Monday, July 29, 2013

Mysteries of the Goldfish Pond

Over the last week, I’ve been sitting beside my goldfish pond a lot. Partly, it’s because I’ve been brainstorming. Partly, it’s because I’m waiting for the monster to reappear.

It’s amazing how mysterious a self-contained pond with no access to the outside world can be. You’d think we’d know what was in it, huh? Of course, frogs come on their own. Sometimes we have tadpoles; sometimes we don’t. But frogs hop in from other places. Fish can’t, right?

Not true. First there were the Mystery Fish (From Outer Space) that appeared entirely on their own – read here for the story.

And there are other strange things in our pond. Every year, we see things swimming around in there and think, Where did that come from?

First of all, we’ve learned that goldfish change color over time. Babies are often black or gray and then develop color later. So, a sudden plethora of little dark fish often mean that our goldfish have had babies. Keeping track of them is hard, since their colors change rapidly.

One of the Mystery Fish (From Outer Space)
Plus, Gina has a habit of dumping into our pond critters she a) wins at carnivals b) finds in streams.

This year, I was startled one sunny day to notice that what looked at first like wrinkles in the pond bed liner were moving. They were long and skinny and grey, and when the sun shone directly upon them, we could see they were catfish – catfish that (we think) Gina brought home from some wild stream last year.

And then there was the monster. It crawled out from under a rock last week. Like the catfish, it
This picture includes one our favorite koi,
which we lost to a heron a couple years ago.
It used to eat from our hand.
was most visible when the sun shone directly on it, because it was the same color as the rocks beneath. It had giant claws and numerous pairs of scuttling feet …

It was a crayfish, maybe six inches long.

Yes, we vaguely remember that Gina may have caught some crayfish once … last year? … the year before? … They were an inch long at most. They sank to the bottom of the pond, vanished under a rock, and were never seen again. Until now.

I keep hoping to get another glimpse of it. Them. Who knows how many there are? Or how big?

I’m sure there’s a parallel to writing here – the closed system (your brain?) – the fish that change colors (revisions?) – the monsters out of the deep (eep, you subconscious?) – and the visitors that arrive from bird’s feet, eggs attached to pond plants, or critters dumped into the water by adventurers (your beta readers, agents, editors).

I’ll leave you to figure it out. I’m still watching for the monster.

I’ll be skipping my Wednesday post this week, but come back Friday for First Impressions!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Affirmation!

On Monday, Vicki Tremper posted a link to an article by LibbaBray that I really, really needed to read this week. If a rock star like Libba Bray can struggle so much with a book – and a sequel, at that – and if she finds outlining strategies and worksheets as unhelpful as I do … well, it restores my faith in my own creative process.

I’m going to revisit this picture from SharkNado, because as many bloggers commented last week, it really embodies the heart of writing by pantsing – or even writing with an outline, as far as I’m concerned.

I thought Scrivener might help me plot out the third book in my series. So far it’s been helpful for keeping all my random notes, bad ideas, and research information in one place. It also gave me an excuse to comb the internet for photos that look like my characters and paste them into character charts. Wasted two whole evenings on that!

But I know in my heart that my process is to discover the story as I go. Scrivener can’t help. The Snowflake Method can’t help. Only writing will help.

I did have an outline for the first book. Well, plot points, anyway. I recently read back over that “outline” and laughed. The big plot points are all still there, but ALL the details have been changed – even the names of most of the characters.

I had an outline (list of plot points) for the second book, too. And again, those events are still in the current draft. But I realized, right before I hit SEND and zapped the manuscript to my editor yesterday, that my favorite parts of Book 2 were never in the outline at all.

I had a new character sharing POV with my MC, but I didn’t know anything about his personality or motivation when I started writing. I didn’t discover it until halfway through the first draft, and the revelation, when it came, required the addition of a new subplot.

One of my favorite scenes in the book is an episode that was never planned. I remember the idea hitting me in the middle of the school day. I spent my lunch break researching two specific things that would allow a pair of adolescent boys to secretly get down from the fifth story of a city apartment building without the use of the stairs or the elevator.

Then of course there was the climactic action scene. That was plotted out right before I needed to write it – at a restaurant in the Pocono Mountains during a ski trip. “Listen everybody,” I said, commandeering all the forks and knives and a few condiments to make a diagram on the table. “I need to know how these people can fight this creature in this confined space. And since there’s an exit right over here, why don’t they just run away instead?” My husband and daughters were nonplussed by this demand. My daughter’s friend looked kind of surprised, but also vindicated – as if she suspected all along that Gabbey’s writer/mom was a nutjob.

A brainstorming session, complete with the best Italian food in the Poconos, ensued. (Papa Santo's in Blakeslee, if you're wondering.) We talked about who was trapped and needed rescuing, how smoke alarms and fire extinguishers and cattle prods and broken steel beams played a role, how magic was used, and how not to accidentally knock the whole building down on their heads. (Thank heavens my husband is an engineer.)

So, am I ready to jump into the shark on Book 3 yet? No, but I have re-affirmed to myself that all I need is a few more plot points to get started. As long as I take my chainsaw with me, I won’t worry about how to get myself from point to point.


Monday, July 22, 2013

The Essence and Work Ethic of Blue Collar America: A Chat with Susan Flett Swiderski

I've been following Susan Flett Swiderski's blog, I Think; Therefore I Yam, for a long time, and Sue was one of the early participants in my First Impressions series, sharing her first page of HOT FLASHES AND COLD LEMONADE, which she has now published. Sue has been a great supporter of my books, and I'm thrilled to have her here today, talking about hers!

Living the perfect life has always been easy peasy for Pearl Bryzinski, because she’s practically a pro at ignoring the negative and putting a positive spin on the facts, but it’s impossible for her to find anything positive about Daddy skipping town with that blue-haired floozy in a flashy brown Pinto. No matter how hard she tries, she can’t ignore the fact that he’s gone… or the fact that she’s becoming a drama queen who can sweat like a sumo wrestler doing push-ups in a sauna. It’s almost enough to suck the blush out of her rose-colored glasses. Whether she likes it or not, she’s gonna have to turn some of her wishbone into backbone.

Layer by layer, assumptions and misconceptions peel away, as Pearl learns to buck up in the face of reality, and to laugh at her imperfect… but not so bad… life. Supported by a down-to-earth husband who loves her with every blue-collar bone in his body, a mother who isn’t the self-centered witch Pearl imagined her to be, three terrific grown kids… okay, make that two terrific kids, and a Golden Boy who’s a far cry from 24-carat… and a bunch of wonderful wacky gal pals, Pearl comes to realize that her mixed bag of family and friends makes her life damned near perfect. Pearl being Pearl, she’ll never give up her rosy specs entirely, but learning to handle reality also means learning to deal with death.

1. What was the inspiration for HOT FLASHES AND COLD LEMONADE?

Miss Brown, my second grade teacher, told me I was gonna be a published author some day, and by golly, I believed her. (Okay, so maybe I was a little slow to embrace my destiny, but better late than never, right?) My mother and her sisters inspired me, too, and I tried to capture some of their wonderful wackiness in my book.

2. How long have you been working on this book, and what transformations has it seen along the way?

I finished the first draft in the early to mid ‘90s, and then the manuscript sat in a box at the back of my closet for almost a decade. Good thing I had it in that box, too, because the original was typed on an Apple IIE. (Oops!) I had to scan the whole darned thing into my P.C. in order to get back at it.

The evolution from that first draft to its final (billionth?) is pretty startling. Pearl became less ditzy, and her husband George, more likeable. Another character turned gay, and another became even more of an SOB. My writing style underwent some mutations, too, and went from being more literary (and kinda stiff) to more easy-going and readable. I also became more cognizant of that ol’ show, don’t tell mantra, and lost a lot of adverbs and flowery descriptions.

3. I know the story takes place in Baltimore, where you grew up. What parts of Baltimore did you most want to capture in your book?

A lot of the local landmarks are included to give an authentic feel to the setting, but what I most wanted to capture is the essence and work ethic of blue collar America. I see a certain heroism in the people who work hard year after year at thankless jobs they hate, just so they can provide for their families. That’s as true in Pittsburgh and Detroit as it is in Baltimore.

4. Are any of the characters based on people you know? (Do you think they'll recognize themselves?) Which character is most like YOU?

Um, of course not! Okay, so maybe a teensy bit. I mean, don’t you think it’s inevitable for certain facets of the people who make the biggest impressions on us in real life to be incorporated into the characters we create? One of the highest compliments a reader can give a writer is to say, “I could see myself… or my friend, aunt, grandmother, son, etc…  in your story.”  The more easily readers can project themselves and the people they know into our story, the better they’ll relate, and the more they’ll enjoy it. Without a doubt, Pearl is like me in many ways, and I hope most female readers will see themselves in her, too.

5. Would you like to share anything about your journey to publication and why you chose the self-publishing route?

I went through the traditional query-synopsis-edit-reject-repeat meat grinder for a while, but the bottom line is, I’m not a spring chicken. I wanted to stop fooling around with it, and get my book out into the world before I stopped breathing and rigor mortis set in.

6. What else would you like to tell us about HOT FLASHES AND COLD LEMONADE?

Its target audience is female, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised (No, make that astounded!) at the positive reactions I’ve been getting from male readers, as well. (And guess what? Only one of them sleeps with me!)

Thanks, Dianne. It’s been a blast.

Susan, thank you! HOT FLASHES AND COLD LEMONADE is available through Amazon


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Why I Have a Hard Time Taking a Break

Some writers talk about setting word count goals because they have a hard time sitting down and committing to writing. Me, I have a hard time staying away.

In the last week of June, I finished revisions for THE EIGHTH DAY #1, and it went into copy-editing. About a week ago, I finished the fourth draft of THE EIGHTH DAY #2. I’m letting that one rest a couple weeks before I read it through again, make any necessary changes, and submit it to my editor at the end of July.

Most people would say I deserve a break, and I know myself well enough to believe that taking a break is good for my creativity – especially since the next task is to plan THE EIGHTH DAY #3 enough to start drafting. Turning away from the project, reading books for pleasure, watching TV, and fooling around on the internet are all good ways to let ideas simmer in the subconscious. (Proof: I saw a video on Facebook of a flooded stream demolishing a section of highway and got an idea for a potential scene.)

But I have a REALLY hard time leaving this project alone. I feel like summer days are burning away, and I don’t want to waste even one. Soon enough, fall will come, and this school year promises to be more demanding than most. (New curriculum, new report card, new online grade book, new teaching partner, new teacher evaluation process, new mandatory teacher website with daily updated homework … need I continue?)

If  I were Sarah Fine, no worries – I would just write another book (or two or three) while I’m waiting for the plot line of TED #3 to work itself out. But I don’t flip between projects that easily – or write first drafts that fast.

Being a hopeless, incurable pantster, I wonder how long it will be before I open up a blank
document and dive into Chapters 1 and 2 (kinda planned already) with no idea where I’ll be headed in Chapter 3? Not long, I suspect.

Sometimes you gotta let the shark swallow you and cut yourself out with a chainsaw afterwards, right? #SharkNado

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Quintessential Absentee Mom

Recently on Facebook, I saw a link to the Parenting Blog at the New York Times where one of the most famous “absentee Moms” in the world was interviewed: The Mom from The Cat in the Hat. The interview starts out with the most obvious questions: “Where were you???” and continues on from there in a hilarious fashion.  The mother of Sally and the boy (whatever his name was) gives it back as good as she gets, and I highly recommend reading her thoughts on parenting.

I shared the link and was not surprised when my brother-in-law Larry O’Donnell produced one of his late night discourses on the matter. Although this is the first time he’s done so in verse …

Larry O’Donnell speaks out on “Why It Was Better the Mom Was Not There.”

I did not know the Mom in the story.
She never got much of the glory.
She seemed not to know what was what,
And Sally and brother never got caught.
It's true that the Cat brought Thing One and Thing Two,
And they all did things they never should do. 

Still, we all should note on that awful occasion,
The Cat and his Things did a home invasion.
If Mom had been in that fateful spot,
Could she have stopped them? I think not.
The Kids held the Cat to be true to his word.
To think that was bad would just be absurd.

Mom would have dialed nine-one-one.
Or got the police to come on the run.
The Cops would have quickly surrounded the yard.
They might have brought in the National Guard.
The change in the outcome would have been profound.
The Cat would have gone straight to the pound.
No animal rights group, no cat bail.
The story would have been a terrible tale.

So, let's all be grateful that Mom was away
So we can enjoy the story today.
The absent Mom should not be in a jam.
I'm glad she was out, says Larry I am.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Second Chance at Sight, Living a Dream, and Publication

A little over a year ago, I brought you the story of February Grace, who overcame a battle with blindness AND completed her first novel, GODSPEED. Now, Bru's novel has been picked up by Booktrope and was recently re-released with a new cover -- and her second novel is currently in the editorial revision process.

Today, I've got a revised and revamped version of my interview with February Grace, telling the story of GODSPEED, her romance novel infused with steampunk elements, and her path to a publishing contract.

1. What was the inspiration behind this story?

I was at home recovering from surgery (I had fifteen surgeries between 2009 and 2011) and my medication wore off. I woke up, paralyzed by pain, and I tried to focus on something, anything that would take my mind off of it long enough to allow me to start to move.

There was a clock on the wall, a favorite of mine, with three faces. They all tick in unison, and I focused on the sound of their ticking and then the sound of my heartbeat and I just had this wild story idea come to me— it isn’t the story Godspeed turned out to be, it was originally much darker— but it did generate ideas and quotes that turned up in the novel at the end. I grabbed the notebook where we were keeping a log of all my medications and jotted some things down without even looking, and then somehow I fell back to sleep. That is how the story got its start.

2. Which character spoke most clearly to you and wanted/needed to be heard the most?

I would have to say Quinn Godspeed himself. He was the one who kept me up nights when I was unable to work on the novel. He was misunderstood; I knew that, and his story and the reasons behind his actions needed to be fully explained. He and Lilibet are the two that I felt I would be failing most if I gave up and didn’t finish the book, and you know there were times I didn’t think I could. You were so encouraging to me, and I truly do thank you for that, Dianne.

3. Did any character surprise you by turning out to be different than the way you first conceived him/her?

They ALL surprised me. I started writing the book from Penn’s perspective, and in third person. I was thousands of words in when I realized that this wasn’t right. There was another voice, a louder voice, and she needed to tell the story. In first person! A shock to me because aside from a short story or two I had never written or wanted to write from that perspective.  I realized early on this story needed one voice to tell it, and that voice had to be Abigail’s.

4. How did you hook up with Booktrope?

Last year, I received an email completely out of the blue from Katherine Sears at Booktrope, saying that she had read GODSPEED because someone recommended it to her, and that they were interested in it. At the time I was in the early days of a major family crisis and my health was even worse than usual— so as much as it pained me, I decided that I wasn’t ready to accept their most generous offer to work together. It always nagged at me, that decision.

So when I was able to write another novel, I remembered Ms. Sears saying that I was welcome to submit to them in the future if I wanted. I sent them the next book, they liked it, and while we were talking about publishing that one, the topic of GODSPEED came up. To my delight, they were still interested in publishing an edition of it, and I was over the moon. I was ready for it now— and jumped at the chance. So they have just released GODSPEED and will be publishing my next book too.

5. What are you working on next?

I am working on something I am not quite ready to give away the plot of just yet. It is called OF STARDUST, and it is a fantasy/romance. It is completely different from GODSPEED but I really love this book and the characters. I hope that readers will too. We are aiming to release it before the end of the year, so stay tuned.

6. What else would you like to tell us about GODSPEED?

In the end my hope is that these characters will make people stop and think, and perhaps see those they meet in the course of everyday life a little bit differently. I find myself thinking now of that old quote of much debated origin: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” And, of course, I hope they’ll fall in love with Quinn! :~)


Thank you so much Dianne for hosting me!

I am, of course, delighted to host Bru any time. I loved GODSPEED and can heartily recommend it to any fan of romance. And thanks to the generosity of Booktrope, you can win an e-book of GODSPEED by entering the contest below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Cycle Repeats ('Cause That's What Cycles Do)

Last week, I was feeling a little depressed. I had just turned in editorial revisions for THE  EIGHTH DAY. The manuscript was off to the copy-editing department, and now I had to face my draft of THE EIGHTH DAY #2. And I couldn’t stand to look at it. The first book in the series had been polished and refined (although there are still the copy-editing and proofing stages to go through), and this sequel was looking pretty shaky by comparison.

But then I was struck by a sense of déjà-vu, and I went digging through my blog archives. What I found was THIS post, published almost exactly one year earlier:

Facing the Ugly – posted 6/22/12

Last week, I worked through the copy-edits on THE CAGED GRAVES and mailed the manuscript back to the publisher.  I know there's still proof-reading to go, but this is one step closer to FINISHED! It was so exciting to see the book worked over to the point where it's shiny and polished and elegant!

My book looked like this:


But then I had to turn back to my WIP, and it looked like this:


Unformed. Messy. Ugly.

I wanted to hide my face and run away.

It's hard to remember that THE CAGED GRAVES once looked like that.  In fact, it would be easy to convince myself that it NEVER looked like that and this manuscript I'm working on is a colossal failure.

Anybody who's been around my blog for awhile knows I'm a pantster. And that I hate first drafts. Outlining doesn't help. My characters refuse to follow orders.

But I love revision. (Even when I moan and whine about them, I love revisions.)  Because revisions are what turn the Gangers (Doctor Who, Season 6) into Jean Harlow and Clark Gable.

First drafts are allowed to be ugly and unformed. And sometimes one of the hardest things to do is face the ugly and keep working at it, especially after you've spent time hanging out with elegance.

Wow, if I needed any more proof that writing stages recycle themselves, here it is. And now I feel a whole lot better. Because guess what? The messy, ugly, I-can-hardly-stand-to-look-at-it manuscript I was talking about in that post was THE EIGHTH DAY, the one I just sent back to my editor like a proud mother hen. I was calling it GRUNSDAY back then. I thought it was for a YA audience, and I wasn’t sure if I was even going to finish it. Now it’s been revised for MG, and it’s the first book in a series for HarperCollins.

So yes, a lot can happen in a year. Also, I feel more confident that the messy manuscript in front of me will also reach that shiny, glamorous stage – probably right around the time I’m looking at Book 3 with disgust!

Do you find that your writing stages are cyclic?

Friday, July 5, 2013

First Impressions: THE MOTHER TREE

Our final submission for First Impressions this month comes from Angela Bigler. This is the first page of THE MOTHER TREE, a YA magical realism novel.

Rachel woke up late. Her sheets were balled up on the floor, kicked off in the humid night. She squinted her eyes as she shifted from dreaming to waking, called by the voice of a crow squawking outside.
She crawled out of bed and stretched over the windowsill to see a quick flash of black fly out from the oak tree. It had been waking her up all week. Was it crazy to think that crow was harassing her? She smelled her mom’s smoke signals rising up from the porch below. It meant her mom was awake, a good sign.
 Rachel opened a dresser drawer and pulled on faded jean shorts and her green t-shirt. She looked into her mirror and smiled at her disheveled pile of short dark hair.
 She found her cat lapping up a drink of water downstairs. “Good morning Luna.” Rachel scooped her up as she studied the calendar on the wall, the summer spread out ahead of her. It seemed strange that high school was really over. Luna purred for a moment, then wriggled her way out and jumped down. “Fine. Be that way.” Rachel called after her.
 Rachel's mom was sitting on the porch. Her eyes looked dark, heavy rings pooling underneath. She was imprinting feverish loops into the pages of her leather journal. At least she was writing again. Rachel watched as her mom looked up and closed it.
 “Good morning.” She motioned for Rachel to come closer and started brushing Luna’s black fur off of her shirt. “Are you working today?”
 “No, Aunt Sandy took the day off. She said I should too.”
 “Are you up for a hike?”
 “Yeah.” Rachel felt like hugging her but pulled back. Was she really going to act like nothing had happened?
 “Let me finish my coffee. I’ll be getting breakfast started soon.” Her mom pulled another cigarette out of her pack and inhaled deeply as she leaned into the flame. “Okay?”
 “Okay.” Rachel felt a rush of hope. It had been weeks since her mom had wanted to do anything. Out of nowhere she had decided to take a break from working, spending long hours in her bed. Rachel could hear her crying inside her room. Aunt Sandy had come, administering tea and herbs, trying to bring her sister back to life. It seemed her mom had given up. But why?

The first thing I noticed, while setting up this post, was that the first several paragraphs start with either Rachel or She. So, I suggest rearranging the sentences/paragraphs to vary how they begin.

While that’s being done, some information can be re-arranged, too. As it stands, having Rachel look in the mirror and smile at her hair seems contrived to give us a physical description. However, if Rachel smiles at her disheveled hair because it is summer time and she doesn’t have to tame it for school or for work, it sounds natural – and it eliminates the need to give us that information further down the page.

On that topic, I wondered about the line: high school was really over. Does this mean Rachel has graduated, or just that school is out for the summer? That clarification could be rolled into her happiness over not having to fight with her hair, and if she has graduated, that fact needs a bit more fanfare.

I have to say, I LOVED Was it crazy to think that crow was harassing her? – and not just because I’ve got crows as an ill-omen in my own WIP. (Although great minds do think alike!)

Finally, my “first impression” of the situation with Rachel’s mother was a little muddled. Because of the line Was she really going to act like nothing had happened? I thought Rachel knew what had caused her mother’s depression.  But later, the phrase Out of nowhere made me think she didn’t.  When we see her mother smoking on the porch and writing in her journal, does this signal a return to her normal behavior? How does Rachel’s mother normally behave?

I think Angela has a hook and an enticing situation. Rachel is appealing, and I want to know what happened to her mother. The delivery just needs to be tweaked a little. Readers, what do you think?

Angela, thanks so much for sharing your page! Angela can be found at her blog, Dream Big Words, and don’t forget to check out Marcy’s critique at Mainewords!


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

First Impressions: ROSE AND WATCHES

Today Nicole Zoltack is here with the first page of her adult steampunk romance, ROSE AND WATCHES.

Cage wrinkled his nose at the stench of rotting food, then adjusted his goggles, the green shifting around and made his stomach churn. His Stygian Specs allowed him to see the paw prints on the dirt ground; without them, tracking at such a late hour would be impossible.
He intended to find out why such a large animal haunted London. Rumors of a huge wolf beast—one with intelligence, capable of human speech, a fierce solo predator—had circulated lately. His great fear was that this beast and the creature he was tracking were one and the same.
Not that he hadn't hunted other odd, powerful creatures and always emerged the victor.
His fingers brushed against the handle of his six-shooter. Shadows crept along the alley. He stalked along the trail, his cape fluttering behind him. Down the next alley, he spied wetness on the stones. He bent down and touched it, brought his finger to his nose. Tasted metal. Blood. But whose? The animal's or a victim's?
Cage quickened his pace through the lonely alleyways. This late at night, most of London was either sleeping or partying. He wasn't much the partying type and refused to believe they were worth the extravagance most boasted of them.
Rubbish.
The trail broke here and there, with larger and larger gaps between. When it disappeared, Cage punched a gloved fist into his other hand. A wasted expedition. Nothing did he hate more than time spent in an inefficient manner.
Hurmph. He removed his Stygian Specs and tucked them into one of his inner vest pockets. With a jerk, he pivoted and returned to the previous unoccupied alley.
Only it was no longer unoccupied.

There is a lot of very good description here and a strong voice that conveys character on this first page, but I think the first two paragraphs need some tweaking. The first sentence gives us too much unexplained information and should probably be broken into at least two sentences. What is giving off the stench of rotting food? Is it the alley itself, or something left behind by the beast? What is the green that shifts around and makes his stomach churn? Is it a green color caused by looking through the lenses – or “green” in the sense of a common grassy area in a city?

I also thought that “haunting” might not be the right word in the second paragraph. The beast is hunting in London, not haunting. And since it’s clear that Cage, in turn, is hunting the beast, it’s not correct to say he “fears” these tracks belong to it, right? That’s why he’s here. He’s looking for it.

The only other thing I’d suggest for this page is removing the one word paragraph: Rubbish. It’s not needed.

Nicole has certainly left us off at a suspenseful moment, so there’s no question I’d be turning the page to see what happens next! Readers, what do you think?

Nicole, thank you for sharing your first page with us! Nicole can be found at her blog, Where Fantasy and Love Take Flight, and don’t forget to check out Marcy’s critique of this page at Mainewords.

Monday, July 1, 2013

First Impressions: FABLE RANGER

For First Impressions this month, Angela Brown is back, this time sharing the first page of her MG fantasy, FABLE RANGER:

Mom always told me to check before I answered the door. I really should have listened. Two boys stood on my porch, eyes wide with surprise. My neck and ears tingled. My freckles probably spelled e-m-b-a-r-r-a-s-s-e-d across my cheeks and nose.
“Case?” Darius tucked a basketball between his arm and side, snickering.
“In a dress?” Wynton whistled. His forehead wrinkled when he lifted his eyebrows, more confused than curious.
I was about to swear both of my so-called-best-friends to a “Don’t you dare tell anyone about this!” when mom called out from her studio. “Caesimilia Mollands! Close that door before bugs get in here.”
“Look, guys,” My hands dangled at my sides. I balled them into fists and gave Wynton and Darius my best evil eye. I think. “I have to get back so mom can finish the hem on this, ugh, thing, for next weekend.”
“That’s why we stopped by,” Darius said. “Wanted to get in some hoops since you can’t make it to the Community Sports Jam, you know, because of the wedding.”
I practically drooled on the spot, staring at the basketball. I wanted to snatch it from Darius, take off to the rec center and show them how much better I’d gotten charging the paint. A picture popped in my head: skinny girl in a fancy, strappy dress, heeled slippers click-clack-clicking down the sidewalk in a mad dash, dribbling the ball. Not cool. Not cool at all. I shook my head and sniffled. “I want to, guys. I really do, but--”
Mom called out again. “Case!”
“Maybe next time?” Darius tilted his head.
I nodded, sighing.
Both turned slowly, hesitant to leave. Darius glanced over his shoulder one last time and waved goodbye. It could’ve been a sign for me to run to the rec center with them anyway, slippered heels, dress and all. I wanted to so, so bad.
I closed the door instead, wishing I was on the other side.

My first thought was that I didn’t know what caused the narrator’s embarrassment in the first paragraph. I think the sentences describing her reaction will work better after Wynton’s line about the dress. I would also say Darius and Wynton stood on my porch … Calling them two boys seems weird if they are her best friends.

I also think this line of Darius’s could use some tweaking: Wanted to get in some hoops since you can’t make it to the Community Sports Jam, you know, because of the wedding. Maybe, Thought you might want to get in some hoops before you leave for the wedding … Or something like that.

And I have no idea what charging the paint means. But then, I am utterly sports deficient. If it’s a commonly known phrase, just ignore me!

Other than that, I have no complaints. We get a pretty clear picture of Case on this page, and it’s done quite naturally. There is no clue this is a fantasy novel, but I don’t think there has to be. I’m willing to wait for it. Readers, what do you think?

Angela, thanks for sharing your page! You can find Angela at her blog. Marcy has her own critique at Mainewords, and you can also see a query critique for this book at Matt McNish’s QQQE.