Saturday, November 30, 2019

An Author's Christmas Wish List

There are so many ways to support your favorite authors this holiday season, and most of them don't cost a penny!

Because you're my tribe, and because you've walked this journey with me and have continued to be so supportive, here is my own, personal wish list.

Thanks for always cheering, always encouraging, always supporting me!




Friday, November 15, 2019

Friday Fricassee: Battling the Worry Monster

I published this article in my November newsletter, but the message is important enough that I want to share it here as well.

---

Our 12-year-old daughter clung to the armrest in the back seat of our rented SUV, eyes wild, voice at a fevered pitch.

"I can't stay here," she said. "I'm not getting out of this car. You have to take me with you!"

Eric and I were attempting to leave for our much-anticipated get-away in Cape May NJ, while Molly stayed with my parents, whose home is just 3 hours from there. We already knew there would be a struggle, but this was unlike any behavior we'd seen from our daughter. To say that it was unsettling is an understatement.

Anxiety had begun to rear its head a couple years earlier, which led to some helpful visits to a counselor. Eric and I were able to go to London for 8 days this past May without incident; Molly didn't succumb to her recurrent fears that something "bad" would happen while she was separated from me. (Me, specifically.)

Summertime lulled me into complacence; it seemed the anxiety had gone away. Silly me; it wasn't the anxiety that had left, but rather the circumstances that triggered it. As soon as our fall schedule started up again--ballet classes, chorus, and our weekly Nashville Symphony Chorus rehearsals, which mean someone else has to pick up Molly from ballet on Mondays--the Worry Monster returned with a vengeance.

I can see it in her eyes--her "worry face", I call it. She may seem to have things under control, and then, suddenly, when faced with having to get out of the car to go into her ballet class, she goes into a full-blown panic. "I can't. I can't go in. I can't. I'm not going in there."

It's terrifying and heartbreaking to watch. And, for a time, it made me feel helpless.

The Anxiety Monster won the Cape May round--we brought her with us. From a treating-anxiety standpoint, it was absolutely the wrong thing to do. Every time you give in to the Worry Monster, the anxiety grows stronger. More resistant. But we had no choice. There was no way we could leave her with my elderly parents in that state, and there was no way I would've been able to enjoy myself at the beach, knowing how she was struggling.

Anxiety 1, Molly 0.

There were a couple more lost battles once we got home--ballet classes that were successfully avoided. I didn't feel well equipped, and to top it off, Molly's counselor stopped accepting our insurance. I hate that that sort of thing factors into decisions about care, but it is what it is. So we were in a between-place of trying to find a new counselor while figuring out how to help Molly on our own.

Then a dear friend sent me a copy of Raising Worry-Free Girls by Sissy Goff. It's a life-changing little book that has given me the tools I need to help my daughter wrestle her Worry Monster to the ground.

"WM", she calls him. It's helpful for children to give anxiety a name, so that it's something they can externally battle (instead of trying to battle something inside their heads). Now, when Molly starts asking anxiety-induced questions ("seeking reassurances", it's called), I know to say, "What is WM trying to tell you right now?" I've taught her to "square breathe" in order to calm down her amygdala. (We've changed it to "heart breathing", since Molly has decided she'd rather trace a heart shape onto her leg instead of a square shape, and that's perfectly fine.) I'm encouraging her to sass-talk WM when he starts speaking lies to her. I've informed her that, when I drop her off at chorus on Tuesday mornings, I'm not going to answer any questions that WM may want her to ask. And when I drop her off at ballet, I don't always tell her where I'm going (because WM wants her to know exactly how far away I am at all times, and freaks out if I'm what he thinks is "too far").

One really important thing I've learned is that I've had to teach her to expect worry to come--so that she is prepared for it and doesn't go into panic mode. "If WM jumps out from behind a tree," I said, "he'll startle you and you'll freak out. But if you know he's up ahead, you can prepare for him, and then when he jumps out you can slam him to the ground."

By acknowledging that worry might be up ahead, Molly can begin to use the tools I've been teaching her to keep herself from becoming anxious and ultimately succumbing to full-blown panic. I can remind her to use those tools and continue teaching her new ones, but the important part is that she is the one who has to do the work. She has to face WM's tricks and use her tools and her strength and her bravery to vanquish him.

Yesterday was a strong, brave day.

I dropped her off at chorus rehearsal, and she didn't ask for a single reassurance before getting out of the car. When she later discovered that her dear friend wasn't there (whose presence she'd been counting on to help her stay calm), she didn't become anxious. In the afternoon, she came into my office to show me that she'd changed her earrings -- something she'd been avoiding for 2 weeks because she'd been traumatized by some pain and bleeding the last time. And, finally, she got out of the car cheerfully at ballet that evening, even though I'd only told her that I'd be at "one of my writing haunts" while she was in class, instead of telling her exactly which coffee shop I'd chosen.

Molly 4, Anxiety 0.

I am so proud of her. And I told her so.

She was proud of herself, too, which is so important. She needs to believe that she is capable...and brave...and stronger than the Worry Monster. This is an ongoing journey, and there will be set-backs. But every victory makes her stronger.

I am weary, dear readers. But I'm also hopeful. This child is the light of my life--she's joy incarnate. In a family of introverts, her extroversion is like a pulsar. Her imagination is boundless, and so is her energy. She plays hard and loves fiercely and thinks deeply. It's so hard to watch her struggling with anxiety, which is the antithesis of everything God made her.

I'm sharing this because I know she's not alone. And I'm not alone. And anxiety isn't a bad word; we don't have to whisper it behind cupped hands or pretend it isn't there. We don't have to hide our struggles. There's help, and there's hope.

When I find myself lamenting that my creative well has run dry, or that the thought of sitting down and writing even a single paragraph seems exhausting to me, or that my brain seems to sometimes shut down, I have to remind myself what I'm walking through right now. So much of my mental energy is being directed toward this battle--not so I can fight it (I can't--Molly has to fight her own battle), but so that I can continually guide and redirect and advocate for her. It's an honor to be in this place--an honor to be her mom--but I'm not going to pretend this is easy.

And when I make a mistake? Lose my patience? Offer a reassurance when I should've let her face the Scary Thing? I crucify myself. And, yes, I need to work on that. If I can't give myself grace when I screw up, I'm no good to anyone. Least of all myself.

If you or a child you love is fighting this fight--take heart. There's hope. There's help. Get some.

I'll be rooting for you.
---

See the full newsletter HERE.
Subscribe to my newsletter HERE.

 

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Limited-Time Offer From Amazon

My dearests!

For a limited time, Amazon is holding a 3-books-for-the-price-of-2 sale, and I'm thrilled that STORMRISE is included!


I don't know when this offer will disappear, but as of this posting, it's still going on. A great time to do some early holiday shopping for the bookworms in your life!


And because you're a MSFV reader, I will send you 3 STORMRISE bookmarks if you take advantage of the Amazon deal to purchase STORMRISE and any other 2 books. Or, yanno, 3 copies of STORMRISE. Because DRAGONS and CHRISTMAS go together so well. ;) Simply forward your Amazon receipt (or send a screen shot) to me at jillian@jillianboehme.com.

As always, thanks for your love and support!



Monday, November 4, 2019

Talkin' Heads Critique Guidelines

Submissions were low this time, so we only have 8 entries to critique. This should translate as more critiques per entry, yes? Let's give our fellow writers some love today. :)

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 a minimum of 5 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.

Talkin Heads #8

TITLE: Blue Fang
GENRE: YA

Brothers, Will and Mikey, live together in an apartment. Will supplements his income by removing ‘marked’ electronics from select stores and selling them. This is younger Mikey’s first venture.

We're there!" Mikey hit the back of the seat.

Will shut off the car and turned to Mikey. He put his index finger over his lips. "Shhhh. From now on, until we're back home, no talking unless absolutely necessary. Understand?" Will whispered.

Mikey nodded and mimicked Will's finger.

Will continued in a hushed tone. “You only do what I say. When I say it’s time to leave, we leave. Don’t touch anything not marked with an ‘X’. You bring the smaller boxes near the front of the store to the back near the receiving window. Got all that?”

Mikey nodded and smiled. “I’ll be real good.”

Will put a black knit hat over Mikey's light brown hair. He pulled another over his hair, though his was a darker brown. "And keep your gloves on."

Will's blue eyes met Mikey's gray ones until Mikey's head bobbed again.

"Good. Let's go." Will mouthed the words, making no sound.

They exited the car, heading for the delivery window. On the way to the delivery window, Will stopped at the alarm box.

In front of the box holding the wiring to the alarm system, Will flexed his shoulders loosening his muscles under his leather jacket. He clasped his hands and thrust them out in front of him, fingers facing him, until the knuckles cracked. Satisfied, he took out his picks from an inner pocket in his jacket.

Opening the locked box in seconds with his picks, he cut all the wires.

Talkin' Heads #7

TITLE: In Jake's Shoes
GENRE: Adult contemporary southern

Jake and Mack: members of a Mortuary Affairs Unit in Afghanistan. They’re discussing the recent suicide of a member of their unit. Jake recalls a classmate’s suicide 10 years earlier.

I walk over to a desk and straighten an already evenly stacked set of DD forms. A coffee mug holds a handful of pens, so I pick one up, click it once, twice, then place it on top of the stack of forms.  
“I knew a guy who killed himself, Mack…when I was a kid.”

            “No s***. How old were you?

            “Eleven.”

“Jesus! How’d he, you know, how’d he do it?”

            “Drank some drain cleaner.”

            “That’s brutal, man.”

            “Yeah, well, it was a long time ago.”
          
Why’d he do it? Did he leave a note or anything?”

            “No. But he was really mixed-up, and his family was messed up. Old man on drugs. Beat him and his mom. I think he figured things would never change or get better.”

            “You sound like maybe you were tight with this guy.”

            “Yeah, I guess I was. He was in my fifth-grade class.” I reach down to smooth the black plastic on the body bag.

            Mack is quiet for a moment. I look up at him and then turn away.

            He reaches out and touches my shoulder.

“Climbing inside that thing is still nuts, Jake. You scare the shit outta me sometimes. Know what I mean?” Mack turns and walks over to a table where we all play cards in-between recoveries. He picks up a deck and starts thumbing through it.

            Suddenly, Sergeant Danbury sticks his head inside the tent flap.

            “Get the unit together, girls. And grab your gear. We got a recovery site.”

Talkin' Heads #6

TITLE: Cat and the Dog
GENRE: Adult Romance

Officially, Riley, the dog, belonged to Seth’s roommate, Brandon, but Seth was the one who loved her and took care of her. When Brandon moved out, he left Riley behind.

Seth opened the door to a young woman, dressed in jeans and a blue hoodie. Her dark hair was pulled back from her face, with a curly pony tail bobbing behind. His roommate search prospects suddenly looked brighter. Her sharp, dark eyes took him in and he felt analyzed and categorized on the spot. An engaging smile spread across her face and Seth couldn’t help but return it.

“Seth Woo? My name’s Catrina Gomez. I’m a friend of Brandon’s”

“Sorry, Brandon’s not here. He moved out a couple days ago. Can I help you?”

“Maybe.” She craned her neck slightly, as if to see into his apartment. Seth instinctively inched the door closed a bit more.

“What’s this about?”

“Brandon left a few things here and he said I could have them. That brown suede chair he’s always despised?” Seth nodded. He knew it. “And some dishes with moons and suns on them.  We bought them together at the LACMA gift shop. And, oh yeah, he said I could have his dog.”

Seth peered at the interloper. “What do you mean?”

“The dog. Riley. Brandon doesn’t want her so he gave her to me.”

The woman whistled and called the dog’s name, and the little traitor came running, whimpering and scratching at the door, until Seth had to let Benedict Riley out. The dog covered Catrina’s face in sloppy kisses and wagged her tail so hard, Seth was sure he’d have welts on his legs.

Obviously, these two knew each other.

“Ms. Gomez, you can send movers for the chair and I don’t give a damn about the dishes, but Riley is my dog. Brandon left her with me.”

Talkin' Heads #5

TITLE: Getting Away With It
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Karma and Kevin are two gifted 9th graders in special ed who desperately want to get into a high school program where they would flourish but who are waitlisted.
          
           She’s making me talk on the phone.

           Laying in my bed, I texted Karma about Witkowski. Apparently, I could not text fast enough for her liking. She made me phone her. Do people even talk on the phone anymore? I’m not sure I have observed this in anyone my age.

            “Hi Karma,” I said. “How are you?” Greeting technique courtesy of my old social group. Mastered that like a boss.

            “You know how I am, Kevin. So spill. Tell me what is happening!”

            I told her the story of Witkowski.

            Karma screamed in my ear. “Oh my God, Kevin. This is great!”

            I pulled the phone away and rubbed my ear. Loud sounds suck. Cautiously, I put the phone close to my ear again.

            “Please don’t yell in my ear.”

            “I’m sorry, Kevin. I’m just excited. I am number 6 now.”

            “And I am number 7.”

            “That’s true! What do you think the odds are of us getting in now?”

            I stopped and sipped a straw full of chocolate milk from my bedside table. “Probably the same as getting on the moon.” I wondered when a travel schedule to the moon would be a reality, the same way there are train schedules all over the U.S. That would be fun to memorize. Karma became very quiet. I needed to fill the quiet somehow. “You know, there’s a list of all the people who got in to D’Ascoyne and the first 10 on the waitlist. It’s posted on the Arrington Public School website. You never know. Maybe other people will move. Or die.”

Talkin' Heads #4

TITLE: Choices
GENRE: Adult Historical fiction

Liam, an Irish boxer, has asked Deirdre to marry him after being away for four years on a boxing tour. This is something she has dreamed about for years.

“I can’t marry you, or anyone, not now. Clare’s always wanted to be a doctor. Mom and Dad told her they couldn’t afford the tuition, so I promised Clare that I’d get a job. My wages could help send her to college, and then to medical school, where she is now. I can’t break that promise.”

“Is that all, love? I’ve a wee bit saved that I thought we could use to buy a house in Queens or Brooklyn, but we can always rent an apartment for a few years instead, and give those few coins to Clare. So, now that we’ve settled all that, when should we get married?”

“Oh, Liam, if only it was that easy.”

“It is, love.”

“You don’t know the worst of it yet. I didn’t either, until tonight. Tonight, I looked across the ring and saw my sister, Fanny. She was with a man. A married man!”

“And how would you know that, love?”

“I saw his wedding band. On the third finger of his left hand, that’s how, Liam O’Mara. Do you think I go around making crazy guesses like that? She’s brought disgrace to the whole family. Your mom would never allow you to marry someone whose sister is no better than a common woman, and Mr. Donovan wouldn’t want to hire someone who had a sister-in-law like that. Someone who could bring disgrace to the New York Athletic Club, would he? She’s always only cared about herself. I hate her!”

Talkin' Heads #3

TITLE: Untitled
GENRE: YA Sci-fi Romance

Cerine belongs to a genetically engineered species of sea women, living in post-apocalyptic times. She, her mother, and a young woman are conversing in their underwater village.

Cerene swam up behind her mother, listening to the murmured exchanges between the women.
    “No snook today?” Raissa, a silver-haired woman asked.

    Her mother shook her head. “Not today, chéri.”

    Now in her year of training, Cerine knew the snook were difficult to catch. They were ever cautious about approaching bait, much more so than many of the other fish species they hunted.

    “But I know you enjoy kelp,” Alyse said, handing the woman a large bundle. Alyse’s other hand rested on her protruding belly.

    “When will your baby join us?” Cerine asked the young woman.

    “Mid-October.” Alyse smiled in that way expectant mothers so often did when speaking of their unborn child. “Her name will be Mae.”

    “It’s a lovely name,” Cerine said. “And I’m sure she’ll have your beautiful golden hair.”

    Alyse’s smiled broadened. “I hope so. My firstborn was a red-head, but you probably know that.” She nodded toward a group of younger girls playing catch-the-conch in the distance. Waving locks of auburn framed the face of Alyse’s daughter. Cerine remembered the girl, though she couldn’t recall her name off-hand.  

    “Isn’t it wonderful she’s having two?” Cerine’s mother interjected, handing another sea woman two cod. “I wish I could have, but. . .”

    Thérèse didn’t finish, but Cerine knew the story. The second embryo hadn’t taken and Queen Genevieve didn’t allow additional chances. Embryos were as precious as diamonds had once been on land. Probably more so. Without them, the sea women would cease to exist. Their small community would dwindle into nothingness, becoming merely an insignificant blip in the history of the earth.

    “Just a few more years, and it will be your turn,” Alyse reminded Cerine.

    Cerine tried produce the appropriate pleased expression, but her face wouldn’t cooperate.

Talkin' Heads #2

TITLE: DESIGNING GHOSTS
GENRE: Adult Paranormal Mystery

Middle-aged single women Veronica and her BFF Roberta are discussing men, marriage, and the lack of good men to marry.

“Well, I wouldn’t say I was desperate,” Roberta said, “but at our age, the ocean is drying up. There’s not as many fish in the sea as there were ten years ago. Now all that’s left are the cranky old crabs and bottom feeders. You landed the last good catch.”

“I didn’t land him,” I said. “That sounds like I plotted to ‘get my man’, like in a Jane Austen novel or something. Riley and I just fell for each other; neither of us was even fishing. So you’re in a dating dry spell, no biggie. The next round of divorces should be clearing, and soon, your dating pond will be well stocked with good catches again.”

Roberta sighed. “I know, it’s just, well, forty-five is a hard age. I always thought I’d be married and have 2.5 kids by now...”

“You hate kids,” I said.

“...driving them to soccer in the minivan...” she continued.

“You hate minivans,” I said.

“...and at the point in my marriage where my husband and I are comfortable, even a bit bored, but content with life,” she finished.

“You hate being bored and really really hate boring sex. And you’ve been married. Twice. They didn’t work out. I think you enjoyed the weddings more than the marriages.”

“Of course I did,” she said, with a shake of her pretty red hair. “What woman doesn’t want to wear a fabulous dress and be the center of attention at a celebration just for her?”

Talkin' Heads #1

TITLE: The Alphabet From A to Zero
GENRE: Adult Caper/Thriller

Zed Argonne has sold his winery for $3M, brokered by attorney Arthur Spurrier. Argonne has phoned Spurrier to note the problem.

“The money for the winery.” Argonne came across as bemused. “You said it transferred this afternoon, right?”

“Right. I got a message around 3:00 that everything was set. That’s when I called you.”

“Just to be clear, by ‘all set’ you mean the money transferred from your escrow account to my investment account, correct?”

“Right. I got confirmation. I even viewed the account to triple-check, using the code you sent.”

“The code I sent.”

Spurrier felt the world tilt ever so slightly on its axis. “Two days ago. You said it was a one-time code that would allow me to confirm the balance in this account.”

“Ohhh, I forgot. How, exactly, did I send you this code?”

“In email. I even replied to the mail to tell you I received it.”

A long silence. Long enough for Spurrier to feel the jungle creeping back in. Tripwires on the trails. Safe as long as he didn’t move, didn’t breathe, didn’t disturb the night.

Argonne broke the peace, drawl gone. “May I presume, by your lack of response here, that you’re starting to comprehend the problem?”

Spurrier put his hand behind him, feeling for the solidity of the wall. “There must be some mistake.”

“Indeed. Whose, I wonder?”

“Um, I…. I….”

“I hear the sounds of a dining establishment seeping through what I’m sure is your latest iPhone. Are you out to dinner?”

“Yes, but I can—”

“With your wife, or someone you’re trying to get into bed?”

“My wife.” Spurrier snapped the answer at him.

“Well, then. Since you’re not going to get laid tonight, perhaps you might get a doggie bag, head back to the office, and….” He paused, one second, two. “And find my f***ing money.”

Thursday, October 31, 2019

TALKIN' HEADS -- SUBMISSIONS NOW OPEN!

Go HERE to enter your lead-in and 250-word excerpt. Remember--TALKIN' HEADS focuses on passages that are DIALOGUE-RICH.


GUIDELINES:

*Submissions will be open from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM this Thursday, October 31.
*Submit an up-to-30-word lead-in plus 250 words of dialogue-rich story. (Look for a passage that is *more than 50 percent dialogue.)
*Submit HERE.
*This will be a lottery; the bot will choose 20 entries at random after the submission window has closed.
*Entries will post on Monday, November 4 for public critique.

PLEASE NOTE: The lead-in is important because it will help us to understand what's going on in your scene. If you want the most helpful feedback possible, please don't neglect to include this!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Call for Submissions: Talking Heads



Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay


Hello, writer pack!

It's been a while since we've had some in-house critique. Let's have another round of Talking Heads, where we focus on dialogue.

Let's face it--dialogue can be tricky. It needs to sound natural while still moving the plot forward or revealing important things about our characters.

The best check for natural-sounding dialogue, in my opinion, is reading it out loud (I highly recommend this!). But another check is to let other eyeballs read the ramblings of our characters.

So here you go! The details:

*Submissions will be open from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM this Thursday, October 31.
*Submit an up-to-30-word lead-in plus 250 words of dialogue-rich story. (Look for a passage that is *more than 50 percent dialogue.)
*Submit HERE.
*This will be a lottery; the bot will choose 20 entries at random after the submission window has closed.
*Entries will post on Monday, November 4 for public critique.

PLEASE NOTE: The lead-in is important because it will help us to understand what's going on in your scene. If you want the most helpful feedback possible, please don't neglect to include this!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Library-thon Winner




Congratulations to DAWN CREAL, who actually checked before the release date that STORMRISE was at the Fairfax County Library in Virginia. Thank you, Dawn! Dawn will receive a signed copy of STORMRISE.

Thank you to everyone who requested STORMRISE at your local libraries. (And it's not too late--your library requests are always greatly appreciated!)





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.