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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Query Monster and All Its Minions

What does a query, tagline, blurb, logline do?

Taglines are a tease in twenty words or less.

Melts in your mouth. Not in your hand. 
Got milk?

It is your first, your very first marketing tool. It creates interest, hooks your potential audience, and gives them a glimpse into your world.

You’re in good hands with Allstate. 
Don’t leave home without it.

Loglines. This is a bigger tease than a tagline. It tells the reader about your book in as few words as possible. It must have four elements: character, conflict, and stakes.

Tagline: In space, no one can hear you scream.

Logline: After the crew of the deep space vessel Nostromo investigates a distress signal, they discover that death has followed them back to their ship. No one is safe.

A query/blurb is an expanded view of the tease and can incorporate both the tagline and logline. It gives just a bit more information. 

During my week on Unicorn Bell, I will crit queries, taglines, and loglines. Send subs anytime to:

unicornbellsubmissions[at]gmail[dot]com with Loglines and Queries in the subject line.

If you can’t send this week, don’t worry. I’ll get to it next month.

Until then, keep this cheery thought in mind:

You will probably put more work into that tagline/logline/query than you did in your manuscript

Monday, December 30, 2013

How to Create Feedback, Recognition, and Branding

Recognition. In this business, identification is everything. I cross paths with many authors and writers in the blogosphere. Maybe I haven't met them face to face, but I *know* them by their blogs, comments, and pictures.

Create a brand. Make it your own. For me, it is colors and my avatar. On my blog, Spirit Called, I use burnt orange. Not many blogs have this. 

My avatar or icon is unique. Created by my brother, it is a photoshopped picture of me as a one year old.

An author headshot is great. A must in this business. But create something out of the norm as well so folks know you instantly.

Feedback. Comments on my blogs are sent to my email inbox so I can respond to questions or posts. Do you want a personal response in answer to a question? A private critique? 

On your profile, enable your email so you can be contacted. 

I realize that privacy is king. But if you want to be an established author, you must have name recognition. To do this, people must be able to contact you. Get a Gmail account rather than a personal one if you want. 

But create a contact point. 

Remember, you want people to find you and your books. Make it easy for them to do so.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Times, They are a-Changin’

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen.
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again.
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin.
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win.
For the times they are a-changin’.
- Bob Dylan

Unicorn Bell, the product of writers, is a-changin’...er, making a few adjustments.

A regular schedule. Our team at UB has individual talents.
  • L. Blankenship is gifted at critiquing 1500 word submissions. She takes subs anytime of the month.
  • Marcy is expert at First Pages and interviews.
  • I, the Huntress of Fantasy, like taming the Query Monster and all its minions including loglines and blurbs.

To give our followers time to submit their chapters, loglines, and first pages, a weekly schedule is in order. Submit with the appropriate request title in the subject line.

Blogfests and book tours. So you want to create a presence online. How to do it?

My publisher, Musa Publishing, suggests bloghops/fests. Enter as many as you can manage. Comment and participate. This gets you out there, puts your name in front of people.

So why shouldn’t Unicorn Bell conduct a regular bloghop too? Good question and now a two word answer: 
  • Charity Bradford. She intends to hold a bloghop during some of her weeks.

Book tours. Excitement is building. You have a book coming out! Now you want everyone to get the message.
  • Elizabeth Arundel takes command of book tours. 

During her week, she will post all the info you send about your book. Send all pertinent info to unicornbellsubmissions@gmail.com. In the Subject line, write Book Tour.

Lastly, do you have any special gifts that need an outlet? Would you like to join our team and build a writing platform to impress agents and publishers?

We are taking applicants for Unicorn Bell moderators. Send requests to our email with ‘Moderator Request’ in the subject line.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Guardians

Yay! A first page for you and me! I know, you're probably not there, off celebrating the holiday or whatever. But if perhaps you are there and care to check out this first page from Liz, I hope you'll offer your opinion...and Have a Happy Christmas if you're celebrating. I'll be back on Thursday with my crit of this this first page.

The Citadel’s towering gray stone walls loomed over the crowd streaming inside.(I liked Liza's suggestion about this first line.) These walls had been designed to keep people out, and yet crowds still came whenever the Guardians deigned to hold a Blik. Never mind that the Guardians held a Blik once a week.What's a blik?
The man behind me bumped into me when I stopped.(I wonder if this sentence could be re-worded so there's one less 'me') He forced his way into the stream of people who wound around me. I took a deep breath and continued to move with the crowd.
I had sworn I would never enter these walls again.(Ooh, why? Inquiring minds want to know...) As I passed through the massive front gate, I focused on the reason I had to break that vow. The crowd pushed me along until we made the vast meeting chamber. Then I resisted the pull towards the center of the room. I needed a place near the back, near the doors.
I pulled out my com. I reread the message from Troy: “Please come. I need you.” I traced my fingers over the words which only highlighted the text, so I shut the thing off and stuffed it back into my pocket.
The last time we spoke, we’d argued. I yelled. I called him a coward. He called me a traitor. It had been two long years since I’d seen him, but I’d come when he called. My brother was the only family I had left.This is good, short and succinct.
“Are you okay? Do you need something?” the man seated next to me asked.
“I’m fine,” I said.
“They can be a little disconcerting the first time you see them,” the man continued.
“I’ve seen Guardians before,” I said. Now I want to know what a Guardian is...
I prepared for the next inane comment from my neighbor, but then I heard a whirring off in the distance. The entire hall went silent. The sound got louder and louder. Every person faced the front of the hall. Liza had a good suggestion here, too, imo.
The meeting chamber held a few hundred people, but the stage area looked too large for the room. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that someone had forgotten to set up folding chairs on that shiny black floor. That stage held nothing, but we all watched it anyway.
Then the side panel along that stage opened, revealing a gap that could admit giants.  The only sound came from the motors propelling the Guardians forward. I heard a couple gasps.
A line of large, oddly-shaped, metallic things rolled in. They had the semblance of human form, but with all the humanity smoothed out. The base of the creatures, which stood taller than a tall man, was cone-shaped with the pointy end on top. Balancing on top of the cone perched a nearly spherical object that could have been called a head, but its only feature was a pair of large, black, circular eyes that took up a good third of the object.
Each Guardian was exactly the same shape and size. The only difference between each individual was how the outside of the contraption was decorated. Some were brightly colored.  Some were heavily patterned. All looked like they were trying too hard to look friendly.

This is a good first page. You've set up a number of questions and mysteries which will propel readers forward AND given an interesting glimpse into this strange world. I would definitely read on to find out more about these Guardians, what a blik is, and what caused the separation of the siblings? Initially I assumed they were both male but now I realize our narrator could be female. Interesting.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Peace & Forgiveness

Huh. That's a fairly appropriate title for this time of year. However, it is actually the name of my new wip, PEACE & Forgiveness, which I am going to share with you. I would prefer to be sharing your work here - ahem - but sadly no one sent me anything :(

The good news is there's still time to send me something for this week(and if you want to get it to me quicker, send it here: marcy@tidewater.net with UB in the subject line). Otherwise I'll have to subject you to the rest of Chapter One...and we don't want that, now do we?

Chapter One – Peace

Everything was the same when she got back. Not that she’d expected it to be different but still…it was disappointing. She hadn’t even gotten three steps inside the door before her dad disappeared into his study. The door closed with a click behind him.
Peace sighed and went out back and down to the cellar where the washer and dryer were. She emptied out all her dirty clothes from camp and set the washer. Then she went upstairs to her room in the attic.
She was supposed to have shared it with her twin sister. Forgiveness. That was going to be her name. They were a matching pair: Peace and Forgiveness.
“You mean like a set of chairs at a dining room table,” she’d asked her dad once.
He’d looked at her for a while before answering. “No,” he said. “Not like that at all.” He disappeared into his study before she could say anything else.
Sometimes she hated him for that. His disappearing acts. His absence. His lack of anything approaching parenting skills. And even though she didn’t mind as much being overlooked now, it had hurt when she was little.
Peace took a shower in the bathroom she would’ve shared with her sister. She had asked if they were identical but her father said he didn’t know and supposedly her mother had died along with her twin. He wouldn’t say much more and as there were no other living relatives to ask, Peace made up her own answers to all the questions she had.
She decided that her sister did not look like her, but was in fact fair-haired and blue-eyed, just the opposite of her. She imagined how pretty they would be together – day and night – and all the secrets they would share. That’s what sisters did. They talked about everything.
There was a period where Peace pretended that Forgiveness hadn’t died. She would talk to her as if she were alive, tell her how awful their father was, how cold. She even told people she had a sister – something she had never done before – and the school had contacted her father.
After that, she didn’t mention Foregiveness anymore, but she still talked to her.
“How can he be so nice to all the people at Church and then treat us as if we don’t exist.”
Of course, that wasn’t strictly true. There was always food in the fridge, cash in the kitty, and a few set times each day in which she could count on being able to see him, speak with him if necessary. One was at breakfast and the other at supper. Not that they ever ate together, but he always microwaved something around six every morning and night. And of course she could always see him at Church on Sunday – if she wanted to go listen to him. Not.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Your first page here

Interested? It's my week here at Unicorn Bell and I'd love to crit your first page. It could be something you've just started or something you've been working on  - maybe a NaNo project? Whatever you've got, I'd love to see it and offer my opinion, for what it's worth. Oh, and a first page is approximately 300-400 words. Just send your first page to unicornbellsubmissions@gmail.com along with anything specific you'd like me to comment on.

Friday, December 20, 2013

I Must Eat You!

Let's end the day with something a little less cute. The likeness between these two photos is a bit creepy when you think about it. Here are today's photos. Please share a caption for one or both in the comments.
Found on Google Images 
From Jurassic Park 2 The Lost World

All photos were found on Google images with a search. I do not own them, and have no way of finding the original owner.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I've Got You In My Sights

Here are today's photos. Please share a caption for one or both in the comments.

All photos were found on Google images with a search. I do not own them, and have no way of finding the original owner.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cupcake Ninjas!

Here are today's photos. Please share a caption for one or both in the comments. I just love the first one to death!!

All photos were found on Google images with a search. I do not own them, and have no way of finding the original owner.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lightsabers and Too Cute!

Here are today's photos. Please share a caption for one or both in the comments.

All photos were found on Google images with a search. I do not own them, and have no way of finding the original owner.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Welcome to Captions Week!

With Christmas and other holidays filling our time, I thought I'd keep things simple. You're probably busy running around shopping, going to parties, surviving storms and whatnot. Maybe you just need a brief moment of creativity in your day. Or if nothing else some extreme cuteness.

So, this week I aim to bring you the opportunity to enjoy both! Every day I'll post an extremely cute picture of puppies and kittens. All you have to do is write a caption for one or both of them and share it with us in the comments.

All photos were found on Google images with a search. I do not own them, and have no way of finding the original owner.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Final Words

I'm not quite to the end of my current work-in-progress yet. That is, I have written it, but that was for a previous draft. I'm still working on the current draft.

Is the last line as important as the first? At the moment, the last two paragraphs of my novel are:
I leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. “You better not.” 
The conductor approached the front of the stage and bowed. Then he turned to the orchestra and dropped a downbeat.
Okay, I shared mine. What's the last line of your novel?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Secrets and Lies

The ending is the place where all must be revealed.

Of course, any secrets the main character is keeping might be revealed earlier. The lies that were told to the main character could come out before the climax. But it's more likely that if there's a secret or a lie that is driving the plot, that won't come out until the last possible moment.

The worst possible moment.

If the story is based on a secret, then a major player in the story must not know the secret. The other characters must keep it from him/her. Actively. But we'll all be disappointed if that character never learns the secret. It must come out sometime.

Same with a big lie. It must be kept from someone. That someone might be the reader. But we'll all be disappointed if we never learn the truth.

What secrets and/or lies are your characters keeping?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ending Badly

Endings are tricky things. They need to conclude the story in a reasonable and satisfying way.

Both. Not one or the other.

A bad ending colors the whole story. There are movies that I hate based solely on how they ended. (Pay It Forward. Seven. The English Patient. Project X...)

Am I putting too much pressure on myself?

Deep breaths. I can do this. I won't muck it up. I think.

How about you? What stories (movies, books, TV shows, what-have-you) have had endings that soured you on the entirety of the story? Or is that just me?

Monday, December 9, 2013


I've been thinking a lot about endings lately. It's December. I have finals this week (on Thursday--wish me luck!). And I'm yet again coming up on the end of my novel.

I know what I want, but at the moment it feels kind of abrupt. I'm working on it. What does an ending need? What makes for a good ending?

Have I tied up all the loose ends?

I pretty much knew how the novel would end when I started it. Someone tried to kill the king. We should learn the identity of the perpetrator. The villain should try one more time. And perhaps succeed...

The whole story leads to the end. All sorts of details should now make sense.

It's scary.

I feel like...

I don't know if I've done my job. I guess that's what beta readers are for. (Note to self: get beta readers.)

Anything coming to an end for you? Do you have your story's ending in mind when you begin it?  

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pictures say a Dozen Words...

This is the prompt for the day.

I love the lore of fairy rings...and what possibly comes out of them...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Dialog only please!

So I'd like to try a DIFFERENT type of prompt...

What if we only continued the story with conversation?! (And very minimal "he said" tags to distinguish between characters?)

Can we do it? Can YOU do it in your writing??

I'll start us off...

"I told you to drink it fast. Shit burns going down."
"WOW! Don't it ever! So. You always come out behind the bleachers of a Friday?"
"Duh. Losers don't"
"Yah. Losers."

"Sides, drinkin' ain't all we do..."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Prompt Princess

I'm almost reluctant to leave the last prompt! It was just getting good! So feel free to keep adding to it...


Here's another one if this is more along your taste...

"For the first 10 years of my life I always imagined myself as a princess. Then, just as I turned 11 I got my first wart and..."

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Writing Prompts and SCIENCE!

This is my week for posting at UB! So we're going to be doing Round Robin Stories!

I love those.

I love the Collaboration and it's always interesting to me how other people think. Generally they Zig when I would have Ducked. Or curled up in a ball, rocking in a corner...

But before we get to our Prompt...I'm not sure if anyone reads the NYT and saw this pretty AMAZEBALLS experiment going on?!

Arnon Grunburg Is Writing While Hooked up to Electrodes

It's going to be some time, I think, before the whole thing is played out...but essentially he's writing a novella while hooked up to electrodes that measure his brain patterns. Or read his emotions that he's putting out while writing it. (Awesome just by itself!!) THEN...Wait for it...50 people will have Their brains scanned while they READ it. They're trying to see if the emotions that people feel when they read a book coincide to what a writer feels when writing it.

So. Fricken. COOL!

I think they need a bigger test field...but oh well.. :)


So the writing Prompt...

"The sweet scent of lilies mixed with day old whiskey made me want to retch. But I forced my way..."