Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Hook the Editor: We Have a Winner!!

And the winner is...

#5 -- PERSEPHONE'S WALTZ

Congratulations! Please email me at facelesswords@gmail.com for submission instructions.

And a huge round of applause for all 5 entrants! It takes courage to throw your work out there, regardless of outcome. Every time we open ourselves to the helpful critique of others, we grow as writers.

Here's to growth! Thank you all for participating.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The STORMRISE Library-thon

Friends!

One of the most exciting things in recent weeks has been discovering copies of STORMRISE at libraries across the country (yes, I really do spend time researching things like this)--even as many as a dozen copies in a single library system! It's thrilling to know that my book will be in the hands of readers through their local libraries, and I'd like to continue to spread the love.




Wanna join me -- and have a chance to win a hardcover copy of STORMRISE in the process? 

Welcome to the STORMRISE LIBRARY-THON! Here's how it works:

1. Request STORMRISE at your local library (usually this can be done online).*
2. Send a screenshot of your request to me at jillian@jillianboehme.com.
3. FOLLOW ME on Instagram.

That's it! The contest will run until 11:59 CDT on Friday, October 18, and I will announce the winner the following Monday.

*If your library already has a physical copy or audiobook of STORMRISE, you can still enter! Just send me a screenshot of the listing in your library's card catalog. Please note--physical copies or audiobooks only for libraries who already have STORMRISE. 

Thanks for helping STORMRISE spread its wings and fly into your neighborhood!



Wednesday, October 9, 2019

COME SEE ME THIS WEEKEND!

Dear ones! If you're anywhere near Nashville or Knoxville, I'd love to see you.

I mean, this is one of the things I've dreamed of--putting faces to names and voices to words. I truly hope some of you can make one of these events.




1. THE SOUTHERN FESTIVAL OF BOOKS

I'll be on a panel with illustrator James Barry on Saturday, October 12, at 2:00 PM in the Nashville Public Library Teen Studio. My portion of the talk will include a reading from STORMRISE, and there will be Q&A afterward. A signing will take place at 3:00 at the Signing Colonnade.




2. LITUP-KNOXVILLE FESTIVAL

I'm especially excited about this festival because it's been organized by teens. Bring on the teen readers and writers! Here's my schedule:

1:15 PM -- Jillian Boehme Author Talk (including a reading from STORMRISE)
2:15 PM -- Fantasy Panel with 2 other authors
3:00 PM -- Signing

And there you have it! Please (please please) let me know if you're planning to be at one of these events, because I'd love to meet you. (Feel free to email or DM me if you'd rather not post your whereabouts publicly!)

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

HOOK THE EDITOR: Guidelines

Presenting: Our 5 finalists!

Elayne Becker will be reading and commenting on all 5 entries, and will choose her favorite to receive the 10-page critique (winner to be announced next week). In the meantime, you are all invited to offer critique!

Guidelines for Critique on MSFV:
  • Please leave your critique for each entry in the comment box for that entry.
  • Please choose a screen name to sign your comments. The screen name DOES NOT have to be your real name; however, it needs to be an identifiable name.  ("Anonymous" is not a name.)
  • Critiques should be honest but kind, helpful but sensitive.
  • Critiques that attack the writer or are couched in unkind words will be deleted.*
  • Cheerleading IS NOT THE SAME as critiquing.  Please don't cheerlead.
  • Having said that, it is perfectly acceptable to say positive things about an entry that you feel is strong.  To make these positive comments more helpful, say why it's a strong entry.
  • ENTRANTS: As your way of "giving back", please critique at least 2 of the other entries.

*I can't possibly read every comment.  If you ever see a comment that is truly snarky, please email me.  I count on your help.

Enjoy!


Hook the Editor #5: PERSEPHONE'S WALTZ (Fantasy)

Title: Persephone's Waltz
Genre: Adult Fantasy

Holy Maiden Ysabel has four months left to live. Then she stops the assassination of Dark Lord Kaine, a trans man leading a rebel army. In gratitude, he rescues her from becoming a human sacrifice—by kidnapping her. Hades X Persephone meets the humor of Terry Pratchett and the world-building of N.K. Jemisin.

I have four months, three weeks, and two days left to live. Yet here I sit, wasting a precious hour in a meeting with the Council of Cardinals. I need a smoke or a stiff drink. Not both; I learned from bitter experience on my knees in the outhouse that redleaf and alcohol do not mix.

While my eyelids droop, Cardinal Rakir finishes, “…As the maid said to the bishop.” All four cardinals laugh.

“What did you think, Holy Ysabel?” Rakir smirks.

I widen my eyes. “Oh, it was dreadfully entertaining, but I fear the Sun God has not blessed me with a wit equal to you gentlemen. Why did the bishop tie up the maid? Did she do something wrong?”

Rakir laughs even harder. I keep a vapid smile on my face. Just tied hands and a blindfold? At least take advantage of the increased reactiveness from sensory deprivation with a bit of hot wax and ice. Amateurs.

When I first dug up a dusty document proving that as a Holy Healer, I was entitled to join the council, the cardinals found the presence of a woman made it awkward for them to brag about their conquests during worktime. So I pretended to be too virginal to understand sexual innuendo if it mugged me in a dark alley. I’m still being excluded from the wheeling-and-dealing in their drinking sessions, but they don’t “forget” to tell me when to show up at the Cardinal’s Chamber to cast my vote.

Hook the Editor #4: WISH I WAS HERE (YA SF Mystery)

TITLE: WISH I WAS HERE
GENRE: YA SF Mystery

When Ana’s best friend Isaac hands her an invisibility pill he made, she swallows it to avoid being kidnapped along with him. Fighting her guilt, she must rescue Isaac before he’s forced to create another pill for the highest evil bidder. If she doesn’t follow clues he left behind and find him for the antidote within a week, she’ll remain invisible forever. That could mean insanity or death.

Isaac’s street was a ghost town when I pulled up to his house after school. As I used his spare key to let myself in, the knot in my stomach tied double.

“Is that you, Ana?” he called from the basement as soon as I stepped inside.

Since I knew his parents wouldn’t be home for an hour, I said, “Who else would it be?”

“Did you lock the—?”

“I’m locking it now,” I said with an exasperated sigh. Paranoid much?

I tramped downstairs. “I can’t believe you ditched last period. That was so unli…” My foot hung for a moment halfway to the next step. A suitcase stood next to the fire extinguisher at the bottom of the stairs. A white t-shirt poked out between the case’s zippered teeth.

“You going somewhere?” Without me? “Spring break is next week. Couldn’t your parents have waited a couple more days?”

“My parents aren’t going,” he said as I reached the bottom step. Another suitcase, this one filled with worn spiral notebooks, lay open on a wooden table in the middle of the room. Isaac’s tools, gadgets, gears, and metal parts from clocks, maybe, or engines, or who knows what, were shoved off to the side instead of taking their usual place at center stage.

“I guess traveling on your own is technically legal now and all.” I waited for him to say something. He didn’t. For a flickering moment I thought the bullies at school were finally getting to him.

Hook the Editor #3: HOVERBOARD SUPERHEROES (MG SF)

TITLE: Hoverboard Superheroes
GENRE: MG Science Fiction

Twelve year old Leonie Fox can make anything except friends. Her repair business doesn’t impress the other kids on her starship, but at least Leonie has her grandmother. Then Magda goes missing. Frighteningly alone, Leonie recruits allies—not friends—and starts hunting. But more people disappear, and social services are on Leonie’s tail. To save Magda and stop a deadly conspiracy, Leonie needs more than a trio of bickering boys at her side. She needs a family.

2092, aboard the starship Hydra

Leonie pressed her shoulders to the bulkhead, catching her breath as her eyes adjusted to the amber lights. She should be safe here. Any haters out for her blood would have a hard time finding her in the salvage bay, where towering shadows hid her navy coveralls and deep brown skin.

The oily tang of scrap metal filled her nose. She bypassed wire heaps and scaled a long ladder to a top shelf, where tracks for retrieval units ran like veins across the ceiling. Saturday afternoons were her salvage diving days, but avoiding the enemies she’d made this past year was putting a serious damper on her fun. Why, why couldn’t she leave other people’s bullies alone?

Leonie wrapped her hands around a ceiling joist and swung to perch atop some baskets, searching for parts for her refurbished equipment business. Far below, a salvage keeper’s lantern flashed across the scaffolding. Her heart skipped. Forcing a breath, she reminded herself the keepers wouldn’t stop her. She’d been allowed in here since she turned twelve last February, but years of sneaking into the salvage bays as a curious little kid had left their mark. When the keeper’s light swept to her level, Leonie gave the man a cheeky wave.

The lantern stalled. An older boy’s familiar voice raked her nerve endings. “You.”

That wasn’t a keeper.

Panicked, she leapfrogged across wire frame baskets full of obsolete consoles. The baskets wobbled on the aluminum-plate shelf, and she grabbed joists overhead to steady herself.

Hook the Editor #2: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD (YA SF)

TITLE: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD
GENRE: YA SF

Seventeen-year-old Derek has two goals in life: play major league baseball and marry his best friend, Corinne. When a spacetime glitch pulls his future kids into the present, he learns he didn’t marry Corinne, but his shrewd STEM rival, Michelle. Now forced to partner with a girl he hates, Derek slowly grows attached to his imperfect family, prompting him to choose between the life he envisioned and the life he never saw coming.

April 2009

Astoria, Oregon

Derek grips the glossy neck of his Louisville Slugger, feeling out the warm evenness of the wood. Feet apart, knees bent, eyes straight ahead, he raises the bat over his shoulder.

He waits.

The pitching machine launches a baseball and Derek swings, the crack of impact thundering through the low-hanging clouds blanketing his coastal town. The ball is a meteor against the grey, destined to land in the Columbia River with a muted splash. Except the practice net catches it first, repelling the ball back to the ground.

Derek raises his bat again.

It’s seven a.m. A spring drizzle coats the backyard, changing dirt into mud, grass into flattened mush. Cold beads form on his skin, rolling down his arm, dripping off his elbow. His soaked T-shirt sticks to the swell of his chest. He’ll need to stop soon. He’s got class in an hour.

But Derek doesn’t care. Because when the seventeen-year-old holds a baseball bat, it feels like he’s holding all the time in the world.

He has his father to thank for that.

From a young age, Mr. Lyttle encouraged him to play. Derek recalls his earliest memory, practicing batting form with a rubber T-ball set.

Chest over your toes promotes a good swing angle, his father would say, adjusting the boy’s stance. Feet apart, knees bent, eyes straight ahead.

Hook the Editor #1: CASTERS (YA Fantasy)

TITLE: Casters
GENRE: YA Fantasy

OCD techie Lissette is used to having magic at her fingertips—there’s an app for that. Her dad made it, and she excels at crafting digital spells. But all magic has a price. When a virus infects that magic technology, she must stop it before it spreads and kills everyone she loves. RENEGADES X THIS MORTAL COIL

Dad had his filthy shoes propped on my spotless coffee table again. Every day, I found him lounging on the couch with his laptop sitting on his knees and his feet crossed, mud dripping from his soles onto the mahogany surface. And every day, I yelled at him for it. At this point, he was probably doing it to annoy me.

I stormed across our studio apartment, rounded the sectional couch, and kicked his legs off the table as an after-work greeting.

He fumbled his laptop, nearly dropping it, as he regained his balance with a scowl. “What the hell? I’m working on something really important.”

I eyed the dozen or so empty beer cans surrounding his seat like Christmas presents around a tree. Important my ass.

“Not as important as cleaning your mess. I’m not helping you this time.” Rolling my shoulders and letting my frustration out in a puff of breath, I glanced down at the laptop as he set it aside. A few different windows were open, one with lines of code, another with the software we’d created to develop casts, but one was an email from—

He threw the screen down—way to be subtle, Dad—but then placed it on the clean side of the coffee table like it was a delicate antique. “Working out the bugs of another cast.”

A cast, huh? I was no stranger to coding casts, or rather, digital ‘spells’, and he’d usually ask for help if that’s all it was.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

WINNERS: HOOK THE EDITOR!

Here are our top 3:

# 3 -- CASTERS (15 YESES)
#16 -- ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD (11 YESES)
#10 -- WISH I WAS HERE (9 YESES)

Congratulations to our winners, and KUDOS to everyone who entered!

IMPORTANT: WINNERS, please email your original pitch and first 250 words to me at facelesswords@gmail.com ASAP. Posts will go live on Tuesday!

ETA:

What was I thinking?! I was supposed to choose the top FIVE. (Can you tell I've been out of town for a week?)

Here are the remaining 2 winners:

#18 -- HOVERBOARD SUPERHEROES (8 YESES)
# 5 -- PERSEPHONE'S WALTZ

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Hook the Editor: Guidelines

And here we go! We've got 22 entries ready for your votes. Here's how it works:

1. Read the excerpt. Decide whether the pitch and the opening sentences hook you.
2. If they do, comment YES (all caps, please), followed by the reasons why.
3. If they don't, comment NO (all caps, please), followed by the reasons why.
4. Voting will close this Friday at midnight. The top 5 entries will move on to round 2.

Enjoy! We've got a whole smattering of different genres. Please remember to be kind even as you are being honest.

On your mark...get set...go!

Hook the Editor #22

TITLE: Pane and Silver
GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

Seventeen-year-old piano prodigy Grace Armstrong doesn’t know which came first, her autism-fueled anxiety disorder, or the monsters she’s been hallucinating since kindergarten. When an adorkable guy from an alternate earth invades her bedroom mirror, Grace’s reckless experimentation with newfound magic—and long-lost romance—infects her best friend with fatal magic. Desperate to save her, Grace must escape a magical prison of mirrors, memories, and monsters by embracing an elusive truth—she’s worthy of saving too.

Mr. Lee’s wife put love notes in his piano again—pale-blue slips of paper wedged between every key. Stupid, lovesick newlyweds using the piano like a post office box.

Hook the Editor #21

TITLE: Camila Folds
GENRE: Adult Speculative Fiction

Camila is a single mom who’s been punished by the universe for attending a nerd convention and finally managing to meet a nice guy. She picked the guy who happens to be a teleporting English teacher and a flight home destined to blow up in the desert. Now they must evade his dangerous family and break a lot of rules, including some of physics, to get her back to her son, or die trying.

Camila Maria Vera jumped out of an exploding plane with a man she barely knew. The alternative was death, but Abuela still would not have approved.

Hook the Editor #20

TITLE: A Girl of Ice and Embers
GENRE: YA Historical Fantasy

After accidentally merging with a fire goddess thought to be a demon, an Ice Age girl gains inhuman power but is forced to flee her clan. She finds a new home in another clan but struggles to embrace her power when an enemy clan and a god with powers of rot and decay threaten to enslave her newfound family.

Today was the kind of cold I felt down to my bones. The cave I stood in blocked the wind, but as I surveyed its painted walls, my breath still turned to mist in the air.

Hook the Editor #19

TITLE: THE WOODLANDS HEIR
GENRE: YA Fantasy

When Elwyn's out of control magic accidentally burns down her beloved magical woodlands, an irritatingly hot half-fae agrees to help her control her magic. She only has until the Winter Solstice to harness her power before the Queen of Death challenges her to a duel. The problem? She agreed to spy on the half-fae for a trickster faerie who is protecting her family while she is away.

The woods whispered their secrets to her.
Elwyn Dor loosed a breath as crickets, babbling creeks, and singing birds competed against the thousands of rustling leaves chattering overhead.

Hook the Editor #18

TITLE: Hoverboard Superheroes
GENRE: MG Science Fiction

Twelve year old Leonie Fox can make anything except friends. Her repair business doesn’t impress the other kids on her starship, but at least Leonie has her grandmother. Then Magda goes missing. Frighteningly alone, Leonie recruits allies—not friends—and starts hunting. But more people disappear, and social services are on Leonie’s tail. To save Magda and stop a deadly conspiracy, Leonie needs more than a trio of bickering boys at her side. She needs a family.

Leonie pressed her shoulders to the bulkhead, catching her breath as her eyes adjusted to the amber lights. They'd have trouble finding her in the salvage bay, where shadows hid her coveralls and deep brown skin.

Hook the Editor #17

TITLE: Mourn Their Courage
GENRE: Adult Fantasy

In a land where necromancers are reviled and the dead feared, spirits talk to Liu Jie. Then the Emperor summons Jie to civil war. If he's not killed in battle, his men may kill him. Yet every ghost the usurping Chancellor creates wants to fight the demon-possessed Chancellor. If Jie exorcises the demon, his people will kill him. If he doesn't, he and everyone he's fought to protect will be damned.


Inside the Peach Orchard Inn, Lord Liu Jie expected to be murdered. He appreciated that he had a choice in how it might happen.

Hook the Editor #16

TITLE: All the Time in the World
GENRE: YA Science Fiction

Seventeen-year-old Derek has two goals in life: play major league baseball and marry his best friend, Corinne. When a spacetime glitch pulls his future kids into the present, he learns he didn’t marry Corinne, but his shrewd STEM rival, Michelle. Now forced to partner with a girl he hates, Derek slowly grows attached to his imperfect family, prompting him to choose between the life he envisioned and the life he never saw coming.


Derek grips the neck of his Louisville Slugger, fingers wiggling against the gloss, feeling out the warm evenness of the wood. Feet apart, knees bent, eyes straight ahead, he raises the bat over his shoulder.

Hook the Editor #15

TITLE: TARNISHED RELICS
GENRE: Adult Fantasy

When Attoria's parents mysteriously fall ill she sets out on a journey for a cure. During her travels she uncovers an age old prophecy about a unique soul that will decide the fate of Halgrond. As her name declares, She Who Brings Victory, Attoria knows she will be the one to fulfill the prophecy. But the path of good and evil is not always clearly marked and every victory has a cost.

"Time has done you no favors, witchwoman Gizem," Attoria said.
They were the only two on the road.

Hook the Editor #14

TITLE: Windcaller
GENRE: Adult Fantasy

naShola is a noble entangled by scandals and clashing loyalties, who stumbles across a power that could upend the tyranny of the Plateau. Tlanis is a lowly plains-dweller whose parents dreamed of creating a better world for him — until they were hanged for it. He loathes nobles, naShola most of all. But he finds unexpected hope when a mysterious veiled woman comes to the plains at night, wielding the forbidden craft of the windcallers. 

There was rain once, centuries ago, in the plains south of the Mawtooth mountains. Now there was only dust and rock in every shade of sun-baked brown and rusted red.

Hook the Editor #13

TITLE: The Blue Jay
GENRE: MG Fantasy

When Liz accidentally traps herself and her siblings in her own imaginary world and her sister gets kidnapped by the bad guys she made up, Liz must team up with her annoying teenage brother, Kyle, on a quest to save her sister and find a way home before it’s too late.

The bus lumbered forward like an enormous beetle, its bright yellow sides warning of poison and danger. I smelled its fumes as the engine heaved and sent it hurtling toward the sidewalk where I stood, waiting to climb into its maw.

Hook the Editor #12

TITLE: The City Beautiful
GENRE: YA Gothic Horror

1893, Chicago World’s Fair. Possessed by the dybbuk of a murder victim, 17-year-old Alter must find whoever’s targeting Jewish immigrants before the vengeful spirit takes his body over for good—that is, if the killer doesn’t take his life first.
#Ownvoices LGBT Gothic horror where SAWKILL GIRLS meets THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI.

Anguished sobs echoed down the winding stairwell, bouncing off the walls like the cries of strange birds. Here on Maxwell Street, weeping was as common an occurrence as shouting, wailing babies, and laughter.

Hook the Editor #11

TITLE: Boy On The Corner
GENRE: YA #Ownvoices Horror

1986. When asthmatic Levi and other kids are abducted from a haunted house by the townspeople, he learns every ten years, ten children are picked to be sacrificed to a railroad-dwelling monster as penance for a hate crime committed ninety years ago. Now on the run, Levi must use his Stephen King expertise to fight back with kids from the wrong side of the tracks before the monster collects them as payment.

There was only one thing to do in Roan Oak other than cow tipping—visiting the Rosewood Mall.
I arrived a few minutes early that day, lingering outside of what could’ve been my second home: the arcade.

Hook the Editor #10

TITLE: Wish I Was Here
GENRE: YA light sci-fi mystery

When Ana’s best friend Isaac hands her an invisibility pill he made, she swallows it to avoid being kidnapped along with him. Fighting her guilt, she must rescue Isaac before he’s forced to create another pill for the highest evil bidder. If she doesn’t follow clues he left behind and find him for the antidote within a week, she’ll remain invisible forever. That could mean insanity or death.

Isaac’s street was a ghost town when I pulled up to his house after school. I used his spare key to let myself in, and the knot in my stomach tied double.

Hook the Editor #9

TITLE: Sugar Bea
GENRE: YA Contemporary

For seventeen-year-old Bea, the scale has finally tipped in her favor to become head chef at The Art Haus, a Macon hotspot. But a new flame, seasoned sous chefs, and diabetes all threaten to outweigh her ambition.

This is the sweetest day of my life, but I can’t share it with Momma. She wouldn’t understand, so my secret love affair has to continue a bit longer.

Hook the Editor #8

TITLE: Book of Blood
GENRE: Adult Dark Fantasy

Breaking Bad with magic
In a dying world, secretly supported by blood magic, an ambitious princess marries a prince who forces her into debt. Conflicting forces are battling over power in the city and she is caught in the cross-fires, her household slaughtered. Will she be able to take back control over her life through the discovery of blood magic? 

"There had been much debate over who was going to do the killing. In the end Ikuta volunteered."

Hook the Editor #7

TITLE: Donny Quinn and the Quest for Computer Parts
GENRE: MG Contemporary Humor

Donny says he's a great wizard who can save the world, but only if he can finish his portal. His friend, Sandra, thinks he's just a 12-year-old boy building a computer to play a game, and she's pretty sure the world will survive either way. MG reimagining of DON QUIXOTE, complete w/ windmill.

Exile. I wander down the solid stone path the natives call a sidewalk.

Hook the Editor #6

TITLE: UNREALITY
GENRE: YA Speculative Thriller

STRANGER THINGS x US 17yo Addy has had PTSD since armed men killed her dad three years ago. When she comes home one day and he’s there—alive—Addy hides her traumatic memories and becomes an imposter in what seems to be a better version of reality. But now her mirror-reflection has come to life—with plans of her own—and if Addy doesn’t uncover the truth about her town’s secret experiments, she could lose Dad in both lives.

The fear was back.
It pulsed like fever behind the overworked eyes of the students shuffling by in a study-induced stupor.

Hook the Editor #5

TITLE: Persephone's Waltz
GENRE: Adult Fantasy

Holy Maiden Ysabel has four months left to live. Then she stops the assassination of Dark Lord Kaine, a trans man leading a rebel army. In gratitude, he rescues her from becoming a human sacrifice—by kidnapping her. Hades X Persephone meets the humor of Terry Pratchett and the world-building of N.K. Jemisin.

I have four months, three weeks, and two days left to live. Yet here I sit, wasting a precious hour attending the Council of Cardinals.

Hook the Editor #4

TITLE: Skyline
GENRE: YA Contemporary

After they drifted apart and decided to move on from the past, four teenagers reunite to help their depressed classmate, and ex-friend, Josh. When grudges, crushes, and complicated feelings for Josh get in the way of success, they have to confront their own struggles and come to grips with their shared past--before Josh ends everything for good. SKYLINE is a 100K word novel with multiple perspectives.

It was the greatest torture method ever devised by humanity, a practice so cruel and vicious it would break even the strongest hearts, an invention which put the circles of hell to shame.
Ballroom dancing lessons.

Hook the Editor #3

TITLE: Casters
GENRE: YA Fantasy

OCD techie Lissette is used to having magic at her fingertips—there’s an app for that. Her dad made it, and she excels at crafting digital spells. But all magic has a price. When a virus infects that magic technology, she must stop it before it spreads and kills everyone she loves. RENEGADES X THIS MORTAL COIL

Dad had his filthy shoes propped on my spotless coffee table again. Every day, I found him lounging on the couch with his laptop sitting on his knees and his feet crossed, mud dripping from his soles onto the mahogany surface.

Hook the Editor #2

TITLE: Only Ever Friends
GENRE: Adult Romance

When Amie gets dumped just weeks before her wedding, she does what any rational, 22-year-old law student would do: pawns the ring and eats her weight in Ben and Jerry's. Returning to her childhood home to put the shards of her life back together, the last thing she wants is another relationship… especially with her former best friend, Jason.

Whoever said that money can't buy love was never given a diamond ring from Tiffany's.
Not that I needed it—I'd have been happy with a fifty-cent vending machine knock-off if Derek gave it to me on one knee and asked me to marry him.

Hook the Editor #1

TITLE: CARVED
GENRE: Adult Science fiction

Crim the Carved steps into the Spector ready for a fight to the death, but when an attack goes horribly awry, she ends up in a battle to save everyone’s lives. She teams up with a mortal enemy who was happier trying to kill her, and the two must free all the trapped spectators. If they don’t, a death in the Spector would have been merciful compared to one designed by the Carver.

Crim saw things no one else could, but each line of sight cost her a world of pain. Sticky trails burned down her cheeks as she pressed her face closer to the panoramic panes of the top floor bedroom.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Win a Copy of STORMRISE

A long-time member of this blog community, PB Pabst, is giving away a copy of STORMRISE on her blog. (She has also written lovely things about me that are indicative of her warm and generous heart, and I am a bit undone. But definitely head over there to enter the giveaway!)


(Huge thanks to everyone who has purchased STORMRISE or requested it for your library. It's been a great launch week so far! Here are LINKS TO PURCHASE.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Release Day for STORMRISE


Dear ones --

Today's the day. Through all the ups and downs, twists and turns, disappointments and surprises, you've been here, cheering me on. I've thanked you dozens of times, and I'm thanking you once more.

YOUR SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT HAS MEANT SO MUCH THROUGH THE YEARS.

And now here we are! Stormrise is officially out there, and I find myself sitting here thinking, wow. Did these many years actually pass? Is that elusive, disappearing-around-each-bend dream finally mine to hold?

Yes and yes.

Spotted at Barnes and Noble in Manhattan

Today my Twitter and Instagram and Facebook notifications are small explosions. Thank you for your words of congratulations, for spreading the word, for ordering a copy of Stormrise. I'm humbled and blessed and honestly, this is just so big.

Here is a UNIVERSAL LINK to all the places you can order Stormrise. (Remember that it's always wonderful to order from your favorite local bookstore, too. And requesting Stormrise at your library is also greatly appreciated!)


I've got an event at Barnes and Noble tonight, and there will be cupcakes. Between now and then, I'm planning on...well, not doing much. Soaking it in, maybe having a little nap. Because this is the ONLY DAY OF MY LIFE on which I'll be celebrating the release of my debut novel.

Thank you all for being a part of it!


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

HOOK THE EDITOR: Submission Guidelines


Here we go, everyone--submission guidelines for HOOK THE EDITOR (please note: this is not the call for submissions, which will take place on September 24):

1. All genres of fiction are welcome, except erotica or erotic romance.
2. Submit a (maximum-75-word) pitch and your first TWO SENTENCES.
3. Go HERE to submit.
4. Submission window: Tuesday, September 24, from noon to 7:00 pm EDT.
5. This will be a LOTTERY. At the close of submissions, the bot will randomly choose 50 entries.
6. The winning entries will post on the blog on Tuesday, October 1 for voting.

OVERVIEW OF THE ROUNDS:

1. ROUND ONE: Readers will vote YES or NO on the 50 pitches that post on October 1. The 5 entries with the most YES votes will go on to the next round.

2. ROUND TWO: The 5 winning entries will be invited to submit their first 250 words, along with their original pitches. Readers will critique, and Elayne will read, leave comments, and then choose her favorite.


THE WINNER will receive a free 10-page edit from Elayne!

Monday, September 16, 2019

HOOK THE EDITOR: Introducing ELAYNE BECKER

Tomorrow the submission guidelines for HOOK THE EDITOR will post. Today, however, is reserved for helping you get to know Elayne Becker a little better!

Elayne Becker, freelance editor

JILL: I'd be lying if I said my heart didn't break when I learned you were leaving Tor Teen. What led you to this decision, and what is your next adventure?

ELAYNE: It's a bittersweet departure! A few things factored into my decision to leave, but what I will say is this: working in the publishing industry, while being rewarding in so many ways, is also tough. I love so much of the editor job, but unfortunately, it's also a recipe for burnout, particularly for employees working their way up from the entry level onward. Personally, I reached a point where that burnout became difficult to bounce back from.

I think that when you're waking up most days feeling uninspired by the day ahead, you have to start considering the possibility of change. (If change is within your means.) For me, I decided that meant pursuing a master's degree in Scotland, and potentially exploring work in other fields I'm passionate about, such as environmental conservation and women's advocacy. I doubt this is a forever farewell to the publishing industry from me-there are too many aspects of it that I enjoy to do that!-but I am looking forward to stepping away for a bit and seeing what else is out there.


JILL: It's exciting to know that you're going to be offering freelance editing! Tell us more.

ELAYNE: Yes! Working with manuscripts has always been very fulfilling-and fun!-for me; I truly love watching a story evolve from its earliest stages to the final, and helping writers achieve their visions. To that end, I offer editorial feedback on both the conceptual and line levels, as well as query and synopsis critiques. Fuller details are on my website.

JILL: Folks who know you as an editor might not realize that you're also a writer. What do you write?

ELAYNE: Fantasy will always be my first love, so that's the genre I'm writing at the moment. These days, I aim for a tone that's pretty, dark, and romantic, with a nature-forward aesthetic and a bit of a classic feel. One day, I hope to explore other genres as well! I'm a big history nerd, so I'd love to incorporate that into my writing at some point. Or maybe even some nonfiction-who knows.


JILL: You're living life on both sides of the desk. What is it that you love about editing? About writing? In what ways do these two pursuits complement each other? Conflict?

ELAYNE: The heart of the answers is the same for both-I love storytelling! I love new worlds and characters I get to know inside and out. Editing allows me to exercise the detail-oriented, critical thinking part of my brain in a fun way, as I examine all of the story's pieces and help the writer assemble them in a way that maximizes the story's potential. It's a ton of work, true, but engaging work, like trying to solve a puzzle. Writing, on the other hand, provides an outlet for my creative side, an avenue through which I can give voice to the words and scenes playing out in my mind. It's also a great way for me to process emotions or life events.

The two roles definitely inform one another. Editing has expanded my understanding of the craft, which in turn has improved my writing. Likewise, writing enables me to empathize more with writers and better understand how they might have approached different aspects of the manuscript. In terms of conflicts, confidence is a big differentiating factor between the two. Every editor has had doubts at some point in their career, but for the most part, I'm confident in my ability to critique a manuscript and offer valuable feedback. With writing, I still struggle with imposter syndrome often. I can recognize talent in other writers very quickly, but I have trouble recognizing skill in my own writing, even if other professionals assure me it's there. I think this is likely because writing is more personal, and reflective of our creative selves, whereas editing is a more detached endeavor at its core.


JILL: From the moment we began working on Stormrise together, I was amazed by your ability to reach deep inside a story and ask all the right questions in order to home in on the strongest trajectory. Are you able to set this amazing gift aside when you read for pleasure? What are your favorite (non-client) books of all time?

ELAYNE: Aw, thank you Jill! Admittedly, my editor brain tends to interfere when I'm reading for fun more often than I would like. I find myself constantly taking note of which aspects are well-done and how I would have edited weaker aspects differently. I do think there's a lot of value in reading actively (spoilers for my next answer!), but in my case, it can be frustrating at times. I'm working on ways to shut this off just a bit, so that sometimes I can read critically, and other times I can simply enjoy the read.

My favorite non-client books! I will try to limit myself to a handful, because leaving it at one is impossible. Juliet Marillier is a goddess of prose, and I'm currently working my way through her bibliography, but I know Daughter of the Forest will always be my favorite. I don't even have the words to describe all my feelings on that book. Likewise, I will buy anything Ruta Sepetys writes in an instant; her books are beautiful. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings makes the cut as well, of course, as does Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl. Also a special shoutout to Swati Teerdhala's The Tiger at Midnight and Madeline Miller's Circe, which are two of my favorite books that I've read this year.


JILL: What are your words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

ELAYNE: Read actively, particularly in the genre you want to write. Think about what an author is doing that you find really effective, and what you find confusing or disappointing. Once you do this enough, you can use it as a tool to shape your own writing.

Share your work with beta readers or critique partners, and open yourself to their feedback. A lot of the time as writers, we're too close to our work to really see it properly. It's a great thing when you learn that feedback is meant to help you, not hurt you.

Finally: write, write, write, because you really do improve the more you do. Trust me. (And the reams of stories from my youth that will never see the light of day.)

--

Huge thanks to Elayne for this interview, and for participating in HOOK THE EDITOR! If you need more information, GO HERE. Remember, official submission guidelines will post tomorrow (September 17). Any questions that aren't answered there? Ask below in the comments!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Friday Fricassee (a.k.a. Best Party Ever)

You've watched me walk my journey from "aspiring author" to "published author" -- a few stalwart of you have actually been here for more than a decade, from the humble beginnings of this blog. I've expressed my gratefulness time and again, and today I simply want to share with you the magic of my long-awaited book release party.

Mind you, the hiccup of Tor Teen pushing back my release date by two weeks brought me to tears, mostly because of the party, which I planned almost a year in advance. We had the venue, the menu, the deluge of RSVPs. How could I possibly move my party?

But I didn't have to (and it would have been silly to try). On Tuesday, September 10 (which also happened to be my dad's 86th birthday), I gathered with family and friends at one of my favorite writing haunts -- The Frothy Monkey in Franklin, TN -- and we celebrated Stormrise and the spirit of never giving up. I don't think I've ever felt so loved and supported in my life (and that's saying a lot, because I have often felt very loved and supported).

And, so, without further ado:

The Release Party (in pictures)




The venue is a wonderful old-house-converted-into-coffee-shop, and I've always loved the vibe. The amazing staff set up this space for my reading. On the mantle, you can see the gorgeous poster that Tor Teen sent to help celebrate my release!


The Parnassus Books rep arrived -- with books! 4 boxes of Stormrise, which my beloved husband Eric was more than happy to help carry upstairs.


The moment I first saw the finished copies. No further explanation needed. :)


Okay, I was a little excited. More than a little.


All the beautiful books! 


The poster was such an unexpected gift. I love it more than words can say. I love that sweet girl on my right, too--she's my youngest.


All five of my offspring were there, including Maggie (far right), who flew in from Denver. (Maggie is also a writer, represented by Danielle Burby--so we are agent sisters as well as mother and daughter!). I love these humans with every inch of me; they bring me so much joy.


There were so many dear, dear people there, and there's no way I could showcase everyone. This guy, though, deserves a special shout-out. Sean and I have known each other since high school, when we did theatre together. He flew in from Pennsylvania just to be at the party, and his enthusiasm (and love for me!) was like a thousand fireworks.


(I had to add this, to show you how far back we go. We had the leads in Carnival in 1982.)


The love of my life. Eric and I have been married for 31 years. He's watched me -- and stood by me -- from the beginning of my long journey. It means so much when he says, "I'm proud of you." (And by the way--do you see the AMAZING STORMRISE PENDANT around my neck? You still have time to preorder Stormrise and be entered in a drawing to win one just like it!)


Deviled eggs, smoked salmon on toast points, chicken salad bites, a huge antipasto platter, and tiny cupcakes. Divine!


When it was time for the reading, my amazing and beautiful sister introduced me. For as much as she hates microphones, she's an absolute natural at working the crowd. (Also she spent hours shopping online to find me the perfect dress for this party--and then she bought it for me. Because that's who she is.)


Eric wrote a soundtrack for the excerpt of Stormrise I read. Marriage isn't a perfect science, but at times like this, I really feel like we're the dream team. :)


More than one person commented that I didn't seem nervous. I wasn't. Must be that theatre background.


This photo right here? It's my favorite. Know why? Look at my husband's face. He's looking at me with that expression! Am I blessed or what?


A portion of the crowd. People from so many seasons of my life were there--from my friend Sean, who has known me from high school, to members of the Nashville Symphony Chorus, to people I sang with decades ago, to current neighbors, to ballet-mom friends I've made over the years, to gals who were in my ballet classes, to a dear friend I've known online for a long time but had never met in person (she, like Sean, flew in to be there!), to my sister who has known me her whole life. It was...incredible.



And here it is -- me, living my dream. You know how sometimes (most times) it's hard to smile for pictures because it feels so forced? Nope. My face sort of smiled on its own all night...a natural response to the rivers of joy welling up from my heart. 


Another favorite. These two have profoundly impacted my life over the past few years. Tucker is the director of the Nashville Symphony Chorus, and his wife Mary directs the Blair Children's Chorus at Vanderbilt University (and also fills in for Tucker sometimes with the NSC). They're incredibly talented, with hearts fiercely motivated by their passion for music education and excellence. After lying dormant for too many years, my musician-self has blossomed and reasserted itself, and I have these two to thank.



This gal has been a whirlwind of enthusiasm and support. Her husband took this picture, and you can tell he's an artist because look at the composition of this photo! (Also, if you peek out the window behind us, you can kind of see people's heads. We rented out the entire upstairs of the venue, and that included their nifty back deck. I, of course, never got a chance to go out there, but I was happy to discover evidence that people did enjoy themselves out there!)


Had to include this one, too. Another super-supportive friend with a big heart (and a big beard). I have seriously never been in a room full of people cheering me on to the degree I experienced on this evening.

It was a glorious evening. I came away grateful, joyful, blown away, and exhausted. Because introvert. But, oh--it couldn't have been more perfect. Truly.

And now you've had a little taste of it. Thank you for joining me. 


(Photo cred: Cathi Cormack, Bill Clifford, Tom Soranno, Angela Pasquini-Clifford, Rachel Boehme, Eric Boehme)





Friday, September 6, 2019

New Contest on the Horizon: HOOK THE EDITOR

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

So it's definitely taken me a while (my apologies!), but I've finally got something for you. 

How'd you like to win a 10-page, in-depth edit from an editor who, until recently, worked for a major publisher? If this makes your writerly fingers tingle, read on!

HOOK THE EDITOR
You may already know that my lovely editor, Elayne Becker, has left Tor Teen. It was heartbreaking to lose her, because she is incredibly talented. The good news for you, though, is that Elayne is now doing freelance editing! And I'm doing my part to get the word out (because she's so very good at what she does).

Hook the Editor will give you a chance to hook first your colleagues, and then, if you're chosen for the final round, Elayne herself. Here's how it will work:

1. ROUND ONE: Submit a pitch and the first two sentences of your (completed, edited) story. A maximum of 50 entries will be chosen.

2. The pitches will post on the blog, and readers will vote YES or NO as to whether they were hooked by your pitch. The 5 entries with the most YES votes will go to the next round.

3. ROUND TWO: The 5 winning entries will be invited to submit their first 250 words, along with their original pitches.

4. The 5 first pages will post on the blog. Readers will critique, and Elayne will read, leave comments, and then choose her favorite.

5. Elayne's choice will win a 10-page edit!

MORE INFO:

*Submission date: Tuesday, September 24 (Stormrise release day! Wooo!)
*The pitches will post on Tuesday, October 1; voting will begin immediately.
*The 5 winning entries will post on Tuesday, October 8; critiquing will begin immediately.

PLEASE NOTE: I will post a CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS on TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, with full submission instructions. Mark your calendars!

Ask your questions below. I'm super excited about this! 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Friday Fricassee



A few days ago, I hit what was truly the first bump along the road to Stormrise's release. My editor emailed me to let me know that my pub date had been pushed out, from September 10 to September 24.

On the surface, it doesn't seem like a big deal--2 measly weeks, right? Except that I have a huge, private release party planned for the 10th. I've had the venue secured for months (literally since last year). To date, I have over 70 guests who've said they'll be there, and 3 of them are flying in from out of state.

In short, it's sort of a big deal. Because when you wait 14 years for your first novel to come out, you want to celebrate big. And apparently, so do your friends and family.

So, yes, I cried. A lot. I was all I'm going to have to move my party date, and that will mess up everything for so many people.

I'm surrounded by wonderful people who love me, though, and in very short order, I was able to see straight. (Many thanks to my sister, my agent, my husband, and my eldest daughter for talking me through it in the heat of the moment!) Of course I don't have to move the party. It may not be my actual release date any more, but it's still going to be a huge celebration.

Tor Teen is being wonderful as well, brainstorming about ways to help make the party meaningful, despite the changed release date. (It's not Tor's fault; it's a manufacturing delay brought on by the current paper shortage.) Like making a Stormrise poster and sending it directly to the venue. And offering bookplates for me to sign, in case we can't have any actual copies on site. 

So it's all good! And I'm as thankful as always. But it was definitely a horse-sized pill to swallow. 

This adds two more weeks to my preorder offer as well. Details HERE. And remember that signed copies are also available for preorder through Parnassus Books! Which I'm super excited about. (Those details are also on my website.)

Oh, the FEELS, though! Isn't it astonishing the way something can slay us in a moment, causing us to lose all perspective? I'm thankful I'm surrounded by an amazing tribe who always has my back.

Happy weekend, everyone--and thanks for continuing, as always, along this journey with me!

Friday, August 9, 2019

STORMRISE Preorder Giveaway!


Lovely tribe of mine! I'm excited to announce this Stormrise preorder offer, which will run from today until September 9 at 11:59 pm CDT.

The details:

Preorder Stormrise to receive a signed bookmark and be entered into a drawing to win this gorgeous, Stormrise-inspired pendant by @T.ArchJewelry.

(Note: US only, and I'm so sorry, but...it is what it is.)

Also!!

You can order a signed copy of Stormrise from Parnassus Books in Nashville! CLICK HERE TO ORDER. And guess what! International orders will be accepted! 



Tammy's choice of a carnelian (which--full disclosure--I'd never heard of before) is absolutely perfect, as well. Carnelian is a semi-precious stone symbolizing motivation, endurance, leadership, and courage. Rain needs all four of these qualities as she embarks upon her adventure in Stormrise!

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. PREORDER STORMRISE FROM ANY BOOKSTORE.

2. EMAIL A COPY OF YOUR RECEIPT TO ME AT JILLIAN@JILLIANBOEHME.COM.

3. IMPORTANT: PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR MAILING ADDRESS IN THE EMAIL!

4. YOU WILL RECEIVE A SIGNED BOOKMARK AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO A DRAWING TO WIN THE PENDANT. (IF YOU PREORDER A SIGNED COPY FROM PARNASSUS BOOKS, YOUR BOOKMARK WILL BE UNSIGNED AND WILL BE INCLUDED WITH YOUR ORDER. ALL OTHER BOOKMARKS WILL BE SIGNED AND MAILED SEPARATELY.)


BAM * TARGET * INDIEBOUND *

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

How Close Are You to Nashville?

My dearest readers!

I'm thrilled to announce my first event. If you're anywhere near the Nashville area, I would ABSOLUTELY LOVE to meet you on Thursday, September 12!


Because it really would mean a lot to put your name to a face, I'd love for you to drop me an email at jillian@jillianboehme.com to let me know you're coming. 

Hope to see some of you there!



Friday, July 12, 2019

Friday Fricassee

Hello, friends!

Some of you have been reading this blog since its inception (11 years ago).

Some of you have come aboard recently, knowing only bits and pieces of my story.

All of you are part of the wonderful community of writers that is such a lifeblood to those of us who are blessed to be part of it.

It's less than 2 months from the release of my debut novel, and even now it's still hard, sometimes, to comprehend that this is my life. When I opened Blogger and created Miss Snark's First Victim in April, 2008, I was nursing a 7-month-old and homeschooling 4 older children. I was also almost 3 years into trying to find an agent (and it would take me another 2.5 years to actually land one).

Now my youngest is turning 12 next month (seriously, what??) and I'm spending a portion of my work day on marketing and publicity for Stormrise. How can that be?

Dorky as this may sound, I've got one of my galleys on display in a metal book holder in a bookcase. I stare at it, marveling all over again at the beautiful artwork and overwhelmed to know that this is my book. Not someone else's.

Every day, I'm thankful. For every Goodreads add. Every excited BookTuber. Every 4- or 5-star review. Every squeal about dragons. Every gorgeous book photo on Instagram. Every mention. Every "like". Every everything.

As if all this weren't enough, my editor recently brought up the cover for my next book (Fall 2020) and her concept for it. AND I LOVE HER IDEA SO MUCH. So here I am, already so excited for September 10 while heaping more excitement on top of that.

I may just explode one day in a shower of lilacs and melted chocolate and dragonbreath, and everyone will have to step over me and move along.

Thank you for being part of this incredible journey.

AND!

It so happens that Tor Teen and I both chose the same week to run an ARC giveaway--and they both end on Saturday.







Keep writing! Keep dreaming! Keep reading stories that make you laugh and think and cry and shudder and groan and grin and ponder and cackle and yell and squeal and sigh. And take all that and let it infuse your breathing and thinking and creating and living, and oh, what JOY there will be in your own creations.

Have a magical weekend!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Pitch for the Win: The Critiques!

Dearest writerly ones!

Pull out your notebook and pen; today you get to sit back and read the thoughtful (and in some cases, quite detailed) critiques of our winning first pages. While it's true that all critique is subjective, it's also true that reading what experienced writers have to say ups our game, giving us things to think about that we can keep in mind when doing our own writing.

Enjoy! And one more huge thank you to our participating authors.

Critique by Nancy Bilyeau: The Atonement of Louis Godbout

TITLE: The Atonement of Louis Godbout
GENRE: Historical
ENTRY: #20

The pitch:

Lower Canada, 1838. The revolt against British rule FAILED (for quicker meaning):/is in tatters/. Louis Godbout, THIS IS UNCLEAR, HE IS HALF FRENCH, HALF-CREE GENETICALLY OR IS HE A MAN TRAPPED BETWEEN THOSE TWO WORLDS EMOTIONALLY?:/a loner caught in a no-man's land between French and Cree, is banished to the penal colony of Australia I'D CUT THIS, IT MUDDIES HIS CHARACTER IN THIS SHORT A DESCRIPTION: /for a rebellion he didn't believe in/. In exile he finds comradeship; in humiliation, dignity. Inspired by the courage of a Huguenot/Londoner convict woman, THIS IS TOO VAGUE FOR A PITCH, IS THERE A CLEARER NARRATIVE LINE, DOES HE FALL IN LOVE, DOES SHE HELP HIM FIND PEACE OR BELONGING OR SAVE HIS LIFE? /he wrestles with the meaning of home, identity and belonging/. Based on true events.

On a low-skied Sunday morning, the 25th CUT:/day/ of February 1838, Louis Godbout gave his cabin door a nudge. He could feel the weight of a snowdrift on the other side. As the door crack widened INSERT COMMA the chink of a new day SHOWED ITSELF:/ began to show itself/: a DELETE:/glimpse of/ leaden landscape blasted by an overnight blizzard. VERY NICE IMAGERY: Crystals from the advancing drift spilled over the threshold like salt from a bag.

Merde, I hope I can get out of here.

FIX REPETITION OF 'DOOR' AND TIGHTEN:/He shut the door and went through to the door at the rear of the cabin. Out back, in the lee of the storm, it was clear.

DON'T NEED THIS ONE: Bien.

Today, for once, he wouldn't have to dig himself out.

He put on his toque and capelot and stepped DELETE:/out/ into the open. The air was muted after the fresh PICK ANOTHER WORD:/dump/ of overnight snow. NICE HISTORICAL DETAIL:/His snowshoes, great platters of wood and webbed hide, hung from a hook outside the back door/. He lashed them to his moccasins, pulled a pair of WOOL?:/woolen/ mitts over his hands and set out from the cabin toward Châteauguay.

NOT SURE THIS IS WORKING. PLUS YOU ALREADY SAID 'LOW-SKIED' IN FIRST SENTENCE:/The land looked close to the sky, as if the white-crusted fields had been leavened and baked in an oven/. He headed for the western bank of the Châteauguay River, his shoes stamping giant prints across the virgin snowfield. This late in winter his racquettes were like one with his body, NICE DESCRIPTION: as if his feet had sent out new growths of sinew and bone. Gross and clumsy that they were, the shoes let him skim over the deep powder like a snowshoe hare.



The writing in your selection is full of evocative description. I could feel the weight of the snow against the door, and see the sky outside the cabin. I very much enjoyed the scene you set.

I would consider weaving in more of Louis's internal struggle. I think we need to read more than his reaction to the weather, shoes, and the countryside, as lovely as the writing is. Is he setting out with dread, with anticipation? Is he overly confident? Suggesting the possibility of conflict soon to come would bait the reader's hook and make her or him eager to keep going.

I made notes in your pitch, to help clarify the meaning. I would make less internal the core struggle of Louis once he is in Australia. Readers (and prospective agents and editors) need to know if this is a historical novel about a man finding the meaning in his life, surviving against difficult odds, or finding love and acceptance from another person. (Ideally, all three :). Finding the meaning of concepts such as identity might not be making the best case for your book in a pitch, though that is definitely a powerful theme for the book itself. You say in the middle of the pitch that he's a loner, is the emotional journey of the novel one that ends with him learning to love and trust another person? A more specific arc would be great to tease out.

For a comparison of a 19th century-set story of a person thrust in a new place with epic overtones, I would take a look at Lauren Willig's new novel, "Summer Country."

Best of luck with your book, which is set in a very interesting time and place and with a strong premise.

Critique by Rosaria Munda: Orphaned Skies

TITLE: ORPHANED SKIES
GENRE: YA Science Fiction
ENTRY: #9

With the Stingray invasion escalating, fighter pilot Juniper Crew must decide between becoming a Legacy and avenging her past, or defending the people she swore to protect and saving her future.

I LOVE FIGHTER PILOTS AND I LOVE LARGER POLITICAL DRAMA EXPLORED THROUGH INTIMATE PERSONAL CONFLICT! BRING IT.

Worlds around her would explode if she touched the spinning orb and stole a life back from the Reaper. But since that life belonged to her best friend, nothing else mattered. I THINK THIS PARAGRAPH MIGHT BE MORE CONFUSING THAN YOU NEED IT TO BE. IS REAPER A WORLDBUILDING ELEMENT OR JUST A FIGURATIVE REFERENCE? WHAT IS SHE TRYING TO DO? IS HER FRIEND INSIDE THE ORB OR IS ORB THE TANDEM SPACESHIP REAGAN IS FLYING?

Juniper Crew accelerated, chasing Reagan’s egg-shaped vessel in an oblong orbit over Earth’s northern hemisphere, the duo mere minutes away from completing their ninety-ninth mission FOR WHOM? IMPERIAL OR REBEL? IS IT A TRAINING MISSION? IS IT FOR A WAR EFFORT? GIVE A BIT MORE HERE AND IN THE NEXT PARA TO SET STAKES. She just needed to find and destroy the traitors badge. And for Crew, admittedly a little trigger-happy, destroying was the best part. I LOVE THE JOYFUL ENERGY CREW BRINGS TO HER FLYING!

Purple curls twisted at the base of her skull, WHY ARE HER PURPLE CURLS RELEVANT RIGHT NOW? ARE THEY DRENCHED IN SWEAT BECAUSE THE SHIP IS HEATING UP? ETC. WEAVE THEM INTO THE ACTION the graft gripping her shoulder blades and burning down through her fingertips. Energy flowed across her mind more than concrete words or commands. Her A16 Encryption fell into Reagan’s slipstream and drafted off the speeding escort egg. I'M OF THE BELIEF THAT IF YOU'RE NAMING IT, THAT NAME SHOULD ADVANCE THE WORLDBUILDING IN SOME WAY. A16 ENCRYPTION DOESN'T TELL ME ANYTHING ABOUT HER OR HER WORLD--BUT E.G. "IMPERIAL A16 ENCRYPTION" DOES, OR JUST "SPYSHIP" IF IT'S RECON, ETC. CONSIDER PLAYING WITH THIS!

The depth of true black surrounded her, yet the lull of empty space competed with the bubbling excitement inside. So close. This mission and then one more. Once she completed a hundred, she’d be free. I'D TRY GIVING US MORE HERE AND SEE HOW IT WORKS. FREE FROM WHAT? WHY? YOU COULD TEASE A BIT ABOUT EITHER OR HER PAST OR HER FUTURE—THAT PAST SHE IS GOING TO HAVE TO CHOOSE WHETHER TO AVENGE; THAT FUTURE THAT SHE IS STRIVING TOWARD?

Crew cradled the craft’s nose, edging it closer to her escort. The egg jerked and picked up speed. I WOULD CUT THIS BECAUSE IT DIDN'T ADVANCE THE ACTION OR BUILD CHARACTER. She opened comms. “See it yet, Reagan?”

“Got a visual on my right.” The ear-plant crackled. “Optical only though.” HOW IS OPTICAL DIFFERENT FROM VISUAL?

Spurred by the confirmation, the Encryption surged forward and broke the artificial horizon. Unadulterated white rays blasted through the slanted stealth canopy and Crew’s skin tingled with a warmth that didn’t exist. I DON’T THINK YOU CAN FEEL SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T EXIST. REPHRASE? The visor auto tinted and the flush of her arms settled into their usual prickle, hairs raised on end and the singe of copper running through her veins. I APPRECIATE THAT YOU'RE TRYING TO AVOID "BLOOD TINGLING IN HER VEINS" HERE, BUT BEWARE SYNONYMS THAT FEEL FORCED!

“We have it!” A new voice broke through.

Critique by Rosaria Munda: Temple Beyond the Sea

TITLE: Temple Beyond the Sea
GENRE: Fantasy
ENTRY: #21

Pitch: Iphi was flown here by Artemis long ago, to serve as a priestess in the temple. She can barely tolerate the thought of human sacrifice, but only enemies of the land will be slain.

Her brother Orestes has avenged a murder in their household, but is driven out by the Furies—monstrous flying creatures.

Sister and brother have never met, but when Orestes is washed up on the shore of the temple, what will happen? NOTE ON THE PITCH: I WAS ORIGINALLY DRAWN TO THIS ONE BECAUSE I LOVE THE ORESTEIA MYTHS. BUT I THINK IF I DIDN'T KNOW THE REFERENCE, I WOULDN'T HAVE REALIZED WHAT WAS GOING ON. DON'T BURY THE LEAD ABOUT WHAT IPHI WILL BE ASKED TO DO TO ORESTES--THAT IS YOUR PITCH. TRY SOMETHING MORE LIKE, "WHEN IPHI IS RESCUED FROM HUMAN SACRIFICE BY ARTEMIS, SHE IS TRAINED TO COMMIT HUMAN SACRIFICES HERSELF IN ARTEMIS'S NAME--UNTIL THE DAY SHE LEARNS HER NEXT VICTIM WILL BE HER OWN BROTHER, ORESTES."

To be a priestess, the walk had to be flawless—the smooth heel-to-toe motion beneath the woolen robe that would soon be spattered with blood. Iphi had practiced this walk for two years AND knew it was perfect, knew the ceremonial dagger at her waist was not bouncing from the motion. Her slippered feet continued their smooth whisper on the stone floor of the temple, taking her through the darkness to the sunlight that shone past the linteled doorway, where the sacrifices waited outside. I LIKE HOW OTHERWORLDLY THIS SETTING ALREADY IS.

She paused at the entrance, heavy stonework on either side marking her as a stranger to the scents of life and fresh air. Iphi made the pause purposeful, foreboding. She had no need to blink from the sudden change in light —the deep purple of the veil that hung in front of her eyes shielded her. The whiteness of her face would sharply contrast against the darkness of those same eyes, dimly glimpsed through the veil. Arms outstretched, she stood ready to receive the sacrifices lying on the altar. Any supplicant standing in line with the doorway would have seen her framed by darkness. I'M NOT SURE THIS PARAGRAPH IS DOING ANYTHING THE FIRST PARAGRAPH DIDN'T DO. CUT, SHORTEN, OR GIVE MORE INTERIORITY? HOW DOES SHE FEEL ABOUT HER CURRENT SITUATION?

And further on, in the interior of the temple, hints of the image of Artemis herself showed—a pale statue in the same posture, lit by hungry flames. HOW DOES IPHI FEEL ABOUT ARTEMIS? THE GODDESS THAT RESCUED HER, BUT HAS HER LOCKED UP DOING HUMAN SACRIFICES FOR THE LAST FEW YEARS? A FEW MORE WORDS TO TEASE US WITH WHO THIS PERSON IS ON THE INSIDE AS WELL AS ON THE OUTSIDE.

The pause also gave Iphi time to contemplate this, the last phase of her training. She would ascend to the priesthood by performing human sacrifice. The dagger rested easily against her waist. HOW DOES SHE FEEL ABOUT HUMAN SACRIFICES? ABOUT ASCENDING TO THE PRIESTHOOD?

Critique by Peter Adam Salomon: Deep Summer

TITLE: Deep Summer
GENRE: YA Southern Gothic
ENTRY: #4

Dread sinks in my gut as County Bridge E appears ahead, stretching across Lake Walker like a rusted steel spine. THIS IS YOUR FIRST LINE. 'RUSTED STEEL SPINE' SHOWS THIS BRIDGE PERFECTLY, WHICH IS COMPLETELY AT ODDS WITH 'DREAD SINKS IN MY GUT' TELLING US HOW SHE'S FEELING. THE FIRST LINE ISN'T QUITE AS IMPORTANT AS ALL THE BOOKS SAY IT IS, BUT IT'S REALLY CLOSE. SHOW US HER DREAD. SHOW IT SINKING IN THE LAKE (TO TIE IT INTO THE LATER PARAGRAPHS). GIVE US THE POWER OF THE 'RUSTED STEEL SPINE' OF A BRIDGE AS YOU PREPARE US FOR THE FINAL LINE OF THIS PARAGRAPH (WHICH, YES, LIKELY MEANS ADDING A LINE OR TWO TO DRAW OUT THE TENSION BEFORE THAT KILLER LAST LINE): At least this time, I don't see a dead girl on it. LOVE THAT. JUST SET IT UP A LITTLE BIT MORE TO WRING EVERY OUNCE OUT OF THAT. THINK OF THAT PARAGRAPH (AND EVERY PARAGRAPH/SCENE/CHAPTER/NOVEL) AS A SCREWDRIVER AND THE READER AS THE SCREW. ONE LITTLE TWIST OF A FIRST SENTENCE AND ONE MASSIVE TURN OF A SECOND SENTENCE DOESN'T TEND TO BE THE BEST METHOD TO DRIVE THE SCREW HOME. SLOW, STEADY, CONSTANTLY INCREASING THE DREAD. INCREASE THE TENSION, SLOWLY TURNING THAT SCREW LIKE A MASTER CARPENTER.

I pull over before reaching the bridge and cut my Jeep's engine. TRY TO LIMIT 'PROCESS' SENTENCES WHEN POSSIBLE (AND SOMETIMES IT'S SIMPLY NOT POSSIBLE TO ELIMINATE THEM). THEY'RE JUST MOVING PIECES AROUND AND ADD LITTLE TO THE STORY, BUT THEY'RE NECESSARY. SO, FOR INSTANCE, YOU MIGHT QUESTION IF 'AND CUT MY JEEP'S ENGINE' IS NEEDED OR IF THE READER WILL UNDERSTAND THE IMPLICATION THAT SHE'S TURNED OFF THE CAR. IE: 'I PULL OVER BEFORE REACHING THE BRIDGE,' WHICH COULD THEN COMBINE WITH THE NEXT SENTENCE TO PROVIDE 'WEATHER' AS A CHARACTER TO THE STORY WITH THE 'JUNE HEAT' STRANGLING THE AC. YOU THEN SHOW THE WEATHER/HEAT SO WELL WITH THE SWIMMING LINE, MAKE SURE YOU CARRY THAT SHOW/DON'T TELL THROUGH THE STORY WHEN IT COMES TO THE HEAT (WITHOUT OVERDOING IT, WHICH, TO BE HONEST, I DID WITH MY FIRST NOVEL). June heat strangles the final wisps of AC. Within seconds I feel like I'm swimming. I kick open the door before the car becomes a pressure cooker, and the soles of my Nikes brush over the weeds growing up against Shadburn Highway. THIS IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF A GOOD LINE THAT IS LIKELY NOT NECESSARY. THE READER WILL KNOW SHE EXITS THE CAR, NO NEED TO SHOW US HOW. YOU'VE ALREADY SET UP THE HEAT SO ANOTHER MENTION IMMEDIATELY ISN'T HELPING, IT'S OVERKILL. DO WE NEED TO KNOW WHAT KIND OF SHOES SHE HAS ON? AND UNLESS IT'S CHECKHOV'S GUN AND THOSE WEEDS ARE GOING TO SHOW UP SOMEWHERE ALONG THE LINE AS SOMETHING IMPORTANT, GIVING THEM SPACE ON PAGE ONE ISKIND OF POINTLESS. IF YOU READ THIS PARAGRAPH WITHOUT THAT SENTENCE (WHICH TAKES UP PARTS OF THREE LINES, THE PARAGRAPH BECOMES LEANER, AND CLEANER, WHICH IS TREMENDOUSLY HELPFUL. It's been a full year since the accident. A lot can change-has changed-in that time, but apparently not the tire marks Griffin's Mustang left on the sunbaked asphalt. THOSE FINAL TWO LINES ARE LOVELY, AND HAVE SO MUCH WONDERFUL MYSTERY TO THEM. JUST THOSE LINES ALONE MAKE ME WANT TO TURN THE PAGE. TANGENTIAL QUESTION: IS SUNBAKED ONE WORD? HYPHEN? OR IS THAT ONE OF THOSE PERSONAL PREFERENCE DECISIONS? OUR HOST WOULD KNOW, I'M SURE…

I slide from the Jeep and grab my phone before shutting the door. AS I SAID, PROCESS SENTENCES. SHE ALREADY KICKED THE DOOR OPEN AND GOT OUT ONCE. DID SHE GET BACK IN THE CAR? DID SHE RUB HER NIKES ON THE WEEDS AND THEN SIT BACK DOWN. BETTER TO REMOVE AS MANY OF THESE AS POSSIBLE TO AVOID REPETITIVE ACTIONS. ALSO, NOTE TO SELF FOR YOU: READ THROUGH LOOKING AT ACTIONS, MAKE SURE THEY'RE NEEDED, PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE, ONLY DONE ONCE, AND MEANINGFUL. I take one step toward the bridge-two, three-and flex my scarred hand, working the tendons like my physical therapist taught me to in order to keep my fingers from stiffening. NUMBER THE STEPS IS LIKELY NOT NEEDED AND WITH LONG-ISH SENTENCES LIKE THIS THEY CAN ADD TO READER CONFUSION. YOU WANT TO MAKE SURE YOUR SENTENCES ARE EASY TO FOLLOW AND DON'T MAKE THE READER HAVE TO RE-READ SOMETHING. 'IN ORDER TO' IS, LIKE THE WORD 'THAT' GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT (AND OUR HOST IS GOING TO KILL ME FOR THIS) BUT I DON'T REALLY CARE IF EVERY LITTLE THING IS GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT IF IT DOESN'T READ/SOUND GOOD. PERHAPS THAT'S THE POET IN ME (OK, YES, IT'S DEFINITELY THE POET IN ME), BUT 'TAUGHT ME TO KEEP MY FINGERS FROM STIFFENING' SIMPLY READS BETTER THAN 'TAUGHT ME TO IN ORDER TO KEEP MY FINGERS FROM STIFFENING.' AGAIN, THAT'S GOING TO BE PERSONAL PREFERENCE, BUT I DO RECALL A BOOK SOON TO BE PUBLISHED THAT I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE THE CHANGE TO BETA READ AND THE AUTHOR, WHO SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS USED THE WORD 'THAT' OVER 1200 TIMES IN A 300 PAGE BOOK. EVERY ONE OF THOSE 1200+ TIMES WAS GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT. ALSO, I WANTED TO SCREAM AT HAVING TO READ THEM ALL AND WHEN I HIGHLIGHTED THEM ALL IT LOOKED FAINTLY RIDICULOUS. SO, BEING GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT IS IMPORTANT. SO IS NOT MAKING THE READER SEE THE SAME WORD OVER 1200 TIMES. SORRY, BACK TO THE SENTENCE, I LOVE HOW YOU'RE SLOWLY INTRODUCING THINGS BY SHOWING US, WITH A HINT OF TELLING SPRINKLED IN. Lake Walker sits at the bottom of the valley, calm, deep, and probably hot as broth already. ANOTHER HEAT REFERENCE ISN'T NEEDED, THOUGH IT'S A GOOD LINE YOU'LL WANT TO SAVE FOR LATER USE IN THE STORY WHEN NEEDED. ALSO, THIS SHOULD LIKELY BE A NEW PARAGRAPH AS YOU TURN FROM HER HAND TO A BIT OF DESCRIPTION OF THE SETTING. AS YOU'RE ABOUT TO BRING IN THE VISUAL OF 'RED' I'M GLAD YOU DIDN'T COLOR THE LAKE OR THE VALLEY BUT YOU'RE WELCOME TO ADD A BIT MORE OF SIGHT/SMELL/TEXTURE/ETC SO YOU'RE SHOWING THE READER ALL THE SENSES RESPONDING TO THE AREA. A rim of Georgia red clay separates the tree line from the receding waters. Drought's been going on for a year now, and I've never seen the reservoir this drained. If it gets any worse, I wonder what secrets will be revealed? TOO OBVIOUS. I KNOW IT'S EASY TO DO BUT RHETORICAL QUESTIONS ARE USUALLY BEST ELIMINATED. I UNDERSTAND EXACTLY WHAT YOU'RE GOING FOR WITH THIS ONE, BUT IT'S STILL BETTER TO REWORD THIS SO YOU'RE NOT HAVING THE READER HIT OVER THE HEAD WITH 'MYSTERY' IN BIG CAPITAL LETTERS. YOU WANT SOMETHING MORE AKIN TO 'It's been a full year since the accident. A lot can change-has changed-in that time, but apparently not the tire marks Griffin's Mustang left on the sunbaked asphalt.' BUT FOR THE LAKE RATHER THAN THE ROAD IF THE FACT THAT THE LAKE IS DRAINING MIGHT REVEAL SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO THE STORY, OTHERWISE THIS FALLS INTO CHEKHOV'S GUN TERRITORY AGAIN.

My palm gives a phantom throb, and the sensation of water pouring into my lungs makes my chest burn. IS 'MY PALM GIVES A PHANTOM THROB, AND' NECESSARY HERE? OR WOULD THE SENTENCE BE STRONGER WITHOUT IT. For one moment of panic, DON'T TELL US SHE'S PANICKING ONE SENTENCE AFTER YOU SHOW US SHE'S PANICKING. ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU'VE SHOWN IT WITH HER CHEST ACTUALLY BURNING. SHOW IT MORE. Griffin's terrified face flashes in front of me, as if gurgling up through the depths. His flesh gives way to rot as he begs me to help him. THIS MIGHT WORK BETTER AS ONE SENTENCE TO GIVE IT BETTER FLOW: 'Griffin's terrified face flashes in front of me, gurgling up through the depths, flesh giving way to rot as he begs me to help him' FROM THERE YOU CAN WORK ON ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO CHANGE. ASK YOURSELF IF 'TERRIFIED' IS NEEDED. OR IF 'IN FRONT OF ME' IS NEEDED, SINCE YOU THEN HAVE 'BEGS ME' AND REPEATING WORDS IS SOMETHING EVERY AUTHOR SHOULD BE AWARE OF, ESPECIALLY IN THE SAME SENTENCE AND THE SAME PARAGRAPH.

I back away, drawing quick, painful breaths. I didn't come here to get pulled under by another memory from that night. My therapist encouraged this harebrained plan, saying I might find healing in the waters. But it isn't healing I need-it's answers. SOMETIMES, ESPECIALLY IN FIRST PERSON POV, IT'S DIFFICULT TO AVOID CONSECUTIVE SENTENCES STARTING WITH 'I' BUT KEEP AN EYE OUT AND TRY TO ELIMINATE ANY SENTENCES IN THE SAME PARAGRAPH THAT START WITH THE SAME WORD, NO MATTER WHAT THE WORD IS. IN THE SAME VEIN, YOU WOULDN'T WANT TO START EVERY PARAGRAPH WITH THE SAME WORD (ESPECIALLY ON THE SAME PAGE). MINOR TECHNICALITIES THAT EDITING IS FOR. AGAIN, IS 'HAREBRAINED' ONE WORD OR TWO? HYPHEN? I LOVE THE WAY YOU SET THINGS UP THAT MAKES THE READER WANT TO TURN THE PAGE.

Dread sinks in my gut as County Bridge E appears ahead, stretching across Lake Walker like a rusted steel spine. THIS IS YOUR FIRST LINE. 'RUSTED STEEL SPINE' SHOWS THIS BRIDGE PERFECTLY, WHICH IS COMPLETELY AT ODDS WITH 'DREAD SINKS IN MY GUT' TELLING US HOW SHE'S FEELING. THE FIRST LINE ISN'T QUITE AS IMPORTANT AS ALL THE BOOKS SAY IT IS, BUT IT'S REALLY CLOSE. SHOW US HER DREAD. SHOW IT SINKING IN THE LAKE (TO TIE IT INTO THE LATER PARAGRAPHS). GIVE US THE POWER OF THE 'RUSTED STEEL SPINE' OF A BRIDGE AS YOU PREPARE US FOR THE FINAL LINE OF THIS PARAGRAPH (WHICH, YES, LIKELY MEANS ADDING A LINE OR TWO TO DRAW OUT THE TENSION BEFORE THAT KILLER LAST LINE): At least this time, I don't see a dead girl on it. LOVE THAT. JUST SET IT UP A LITTLE BIT MORE TO WRING EVERY OUNCE OUT OF THAT. THINK OF THAT PARAGRAPH (AND EVERY PARAGRAPH/SCENE/CHAPTER/NOVEL) AS A SCREWDRIVER AND THE READER AS THE SCREW. ONE LITTLE TWIST OF A FIRST SENTENCE AND ONE MASSIVE TURN OF A SECOND SENTENCE DOESN'T TEND TO BE THE BEST METHOD TO DRIVE THE SCREW HOME. SLOW, STEADY, CONSTANTLY INCREASING THE DREAD. INCREASE THE TENSION, SLOWLY TURNING THAT SCREW LIKE A MASTER CARPENTER.

I pull over before reaching the bridge and cut my Jeep's engine. TRY TO LIMIT 'PROCESS' SENTENCES WHEN POSSIBLE (AND SOMETIMES IT'S SIMPLY NOT POSSIBLE TO ELIMINATE THEM). THEY'RE JUST MOVING PIECES AROUND AND ADD LITTLE TO THE STORY, BUT THEY'RE NECESSARY. SO, FOR INSTANCE, YOU MIGHT QUESTION IF 'AND CUT MY JEEP'S ENGINE' IS NEEDED OR IF THE READER WILL UNDERSTAND THE IMPLICATION THAT SHE'S TURNED OFF THE CAR. IE: 'I PULL OVER BEFORE REACHING THE BRIDGE,' WHICH COULD THEN COMBINE WITH THE NEXT SENTENCE TO PROVIDE 'WEATHER' AS A CHARACTER TO THE STORY WITH THE 'JUNE HEAT' STRANGLING THE AC. YOU THEN SHOW THE WEATHER/HEAT SO WELL WITH THE SWIMMING LINE, MAKE SURE YOU CARRY THAT SHOW/DON'T TELL THROUGH THE STORY WHEN IT COMES TO THE HEAT (WITHOUT OVERDOING IT, WHICH, TO BE HONEST, I DID WITH MY FIRST NOVEL). June heat strangles the final wisps of AC. Within seconds I feel like I'm swimming. I kick open the door before the car becomes a pressure cooker, and the soles of my Nikes brush over the weeds growing up against Shadburn Highway. THIS IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF A GOOD LINE THAT IS LIKELY NOT NECESSARY. THE READER WILL KNOW SHE EXITS THE CAR, NO NEED TO SHOW US HOW. YOU'VE ALREADY SET UP THE HEAT SO ANOTHER MENTION IMMEDIATELY ISN'T HELPING, IT'S OVERKILL. DO WE NEED TO KNOW WHAT KIND OF SHOES SHE HAS ON? AND UNLESS IT'S CHECKHOV'S GUN AND THOSE WEEDS ARE GOING TO SHOW UP SOMEWHERE ALONG THE LINE AS SOMETHING IMPORTANT, GIVING THEM SPACE ON PAGE ONE ISKIND OF POINTLESS. IF YOU READ THIS PARAGRAPH WITHOUT THAT SENTENCE (WHICH TAKES UP PARTS OF THREE LINES, THE PARAGRAPH BECOMES LEANER, AND CLEANER, WHICH IS TREMENDOUSLY HELPFUL. It's been a full year since the accident. A lot can change-has changed-in that time, but apparently not the tire marks Griffin's Mustang left on the sunbaked asphalt. THOSE FINAL TWO LINES ARE LOVELY, AND HAVE SO MUCH WONDERFUL MYSTERY TO THEM. JUST THOSE LINES ALONE MAKE ME WANT TO TURN THE PAGE. TANGENTIAL QUESTION: IS SUNBAKED ONE WORD? HYPHEN? OR IS THAT ONE OF THOSE PERSONAL PREFERENCE DECISIONS? OUR HOST WOULD KNOW, I'M SURE…

I slide from the Jeep and grab my phone before shutting the door. AS I SAID, PROCESS SENTENCES. SHE ALREADY KICKED THE DOOR OPEN AND GOT OUT ONCE. DID SHE GET BACK IN THE CAR? DID SHE RUB HER NIKES ON THE WEEDS AND THEN SIT BACK DOWN. BETTER TO REMOVE AS MANY OF THESE AS POSSIBLE TO AVOID REPETITIVE ACTIONS. ALSO, NOTE TO SELF FOR YOU: READ THROUGH LOOKING AT ACTIONS, MAKE SURE THEY'RE NEEDED, PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE, ONLY DONE ONCE, AND MEANINGFUL. I take one step toward the bridge-two, three-and flex my scarred hand, working the tendons like my physical therapist taught me to in order to keep my fingers from stiffening. NUMBER THE STEPS IS LIKELY NOT NEEDED AND WITH LONG-ISH SENTENCES LIKE THIS THEY CAN ADD TO READER CONFUSION. YOU WANT TO MAKE SURE YOUR SENTENCES ARE EASY TO FOLLOW AND DON'T MAKE THE READER HAVE TO RE-READ SOMETHING. 'IN ORDER TO' IS, LIKE THE WORD 'THAT' GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT (AND OUR HOST IS GOING TO KILL ME FOR THIS) BUT I DON'T REALLY CARE IF EVERY LITTLE THING IS GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT IF IT DOESN'T READ/SOUND GOOD. PERHAPS THAT'S THE POET IN ME (OK, YES, IT'S DEFINITELY THE POET IN ME), BUT 'TAUGHT ME TO KEEP MY FINGERS FROM STIFFENING' SIMPLY READS BETTER THAN 'TAUGHT ME TO IN ORDER TO KEEP MY FINGERS FROM STIFFENING.' AGAIN, THAT'S GOING TO BE PERSONAL PREFERENCE, BUT I DO RECALL A BOOK SOON TO BE PUBLISHED THAT I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE THE CHANGE TO BETA READ AND THE AUTHOR, WHO SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS USED THE WORD 'THAT' OVER 1200 TIMES IN A 300 PAGE BOOK. EVERY ONE OF THOSE 1200+ TIMES WAS GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT. ALSO, I WANTED TO SCREAM AT HAVING TO READ THEM ALL AND WHEN I HIGHLIGHTED THEM ALL IT LOOKED FAINTLY RIDICULOUS. SO, BEING GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT IS IMPORTANT. SO IS NOT MAKING THE READER SEE THE SAME WORD OVER 1200 TIMES. SORRY, BACK TO THE SENTENCE, I LOVE HOW YOU'RE SLOWLY INTRODUCING THINGS BY SHOWING US, WITH A HINT OF TELLING SPRINKLED IN. Lake Walker sits at the bottom of the valley, calm, deep, and probably hot as broth already. ANOTHER HEAT REFERENCE ISN'T NEEDED, THOUGH IT'S A GOOD LINE YOU'LL WANT TO SAVE FOR LATER USE IN THE STORY WHEN NEEDED. ALSO, THIS SHOULD LIKELY BE A NEW PARAGRAPH AS YOU TURN FROM HER HAND TO A BIT OF DESCRIPTION OF THE SETTING. AS YOU'RE ABOUT TO BRING IN THE VISUAL OF 'RED' I'M GLAD YOU DIDN'T COLOR THE LAKE OR THE VALLEY BUT YOU'RE WELCOME TO ADD A BIT MORE OF SIGHT/SMELL/TEXTURE/ETC SO YOU'RE SHOWING THE READER ALL THE SENSES RESPONDING TO THE AREA. A rim of Georgia red clay separates the tree line from the receding waters. Drought's been going on for a year now, and I've never seen the reservoir this drained. If it gets any worse, I wonder what secrets will be revealed? TOO OBVIOUS. I KNOW IT'S EASY TO DO BUT RHETORICAL QUESTIONS ARE USUALLY BEST ELIMINATED. I UNDERSTAND EXACTLY WHAT YOU'RE GOING FOR WITH THIS ONE, BUT IT'S STILL BETTER TO REWORD THIS SO YOU'RE NOT HAVING THE READER HIT OVER THE HEAD WITH 'MYSTERY' IN BIG CAPITAL LETTERS. YOU WANT SOMETHING MORE AKIN TO 'It's been a full year since the accident. A lot can change-has changed-in that time, but apparently not the tire marks Griffin's Mustang left on the sunbaked asphalt.' BUT FOR THE LAKE RATHER THAN THE ROAD IF THE FACT THAT THE LAKE IS DRAINING MIGHT REVEAL SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO THE STORY, OTHERWISE THIS FALLS INTO CHEKHOV'S GUN TERRITORY AGAIN.

My palm gives a phantom throb, and the sensation of water pouring into my lungs makes my chest burn. IS 'MY PALM GIVES A PHANTOM THROB, AND' NECESSARY HERE? OR WOULD THE SENTENCE BE STRONGER WITHOUT IT. For one moment of panic, DON'T TELL US SHE'S PANICKING ONE SENTENCE AFTER YOU SHOW US SHE'S PANICKING. ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU'VE SHOWN IT WITH HER CHEST ACTUALLY BURNING. SHOW IT MORE. Griffin's terrified face flashes in front of me, as if gurgling up through the depths. His flesh gives way to rot as he begs me to help him. THIS MIGHT WORK BETTER AS ONE SENTENCE TO GIVE IT BETTER FLOW: 'Griffin's terrified face flashes in front of me, gurgling up through the depths, flesh giving way to rot as he begs me to help him' FROM THERE YOU CAN WORK ON ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO CHANGE. ASK YOURSELF IF 'TERRIFIED' IS NEEDED. OR IF 'IN FRONT OF ME' IS NEEDED, SINCE YOU THEN HAVE 'BEGS ME' AND REPEATING WORDS IS SOMETHING EVERY AUTHOR SHOULD BE AWARE OF, ESPECIALLY IN THE SAME SENTENCE AND THE SAME PARAGRAPH.

I back away, drawing quick, painful breaths. I didn't come here to get pulled under by another memory from that night. My therapist encouraged this harebrained plan, saying I might find healing in the waters. But it isn't healing I need-it's answers. SOMETIMES, ESPECIALLY IN FIRST PERSON POV, IT'S DIFFICULT TO AVOID CONSECUTIVE SENTENCES STARTING WITH 'I' BUT KEEP AN EYE OUT AND TRY TO ELIMINATE ANY SENTENCES IN THE SAME PARAGRAPH THAT START WITH THE SAME WORD, NO MATTER WHAT THE WORD IS. IN THE SAME VEIN, YOU WOULDN'T WANT TO START EVERY PARAGRAPH WITH THE SAME WORD (ESPECIALLY ON THE SAME PAGE). MINOR TECHNICALITIES THAT EDITING IS FOR. AGAIN, IS 'HAREBRAINED' ONE WORD OR TWO? HYPHEN? I LOVE THE WAY YOU SET THINGS UP THAT MAKES THE READER WANT TO TURN THE PAGE.