Friday, December 28, 2012

Gimme Your Writing Prompts

So. I've had a hard time trying to figure out what to write for today's Friday Fantasy Scene. I'm now in the thick of editing my WIP, The Complete Guide to Being Evil, so any time I think of something to write, my inner editor jumps up and starts picking on the problems before I even begin. I don't have this problem with longer things, like when I wrote my book, because I have time to subdue the editor during the two week planning phase.

I've found that while surely there are good writing prompts on the internet, they can be difficult to find. Most of what I find are journal prompts, prompts based on celebrities, a list of words you're supposed to connect, writing prompts meant for a full short story, or things that don't really spark anything for me (like the word 'silk'). What's a good writing prompt you know? I'll use them in coming posts.

In the mean time: Why would a teacher contemplate a change in career?

For more money.

Sorry, who writes that kind of 'prompt'? It's just a question. Off in search of better ones...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I forgot to post last week. This holiday season I'm working more than I ever have before, and I'm later getting presents out than ever before (hopefully I can get around to shipping those today...), so I'm sorry for being a little scatterbrained.

I'd like to wish you all a Merry Christmas! And ask you: what is your favorite Christmas tradition?

And for those of you out there who won't have a white Christmas, here's a scene I wrote inspired by the winter wonderland I live in:

The river's green-black water rushed steadily under the ice, the blood of the world, ever pumping even in the middle of winter. Where the tree branches broke through the snow, they stood out more sharply in the chill, hyper-real. Snow eddied around her on the winds, and she pulled her coat tighter, shivering.

She spotted the blackened notch she'd made on a tree near her cabin and straitened her course, picking up her heavy feet, laden with boots and cold,  a little faster. She came into a small clearing and got blasted by heavier winds. They shoved her back a foot before she lowered her shoulder and pushed on. She almost tripped over the bucket, but managed instead to pick it up and scoop some snow into it, being sure not to dig deep enough to scrape the ground. The cold of the handle began to drain heat from her fingers even through her fur-lined gloves. Then she pushed open the door to her cabin.

Warmth enveloped her, and she shut the door as quickly as possible, so that none of it would escape. Then she breathed, and heat seeped in through her lungs, helping to ease the ache from her time outside. She'd been gone too long that time. She shouldn't be so reckless.

Then she looked at Sifearon, a dog-sized dragon she'd found gorging on the remainder of an elk she'd managed to find and kill. She had taken two legs to her cabin, and decided there was enough daylight left to return and get as much else as she could before it froze solid. She'd raised her weapon to kill him, too, knowing that even at his small size a dragon was extremely dangerous. Then he's sensed her and raised his head, but only by a foot. She saw how loose his skin was, then let her eyes roam to the trail he'd left getting to the elk. It was obvious he'd dragged himself forward on his belly. And then as she looked at his eyes she'd seen the angry resignation that filled them, and lowered her weapon.

She'd motioned at the carcass, and he'd managed to pack another several pounds down his gullet. Then she'd brought him home to her cabin and laid him in front of the fire, and after a day he started producing enough heat himself that she didn't have to use as many logs.

His scales were pine green, his eyes the color of bark. He was as gorgeous as the deadly world around them, and she loved him. But finding enough meat to feed them both was hard, since most of the animals had hidden to hibernate or wandered to the south, and Sifearon could eat three times what she could in a sitting and still be starving. She hunted longer, now, trying desperately to find enough to keep him alive until spring. She'd begun looking for bears even, to see if she could get a clean stroke while they lay sleeping. She hadn't found any.

Sifearon breathed on her hands, sending a prickly flush and a burning sensation up her arms. She knew they weren't really burning, it only felt that way because she'd gotten too cold. "You couldn't find anything." The look of defeat was back in his eyes. He was still too weak to hunt himself. Her arm muscles were the same width as his.

She stroked his cheek, his scales scalding her like furnaces. She didn't pull away. "I know."

Friday, December 7, 2012

Where's My Samurai?

Oops! My family's sick this week, and I forgot to get this up!

I've been rereading the (young adult or children's? not sure) Japanese historical fiction mystery books by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, starting with The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn. They are really cool, by the way. Lots of research went into them. So if you have any interest in learning more about 1700's Japan, check them out.

And I've been re-listening to the song Butterfly popularized through DDR. Yes, I love this song. Partly because I think this chick who has journeyed all around Japan definitely does not need a samurai, because she's strong enough herself. Partly because it's catchy, and partly because I have a mild fascination with Japanese culture.

So I drew this:

And I was going to do a Japanese-themed Friday Fantasy scene, but I never got around to writing it. Sorry.

What song do you really like that you don't often admit to others?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Raw and Uncut 5

I've done it. I've officially completed NaNoWriMo this year. And I wasn't a rebel at all (as opposed to my previous two years of winning). So from a non-rebel viewpoint, this is my first real win. It was really tough there at the end. I finished the story at 46k or so, and had to add in descriptions galore to get up to 48k. Then I asked some fellow NaNo-ers for dares that would fit my story, and that got me right on up to the 50k goal.

I am super-crazy about this story, and about the comedic world I planted in the middle of modern Manhattan. It was the easiest thing to write I've ever done, and now I'm kicking myself for not trying comedy before, and for not trying a story unrelated to my first story idea before. But now I have, and I feel like it will be a breeze to edit (in a week or two when I've rested from it a bit). In the mean time, here is the final installment of Raw and Uncut:

One of the commercials started out with a woman walking a horse with no lead, her smile just barely visible the camera was so far away, the landscape that of more upstate New York. Then it cut to a portrait shot of the same woman, with a cat on her lap and a parrot on her shoulder.

“Hi, I'm Sophie Cunningham, and I know what your pets are thinking.”

“Not yet, you don't,” the cat said with a sniff.

“Oh, what a load of bull,” said Maria. “People can not talk to animals, it's unnatural.”

“Do you see what color eyes she has, Maria?” Kalara said. She didn't often reveal too much about the technicalities of being a mage, but she had told her about the eye color thing.

Maria cut her a look. “Are you saying you can talk to animals? And she can, too?”

Kalara nodded.

The cat whined, staring at the parrot. “Can I eat him now?”

Sophie looked at the cat, rubbed him between the ears, and said, “You're hungry? I'll fix you something to eat.”

“I want the bird, and you know it.”

“Alright, you can have tuna juice on your dinner.”

“And chunks of tuna.”

The scene cut to her dishing out food for the cat, with tuna juice and a little tuna mixed in.

“I want more tuna!”

She smiled and replied with a sugary sweet voice, “Trust me, if I gave you more tuna, you would get uncomfortable gas cramps, and you'd let loose smells that would bother everybody.”

The cat shrugged and began to eat.

“As you can see, I can help you with all your pet problems. Call today.”

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Raw and Uncut 4

The novel I'm writing is a comedy. According to how comedies and tragedies used to be defined, it would be a little split between the two. You see, a lot of people die in my book, but not the main people who reach the end and go on to be happy. One of the people who is on the losing end of that stick is the villain. Another is a fly. It's pretty dark stuff, people:

Kalara snorted and shut the door behind her. She put the knives, gloves, and bleach away. Evander walked in before she could go deal with Whitcomb's body. His eyes slid to the bagged heart on the counter.

“So, you took care of collecting it. Thanks.”

“Yes, well, I couldn't help it. You were just so pathetic.” Evander blushed. Kalara grinned and handed the baggie over. As he took it she noticed a squirming little fly, trapped between the heart and the side of the bag. She opened her mouth to say something, then stopped herself. Wouldn't it be funny, even if he didn't notice and make a fuss, if a devil ate a fly?


Must...escape. Food gumming legs. Food wetting wings. Air supply low. No choice. Entering low-power mode.

Reboot. Cause? Air has returned. Food mound leaving low-air zone. Must escape. Wriggle legs. Wriggle wings. Food stiffer now. Can't move.

Heat. Entering high-heat zone. Wriggle harder. Harder. Can't move. Heat increasing. Must break wings free...

Searing, blasting, unimaginable heat. Life signs: will not recover. Final shut down.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Raw and Uncut 3

Hi again, and welcome to another installment of my raw, pulpy, new novel. I am currently over the halfway mark, and scrabbling to add in more plot points to my outline since so far I've blazed through the scenes to quickly to have the plot last the whole 50k. :\
Here we meet the character Skelley, the villain's homunculus. Unfortunately as I paste this here I see how many times the names are repeated, but, alas, it is not time yet to edit.

The miniature skeleton with wings folded them neatly so that they wouldn't interfere, then grasped the great cloth by a corner. He walked backwards, pulling it along, until he got to the other corner, where he laid the first. Next he straightened out the rest, down to the other side, and took three steps back to look at the effect.
He'd folded the giant underwear neatly in two.
The skeleton's chest rattled with a sigh as he ran back to the great cloth and folded it once more. Then he picked it up by the side, four layers just barely contained in his tiny grip, and he pulled the giant underwear along the dresser, to where the underwear drawer was open, and flitted over to the edge of the drawer, pulling the underwear into it. He straightened it up neatly and looked back at the pile of clean laundry. One down, twenty-three more pieces of laundry to go. The homunculus banged its fists on its skull as it made its way to the next great cloth.
Whitcomb walked into the room. “Oh, good, you've started.” The little skeleton gritted its bared teeth. Yesterday he hadn't been able to finish scrubbing the bathroom on time and Whitcomb had yelled at him for not having begun dinner yet. Whitcomb had more important things to do than clean, or make food, so he'd created Skelley. The problem was, Skelley was an extension of Whitcomb's personality, so he also hated cleaning and felt it was beneath him.
Whitcomb opened the other drawers, making the dresser rock slightly, causing Skelley to careen toward the edge. He opened his wings to stabilize himself, then glared at his master. Whitcomb was taking out an outfit to lay out for tomorrow, including the underwear Skelley had just finished. With a flick of the wrist they sprawled open. Skelley banged his skull some more, hopping up and down.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Last Eli Novel

I am a big fan of Rachel Aaron. She's my favorite current author, who wrote the Eli Monpress novels, and the famous (in some circles) How I Went From Writing 2k A Day to 10k A Day blog post. The last Eli novel, Spirit's End, is coming out November 20th.

Can I tell you a secret? I had forgotten when in November it was coming out (I thought it was the 12th). I went to Barnes and Noble yesterday and asked for it, and the woman working there went into the basement and brought it out for me, because apparently she didn't know, either. Then I went online to happily exclaim how I bought it the first day it was out, and realized my mistake. (By the way, if you find this, Rachel Aaron, don't worry, I won't tell anyone what happens or lend my book out. But I will be reading it, I can't resist.)

Anyway, she's holding a raffle over on her blog to give out free, signed copies, if you're interested. And whether or not you enter or win, if you're a fantasy reader I recommend you going over to your local Barnes and Noble next Tuesday or getting on Amazon right now to grab yourself a copy. And if you don't already have the first four (or two if you're counting the first three in their omnibus), get those, too. Because these are some pretty great books.

Happy NaNo-ing (for those participating), and see you on Friday!

Who's your favorite current author?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Raw and Uncut 2

I'm so excited about my NaNo experience this year! I've never found it easier to write, and I'm currently sitting on 14,712 words, which is 59 pages in mass-produced paperback style, and before midnight ticked over was 1,300 words ahead of schedule. Here is a segment I wrote yesterday:

Evander trotted to the right desk and cleared his throat. The devil there kept up his typing without a glance over at him.

“Hi, I hear you have dibs on Brentley Whitcomb's heart?”

The devil turned abruptly, eying him up and down. “Yes.”

“I would like to make a trade for you getting it sooner rather than later.”

“What did you want in return?”

“I would like to borrow your power for,” he glanced at his watch, “Four days, eleven hours, twenty minutes, and two seconds. It will save you years of waiting for him to keel over.”

Izikial, humorously named after Ezekiel in an effort to say he was icky, knew very well that it would take him much longer than Evander anticipated for Whitcomb to die, and he very well may possibly never have the opportunity to eat his heart, since Whitcomb was planning to make himself a lich. He'd actually prepared a phylactery to receive his power, so that when he was killed he would stay alive, though now undead, which he was planning on activating whenever he got a powerful enough soul to make the transfer. Once that was done, the phylactery would have to be destroyed for his heart to be the container of his power again, and if he were a lich too long his heart would decay, and Izikiel would have nothing to absorb from him. You couldn't eat a phylactery, after all.

So Izikiel tried to think of a way to say yes without sounding eager about it. He decided to say, “When would I get the heart?” to give himself some more time.

“By the time you get your power back,” Evander said, glaring at Kalara in his mind's eye and saying So get to it.

“I suppose that is a good deal less time to wait,” Izikial said, rubbing his chin and trying to sound ponderous. “Alright, I'll take you up on that offer.”

Both of them gave themselves a mental high-five, keeping their faces blank.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Raw and Uncut 1

 “Kalara, dear!” Neva called. Kalara turned and saw her standing with a group of people by a display case on the other side of the room. They were all looking at her. “Come, be a dear and tell Mrs. Steer here that you are an Orlov.”
Kalara obliged, sauntering over in a way that splayed the mermaid shape of her dress just so. Her parents agreed that mermaid skirts were the best shape on her.
“Kalara,” Neva said when she was close, “who are your parents?”
A cool wisp of air brushed her arm. Magic. With rather less poise than she meant to, she responded, “Leander and Fara Orlov.” She glanced around, trying to find the source of the magic-y feeling. She refused to call it magical. That word rang of Disney Land.
“The owners of the country-wide bridal chain, I told you.” Neva gave Kalara a pointed glance. Kalara dismissed it and kept searching. Only two people in the world knew she was a mage, and she wasn't about to let her chance to find another confidant slip through her grasp.
“Really? I thought their daughter was younger,” said another of the guests. There it was! In the display case was a magic rod. It was the source of the ghostly touch of magic, even locked up in cherry wood and glass. “...for your own wedding needs?” Kalara focused on the speaker once more, realizing they weren't making general observations yet, they were still talking directly to her. She tilted her head.
“Maybe,” she said with a conspiratorial grin.
The group gave uncomfortable little laughs, the speaker straightening a few inches. “Where are your manners? Am I boring you, little Miss?”
Kalara swallowed some anger, readying a retort that would scald her scolding tongue. She was nineteen, which is no age to be associate with the word 'little' any more.
Neva pulled her aside. “What is the matter, Kalara? Are your studies wearing on you? Shall I have some lavender water fetched?”
“No, thank you.” She glanced back at the case. “Would you mind introducing me to Mr. Whitcomb, though? I should very much like to compliment him on his home.”
Neva brightened. “Of course, dear. I'm sure he'd just die to meet an Orlov.”
As they moved into the alternate living room, Kalara wondered to herself if his own funeral home would take care of his body, or if the business would go to his competition.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Liebster Blog Award

I have been given the Liebster Blog Award by Diana from All's fair with pen and paper. Thanks Diana!

Now I am supposed to answer her questions, and post some of my own to ask fellow bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers.

What author inspired you to start writing?
I wasn't inspired to start writing by an author. I actually wanted to draw for cartoon shows when I was eight. I drew page after page after page...and then, after I had a stack of paper a foot tall that covered a few minutes of action and dialogue, I decided it was taking a while and I should write out what I was going to do beforehand, so I didn't forget before I got there. Then I realized it's way more fun for me to write, and fell in love with the craft.

If you could bring any one of your fictional boyfriends to life (I know you have one!) who would it be?
I don't have to, I'm married to him. :)

What's your favorite color and why?
Green. It's the color of life and vitality. It's so vibrant, and not in a violent way like red.

What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Where would your ideal writing spot be?
In front of a wide, open window, where there is a yard and a ton of trees.

What is your favorite type of pizza?
Canadian bacon and bacon on a real chicago-style pan crust.

You're up for karaoke, what song do you sing?
Something by the Beetles. 'Obla Di Obla Da' probably.

Which power ranger would you have been?
Didn't watch a ton of power rangers, so if it's based on my favorite color, then green.

What is your favorite book, movie, and tv show?
Book is either The Great Divorce or Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis (I really can't decide). Movie is The Lord of the Rings director's cut. TV show is hard because there are so many I really like, such as Frasier,  Parks and Recreation, Community, Modern Family, Big Bang Theory, etc. Basically I like sitcoms.

What is your favorite paranormal being to read about?
The word paranormal makes me groan inside because *surprise* I'm not a Twilight fan. If we're talking something that can be found in fantasy, then dragons. If it's supposed to be someone who could pass as human but really isn't...I don't know, I like them all equally based on who's writing them.

What book are you currently reading?
I just got done reading Mort by Terry Pratchett (to get me in a comedic fantasy mood for my book I'll be writing for NaNo!), and it was pretty good. I liked I Shall Wear Midnight better personally, but I love Pratchett either way.

And now for my Liebster Blog Awards:

My questions for you:
Who's your favorite author and what do you love most about their writing?
What book do you least like and why?
If you had the means to, what is the one thing you wish you could buy, right now?
What are your Halloween plans?
Favorite hot drink?
Favorite fall food?
Favorite season?
How do you spend your free time?
What must you do in your non-free time?
If you could have only one type of pet for the rest of your life, what would it be?
You have a day left to live. What do you do?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Character Concept: Kalara

This is it. Next Friday, I will show you raw, uncut, pulpy new words in my new novel. Until then, I have one more character to share with you all...the star of the show! Kalara, come on out and take a bow!

Kalara grew up in the lap of luxury. Her parents own a bridal store chain, and started taking her to formal parties when she was ten, deciding she was old enough to act like an adult. She got used to these formal parties, learning the etiquette and how to blend in almost naturally. When she went to school, she felt like she was too grown up for her classmates, so she stopped paying much attention to them.

When she was thirteen one of her teachers noticed her flicking clovers when her fingers were two feet away from them, and told her she could be a mage, and that he would teach her how. But she had to keep it secret, because if you told your average person you could do magic they would either think you were crazy or fear you, and who wants to be in that mess?

She moved to NYC at the age of nineteen to attend Columbia University and learn business management, leaving her mentor but taking her maid who is now her sole confidant. To school she wears business casual, never ever pajama pants. She keeps her hair in the latest trends, and, thanks to her magic, with minimal effort.

So what are your opinions of my star?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Alexa Rating

Hi all, just a quick update today. I've been reading I Shall Wear Midnight, and I think it's worth a perusal by anyone who likes comedic fantasy. I'm using it to get in the mood to write my novel during NaNo, but I think I'll finish reading it today or tomorrow, so I'll have to go through another Terry Pratchett book before November (the horror!).

In other news, my blog just broke the 1m mark in Alexa Rating today! I never expected so many readers so quickly (or before I got published). So thank you for being my valued readers. If I could treat you all to ice cream I would. I myself am going to go drink hot chocolate, because it's decided to be near freezing this morning and my feet are cold.

See you all Friday!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Character Concept: Evander

Here's some more of my planning material for the novel, Kalara's Guide to Being Evil, I will be writing come November. There will be one more Friday post where I show only planning material before November 2nd, where I will show you what my writing is like at its roughest. Because there's no place for editing during NaNo. Okay, my OCD might take over a little and correct spelling and grammar errors before I hit "publish." Anyway...

This time I'm going to show you what my actual page looks like when designing a character.

  • Personality type: ESFJ-Caregiver, wants to be loved and please others.
  • Occupation: Devil's son. Tries hard to be good at being a devil, but has failed so far.
  • Age: 18 or 19
  • Height: 5'8"
  • Looks: Scrawny. Brown hair and eyes. Hair short and scraggly. Not very attractive, but his personality shines through and catches Kalara's attention. Slumps with hands in pockets, trying to look cool. Occasionally gets bursts of energy and jumps around.
  • Style: Casual with clumsiness stains.
  • Family life: Single child, expected to be a devil. Grew up in Tartarus.
  • Passion: Tap-dancing. He notices the way people walk and move.
  • Secrets: He's a devil's son, which he hides from normal people (magical world kept secret from "normal" one). He's attracted to Kalara. He tap-dances.
Do you think he's an acceptable main player in a comedic Urban Fantasy? Writers, how do your character development pages differ?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On Giving Up

My mom just told me "I hope someday you realize there's more [other than writing] you could be doing." What, because I'm 22 and working at a pizza place, so obviously I'll never be published? She also is under the impression that I became set on being an author at 16 or 17 instead of at age 8.

I started the conversation by telling her excitedly that I had finally decided to shelve my first novel (which I first conceived of when I was 14, and spent the whole summer typing on the computer, and my mom told me to stop and go play outside many times, telling me there was more to do on a bright, sunny day than write. Really. She got 16 or 17 from that? Super long sentence interruption!) and start a completely unrelated one. She basically told me that she wished me luck, but didn't believe I was going to be published. She said if I don't get published in the next two years, maybe I'll consider doing something more worthwhile.

She wants me to give up.

When I was in high school, I had the privilege of speaking with Rilla Askew, author or Fire in Beulah. She told me that throughout a writer's life (especially before being published) you have to grow a tough skin, because you'll get a lot of criticism. To make it you have to bear it and keep going. You have to be committed to never giving up.

Could I have gone to college, gotten a career, and still become an author? Sure. It would have taken a lot longer, and been a lot harder to write under those conditions. I'm perfectly happy working a "crappy" job (I actually like it. Low stress, nice people) and writing in my still-ample free time. And pretty soon my husband is going to get a degree and become a teacher, and I won't even need to work. Hopefully I beat him to starting my career (as an author), but if I don't, no worries.

Because I won't quit if things get a little difficult. I made my commitment to this long ago, and I'm going to see it through. I'll never give it up.

What depressing, hurtful thing has someone told you lately? How did you react?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Character Concept: Senona Merlo

So, I'm not supposed to write my comedic Urban Fantasy at all before November 1st (Oops! I'd forgotten NaNo was approaching before), so I'll be posting some of my planning material instead! Today's example is a character concept for Kalara Dahl's live-in maid (yes, she is very rich), Senona Merlo.

Senona knows that Kalara is a mage, and in exchange for never gossiping about it to anyone, Kalara uses magic to clean, allowing Senona to spend her time however she chooses. She chooses to party. Kalara, rich 19 year old who just moved to NYC, spends her time at home, at formal dinner parties, or lounging in high-class places around Columbia Circle. Her maid, who is 28, stays up late drinking with girlfriends like she's the one in college.

When Senona comes home late, Kalara greets her with a glass of water and the advice that she should go to bed. Kalara spends anywhere between five and thirty minutes on cleaning that would have taken Senona all day, commanding dirt to fly off the floor and into the trashcan, for clothes to shrug themselves clean, and for bathroom grime to crawl into the drains. Senona spends a little time each morning preparing meals, which go in the fridge and freezer for Kalara to eat when she's hungry, then she takes off to go shopping or to zumba, depending on the day.

On nights neither Kalara or Senona are out, they sit in their massive living room and talk like equals, describing to each other their polar-opposite lives.

Do you have any suggestions for personality quirks for Senona? What do you think of her and Kalara's role reversal?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

For Those About to NaNo

Rachel Aaron has just released a book on writing faster on Amazon, for $1. It's called 2k to 10k, and if you buy anything to prepare you for writing 50k in 30 days, it should be this. I'm going to.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Critique of The Rogue King

In response to my previous post, Aldrea Alien over at Thardrandian Thoughts submitted a page for review! So, here we go:

Koral looked up through the glass panel in the metal ceiling. The combined light of four moons made it difficult to see the stars. Only a scant few shone bright enough to punch through that pallid glow. Which one of those dots, out of the hundreds he knew were truly out there, belonged to the alien creatures raising him? They'd come from another world, somewhere beyond the moons and the twin suns. From a planet they called Earth. Nice nippet of world building in here. We already know it's another planet, with two suns and four moons, and humans have come to it.

He wished the same could be said about him. But then, he'd wished for countless things during the past twelve years of his life. None of them had come true either. I'm on the edge about this sentence. It's almost unnecessary, and slows the pace a little much.

"Excuse me."

Koral winced at the words. A weary sigh escaped his nostrils as he turned to face his birth-mother. Wait, why would his birth-mother be here if he's being raised by aliens? Or was his birth mother from earth?

Hands on hips, Amelia stood in the doorway of his tiny room aboard the spaceship. "Get your tail back to bed, mister." She was considered short by the men, who weren't much taller than her. Koral had recently surpassed all of them in height and their latest bio scans promised he would grow further still. Does he really have a tail? Have him flick it in irritation. Some people use "tail" as a synonym of "butt."

His gaze fell to her booted feet. How did she always manage to move so silently on the metal flooring? "Tell me another story," he said, giving her the smile that, usually, let him get his way. No commas necessary around the word usually.

"Very well," she said with a sigh, humour tweaking her lips. Amelia often indulged him. There were, however, times he felt certain he'd seen a flicker of unease in her dark-green eyes. "I suppose, seeing that it is your birthday, I can be lenient. Which one shall it be?" Are you from Europe, or the US? Using the "ou" spelling in words such as humour, colour, etc, is a European English thing. 

The battle won again, he dove under his bedcovers and waited while she tucked him in. "I want to hear about the space ship."

"Koral," she said, laughing. Loose strands of red hair bobbed about her pale face as she shook her head. "I've told that tale to death and you know it by heart." Thank you for using "laughing" responsibly!

"I want to hear you tell it."

Amelia smiled and sat on the edge of the bed. "A hundred years from now," she began, her voice taking on the steady tone of an expert storyteller, "fifty in Thardrandian time, there will be a ship in space as big as any city. Its sole purpose will be to discover whether time-travel is possible." If she's his birth mother, why would she use Earth time first? No dash necessary, just a space.

His gaze travelled (<typo) back to the glass panel as she continued talking. He'd never seen a city in his short life, only images on screens. Even then, most of what he'd seen was from photos or clips. His guardians never allowed him to venture outside for any reason. Out there was too dangerous. Now you say guardians. I am thoroughly confused about his living situation. Awkward wording in the highlighted sentence. Why not say "It was too dangerous out there"?

"Koral. If you want me to tell the story, you could at least listen."

"Sorry," he replied, the claws on his three-digit hands scraping lightly against the sheet as he drew it closer. He attempted to look as attentive as he could so she would continue. It's now obvious that the woman he's talking to is not the same race he is.

"Of course." One red eyebrow rose as parental indulgence replaced annoyance.

Overall thoughts: You said a couple from Earth was raising him, then said his birth-mother was there, then said his guardians wouldn't let him outside. Please clarify the situation. Other than that and a few spelling missteps, this looks great! I'm really interested in finding out more about your world, and why people have settled on it from Earth.

What do you think? Would you change anything else in this first page?

Announcement about Critiques

Only one person has ever submitted a page to be critiqued, and I didn't create this section of my blog to rip on published authors who don't submit (because really I'm jealous of all of them, if not for their skills then for their success). So from now on, I will do a critique post if someone submits something to be critiqued, and if not, I won't.

Having two jobs, a family, being a beta reader, and trying to write my own books doesn't leave a lot of time for other things. This is what I decided to cut. Sorry if you're disappointed, but my Friday Fantasy Scenes will remain on-schedule, and I'll keep you posted on other exciting things in my (mostly writer) life.

See you Friday!

Excerpt from Moon Dance

Remember that I am open to critiquing a page of prose if you send it to me. See my Critiques tab for more details. Here we have Moon Dance, and excerpt of which I found here. It was written by J.R. Rain, a fairly successful self-published author. Here we go:

I was folding laundry in the dark and watching Judge Judy rip this guy a new asshole when the doorbell rang. This is very crass. Personally I would avoid using the word "asshole" until I had established the voice of the narrator, so it doesn't feel like a slap in the face. I don't know, maybe that's what you were going for. Also, this sentence is very complex without any use of commas to organize it,  and could benefit from reorganization.

I flipped down a pair of Oakley wrap-around sunglasses and, still holding a pair of little Anthony’s cotton briefs in one hand, opened the front door. "Flipped down" doesn't mean anything to me, or if it does it means flipped them onto the ground. But after reading further, I find you mean "flipped a pair of Oakley wrap-around sunglasses down over my eyes." Which is not the most concise way of saying it, but it's more clear. "a pair of little Anthony's cotton briefs" is a lot of description for one pair of underwear. Try to be more concise while still capturing the picture, for example, "my child's cotton briefs." I would also use a long dash to interrupt the sentence instead of a comma here, since a comma after "and" and not before at first appears to be a mistake.

The light, still painfully bright, poured in from outside. I squinted behind my shades and could just made out the image of a UPS deliveryman.

And, oh, what an image it was.

As my eyes adjusted to the light, a hunky guy with tan legs and beefy arms materialized through the screen door before me. He grinned at me easily, showing off a perfect row of white teeth. Spiky yellow hair protruded from under his brown cap. The guy should have been a model, or at least my new best friend. "materialized through the screen door" makes it seem like he's moving through the screen like a ghost. Also, there wasn't a screen door there when we looked out the door a few paragraphs ago. Perhaps say "poured in through the screen door" there, and "materialized before me" here. Also, is his hair actually yellow (ew), or is it blond? This guy sounds like he's supposed to be perfect, but it comes off like a fake Ken doll, which makes me instantly dislike him.
“Mrs. Moon?” he asked. His eyes seemed particularly searching and hungry, and I wondered if I had stepped onto the set of a porno movie. Interestingly, a sort of warning bell sounded in my head. Warning bells are tricky to discern, and I automatically assumed this one was telling me to stay away from Mr. Beefy, or risk damaging my already rocky marriage. "His eyes seemed particularly searching and hungry" as in most people have searching, hungry eyes, but these are more so? Lose "particularly." Why is it interesting that warning bells sounded? It seems perfectly reasonable given this situation.

“You got her,” I said easily, ignoring the warning bells.

“I’ve got a package here for you.”

“You don’t say.”

“I’ll need for you to sign the delivery log.” He held up an electronic gizmo-thingy that must have been the aforementioned delivery log. Entirely unnecessary.

“I’m sure you do,” I said, and opened the screen door and stuck a hand out. He looked at my very pale hand, paused, and then placed the electronic thing-a-majig in it. As I signed it, using a plastic-tipped pen, my signature appeared in the display box as an arthritic mess. The deliveryman watched me intently through the screen door. I don’t like to be watched intently. In fact, I prefer to be ignored and forgotten. "and opened the screen door and stuck a hand out" there are better ways to word this. The sentence beginning "As I signed it" could also benefit from rewording and shortening. Here's where I hit a big stumbling block: your character flirted readily enough, but now says she prefers to be forgotten. If that were the case she would have been more reserved. It doesn't fit at all with the previous voice.

“Do you always wear sunglasses indoors?” he asked casually, but I sensed his hidden question: And what sort of freak are you?

“Only during the day. I find them redundant at night.” I opened the screen door again and exchanged the log doohickey for a small square package. “Thank you,” I said. “Have a good day.”

He nodded and left, and I watched his cute little buns for a moment longer, and then shut the solid oak door completely. Sweet darkness returned to my home. I pulled up the sunglasses and sat down in a particularly worn dining room chair. Again, "pulled up" makes no sense here, use "pushed my sunglasses to the top of my head" or just have her take them off.

Overall thoughts: Meh. You have a lot of wording issues that need to be more clear and concise, your voice seemed formed and then was broken entirely with a switch to an introverted thought, and I don't understand why a Ken-doll perfect guy would be a delivery man instead of in LA trying to be an actor, or being something else that takes advantage of his looks, at least a waiter. Delivery drivers don't take care of themselves. I haven't read the book, so it's totally possible that this guy shows up again and he was really a spy who was out to locate Mrs. Moon so he could take her down, in which case he would have tried to look like a delivery driver more instead of a body-builder/porno star.

What do you think? Anything to add, or that you disagree with? Have a great Tuesday!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Laura B Writer

I have a quick announcement. My blog was critiqued over at Laura B Writer! Thank you other Laura!

Announcement About NaNo and My Book

So, as many of you know (but perhaps a few don't) NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month) is coming up starting November 1st! I think it's a great time for me, because just yesterday I decided to shelf my first novel (finally) and write something in a different setting. It's an idea I had just recently for an urban fantasy, in a completely different setting than the one I've been obsessed with for I-won't-admit-how-many years. I'm shutting the pages on that one for now. I'm getting a fresh start, with all my skills I've built but haven't fully been able to utilize in all the rewrites of an old idea.

How about you? What are your plans for NaNo?

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Complete Guide to Being Evil

For once in my life I got a story idea from a dream that wasn't completely stupid! It's an urban fantasy. Here's a scene of it written out:

Kalara wiped the sweat off her forehead. She must have been more tired than she thought, to not be able to call a devil. Most of the time they jumped at the chance to make a deal with a mortal. Most mortals knew better, but she was desperate. She was losing the ongoing war with her rival.

She decided to call it quits for the night and went to her kitchen. She poured herself a glass of milk, or as she liked to think of it, liquid sustenance. Easier to digest after exhausting her abilities, but still full of nutritional goodness.

Someone knocked.

Kalara set down the jug on the counter and answered the door. On her porch stood a scrawny guy with dark hair, wearing jeans that had holes with some blood seeping through.

"My goodness, are you okay? Come in."

"Oh, I'm not here because of my leg. You called for a devil?"

She grabbed his shirt and yanked him inside, slamming the door shut. "Why would you say that out there? You want everyone to know I'm a mage?"


"You don't look like a devil. Why is your leg bleeding?"

"Well, I...I'm not really a devil yet. I'm a devil's son." Kalara clapped her hands over her eyes and sank into a chair. "My devilry test was to sneak into an old man's house a few doors down and influence his dreams, but his dog stopped me. Pretty pathetic, huh?"

She couldn't help it, she just started laughing.

"Yeah, yeah, it was. Anyway, I failed at that, but then you called for a devil. If you make the deal with me, if I make a deal with a mortal, they'll pretend that little incident never happened and welcome me with open arms."

It's a rough draft, but what do you think of the idea behind it?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Critique of The Last Wish Excerpt

I've joined Goodreads recently, and it recommended the book The Last Wish to me. So for today's Tuesday Critique, I have an excerpt from it, which can be found here.

The mare flattened her ears against her skull and snorted, throwing up earth with her hooves; she didn't want to go. Geralt didn't calm her with the Sign; he jumped from the saddle and threw the reins over the horse’s head. He no longer had his old sword in its lizard-skin sheath on his back; its place was filled with a shining, beautiful weapon with a cruciform and slender, well-weighted hilt, ending in a spherical pommel made of white metal. Saying "skull" makes me think of a death knight's horse, which is actually a skeleton  I would say head instead. Or just "flattened her ears." While I'm not one of the people out there who say semicolons have no place in fiction  I would not recommend using them three times in the first paragraph. And while description is important, it's better to use fewer, more powerful words instead of a vomit of words (for the sword).

This time the gate didn't open for him. It was already open, just as he had left it.

He heard singing. He didn't understand the words; he couldn't even identify the language. He didn't need to – the witcher felt and understood the very nature, the essence, of this quiet, piercing singing which flowed through the veins in a wave of nauseous, overpowering menace. I love this paragraph.

The singing broke off abruptly, and then he saw her.

She was clinging to the back of the dolphin in the dried-up fountain, embracing the moss-overgrown stone with her tiny hands, so pale they seemed transparent. Beneath her storm of tangled black hair shone huge, wide-open eyes the color of anthracite. Tangled needs a comma. I'm not sure how many people are going to get the reference to anthracite. When I use gem or rock names, I try to use well-known ones. What about black opal? It's a similar color, with the sparkle in it, even.

Geralt slowly drew closer, his step soft and springy, tracing a semi-circle from the wall and blue rosebush. The creature glued to the dolphin’s back followed him with her eyes, turning her petite face with an expression of longing, and full of charm. He could still hear her song, even though her tiny, pale lips were held tight and not the smallest sound emerged from them. I question your word choice for "emerged." Otherwise solid.

The witcher halted at a distance of ten paces. His sword, slowly drawn from its black enameled sheath, glistened and glowed above his head.

“It’s silver,” he said. “This blade is silver.”

The pale little face did not flinch; the anthracite eyes did not change expression. Pale needs a comma. There are too many semicolons on this page. What's wrong with periods?

“You’re so like a rusalka, “the witcher continued calmly, “that you could deceive anyone. All the more as you’re a rare bird, black-haired one. But horses are never mistaken. They recognize creatures like you instinctively and perfectly. What are you? I think you’re a moola, or an alpor. An ordinary vampire couldn’t come out in the sun.” You've got a space in the wrong place after rusalka.

The corners of the pale lips quivered and turned up a little. Nice and creepy.

Overall thoughts: It seems like you have a well-formed world here, but I'd like more character and hook. The semicolon thing is distracting. I think overall I would keep reading, since nothing truly turned me off, and the world seems interesting.

Would you read this book?

GUTGAA Small Press Contest

I've entered into the GUTGAA Small Press Contest, and my entry can be found here. See you at my normal time tomorrow!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mind Numbing

Today's Friday Fantasy Scene was inspired by my sister-in-law's brilliant new Youtube video here, where she does a cover for the song Glow. The original can be found here. Enjoy!

The overcast sky grumbled, trying to decide if it wanted to rain on everyone. Holly dropped her hood over her head, not giving it the chance to drench her. She walked unseen through the crowd of sullen people.

A hand grabbed her shoulder, and she whirled toward her attacker, but it was just Micah. She slumped. "Oh. Hi."

"Holly, I'd been calling your name. Didn't you hear me?"

She shrugged.

He pursed his brow. "It's happening to you, too. The mind-numbing. We have to get out of here. I know we have nowhere to go, but can't you see? Anything is better than this, this dampening of everything."

"I'm fine. I'm just tired."

"No, you're not. That's what they all say. Then they stop saying anything at all. I can't let that happen to you."

She turned her head. "I'm going to be late."

"To what? Nothing ever happens here! We have to escape. We have to get you free so you don't lose yourself. Don't you remember being happy, and having the sun shine on your face?"

Holly did remember, and the memory of that light broke through a barrier that had settled around herself. She took Micah's hand. "You're right, I'm sorry I didn't leave with you sooner. Let's go."

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Critiqued Excerpt from Scarfar

For this week's Tuesday Critique we have a reader submission! Paul Horsman, who is already a published author in the Netherlands (with the novel De Schadew van de Revenaunt) and soon to be published in English, can be found here. And check out the cover art for his book!

Beautiful! I want to know why American covers aren't more like this. But it's time for my critique, from a story he calls Scarfar. Here we go:

Creaking, the old beech came loose from its roots. The earth trembled as it came down and snow flew everywhere. By "the old beech came loose from its roots" do you mean "the old beech was parted from its roots"? This is passive, which critics like to identify and warn against. The order of the words during "the earth trembled as it" makes us think "it" is the earth, but then we keep reading and discover it's the tree. It's also a compound sentence, so place a comma before the "and".

‘That's five.’ Harald Enske placed his ax hard into the still bleeding stump. Placing something, while not defined this way, has the connotation of being gentle. Try "lodged his ax into". This way, you don't need the word "hard". How is the stump bleeding? With sap? Do beeches do this? (Obviously I need to know more about tree anatomy.) With the back of his hand, he wiped the sweat from his face. ‘Enough for today.’ The old karl looked around the group. ‘Well done, men.’ His eyes rested on a face rest. This doesn't make sense. Did you mean "his eyes rested on one of their faces"? ‘You too, Muus. We’ll make a real Nord of you, one of these days.’ The freedmen roared with laughter.

Muus forced a smile, but he said nothing. Highlighted word unnecessary. As a child slave, he’d all too often been the butt of crude jokes and hard hands had taught him not to show offense. Comma needed at the highlight. Now, every stupid remark strengthened his silent resolve to run. This sentence might flow better if it read "Now every remark". We have gotten that he considers their words stupid. No need to say "silent" since it's understood that he wouldn't tell people he's resolved to run. His mind wandered to the countless escape plans he’d made and rejected. To run was one thing, to run and stay alive was quite something else. Thegn Alman would mobilize the whole kingdom to recapture him. That he didn’t look like a Nord was no help either. The previous two sentences don't mesh well as they stand. Try "Thegn Alman would go to any lengths to recapture him, and he looked nothing like a Nord". Also make sure to tell us soon why he's so important to capture. Once he’d seen himself, reflected in a pool of water. Switch the highlighted words. He’d seen his thin, pale face, half hidden behind unkempt black hair. Not a Nord’s face at all. Besides, every fucking Nord was half as much taller than he was. In addition, every woman. Dammit, even many of the children were bigger. Does Nord imply man? These sentences could be streamlined, for example "Every Nord, man or woman, was half as much taller than he was, and many of the children even were larger than him." Who is your target audience? Most people don't care to read two cuss words so close together, nor so close to the beginning of the book. Let the reader get to know the character, learn to love him, before he falls into such foul language. Therefore, he waited and nursed his longing for freedom.

(I added a paragraph break here. It was too long, and the theme changed.)

Freedom, the word brought vague memories. Personally I would make the comma a period and capitalize "the". Round huts on the banks of a sparkling river, surrounded by green hills. Children playing, of which he was one. Fog over the river and drakkars with grim boar heads, cutting through the white shrouds. Lose this comma. Panic. People screaming. Blood and fire. A muscular arm in hard leather, dragging his six years old self to one of those terrible boats. "Six-year-old" if this is how you want to word it. I would prefer "dragging him as a six-year-old" so the man dragging and the main character don't get confused. Endless days of storm and raging seas. A rainy marketplace in a harbor town full of people who spoke in strange tongues. A place where children were sold like sheep. Children like him. You need to vary your sentence structure/length more. This paragraph feels bogged down from repetitiveness.

(I added a paragraph break here. Don't mix memories with present in the same paragraph unless the memories are contained in one sentence.)

Then, his thoughts far away, he almost walked into a tree and yelped. Cut "then". Why would he yelp if he almost walked into a tree? Either he almost walked into a tree and glanced around to see if anyone noticed, or he did walk into that tree, which would cause him to yelp.

‘Ya dreamin’, slave boy?’ Orn, a warrior with a long reddish beard, grinned his rotten teeth bare. Put commas in highlighted spaces. ‘Y’are a maid then?’ He licked his lips.

Muus’ face flushed and he blessed the polar dusk that veiled his shame. Add comma in highlighted space. For someone to call him a girl was naming him unmanly, a mortal insult. With another Nord, this would’ve been a fighting matter. However, he was only Muus. A thrall. He had no honor and he couldn’t defend himself. Add comma in the highlighted space.

Orn grinned and gave him a poke with his elbow, so that he almost tripped. Almost tripped or actually tripped? Harald acts like he tripped in the next paragraph.

‘Watch where you’re goin’, you,’ said Harald Enske without looking.

Muus clenched his fists and hurried to the fore. Stinking, brainless pig. And what made it worse, that slob Orn was one of Kjelle’s toadies. Thegnling Kjelle, whose body slave Muus wasThis is worded awkwardly. I would say "who owned Muus."

Final thoughts: Yikes, that's a lot of red! But it's all easily remedied things. On the whole I like it. In these few words you've given us setting, background, a glimpse into character (though I would work on making him more likable, being the underdog alone is not enough), and tension. English may not be your first language, but based on this short excerpt I would guess that your grasp of how to tell a story is solid. I look forward to reading your other works.

Sorry for making it so long with my red additions. What do you think?

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Quick Post on Agents

I have now (finally) amassed a list of 58 agents who represent fantasy. Statistically speaking (very rough statistics, mind you), if I sent my query out to all of them right now, I might land an agent! If my manuscript were finished.

I recently took on a very drastic rewrite of it, though, and while I think my book will be the better for it in the end, it is once again delaying any serious querying. Now I'm ready, though. I got excellent advice from Matt here on my query, which has helped me revamp it to something I'm much more satisfied with, and I have my list, with complete notes on specific submission guidelines, and little stars by the ones I think I'd like to work with most.

I'm excited. How about you?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Scene of From Halvmane's Shore

This Friday fantasy scene could be considered fiction, since it's only a dialogue. I'm behind on a rewrite of my book, so I wrote a scene I needed to instead of one that perhaps would have stood better on its own. So sue me. Without further adieu:

"You should return home," Andren said. "Your wife surely has need of you."

Ivar paled. "I won't disobey your brother, sir. I'll stay with you until your trip is over."

"But I have no idea when that will be. I've decided to go on the Wandering."

Ivar seemed for a moment to be on the verge of yelling before he got control over himself. "Then I must go with you. It's better for my wife for me to be gone however many months than for me to anger the king."

"Alrik is not my nursemaid to tie an attendant to me. I let you come this far so as not to put you in a hard spot with him, even though I wanted solitude to quiet my thoughts."

"I'm sorry to have been such an inconvenience. It wasn't my choice to be your attendant on this last-minute trip, one without a point, when I have a pregnant wife at home."

Andren ground his teeth. Ivar was obviously loyal to a fault, and he would get nowhere in further debate.

"Sir, what I said was out of turn."

"No, you're right. I'm sorry to have been such an inconvenience to you." Andren turned and stalked toward the room he was staying in. He would pack his things and leave while Ivar was distracted elsewhere. He would continue his trip, alone.

What do you think? Does it make sense without context?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Gari the Sorcerer

So, not a lot of people looked at my first Friday fantasy scene, and no one commented on it. Perhaps it was too long. The problem is, I'm not sure how to have a shorter story arc than the one I portrayed while using fewer words. Anyway, today I'm going to do something I think is cool, but then the things I think are cool end up being lame, but I don't know it. Thus the phrase "kill your darlings," right? Anyway, it's basically a query format (I've had query-brain recently), but from first person POV. Here we go:

Hi, my name's Gari. It's short for Valdtjugari, but you can't call me that. I'm a mage.

Not the wimpy dress-in-robes and use-a-wand kind. I wear normal street clothes and use a rod. Okay, maybe it's more of a club, but it shoots just fine and it's more handy in a brawl. Most sorcerers have trouble winning against things that can resist magic and can land a decent punch. Meaning they have trouble beating me.

Did I mention I'm a contracted mage silencer?

That's right. When magi start making trouble, the government calls me to make them stop. It was a sweet gig for a while. Still is, money-wise. Except I've realized now that they've been sending me after any mage they find, good or bad.

I no longer kill the magi they send me after. I do silence them, but by telling them what's going on and convincing them to come hide out in my basement for a while. When there are enough of us, we'll take down the people who are trying to wipe us out.

And after that, I guess I'll have to find a new day job.

What do you think? Was it cool, lame, or somewhere between? Would you rather my Friday posts be this length, or Gladiator Ring length?

Have a great day!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Linked from You Tube

So, I have a quick, extra post today. A lot of blogs were recently linked to from a You Tube video of a video game walk-through. Mine was one of them. Apparently, most of these bloggers are annoyed at having seven more visits because they're "spam" visits, and they're throwing a fit and trying to have that video removed from You Tube.

I'm personally not sure why they're so angry. Their blogs got extra hits. Isn't the point of having a blog for it to be read? Okay, the people looking at their blog from You Tube might not be reading it, but it's still boosting their Alexa rating, which is a good thing. Isn't it?

Apparently the most common complaint is a violation of privacy. That makes me laugh. If you are blogging, you are putting your opinion out there for all who want to see it. You are giving up your right to privacy on whatever you say.

Curious to know more? Here's the video in question. See you for my regular post on Friday!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Critique of Spirit's End Excerpt

For those who don't know, I love Rachel Aaron. She's a brilliant new author who's about to release Spirit's End, the fifth and final book in her Eli Monpress series, on November 20th. I discovered her during NaNoWriMo last year, when she linked her famous How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day blog post. Since then I've read all the Legend of Eli Monpress novels and her novella Spirit's Oath. And just recently, the four-chapter preview of Spirit's End. So here is the first page of it, with my remarks in red:

At age thirteen, Eliton Banage was the most important thing in the world, and he knew it. Great hook. It shows Eli's character perfectly in one sentence, and the reader wants to know why he's so important.

Wherever he went, spirits bowed before him and the White Lady he stood beside, Benehime, beloved Shepherdess of all the world. In the four years since the Lady had found him in the woods, he had wanted for nothing. Anything he asked, no matter how extravagant, Benehime gave him, and he loved her for it. The highlighted commas are not completely necessary, but that's a matter of opinion. Loving someone for giving him things is not the most sympathetic of traits. What about how she treated him? We don't get any of this until when things change between them (starting right at the end of this excerpt).

She took him everywhere: to the wind courts, to the grottoes and trenches of the seafloor, even into the Shaper Mountain itself. All the places Eli had only dreamed about, she took him, and everywhere they went, the spirits paid them homage, kissing Benehime’s feet with an adoration that spilled over onto Eli as well, as it should. He was the favorite, after all. Great world-building here. I'm thinking someone who hasn't read the other four books could probably pick this one up and read it without any problem, without being so long-winded as to annoy your loyal readers.

For four happy years this was how Eli understood the world. And then, the day before his fourteenth birthday, everything changed.

It began innocently. He’d wanted to go to Zarin, and Benehime had obliged. It was market day and the city was packed, but the crowds passed through them like shadows, unseeing, for Eli and the Lady were on the other side of the veil, that silk-thin wall that separated the spirits’ world from Benehime’s. As usual, Eli was walking ahead, showing off by slipping his hand through the veil to snitch a trinket or a pie whenever the shadows of the merchants turned away. He was so fast he could have done it without the veil to hide him, but Benehime had ordered he was never to leave the veil without her explicit permission. It was one of her only rules. The third sentence in this paragraph is pretty long with lots of commas, try to see if you can break it in half. Had he ever asked her permission to cross the veil to try his luck? It seems like the thing he might have at least considered.

He’d just pulled a really good snatch, a gold-and-enamel necklace. Grinning, he turned to show it to Benehime, but for once she wasn’t behind him. Eli whirled around, necklace dangling from his fingers, and found the Lady several steps back. She was perfectly still, standing with her eyes closed and her head cocked to the side, like she was listening for something. He called her name twice before she answered. He ran to her, giving her the necklace, and she, laughing, admired it a moment before throwing it on the ground and going on her way. What color enamel? So much of your description lets me imagine scenes clearly, but this needs a little more detail. How did she answer? Did she look at him, say "Yes?", or something else?

This was how it usually went. Benehime hated everything humans made. She said they were like paintings done by a blind man, interesting for the novelty but never truly worth looking at. Eli had long since given up asking what she meant. Still, she liked when he gave her things, and making her happy was the most important thing in his life. Great way to ease the reader from "beloved Shepherdess of all the world" to seeing her true nature. She shows a disdain for humanity as a whole, and even though she likes Eli giving her things, she tosses them to the ground.

She stopped twice more before they made it to the main square. By the third time, Eli was getting annoyed. Fortunately, her last pause happened only a dozen feet from his goal—the Council bounty board. I'm confused about how many pauses she takes. Perhaps word it more like "By the last time she paused, Eli was getting annoyed. Fortunately, it happened only..."

“Look!” Eli shouted, running up to the wall of block-printed posters. “Milo Burch’s bounty is almost a hundred thousand now!” He stared at the enormous number, trying to imagine what that much gold would look like. “He’s like his own kingdom.” I can just imagine his eyes open wide and twinkling as he gazed on in admiration.

Final thoughts: there's really not a lot here to improve on. The voice here is strong and well-done, and the hook is planted. You're an incredibly impressive writer!

What do you guys think? Did I miss something, or do you disagree about anything?

Don't forget that I'm accepting submissions for my Tuesday critique!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

My Query Critiqued

Okay, so I didn't think to do something that's probably pretty standard courtesy. My friend Matt over at The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment critiqued my query here, so now I'm linking you all over there to check out his awesome blog. Thank you, Matt!

For those of you who are interested, I posted the updated query in the My Novels section here.

Have a great day!

Friday, September 7, 2012

GUTGAA Pitch Polish

For those of you participating in GUTGAA, you know what this is. For those of you who aren't, you're looking at the pitch for my novel, along with the first 150 words.

From Halvmane's Shore
Adult Fantasy

Perhaps once he changes the course of history, Andren can let go of his self-loathing.

In the recent past, Prince Andren fell victim to a curse that turned him into a monster. Fortunately he'd already won the heart of Eiva, a canny sorceress, and she lifts the spell. Choked by the evil things he did during his transformation, he flees to the mainland. What he finds there are different races and nations all living in poverty and fear, victims of their ruthless dragon emperor.

Andren is outraged, and he makes it his goal to unite the nations--who so far have been bent on quarreling with one another--in war, and take out the most powerful being in the known world. At a time where guns are being invented and dragons are losing their magic, perhaps Andren can end the dragon age and start the age of man.

First 150 Words:

Andren smiled politely for the hundreds of guests, being the good prince he was supposed to. They cheered, but then of course they cheered, they were drunk. That and they didn't know what he'd done, no matter how much they liked to think they did. Blood was on his hands. His smile faltered, but no one noticed. They kept cheering. He took a drink from his silver goblet to give himself an excuse to break eye contact with the crowd.

“Hear, hear,” cried Alrik, who was standing next to Andren. He took a drink as well, and everyone else in the dining hall followed suit. “Yes, we're all very glad he survived. When the Fallen took him a few months ago, I was grieved that I'd lost the last of my family. I thought surely Deus had cursed me, that I would live alone. But with the fall of the Fallen he has returned my brother to me, and I am eternally grateful.”

If you want to know more about my novels, check out the My Novels tab above. If you want another taste of my writing, you can check out a short fiction scene I wrote here, or the Excerpts tab above. To see how I got my query to this point, check out the critique I got for my previous one here.

So what do you think? Let me know, I have a thick skin.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Gladiator Ring

The doors opened in front of Kaden. Sunlight reflected off the sand and stung his eyes, blinding him for a moment. He stumbled into the ring, squinting until he could make out the field. Four stands of five spears were placed around the arena. He trotted over to one, swiping his glaive around him as he ran, provoking cheers from the spectators. Grinning for them, he whirled it again. Might as well hype them up now, instead of trying to flourish his movements once his enemy was around.

The doors across the arena creaked open. The beast they revealed was large, and Kaden could just make out men behind it, prodding it. The monster yelled and stepped into the light.

It was a centaur.

Kaden swallowed and took a second look at where the stands were. The spears were a gift and a curse--it was hard to catch up to a centaur, their horse legs carrying them almost three times the speed he could go, but centaurs tended to be particularly gifted at throwing them as well. And the centaur could replenish his supply faster than he could.

The centaur charged. Kaden swung his glaive, hard, sundering the spears on the stand next to him, then ran for the next one. The centaur got to the stand nearest it and picked up the first spear. He hurled it, but Kaden rolled. He came up with his glaive ready and rent the second spear stand. Another spear glanced off his chain shirt.

He stumbled to the side but recovered himself, heading for the next stand. The centaur grabbed his three remaining spears and galloped for the last stand, loosing one of his weapons as he ran. This one whooshed just behind Kaden. So there are seven left.

They were close enough to each other now that Kaden could see the sweat bleeding down the centaur's taught muscles. For the span of a heartbeat he felt sorry for the beast. It hadn't chosen to be here in this death match as he had. But what choice had he, really? His family needed to eat. With that thought he slammed the shred of empathy out of his heart.

They were three yards from one another, the stand of spears two yards from each of them. The centaur raised another spear to throw.

Kaden swept his glaive up--pole first--just in time to toss the spear to the side. The centaur skidded to a stop by the stand and brought his last spear in hand to bear, pointed straight at Kaden's chest.

Kaden got just within range of it before stopping, stabbing at the centaur's front leg. He needed to injure it, so it couldn't flee with all its new ammunition. He'd gotten lucky so far, but he knew he couldn't count on luck.

The centaur reared, putting his strength into a jab of his spear. Kaden tried to duck to the side, but it caught in his chain and yanked him down. He planted the butt of his glaive on the ground, trying to stabilize himself. He felt bruised, but he managed to stay upright. As the centaur drew its spear back again he slashed its ribs.

The beast cried out, grabbed three spears in his off-hand, and galloped off, leaving a splatter of red behind him. The crowd cheered at first blood. Kaden dropped his glaive and took up a spear, and he and his opponent each tossed one at another. Kaden's slit the centaur down his flank. At first he thought the centaur's had missed, but as he grasped his last spear, he glanced down and saw the truth. His leg was impaled, his leather skirt unable to deflect the direct hit. Blood was seeping out of the wound at a rapid pace.

He tossed his spear in a whirl of panic, and before it left his hand he knew it would never land. He was going to die.

By some miracle, the centaur's next spear came short, skittering to a stop at his feet. He picked it up reverently, caressing the shaft of his final hope. If he didn't kill the centaur with this spear, he would bleed out. He leveled it, leaning all his weight on his good leg, took a deep breath, and sprang. All in one movement he expelled his breath, leaped forward, and extended his arm. He toppled over, his wounded leg buckling, and lay prone. The crowd went wild. Probably anticipating my death, he thought.

After what seemed like an era, a shadow loomed over him. That would be the centaur coming in for the final blow.

The shadow lifted Kaden onto a stretcher. "That was the best throw I've ever seen!"

"Right through the heart. What a comeback."

"Let's get him to the medic. Wouldn't want such a champ to die on us."

Kaden was weightless, floating over the arena floor. He frowned at the two men holding him up. They didn't look like angels.

I hope you enjoyed my first Friday fantasy scene. Please comment and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Critique of Twilight

Nobody has submitted anything for me to analyze, so today I'll be critiquing an excerpt from everybody's favorite source of sparkly vampires--Twilight! I got this off of Oprah's website. I know Stephenie Meyer will probably never read this, it's merely an exercise.

Now, to be fair, I've always wanted to do this. That is, make this book bleed red. So excuse me if I have a little too much fun with it. *Giggles.* Here we go:

"You know Bella, Jacob?" Lauren asked—in what I imagined was an insolent tone—from across the fire. That's a lot of names all in a row. There has to be a better way. And the POV character is saying she imagined the speaker's tone was insolent... Why not say "in a tone I thought sounded insolent." The current wording is awkward.

"We've sort of known each other since I was born," he laughed, smiling at me again. People don't laugh words. Try it right now. It was super awkward, right? Either replace the comma after "born" with a period and capitalize "he" or word it "he said, laughing, and smiled at me again."

"How nice." She didn't sound like she thought it was nice at all, and her pale, fishy eyes narrowed. Fishy eyes? I kept reading it as "fleshy." By now you're bogging the reader down in too much stage direction during the conversation, interrupting the natural thought process.

"Bella," she called again, watching my face carefully, "I was just saying to Tyler that it was too bad none of the Cullens could come out today. Didn't anyone think to invite them?" Her expression of concern was unconvincing. Is this the same "she"? Why did you put a paragraph break between this and the one before it? Again, too much stage direction. I know it's in dialogue (and therefore doesn't follow the same rules as other writing) but the sentence "I was just saying to Tyler that it was too bad none of the Cullens could come out today" is super awkward, and could be streamlined a great deal. Try "I was just saying it's too bad the Cullens couldn't make it today."

"You mean Dr. Carlisle Cullen's family?" the tall, older boy asked before I could respond, much to Lauren's irritation. He was really closer to a man than a boy, and his voice was very deep. Here you're telling us that Lauren is irritated, when the POV character doesn't know that's the specific emotion going through her. She may know that Lauren grimaced at his reply, or shot a glare his way. I personally find it irritating to have the POV character backtrack and correct herself after she'd already moved the thought process back to Lauren, and give too much description during a dialogue exchange. Does it matter what exactly his age is, or what his voice sounds like, at this instant?

"Yes, do you know them?" she asked condescendingly, turning halfway toward him. More over-stage-direction.

"The Cullens don't come here," he said in a tone that closed the subject, ignoring her question. I'm not sure what a tone that closes a subject sounds like, having never really heard one myself. I've had people say things with a serious expression on their face, and after a moment of staring turn away, but the tone in itself could just be taken as angry or stern. Right here it's just more over-direction. And it's obvious he ignored her question--he didn't answer it. Don't treat the reader like they're too dumb to pick that up on their own.

Tyler, trying to win back her attention, asked Lauren's opinion on a CD he held. She was distracted. Telling instead of showing. This should read more like "'Hey Lauren, what do you think of this CD?' Lauren turned to talk to him instead."

I stared at the deep-voiced boy, taken aback, but he was looking away toward the dark forest behind us. He'd said that the Cullens didn't come here, but his tone had implied something more—that they weren't allowed; they were prohibited. His manner left a strange impression on me, and I tried to ignore it without success. He's a boy again, I see. His tone is extraordinarily specific and multi-tasking. And wouldn't the last sentence be better if it read "I tried to put it out of my mind, without success"? Ignoring something takes time, whereas putting something out of your mind you can fail at withing seconds.

Jacob interrupted my meditation. "So is Forks driving you insane yet?"

"Oh, I'd say that's an understatement." I grimaced. He grinned understandingly.

I was still turning over the brief comment on the Cullens, and I had a sudden inspiration. It was a stupid plan, but I didn't have any better ideas. I hoped that young Jacob was as yet inexperienced around girls, so that he wouldn't see through my sure-to-be-pitiful attempts at flirting. If they'd known each other for so long, how does she not know how Jacob is with girls? And why is she calling him young here? And why does she decide to flirt with him and call it a plan?

"Do you want to walk down the beach with me?" I asked, trying to imitate that way Edward had of looking up from underneath his eyelashes. It couldn't have nearly the same effect, I was sure, but Jacob jumped up willingly enough. First sentence out of dialogue would be better as "trying to imitate the way Edward looked up from beneath his eyelashes." It's more streamlined, less clunky.

Overall thoughts: I was not impressed. At all. Aside from what I wrote above, this scene is completely un-engaging. Every page of your book should have tension, to draw the reader forward to the next one, but the only thing keeping me reading here was to get through the critique. I know you're a big sensation like Brittany Spears was ten years ago, but I would recommend listening to advice of more experienced authors like Brandon Sanderson and create more engaging characters and plot.

Well, what do you think guys, was I too harsh? Do you disagree with anything, or would you add something of your own?

Please feel free to submit your own writing for the chopping block!

Friday, August 31, 2012

GUTGAA Meet and Greet Post

I'm participating in GUTGAA, and today we're posting our meet and greets! So here's the short Q&A for me:

Where do you write?
At my desk at home.

Go to your writing space, sit down, and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
A blank, white wall. I look down and see my printer.

What genre do you write?
Adult fantasy.

What's your favorite time to write?
Whenever I get the chance. If I'm on a good sleeping schedule I'm more productive in the mornings, and write a little at night to keep my book in mind while I sleep. I find lots of problems work themselves out and I wake up with the answers.

Drink of choice while writing?
Water. I hardly drink anything else, writing or not.

When writing, do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
Silence. Sometimes my children and husband are playing so loudly I retreat to the basement.

What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
Stories just pop in my head without any clear source on inspiration. Sorry if that's uninteresting.

What's your most valuable writing tip?
Keep learning. Whether you're watching online lectures, reading books on writing and editing, going to conferences, or just reading writer's blogs, keep learning. While practice makes perfect, these tools will tell you what to practice, and jump you forward.

Hello fellow GUTGAA participants! And to my normal readers, I'm going to change the pace for my blog (again). See the new schedule in the sidebar. See you tomorrow!

Writing Conferences

I was going to go to the Surrey International Writer's Conference (running from October 19-21) and pitch my book to editors and agents there (you get 10 minutes alone with them to do just this), but have decided against it.

I recently decided to split my novel at the natural division that has had me tied up in knots trying to write a decent query...but it's two stories! So part one will now be a separate novella, which as a new author I won't be able to sell, even though it's about ready for publication. And part two will be the book I'm working to get published, and maybe once it is people will want to know more about Eiva and I'll sell the novella then. This decision necessitates a major edit that will take me more than a month and a half to finish.

Also, the conference is really expensive (because of how excellent and acclaimed it is), and my family's not in the best position to sponsor such a trip.

But I do want to encourage any writers out there who want to be published to go to writing conferences. I've been to several throughout the years (on the learning side of it, not the hob-nobbing side), and they're an excellent way to learn the craft. Even if you have a hard time learning from lectures like me. It's beneficial both because expert authors and editors tell you what works and what doesn't, and because you are around of a lot of other aspiring authors, and you get a measure of how you compare.

And on the hob-nobbing side, all the authors I've ever met in person say they hooked an agent through writer's conferences. Trust me, I will be attending one, probably in 2013. You know, if the world doesn't end this year.

If you don't know where to find a conference, there's a good search tool here, which lists them first by location, and then by date.

Have a great Friday everyone!