Thursday, August 3, 2017

Hello. It's Me.

I've been wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet...

Okay, it hasn't been THAT bad.  (I do love that song, though!)  But for months I've been less communicative than I'd like to.



There are reasons.

  • I've been revising.  A lot.  Heavy-duty, deadlined revising.  For a revise and resubmit.  It's all good, and I'm moving on to the next thing during the exclusive.  
  • I've been practicing.  Piano and voice.  Mr. A and I hosted a Beer and Madrigals party for members of the symphony chorus, and I accompanied as well as singing.  And I cooked.  And cleaned.  And moved furniture.  And...it was a big party.  You get the idea.  It's over now.
  • I've been focusing on other things in general.  Writing.  Resting.  Life-ing.  The blog has always been the one thing that took up time that I probably could've used another way.  And yet I can't seem to let it go.  Seeing my readers grow as writers...achieve success...find encouragement...there's no way to measure the importance of all that.  It fills me up.  And I don't want it to go away.
On that note, it's my goal to have another Secret Agent Contest by the end of this year, as well as some more in-house crit (which you all rock at).  And I'm going to do my best to start Friday Fricasseeing again.

So, that's me, in a nutshell.  I still want to be present for you.  I still want to share this journey with you.

OTHER THINGS:

1.  I currently have an opening for one PREMIERE CRITIQUE, first come, first served.  This is:
  • A detailed line edit of your first 75 pages
  • An editorial letter
  • Guaranteed 1-week turnaround
  • $260 in 2 equal payments
If you're interested, please email me ASAP at authoress.edits(at)gmail.com to secure your place.

2.  I'd like to pick your brain about some HOLIDAY FUN IDEAS for the blog.  In the past, we've done things like Christmas/Hannukah song lyric contests and such.  I'd love for you to share your ideas in today's comment box!

Hugs to you all -- serious, squooshy, full-body hugs.  (Or, if you're the no-touch type, a friendly air-high-five.)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Are You Hooked? Critique Guidelines

Here we are, folks -- 15 opening pages that will attempt to draw us in!

Please follow the guidelines below.

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.

Are You Hooked? #15

TITLE: Silent March
GENRE: YA Recent Historical / Diversity

          Dad fixes people’s ears, but he doesn’t listen. Seven a.m. first day in the new house is Take-Your-Daughter-to-Work Day? Bogus.

            “We’re leaving in five,” Dad calls from upstairs.

            I raise the volume on my walkman. Here I go again on my own, my hands sign my current anthem. Maybe knowing some sign language will keep my big mouth shut at East Maryland Prep instead of ruining my life at West Miami High. Dad didn’t hear a peep from me when he yanked me from Florida midwinter senior year.

            “EGG, did you hear me?” Dad pokes his head in the door.

            I lift one headphone. “Yes, I’m not one of your patients.” If I was deaf, he’d give a damn.

            “Watch your tone young lady.” He pushes his coke-bottle glasses back up his nose. “And turn that music down or you will be. Let’s go.”

            ‘Why I don’t speak,’ for $100 Alex. I pound up the stairs from my basement bedroom. In Miami, basements don’t exist. Dig and hit water. Now I live in one.  At least this one comes with a kitchenette, bathroom, and French doors to the backyard. No soundproofing, though. Mom and Dad fight. Constantly.         

            In the mudroom, I layer on sweater, jacket, scarf, gloves, hat, and boots.

            Dad eyes me. “It’s not that bad.”

            “You grew up in Brooklyn.” I fling open the door to the garage which is like a freezer.  The car ride is equally icy. Why talk? It’ll come out wrong. I speak my mind better with my hands.

Are You Hooked? #14

TITLE: Seeking Sara Sterling
GENRE: YA Contemporary

A tiny, cream-colored spider crawled across the outside of the windshield. Sara couldn’t take her eyes off it. In that moment, she almost wished she were that spider. She wanted to be anywhere but in here.

    A silence as thick as mud hung between her and Bryan. She wasn’t sure how long it had been since he’d spoken those words. The ones she’d contemplated saying for more than a year now. But she’d always been wishy-washy, going back and forth about things. It was so hard to know what her true feelings were sometimes.

    The spider angled downward and then leaped onto the Jeep’s windshield wiper. A second later, it disappeared from sight.

    “Say something, Sara.” Bryan’s strained voice finally cut through the silence.

    But she had nothing to say to him. Inside, she felt completely numb. Like she’d just swallowed an entire bottle of that chloraseptic throat spray her mom used to give her when she was younger. 

    Sara bit her bottom lip, staring out the windshield again. A dent marked one side of her maroon garage door. Her younger brother, Derrick had backed into the drive, hitting it with the hitch of his Tundra a few weeks ago. She was surprised her parents hadn’t done something about it yet. 

    In her peripheral vision, she saw Bryan run a hand through his hair before placing it back on the steering wheel. As if he were ready to just get the hell out of here. “Come on. Don’t be like this,” he pleaded.

 

Are You Hooked? #13

TITLE: TALISMAN
GENRE: YA Paranormal

          Matt Flaherty’s heart pounded in excitement as he ripped open his Study Abroad confirmation packet. Moving his laptop to the foot of his bed, he flipped through photos of smiling students in front of lush landscapes and ancient buildings.

          “God, this itinerary looks awesome.” The Irish summer program offered hiking, city pubs and kooky mythology–his perfect idea of adventure. He couldn’t wait to see the Blarney Stone, and climb the Cliffs of Moher.

            At the Galway page, a surge of energy ran through Matt’s hands all the way down to his bones. The aftershock left a warm tingling up and down his limbs.

          Holy shit, that was weird.  

          He focused on his next move. The fact that he’d forged his dad’s paperwork and created a fake parent email hadn’t bothered him then. Now, he had to face the fireworks.

         Matt hurried down the hall to his father’s office with the packet. Barely stopping to knock, he rushed in, holding the brochure over the massive desk. “Hey dad, look at this.”

         Making his face as guiltless-looking as possible he raised his eyebrows. Like when he was ten years old. Back then, it was the three of them: his mom, his dad and Matt. Life was halfway decent, even when Flaherty Sr. rebuked him for the smallest misconduct. Instead of timeouts or swats, Matt’s childhood was filled with humiliation and rejection. His mom always got between his dad and him, like some blinged-up Rottweiler. She kept the balance; kept them civil.

Are You Hooked? #12

TITLE: CASEY BUCKLES AND THE KEEPER OF THE ICE CAVES
GENRE: MG Contemporary Adventure

Casey Buckles sank back, trying to bury himself in the bus’s musty seat. He clutched a note, certain its words would lead to someone’s death:

Marty, your family, danger, killing, get to the ice caves.

A shiver tingled down his back at his dad’s name. His father had taken off on a sudden trip—fifth one in three months. No explanation, no discussion. Was the family breaking apart? Casey’s blood ran cold at the thought. Could be why his mom cried harder than normal when he’d boarded the bus.
He smoothed the note across his thigh, wishing he hadn’t found it that morning, wedged between the fridge and cabinet. Thinking it a lost page from his geography notes, he shoved it into his camping bag, not giving it a second thought, until now. Reading it made him want to crawl out the bus’s emergency exit and take his chances in the forest. Bigfoot would be cake compared to the backflips and somersaults his imagination was doing over this note.

Snatching his lucky magnetite lodestone from his jeans pocket, he turned it over and over in his hand. Silver flecks across the black-grey surface winked back at him. The metamorphic rock was his favorite, morphing from one rock type to another. Too bad he couldn’t morph into the son his dad wanted to hang with.

The rickety bus jostled Casey about as it bumped along the dirt road. The note played on his mind. Where in the heck were there ice caves in the mountains of Idaho?

Are You Hooked? #11

TITLE: Cordelia
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Our red Ford Festiva was nicknamed The Clown Car by my late father, and I have a love-hate relationship with this crummy compact. It holds lots of memories but is older than me and falling apart. This morning, we’re running late, and Mom sets her jumbo insulated tumbler of frappuccino on top of it while my ten-year-old brother, Declan, gets in the backseat. She needs both hands to shove her purse and workbag in beside him.

I take the passenger seat, and with an uncontrollable grin, say, “Mom, don’t forget about my driver’s test after school.”

She smiles and turns the key in the ignition. “Of course I won’t forget, and guess what—”

Boom.

Panicked, I look around for a fire, and a strangling sound escapes me as cold, bony fingers of dread squeeze around my neck.

“Are you okay, Cordelia?” Mom asks, rubbing my shoulder in concern. “It was just the car backfiring.”

Declan says, “Yeah, that was loud.” Laughing, he adds, “Usually it sounds more like the car’s farting.”

Taking a deep breath, I loosen my death grip on the door handle and laugh too, feeling silly for my overreaction.

“The mechanic’s going to take a look at it this week,” Mom says. She begins to back out of the driveway but immediately slams on the brakes and gasps, “Oh no!”

The slushy, chocolaty, caramel contents of her tumbler—that she couldn’t find the lid for—start oozing down the windshield in front of us.

Are You Hooked? #10

TITLE: Deyou's Heart
GENRE: Adult Fantasy

Before I pass, I wish to give you something of your mother’s. Jeran

Sia An’Terran crumpled the parchment with its crabbed writing in her hand as the ocean breeze tickled hair as it teased across her forehead. The enormous black-stone causeway glittered in the early morning light, its massive surface nearly packed full with people making their way across it to Deyou’s Isle, currently visible to one and all. She’d been atop the cliff at dawn when the Voice brought the shield down, exposing the Isle to the world and marking the beginning of Dragon Day.
This would be the last day she saw the causeway. Either she’d be dead by mid-day for setting foot on the Isle or she’d be on her way back to Capita. She tucked the crumpled note into the pouch hidden in her belt, next to the quite-illegal tools she kept there.

Her jaw firmed as she gritted her teeth and took the last steps down the well-trodden path which led from Verisit atop the cliff to the beach leading to the causeway. Merchants hawked their wares from stalls that lined the walkway, some having wisely decided to remain on the mainland rather than cross to the Isle.

Heavy sand crunched beneath her feet and she wound her way through the crowds. Not in a rush exactly, but she wasn’t going to waste her entire day on this idiocy and if she didn’t make it by the final calling bell, her chance would be gone.

Are You Hooked? #9

TITLE: Counting Perfect
GENRE: YA Contemporary

There’s no such thing as luck. As far as I see it, life happens one way no matter how much you wish it would turn out another way. If it does take your side on certain days, then that’s how it’s meant to be. But everything evens out, so you can bet the next day, things won’t be perfect. You can count on it.

My brother badumpthumps over every gap in the pavement riding solo on my skateboard. “Stop!” he shouts at me. “You’re gonna crush him.”

He jumps from the board, letting it glide to the grass, and engages in mini acrobatics to protect yet another insect.

I resist a close inspection. Bugs and I don’t get along. They crawl through their own poop, and I’d rather not mix with anything covered in insect feces.

Alex has different standards when it comes to the world of gross.

“Look, Z, he’s so soft. Feel him.” He strokes the fuzzy orange and black critter.

“I’ll take your word for it.” I walk over to retrieve my board then freeze. “Where’s his family? I don’t want to step on them…as gross as he is.”

“Caterpillars are loners. Like you. The mother butterfly lays eggs…then she just flies away, I guess.” His finger barely touches it. I’ve never seen Alex so gentle.

I lean over his shoulder. “And the father butterfly?”

“Oh he’s probably dead by now. They don’t hang around long after getting the female pregnant.”

Thanks for the replay of my childhood.

Are You Hooked? #8

TITLE: The Wall
GENRE: YA Historical Fiction

          Jo rose on her tiptoes straining to see beyond the white wispy zigzag pattern that stretched across the great Pacific. She longed to catch a glimpse of the land that the sailor had spotted from the crow’s nest earlier that afternoon. Her heart pounded. Her fear that last week’s storm had tossed and hurled the boat back towards Shanghai gripped her chest. She desperately needed to see the port of San Francisco, to know that Shanghai and the danger that lurked beyond the dirty Yangtze River were far away.

           She wondered, Did the Pilgrims feel this way as they were fleeing England to find safety in the New World?  Could America become my New World, too?

            The boat swayed and tipped back and forth to and fro, but Jo’s sea legs were strong.  She no longer weaved and stumbled, sometimes even falling, like she did a month ago when they first boarded The Orient. She remembered that first day as she clung onto anything stable to keep from falling while her younger sister, Lizzie, twirled and jumped around her in circles. Her poor mother faired far worse. She had to be near a bucket for what seemed like a week. Jo had never seen her mother so pale.

            Darkness began to cover the sky like a mother her covering her child for the night. There would be no land sighting today. As a child Jo loved this time of night when the sky became a dark blanket speckled with silver sequence.