#Magicday…Quiet

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Monday, for most, means the unfriendly sound of the alarm clock and back to work or school. For me, Mondays bring a special magic…quiet.

The kids go to school and the hubs goes to work, leaving me and the cats and dog. Seriously…my happy place. Last weekend was a little crazy. My son’s first high school track meet, which we had very little information about, ended up being an all day event. Somehow hubs and I saw him run in two races and managed to run a few errands.

I’m not exactly sure what happened to Sunday…but I don’t feel like I got to sit down.

So…I welcome Monday. Though I cleaned for the first couple of hours (I even flipped couch cushions and vacuumed them!), the house feels better. I have reclaimed my area and will settle back into my routine. My workout. Writing. Reading. Maybe some laundry…because there is always laundry.

In the quiet.

Whether you find a moment of peace on a Monday or not, I wish you quiet time. Maybe that was what you had last weekend. If so, I hope you enjoyed it. I will enjoy today.

Quiet moments are magic.

 

Me and the Words: A Tale of Critique

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I like to critique. If I have something to read and comment on, I will happily set aside my crappy words and do it!

I love to read what other people have imagined.

After critiquing so many queries and first pages for Son of a Pitch, after going to my writers’ group and commenting, after sending numerous manuscripts back to their authors…I can’t help but wonder why people come to me. If what I say is helpful. Though I have been told it is.

I’m no expert on writing. I don’t really know if anyone is.

My hubs told me that I should be an editor…and I laughed. I know he was thinking of a way I could be paid for the work I put in, BUT I AM NOT AN EDITOR. I critique.

So what does that mean?

Critiquing for me is an immersive experience…especially if I have the words…listening at writers’ group is another thing, I’m not as good at the listening. I critique because I am an author and it is part of the job, a give and take kinda thing.

As I read, I make tons of comments. I ask all sorts of questions. I will point out where the words don’t make sense to me…where I get lost in the choreography…where a certain word doesn’t quite fit for me…basically any time my brain skips a beat and says…

But I also highlight the moments I love. The words that flow in a perfect wave…the moments in the story where I have a serious reaction (I will write what my exact reaction is, I have been told those can be humorous)…the moments I have thoughts about the characters or story…

So, basically…everything I think, I write down. I’m not telling anyone what to do. I’m not giving orders as to what must be done for the manuscript to be “good”. I’m giving my perspective, so the author can see one person’s interpretation of their work. We write with a single idea in mind, but writing is art and that is always seen in a million different ways. It’s always good to know how others envision it.

I ask questions for a very simple reason. Not because I think they all need to be answered in that paragraph, but to kick the author’s creative brain into gear, get the imagination flowing outside of the stream…to spark any ideas that the author never knew they wanted.

I write down my reactions so the author will know as a reader, what I am reacting to…what I am interested in. Of course, not everyone will react to the same things. I will react with a lot of flailing and all caps reactions to demon fights or creepy ghosts than kissing or falling in love.

That’s just me.

I expect authors to read my comments, to digest them, then to ignore all the questions that don’t spark any ideas, to ignore all the things that don’t matter. I expect the author to do what is right for their story. The author is the only one who can be certain their manuscript is finished (though I’m pretty sure no one knows when this thing called “finished” is).

I saw a tweet yesterday of an author who wanted to know about finding critique partners…about how one faces social anxiety and talking to people about their work. I have a group of trusted individuals who will read my crappy whatever drafts. They haven’t always been the same group. It takes time to find people. It takes guts to swap chapters to see if you will work well as CPs. It takes being open to what others have to say, but knowing what you need to hear and how you need to hear it to help push you to be the best writer you can be.

It takes time to find people to trust with your words.

But critiques are important. Getting that view from someone outside the story is important. Growing as a writer is the objective.

 

#Magicday…Community

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I live in a small town. Our area school isn’t very big, but we are mighty Warriors. My daughter is in eighth grade and, as you may know from previous posts, joined the Spirit of Woodlan marching band last fall. AND THEY FINISHED FIFTH AT THE STATE COMPETITION! Making them the best HS marching band in the northern part of the state, the winners are south of Indy.

And they did it wearing uniforms that have been around for 16 years. I watched a volunteer hand sew tiny holes shut on gloves every competition day. I watched parents carefully tuck jackets into bags hoping they wouldn’t fall apart. I heard stories of pants ripping, and not down a seam, and the frantic search for ones that would work.

Time for new uniforms?

Well, when our fabulously talented Spirit of Woodlan marchers were nominated and then invited to play in the Fourth of July parade in Washington D.C. this summer, new uniforms were added to the list.

But these things aren’t cheap. Goodness no. So we have been asking for donations. And TONIGHT the community will come together to help raise the last little bit they need.

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We have volunteers manning the concessions, selling food donated by the parents of the band members. We have Woodlan alumni coming to play a basketball game against the K-105 Hoopsters. Should be a good time! All for our little town’s school. All to help our incredible marching band look their best for our country’s birthday parade in our nation’s capital. And send them into next competition season looking snazzy.

My daughter is super excited to be one of the first to wear the new uniforms. And we are buying her one of the old hats with a plume to remember her first year in the Spirit of Woodlan…that money also going to the uniform fund.

These kids work so hard. It’s so great to see the community come together to support them.

If you’re in the area, come to Woodlan HS. $5 at the door. Yummy food. Great fun! Game starts at 7! I’ll be there in my Spirit of Woodlan shirt!

Magical.

The Season of Lent

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Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. I was raised Catholic, so this time of year was always a big deal. As Catholics have many rules, the season of Lent seems to have more. Lent is a time of self-sacrifice, to look inward. To fast. To pray. All to get ready for the miracle of Easter.

The church is pretty good at telling us how to live. Pretty good at throwing the word sin around. Pretty good at reminding us how our eternal reward is waiting…if we do what we’re supposed to do. Pretty good at judging those who don’t live according to their teachings. I’ve learned that the church can be pretty closed-minded. And yet preach peace on Earth.

Well, I believe that no one group of people get to tell the world what is the “right” way to live. I believe that peace comes from acceptance.

As a goodie-two-shoes ruler follower and as a kid, so for years I did what was expected. Yet as I got older, I began to question. Why am I doing this? Why am I following these rules? What exactly does it mean to me? If I am doing these things only because the church tells me to…what am I gaining? How is this bettering me, how is this bringing me closer to God, to my faith?

That’s what all this should do. Grow our faith. In whatever it is we believe.

What we choose to do should make us stronger.

However, when I didn’t follow the rules, I felt a lot of guilt. So Lent became this terrible season where I either did what I was told and ended up with a head full of questions or played the rebel and ended up with a heart full of guilt.

As Lent approached this year, I wanted it to be different. I’m tired of feeling guilty. There’s no reason to live up to other’s expectations. Only my own. God did give me my own mind for a reason…I should use it.

Easter is a time of hope, of renewal. So I am focused on that.

I will use these 40 days to grow my faith in me, to make myself the best version of me I can be. Even though I won’t be following the church’s rules, by listening to my heart I think God (or whoever is up there) will be proud of me.

My energy will be directed to creating better, healthier habits. And not eating right and exercising, but mental health. By carving time for all the things that will help me be a stronger person, I will push away all the things that hold me down.

By the time Easter arrives with all its glory, I will be on my way to the best me I can be.

One set of rules for everyone doesn’t work. We’re all different. Whether you celebrate Easter and Lent or not. Take time to grow your faith, to believe in yourself, to allow yourself to be the person you were meant to be. Drive out the darkness and open yourself to the light.

That’s what Lent is to me. That’s what Easter is to me. I’m finally ready to allow myself to live it.

 

#Magicday…Breaks

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I’m not talking broken dishes…or bones here. But time for yourself.

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After last weeks crazy Son of a Pitch schedule, I took time off from words, form thinking about them, from writing them…everything. I kinda zoned on the TV and watched the shows I love…I was a bit behind.

I am good at taking breaks. I am good at doing nothing. I excel at relaxing.

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But not everyone does.

My husband works two jobs, Monday through Friday he is gone at 7am and gets home around midnight. He finally got a job where he has weekends off! Yea! Except he takes the weekends to do all the things! We have a big old house that we have been remodeling for 15 years, and though most of the huge projects are done, there are still little things here and there…moulding mostly. He’s building a magnificent wall shelving unit for our bedroom! It’s fabulous. So he’s always doing something. Last weekend he couldn’t seem to focus on anything so he ended up sitting in front of the TV, napping, and playing video games.

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He kept looking at me and saying, “It’s just a lazy weekend.”

And I would smile and say, “YEA!”

Except, he wasn’t saying it because he was happy about it. He started referring to himself as a lazy bum. He felt bad for not finishing one project or the other.

Me: What do you HAVE to get done?

Hubs: Well, the moulding in the upstairs bathroom…

Me: And if it doesn’t get done today?

Hubs: Then it will never get done!

Me: Just because you don’t do it today doesn’t mean it will never get done. It’s okay to sit.

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Look at me being the voice of reason! Or perhaps the voice of laziness? Whichever…it’s all good.

Last night, he turned to me and said, “Well, I truly did nothing all weekend.”

I straightened my shoulders in pride and replied, “You work so hard for us…for all that we have. You should sit sometimes and enjoy the life you have built. Sitting in the house without running around working on it. Playing video games with your son instead of watching him play as you pass. Laughing with all of us instead of being too busy.”

Living doesn’t mean working, well not all the time.

Pretty sure when I’m facing whatever comes after this life, I won’t be wishing I had cleaned more, worked more, or made more money. Sometimes living is about being in the moment, really seeing what you have and enjoying it. We all get back to work. We all have a purpose, meaning things to do…bills to pay…ways to leave our mark on the world. But what is it worth if we never sit and take all the magic in?

You might miss something fantastical…

 

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#SonofaPitch…Thoughts and My Votes

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As the second round of Son of a Pitch wraps up, I sit here smiling…tired and my mind a bit frazzled, but very happy.

I read 51 entries, which included a query and the first 250 words of the manuscript. I hosted eleven of them on this little blog! It was an honor. I read some once, others…after revisions were posted…twice, and some more than that. I gave all my opinions. I squeed at some of the words. I smiled at others. I gasped. I laughed. I sighed. From horror, to fantasy, to sci-fi, to romance, to women’s fiction, to literary…YA, NA, and adult…everyone brought something different to this event. Everyone came to learn. Everyone united to help.

Son of a Pitch is my favorite writing competition. Everyone gets feedback. Everyone participates. Everyone is involved. #sonofapitch has been my favorite hangout these last few days.

I am so proud of how hard the critiquers worked! I am so proud of how hard the participants worked to listen, to absorb, and then took the comments and revised! Seriously, some of these queries went from confusing or vague to clear, concise, and unforgettable. How many first 250 passages went from pretty good to HOLY WOW GIVE ME MORE PAGES NOW!

Today is the day we, the critiquer/judges vote. I will post my vote in the comments of my chosen five. Yes, five. And I get to pick two alternates, which will remain secret for tie breaking purposes. I am going to post my winners and links to them here. In a second…

For as I write this I still haven’t quite decided. This isn’t a whose query is better, who used the best words kinda thing. There’s no formula. This is all subjective. And I, being me, am drawn to certain things. The weird. The magical. The creepy. So even though plenty of words were pretty darn shiny, though so many queries made me want to read the manuscript, I will choose what I am drawn to. Everyone will. That’s how art works, an untamable beast.

Okay…I might have figured this out. Let’s not be shocked that my chosen are YA in the horror, suspense, and fantasy genres.

In no specific order…

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From #TeamDarkSide…

ASHES, ASHES… Go read it here.

I chose this one, because I COULD NOT STOP THINKING OF IT. The premise just stuck in my head. The first 250 had me…AH, PEOPLE, THE WORDS. The revised query…really good! Chills. Baby. Chills.

 

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From #TeamDarkSide…

LUCID… Go read it here.

Yes, another one from my team…I might be prejudice, so shoot me. But again, the premise! The query might still need help, but it’ll get done. The first 250 had me. I was so sad when I came to the end. The character Marlowe is super intriguing. She could be one of my favorite evil characters!

 

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From #TeamRebels…

THE BOOKSHOP… Go read it here.

Dude. I am a sucker for a unique fantasy. And if you know me and what I have written, a sucker for ways into other universes. Again, the concept made me bounce in my little chair…or large sofa. The first 250 was intriguing and mysterious. I want the whole story.

 

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From #TeamDarkSide…

NEFFERS… Go read it here.

Really, Kathy. ANOTHER from your blog? YESSIREE! I like horror. The idea of these Neffers, made my creepy, dark soul shiver. After the first line of the query…I WAS READY TO GO! The query has evolved, and is much clearer. The first 250 had so much weird! How could I not love this.

 

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From #TeamRebels…

SILVER AND ICE… Go read it here.

The query was good when I read it, but the author has improved it. The idea of silvertongues…those who can control minds with their voices…YES PLEASE. The first 250 set up the mc, promised me a cool world and HELLO QUEEN WHO IS SO COLD ICE CRYSTALS FORM ON THE FLOOR. Dude.

I went back and forth on quite a few. Reread many queries and first words. But had to go with the ones that had left the biggest impression on me. Now we wait to see who makes it into round three and will get their chance in front of the publishers participating. *bites fingernails*

Just because the entry isn’t in my top five, doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. I liked a lot of them. We have done a lot of work over the past few days. Everyone should feel proud. I am proud.

It has been an honor to be involved, thanks to Katie for inviting me! I hope all my new friends keep in touch and tell me how all the words are going.

That is the end of my crazy Son of a Pitch week…or few days…or whatever. I have no idea what day it is. I had a great time.

 

NEFFERS…#SonofaPitch: Entry 11 #TeamDarkSide

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Son of a Pitch, round 2, begins! Welcome to Team Dark Side.

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Eleven posts, for eleven entries. Four other blogs are hosting more! The comment section is for Son of a Pitch authors to leave their thoughts. So please do not comment unless you are a Son of a Pitch author. Thank you!

Onto entry 11!

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Title: NEFFERS
Category and Genre: YA Horror
Word Count: 75,000
Query:

Fifteen-year-old Del will do anything to save her terminally ill younger sister, Addie, including amassing a pile of dead bodies in an abandoned Texas field.

When Del stumbles upon a mortally wounded man, he hints at the existence of a Fountain of Youth which possesses the power to heal anyone willing to pay its price of human sacrifice.

Del forces her family to trek into the dangerous Texas hill country seeking access into Eternum, home of the Fountain. If the injured man’s dying words hold truth, Del can resurrect her recently deceased father and save Addie.

The Fountain demands Del ceremoniously kills Addie. When she refuses its price, the townsfolk throw Del to the Neffers, beastly protectors of the Fountain. Del learns the Neffers are prisoners, not protectors, of the Fountain, and they begin evolving her into one of their own in return for her agreeing to help them escape.

With the arms-length help of Addie, Del devises an escape plan until she realizes Neffers survive by drinking the blood of sick children like Addie. Unfortunately, the men of Eternum, including her father, hold an even darker secret than the Neffers.

Del must decide between freeing the Neffers on the human world, so she can stop the men of Eternum and be reunited with Addie or lose the last remaining piece of her humanity and watch as the men of Eternum sacrifice children for their own benefit and her next meal.

 

First 250 Words:

The toe tag on the decapitated body read: IF FOUND, CALL (512)555-5813, so Del pulled out her iPhone.

“I’m not afraid of you,” Del said, circling the decaying corpse. She maintained a perimeter outside the buzzing flies and fluid soaked ground but breathed easier knowing it wouldn’t answer her. “I’ve seen other dead people, you know.”

Seen. Created. CollectedSame difference.

The bright Texas sun played spotlight for the headless body starring center stage. Nothing else in the barren field warranted a second glance. Del spied a turkey vulture gliding in a copycat pattern around the body. She reached down, snatched a piece of gray limestone from the dirt, and launched her projectile skyward at the hideous black bird.

“Get outta here, dumb bird! He’s mine!” Del’s temples bulged purple veins with each scream. The vulture settled into the lone oak tree populating the field and voiced its displeasure, but, for now, Del owned her prize uncontested. A prize needed, not wanted.

She sneered at the corpse. “He’d eat you if I let him, but you’re my entrance fee.” Del flipped her head toward the unstained wooden boards under the Live Oak. “And them.” Dead bodies were a one-way ticket to life in jail for most, not a bloody precursor to salvation.

Del chewed her last unbroken nail to a jagged nub before dialing. She figured most people would be afraid to call, but most people weren’t in her situation.

What if no one answered?

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And now my critique. Yes, I am doing it right now, if you don’t want to read my thoughts, stop here.

First, a disclaimer…

Hi, my name is Kathy. I am not a writing god or expert. I will tell you what works for me and what doesn’t. I will put in honest reactions. Please take the comments that make sense to YOU for YOUR ms. Please disregard any comments that aren’t relevant. I will ask a butt-ton (seriously, I don’t know exactly how much a butt-ton is, but it’s a lot) of questions to spark your creative brain. Any questions that I ask that give you an AH-HA moment run with all those ideas! The questions that don’t send lightning to your mind…ignore. Please listen to all the other wonderfully talented people who will stop by.

Thank you for sharing your words. Your words are important. You are awesome! 

Query:

Fifteen-year-old Del will do anything to save her terminally ill younger sister, Addie, including amassing a pile of dead bodies in an abandoned Texas field. (OMG I’m in! Only what is the purpose of all the bodies?)

When Del stumbles upon a mortally wounded man, he hints at the existence of a Fountain of Youth which possesses the power to heal anyone willing to pay its price of human sacrifice. (Hints at? What exactly does he tell her? Because seems like she knows a lot.)

Del forces her family (Who is her family? Mom, Dad, other siblings? Why bring them?) to trek into the dangerous Texas hill country seeking access into Eternum, home of the Fountain. (Access into Eternum? Is this not on Earth? Is this in another plane?) If the injured man’s dying words hold truth, Del can resurrect her recently deceased father and save Addie. (It can heal and bring people back from the dead?)

The Fountain demands Del ceremoniously kills Addie. (That sucks! Kill the one you want to save!) When she refuses its price, the townsfolk (What townsfolk?) throw Del to the Neffers, beastly protectors of the Fountain. Del learns the Neffers are prisoners, not protectors, of the Fountain, and they begin evolving her into one of their own in return for her agreeing to help them escape. (The Neffers sound cool! Prisoners? Why? And why does she have to be one of them? How are they different from humans? Does she meet them on her search for the fountain? Do they keep people from finding it?)

With the arms-length help of Addie, Del devises an escape plan until she realizes Neffers survive by drinking the blood of sick children like Addie. Unfortunately, the men of Eternum, including her father, hold an even darker secret than the Neffers. (Her father is in Eternum? And she wants to free the Neffers…until she finds out they drink blood? The men’s darker secret is very vague…)

Del must decide between freeing the Neffers on the human world (On the human world? So she was somewhere else?), so she can stop the men of Eternum (from doing what? Let us know the stakes) and be reunited with Addie or lose the last remaining piece of her humanity and watch as the men of Eternum sacrifice children for their own benefit and her next meal. (You lost me at the end here. Okay, wait… The men of Eternum use the fountain to get sacrifices for their secret purpose and to feed the Neffers…who they keep prisoner? For what reason? Del can set the Neffers free (how?) and stop the men and keep Addie… or lose Addie to stop the men?)

There’s a lot in this query, I got a bit overwhelmed. Though, there is so much that intrigues me! This Eternum and Neffers! I want to go! Just need a bit of focus. You’re trying to tell us everything, cause it’s cool, why wouldn’t you want to tell us?

Del…she wants to save her sister, the pile of dead bodies is interesting, but I don’t know what it has to do with saving Addie. Del will do anything to save Addie, Del’s character motivation. When she hears of a Fountain of Youth, that can save her, she goes! Show me what Eternum is, where it is…maybe the obstacles she faces to get there. Then I want to moment where she must choose between saving her sister or not, when she has to possibly give up her dream to stop more evil. Focus on Del’s story.

 

First 250 Words:

The toe tag on the decapitated body read: IF FOUND, CALL (512)555-5813, so Del pulled out her iPhone. (Dude. Good first line.)

“I’m not afraid of you,” Del said, circling the decaying corpse. She maintained a perimeter outside the buzzing flies and fluid soaked ground but breathed easier knowing it wouldn’t answer her. “I’ve seen other dead people, you know.”

Seen. Created. CollectedSame difference. (Love!)

The bright Texas sun played spotlight for the headless body starring center stage. Nothing else in the barren field warranted a second glance. Del spied a turkey vulture gliding in a copycat pattern around the body. She reached down, snatched a piece of gray limestone from the dirt, and launched her projectile skyward at the hideous black bird.

“Get outta here, dumb bird! He’s mine!” Del’s temples bulged purple veins with each scream. The vulture settled into the lone oak tree populating the field and voiced its displeasure, but, for now, Del owned her prize uncontested. A prize needed, not wanted.

She sneered at the corpse. “He’d eat you if I let him, but you’re my entrance fee.” (Entrance fee to what? AH! Not that you should tell me here, cause you shouldn’t.) Del flipped her head toward the unstained wooden boards under the Live Oak. “And them.” Dead bodies were a one-way ticket to life in jail for most, not a bloody precursor to salvation.

Del chewed her last unbroken nail to a jagged nub before dialing. She figured most people would be afraid to call, but most people weren’t in her situation.

What if no one answered? (OMG WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?)
I love this. I love the tone, the mystery. I love the writing. There’s something sinister and weird happening and I’m ready to go. I’d keep reading. Oh yeah.

 

For the author of this entry…Feel free to comment on what I have said and you can certainly post revisions!

Again, THANK YOU for participating. Sharing your words and opening up for critique is difficult. We all are here to help you make your ms as shiny as possible. Good luck with all the writing!

 

THE SPIDER MAN…#SonofaPitch: Entry 10 #TeamDarkSide

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Son of a Pitch, round 2, begins! Welcome to Team Dark Side.

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Eleven posts, for eleven entries. Four other blogs are hosting more! The comment section is for Son of a Pitch authors to leave their thoughts. So please do not comment unless you are a Son of a Pitch author. Thank you!

Onto entry 10!

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Title: The Spider Man

Category and Genre: (YA/Horror)
Word Count: (63,000)

Query:

In The Spider Man, honor student, track star, and reluctant medium Tressa Murphy knows that lonely ghosts are everywhere. She also knows that they can never, ever touch the living. Except that Jenner can. Jenner, the sexy wall-climbing ghost who has haunted her family for years has been visiting her at night and together he and Tressa have been breaking all the rules.

For Tressa, keeping her confusing secrets under control is becoming impossible as the malevolent spirit of Jenner’s abusive stepfather rises from the river to terrorize her, and Jenner’s whispered invitations to join him on the other side are sounding more and more tempting every night. Only when Tressa embarks on a road trip to face the truth about Jenner’s last days does she begin to understand her family’s history and the extraordinary possibilities of her own life, as well as the dangerous forces conspiring to end it. Only when she embraces her responsibilities to those who are living can she find happiness with Silas, the fellow artist who loves her, and break away from the dead boy who would destroy her.

 

First 250 Words:

Jenner wasn’t always a troubled ghost with tendencies toward madness. Once he was a boy who did what it took to save his sister. Please remember him first for the fact that he was good. He was very young but his heart was a hero’s heart and that part of him never died.

When they were sixteen Jenner’s twin sister Ellen had taken to wearing jeans and heavy boots to bed at night and blocking the door with her dresser. It was made of oak and a good shield against danger. Ellen felt safer with the door barred since their mother’s boyfriend Nolan moved back in.

Nolan was not good.

He sometimes left their mother for long stretches when no one would know where he was. Those were oasis times when Ellen and Jenner forgot that he existed the same way children who get over the stomach flu forget that they were ever sick. Lately Nolan was around all the time like a nausea that would never lift. He drank whiskey and swore at their mother. He leered at Ellen and when no one was looking found excuses to brush his body against hers.

Ellen and Jenner hated him.

Mom’s hand shook around her cigarettes as ash drooped off their ends. Jenner stayed out of the house as much as possible. To Jenner, Nolan was a source of quick, sharp kicks from steel-toed boots and the smell of engine oil.

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And now my critique. Yes, I am doing it right now, if you don’t want to read my thoughts, stop here.

First, a disclaimer…

Hi, my name is Kathy. I am not a writing god or expert. I will tell you what works for me and what doesn’t. I will put in honest reactions. Please take the comments that make sense to YOU for YOUR ms. Please disregard any comments that aren’t relevant. I will ask a butt-ton (seriously, I don’t know exactly how much a butt-ton is, but it’s a lot) of questions to spark your creative brain. Any questions that I ask that give you an AH-HA moment run with all those ideas! The questions that don’t send lightning to your mind…ignore. Please listen to all the other wonderfully talented people who will stop by.

Thank you for sharing your words. Your words are important. You are awesome!

Query:

In The Spider Man, honor student, track star, and reluctant medium Tressa Murphy knows that lonely ghosts are everywhere. (I’d cut the beginning of this sentence and add in her age… “Honor student, track star, and reluctant medium, (insert age) year old Tressa Murphy…” And I LIKE GHOSTS!) She also knows that they can never, ever touch the living. (Because if they do something terrible happens or because they physically cannot?) Except that Jenner can. Jenner, the sexy wall-climbing ghost who has haunted her family (So not just Tressa knows of him?) for years has been visiting her at night and together he and Tressa have been breaking all the rules. (what rules are they breaking and why…what drives her to break them?)

 

For Tressa, keeping her confusing secrets (what secrets? Why does she have to keep them under control?) under control is becoming impossible as the malevolent spirit of Jenner’s abusive stepfather rises from the river to terrorize her (why is he terrorizing her?), and Jenner’s whispered invitations to join him on the other side are sounding more and more tempting every night (OH NO TRESSA! What is driving her to consider death? Jenner’s dad or other things?). Only when Tressa embarks on a road trip to face the truth about Jenner’s last days (Wait, she’s going to find where Jenner lived and died? Why?) does she begin to understand her family’s history and the extraordinary possibilities of her own life (what possibilites? What family history?), as well as the dangerous forces conspiring to end it (What dangerous forces?). Only when she embraces her responsibilities to those who are living can she find happiness with Silas (who’s Silas? You can’t just throw him at me at the end here! AH!), the fellow artist who loves her, and break away from the dead boy who would destroy her.

I love ghosts! I love evil ghosts! I would read this. But the query is vague. Tell us what Tressa can do, her “powers” and why she does it. Tell us her secrets. Tell us her fears. Tell us what she is willing to do to get what she wants. Tell us the pivotal moment where she has to decide between life and death. Is it when she faces Jenner and his father? Give us Silas earlier, so we know she has something to fight for. Show us the life she could lose.

 

First 250 Words:

Jenner wasn’t always a troubled ghost with tendencies toward madness. (Love!) Once he was a boy who did what it took to save his sister. Please remember him first for the fact that he was good. (This sentence takes me out of the story…don’t know how I feel about it, like breaking the fourth wall) He was very young but his heart was a hero’s heart and that part of him never died.

When they were sixteen Jenner’s twin sister Ellen had taken to wearing jeans and heavy boots to bed at night and blocking the door with her dresser. (When is this? What year?) It was made of oak and a good shield against danger. Ellen felt safer with the door barred since their mother’s boyfriend Nolan moved back in. (Oh no.)

Nolan was not good.

He sometimes left their mother for long stretches when no one would know where he was. (you can tighten this sentence up. “He would disappear for long stretches.” Might be all you need.) Those were oasis times when Ellen and Jenner forgot that he existed the same way children who get over the stomach flu forget that they were ever sick. Lately Nolan was around all the time like a nausea that would never lift. (Nice!) He drank whiskey and swore at their mother. He leered at Ellen and when no one was looking found excuses to brush his body against hers.

Ellen and Jenner hated him.

Mom’s hand shook around her cigarettes as ash drooped off their ends. Jenner stayed out of the house as much as possible. To Jenner, Nolan was a source of quick, sharp kicks from steel-toed boots and the smell of engine oil. (Nice!)

This is probably a prologue? Because after reading about Tressa in the query I expected to be in her head…but this is interesting. I don’t mind prologues, if it is info we need and there is no other way to give it to us. Jenner’s story is heartbreaking for sure. When you introduce him as a ghost later, we’ll know all about him and Nolan. No mystery. If that’s what you want, go for it.

I wonder if the entire ms omniscient POV?

For the author of this entry…Feel free to comment on what I have said and you can certainly post revisions!

Again, THANK YOU for participating. Sharing your words and opening up for critique is difficult. We all are here to help you make your ms as shiny as possible. Good luck with all the writing!

 

 

TRADING STITCHES…#SonofaPitch: Entry 9 #TeamDarkSide

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Son of a Pitch, round 2, begins! Welcome to Team Dark Side.

starwarsdarthcrush

Eleven posts, for eleven entries. Four other blogs are hosting more! The comment section is for Son of a Pitch authors to leave their thoughts. So please do not comment unless you are a Son of a Pitch author. Thank you!

starwarsmaulpace

Onto entry 9!

Title: TRADING STITCHES
Category and Genre: YA Horror
Word Count: 81,600
Query:

With every near-death incident, the men in fifteen-year-old Marc Cheeks’ family are rewarded with increasing superhuman strength, but a darkness grows on their soul as well.

Alcoholism consumes his father. Insanity institutionalizes his uncle. Cancer stole his grandfather. Following a near-fatal stabbing, Marc fears what darkness awaits him.

After his dad commits suicide to escape a deep pit of depression, Marc enlists the help of friends and his crazy uncle Lester to decipher his father’s last words, “It doesn’t have to be a curse.” A cryptic family journal offers Marc his only lead: a person defined as a curse-ending soulmate. Uncle Lester has his own theories on a cure, but he’s not willing to share with Marc and defers to the written pages.

The journal teaches Marc methods to cheat death and grow stronger, but pieces of himself slip away into violence and apathy. He’s becoming the worst parts of his father and his uncle, and the collateral damage includes a body count. Forced to make a desperate plea to Lester, Marc discovers his uncle believes he can ultimately cure his own insanity by killing Marc.

To save himself and his friends, Marc must defeat an uncle more dangerous than crazy and find his soulmate before the family curse claims another victim.

 

First 250:

I slouched low in the dry cracked leather passenger’s seat seeking refuge from judgmental eyes.

“Did I really need to starch this shirt?” I yanked the collar’s fibers away from the spot on my neck rubbed raw.

“I don’t know, Marc.” Dad fluttered his whiskey chapped lips and leaned his shoulder into the driver’s door. “That’s a question for your mom.”

He only mentioned Mom when he didn’t want to answer a question.

Wasn’t there some rule people didn’t use a kid’s dead mother against them?

Dad didn’t get the memo.

I cringed as our Nissan’s balding tires skidded into the school’s gravel parking lot. The truck’s rickety fender clung by a single rusty screw, a painful daily reminder of the past four years. It begged to be fixed, but Dad ignored it.

He sought refuge in denial.

I rolled my eyes at the wave of students who parted twice as wide as necessary to safely let us drive past.

Idiots.

It used to be no one would accept a ride from us, but now they wouldn’t even get near the truck.

We jerked to a stop and Dad leaned back pinching the bridge of his crooked nose. “Do other dudes hear you talk like this? It’s gonna get you beat up.”

“How’s that different from any other day?” I picked at the exposed yellow padding brushing against my thigh.

“Guys pestering you?” His stare followed a cheerleader’s skirt.

“It’s called bullying.”

 starwarskylowalk

 And now my critique. Yes, I am doing it right now, if you don’t want to read my thoughts, stop here.

First, a disclaimer…

Hi, my name is Kathy. I am not a writing god or expert. I will tell you what works for me and what doesn’t. I will put in honest reactions. Please take the comments that make sense to YOU for YOUR ms. Please disregard any comments that aren’t relevant. I will ask a butt-ton (seriously, I don’t know exactly how much a butt-ton is, but it’s a lot) of questions to spark your creative brain. Any questions that I ask that give you an AH-HA moment run with all those ideas! The questions that don’t send lightning to your mind…ignore. Please listen to all the other wonderfully talented people who will stop by.

Thank you for sharing your words. Your words are important. You are awesome!

Query:

With every near-death incident, the men in fifteen-year-old Marc Cheeks’ family are rewarded with increasing superhuman strength, but a darkness grows on their soul as well. (With every of their own near-death experience or with those they cause or with the experiences in general? If it’s their own near-death experiences…how many times can one almost die? And they want superhuman strength…why?)

Alcoholism consumes his father. Insanity institutionalizes his uncle. Cancer stole his grandfather. Following a near-fatal stabbing, Marc fears what darkness awaits him. (Dude. That sucks. I LOVE IT!)

After his dad commits suicide to escape a deep pit of depression, Marc enlists the help of friends and his crazy uncle Lester to decipher his father’s last words, “It doesn’t have to be a curse.” (why do they always have to wait until they’re on their death bed to offer answers? So unhelpful) A cryptic family journal offers Marc his only lead: a person defined as a curse-ending soulmate. Uncle Lester has his own theories on a cure, but he’s not willing to share with Marc and defers to the written pages. (Marc defers to the pages or Lester?)

The journal teaches Marc methods to cheat death (Okay, it’s them cheating their own death? So is part of the curse being constantly almost killed?) and grow stronger, but pieces of himself slip away into violence and apathy. He’s becoming the worst parts of his father and his uncle, and the collateral damage includes a body count. (I don’t think you need the first part of this sentence and maybe combine… “violence and apathy, that leaves a body count.” Who has he killed? On purpose? Accidental?) Forced to make a desperate plea to Lester, Marc discovers his uncle believes he can ultimately cure his own insanity by killing Marc. (Oh snap.)

To save himself and his friends (why are they in danger?), Marc must defeat an uncle more dangerous than crazy and find his soulmate before the family curse claims another victim. (Is he slightly worried about this soulmate finding thing? I mean they’re not just waiting down the street with a sign.)

I have read this before! This is intriguing! I do wonder, why get stronger? Is the lure of strength overpowering the need to find a cure? What drives Marc to fall deeper into darkness for strength? What is it that finally makes him decide to find the cure? What is the pivotal moment where he has to decide? Does he face his uncle? What happens if he can’t find his soulmate? What happens if his uncle kills him?

 

First 250:

I slouched low in the dry cracked leather passenger’s seat seeking refuge from judgmental eyes.

“Did I really need to starch this shirt?” I yanked the collar’s fibers away from the spot on my neck rubbed raw.

“I don’t know, Marc.” Dad fluttered his whiskey chapped lips and leaned his shoulder into the driver’s door. “That’s a question for your mom.”

He only mentioned Mom when he didn’t want to answer a question.

Wasn’t there some rule people didn’t use a kid’s dead mother against them?

Dad didn’t get the memo.

I cringed as our Nissan’s balding tires skidded into the school’s gravel parking lot. The truck’s rickety fender clung by a single rusty screw, a painful daily reminder of the past four years. It begged to be fixed, but Dad ignored it.

He sought refuge in denial.

I rolled my eyes at the wave of students who parted twice as wide as necessary to safely let us drive past.

Idiots.

It used to be no one would accept a ride from us, but now they wouldn’t even get near the truck.

We jerked to a stop and Dad leaned back pinching the bridge of his crooked nose. “Do other dudes hear you talk like this? It’s gonna get you beat up.”

“How’s that different from any other day?” I picked at the exposed yellow padding brushing against my thigh.

“Guys pestering you?” His stare followed a cheerleader’s skirt.

“It’s called bullying.”

 I love the voice. I love the details. I love the emotion from Marc. And his dad is awesomely awful. I have a mc I am willing to follow. I would love a bit in here about his dad…if he’s changed…how he’s changed. And a bit of fear from Marc about how that could wait for him too. A hint of the horror to come. Great job! Think it’s been redone since I last read it.

For the author of this entry…Feel free to comment on what I have said and you can certainly post revisions!

Again, THANK YOU for participating. Sharing your words and opening up for critique is difficult. We all are here to help you make your ms as shiny as possible. Good luck with all the writing!

LUCID…#SonofaPitch: Entry 8 #TeamDarkSide

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Son of a Pitch, round 2, begins! Welcome to Team Dark Side.

starwarsmaulhood

Eleven posts, for eleven entries. Four other blogs are hosting more! The comment section is for Son of a Pitch authors to leave their thoughts. So please do not comment unless you are a Son of a Pitch author. Thank you!

Onto entry 8!

starwarsani

Title: Lucid

Category and Genre: YA/Psychological Suspense

Word Count: 98,000

Query: 

The Diana Banesbury School for Exceptional Young Women is one of the last surviving members of its kind—a rigorous ivy and brick institution intended to propel its few lucky, wealthy students straight to the Ivy Leagues. So when popular, charismatic megalomaniac Marlowe Brady decides to stop sleeping, everyone notices. But when chronically depressed loner Gwyneth Rosewood decides to stop sleeping, eating, drinking, and living altogether, no one does. No one, except Marlowe, whose unwanted intervention lands them both in the school’s infirmary, where another student offers an unconventional solution to Marlowe’s insomnia: lucid dreaming, the ability to control one’s dreams.

Along with two students from the infirmary, the four form a club in the pursuit of lucid dreaming, and at Marlowe’s insistence, move into an abandoned classroom in the woods around the school where they can dream undisturbed. But as they learn more about their own identities and each other, Marlowe’s behavior becomes strange and restrictive, and Gwyn begins to suspect she has ulterior motives for bringing them together. As Gwyn leads the charge to uncover Marlowe’s motive and past, Marlowe works to maintain her control over the three of them by using gas lighting and manipulation to render them incapable of discerning reality from dream. To prevent the end she’s planned for them, the three girls must work together and find a way to wake themselves from her influence.

First 250: 

Marlowe Brady lay awake at three in the morning in the fourth bed in the first of two rows in the Goldfinch dormitory of The Diana Banesbury School for Exceptional Young Women. It was November ninth. She was wearing silk pajamas, and doing fairly well considering the circumstances. The circumstances were that she’d been awake since November sixth.

In the first fifty hours, nothing very interesting had happened. But during the fifty-sixth, a fly landed on the bulb of the green shaded lamp on her bedside table.

At first, Marlowe tried to watch it without turning her head, by shifting her eyes as far in its direction as they’d go. But this gave her a headache, so eventually she resigned to face it, pressing her cheek against the pillow, her dark hair falling over darker eyes.

People didn’t tend to believe that insects had free will, or made decisions, but Marlowe had never doubted. Sometimes she would mentally urge the fly to move in one direction or the other, and most of the time it wouldn’t. But on the rare occasion that it did, she became re-invigorated by the illusion that her will had been so strong that it’d been unable to resist, that it was the sheer force of her own thoughts that pushed it back onto the heat of the glass bulb when it wandered off. She indulged in the idea that this small living thing would burn itself alive if she wanted it.

Not that she did.

starwarssidiouscompletetraining

And now my critique. Yes, I am doing it right now, if you don’t want to read my thoughts, stop here.

First, a disclaimer…

Hi, my name is Kathy. I am not a writing god or expert. I will tell you what works for me and what doesn’t. I will put in honest reactions. Please take the comments that make sense to YOU for YOUR ms. Please disregard any comments that aren’t relevant. I will ask a butt-ton (seriously, I don’t know exactly how much a butt-ton is, but it’s a lot) of questions to spark your creative brain. Any questions that I ask that give you an AH-HA moment run with all those ideas! The questions that don’t send lightning to your mind…ignore. Please listen to all the other wonderfully talented people who will stop by.

Thank you for sharing your words. Your words are important. You are awesome!

Query: 

The Diana Banesbury School for Exceptional Young Women is one of the last surviving members of its kind—a rigorous ivy and brick institution intended to propel its few lucky, wealthy students straight to the Ivy Leagues. So (I’d delete the “So”.)  when popular, charismatic megalomaniac Marlowe Brady decides to stop sleeping, everyone notices. But when chronically depressed loner Gwyneth Rosewood decides to stop sleeping, eating, drinking, and living altogether, no one does. No one, except Marlowe, whose unwanted intervention lands them both in the school’s infirmary, (They end up in the infirmary…why? An unwanted intervention? That is a bit vague. Did Gwyn try to kill herself? Is everyone worried about Marlowe and that Gwyn tried to commit suicide?) where another student (Is this student important? Give her a name?) offers an unconventional solution to Marlowe’s insomnia (I thought she decided to stop sleeping. It’s insomnia?): lucid dreaming, the ability to control one’s dreams. (Why did she decide to stop sleeping? And now why would she want to start sleeping and control her dreams?)

Along with two students from the infirmary (who are they? Why are they joining?), the four form a club in the pursuit of lucid dreaming, and at Marlowe’s insistence, move into an abandoned classroom in the woods (There’s a room in the woods?) around the school where they can dream undisturbed. But as they learn more about their own identities and each other, Marlowe’s behavior becomes strange and restrictive, and Gwyn begins to suspect she has ulterior motives for bringing them together. (whose POV? If we’re with Marlowe. She doesn’t become strange and restrictive, she is driven to do what she needs to because of her desires. Is this ms multiple POV?) As Gwyn leads the charge to uncover Marlowe’s motive and past, Marlowe works to maintain her control over the three of them by using gas lighting and manipulation to render them incapable of discerning reality from dream. To prevent the end she’s planned for them (What end?), the three girls must work together and find a way to wake themselves from her influence. (And if they don’t escape her what will happen? What do they have to face to escape?)

I have POV questions…the beginning set up Marlowe, but the end was more Gwyn. If there are multiple POVs set up each character and what they want and what they will do to get it. The other girls in the club…are they important enough to name? Is this Marlowe vs Gwyn? What drives them to try lucid dreaming and what drives Marlowe to manipulate?

This ms sounds so cool! The premise is intriguing! Lucid dreaming. Manipulation. Sounds dark and awesome, like quite a ride! I would so read this.

 

First 250: 

Marlowe Brady lay awake at three in the morning in the fourth bed in the first of two rows in the Goldfinch dormitory of The Diana Banesbury School for Exceptional Young Women. (anyone else there? Sounds? Smells?) It was November ninth. She was wearing silk pajamas, and doing fairly well considering the circumstances. The circumstances were that she’d been awake since November sixth. (I’d combine those last two sentences, just hit us with “fairly well, considering she’d been awake since November sixth. BAM! And that’s crazy.)

In the first fifty hours, nothing very interesting had happened. (What is driving her to stay awake? Let us know her character by telling us if this is voluntary about what she intends to achieve.) But during the fifty-sixth, a fly landed on the bulb of the green shaded lamp on her bedside table.

At first, Marlowe tried to watch it without turning her head, by shifting her eyes as far in its direction as they’d go. But this gave her a headache, so eventually she resigned to face it, pressing her cheek against the pillow, her dark hair falling over darker eyes.

People didn’t tend to believe that insects had free will, or made decisions, but Marlowe had never doubted. Sometimes she would mentally urge the fly to move in one direction or the other, and most of the time it wouldn’t. But on the rare occasion that it did, she became re-invigorated by the illusion that her will had been so strong that it’d been unable to resist, that it was the sheer force of her own thoughts that pushed it back onto the heat of the glass bulb when it wandered off. She indulged in the idea that this small living thing would burn itself alive if she wanted it.

Not that she did. (Oh…but maybe she did.)

Dude. A great start! I am very interested. I love being in Marlowe’s head and learning how she likes to manipulate. This is definitely not going to lead anywhere good! I like the writing and tone.

For the author of this entry…Feel free to comment on what I have said and you can certainly post revisions!

Again, THANK YOU for participating. Sharing your words and opening up for critique is difficult. We all are here to help you make your ms as shiny as possible. Good luck with all the writing!