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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

On Your Mark, Get Set...

Okay, so who's jumped the gun on NaNo?

Right, you're all good. No one starts early. But I bet some of you have started thinking about it, right? Right?

Fess up. What sort of things have you started so that you can hit the ground running?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NaNo Advice

I'm betting that there are a few NaNo veterans among us. I'd like to pick your brains if you don't mind...

What is one piece of advice you'd give to a newbie NaNo participant this year? Anything you wish you'd known the first time you tried it?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


NaNo starts on Friday. (Insert dramatic music here.)

So, for those of you planning to partake...
  1. Do you outline your writing or do you make it up as you go along?
  2. Do you have a plan for November?
  3. What are you going to write about?  

Monday, October 28, 2013

It's Coming!

November starts on Friday. And we all know what that means...

National Novel Writing Month - Press Start

Are you going to do NaNo this year? Have you done NaNo in the past?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Taking Over the World

So how many would be ok with This Guy:

And This Guy:

Taking over and fixing things for us?

Yah. I'd be pretty fine with that.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Writing Exercises

Do 100 Leg lifts...


Not that type of exercise...Though those are good too. AND can help with the creativities!

In college I majored in Creative Writing. Which was good...and bad. Good because, believe it or not, I've used my creative writing skillZ many many times. I Nailed menu descriptions. I was the go-to gal when people wanted to come up with a great way to describe the new special. I was good with figuring out where descriptions on retail sites needed to be edited. Less is more people. Less is more.

*Bad because, well, yah..."So. What do you have for a degree?" "Well. I have a BA in English. Major in Creative Writing and a Minor in Anthropology. (Long story)." doesn't really get you TOO many jobs...*


The professor I had my last year in college was a HUGE Jack Kerouac fan, and therefore felt everything should be written in stream of consciousness. Hack. Gag. Blech. Lord Kill Me now.

So that's what I'm going to have you do now. HA!

Bear with me...

Because this does help focus you to the POV of your characters.


Think of the setting of your story/novel/scene.

Now. Set a timer for a half hour.

Now type until the timer goes off. Simply write description. That's all. Describe your setting. Everything. All the details you can think of.

When the timer goes off, reset it then think of your main character. Now write the same description from the point of view of that character. This isn't as simple as it may sound. You have to take into consideration what your character does.

For example. My mother hates it when I come to visit...because the first thing I do is give her crap about how overwhelmingly full of unused leftovers the fridge is. And the FUN times my dad and I have arguing about how to properly cook a turkey. It seems that since I AM a professionally trained chef he would just bow to my expertise...

Do you see what I'm getting at? Try to see things how your character would see them. And ONLY how your character would see them. Write the same description from their point of view. In their voice.

It's a challenge.

But a good one. And you may discover new things about your main character!

Or your setting...

What to Doooooooooo?

What does one do when one isn't allowed to sit at a computer and write?

Or watch Tv?

Or Read?

I mean really...you can only go for so many inspiring nature walks.

And you can only make so many Amazing Cakes!

Yah....I had nothing to do with this...
Luckily I stumbled upon these marvelous things called "podcasts".
Yes. I know they've been around since like the early 90's. But I always felt they were kinda like college radio gone rogue, so I never really got into them. 

So very wrong I was.

First of all I was led to THIS amazing place of AMAZINGNESS!

Go. Listen. That's all I'm going to say.

And then I got to thinking that, Huh. There's Probably podcasts concerning writing that I could be listening to! I'm BRILLIANT!
Then I learned how bad I am at searching for Podcasts. Newbie that I am. I could never quite figure out how to download them...so I would find the page. But then I couldn't find the Podcast...so I'd wander away.

I finally figured it out though, which entirely depends on the type of player you have or how you're streaming it. I, of course, managed to choose the way that requires you to type in the address of the podcast, longhand, rather then just be able to link to an rss feed. *tweak* YAY! Anyway...Long story short. 

My absolutely favorite one is one called Writing Excuses. It's fifteen minutes long, hysterical, packed full of useful information and one of the hosts is Brandon Sanderson!

There are several more that I've found...but then I found THIS blog post...

HUGELY HELPFUL BLOG POST FOR PODCASTS! (You can find Writing Excuses here...)

Which had 3 of the podcasts I had picked out. Like I said....I'm BRILLIANT! 

How does everyone feel about Podcasts? Are there any podcasts that you want to recommend? Any that you have found particularly helpful or fun?

Monday, October 21, 2013

A.D.D And Book Covers

For the past probably 2 months now I've been struggling with migraines/cluster headaches and getting my medications balanced out. Which sounds WAY more fun then it is...

Consequently, doctors orders... no more then 2 hours a day on the computer.

It's hell.

Writing is on 'hold'. Sure, I'm thinking out my story line, writing some long hand notes. But for the most part...gack! It's been interesting to say the least.

However. You do get to spend time THINKING when you're not allowed near 'tech'. So this weeks posts will be Randomosity, Stuff and Things from Inside Alicia's Brain!

Run. Run now.

One of the things I was thinking about was Book Covers.

Which started with an innocent conversation with Marcy about what her book cover might look like and how much input she has on that.

Color me naive, but I feel that writers should have more say in how the cover of their book looks. I mean, really. People shop with their eyes first...then they flip the book over (or open it up) and read the blurb, THEN they buy it. But if the cover doesn't grab you. You're screwed.

I'm still not sure how I feel about self-publishing, but those that do at least have the ability to create their own covers. Good or Bad. A quick search, for those that don't have the ability to do art all on your own computer *cough*me*cough*...shook this, um, interesting website loose.

Self Pub Book Covers

Part of my Brain went..."OMG! That's BRILLIANT!" Then the other part went..."So THAT'S where the publishers get those book covers! Ah HA!"  Sigh.

Then. On the other end of the spectrum we have, one of my favorite authors showing us how her publisher, Orbit Books puts together a book cover. Now, granted. I know less then nothing about this sort of computer program...but when I saw this I thought, "Huh. If it's that easy [for the people who work with these programs every day] WHY can't authors have more say in what goes on their covers?"

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's always been interesting to me that writers are so passive (or that's what it seems to me anyway) about their covers. Like they get published and then go, OH well! Oh hey! At least I got published! Oh, Are they putting a cat licking it's butt on the cover? Well...I like cats! Lots of people like cats! There's a cat on page 98 in my book so it ties in! Huzzah!

I admit. I am FAR far far (especially now that I can only write for a hour or two a week) from my publishing dream...but maybe it's time for a revolution! Time for writers to take back their covers! Time for writers to say to the publishers, NO! No more heaving bosoms! It's a Sci-Fi/Ninja/Thriller! Not a romance you twit!

Also. Check out this HYSTERICAL blog.  A Reader of Fictions. She does AMAZEBALLS snarks of covers. Which are hysterical. I already said that. But seriously. She also makes some really good points...in case you have anything to do with designing your own cover. Things to keep in mind.

What do you think about the book covers out there? Do you long for the old style, hand drawn art of yore? (Pick up any Anne McCaffery book on your shelf...) Or do you prefer the new style computer clip art? Also, how involved to YOU want to be in your cover design? 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Critting OUT OF TOUCH: take 2

OUT OF TOUCH is a Paranormal Mystery/Romance -- this is a revised version of what we saw on Monday.


I grew up in a suburban part of New York where there are Irish and then there is everyone else.  I'm half Irish on my dad's side and all Irish attitude.  My mom was born in New York, but is Swedish by bloodline. I am the only miracle they ever got.  However, the Fitzgeralds have been our next-door-neighbors since before I was born, and their house has always been filled to capacity.

The Fitzgerald house and my house are like night and day.  My house was a fairly humdrum place to live until my father was killed in the line of duty when I was six years old.  He was a cop.  After that, our house was anything but average.  If I wanted anything resembling normal, I went next door.  I became an adopted Fitzgerald by way of love.

My name is Greta Reilly, although I am better known in The Neighborhood as "Gigi." I was named after Greta Garbo, but back in kindergarten some pipsqueak named Kenny Ross started playing around with my name, Greta Garbo's name, her initials, and it somehow morphed into Gigi.  He started chanting "Gigi" repeatedly in a sing-song voice.  I got so mad that I don't know what happened, but all of a sudden Kenny was on the ground with blood spurting out his nose, and my fist was on fire.  My parents got a phone call, and I got a spanking from my dad that I will never forget.  Anyway, the name stuck and Kenny still avoids me.

My best friend is Franny Fitzgerald.  She is one year older than I am and has paved the way by doing everything first.  She claims it is her red hair that is responsible for all of the scrapes she finds herself in.   She says that if she were blonde, like me, she would live a much calmer life, and trouble wouldn't find her nearly so often. >>Most of the above can be worked into the end of the prologue -- whatever parts of this that don't get mentioned along the way. The most important bit is Kenny, so that you've got a nice repetition of events when she punches Bambi. IMO, your prologue starts with the next paragraph.<<

When we were kids, Saturday mornings were garage sale days.  We got there early because all the good stuff was gone by 7:30 a.m.  On this particular Saturday, I was seven years old.  Mrs. Patterson's house was our first stop.   We had chosen it for two reasons:  the merchandise and the gossip were known to be in abundance.  Mr. Patterson up and left Mrs. Patterson about a month ago and tongues were wagging.  Even though it was extremely early when we pulled up,  old Mrs. Kretsky was already here and pawing through the goods.   Mrs. Fitzgerald's eyes opened round as quarters when she saw the contents on the lawn.  There was so much there that we all gasped. >>there: where? garage sales in a central location? Mrs. F: add one sentence about who she is and why she's taking Gigi shopping.<<

Franny said, "Do you think there is anything left in the house?" >>My best friend Franny asked<<

Mrs. Fitzgerald didn't answer, but she couldn't get out of the car fast enough.  We bounded out after her. It appeared that the house had vomited up the sum of its contents all over the yard.  I had never seen so much furniture outside of a home.  It was fascinating.  I didn't have any money, but I still liked to look and touch.  It was when I picked up the ivy trimmed teacup that my entire life changed forever - and I can't say it was for the better. >>these big words don't really fit in with Gigi's usual voice, which is more casual.<<

I  saw Mr. Patterson drink from that teacup, clutch his throat, while his face turned a mean red, and then he pitched face forward into the table. He looked...dead. >>be more specific?<<

The cup slipped from my hands, I started screaming, and I tripped and fell into a wheelbarrow that was parked on the grass and marked with a "For Sale" sticker.  Then it happened again...

Mrs. Patterson was wheeling Mr. Patterson in the wheelbarrow across the backyard to the garage.  She took a shovel, dug a grave, put his body in it, and parked her Oldsmobile right on top.  Her car, right this minute, was sitting on top of Mr. Patterson.  Worse, I am sprawled where his dead body used to be.   I couldn't get out fast enough.  However, my brain and muscles were no longer working in tandem, so I just flailed around like a beached fish.  Mrs. Fitzgerald yanked me out and helped me to the car.

That's how it began.  I told Franny and her mom what I saw and felt when I touched the teacup and wheelbarrow (panic and satisfaction, respectively).   Mrs. Fitzgerald called in the tip on Mr. Patterson anonymously, just to see how accurate my "vision" was.  The next day the headline in the local newspaper read, 'WIFE BURIES HUSBAND UNDER CAR."   After that, Mrs. Fitzgerald swore me to secrecy.  I've never even told my mom I get visions.

Over the years, I've had more visions and they always take me by surprise like an unwanted guest.   I have spent my life avoiding objects that might have an emotional blueprint connected to them.  It has created friction between me and my grandma, who wants me to take over the family antique business, and has cost me friends, boyfriends, and jobs.  Franny calls it a gift, but she isn't afraid to touch.

Chapter One

After college I ran through jobs like most women go through panty hose.  My current job:  Brown and Bell, which is a small PR firm about ten miles outside of The Neighborhood, in Rockdale.  I've lasted almost six months, which is the longest I have worked anywhere.  Most important, when I reach my six month employment goal I will finally move out of my mother's house and into an apartment of my own. >>is this the official name of her hometown? it's a development, I guess? gated community?<<

I looked up and Roger Brown was standing over my desk.  My boss.  "Gigi, can I see you in my office please?"

"Of course," I replied.

We crossed through the desks and cubes until we got to his office.  I followed him in and he closed the door.  He settled into his chair, cleared his throat, while his eyes darted around the room, not quite knowing where to settle.  Mine focused on the floor at the foot of his desk. Something sparkly caught my eye when the sun bounced off of it.  It was a cufflink.  Diamond. I picked it up.  I was swamped with feelings of desperation and lust.  The vision unfolded revealing  Bambi half naked and Roger tearing off his clothes in an effort to catch up.  When he dropped the cufflink, the vision cleared like fog when the sun rises. >>much better, this explains a lot more<<

"....understand that Bambi is more qualified for the promotion," my boss summed up.

"Excuse me? You and Bambi get naked and I lose out on a promotion.  I don't see where that makes her more 'qualified.' At least not for this job," I snapped.

His eyes opened wide and then narrowed to slits. "Do you have any proof to back up your accusation?"

Proof?  Have any of my visions ever been wrong? No.  Never.  But, I cannot prove them by any standard methods, either.

"Unnnhh, no."

He relaxed back into his chair and looked at me like he had never seen me before.  He knew that I knew, but he didn't know how.  I watched his brain mentally calculate the risk.

"Let me guess," I said.  "I'm fired."

"You're fired," he echoed.

"Right.  I'll just pack up my stuff."

"Good idea.  I will give you twenty minutes to exit the building."

At my desk Bambi was waiting to share her victory.

"I imagine Mr. Brown just told you the good news," she chirped.

"Yes, he did," I chirped back.  "You are one lucky girl."  If she wanted that promotion badly enough that she was willing to do that for it, she could have it.

"Are you going to congratulate me?" she asked.

"You bet.  Congratulations, Bambi."  I grabbed my picture of the Fitzgerald family portrait from last Christmas and tossed it in the box with my I Love New York mug.   "Bye." I flicked her a wave. >>good edits, here<<

"You're leaving?" A look of incredulity crossed her face.  "You quit because of this?  You can't stand to lose, can you?" The smugness was infuriating.  It was Kenny all over again.  I could almost hear his singsong voice.  I don't remember anything after that.  The next thing I knew Bambi was holding her nose, my fist was on fire, and I had this sinking feeling that this was going to end a lot worse for me than a spanking from my father.

>>Better, IMO. How many times does the punch people out before she learns to manage conflict differently? :) <<

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Critting LOVE AND THE BARD: choreography

LOVE AND THE BARD, aka SHE FLIES WITH HER OWN WINGS from QueryCon. NA contemporary romance. 

As the squat little building that is the theater comes into view, I feel a huge smile spread across my face. The old fashioned marquee announces that The Sound of Music will be playing in July. Tonight is our first rehearsal, which always gives me butterflies in my stomach. Glancing at the clock on the dashboard, I am pleased to see that I am right on time as I get out of the car. I push open the lobby doors and rap the ticket counter with my knuckles lovingly as I walk by. This place is practically a second home. The well-worn carpet needs replacing, and the wood paneling on the walls hasn’t been in style for forty years, but I love it just the same.

Inside the theater, I can see Phil, our director, talking to a tall boy with dark hair. He must be in the cast, maybe one of Phil’s new finds. The house lights are down, but I can make out Roxy, our costumer, makeup artist, and music director. Her frizzy hair makes it easy to recognize her from behind, even with the lights down. I plop down next to her. >>careful: this one word gave me the assumption that Anna's significantly older than Coy. Also, I assumed Roxy was standing with Phil & Coy.<<

“Hello, darling,” she says, smiling widely at me as she reaches over to give me a squeeze around my shoulders. “Good day?”

I nod. “Yeah. I’m really excited about the show starting.”

“Me, too, of course. I’ve already started stockpiling costume pieces.” She grins at me, and I laugh. Phil and Roxy get into fights every show over how much money she spends on costumes. But the newspaper always mentions how wonderful the costumes are when they review our shows, so he really should get over it. After all, they’ve been working together for fifteen years. You’d think he’d be used to her extravagance by now.

Looking around, I can see that the cast is assembled on stage. Everyone comes to the first rehearsal, even people in the ensemble who don’t have any lines. Most of them are shuffling around nervously, but the old hands in the cast mingle easily. The rest of the crew sits down in the house seats. Lila, the set designer and choreographer, takes the other seat next to me, squeezing my knee to say hello. Lila is my best friend on the crew, and in real life, too. She is tall and willowy, with beautiful dark brown skin. If she wasn’t so snarky and down-to-earth, I’d probably be jealous of her for being gorgeous. Lila is beautiful; I am the short, plain one. Before I can ask her about her day, Phil stands up to give his opening spiel to the cast. >>I'd think the whole cast on the stage would be easy to spot -- why'd she have to look around? Also, when did Phil & Coy sit down?<<

“Welcome to The Sound of Music. Today’s rehearsal is a script read-through, and at nine o’clock we promise to let you go, unless you wear a costume in the show. In that case, you’ll need to stick around so Roxy can measure you,” he booms, in the overdramatic voice of one who has spent his life around a theater.

Everyone laughs at his joke, except me and Lila. We smile at each other and roll our eyes. Even though we don’t wear costumes, Phil will make us stay until everyone is done.

“We’ll start with crew introductions, and then it’s your turn,” he continues. “I’ll start. I’m Phil Davies, and I’ve directed for LCT for fifteen years. I have six toes on my right foot, and no, I won’t show you.” Everyone laughs at that, including Phil, but he abruptly pulls a straight face. “Seriously, though, I won’t. Not even if you pay me. And believe me, people have tried.” The cast is silent. Maybe they can’t tell yet if he’s being serious. I’m not sure, either, but I will definitely be paying a lot of attention to his feet for the next few weeks. >>since she's an old hand, wouldn't she know if he's kidding or not?<<

Phil moves on. “Alright, next is Anna, our backstage supervisor.  She’ll be the one ordering you around, so you better listen up. And her birthday was yesterday, so we’re going to sing to her!”

I blush furiously as I stand up and wave at everyone. I know they can barely see me, with the house lights down. It seems that Nick, the lighting guy, has realized this, too, because he heads back to his booth and flips them on. I blink a few times as my eyes get used to the light.

“Hi,” I say, trying to project my voice like Phil is always telling me to do. “I’m Anna Claysmith, and I work backstage. I’ll help you figure out when to come onstage, and what stuff to take with you. Um… Roxy likes me the best because I wear the same costume for every scene: black,” I say weakly. “And you really don’t have to sing to me-“

“How old are you?” one of the cast members yells from onstage.

I sigh. “Twenty.”  My birthday is always right around the time we start rehearsing for the summer show, and Phil always makes the cast sing to me. I think that he thinks he’s helping me get over my natural shyness. Three years later, it still isn’t working.

Phil stands up and conducts the cast and crew as they sing Happy Birthday to me. I try to sit back down during the song, but Lila puts her feet on my chair and swats at my rear as I attempt to cut my moment in the spotlight short. I glare furiously at her. She gives me her best fake-angelic smile.

After my public humiliation, the rest of the crew introductions fly by. I have worked with LCT for three years, and Lila and I are the newest crew members. I already know everyone here. So I don’t pay that much attention as everyone else says his or her piece. I’m waiting for Phil to ask the cast members to start their introductions, when I hear the swing and thunk of a chair folding up behind me. Looking over my shoulder, I see a guy standing up, waving to the cast. I didn’t know we were getting a new addition to the crew. It’s the guy Phil was talking to earlier, who I assumed was in the cast. Who is he?

Mystery Guy clears his throat and says, “Hi, I’m Coy, and I’m from Illinois.” Everyone cracks up at his rhyme. He smiles again, continuing with his introduction. “This is my first show on the crew here in Lydia. I was in one of Phil’s shows when I was seven.”  The smile gets wider, and he and Phil share a quick laugh. I wonder why.

Lila nudges me with her elbow. “This is great, right?” she whispers. “He’s cute.” I nod in agreement, not wanting to say anything and miss the rest of Coy’s introduction.

“I looked him up when I got here this summer, and luckily this show is so huge he wanted two backstage managers.  I’ll be helping Anna.He finishes and sits back down. >>my clunky edit here, you can do it better.<<

What? Phil never said anything to me about that. I turn around to say something to him, but he is already on his feet again, directing the cast to begin their introductions “and make it snappy, we’ve got a show to read.” I frown. What is this? Another backstage manager? I can handle a show this big by myself. Does Phil think I’m terrible at my job? Why has he kept me around for three years if he thinks I suck? I realize I’m holding my breath as these thoughts whiz around my head, and I try to let it out slowly. Lila notices and pats my arm reassuringly. I chew my nails in frustration. I want to give Phil a piece of my mind, but if I interrupt him now, he’ll bite my head off. I slide down in my seat and try to calm down. I know I should say hi to Coy, or something, but I’m too worked up.

The read-through begins, and I do my best to forget about Coy-from-Illinois as I begin carefully highlighting entrances and exits, underlining props, and counting the number of people onstage each scene. I have worked out an excellent organization system in my three years here, ever since I let Tiny Tim go onstage without his crutch during my first production of A Christmas Carol. I still wince when I think about that. But come on, that was three years ago! There’s no way Phil still remembers that! Then again, I do.

>>Appropriately, my main note here is: choreography. This is pretty good overall -- two thumbs up -- but there were a couple hitches in the flow. 

My other note is that the first sentence is kinda dull. How could you make spotting the theatre more emotional and intriguing? How miserable is Anna when she's not there?<<

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Critting THE PRINCESS OF TYRONE: world-building questions

I lay under the shrub, waiting, watching. I set the crossbow up and silently set the trigger. I ran my tongue over the blade of my dagger, clenched between my teeth, ready to slit the deer-like yuckah’s throat if I didn’t hit it right on target.

A young stag stepped into my line of vision. He sniffed the air and lowered his head to graze on the wiry grass. Carefully, I rested my finger over the trigger, and with a flick, the arrow released. The yuckah grunted and fell to the ground, bucking for a moment, before it fell limp.

“Perfect.” I stood, my dagger falling into my hand. I walked over, brushing off the dirt and leaves from my cotton shirt. >>Could you be clearer about the sequence of the dagger falling and her words... this sounds kinda dangerous, lol<<

I bent over and saw the buck release his dying breath. I rested my hand on his side, feeling the soft fur tingling with magic. “Thanks buddy.” >>personal peeve: when fantasy characters use modern parlance. <<

I wrapped a rope around his hind legs and slit his throat to bleed him. Tossing the rope over a branch, I pulled and pulled until it hung upside down. I rested a bowl under it to catch the blood now oozing from the slit in its throat. >>"him" or "it" - be consistent<<

I set up traps to ward off scavengers, and headed back to my kill from earlier. I poured the blood from the doe into a jar and brought my magic cart out from the bushes. The wood creaked as it slowly expanding to make enough room to carry both yuckah.

I dumped the doe in, setting the jar of blood beside her, and pulled my cart through the woods back to the stag.

As I approached, I saw a young wolf circling. I whipped out my revolver and fired to the right of it. It yelped and scurried away. “Bloody scavengers.” >>if "I" has a revolver, why did s/he use a bow?<<

But, I did take pity on it. A wolf on its own was a sad creature, so I sliced the yuckah’s belly open and left its stomach, liver and intestines for the wolf.

I hummed as I made my way back to the cottage. I enjoyed hunting. To hunt yuckah was a skill few people acquired, so it also brought in good money. Every day I felt grateful for Sophronia’s impatience with me as a twelve year old.

I’d spent almost an hour stomping up and down the stairs of the cottage, reciting my math homework, then my spelling, then the history of Mish, our planet. She grew fed up with me and marched out of her study, grabbing me by the ear. >>this needs a little more indication that we've slipped into the past<<

“I’m trying to work, Apolline!” she said angrily. “Your noise is driving me insane.”

She took me to the shed where a rifle and a crossbow sat on the table. I screamed and cried, begging her not to kill me.

“I’m not going to kill you, I’m not a sadist.”

“What’s a sadist?”

She groaned. “Pick up the gun.”

She proceeded to show me how to load and shoot it. It took me a couple of weeks to be good enough to actually hunt, and when she did take me out, I cried when I killed my first animal.

“It’s just a rabbit, Apolline,” she said, picking it up by the ears. “Toughen up.”

“But it’s so cute.”

“And it tastes good too. Now stop your sniveling.”

I forced my tears back with deep, quivering breaths.

“Better. Now, follow me so I can show you how to gut and skin it.”

I cried through the whole procedure, making her even more irritated with me.

Thinking back on it, I couldn’t help chuckling. Unlike Fantine and Ashlan, Sophronia had never been fond of me, so her thin patience lasted just long enough for me to get a taste for the hunt. I think her patience only lasted because she knew it meant she would get me out of her way.

I stepped though into the small clearing in front of the cottage. To my right, the shed sat with its doors still hung open from when I left. I pulled my cart in and dragged the doe onto my butchering table.

As I worked, the cottage door squeaked open, and slammed itself shut. “Apolline!”

Ashlan, the youngest of the three fairies, appeared at the door. Her long, blonde hair shone as she looked around the doorway, her brown eyes sparkling. But then she saw my bloodied hands. “Oh my.”

“Hello, Ashlan.”

“That’s horrible. Why must you do that?”

“They fetch a pretty kep, and I know how much you love new dresses.”

She rolled her eyes and pressed her hand against her hip. “Why don’t you buy yourself a dress? These pants and boots do nothing for you. You are pretty underneath all this… filth.”

She pinched my arm, and I slapped her away. She didn’t look much older than me, about twenty-five, but she certainly held the position of the most beautiful woman on the planet. With a petite frame, and long, thick eyelashes, she always caused trouble when she went into town. Although, no one even mentioned how she never seemed to age. She’d looked to be in her mid-twenties for as long as I could remember. >>this would seem to indicate that most of the population is human... but they don't hunt? really?<<

Mind you, no one wanted to bring up that they were fairies and end up having their memories wiped by Sophronia.

“Apolline, sweetie, why don’t you try doing something a little more lady-like once in a while?”

“Lady-like?” I said, cutting the doe’s chest cavity open and working to cut the heart free. “Everyone knows the queen of Tyrone hunts yuckah.”

“Yes, but she has servants to deal with them afterward.”

“Are you telling me she misses out on the best part?” I lifted the heart in front of her face and squeezed it, making blood ooze down my arm. >>People don't talk about things they both already know -- don't fall into the bad-TV-dialogue trap. You've already established that Apolline isn't interested in girly things with the previous exchange. I'd cut this dialogue and get right to the next part.<<

“Urgh.” She scrunched her nose. “Sophronia wants to see you.”

“What for?” I asked as I set the heart in a jar for Fantine.

“She wants you to go into town to buy some supplies.”

I stepped out and turned on the hose to wash my hands. “Lucky I killed two yuckah today, isn’t it?”

“Just hurry. You know how impatient with you she is.” She turned on her heel and skipped into the house.

Nothing seemed to faze Ashlan. She lived with her head in the clouds. I shook my head and smiled as I wiped my hands. I knew raising me hadn’t been the plan. They told me they found me one night when I was a baby, and Fantine and Ashlan fell in love. Sophronia only agreed to keep me so she could study human growth patterns.

I entered the cottage, smelling the strange scent of Fantine brewing something, probably a new experiment since the odor wasn’t familiar. I climbed the stairs and made my way down the hall to Sophronia’s office. I lifted my hand to knock.

“What took you so long?”

I lowered my fist and opened the door at the sound of her voice. “I had to wash up.”

“Mmm.” She already looked uninterested in me. She turned and looked at the large bookshelf across the wall behind her desk. All kinds of strange things rested on the shelves. Pieces of magical creatures, skeletons, magically enhanced technology, boxes full of data chips and of course, books. The room in general felt dark and sterile, especially since she kept the drapes pulled closed. “I need you to pick up some things for me in town.”

She slid a piece of notepaper across the desk for me. I plucked it up. “It looks like you’re making a dress.”

“Mmm. Your birthday is coming up.”

I huffed. “I don’t need a dress. Who wears dresses out here anyway? Plus, since when do you make dresses, or anything for that matter?”

Her green eyes turned to me as her brow slowly rose. “Apolline.”

“I don’t want a—”

She lifted her hand and snapped it shut. My mouth sealed closed.

“This dress is for your twenty-first birthday. You know that means you will meet your betrothed, so we need you to look presentable… for once.” She tossed a purse of miroans across the table at me. “This should be enough.” >>You insinuated that Apolline looks 25, earlier...?<<

She twirled her finger, making me spin and marched out the door. The door slammed behind me and I growled. “I hate it when you do that!”

“Hurry up. You need to be home before dark.”

I growled again, crushing the paper.

>>Overall, this is a fair start. I've got some world-building worries, though. So far, I know this world has bows, deer with a random new name but rabbits are rabbits, magically adjustable carts, pistols, rifles, fairies, humans, and casual magic. Is someone going to pull out an iPhone? If a yuckah is exactly like a deer, why isn't it a deer? 

Personally, I've always wondered why a world that has casual magic would need scientific technology at all. But that's a side note -- this first segment could use a little more clarity w/r/t the setting. You don't devote many words to setting the scene or describing anybody. Which is a delicate balancing act, true, just IMO this could do with some more.<<

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Critting GERALD AND THE AMULET OF ZONRACH: language and POV questions

GERALD AND THE AMULET OF ZONRACH is an Upper MG Humorous Fantasy, and this scene appears in the first half of the story. Gerald and Colin have just left a meeting with the high wizards of Sendora at this point.

Gerald led the way as they exited the courtyard and headed off down the main thoroughfare.  The road was dimly lit, for ambience apparently, and the higher class citizens of Sendora strolled down the avenue enjoying the warm evening, unaware of the momentous events occurring around them.  Gerald and Colin reached the stables without incurring so much as a second glance from the aristocracy during their short journey, which miffed Gerald as he thought wizards as important as they ought to receive at least a nod of polite recognition from the normal people. >>I'm assuming you explained earlier how lighting is controlled outdoors?<<

He quickly scanned the yard to ensure his father had not decided to do a double shift and was pleased to see all was quiet.  Their cart stood in the corner of the dimly lit stables.  He placed the amulet into the chest, hiding it in the folds of his spare robes.  As he closed the lid, he caught sight of a sack next to the chest.

He heard Colin gasp as the bundle moved and Gerald’s heart lifted with joy when he realized it was definitely his precious cargo.  Gerald could hardly contain his excitement as he climbed into the cart and, with an unexpected reverence, began to loosen the rope securing the top.  He gently unwound the coils holding the mouth of the sack firmly closed... >>unexpected by who?<<

“I wouldn’t if I were you,” said Colin, “I saw it move.  There could be something dangerous in there.”

“Nah... it’s fine,” said Gerald, continuing to unwind the rope.  He threw it behind him and peeked into the opening, and with a squeak of glee, snapped it shut.  He couldn’t believe his eyes, it was here he actually had a... >>be more specific<<

“Dragon!” shouted Colin as a reptilian head pushed its way through the folds of the sack.

“I know!  Isn’t it wonderful?”

“But... it’s a dragon.”

“I know, stop repeating yourself,” said Gerald looking into the eyes of his new acquisition.>>this is awkwardly worded<<

“But it’s...”

“I know...”

“Illegal!” said Colin, “It’s illegal to own a dragon outside the high king’s court.  I was going to say, Gerald.”

“It’s only a baby,” said Gerald as the dragon pushed its way out of the sack and leaned over him.  “Errrm... It’s quite big for a baby, though.”

Gerald continued to look into the dragon’s eyes with awe.  It must be as big as a full grown deer hound, he thought, Wow!

“What are we going to call it?”

“Call it?” squeaked Colin. “We have to get rid of it before someone sees it.  If we get caught with this, we’ll never see the light of day again.”


“You know I’m not your father Colin,” said Gerald turning to Colin with a bemused look on his face.

“I know you’re not.  What are you talking about?”

Gerald gave Colin another quizzical look then turned back to his new pet.


Gerald’s head snapped round.  “Look, will you stop calling me daddy.  It is getting a bit worrying, have you been at the wine again?”

“You know I don’t drink and I haven’t said a word.  What’s wrong with you?”

“You can’t tell me you didn’t hear that,” said Gerald looking Colin in the eye.  “Someone definitely shouted daddy.”

He nearly jumped out of his robes when a cool, hard snout rubbed against his ear... Dadeeee... He looked round to see two huge watery eyes staring down at him, inches from his face.

“I think it’s coming from the dragon,” whispered Gerald.  “Can’t you hear it?”

“No.  If it is, then it’s communicating through its mind.  Dragons can’t formulate words with their vocal chords.”

“So why is it saying daddy to me?”

“See if there is any kind of shell in the sack,” said Colin.  “If there is it may have only just hatched and you’re the first thing it’s seen.”

Gerald felt around the base of the sack and felt a large, curved, hard object.  Watching the dragon carefully, he put his arm inside and grabbed a piece.  When he drew it out, he was faced with part of a smooth hard shell. >>find some better nouns for that<<

“Wow... that egg must have been huge.  Look at the size of him,” said Gerald.

“It seems about right for this species, so I’ve read,” said Colin thoughtfully.  “He’s about the size of a deer hound at hatching.  He’s dark green with black edges to his scales. Hmm... which would make him a...” >>note: I have no idea how big a deer hound is. Can anyone enlighten me?<<


“A Black Forest Shorthorn.  Looking at his size, it correlates with what I have read about them.”

“How do you know all this?” said Gerald.  “It’s not as if there’s a whole library section anywhere dealing with dragons.”

“There is.”

“Oh? Are you sure?” said Gerald.

“Of course I’m sure.  Where do you think I go to obtain all my books?”

“I dunno, same place I do I suppose.  Little chap in the market.  He always has a few publications worth reading.”

“You can’t learn about wizarding by reading comics and buying dodgy spells Gerald,” said Colin with a sigh.

“Can’t you?  Anyway, enough of this.  What about the dragon?  Why is he calling me daddy?”

“Probably because you’re the first thing it saw when its head popped out of the sack.”

“Oooh I’m a father, it’s such a wonderful feeling.  Can I teach him tricks?”

Gerald watched as Colin lowered his head and rubbed his face vigorously.  Gerald turned back to the dragon.  It certainly was a beautiful beast and those liquid eyes; he felt he could almost fall into them.  He reached out and tentatively touched its nose, causing the dragon to emit a low grumbling sound.  He froze, hand resting on the snout of his dragon.  His dragon!  He slowly relaxed as he realized the sound was one of contentment and not a warning.  He had his very own dragon and it liked him.  Gerald was in heaven.

“What are we going to call him?”

“Arrrgh!  We can’t keep a dragon, Gerald!”

“Colin, you really must learn to relax a bit more,” said Gerald continuing to stroke his new pet.  “I’m sure all this stress is not good for you.  Do you think he can sleep on my bed until he gets settled in?”

>>Caveat: I don't read MG at all. Even so, some of your vocabulary seemed a bit above that age bracket. Those words are in green. Also, I assume you're aiming for an omniscient narrator since you're dipping into both Gerald's and Colin's heads. Omniscient isn't very popular, but it's a valid POV... you might want to make the narrative more conversational, though. Right now it's kinda stuffy, and I don't know if that will fly with an MG audience. 

>>Who do you see as being the narrator for this story? It helps a lot for it to be a specific person, even if that person is not a character in the story.

>>There's a logic problem here. Was Gerald expecting an egg or a dragon? If it was an egg, why did he recognize a moving sack as his? 

>>On the up side, the action and the characters are clear -- and I'm sympathizing with Colin.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Critting OUT OF TOUCH: needs character work

OUT OF TOUCH is a Paranormal Mystery/Romance WIP

Chapter One

After college I ran through jobs like most women go through panty hose.  I'd like to say that it was the fault of my visions, but I can't.  I think I have a split personality.

When my dad died, my mom went to work to pay the mortgage on the house.  She was determined not to lose that house.  Unfortunately, she didn't have any skills, so one job wasn't enough.  It took two, and sometimes three, jobs to keep us afloat.  Even though I was only six years old, our roles changed, and we became more like roommates,  instead of mother and daughter.   For my mom I put on a strong, fearless facade and learned to be the epitome of  serenity.  When I was with the Fitzgeralds I was able to be myself: a smartass.

The problem is that I can't be Greta the Serene on the job for eight hours without letting Gigi the Smartass out, and she tends to get me fired.

I am currently working for Brown and Bell, which is a small PR firm about ten miles outside of The Neighborhood, in Rockdale.  I have been here almost six months, which is the longest I have worked anywhere, and I like it.  Most important, when I hit my six month employment goal I will finally move out of my parents' house and into an apartment of my own. >>well, her mother's actually<<

As for the job itself, I get to do some writing and schmoozing, and other public relations things, as well as a bunch of grunt work.  However, I am up for a promotion.  My competition is a real pinhead (solely my opinion) and has a reputation of being a slut (everyone's opinion): Bambi Winters.  What kind of name is Bambi anyway?  A deer name, that's what.  Not a person name.  Who gives a promotion to a deer?

I looked up and Roger Brown was standing over my desk.  My boss.  "Gigi, can I see you in my office please?" >>okay, so the story finally starts. Everything you've told me up until now wasn't all that interesting except for the little bit about visions and having trouble holding a job. The usual advice is to start a story with action -- I'd modify that to start with drama. Being called to the boss's office is drama. How Gigi grew up... isn't.<<

"Of course," I replied.

We crossed through the desks and cubes until we got to his office.  I followed him in and he closed the door.  He settled into his chair, and cleared his throat, while his eyes darted around the room, not quite knowing where to settle.  Mine focused on the floor at the foot of his desk. Something sparkly caught my eye when the sun bounced off of it.  It was a cufflink.  Diamond.  Hmmm.  I picked it up  and couldn't believe what I was seeing, but there it was... Bambi and Roger having sex on his office couch. >>Tell me more about how these visions happen. This makes a powerful ability sound boring.<< 

"....understand that Bambi is more qualified for the promotion," my boss summed up.

"Excuse me? You and Bambi get naked and I lose out on a promotion.  I don't see where that makes her more 'qualified.' At least not for this job," I snapped.

I don't know who was more stunned at this point - Roger, for having his secret affair with Bambi blasted wide open, or me, for opening my big, fat mouth and doing the blasting. >>she's been shooting her mouth off all her life, you said -- why is she surprised?<<

His eyes opened wide and then narrowed to slits. "Do you have any proof to back up your accusation?" >>Screwing Bambi wasn't illegal. Why does he ask this?<<

Proof?  Have any of my visions ever been wrong? No.  Never.  But, I cannot prove them by any standard methods, either.  Better to back up and let this go. >>Why? This makes Gigi sound waffly on top of what I mention later.<<

"Unnnhh, no."

He relaxed back into his chair and looked at me like he had never seen me before.  He knew that I knew. I watched his brain mentally calculate the risk.

"Let me guess," I said.  "I'm fired."

"You're fired," he echoed.

"Right.  I'll just pack up my stuff."

"Good idea.  I will give you twenty minutes to exit the building.  If you are not gone in that amount of time, security will personally escort you." >>This could be a lot more succinct.<<

Geez.  You get one little peek into someone's personal life and it makes them very nervous.  Roger didn't know how I knew; he just knew I knew.  After my first vision, Mrs. Fitzgerald  made me promise not to tell anyone, not even my mom.  She, Franny, and I are the only ones who know. >>she's been having visions all her life and hasn't figured this out yet? seriously? either she doesn't care, or she's clueless.<<

At my desk Bambi was waiting to share her victory.

"I imagine Mr. Brown just told you the good news," she chirped.

"Yes, he did," I chirped back.  "You are one lucky girl."  If she wanted that promotion badly enough that she was willing to do that for it, she could have it.  Sadly, I've now seen Roger Brown in his altogether and it wasn't an image I could shake.  I didn't envy her current position. >>She lost her job and this is her biggest concern? I guess paying the rent isn't a problem for her?<<

"Are you going to congratulate me?" she asked.

"You bet.  Congratulations, Bambi.  You..." I bit my lip because Greta the Serene was working to choke back Gigi the Smartass from getting into any more trouble... "hit the nail on the head."  Well, Gigi always was stronger than Greta.  "Bye." I flicked her a wave.

"What?" A look of incredulity crossed her face.  "You're leaving?" You quit because of this?  You can't stand to lose, can you?" The smugness was infuriating.  It was Kenny all over again.  I could almost hear that singsong voice.  I don't remember anything after that.  The next thing I knew Bambi was holding her nose, my fist was on fire, and I had this sinking feeling that this was going to end a lot worse for me than a spanking from my father. >>having said that, it needs to end worse. Since it doesn't end badly at all, what you're establishing here is that Gigi's got a martyr complex. Which doesn't make me feel sympathetic to her as a reader.<< 


As it turned out, I left the building with a police escort.  I knew the cops on duty.  One was Sean Fitzgerald, one of Franny's older brothers, and the other was his partner, Leo Connolly.   Franny is the youngest of the Fitzgerald children while Sean is the youngest boy.  The order from top to bottom is Mary Margaret, Johnny, Patrick, Brianna, Sean, Franny, and me.  I am considered Honorary Family. >>the family lineup is irrelevant right now<<

Sean was giving me the hairy eyeball in the rear view mirror, along with a scalding lecture on moral responsibility.  He finished and stared at me expectantly.

I stared back debating what to say.  All I could see in the mirror were piercing green eyes boring holes into me.  They were topped by auburn eyebrows.  His hair was no longer than a quarter inch.  Even though I couldn't see them, I knew that he had the whitest, and possibly straightest, teeth of anyone in The Neighborhood.  However,  good looks weren't going to sway me.  We were family.

"It wasn't my fault."

"Is that your statement?"

Pause.  "Yes.  I think I will stick with that."  Mostly because saying anything more is likely to incriminate me.

"Great.  What is it with you?  This is just like that incident with you and Kenny Ross when you were in kindergarten," Sean said. >>Kindergarten? and we're bringing this up? seriously?<<

"Exactly" I concurred, punctuating my point with a hand slap to his front seat.

"As I recall, all that netted you was a spanking that didn't allow you to sit down for a week and a new name that stuck to you like glue." A smile lit up his face that made my fists burn.

"Hey, buster, easy on the smiling up there.  It wasn't that funny."

The front passenger door opened and Leo angled in to the front seat.   He took up all of the air in the car. His hair was black, eyes were blue, and his lips were skilled.  Leo was my first boyfriend and I thought it was love.  We spent one idyllic summer together between my junior and senior year of college.  To this day, I don't understand why it ended.

I heard through The Neighborhood grapevine that Leo and Sean recently became partners.  Therefore, I figured the odds were fairly good I'd see him again.  Of course, I had glimpsed him in passing since he moved back home, but he always avoided me, and I never went out of my way to confront him.  So, despite living in the same town for the last six years, this was the closest  we had been since that summer.  I expected awkward.  What I didn't expect was a flash of desire that had the hairs at the base of my neck prickling.

"How did it go?" Sean asked Leo.

"Let's just say she decided not to press charges after some careful consideration." He gave me a penetrating look in the rear view mirror.  What did he do?  He responded to the question that I didn't ask. "I told her I would make her long list of parking tickets disappear if she decided to drop this matter."  And that was that.  He gave no explanation as to why he would do such a thing. My heart skipped at least two beats before resuming at double time.  Uh oh. >>he's got no reason to explain, so that's redundant<<

I deliberately shifted my line of sight over to Sean, trying to ignore Leo.  "Sean, does that mean I can go home now?"

"Gigi, please go home."

>>I think the main problem here is all the contradictions. Gigi says she's a smartass and it's gotten her in trouble before, but then she's surprised when it happens again. She doesn't stick to her guns and comes across as a woe-is-me type... who randomly gets violent and punches people. But that's okay because her two cop friends are willing to wheel and deal for her.<<

>>Personally, I'm not finding her interesting. She's coming across as a drama queen. Plus, she doesn't seem to be emotionally invested in anything, have any goals, or even any major problems... so what's this story about?<< 

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Yup. cracks knuckles

It's my turn to host UB this week, so that means 1,500-word critiques! I prefer to crit whole scenes because you can start to see the larger patterns emerging: pacing, plotting, character...

I don't know about you, but my scenes (in Disciple) tend to fall in the 1,200 to 1,500 word range, which is how I picked the number. If you've got two short scenes that add up to 1,500, that's cool too.

Size of scenes is, itself, also a part of your story's structure and pacing. If nobody submits for critting, maybe I will think out loud about that.

Meanwhile: send crit submissions, up to 1,500 words, to unicornbellsubmissions at gmail dot com. It can be anything! Fantasy, scifi, romance, horror -- and any level of content. Anything R- or X-rated will be critiqued over at Shadow of the Unicorn just so that it's not stumbled across by younger readers.

I'm also open to questions, if you want my opinion on anything -- ask away! To get the big three out of the way: yes, only on special occasions, and I prefer chunky peanut butter.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Winners of Wilder Mage!!

Executing a kissing scene is tricky. There are only so many ways to describe it. So try for a different take. Look for something that sets it apart, a bit of humor, a broken cup, Doritos; do something that causes the reader to remain on the page, in the moment.

In addition, that first kiss is all-important. Don’t rush it. Your characters should never meet then fall into each other’s arms in the first alone-scene. Avoid that. Give them time to get to know each other. Likewise the reader. Before we ‘feel’ the moment when two characters kiss, we must be invested in the characters.

My impressions:

#1. A Game of Cat and Horse. It is very difficult to do an emotional scene properly when it is in third-person. Good job. In first-person, the writer can portray inner thoughts, a lot easier. Love the title, btw.

#2. Dear Katherine. Excellent use of short, dynamic sentences. Of which I am most definitely a fan. 

#3. Deceptive Cadence. Love the title and lovelovelove the MC’s name. Wish I’d thought of it! Good example of creating a unique kissing scene. 

#4. Out of Touch. Made me smile. This is also a different way to show a kiss. The mechanics are the same but putting a little background into the scene intrigues the reader.

Since I am the moderator and issuer of prizes, I decided to break my own rules. Besides, how can I possibly choose one out of these four excellent candidates?

All four entries are winners! 

Send me an email at:beccoff(at)nwmo(dot)net with your preferred format in Ebook. Or whether you want to wait for the glue-and-paper book of Wilder Mage, currently #13 in Magic and Wizards Fantasy and #26 in Urban Fantasy

"The earthquake wasn't his fault. Not this time."

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Yay or Nay #4: Out of Touch

"What do you want for dinner tomorrow night?" Leo's voice dropped an octave, setting my nerve ends on fire.  Were we still talking about food?

"Are you cooking?"  My voice was less than steady.  He smiled wolfishly.


"Ah... well then... anything is fine."

His eyes raked me top to bottom for the second time that day.  "Gigi, have I told you today that you look gorgeous in that dress?" He stepped forward and I backed up until I was pressed into the door.

"Well, I don't know.  You implied something earlier, but I can't remember precisely what you said."  Because your hand stroked my thigh and stole every coherent thought I had.

He moved in closer and settled his hands on my hips.  "Stunning."

Oh geez.  My brain fumbled for a response like a hamster running on a wheel.  "Thank you."  Thank you?

He applied a little pressure and leaned in to whisper in my ear. "You aren't the same girl that I dated seven years ago.  You're a courageous, outrageous, and utterly irresistible woman."

His lips grazed mine, light as a feather, but as calamitous as an earthquake.  My resolve to not fall under his spell disappeared into the void.

I opened myself for the kiss to follow that would match my own hunger.

He spun on his heel and started for the steps.  Involuntarily, I gasped in disappointment.  He turned around so fast that he was a blur.  His hands were in my hair and the kiss was primal, unwavering in intensity.  I felt tremors in my knees.  It ended as violently as it began.  He turned without a word and was gone within seconds.

I tentatively touched my fingers to my mouth.  The skin was still warm and tingling.  It was real.

"Please don't be the same boy who smashed my heart like it was nothing," I whispered to the darkness.

Yay or Nay #3: Deceptive Cadence

We pushed through the crowd toward them, when my hand was grabbed and I was pulled off course. I found myself in James’ arms as he smiled down at me. “Hi beautiful.”

I swallowed, dazzled by how good he looked and even smelled. Up close I saw he’d brushed his teeth and he smelled like men’s cologne rather than the normal cigarettes. I couldn’t help breathing his scent in as my eyes took in the rest.

He knew I was checking him out and grinned. “Dance with me, just for one dance.”

I nodded and he wrapped his arms tighter around my waist. I couldn’t pull away, I couldn’t even look away. Our eyes locked and he smiled. “So Cadence, you’re name’s a little ironic when the only thing that comes close to musical about you is your hollering on the sports field.”

I grinned. “I know. It’s a family thing, musical names.”

He leaned a little closer. “It suits you though.”

I held my breath and without realizing, my eyes darted to his lips. He gave me a crooked smile and shifted closer. His nose brushed against mine and he paused, our lips not quite touching.

“Don’t you dare kiss me,” I told him.

“Why not?”

“Because…” But his breath on my lips when he spoke pulled me in and I pressed my lips against his.

His right arm tightened around me as his left hand came up and caressed my face. My whole body tingled with excitement as I clung to him, our kiss intensifying. But when his tongue slipped into my mouth I pulled away. “Crap!”

He pulled me back against him and planted his lips firmly against mine again. I melted into his arms, as he clasped the back of my head.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I Love Twilight. Get Over It

Still accepting entries for a kissing scene. 

Until then, consider the following an opinion post.


Opinions matter. I know cuz I have one. And it matters to me. Whether others agree with my opinion can matter also, but it isn’t necessary. I go my own way. Follow my own path.

Reading Twilight was a life-changing experience, magical and personal. If Twilight didn’t trip your trigger, then I hope you experience this kind of magic at some point in your life, one book that sets you on fire.

So you didn’t like Twilight. That’s okay by me. I know you have your reasons. Maybe you thought the writing was bad, but what debut author doesn’t make mistakes? Poor role model for girls? Disagree fervently. Movies were junk. Er...agreed. But that’s not the reason to hate the books.

I’ve had my share of “meh” books. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo did nothing for me. I thought Ender’s Game was just an okay book. The Harry Potter novels were enjoyable but nothing I need to read again. Fifty Shades was a strange trip down the literary road and not one I need to travel again. I gave it a four-star review for the basic storyline. The bad writing made me think of a person falling down the stairs. Over and over.

Honest reviews aid the writer and the public. Comments that begin with, “I have not read this book”, followed by a review defies logic. Or this Harry Potter review: “I didn’t read it but the Church says it’s satanic.” *headdesk*

Don’t like the author? So what? “I wouldn’t waste money or time on this author”, but here is my one-star anyway.
Does the anonymity of social media contribute to this phenomenon? Give nasty-minded people the freedom to sack and pillage like Attila the Hun?  Some feel they can. An excellent post by Nathan Bransford details these problems
Hating never gives pleasure. It only hurts. Not only the recipient but the giver as well. What person can stand poisonous, unkind comments? Not Stephenie Meyer apparently. Even after her success, foul words do hurt to the point that “...Twilight isn't the wholly positive place for me that it once was.”

Now darn it, when vile remarks cause an author to avoid writing, that is just plain sad. Cruelty has no place in this business.

So you don’t like Twilight. I applaud your opinion. Nothing wrong with an honest review. That’s all anyone can ask, authors and readers.

And that’s all it should be. An honest, civil review.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Yay or Nay #2: Dear Katherine

No crits today. Vote yay or nay for the kissing scene.

By the time we returned to the house, the streets were lit by moonlight.

I headed straight for the stairs.

“Rick, do you mind unpacking the basket?” Derek asked. “I need a shower. I’m beyond itchy.”

“Not at all. I’ll be upstairs in a few minutes.”

I was almost at the top and Derek took the steps two at a time to reach me. My heart kept pace with the rhythm of his feet. He held a forefinger to his lips and pulled me towards the darkened hallway.

“The tattoo is supposed to glow,” he whispered in my ear.

He was too close and I wanted to kiss him. Neither was appropriate--let alone the shower thoughts going through my mind--but propriety jumped out the window beside me. My hands reached up to untie the knot behind my neck. I let the sarong fall to the floor revealing the bathing suit that exposed my back.

I turned and stepped away from Derek. “Does it?”

He inhaled deep and loud. “It does.”


Derek inched closer. I could feel his hand even before I felt his touch. My heart rate accelerated. I couldn’t breathe.

“Here.” His finger traced one of the coils and I felt a shiver spread from the spot his skin met mine. I bit my lower lip to suppress a moan.

Before I could doubt my sanity, I spun around and pressed my lips to his. My arms wrapped around his neck as fast as his enveloped my waist. But I hardly had a chance to taste more than the salt on his lips, or find my way inside his mouth.

“I thought you said you needed a shower, dear Derek.” Rick’s voice was ice-cold and chilled me to the bone.

Yay or Nay #1: A Game of Cat and Horse

No crits today. Vote yay or nay for the kissing scene.

"Jarend?" It had to be. Hard to mistake his patchy coat of red and white. Laccindy rushed across the platform, leaping into his grasp. Laughing, she proceeded to smother his face in kisses. She pulled back to stare at him, her fingers trailing along his jaw, her thumbs brushing across his lips. Real.

The corners of his mouth lifted. The softest pressure against the nape of her neck brought her lips down to his. Gone was her patient, tender lover. Jarend's mouth claimed hers like a starving man, consuming all before him and desperate for more. He pressed her close, crushing her in his arms, squeezing the air from her lungs.

Faced with such fervour, Laccindy surrendered wholeheartedly. She clutched his head, her fingers sliding into his thick hair as his searching tongue duelled with hers. Moaning, her arms linked behind his neck. She tried to pull him closer, her whole body burning with the need for him and everything he had to give, but there was no room left between them to yield.

She clung to his shoulders, her legs likewise wrapped about his waist. The heat of his skin soaked through her clothes. Her frustration escaped via the smallest of whimpers. He had no right to feel this good. No right to be so gloriously desirable. No right to make her want him this badly.

Jarend groaned in answer. The sound, so guttural and primal, charged the heat already pooling in her gut. His tongue pressed harder against hers. His trembling hands fell from her waist to her rump, his nails scraping across the soft leather trousers as he kneaded her flesh. She tensed, waiting — and shamelessly praying — for him to tear the clothing from her body. For him to take her right where he stood.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Contest! With Prizes Even

We've done queries and chapters, first pages and loglines. Time to give critiquing a rest, I think.

Let’s have a Fun Week!

Prize: E book, Wilder Mage in the format of your choosing.

  • Submit a kissing scene from your wip or completed novel and followers can vote on their favorite.
  • Keep it under 300 words, please. Adult is okay but it must be suitable for Young Adult eyes.
  • Followers will vote Yea or Nay. No critiques!
  • Winner to be announced Saturday, October 12.

Send to: unicornbellsubmissions(at)gmail.com

Friday, October 4, 2013

Self-published author Kathleen S. Allen

Finally Friday! And we close the week of self-published authors with Kathleen S. Allen

17yo Cassie is tired of feeling invisible especially next to her model gorgeous BFF. When she finds a book in a used bookstore on how to be famous in ten days she devises a plan---with the help of her BFF---to do just that. She has hilarious and sometimes serious, almost disastrous consequences on her quest to be "seen." YA contemporary

Tell us a little about yourself, Kathleen.

I wrote my first book of poems when I was eight. I copied out my poems on paper, added an orange and blue construction paper book jacket, punched holes in the side and added a red ribbon to tie it all up. I made ten of them and gave them away as holiday gifts.  

How did you get from being a writer to self-publishing?

I decided to self-publish because my first YA book—AINE—was too short for a traditional publisher.

Did you have a background that proved to be helpful or any experience? How hard was it?

No background. I hired a cover designer/formatter and she did a great job. I have done others by myself, making my own covers and they’ve turned out well.

What did you do wrong? Right?

Not hiring a professional editor was a mistake I made for a couple of self-pubbed books. I did hire one for several of the other books. I’d say hire a professional editor, a cover designer/formatter, and if you can afford it, a publicist. The marketing end of self-publishing is what I fall behind on.

Are you happy with your choice? Do you think you'll stick with self-publishing or are you still keeping your options over?
I’ve also published with small presses and been happy with that option. Will I still self-publish? Sure. I enjoy doing it but I would also love to go the traditional publishing route with an agent so I could get that movie deal. LOL.
Check out all my books here: http://kathleensallen.weebly.com/

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Self-published author Hart Johnson

Hart Johnson aka The Watery Tart (is that not the best name ever?) is with us today, sharing her perspective on self-publishing…

Tell us a little about yourself, Hart...

I'm a social scientist at the University of Michigan by day and a raving lunatic the rest of the time... or something like that. I have a badly neglected family, though my kids are teens (14 and 18) so they prefer it that way, and my husband (HWMNBMOTI=He Who Must Not Be Mentioned On The Internet) has always been primary parent, while I was the career partner. We have two fur-babies, too—the feline one usually sits at my side, knocking things off my desk when I write.

I'm a bona fide geek, meaning I am way too excited about any number of fandoms. It began with Harry Potter (which also led me back to writing after many years of not doing much), but includes Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, and the latest to suck me into full squee fan-girl mode, A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones. I love stories so compelling that they make me want to add my own imagination to come up with related stories and fully engage my brain in predicting what comes next.

Other favorites include periwinkle (the color), caramel, coffee toffee ice cream, and the Naked World Domination movement (I really think we'd all be nicer people if we'd just take our clothes off).

How did you get from being a writer to self-publishing?

I published traditionally first, and have long believed that the decision of HOW to publish is one that takes genre, personality and goals into account. And for a while, my books that were 'ready for prime time' were mysteries—a genre that sells very well traditionally, so it is easier to get agents and publishers to bite.

And I have to be honest. Traditional is a better fit for my personality. I'm not really a details girl. All that cover, copy editing, formatting nonsense. I'd prefer to not be involved. I have a day job and a family, and so my writing time is precious. I would rather ONLY WRITE. It's why I didn't decide to self-publish earlier with some of my other stuff (note I ALSO didn't take the time to query the other stuff—this not wanting to do the other stuff is an equal opportunity aversion)

Last fall, though, after having written most of a first draft of a story I REALLY loved, but was approaching 130,000 words and not done, I spotted something... Susan Kaye Quinn was beginning a serial release of her Debt Collector series. And it occurred to me that what I wanted for A Shot in the Light wasn't to rein it in to a 500 page book, it was to expand it to 1000—that my trouble finishing was that it wasn't expansive enough... that some extra points of view really added to the story I could tell. And the only way to do a serial, short Tardis and a deal with Reader's Digest, is self-publishing. I loved this story enough to face that steep learning curve.

Did you have a background that proved to be helpful or any experience? How hard was it?

I've been at this writing thing a long time, and I think my experience with traditional publishing has been important for really understanding all it takes to make a book ready for prime time.

For the serial piece, I also have a fan fiction history—deep in my Harry Potter geekdom I had a theory that Voldemort required the death eaters to kill their own fathers in order to be initiated into the order, and people kept facing my theory with skepticism, so I decided to write the book... it was about 180 pages in the end, but I posted it a chapter at a time over six months (to clamors of MORE)--this gave me the confidence to share, and also the lesson in persistence. And it made me very aware or the contract a writer really is making by sharing part of the story at a time. I saw a lot of abandoned stories and always felt cheated. I knew I couldn't be that person.

As far as the OTHER stuff, the primary lesson I learned is hire help. I KNOW I am not the polisher, so not only do I have my amazing beta readers do two rounds, I also have a professional editor making sure my comma fetish doesn't stay apparent and my love for ellipses and em-dashes is held in check (not technically interchangeable—did you know? *hides*).

What did you do wrong? Right?

Concentrated heavily on the writing. That is both to the right and the wrong. I didn't spend the time I needed to learn all the tricks and how to go about it. Both the really nice formatting and learning ALL the systems would have been good, AND setting myself up as an author in all sorts of places. All that is trickling into place, but because I felt like the BOOK was ready, I got in a hurry. I DO think my book is great, my writing is polished. The feedback I've gotten is wonderful, so I don't regret concentrating on the writing at all. I PROBABLY should have built more time in to do both, that just isn't me.

I ALSO think this 'giving it away' is a right thing. I haven't sold many, but I've given away about 250, and since it is first in a serial, I am hoping that hooks people. I suspect with stand-alones this is a trick you want to use much more heavily once you have several things on your shelf... That way people read the freebie, then buy others. Giving a freebie when there is nothing to buy probably doesn't get you much traction, as even if they like it, they may forget before you have another book out.

Are you happy with your choice? Do you think you'll stick with self-publishing or are you still keeping your options over?
I will continue doing both. I have two other serials planned, and THOSE I will self publish. And I have a few stand-alone adult suspense I may point that direction. But I have a couple mystery series ideas, one I've written the first for, and those I will publish traditionally. I am, as yet, undecided on my YA stuff. One of my serials is YA, so I may let that determine whether a YA market is really accessible with eBooks. I sort of have my doubts that that is the strongest route for the genre, but I am open to be convinced otherwise.

A Flock of Ill Omens (Book 1, A Shot in the Light)

Deadliest virus in a century, or a social experiment gone awry?

Every year they warned about the flu and more often than not, it amounted to nothing. Sidney Knight, a young freelance reporter had certainly never written on it. But a trip to Lincoln City, Oregon cut short by a beach full of dead seagulls and a panicked warning from her brother the scientist catch her attention. This batch is different. Deadlier. And the vaccine doesn't seem to be helping. It almost looks like it's making it worse...

A Flock of Ill Omens: Part I is the first episode of A Shot in the Light, an Apocalypse Conspiracy Tale about what happens when people play God for fun and profit. There will be approximately ten episodes, each the equivalent of about 100 pages.

It can be purchased HERE
(or will be free October 10)

The second book in the series, In Short Supply can be found HERE

Hart Johnson writes books from her bathtub. A social scientist by day, Hart spends her evenings plotting grand conspiracies and murdering people on paper.

Like her on Facebook
At Amazon
Or Follow her on Twitter:  (not that she goes very far, not grasping Twitter's quest completely)