Where the Road Ends…Choices

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A path. One cleared. One known. One loved.

Until it ends.

A giant chasm.

And no bridge. Possibly it’s under construction and there’s no completion date in sight. A project left under the control of others.

Standing at the edge of the cliff, staring at the darkness, yelling into the black hoping for an answer. But hearing only echoes.

The echoes are hollow. Meaningless. Easily crumbling into nothing. Leaving emptiness. Leaving hurt.

Why?

Why?

Why…

Standing. Waiting. An option, one that stabs, one that takes pieces of soul as payment.

Standing.

In frustrated silence.

Waiting.

In disappointed tears.

Or turning to the wilderness of tangled chaos, of fear, of unknown…

…of possibilities…

And forging a new road.

Stand. Easy. Easy to sit. Easy to let hope die.

Or fight.

Because of hope. Because of belief. Because of movement.

Into the fray.

The old path not forgotten, merely paused. The bridge will appear. Ready to be crossed. The adventure, one to be cherished.

But until then.

Until then.

New roads to find. Cutting through the mess of ideas and struggling to pave a trail. Frustration, one chosen. The hammer for building bridges in hand. The power of moving forward burning bright.

Stand at the end of the road.

Or fight.

Choose.

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Warm Treasures to Hold

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I sit in my house all alone. It’s quiet. I never realize how giant my house is until these moments. My whole family came for Thanksgiving. A total of 14 people at my house for three days. It was wonderful. There was food. There was chatting. There was laughing.

And yesterday, everyone went home. Back to life. And here I sit.

Happy they all came. Happy for all the fun. But happy to have my house back, even if it feels a bit too big, a bit too silent.

The laundry is done, the sheets used by family clean and put away. The dishes are washed, sorted back into their positions. All traces of the visit tucked into the corners of my mind. Memories. Great ones.

Of cramming us all around my kitchen table for turkey and mashed potatoes. Of seeing Justice League together. Of gathering for an early Christmas for the kids. Of taking walks along my country road. Of playing with the dog and kitten. Of a basketball game to hear Ella play in the pep band. Of watching Hallmark Christmas movies. Of people filling every room with smiles. Of us being together. It doesn’t happen all the time with us spread across three states.

Treasured memories. More valuable than anything else. What I should remember when I start to stress about word counts and rejections, when I start to obsess over my weight, when I lose my mind over Christmas shopping, when I struggle to just be me.

A moment in time. One to keep, like a warm hug, when life is cold.

I hope everyone has moments like those to hold forever.

Staring: A Great Place to Start

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I started working on a new and exciting manuscript…a middle grade horror!

Then I was distracted by short stories.

It happens. And if it’s not other writing adventures, plain old wonderful life sucks away writing time. But after the suckage ends, it always does, after the short stories are submitted…the manuscript waits.

I went back.

And stared at it.

And went on Twitter.

And went back to staring at my ms.

And went running back to Twitter.

And realized that I was running from it cause it was looking at me funny.

I didn’t know it as well as I did. We went our separate ways for a while. Maybe it was mad at me.

Time to get to know that world. So I stared. I scribbled notes. I let my brain live with Ember again. I listened to Nowhere and all my characters. Heck, I offered it cookies and glittery stickers.

And the story began to speak to me! TA DA!

So I am back to writing my first attempt at middle grade. The words are slow at the moment, but I will not give up. Time to focus and finish this sucker.

It’s hard to leave projects…or maybe not, depending…

Possibly harder to go back. But a bit of magical determination, a little bribery to get those characters to talk to you, and POOF the words and ideas return.

So staring…is a pretty great place to start.

 

The Great Nano Experience

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It’s that time of year again. November…or to writers, National Novel Writing Month, more affectionately known as NaNoWriMo or just Nano. Where writers everywhere set out to write 50,000 words in a month.

Cause that’s what we all look like…riiiiiiight.

There are those who participate every year, planning and plotting through October to be ready. Plotters, I admire you! There are those who jump in on November first, scrambling to plot and plan or merely crazy enough to see what happens. Pantsers, I love you!

It began yesterday with people tweeting their accomplishments, their word counts, how they procrastinated, how they were full of hope…and fear. Some start knowing they’ll hit 50K. Some know they won’t, but are happy to give it a shot. Some know they will have to rip apart what they write a few months after it’s finished. Some may never go back to what they write. Some will stay on track. Others will fall behind…only to catch up later or not. By the end of week two, determination will have replaced the fear and hope.

Maybe not the hope, not completely.

I am an observer in this. I do not Nano. The thought of word counts and reaching a certain number breaks my brain. NaNoWriMo causes too much stress for me to benefit.  But that doesn’t mean I am not writing alongside these brave and fabulous folks. I am drafting.

Right now, Twitter is full of tips, of information, of helpful words to drive people along their writing path.

I have my own thoughts about all the tips…

Don’t worry about them. Don’t clutter your brain with what others think you should or should not do.

Have fun. Enjoy your world and characters.

Don’t overthink. When the goal is word count, there is no room for thinking. There is typing, focusing on what happens next.

For the pantsers…let the story go where it likes! For the plotters…dude, you got that outline to guide you!

Perfection is boring. Who the heck cares if at the end of the month you have a brilliant piece of literature! No one cares. Revisions exist for a reason.

Write your story. This is time for you! For what you love! For what you feel is right for your art! Do it.

Write words. All words are good words. All words get you to your goal and give you something to work with later.

Don’t let the numbers break you. Sometimes the creative process is more than word count.

Do what works for you.

Don’t let others’ word counts get you down. There are people who will write over 50K…*cough*overachievers*cough* You celebrate you.

Please remember to sleep. And eat. *gives everyone a glass of water* LOVE YOURSELF! Take care of you!

I will be cheering from the sidelines. Whatever you do, be proud of you. Whatever you don’t get to…WHO CARES!

Do your best. It is enough.

 

 

Rejection…A Stupid Part of Life

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Writers talk a lot about rejection. As I get ready to submit another short story, I am thinking about it.

Cause it happens.

All the time.

And it sucks. Never ever does it suck less. Never ever does it get easy, does it not hurt.

 

Last Saturday, my daughter’s high school marching band did not advance to the state finals. I saw tears and faces draped with disbelief. They had been rejected. As much as I wanted to make the sting go away, I knew I couldn’t, I also knew I shouldn’t. That pain is part of life. If they don’t get into the college they want, or get the job they want, if they get turned down by the person they ask out.

If we always got what we wanted, would life be happier? Without feeling the stab of rejection, we will never know the joy of victory.

Life is full of the word no…sometimes it seems as though that tiny syllable is playing on repeat. Those two little letters drive a stake of sadness through our hearts, but also fuel the fire of determination. Stack those rejections and climb on top of them, use them to reach higher. Yes makes us happy. No makes us stronger.

Everything happens for a reason. Your path won’t be straight and free of obstacles. It’s called life.

Live it. Let the pain drive you to search for and find joy.

Just Gotta Short the Stories

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I wrote my first short story long, long ago after taking a class on getting published where I learned that to get published you had to be published.

I know.

But it made/makes sense, publishers were/are more likely to work with someone who had experience. So…one of the suggestions was to write a short story for a contest or to submit to a magazine, because getting those published should be a bit easier than a book.

Okay. I figured I could do it! I had written a 100,000 word manuscript…what was 2,000 words, right?

Well, I did. But I learned that shorts are a whole other beast.

Getting a set up, a conflict, a climax in 2,000 words is tough. But doing it is good for my brain, flexing different writing muscles and challenging the creative gray matter.

I have found a love of writing short stories. An obsession, maybe.

Or maybe not.

Maybe my brain knows what it’s doing…what it wants. I write shorts in spurts. I didn’t realize it until lately, but I do. Right now, I am working on the third short in a row…I think it’s number three. I get caught up in anthologies looking for creepy stories. My brain lights a signal fire that says HEY I HAVE AN IDEA FOR THIS ONE! So I write…I submit.

And the current manuscript gets set aside.

But YOU SHOULD REALLY BE WORKING ON THAT MANUSCRIPT!

Maybe. Or maybe I need to flex the short story muscles, challenge my creativity. Writing shorts reminds me to be mindful of word usage, to pay attention to pacing, to use all my writing knowledge to get a whole story told in as few words as possible, to let my mind go wild and come up with a unique story.

There’s no room for info dumps. There’s no time to mess around with backstory. All the subtle hints have to be powerful.

Shorts carry a punch.

I can usually get a short polished in a month. Not very long, but it sure wears me out. After these last few, I noticed that I’m done. I am ready to go back to my newest manuscript and focus on it. But that’s normal. Looking back on my writing life, I will break from longer work to dive into shorts. I need it. My mind needs it. That obsession I think I have…maybe it’s necessary. Maybe it’s the way my writing brain works. I am definitely going to let it do what it needs.

This final creepy TV story is due at the end of this month. I am ready for it to be sent. I am ready to go back to Nowhere with Ember, my workouts in pacing and words and power complete. I’ll wait and see if any of these submissions are accepted.

At some point next year, the shorts will call again. And I will answer, ready for the challenge and hopefully becoming a better writer.

We gotta do what we gotta do.

 

Sometimes Brains Forget

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I am working on a horror short story…

Yes…another one…

I saw a call for submissions and I CAN’T RESIST. 1,000-8,000 words…pfft…I can do that.

Deadline is the end of the month…YES THIS MONTH I KNOW!

I had an idea…I let it simmer…I started writing because there’s not a whole lotta time left. SO IMMA JUST GONNA WRITE IT NO PROBLEM.

Or, yes, problems.

I thought I was just writing it. I thought I was going with the flow. But I couldn’t have been because I kept going back to the beginning…fussing and overthinking. I had a list of lines to include…of images…of stuff…

I kept trying to order them, to…

OMG I WAS TRYING TO PLOT!

Well, no wonder I was having so much trouble. My brain and plotting aren’t friends. They are mortal enemies!

So I set aside my list and went back to the story. I quit trying to shove all the ideas down my poor story’s little throat and let it decide where it needs to go. Pantsers gotta pants. That sentence makes so little sense…AND I DON’T CARE.

I don’t have a complete first draft…BUT I WILL BECAUSE I HAVE NOW RECOGNIZED, NAMED, AND DESTROYED THE PROBLEM.

But…I’m sure this isn’t the last time this happens. Sometimes brains forget. Sometimes brains fight their nature and overthink. Sometimes brains try to trick us.

Silly, evil brains…

So we learn and move on.

#Amreading UNWIND…When Books are More Than a Story

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Years and years ago, after picking up a few books at the library, I discovered the author Neal Shusterman. I first read his Dark Fusion books and loved them.

Then I found Downsiders…

and became a Neal Shusterman fan. I searched the library for his books, reading all they had. Here are some… go find more here. Have I read all of his books? Nope. But I am working on it.

All of them are fantastic! Don’t forget Bruiser…or Scythe. Have you read them? WHY NOT?

When I came across Unwind…

and…

Seriously. So many feels. So many thoughts. So many mind altering ideas.

Well, it’s the first in a series…so I set out to read the rest, but the rest hadn’t been written, so I set them aside because I WANT TO READ THEM ALL IN A ROW.

I have four…however, there is a fifth I have to buy…waiting for me to immerse myself in the stories.

My sister and her family came to visit over Labor Day weekend and my niece approached me and said, “We’re reading Unwind in school.”

Me:

“UNWIND…NEAL SHUSTERMAN’S UNWIND? THAT IS ONE OF MY VERY FAVORITE BOOKS! HAVE YOU STARTED IT?”

My niece might have been a little scared by my outburst, but she knows me, so she got over that. My sister then filled me in on the e-mail the teacher sent home about the book to prepare the parents.

This is no ordinary story, kids. The parents needed to be prepared.

This is a book that can spark a million discussions, that can change perspectives on…so many ideas.

Because of this very thing, my sister decided to read it too. Well, she has devoured the series.

Unwind takes place in a future where there was a second civil war between the Pro-life and Pro-choice camps. This book deals with the laws that were set up to stop that war. This book deals with kids trapped within these laws. This books deals with big questions.

And it does it well.

IT DOES IT WELL.

A beautifully written book. Great characters. A fabulous overall idea that hits you right in the heart.

Bravo to the teacher that decided to let her eighth graders read it. Bravo to the teacher for informing the parents. Bravo to the parents, like my sister, who picked up the book themselves ready to talk about it with their kids.

I hear a lot of people talking about the books they want to read, books taking place in a world they want to live in, books showing a society they want to be a part of. Maybe books should show us a better world, maybe art show show people what is possible. But so many things are possible. Not good…not bad…just possible.

Is the world in Unwind one people want to live in? Probably not. The laws enacted to stop the war…are problematic. Are hurtful. Are scary.

Unwind is disturbing. One chapter in particular really made my head spin.

But it made me think. It made me see the world differently. It affected me.

Good books should do that. Good books don’t have to show us a world we want, but show us what is possible, make us face what could happen, make us stare at what humanity is capable of and question.

In the questions, we grow, we learn, we become better.

Unwind did this for me. It puts humanity on display.

What do you believe?

Why?

Maybe it’s time to look at the whys.

 

The Crazy Wonderfulness of #SonofaPitch

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Last week I participated in the writing event/contest Son of a Pitch. People submitted their entries, including their query and first page. This blog was a host for ten of them! Go #TeamRarity! I read and critiqued 51 entries. I read and critiqued I have no idea how many revisions. It took a long time. I enjoyed every moment.

Let’s talk for a moment about feedback. For Son of a Pitch, everyone gets some. Maybe one person dropped by your entry or five…but there was some. Better than none.

Aside: We, the feedback-givers, don’t have a set amount we have to critique. Some of the critiquers have more time to so this than others. Some people feel comfortable looking at certain categories or genres. We do the best we can.

We are leaving our opinions. Not directions. Not even answers. We comment, hoping one of those ideas will spark inspiration. That the author will have an AH-HA moment and know what is missing. If no AH-HA moment…then those comments weren’t for you.

I do know how critiques, especially if you get three or more, can mess with your head. Can make you feel like you’re failing. Can send you along the path of OH-MY-GOODNESS-WHAT-WAS-I-THINKING-I-CAN’T-WRITE.

This is NOT what we want. Yes, feedback is overwhelming…so many ideas, so many comments (some of which can contradict), so much you suddenly feel like you have to change. I HAVE BEEN THERE! WE ALL HAVE!

But, no. You don’t have to change anything.

I know that round three was fast approaching and if you were chosen to go on, then you had to have a pretty polished query and first page, so revisions were flying. But relax. Perfection is not a thing. What would be a great query for one person, isn’t for another.

Take all the information in. Let your creative brain chew on it, spit out the things that make no sense, and see what does. You have time. You can do this. In the end, listen to YOUR mind. This is YOUR story. No one knows it like you. Trust yourself. Believe in your process and in your talent.

No one will give you clear answers. We offer choices. You have to come up with the answers.

I know…’but please! Please just tell me what to do!’ The world of art is wonderful. And frustrating.

BUT WONDERFUL!

Last week was a blur. I hope you made friends. I hope you learned something. I hope you feel a little more confident. Because putting your work out there, not just in a query, but ON A BLOG, is incredibly brave. Listening to what others think is a big step.

I voted for seven, five to move on to round three and two as back-ups…for tie-breaking purposes. Voting is not my favorite thing.

I tried to vote for different genres and categories. To give the publishers looking at the entries a variety. Believe me, I wanted to vote for all the dark and weird ones. I did. Luckily other people voted for the ones I didn’t.

Let’s talk about the voting. Let’s remember how subjective this is. I had piles…yes…no…maybe…maybe leaning to yes…SO MANY PILES I WAS DROWNING.

Why were things in a no pile? Not for me…query was too confusing…I wasn’t pulled in…just not my thing.

Maybe piles…those were weird and numerous…I like the concept, but the query didn’t give me enough to know the story was there. I like the writing, but, once again, the query didn’t confirm the story arc. The query and writing were fine…and the author did revisions that improved them. Most of the time I was seriously confused. I could easily vote for all the things I wanted to read, but this wasn’t about me. This was about the publishers coming to look at them. They want different things than I do…last time they asked for more romance to get through. Romance…not really my thing. So I struggled. So I basically lined up all my notes and eeny-meeny-miny-moed it.

Not getting votes is heart-breaking. Just know that it could have been that the dart I threw landed on the one next to yours. Publishing is a strange place. So much depends on luck. So much is waiting and questioning. So much is just never giving up.

I hope everyone left last week with a stronger query. I saw a lot of them! NOW GO FORTH AND USE THEM!

Some of the people in round three will get requests. Some won’t. Some of the requests might go somewhere. Some won’t. All will go on to query. These contests help, but if you look at the number of people who get published because of them versus the amount published because of simple querying…I think querying wins.

Son of a Pitch is over…for me.

Kinda.

Round three of Son of a Pitch has begun. You can go see all the entries here, but do not comment! The comments are reserved for publishers and agents who want to request. AND I WILL BE WATCHING. I will be begging people for updates.

And I will be back for the next Son of a Pitch.

Until then…KEEP GOING! KEEP DOING YOU! KEEP LEARNING TO LISTEN TO YOURSELF! TRUST YOURSELF! And even though it’s hard…LOVE THIS CRAZY WRITING JOURNEY!

#SonofaPitch #TeamRarity Entry 10: RULES OF THE DRAGOS

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Son of a Pitch round two has begun! This week my blog will be dedicated to the authors of these amazing entries.

Comments are for the Son of a Pitch critiquers and authors only! All other comments will be deleted, them’s the rules peeps.

At the end of the week, I will vote for my favorites…I think five…I should check that.

Onward!

Welcome to Team Rarity!

Entry 10:

Title: RULES OF THE DRAGOS
Category and Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 70,000
Query:

Give eighteen-year-old Ava Dracaena a sword and someone to swing at, she’ll excel beyond every expectation set. But put her in charge of making decisions that can change the way her clan lives, expect disaster. Ava thinks with her heart and not her head, which more than one person in the clan has told her is the practice unfit of a leader. Now if she could only get her parents to see her reason for turning down her birthright as clan leader.

The chance to show her father just how strong a protector she is never comes. Ava’s world is shattered with the murder of her sister and disappearance of her parents. Topped off with a declaration of war from the enemy clan, she no longer has a choice of whether or not to lead. Ava wants to protect her clan, and the only way to do that is be the leader she’s not sure she can be.

Because death, kidnappings, and self-doubt aren’t enough, Ava’s finding it difficult to get the dark-souled leader of the enemy clan out of her thoughts. She shouldn’t want anything to do with him, but she finds herself drawn to his darkness, determined to find the light she senses is buried deep within. If she goes to war with his clan, she may end up losing her soulmate. And if they don’t fight, the enemy will follow-through on a promise made centuries ago and forcefully take her people under their control.

First 250 Words:

I, Ava Cecilia Dracaena, do not accept my birthright as the next Dragos Clan Leader. I pass this honor to my sister. In exchange for my title, I request of the Dragos Guard and Clan Leader to amend the laws preventing women from training to be a member of the elite group of protectors. Guard General Braylen Negrescu, with your permission I request to officially join the trainees who will soon compete for their spot on the Guard.

A gust of wind pulled the paper off my lap where I’d balanced it on my knees. As it floated to the ground,  I ran my hands over the tops of the grass, smiling at the way the tips tickled my palms. No need to chase after it, I’d memorized exactly what I wanted to say weeks ago.

The crisp air filled my lungs. Insects all around chirped. We’d finished training twenty minutes ago and rather than head back home, I sat in the grass near the edge of a cliff overlooking the river below. Tomorrow I was supposed to give a speech to accept my birthright as Clan Leader. Instead I’d prepared one to denounce the title and instead give it to my sister.

As I gathered my towel, water bottle, and bag my phone vibrated in the side pocket. We weren’t supposed to have them, but what our trainers didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them.

Now for my thoughts.

But first, a reminder, I am not an expert. I am a writer. My comments are my opinions. If any of these strange wordy things that pop into my brain and onto the page make sense for YOUR ms and makes YOUR writer’s brain spin with all the inspiration, YEA!!! Use them…run with them…let your creative brain go! If reading one of my insanely odd thoughts just makes you shrug and sparks no new idea, forget it! YEA!

I am here to help YOU make YOUR ms the best it can be. I do not want to rewrite it. I do not want it to be something else. Your words should be yours. I WANT TO HAVE A GREAT TIME!

Feel free to ask questions. Feel free to post any rewrites in the comments. I will be happy to answer anything and read revisions! Anything I can do to help get the creative juices flowing.

CRITIQUE:

Query:

Give eighteen-year-old Ava Dracaena a sword and someone to swing at, she’ll excel beyond every expectation set. But put her in charge of making decisions that can change the way her clan lives, expect disaster. Ava thinks with her heart and not her head, which more than one person in the clan has told her is the practice unfit of a leader. (Ugh. I’m sure that makes her feel fabulous…*cue eyeroll*) Now if she could only get her parents to see her reason for turning down her birthright as clan leader. (Okay! MC is set up, we know her and what she wants! Where are we? Earth?)

The chance to show her father just how strong a protector she is never comes. Ava’s world is shattered with the murder of her sister and disappearance of her parents. Topped off with a declaration of war from the enemy clan, she no longer has a choice of whether or not to lead. Ava wants to protect her clan, and the only way to do that is be the leader she’s not sure she can be. (And obstacles to what she wants! Great! And dude, too bad for her…)

Because death, kidnappings, and self-doubt aren’t enough, Ava’s finding it difficult to get the dark-souled leader of the enemy clan out of her thoughts. (Oh dear, drawn to the bad boys…I understand.) She shouldn’t want anything to do with him, but she finds herself drawn to his darkness, determined to find the light she senses is buried deep within. If she goes to war with his clan, she may end up losing her soulmate. (Soulmate? How does she know this?) And if they don’t fight, the enemy will follow-through on a promise made centuries ago (What promise? This is too vague.) and forcefully take her people under their control. (Is the taking them under control the promise? How will they do it? With magic? With swords and shackles? Let us know what evil waits. And stakes! Check!)

First 250 Words:

I, Ava Cecilia Dracaena, do not accept my birthright as the next Dragos Clan Leader. I pass this honor to my sister. In exchange for my title, I request of the Dragos Guard and Clan Leader to amend the laws preventing women from training to be a member of the elite group of protectors. Guard General Braylen Negrescu, with your permission I request to officially join the trainees who will soon compete for their spot on the Guard.

A gust of wind pulled the paper off my lap where I’d balanced it on my knees. As it floated to the ground, I ran my hands over the tops of the grass, smiling at the way the tips tickled my palms. (Wait! Her paper! She doesn’t react to it blowing away? We went from a letter to the grass too fast for me. See it float to the grass…let us feel what she does about it, then let her touch the grass, let her think about what those words mean…is this a big deal, what she’s about to do? At first I had her inside, by an opened window…then there was grass. So she’s outside, sitting on the ground? Set the scene. Let us see it.) No need to chase after it, I’d memorized exactly what I wanted to say weeks ago. (Ah, she doesn’t care that it blew away! I’d like this reaction right away. And she’s nervous? Excited? Scared? Running her hands over the grass and smiling…how does she feel? That letter is pretty big stuff, yet she seems at ease?)

The crisp air filled my lungs. (any smells in the air that can let us get to know the world? Any of her reactions to the scents to let us get to know her?) Insects all around chirped. (What kind of insects? How do they sound? Is this another world? How is it different, unique?) We’d finished training twenty minutes ago (Is she sweaty? Was it good training, training for what? Swords?) and rather than head back home, I sat in the grass near the edge of a cliff overlooking the river below. (Let us see the river, let us hear it.) Tomorrow I was supposed to give a speech to accept my birthright as Clan Leader. (Is this a tradition? She had reached a certain age?) Instead I’d prepared one to denounce the title and instead give it to my sister. (we read the speech, so we know…give us her feelings about it.)

As I gathered my towel, water bottle, and bag my phone vibrated in the side pocket. (A water bottle and a phone? Surprised me! I might need more worldbuilding. Talk of leading clans and joining the guard and training…my brain instantly imagined a no tech fantasy world. Where are we?) We weren’t supposed to have them, but what our trainers didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them.

*Good set up of a story full of possible drama and tension, but I am missing the emotion. She seems calm about what she is about to do. Is it no big deal? And the world…I have no idea where we are. Earth? If not Earth, give me details to show me where we are.

 

I hope some of that, maybe just one little thing, helps!

Thank you so much for being a part of Son of a Pitch!

Thank you for sharing your words!

And may the road of revising and querying and publishing be a great one!

Be sure to join us on Twitter! #SonofaPitch is super fun! #TeamRarity rocks!