgust and amusement.  But the interruption served to remind her she didn’t really want a man who’d slept with Cienna.  Nobody turned down so direct an invitation, and she expected to see the two glued hip to hip the rest of the night. 
Hell with it, Amy told herself.  There were plenty of other men out there begging for a date with Amy, with kisses just as sweet.  She just had to let one get close enough to plant one on her.  Her bad luck with men couldn’t last forever; she was bound to do better the next time.  Women were always offering Amy dating advice, telling her how pretty she was, how appealing her shyness was. Amy didn’t see herself as pretty, and her shyness was self defense, not a ploy in sexual games.
Her 5’6 frame was willowy, and she moved with controlled grace. She’d learned at an early age that being pretty was a disadvantage when trying not to be noticed; either by her alcoholic father, teachers and social workers, or by boys who might bring on her father’s jealous temper. She had her mother’s small facial features, dark eyes, and naturally thin eyebrows. The shiny black hair was her father’s gift, and curse, as it invited men to viciously yank as well as to run rough fingers through. (too much telling here, imho.)Amy fingered the smooth braid and her lips curved in a tight smile. This is better because it shows her. See the difference?
Joy had nearly hyperventilated two years ago when Amy decided she was splurging on herself for her birthday with a trip to the beauty parlor.  Joy managed to talk her out of the pixie cut in favor of a long shag, but the blond highlights had been a hideous mistake.
When the glass was empty, and her shivering was more an effect of the cold than nervousness, she headed once again towards the house.  She had just stepped into the open garage door when she heard Robert addressing the crowd around the keg.  Amy nudged her way beside the glowing heater to warm her damp buns as she listened.
“Aw, who would ever want to leave Oroville?  Thirty miles up the mountain we have snow and forests.  The world’s largest earth filled dam looms in our back yard with the best boating and bass fishing around.”  He took a theatrical drag on his cigarette as he winked at Amy.  “Couple years ago, I sat on Montgomery Street and watched Richard Burton and Lee Marvin doing a shoot out for The Klansman.  In five years, or so the Chamber of Commerce tells us, every western movie out of Hollywood will be shot right here in our rock piles.”
“The Outlaw Josey Wales was filmed there,” a girl piped up from the floor.  The stereo had gone silent during Robert’s soap-box monologue, and didn’t restart right away, otherwise her nasal voice would have been lost in the noise.  “I saw Clint Eastwood leaving The Village Inn.  Got in a limo and drove off before I could get his autograph.”
A few people laughed at her, including a long haired man in tye-dyed shirt with a joint bouncing on his lip. “Ah, Dude!  It’s 1978; your five years is about up.  Only movie being shot here now is that trucker movie, BJ and The Bear.”
“That Kennworth is fuckin’ awesome,” Robert boasted.  “Me ’n Cal got a picture of us standing right under the logo on the door, the chimp hanging out the window.”   He inhaled deeply from his cigarette.  “California sunshine everywhere -”
“Fuck Red, haven’t you noticed?  Except for tonight its been raining for weeks.”
“Liquid sunshine, boys.  Just keeping the rolling hills green.”
Amy laughed with the others, and looked closely at the faces of his audience.  Cienna was nowhere in sight.  There were more men around the keg than women, and all seemed firmly attached to a guy.  When she looked back at Robert, he was staring at her.  She gave him what she hoped was a friendly smile, and wandered off to find Joy. 
Bolstered by the few minutes of solitude and alcohol, she danced with a couple guys of Brad’s choosing.   They were good looking and polite enough, even for stoners; but none of their arms felt as good as Robert’s had, nor any of the stolen, quick kisses as arousing.  Had he asked, Amy convinced herself she would have willingly danced with Robert.
She heard his voice, his laughter, frequently from the garage over the next hour, but he didn’t return to the front room.  Disappointed, Amy escaped to the sanctuary her room as soon as Joy was too high to notice the guest of honor’s disappearance.

I like this first chapter. The atmosphere feels like a real party although I do think it could be improved by more specific smells (beer, hard liquor?) and sounds (are there any specific songs playing? I heard a bass but that’s about it. Telling what song is playing or giving a better idea of how it sounds will help place the reader deeper in the scene.) I’m also interested in the characters that have been introduced. I have distinct feelings for some of them. I suspect that Amy and Robert will become involved, but I’m not sure. In fact, I’m not sure at all where this story is going but it doesn’t matter because the author has made me care about the characters. And I especially want to know more about Amy, see what she’s going to do next. This is a good beginning :)

Now, what do you guys think? 

oh, and the genre is women's fiction for those who were curious and tomorrow I have another first chapter for you all :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

First Chapter - Not her Mother's Fate (part one)

Last month I asked for your first chapters and I got more than than I could handle at the time! But because of the response I'm doing it again this month, starting with Donna Hole's first chapter from her novel  NOT HER MOTHER’S FATE. My comments are in purple and I hope you'll all tell Donna what you think in the comments below. Also, what genre do you think this is? I'll post the second half of this chapter tomorrow. 

Amy Thompson  pressed her back against the wall as another noisy group of drunken revelers stumbled their way towards the awaiting beer keg.  This was exactly the scene she envisioned when her roommates approached her with the idea of a birthday party.  On St Patricks Day, no less.
“Just a few friends, Sweetie,” Joy had cooed.  “No one turns twenty-one without a celebration, including you.”
The “few friends”  arrived with a few friends of their own, and before she knew it, the house was bulging with strangers.  Amy grunted in disgust as Todd and Arney stopped to lavish come-on lines and playful kisses to her roommates.
Amy didn’t mind being ignored by these men.  Regular visitors to the house, they knew Cienna (Is this another roommate? I wonder if she could say something after Joy, above. That way their names are linked and it’s more obvious that these are Amy’s roommates.) to be a sure bet for a good time - she spent a night alone by choice, and rarely.  Joy was friendly and outgoing; her relationships tended to last a few months at least.  She was currently involved with Todd’s roommate, but he’d made no secret he was willing to settle for one-night tryst.  But Amy was a challenge to get as much as a hello from.  Really love the voice but all these names made me go back to the beginning. Just sayin…
A chill breeze stirred the stuffy air as the front door banged open, and Todd and Arney pumped their fists in the air as a fresh keg was rolled into the crowd.
“Loosen up kiddo,” Arney chided as he made to swat Amy on the rear.
Amy scooted out of reach, sloshing a bit of her drink on Cienna.  Cienna shoved her away, and Arney grabbed Amy’s elbow to keep her from falling.
“Thanks,” she said with a lopsided grin.
“Must be your lucky night.” Arney winked, drawing Amy close enough to smell his aftershave beneath the beer breath.  She ducked away, and he scooted off with the rest of his sloshed friends. 
Nobody stood in one spot for long at Joy’s parties.
“Got anything besides disco and punk rock,” Amy asked as the stereo suddenly went dead.
“It’s your party, we’ll play anything you want.  Don’t tell anyone, but Brad has a couple Lynyrd Skynyrd records.  And I’m sure Danni left some Billy Joel and Elton John behind.”  Joy tugged at Amy’s long, black French braid.  “Don’t be a bore tonight, dear heart.  It wouldn’t kill you to dance with somebody.”
Amy crossed her arms against the subtle rebuke.  Joy had been dropping hints for  weeks that she thought it past time for Amy to rejoin the dating game.  Amy’s birthday was an excuse to shove her into “the realm of romantic possibilities,” as Joy had put it when she informed her reclusive friend of the pending festivities.  Amy’s consent, and cooperation, had been unnecessary.
“Beat it Stud,” Cienna ordered as a very handsome, very wobbly young man stumbled to a halt directly in front of Amy.  Cienna made a shooing motion, and he grinned and shambled away.
“Is he even old enough to be out this late,” Amy worried, watching the boy delve into a large cooler full of canned beer.
“Geek,” Cienna sneered.  “Only virgin in our graduating class.  Doesn’t look as if he became a man in the last year.”
As well rounded in hips, thighs, and breast as her worldly attitude, (this physical description feels a little awkward to me. Do we need it all right here or could there just be a partial description here?) it was easy for Amy to forget that Cienna was only nineteen.  Cienna had officially moved in five months ago for practical reasons; she spent so much time there anyway, she may as well contribute to rent and groceries. A relation of some sort to Danielle - Danni to her friends- who’d moved out when she married her high school sweet heart, she’d left Cienna behind much as a person leaves a useless piece of furniture that is in too good shape to throw away, but nobody wants. This was a little confusing: too many words I think. I counted 49. I wonder if this bit of back story is necessary here. Does it matter how they became roommates? If so maybe this bit might work better in chapter two. Just asking.
That was Joy’s way, taking in strays.  Three years ago, when they’d worked at the video store together, Amy had been a stray herself.  A runaway, homeless and hopeless.  Joy had taken her aside one day, draped a comforting arm around her shoulders, and invited Amy to move in without asking a single question about why she was washing her hair in the bathroom sink.  Desperation forced Amy to accept Joy’s offer, and she’d done so with every intention of leaving as soon as she could afford anywhere else on her own.
Joy had still not asked those questions, but occasionally, Amy had felt safe enough with the girl to volunteer some answers.
“Why don’t you take care of that for him Cienna?” Joy chided her tactless roommate, drawing Amy’s attention back to the present.
“Even I won’t touch a baby.”
“You were once a virgin.  Have you forgotten what innocence feels like?”
Cienna stuck her tongue out at Joy. 
Neither girl was paying any attention to Amy, and already she was planning her escape.  She spotted Brad slithering through the crowd, stopping here and there for a word or hand shake.  His eyes strayed constantly beyond whoever he was speaking to, as if he didn’t trust the revelers to have fun without his diligent attention.  Indeed, several people leaned close, as if to tell him a secret, and frequently, he was pulled from one group into another, his hands never far from the many zippered pockets of his pants.
“There he is,” Cienna said excitedly, adjusting her boobs in her push up bra.  She smoothed her hands down her too short, lace lined skirt, smacked her ruby red lips, and struck a seductive pose.
The room erupted in a roar of hoots and catcalls, and Amy followed everyone’s gaze towards the figure emerging from the gnat infested darkness at the front door.  A little short for a guy, Amy mused to herself.  Maybe 5’6, but a nice, stocky build, and shocking curly red hair that covered his ears.  A wide, amused grin split his full lips as he waved to the crowd, bowed at the waist, and blew a kiss to the room at large.
“What a show off,” Amy grumped.
“Yeah,” Joy and Cienna said together, sporting identical grins.
A smile slipped Amy’s guard as the redhead strolled through the milling crowd. Just as Brad had done a few minutes earlier, the new-comer also stopped to shake hands, punch a shoulder, kiss a girl on the cheek.  Several people held up a bottle of whiskey or cup of mixed drink for him to sample.  Others tried to entice him with a joint, pipe, or crude gestures at their noses.  Amy assumed those to be offers to sniff a line of something.  (I don’t think you need this line; it’s obvious what the gesture meant.) He accepted several drink offers, but laughed and firmly shook his head against the drugs.
A point in his favor, Amy thought, and instantly wondered why she was impressed.   It wasn’t like her to be interested in any man, at least not at first sight. 
The mystery intrigued her.
“Fuck this,” Cienna exclaimed impatiently.  “Robert!”
He looked up, around, and finally spotted Cienna’s waving arms.  He paused long enough to accept a can of beer from Brad, lean in close to say something that made Joy’s boyfriend roar with laughter, then he zig-zagged his way across the room.  Grinning, his green eyes glittering with mischief, he ignored Cienna, said “Hi,” to Joy as he handed her his unopened brew, squared his wide shoulders, and began to sing the birthday song.
Amy stared at him in stunned silence, her face heating, her toes and fingers going cold with embarrassment.  When he finished the second chorus - by then, the entire room was facing her direction, singing along- he grabbed her roughly, dipped her across his bended knee, and kissed her full on the lips. 
His arms were strong and steady as he held her, his lips warm and smooth.  His tongue did not invade her mouth, his teeth did not nip at her lip; yet his kiss had all the passion of a lover, full of intimacy and promise.  He kept his eyes closed as he pulled back slightly; his tongue continued to caress his bottom lip as if to savor the taste of her.
The room thundered with its approval.
“Happy birthday,” he whispered in her ear as he smoothly set her on her feet.  Then he smiled, winked, retrieved his beer, and moved off into the crowd, leaving Amy breathless, confused and slightly aroused.

 I like this. The atmosphere feels like a real party although I do think it could be improved by more specific smells (beer, hard liquor?) and sounds (are there any specific songs playing? I heard a bass but that’s about it. Telling what song is playing or giving a better idea of how it sounds will help place the reader deeper in the scene.) Love this last part. Definitely want to know who this brazen guy is. I'm not sure but I think I like him...

Now, what do you guys think?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Don't Give Up

It's been another fun week here for me at Unicorn Bell. The prompts you have come up with have been truly interesting. I'll have to think of some harder ones next time around, perhaps.

In the meantime, I leave you going into the weekend with some words of encouragement. Don't give up on your writing. Don't EVER give up. You could be much closer to accomplishing what you meant to set out to do. A little perseverance goes a long way. Only you have the power to lend your voice to a story that is truly yours. Every plot line has been used under the sun, but no one else can mimic your unique perspective. They'd fail if they did.

Keep fighting for your writing! Have a good weekend, and I'll see you next month. In the meantime, I've got a blog tour to get ready for. My fantasy novel, Spell of Entrapment, debuted last month in e-book format. I'm pleased to say that it's been an enjoyable debut thus far. So when I tell you not to give up, I hope you consider the fact that I've been on this writing journey for the past five years, and speak from personal experience.

Later all!