Monday, January 30, 2012

Book Promotions and First Impressions


It’s probably a little early to start thinking of launch parties and book swag, considering my next book’s not due to come out until 2013, but I can’t help myself.  I asked my daughter if one of her talented friends might be interested in doing some artwork for promotions when the time comes, and immediately her friend Emily H. produced this:


Isn’t it awesome? I’ve spoken to Emily and explained that I’m looking for something with a simpler design I can use as a logo on t-shirts, buttons, or stationery. But I’d love to use this drawing as well.  Can anyone think of a way to use this lovely illustration, besides displaying it on my sidebar and (obviously) framing it and hanging it proudly on my wall?

On another topic, Marcy Hatch and I will be doing our First Impressions series for February this Wednesday and Friday, but as of the writing of this post, there’s still an open spot for Monday, February 6. Is there anyone out there who’d like to share the first page of their WIP and get some feedback?  See the sidebar for details!

March will be the anniversary of Marcy and I beginning our First Impressions series, and to celebrate, we’re going to turn the tables and post the first pages of our own WIPs and let you guys do the critiquing!  That still leaves one spot open in March, for anyone who’s interested.

One month almost gone in 2012, folks. Wow!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Gina Review: MIDNIGHT OIL


Gina is guest posting today with a review of the book I featured on Monday, MIDNIGHT OIL by Marva Dasef. (Gina received this book for review from the author.)

Gina's Review:

MIDNIGHT OIL is about a young witch named Katrina and her warlock brother Rune on a quest to bring their father to the mainlands and to find Andy, Katrina’s kidnapped love.  On the way, Katrina and her brother get separated, and Katrina is stuck on an island with an unusual inhabitant. Rune is blackmailed by a dying tribe to get the Midnight Oil that will save them.  Meanwhile, back where they live, Ilmatar, an air spirit disguised as a witch, finds out that her sister, with whom she shares a long feud, has been holding Andy captive to draw her there.  Kat, Rune, and Ilmatar will all meet up to find the Midnight Oil, defeat Ilmatar’s sister, and save Andy.

One thing that could be better is a little bit of recapping the first book at the beginning because you wouldn’t be able to understand what’s happening if you haven’t recently read the first book. I enjoyed the book’s humor, including one character who speaks only in consonants! I’d recommend this to people who like an adventure story with a little magic.

Thanks, Gina for sharing your review of Marva's book (and helping out Mom with a guest post)!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Where Do You Brainstorm?


Before moving on to today's post, I just want to share that Susan Swiderski posted a lovely review for WE HEAR THE DEAD on Monday and graciously included an interview. If you don't follow Susan at I Think; Therefore I Yam -- you should! Check out her Raising the Dead post and follow her!

Writing is done in the head as much as off the page. There’s the initial idea for the story, the planning of characters and story arc, not to mention working out scenes and plot dilemmas along the way.  Where do you do your best brainstorming?

Taking the dog on a walk is usually good for me, and long car rides are also useful for working out the kinks in the upcoming chapter. (Sometimes I practice dialogue in the shower, where I think nobody can hear me.)

But one of my favorite places to think about writing is HERE, on the chair lift.  I know that skiing and writing don’t go together for most people, but the chair lift is an awesome place to meditate.

Look at the view, after all. (That’s the bluer than blue Lehigh River in the picture to the left. The trail is called River Shot.)  On a weekday when the trails are empty, the mountain is eerily quiet – just the gentle creaking of the cables above your head, the whisper of wind in the trees.

(Crowded weekends are not as creatively motivating. There’s too much of a show going on beneath you: cartwheels, somersaults, people ooching downhill on their bottoms, and the occasional really good skier who makes everyone else look like they’ve got three left feet.)

Nobody’s going to interrupt you on the chair lift, unless you get a chatty seat partner. I usually ride alone or with Gabbey – and Gabbey and I are perfectly content with silence. (She’s probably thinking about her writing, too.)

Did I get some good writing in during my ski vacation last week? Well – not on paper, per se – but in my head? Yes, I did!

Now, with any luck, some of it will actually get written this week.

Monday, January 23, 2012

MIDNIGHT OIL and an Interview with Marva Dasef

I’m interviewing Marva Dasef today, whose MG fantasy, MIDNIGHT OIL, launches this month through Muse It Up Publishing.

Marva, you write in an astounding variety of genres.  Tell us about them – and if you have a favorite, which is it?

I seem to be settling on MG/YA fantasy, although you’re correct about my wayward genre hopping. I’ve published memoir, mystery, science fiction, and bits of romance and horror. I started my serious fiction career with short stories. That allowed me to try out a lot before finding the best fit. And by best fit, I mean two ways. First, that the style feels comfortable and natural to me, and second, publishers are more likely to accept a particular genre.  

Beginning from Tales of a Texas Boy, the nostalgic semi-memoir stories about my father’s boyhood in West Texas during the Depression, I preferred humor to pathos. Even in my adult scifi, I wanted some Star Wars-like comic relief. Essentially, I can’t take anything too seriously.

I like my halfway between Tween and YA fantasies. I couldn’t write a contemporary YA if someone held a gun to my head. I don’t have enough contact with modern teens to write with authority. With fantasy, anything goes, so I can make up wild solutions to the problems my characters are facing. Trapped on an invisible island? No problem. Kat can ask a bird to carry a message. Attacked by a polar bear? No problem. A killer whale can come to the rescue. In real situations, a writer is restricted to real solutions. How boring is that?

You’ve also worked with a few publishing companies, as well as published on your own. Can you tell us about the ups and downs?

My first two books were put out by a small publisher. I found the support severely lacking. Being new to the game, I didn’t know how much they were letting me down. I’m not talking about the post-publishing process, but when I should have had editing, it wasn’t provided. When the cover was selected, it didn’t fit the story.

I found that my latest publisher is really great on the production side. I got many editing rounds with both a content editor and a line editor. My cover was produced from scratch by great cover artists. Also, MuseItUp authors are like family with lots of help publicizing each others’ works, and generally supporting every author’s efforts.

The downside to having a publisher is that the retail price has to be higher than a self-published book. I offer most of my self-pub material for 99 cents. The price on my professionally published work is higher, but there are more people who need to be paid.

The market for children’s e-books is up and coming. I saw several e-readers come into my 5th grade classroom after Christmas.  How do you market to catch the young e-book reader’s eye?

I’m trying to take advantage of groups that support YA writers (and by YA, I include everything from grade school and up) such as the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I try to associate with other YA writers. Much of that is done through the mutual support system like this blog tour for Midnight Oil. I will be hosting my hosts as their books are published, as I have in the past.

Besides your Witches of Galdorheim series, what else do you have cooking right now?

I am sneakily reworking some of my self-pubbed work and submitting it for publication. For example, I have expanded one of my middle-eastern fantasies, which started life with the micro-press that published my first two books, and it will be released under a new title by my current publisher, MuseItUp.

Is there anything you’d like to tell us about your newest book, Midnight Oil?

How about the promo info? But before that, I want to tell your readers to leave a comment to win a free ebook copy of either Bad Spelling (book 1) or Midnight Oil (book 2).

MIDNIGHT OIL - Book 2 of the Witches of Galdorheim

Shipwrecked on a legendary island, how can a witch rescue her boyfriend if she can’t even phone home?

Kat discovers that an evil forest spirit has kidnapped her brand-new boyfriend. She sets out with her brother, Rune, from her Arctic island home on a mission to rescue the boy. Things go wrong from the start. Kat is thrown overboard during a violent storm, while her brother and his girlfriend are captured by a mutant island tribe. The mutants hold the girlfriend hostage, demanding that the teens recover the only thing that can make the mutants human again–the magical Midnight Oil.

Mustering every bit of her Wiccan magic, Kat rises to the challenge. She invokes her magical skills, learns to fly an ultralight, meets a legendary sea serpent, rescues her boyfriend, and helps a friendly air spirit win the battle against her spiteful sibling. On top of it all, she’s able to recover the Midnight Oil and help the hapless mutants in the nick of time.


Book Links:
MuseItUp Buy Page: http://tinyurl.com/6wswbsf
NOTE: The Midnight Oil trailer is featured on this month’s You Gotta Read Videos http://yougottareadvideos.blogspot.com/ . Voting is open from January 21st-26th, so please vote for #20.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kitchen Destruction

Last year I posted a story about the DIY Vandals who originally owned our house. These people bought the place half-completed and finished the job themselves with the cheapest (ugliest) materials they could find. They did such a terrible job that they only lived here for 3 years before moving on to another home.

It has taken us years to un-do their home improvements gone awry. Finally, after nine years, we tackled the kitchen. First my husband Bob and my brother-in-law Larry started on the hideous, 7-sided island. Predictably, retired federal officer Larry suggested low order explosives. (He'd already determined several years back that high order explosives were a no-no in household projects.)

However, since the Vandals who built the island thoughtfully made it out of plywood and glue, it pretty much came apart in their hands and was gone in a matter of minutes.

Next, Bob tackled the floor -- a particularly hated item for us. I'm sure you can see the lovely corner flower design in these pictures, but I'm not sure you can appreciate the Pepto Bismol pink without seeing it in person.  Not to mention the glue stains.  (You thought I was kidding about the glue, didn't you? Nope, that's how the heptagonal island was attached to the floor.)


As I type this, Bob is prying up the tiles in the next room with a crowbar.  In the garage, we have cabinets waiting that are made out of real wood. They will comprise our new island, and we've got the tile scheduled to be installed.  After that, we'll bring in the granite people to tackle the final ugly thing in our kitchen -- the Vandals' version of a tiled counter top. Yes, it's also Pepto Bismol pink, and yes, they did think grout covered up all mistakes. Look at that lovely patchwork job on the corner!
Right now, Sorcia is lying in the doorway watching the destruction, ears down and whimpering softly. She seems to be saying: "Oh, that's BAD stuff going on in there. I'd get in TROUBLE if I did that."

I promise to post pictures when the whole thing is transformed. But for the next couple weeks, we'll be eating a lot of meals OUT.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Practice Room


I’m putting in a plug for The Practice Room today – which is a group writing session set up by Tina Laurel Lee.  If you haven’t heard of The Practice Room, you can check it out in detail here. But basically, a team of hosts – Tina Laurel Lee, Marisa Hopkins, Heather Kelly, Jon Arntson, and me – set up a schedule for dedicated writing sessions of one hour (or an hour and a half, if you start at the check-in time), followed by an online chat for participants.

My usual spot is Monday nights, 8pm EST, with check-in starting at 7:30pm and chat starting at 9pm.   There are also plenty of day time slots. The schedule is posted every week on Sunday. What I love about TPR is having that dedicated time for writing. My family knows Monday nights are for TPR, and they don’t bother me during that time. Often, I’ll “save up” something to write during that time, letting an idea simmer all day so that it can boil over between 7:30 and 9:00 that night.  Of course, the company is great, too.  Every week, I get to see how my companions’ projects have progressed – and I’ve also scored some new critique partners and beta readers.

If you’re interested in joining us, here’s how it goes.

1.      Show up at http://tinalaurellee2.blogspot.com/ sometime in the half hour before the scheduled session.  Check in by adding a comment to the post and establishing a goal for the hour. (You can draft new words in your WIP, write some upcoming blog posts, work on revisions, outline a new project – anything!)

2.      At the designated time, a post will appear (if you refresh the page) announcing WE ARE UNPLUGGED. At this time, close the internet and unplug (or ignore) your phone.  JUST WRITE.

3.      When the hour is over, return to The Practice Room and refresh the page.  A chat box will appear for everyone to report on their progress and talk about writing.  On your first visit, you will have to take a moment to register with Chat Roll.  Returning visitors need only sign in and start chatting.

Occasionally, TPR will spill over into video – using Google+ Hangouts to hold the writing session “in person.”  I really enjoy this, too! And on Thursdays, Amy McBay hosts CritChat, for sharing pages of your manuscript.

Practice makes perfect. We’d love to see you in The Practice Room! Maybe I'll see you tonight!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Launch of CRACKED and More ...

A week ago, I attended the launch party for K.M. Walton's debut novel, CRACKED at the Chester County Book Company.  It was so fabulously successful it took me two hours to see Kate herself and have my book signed!

But no worries! Waiting is not a problem when you're in good company, and I was.  The first person I ran into was a Twitter friend, Tiffany E, who introduced me to a bunch of other authors -- all local -- who have debut books coming out in 2012! I honestly had no idea there were so many, and two hours waiting in line passed quickly in the company of:

Tiffany Schmidt, author of SEND ME A SIGN (Fall 2012, Walker Books), about a popular cheerleader who decides not to tell her friends she's been diagnosed with leukemia in the hopes of retaining a normal life while she can.

Elisa Ludwig, author of PRETTY CROOKED (March 2012, Harper Collins), a modern day take on Robin Hood, when a girl decides to take from the rich kids at her school and give to the poor.

Eve Marie Mont, author of A BREATH OF EYRE (March 2012, Kensington Books), the first of a planned trilogy about a girl transported into her favorite classic novels, Jane Eyre, The Scarlet Letter, and The Phantom of the Opera.

Lizzie K. Foley, author of REMARKABLE (April 2012, Dial Books), a middle grade novel about Jane, the only un-remarkable person in the entire town of Remarkable, where everybody is a genius ... except her.

If you haven't yet purchased your copy of CRACKED, what are you waiting for?  And if you don't know K.M. Walton, then I suggest you introduce yourself on Twitter or some other forum, because she's awesome and an inspiration!



Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My First Draft is a Mess


Yes, it is. But I accept that.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past couple years of writing, it’s that my first draft is usually a rambling, maze-like monstrosity.  Kind of like the Winchester Mystery House in California.

According to legend, Sarah Winchester, widow of the Winchester gun magnate, was told by a medium she’d be haunted until death by all the victims killed via Winchester guns.  The only way to escape the vengeance of these spirits was to build a house that would confuse them. Thus, Mrs. Winchester began building a house that was under constant construction for 38 years.

It had no master floor plan.  She directed the builders to make constant changes, resulting in stairs that lead nowhere, doors that don’t open, and interior windows.

Kind of like my first draft!

I do have an overall plan for my story, but right now there are extra hallways and rooms I thought I wanted, but may not need.  And I foresee requiring some rooms I currently can’t access, because I forgot to plan a path to get there.

Some of you might say that’s what I get for being a pantster.  And that may be true. However, the one time I tried to outline a draft from beginning to end, I produced a manuscript so one-dimensional and linear it bored me to tears. I had to throw it out and start over.

I guess my style of writing needs a little CRAZY to reach full potential.  How about you?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Resolutions and Revelations


Last year, I joined a number of writers in Resolution 2011 – Write Every Day or Pay.  For every day I didn’t write in the year of 2011, I would donate $1 to the charity of my choice. (I chose Joy2theWorld, an organization that supports women in Ghana.)

Making this resolution and keeping track of how many days I wrote caused me to make a revelation.  I probably spend too much time writing for a person with a full time job in another field.  It would be one thing if writing was my sole career, but doing it on top of teaching sometimes squeezes out everything else I should be doing.

To say I’m driven to write is an understatement.  When I started to keep track in 2011, it quickly became apparent just how much writing I actually do: drafting new words, revising and editing old ones, blog posts – and even comments to other people’s blog posts, because I take the time to try and compose something interesting even in a comment. If “great post” is all I have to say, then I usually don’t bother.  And what about responding to the writing of my critique partners?  At first I didn’t think beta reading somebody else’s manuscript counted as “my writing,” but I teach my fifth grade students that “peer conferencing” is part of the writing process.  So, if I’m helping another writer plan revisions and editing that improves their writing, then I am writing; aren’t I?

What I learned is: constant writing can be draining and frustrating and sometimes self-defeating.  Instead of trying to write every day, I should be learning when to take breaks – get some exercise, spend time with the family, read a book, watch some TV, go to bed a little earlier.

I stopped keeping track of my days somewhere in the middle of 2011 and decided to just match my opening donation to Joy2theWorld -- which I did today.

And in 2012 – I’m sure I will do A LOT of writing.  But hopefully, I’ll also have the sense to know when to step away from it … and breathe.

Friday, January 6, 2012

First Impressions: UNTITLED YA (but it's got a Mothman!)


The final First Impressions post for the month of January comes with this lovely picture. Yikes! I swear I screeched when I opened the file!

This untitled YA is Heather Day Gilbert’s NaNo project.  It’s not finished, but she says she might follow up on it if it seems interesting to people.

CHAPTER 1: INEXORABLE:
Unable to be persuaded by request or entreaty; relentless

I’ve often wondered, where’s the heart of my town?  It’s not in the mural wall, alive with scenes of the Native Americans who first settled here.  It’s not in the charming outdoor amphitheater, snuggled up to the river, so you can riverboat-gaze at your leisure.  It’s not even the haunting memorial plaque and inscribed bricks for the victims of the Silver Bridge Collapse of 1967.  No, the heart of Point Pleasant is smack-dab in the middle of town, and it happens to be a chrome statue of a crouching alien, eyes glowing red and claws outstretched to grab stray children.

Don’t ask why I grew up with a few issues.

I’ve tried to persuade my parents to move away from Point Pleasant.  But both my parents grew up here, in Almost-heaven West Virginia.  Who’d want to leave this slice of paradise on earth, they ask?  

Well, anyone who’s mortally afraid of the Mothman.

Yes, I said it.  The Mothman. 

I’m not talking about the kitschy Mothman glaring from Chinese made t-shirts in the Alien Shoppe downtown.  I’m not even talking about the afore-mentioned statue, imbued with the power to make kids burst into tears on sight.

I’m talking about something my preacher can’t explain, something that I saw outside when I was a little girl, playing on my teeter-totter with my brother.

There I was, having a rip-snorting time, driving Atom crazy by planting myself firmly on the ground so he dangled in the air.  He was kind of shrimpy at the time, so he was kicking around and yelling things like “You booger!  I hate your octopus guts!”

I thought about letting him down gently.  I really did.  But at that moment, I noticed this grey thing, hunkered down behind our white fence.  Naturally, I had to find out what on earth it was.  I’d wanted a German Shepherd for ages, and there was an off-chance a stray had finally made its way to my house.  I threw one leg over the board and jumped off.

The minute Atom started to scream that his nose was broken, the grey thing rose up.  I still thank the good Lord that Atom’s eyes were so squinched up with crying, he couldn’t see the ten-foot tall bat-creature standing right in front of us.  Well, maybe it wasn’t ten feet, and maybe it wasn’t a bat.  But it sure wasn’t a German Shepherd.

Interested? Um … YEAH! I don’t even have a lot to critique, just a few small points that could use tweaking.

The first line is one of them.  It needs to be re-stated, because the rest of the paragraph makes it clear the narrator does not wonder where the heart of town is – she already knows.  I think this makes for an interesting first paragraph, so I wouldn’t eliminate it, just re-word that first sentence.

I’d also suggest dropping the line about “something my preacher can’t explain.”  I’ve only posted the first 400 words, but Heather actually sent me more. So, I know that on the very next page, the narrator’s parents quickly explain and dismiss what she saw. So why can’t the preacher?  Unless there’s also going to be a scene in this chapter where the narrator consults her preacher (and what he says is important), she might not want to bring him up on the first page.

And (a very small point) I'd drop the "Chinese made" in front of "t-shirts" just to simplify that sentence. If it stays, it ought to be hyphenated, but I think the sentence reads better without the modifier.

Other than that, I’ve got nothing to suggest to Heather, except to keep writing!  After reading this selection, I ran to Google and ended up looking up the Mothman, the Silver Bridge Collapse, and adding The Mothman Prophecies to my Netflix queue. I’d love to know where Heather plans to take this story!

Thanks, Heather, for sharing the first page of your work with us!  You can visit Heather at her blog, Book in a Month Mom, and don’t forget to read Marcy Hatch’s critique of this page at Mainewords!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Look Here!

No, not here.
Look here -- at Matt MacNish's blog post about A Friend in Need.
A blogger friend a lot of you know -- Candace Ganger, otherwise known as Candyland -- who hasn't been around as much these past months because of personal circumstances, needs help.
Or, read Candace's post.

A lot of times, we blogger writers will ask you to buy our books.
This time, a well-known and very giving blogger is asking for help.
Please consider lending a hand.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

First Impressions: VOICES


Our second First Impressions post of January comes to us from Cindy Schrauben, and it’s a MG novel entitled VOICES.

Callie could hear mumbled voices, but she wasn’t entirely sure where they were coming from.  She held her eyes tightly shut, but the light stung through; its brilliance radiating in streaks and flashes.  Why wouldn’t it stop? She grunted in pain as she shook her head to deny the voices and the light. 

Where was she? What was happening?

“Momma,” Callie cried as she strained to open her eyes against the blaze. The voices came louder and faster then… cutting through the haze.

“She’s awake, someone get the Doctor!”

“Callie, Callie … honey, it’s okay, I’m here!”

So many voices. She recognized them then - her Mother and her sister, but who else? It sounded like a flock of angry birds… voices coming in and out. Shrieking and cooing at the same time.

“Callie, Oh, Callie, Thank God you are awake,” her Mother’s voice shrieked with desperation.

Opening her eyes was a struggle…. She was so tired.  Callie clamped her eyes tightly closed again in an attempt to shut it all out. “Why were they all screaming so loudly?  Please, God, make them stop.” She thought. She felt a sense of suffocation… like she was being crushed beneath the voices and the light.

“Is she okay? My God, she looks so pale, but she’s alive.” It was her Mother again. “Will she know who we are; will she ever be the same? I don’t care, she’s alive. My Baby, my Baby!” Her Mother’s voice sounded different now. Like a bad cell phone connection. Flickering... jumping…. like pieces were missing.

It was then that Callie realized that something was wrong.  Very wrong.  Her Mother was usually very calm and articulate, showing little emotion. What she heard now was a voice spilling over with fear and urgency. Callie felt the warmth of her Mother beside her. A warmth that she hadn’t felt for a very long time; it was both comforting and disconcerting.

“Where’s the Doctor? Someone, help, get the Doctor.” She knew that voice too … it was her little sister, Emma. Her voice was so loud and sharp. Callie moved. Burying her head in the pillow in an attempt to shut out the voices, but it hurt… it hurt so much.

I’ll start with some small, easy-to-fix editing.  Doctor, mother, and baby should not be capitalized when used as common nouns, only when used in place of the person’s name. The line that Callie thinks (“Why were they all screaming so loudly?  Please, God, make them stop.”) shouldn’t be enclosed in quotations.  An editor once told me when a character thinks a line of dialogue instead of saying it, it should be in italics.

When the story opens, Callie has been injured and has a head injury.  If I was reading this passage alone, I’d guess something life-threatening had happened – like a car accident.  However, the author included a synopsis for me, so I know Callie’s been knocked down in dodge ball and hit her head on the gym floor.  Therefore, her mother's hysteria surprises me, considering the low mortality rate of dodge ball.

I also know from the synopsis that as a result of this injury, Callie gains the ability to hear what others are thinking.  So, I’m guessing what sounds like her mother’s words are actually her thoughts.  But I'm not sure why her mother treats the survival of her daughter in a gym accident as a miracle instead of thinking: That idiot gym teacher! I’m going to sue the school!  Unless (and this is just occurring to me), Callie's been unconscious a long time. Maybe she's even been in a coma ...? How hard DID she hit her head?

Overall, this is an intriguing beginning, and I’d like to know more about what happened to Callie and what's going to happen next.

Cindy, thanks for sharing your first page with us, and good luck on your project!  Please be sure and stop by Mainewords to see what Marcy Hatch has to suggest.

Monday, January 2, 2012

First Impressions: CRYSTAL'S MAGIC


Happy 2012, everyone!  Today I’m bringing you a lot of firsts – the first First Impression of the new year and the first page of our first repeat customer!  Nicole Zoltack is sharing the prologue for her YA fantasy novel, CRYSTAL’S MAGIC.  It was her NaNo project for 2011.

Marian Wynter rubbed her arms together as the threadbare coat she wore did little to protect her from the harshness of the storm’s raging winds. Lightning flashed, casting eerie shadows across her path. Thunder roared like an angry lioness. Sleet slashed across her cheeks, mixing with the tears that streamed down her face.

She desperately wanted nothing more than to snuggle with her husband in front of a roaring fire, far away from the storm.

Well, that wasn’t completely true. There was one thing she wanted more than that.

Lightning struck a tree a few feet in front of her. She slipped on the mud, and rocks cut into her hands as she braced herself from the fall.

Daniel didn’t know where she was going tonight, and she didn’t know for certain that he would approve. She thought he would, though. He was as desperate as she was.

She hurried through the rocky terrain. A small cottage with lights flickering through the windows offered both refuge from the storm as well as her salvation.

The wind whipped around more fiercely the closer she approached the cottage. She stumbled forward and couldn’t help but think that the storm was unnatural.

Marian raised her hand to knock on the door but before she touched the wooden surface, the lights went out in the cottage. Her courage left her then, and she even took a step backward.

No. She’d come too far to leave now.

She knocked on the door—five short taps followed by two quick ones, just as she had been told to.

Nothing. No movement within the cottage, no sound other than thunder and the pounding of sleet against stone.

She wanted to try the knock again, but she had been told specifically not to do that.

There was nothing she could do but wait.

The prologue puts me in mind of a fairy tale beginning, with a desperate woman seeking magical assistance from the local witch or wise woman.  The standard thing would be that she’s barren and wants to have a child, although why that would drive her out in a storm like this, I’m not sure. Perhaps her need is more dire and urgent than that.

I think the first line could be stronger.  Rather than having Marian Wynter rub her arms in the wind, I wonder if Nicole could start us off with her mental state – linking her emotional turmoil to the storm and giving us a glimpse inside her head.  This would be more effective than mentioning tears, I think, which practically speaking, would quickly be wiped away by stinging sleet.

I notice the passage is composed mostly of very short paragraphs, consisting of only one or two sentences.  Also, most of the sentences are structured in a similar fashion, beginning with the subject of the sentence.  I wanted some variety as I read – longer and shorter paragraphs, sentences that began with dependent clauses, prepositional phrases, or even the dreaded adverb, just to break up the rhythm.  The way it’s written, it seems too straightforward when the situation calls for something more mysterious, elemental, and wild.  I’d like to feel Marian’s desperation through the style of the narrative.

I like the light going out in the cottage, the special knock, and the warning not to knock again even if there’s no response.  This would make me turn the page, to see if the door will open for her – but I’d still like to feel Marian’s desperation/desire/fear more strongly throughout the passage so that I also turn the page to find out what she wants … and whether or not she’s going to get it.

Nicole, thanks for sharing your NaNo novel with us, and good luck to you as you revise it and take it forward!  Please stop by Mainewords to read Marcy Hatch’s critique, and say hello to Nicole at her website