Monday, May 27, 2019

Drop the Needle -- Critique Guidelines

Last time, I didn't set up submissions as a lottery, and the slots filled up with several hours to go. This time, I decided to create a lottery so that wouldn't happen again--and we only got 7 entries!

I guess you mustn't have many angry characters. ;)

At any rate, this gives us an opportunity to really home in on these seven entries and give them lots of juicy feedback. Please offer your best to help your colleagues become the best writers they can be!

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 3 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.

Drop the Needle: ANGER #7

TITLE: Truth in the Treetops
GENRE: YA contemporary with paranormal elements

This is on Saturday night, after Gabby doesn't contact CJ for days because she's been told by someone untrustworthy at school that he's using her. 

I pull on the door handle, step back and cross my arms. “What are you doing here?”

“Yeah, Gabby, nice to see you, too.” CJ jams his hands into his jeans’ pockets and lifts his shoulders. “What’s going on? You don’t respond to my texts or calls. You haven’t even attempted to talk to me for the last two days. First, I thought you were sick, but you would’ve at least texted me. At least I would hope so. What gives? Why are you ignoring me all of the sudden? Did I do something I’m not aware of?” His stony gray eyes burn a hole in mine.

I glance past him into the night, avoiding his pointed glare, an ache throbbing in my chest.

CJ takes a step closer and stops. “Can I come in? Please? Maybe you can tell me what’s going on.”

I nod, leading him into the family room and take a seat on the sofa. CJ shrugs off his coat and sits on the chair across from me, resting his elbows on his knees. “Talk to me. What’s up? Is it because of what happened last Saturday at your race? Because I talked to Asha? Gabby, I’m only trying to help, make sure you’re okay. I was so worried about you.” He drops his gaze to the floor. “Especially when you passed out at the finish. I’m sorry if I talked to Asha and your parents about it, but I was worried about you. Scared.” He shakes his head. “Sorry, I keep saying that, but it’s the truth.”

Drop the Needle: ANGER #6

TITLE: Never Say Never
GENRE: YA YA Romance

When we got home, Mom was sitting on the living room couch, waiting for us. 

“Never do that to me again,” she said to me, her voice flat.

I didn’t answer. I didn’t know if she would give me another reason to scare her that way, to keep me from wanting to come home. I stomped up the stairs and slammed the door.

The yelling started. First Dad, pissed off that Mom had exposed me to this in the first place. Then Mom, complaining about raising me all on her own while he traveled, and that I grew more and more distant and angry. Then Dad, who complained about a whole host of things, differences in parenting, Mom putting pressure on me to be however she wanted me to be. Mom said Dad was too lax with me. Dad said she wasn’t who he married. Mom said she missed when he was fun. Dad laughed bitterly at that.

All the while, I sat on my bed, my arms wrapped around my knees, fervently wishing I could disappear. After a while, the words started to blur together. Dad’s bellow and Mom’s shriek blended together into cacophonous noise. I clapped my hands over my ears.

Anger started in my center and spread like a black hole, a violent force that crushed everything it came into contact with until I was all gone. I twisted with the emotion, screaming into my pillow, kicking my mattress, sick to fucking death of every nasty word spoken in this house, of the feeling that I should have done something to fix them, of how damn little I could actually do about it. The impotence of it dissolved into tears, cutting hot trails down my cheeks.


Drop the Needle: ANGER #5

GENRE: YA Thriller

This scene is just before the MC’s stepfather brings the family home from an outing.  What they don’t know is that he intends to lock them away forever.


“Get in,” he says.  “All of you. I’m taking you guys for a treat.”

            And we do get inside the old pickup truck that’s been our transportation forever. The seats are torn in places, the front smells like stale beer.  My mother doesn’t even seem to smell it—it’s not her thing, to register something like that or comment.  Everything with her, eyes, ears, nose, are always focused somewhere else, so she can smell, hear, and see things we can’t.  In her head, locked in the pages of the fantasy novels she keeps stuffed on the shelves in their bedroom.  

            The ice cream shop is on Main.  Cleo and I watch as it gets closer, a small glass-fronted building with a candy-striped awning.  Half a dozen kids are licking cones on the sidewalk outside.  The truck picks up speed, then shoots past them in a spray of gravel that leaves some of them covering their faces or looking, stunned, at the cones they’d dropped on the sidewalk.  We turn and watch, Cleo and I, and Cleo says, “I thought we were going to stop.”

            “Do you deserve ice cream?” He says from the front.  I don’t know how he can hear us, except that he’s death and, presumably, death hears everything.  I don’t know how to answer—did we do anything that would mean punishment, even punishment by omission?  

Drop the Needle: ANGER #4

TITLE: Kingdom of the Keys: The Initiation
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Lead-in: The morning after learning that the book left by his elderly friend is a portal to an invisible realm, twelve-year-old Adam visits his neighbor and confronts him, struggling with underlying feelings of abandonment by a father he's never known.

“You knew but didn’t tell me?” Adam huffed. “How could you do that?”

Mr. King didn’t respond, but the circles under his eyes spoke of his exhaustion and his eyes told of a great sadness. Adam ignored them.

“Why would you leave and not tell me how it works?” He stomped to the kitchen table and fanned the book’s pages. “Must be nice someone cared enough about you to give you a heads-up, so you never wrote in it.”

The accusation shot out like an invisible blow. Mr. King flinched but remained silent.

“Fine! Don’t talk.” Adam slammed the book shut. “Just sit there, drink your coffee, and let your stupid orchids keep you company!” He marched to the door.   

“Adam . . . ” The weak plea traveled across the room. “I did not know how to explain the book to you. It was willed to me when I was just a boy.” 

Adam turned but only enough to see that his neighbor was still speaking to his cup. 

“Would you have believed me had I said something?”

Adam’s jaw clenched. He probably wouldn’t have believed the book was a portal. He would have thought the old man had gone senile. But that didn’t matter. Mr. King had stirred up feelings so painful, it was just easier to be angry.

“I don’t know if I would’ve believed you,” Adam snarled and grabbed the doorknob. “But we’ll never know because you didn’t care enough to stick around and try.”

Drop the Needle: ANGER #3

TITLE: Windcaller
GENRE: Adult Fantasy

Tlanis, a member of the lowly clayshaper caste, has been falsely accusely of theft. naShola, a noble woman with many secrets, has tried and failed to prevent his arrest.

They were calming discussing responsibilities and culpabilities while Tlanis crouched in the dirt, his face caked with blood. naShola wanted to scream, to crack the earth beneath them, to call down lightning and burn them all to ash. She clenched her jaw until she felt the bones might break.

“As for you, clayshaper,” enSureth declared, striding toward Tlanis, “your fate shall be kinder, perhaps, than you deserve. No unnecessary torment. The hanging will be at noon. A quick death. Then we shall put this all behind us.”

Tlanis met naShola’s gaze. Blood dripped from a shallow gash in his forehead. There was a bruise around his eye. But his mouth was a steady, fearless line.

She could barely keep standing. “Why did you do it?” she whispered.

He didn’t even blink. “I didn’t.”

naShola’s frown deepened. “What do you mean?”

“Come, my girl,” enSureth said, taking naShola’s arm firmly. 

naShola struggled as he pulled her away from Tlanis. “Wait. Let me go; I want to know --”

“Take him to the platform,” enSureth called to the guards. His grip grew tighter against naShola’s writhings. “I shall be there momentarily.”

“Let me go!” naShola had given up all pretense. She didn’t care what it meant for her prestige or place among the nobles; she didn’t care that enSureth was the prince who owned nearly a quarter of the Plateau. She elbowed him in the stomach, kicked his shins, clawed his arms. He let out a holler of pain and finally released her.

Drop the Needle: ANGER #2

TITLE: The Bug Collector's Bucket List
GENRE: YA Contemporary

K.J. and Becka,18 y/o cousins, have grown up hating one another thanks to a long-time dispute between their mothers. After their grandpa dies, he asks them to fullfill his bucket list (to get their inheritance). Things have come to a head at Yellowstone.


My reaction is automatic. I shove her away, forcing her to stumble several steps backward.

   Her eyes widen in surprise and then quickly narrow. “You. . .” She doesn’t finish the insult but shoves me back with an amazing amount of force for someone her size. 

    “Hey!” I yell. Anger flashes through me. I’m suddenly back in the sixth grade, having it out with Charlie McDonald, the bully of bus number nine. I push Becka back with everything I’ve got. This time, she squeals as she loses her balance and teeters close to the edge. But with cat-like reflexes, she manages to duck down and recover her balance. As she squares up at me, the look on her face is murderous. Okay, maybe I went a bit too far that time. I open my mouth to apologize, but before I can say a word, she draws a fist back and throws a punch which lands just below my left eye. 

    Specks of light cloud my vision, and the world around me spins. Now I’m worried I’ll be the one to fall into the acid water. “Son of a. . .”

    “Girls!” Johan yells, and he’s suddenly between us. He places a steadying hand on my shoulder. “Stop it.”

    I hold the injured side of my face while Becka looks half-mortified, half-triumphant. The rest of our group stands there, gawking at us like we’re circus freaks. No one says a word. Guess they didn’t see that coming. 

    But shit, neither did I. 




Drop the Needle: ANGER #1

TITLE: Kites in the Storm
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Context- Dev's brother has just been consumed by his gods. Dev hid in a corner while they did it, afraid, ignoring his brother's cries for help. Now he's angry and ashamed. The gods prey on fear, so his anger is the only thing keeping them away.

He kicked and screamed into the void, anger burning through his veins. He wanted to destroy something, hurt someone. But there was no one in the cell besides himself.

So be it.

Dev began banging his head against the door, punching its cold, hard metal with fists bunched up tight. Screaming in frustration, he kicked at the walls, again, and again, with as much force as he could, until he felt slick, sticky blood between his toes.

But the rage was dimming now. Its flame was leaving him, and without it was only darkness. He tried to grab hold of the anger, slamming his fists half-heartedly against the wall, but it slipped his grasp, and after a long, dreadful moment, it winked out.

Awareness flooded into his body, and with it, overwhelming fear.

No. Not this.

He had to fill the emptiness with something, something to stave away the darkness, to keep the fear at bay. For in the fear they waited, beckoning, and in the fear waited a truth that could not possibly be true. He couldn't let it be true. In the darkness waited madness.

But the anger was nowhere to be found. It had all leaked out of him, leaving him cold and clammy and shivering.

What else?

Dev became aware of a dull throbbing in his left foot, where his big toe was. He knelt down in the darkness, probing at the toe with eager fingers.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Friday Fricassee

Friends, I finally made it to England.

The above picture is, of course, at Stonehenge, where we were able to take a magnificent, after-hours tour inside the boundaries.

Being so close to something so ANCIENT is a bit breath-stealing.

Most of our time was spent in London, city of our dreams. I'm going to share a lot more about my trip in my June newsletter, so be sure to subscribe if you haven't already!

Being the geeky debut author I am, I brought along a galley of STORMRISE so I could photograph it in all the places. Here it is in Hyde Park:

And, no, I didn't care one fig about who saw me or what they were thinking. Younger-me would have been too insecure to walk around London taking photos and selfies with a book. Older-me? Couldn't care less. I was having the time of my life, not only celebrating a wonderful, dream-come-true vacation with my husband, but also celebrating the realization of my publishing dream.

I'm so thankful. There are no words to describe the breadth and depth of my thankfulness.

In other, less international news, submissions are now open for Monday's DROP THE NEEDLE critique round, and will be open until 7:00 pm EDT. The submission guidelines are HERE.

And, finally, I was thrilled to receive an email a short while ago from my publicist, letting me know that STORMRISE has been included on PUBLISHERS LUNCH's YA Buzz Titles for Fall/Winter 2019.  It's hard to describe what it feels like to be included on a list with names like Ruta Sepetys, Brandon Sanderson, and Veronica Roth. 

This is all so new and glorious and I tend to get completely derailed from what I should be spending my time on, which, right now, is story planning. Partly I need to give myself grace--this is, after all, an experience I've never had before, and I need to allow myself to revel and gasp and stare and become distracted. But I also need to learn to take a (very) deep breath and get back to the work at hand. Which is what I'm getting ready to do right now.

No, really.

Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart and soul and big toes, for sticking with me during this journey. 

I collectively thanked you all in my acknowledgements, by the way. Because HOW COULD I NOT?

Have a lovely weekend, and I'll see you Monday for DROP THE NEEDLE!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Critique Round: Drop the Needle

It's time to drop the needle and read excerpts from anywhere in your (completed or WIP) novel!

For those of you who are new to this term: "Drop the Needle" was an inhumane way for college music professors to test us to see if we knew the piece and composer. It's much harder to identify something you don't know well if you don't start at the beginning!

We're going to make things easier for our readers, though, by including a brief lead-in to each scene, to help ground us in the moment.

The focus of the scene: ANGER

Anger has so many forms--explosive, slow-and-burning, vindictive, righteous, stuffed-deep-inside. Show us a scene where your character is expressing ANGER.

Here are the submission guidelines:

*To enter, please use THE SUBMISSION FORM HERE.
*THIS WILL BE A LOTTERY (because last time submissions filled up pretty quickly): The submission window will be open from NOON to 7:00 PM EDT THIS FRIDAY, after which the bot will randomly select 25 entries.
*Send a 250-word scene that displays ANGER in one or more of your characters.
*IMPORTANT: Include a 30-40 word lead-in to set the scene for us.
*Only ONE ENTRY per person per contest. If you send more than one, your subsequent entry(ies) will be rejected.
*250 words is the maximum, not the requirement. Please do not stop in the middle of a
*Posts will go live on MONDAY (May 27) for public critique.

GO HERE to submit via our web form.

Ask your questions below! (Or on Twitter. I'll see them more quickly there.)

Thursday, May 2, 2019

First 100 Critique Guidelines

Okay, folks--here we go!

The focus is on VOICE. Do the first 100 words of these stories draw you in? Do they have that certain "something" that makes you want to read more?

And if not, why not?

Please offer your best feedback to help your colleagues become the best writers they can be!

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.

First 100 #25

TITLE: Before I Leave You
GENRE: YA Contemporary

It’s always so damn cold.

Bone-chilling, actually, for so many reasons. The thermostat Dad keeps on zero degrees, my "lack of meat on my bones” as his nosy paralegals would say. But this is the kind of cold where I can see my breath when I exhale, like I’m outside in January and not in my foggy bathroom, getting ready for the first day of school. It's a cold that makes every hair stand on end. That sends shivers through every part of me.

Only one reason for that kind of cold.


First 100 #24

GENRE: YA Fantasy

I killed the first handmaid. I left the second one alive because Princess Marna doesn’t know how to take off her own gown. I’d help poor Marna untie her corset myself—I’ve done it too many times before—but I’m the one with the knife in her hand.

“Watch the hem, Princess,” I say with a flick of my bloody knife, ushering her behind the changing partition. Princess Marna startles, red curls slipping from her-half finished updo, and gathers her pretty, pearly skirts so they won’t drag in the blood puddle oozing from the slit in the handmaid’s throat.

First 100 #23

TITLE: Strange Gods
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Of all the places he could have made his move, in a silent cafeteria surrounded by counselors was probably the least romantic. Mostly because all Spooky could do was freeze and hope no one noticed. Hornets and butterflies swarmed in her stomach as Luke took her palm in his. She didn’t know if she liked his hand on hers. She only knew she didn’t want to get caught with it there.

But then his touch was gone, and in its place, a piece of paper. Spooky’s eyes shifted to the closest counselor, but no heads turned. No one had noticed the exchange.

First 100 #22

TITLE: The Charley Chronicles
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Dead Aunt Gert’s house was full of eyes. True felt them watching as she followed Mom up the massive stone steps of the looming structure. The silent sentinels stared down through the misty night air and dared her to enter.

The porch light flickered, and Mom’s arms and legs stuttered like an old silent movie. True shivered and concentrated on lugging her heavy suitcase up the never-ending stairs. She just wanted to go back to their tiny apartment.

‘Welcome home, True.’

She drew in a quick breath. That ghostly whisper was just in her head, wasn’t it?

First 100 #21

TITLE: The Bea Team
GENRE: YA Contemporary

I like the way a piece of material takes shape into whatever I want—a tank top, dress, pants, or a skirt, the possibilities only limited by my imagination. And there’s the type of material from cheap cotton to expensive silk, although most of my creations tend to be on the cheaper side, like Lulu’s dress.

“You know you could make more money selling your pieces instead of someone else’s,” Lulu says, unwrapping a chocolate Lollipop. “I’d give you a million bucks for this little number.”

I smile. Lulu’s concerned more with how the dress makes her look.

First 100 #20

TITLE: Princes Charming
GENRE: Adult Fantasy

The blind girl trembled in the corner as Gertrude raged over her.

 “Tricked!”  she snorted, though her snorts were akin to what one would hear from an enraged stallion.  “Outsmarted by my own contract.”  She continued to pace; the blind girl counting her steps both to keep track of where the witch was and to calm her mind, keep the panic at bay.

    The steps stopped.  The blind girl cowered further down, though she could almost feel the air parting as the witch’s hand descended toward her head.

    “One must deal with what is in front of one,”  she said

First 100 #19

TITLE: Isabel Slate Makes the News
GENRE: MG Contemporary Fiction

I slide the last copy of my newspaper into the Smite’s birdhouse mailbox and click the little door shut. When I look up, C.K. Spicer, the cool new kid at Francis Mott School, is riding his bike up the sidewalk. Even sitting on his bike, he’s tall and skinny like a stretched out rubber band.

C.K. slams on his brakes, missing my left foot by half an inch. I want to walk away, but I can’t give him the satisfaction of knowing he annoys me.

"Hey, Isabel, I’ve never heard of an animal listening to a baseball game.”

First 100 #18

TITLE: Standing Too Close
GENRE: YA Contemporary

The bell rings as I’m emptying my locker. After so many years, I’m conditioned, and I jump, ready to slam the door closed and run to class.  Second period is bio and the lab’s upstairs in the school’s new wing.  I have to hurry if I’m not going to be late.

But I don’t hurry.  Because I don’t need to worry about being late to bio or to French or English or any of my other classes anymore.  As of ten minutes ago, I’m no longer a student of Milton High School.

First 100 #17

TITLE: Hyperbole
GENRE: NA Science Fiction

Without a fresh clue, someone else is going to die.

My fourth cup of coffee is still warm in my mug. I’ve had one for every hour we are into Nox Diem, not that they’re doing me much good. I’m desperate to stay alert. Twenty long hours of suffocating darkness remain this cycle. The work around me has ceased. The other detectives left hours ago, winking out one at a time like extinguished candle flames, trading a frustrating lack of progress for the oblivion of sleep.

My desk is a mess of reports, binders, and photographs, which I comb through. Again.

First 100 #16

TITLE: Elite Justice
GENRE: Adult Mystery

According to my ex-husband, I had mastered what was commonly referred to as Resting Bitch Face. This came in handy when dealing with unruly children - my own, suspects at work - I’m a Homicide Detective, and overly talkative new gym members - I loathe people when I’m on the treadmill.
With RBF firmly in place and brightly colored earbuds wedged into my ears to discourage conversation, newbies with the misfortune to hop on a machine next to me and attempt such were quickly shut down when faced with my glare up close. No shame, I’d been known to make gang members weep.

First 100 #15

GENRE: YA Science Fiction

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.

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. Concentration gripped her shoulder blades and burned down through her fingertips. Energy flowed through her mind more than concrete words or commands.

To finish the mission, she just needed to find and destroy the traitors badge. And for Crew, admittedly a little trigger-happy, destroying was the best part.

First 100 #14

TITLE: The Legacy Project
GENRE: MG Historical Fiction

     We sat in the front pew, Mr. Bailey's casket so close, I could almost hear him breathing. If he were alive, that is.

     "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away," the pastor said from the pulpit.

     Mama sighed and rubbed her round belly. The baby was due any day now, and she had grown tired of all the comments. On our way into church, a lady had said, "Oh my, you look like you're about to pop!"

     "Any day now!" Mama laughed politely. But when we were out of earshot she whispered, "And she looks like she ate too many pancakes this morning."

First 100 #13

TITLE: Reviving Abby
GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

Don’t look up.

Whatever you do, zero in on the text.

Keep reading.

Ignore the curiosity urging you to lift your gaze. 

Resist it, that tingling sensation creeping up your shoulders, stiffing your neck, goading you to pull your eyes away from the writing.

Control it.

Keep reading. 

Focus on the words.


I read the lines for the hundredth time, trying to stick to my inner voice’s recommendation. At least, that’s who I think that is. It sounds like me (...)

First 100 #12

TITLE: Valeria
GENRE: MG Space Opera

              The oval door slid open and Valdor Noxum, an intimidatingly tall man with a permanent scowl on his face, entered the hospital room. Dressed in a red-trimmed black suit and vest, he strode along the velvet-carpeted floor past the stone fireplace set in the wall. He reached the base of the staircase shortly after that, two gentlemen wearing suits standing on either side. They knelt onto one knee and gazed upon the floor.

              “My Liege…” one murmured.

               “Your Highness…” murmured the other.

First 100 #11

TITLE: The Woodsman's Rose
GENRE: Adult Historical Romance

Breakfast was never a formal event in the Donovan home, but since four of the siblings had moved on, it sometimes seemed quite staid. Today, though, as Daniel padded down the stairs from his room, the conversation emanating from the kitchen was more animated than usual. He pushed through the swinging doors and poured his first cup of coffee while his youngest brother expounded on the merits of his pony.

“Dad, she’s too small. She’s a kid’s horse!”

His father made no response. His mother worked at the stove, her bright red hair curling wildly in the heat and humidity.

First 100 #10

TITLE: Truth in the Treetops
GENRE: YA Contemporary with paranormal elements

Sweltering heat bakes my skin as I shuffle along the narrow path, the hot breeze offering no relief. I uncap my water bottle and chug the last drop of tepid liquid. Eight miles at cross-country practice and now this, plodding home in a sauna. Ugh
Through the bushes and tall, leafy oaks, I follow the steep descent of the hill, my throat parched, sweat trickling down my back. What I wouldn’t give for a bucket of ice water to douse myself with.

“Hey, what’s the rush, Gabs?” Asha, my bff asks, shuffling behind me. “Slow down.”

“Sorry, it’s just so freakin hot."

First 100 #9

GENRE: MG Magical Realism

It’s all in the B. How you attack that first note tells your audience everything about what’s to come. Quasi improvisando, Dvorák says. You need to put your life into it. You need to show that you can be wild, fanciful, dramatic, free.

Basically, everything I’m not.

I’ve done a masterful job of faking it for half my life—ever since I took up the cello at age six. Scales, etudes, Bach preludes, Boccherini concerto, Brahms sonatas… I’ve never looked back. My technical skill astounds even the most talented of musicians. Because of it, I can manufacture the rest.

First 100 #8

TITLE: Lily Silverclaw
GENRE: MG Fantasy

In the dark of the moon, while young and old lay sleeping sound, Lily Silverclaw ventured out of the burrow and into the night.

She popped her head above the burrow mound and glanced left and right across the prairie. Nobody there. She eyed the guard pacing along the top of the tall, stone Wall that surrounded the prairie dog town.

Time to move. Lily scrambled out and scurried from bush to bush. She whirled around to make sure no one had noticed her leaving—because that would be a disaster—and rammed into another prairie dog.

First 100 #7

TITLE: River City Demons
GENRE: Adult Fantasy

Three guys walked into a bakery. One of them wanted a beignet.

The counter-girl froze, her grin going from humor to horror in an instant. She was a student working part-time, and she knew trouble when she saw it. She knew it as schoolyard fights, bullies shaking down nerds, or her dad drinking too much and realizing he was this total douchebag loser, a moment of personal self-awareness that meant someone was going to get hit. It was the same vibe here in her bakery, the three walking in, the other three at the counter eyeing the newcomers.

First 100 #6

TITLE: Lifelines
GENRE: MG Magical Realism

The barbecue was about to start, the guests were on their way, and one of the birthday girls was missing. The rest of the family hadn’t noticed, caught up in party prep, but Mel had been alert for signs of trouble. She wove through the bouquet of balloons at the front door to check the living room, the dining room, and all four bedrooms, before finding her twin curled up in the oversized recliner in the home office. Rae hugged her knees to her chest, staring at a window that had its blinds drawn.

First 100 #5

TITLE: Boy On The Corner
GENRE: YA Horror

I’d arrived a few minutes early to the Rosewood Mall. The only thing to do in Roan Oak other than cow tipping.

I lingered outside of what could’ve been my second home; the buzzing, neon glow of the arcade. Not letting my twitchy legs get the best of me as I waited by the archaic wishing well. Trying not to make eye contact with anybody, shrinking into myself so people wouldn’t notice me. Squeezing out of the way for a young couple pushing along a pink-cheeked baby in a stroller decorated by stuffed pumpkin toys. I pressed against a potted plant.

First 100 #4

TITLE: Tesseract Cats
GENRE: MG Science Fiction

Fresh blood, on newly fallen show, doesn’t look like it does on television. It isn’t a bright, shiny, red like in a lipstick ad. Or on a Coca-Cola bottle. Or a stop sign. And because it’s warm, the snow melts under it. And sinks. Like a fast running river cuts through sand.


First 100 #3

TITLE: The Silver Lining of Chaos
GENRE: YA Contemporary

The Texas sun bakes me to a crisp outside Stony Point Academy. Aunt Lucinda’s late, and I’m the only student left on campus. I pace the sidewalk, antsy. Having to rely on my aunt sucks, but she’s the only family I have left. An ache settles in my chest. I miss my grandmother so much, and I’m not sure what my hurry is to leave school. There’s nowhere for me to go. Drained and desolate, I melt into a puddle of sweat beside my two tattered suitcases and backpack. They hold everything I own.

It’s hard not to feel homeless.

First 100 #2

TITLE: Beckoning Shadows
GENRE: YA Paranormal Suspense

The air is thick with the threat of rain as I step out of the County Courthouse’s cold, stone-encased lobby. My head is spinning with thoughts as dark as the heavy clouds. “This can’t be happening,” I keep telling myself as I slip into my Mustang convertible.

I watch my mom, Scarlet, in her dark forest green tunic that deepens the auburn in her chestnut hair; her black leggings and matching heels accentuating her long shapely legs as she stumbles to her red Grand Am. Her eyes are glazed over in shock or fear; I’m not sure. I know I'm feeling both.

First 100 #1

TITLE: Liked
GENRE: Adult Contemporary

This is my first funeral.

Glass half-full, it’s not mine.

Glass half-empty, I killed the guest of honor.

Obliterated may be a better description.

But here I stand. Thirty-six with two kids even Satan wouldn’t admit to fathering, squeezed into size fourteen pants riding so far up my a** they should come with a complimentary canary to certify the air is breathable. The sweat rolling off my body like a high-speed assembly line isn’t helping.

My hips beg for a sixteen.

Who am I kidding? Eighteen.

I should consider myself lucky I’m not being fit for an orange prison jumpsuit.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

First 100 Critique Round--Submissions Are Open!

Read the submission guidelines HERE.

Enter your first 100 words HERE.

UPDATE: All 25 slots have now been filled. Thank you for your interest!