Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Our third submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Mason Matchak. THE BOOK OF LOST RUNES is adult fantasy.


The last man Shiloh ever wanted to see again stepped onto her airship.

Shiloh looked him over, wondered just how much ten years had changed him, and hoped she wouldn’t have to deal with him for long enough to find out.  “Lord Figaro,” she said, “welcome aboard, and thank you for choosing a Caldwell Company flight.”  The greeting was a habit, and helped Shiloh keep bitterness out of her voice.  She resisted the urge to check her schedule to make absolutely sure he was on it.

“Lord Edwin is fine,” he said, smiling at her, his teeth bright against his dark brown skin.  “Lord Figaro is my older brother.”

Of course, Shiloh recalled.  Edwin was the second son of the Brinmaar branch of House Figaro, and his elder brother must have taken over the merchant house’s business sometime in the past decade.  When last they met, Edwin wasn’t ‘Lord’ of anything.

“As you wish, Lord Edwin,” Shiloh said, forcing her voice into the practiced politeness she reserved for enduring difficult customers.  She did check her schedule then, tapping a few carved glass buttons on the runewoven bracer she wore on her left forearm.  The bracer was emblazoned with Caldwell Company’s red and gold logo, which clashed with the pale blue dress Shiloh wore, but there was little she could do about that.  After a moment, a few gleaming words appeared in the bracer’s largest crystal, confirming that Lord Figaro had indeed made a reservation for the evening.  There was no destination listed.

That wasn’t common, but Shiloh had dealt with wealthy folks who liked to think they were traveling incognito before.  She tucked a strand of her bangs back behind one ear; most of her wavy blonde hair was tied back in a simple ponytail that reached her waist, but she wore her bangs loose.  “Where do you wish to travel today, Lord?”

Lord Edwin glanced around the small airship as though it was his own.  He stood a bit over six feet tall, only a little taller than Shiloh herself, and wore a dark blue suit with beige trim, in what Shiloh figured must be the height of local fashion if he was wearing it.  His hair was tightly curled and trimmed close to his head, and she guessed he wore the neat mustache and goatee because he thought it made him look dashing, the same reason he wore a short, curved blade at one hip.

Sons of merchant families all seemed to have some of the same traits, no matter where they came from or how powerful their families were.  Or weren’t.  Shiloh frowned at another old memory, then waited by the airship’s wheel for Edwin’s reply.


Great start! I love the character descriptions. You've shown a lot of their personalities through their clothing and hair styles. There are just a couple of things that I think will bring tension to the story and help pull the reader in even more.

You did a wonderful job of showing that Shiloh doesn't like Edwin (the way she checks to see if he's really supposed to be there, the way she has to force her voice). However, I'd like a hint of why she doesn't like him. Were they a couple? Was it business? Giving that hint will add another layer to the tension.

If Edwin wasn't Lord of anything the last time they met, why did she address him as such? If she doesn't address him as Lord, and then he insists, then that adds extra impact to the sentences that follow.

Is Edwin the only passenger? Are Shiloh and Edwin the only people on the ship? If so, mention it. That will add more tension as well.

In all, you have a very interesting beginning. You've put a lot of questions in my mind (Where is he going? What happened in the past? Did he know it was her ship?) that would keep me reading. Thank you so much for sharing your work with us!

Make sure to head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see what they thought of THE BOOK OF LOST RUNES.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Our second submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Nathan Koronkiewicz. A LUMINOUS APPARITION'S RESOLVE is a YA Fantasy.


Life had begun in an instant, had changed over time and it was bound to change once more. This change would send shockwaves throughout the universe shattering everything and rewriting the path of history, as we knew it. Not one species would be safe from the wrath to come. From the midst of Garrett’s good intentions was the birth of a force of pure evil.

“A Hero, a mystical person, someone who sets the criteria of what is righteous. Each culture, each world, we all have someone who has once reached this title. Yet, why is it that my race has no one to call a hero of their own?” Looking out across my blank canvas, the pathways were as sleek as ever, the reflection of the stars below glimmering. My eyes drifted downwards, and I looked upon a lone planet in the emptiness of space.

 Taking my brush, I had painted the scene, which had unraveled before me.

 Sword and shield in hand, the man stood next to a flag of his people. His face filled with anguish and gratitude as he looked out across the battlefield. None of his comrades had remained, but in the distance, a flag of an empire was burning.

“A sole survivor, huh? He managed to accomplish his goal, but what was his price? Was it worth the blood spilt from the war to achieve freedom? I suppose it was for his people that he set out for victory.”

My feelings were mixed on the matter; I was intrigued by the concept known as heroes. How could it be that something known as ‘heroes’ existed in almost every world? But, each of these heroes differed from one another, their morals, their personalities and what they set out to accomplish. Is there some sort of connection between all heroes? Are they somehow drawn towards this concept? I don’t quite understand it, but if I could, I’d strive for it as well.

 I grasped my painting and took one last look at it. It was the birth of a hero in action, a marvelous scene, which depicted only one kind, the hero of war. I had come across many types of heroes in my time, but I had never witnessed a war hero. If I had to guess, it was a near perfect depiction to add to my collection.


To me, this scene seems to be about the concept of a hero and the MC's depiction of one in a painting. I loved the MC's thoughts, how there can be different types of heroes and what drives each of them. He/she seems to be a collector of heroes, which I find really interesting.

Here are a few suggestions on how you can make the opening clearer.

- The first paragraph doesn't seem to tie in with the rest of the scene. Go straight to heroes and the painting.

- Where is the MC? He/she seems to be in a spaceship, looking down on a devastated planet - "My eyes drifted downwards, and I looked upon a lone planet in the emptiness of space." Bring in some more details to ground the reader in the setting. 

- "Taking my brush, I painted the scene ..." Take out the "had." 

- I'm a little confused about the quotes. Is the MC speaking to someone or just saying the thoughts out loud? If the MC is not speaking out loud, then take away the quotation marks.

This is a good beginning, and I see some really interesting concepts in there. Thank you so much for sharing your work with us! 

Make sure to head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see what they thought of A LUMINOUS APPARITION'S RESOLVE.

Friday, October 2, 2015


Our first submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Angelo Michaels. CURSE CURSE is an upper MG Magical Realism novel.


 I knew the imposter wasn’t my sister.  Genuine or not, her appearance, her mere presence suggested that my sister might’ve still been alive.  There was no explanation in the discovery, no means to an end.  My sister was still missing even though the doppelganger was recovered.    

There were small tells, like Siena pulling on the wrong side of her razor straight black hair or tapping her left foot, instead of right, when annoyed.  I could see right through her because she didn’t have her defensive shield in place—her innate, inanimate ability to control her environment with her commanding personality.  Always the boss since she followed me out of our mother twenty-two minutes after I arrived in the world.  

Siena was always playing catch up.  Picking up on skills like walking, talking and writing, slightly before me—pushing her way to the front, barreling me over in the process.  It was easy for her because I was the timid, shy introvert.  She spoke for both of us, made the decisions and I just followed along. 

Surviving in her wake, but never thriving in her shadow.

Even now, entering adulthood at 18, the sea of time between then and now seems to have been absorbed like a sponge.  Those critical years of discovery, both of body and principle, meld together until they become one journey, one thought. 

All these years later the pain of losing Siena is still as fresh, the fear still as raw as the night she went missing. 

The night of our 13th birthday I was scared, petrified at the thought of never seeing Siena again.  Dragging around my half self for the rest of my days, the other half vanished, stolen in the night.  If she was dead than I didn’t want to live.  The world would cease to exist without her in it, but the globe continued to spin in the void so she must’ve been alive, somewhere out there.

I thought my mother, Genieve Grace, being a psychic, would’ve sensed Siena had been replaced when she returned.  Astrologist is her professional title.  Genieve gives Reading, lays tarot cards and plots star charts.  Her ability stems from a heightened intuition bordering on premonition.  She calls it the Wave because it rolls over her, compressing her thoughts until one trumps the others.

That’s why when Siena went missing I thought Genieve would’ve been more helpful.  More insightful in locating her and more cognizant, upon Siena’s return, that she wasn’t my sister. 

I knew it, and not just because she was my twin, but because we’re Witches. 


This is a great start. I love some of the details, like how Sienna is the leader, even though she's younger, and why the mother should have sensed the switch, but didn't. There are a few things, however, that I feel will tighten the beginning and bring forward the most important parts.

Since this is MG, you might want to cut the part about being 18. Telling a story from that far in the future can bring the story into young adult or even adult territory. The story happens when they're 13. Keep it there. 

I would cut or reword the line about Siena always playing catch up. It's more like the narrator is playing catch up, even though she's older.

The opening line feels strange to me, and I'm trying to pinpoint why. I think it's because Siena is actually the main focus of the chapter, so I feel like Siena should be the main focus of the opening line. More like, "My sister was replaced by an imposter," although I'm sure you can come up with something better than that.

Thank you so much for sharing your chapter with us! I love the idea, and I think you have a good grasp of how to show interesting details.

Make sure to check out Angelo's website at WWW.AM-AUTHOR.COMAnd head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see what they thought of CURSE CURSE.

Monday, August 3, 2015


Our first submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Maria Ann Witt. GOODNIGHT SWEET PRINCE is a YA contemporary novel. It is a re-imagining of Hamlet.


Five hours into the ten hour flight from Copenhagen to Detroit most of the first class passengers were asleep. Harm tried. Seat reclined, headphones on, eyes closed, music playing, pushing ‘next’ repeatedly before accepting that next was never any better. He switched over to replay the voice mail message from three days ago.

Harm, they’re talking about a new contract. Whatever you do, don’t sign anything without talking to me first. And don’t let Mars sign anything either. Call me when you get a chance.

Listening to Dad’s voice, he could picture him—gray hair, thick-rimmed glasses, and kind, serious expression. He hadn’t called back. Between late night shows, and later night parties, and sleeping it off, there hadn’t been time.

Christmas. That was the last time he’d talked to Dad in person. Lied to him. How was everything going, was he getting enough sleep? Sure, Harm said.

“Touring is tough, I’m proud of you.”

Dad had toured a year before quitting his band and becoming a wildly successful songwriter. He clapped a firm hand on Harm’s shoulder. “Good grades, last report. That’s important. Gotta think long term.”

The tutor must have taken the tests. All Harm did was scribble his own handwriting on the papers and get a recap of what he’d learned. The formalities of being a minor in show business. Dad knew a lot about the business, but he didn’t seem to know that.

The last time he’d seen his dad and he’d lied. It hadn’t bothered him then, but now, it felt like someone was strangling him. He gasped and sat up, arms flailing defensively.

“You okay?” Mars asked. Next to him, his younger brother’s seat was upright, his skinny arms and shoulders tense under his tight black leather jacket, as he turned his phone over and over in his hands.

“Can’t sleep.” Harm said, shoving his headphones off. He thought about the Ativan in his pocket. He was trying not use them. Didn’t trust Mom and her doctors. So easy to get hooked on stuff.

Mars nodded, and turned toward the window, even though the plastic shade was closed. His phone vibrated with a loud hum, and he jumped and almost dropped it.

“The funeral’s Monday,” he said, checking the message.

“Huh,” Harm said. “Guess Paolo canceled Oslo for nothing.”

“We couldn’t have done anything. . . ”

“He didn’t know that!” Harm’s voice came out harsh in the steady hum of the plane, and he dropped it back to a half-whisper. “All he knows is the show must go on. Dad was in the hospital and we were out there shuffling. We should have been on this plane yesterday.”


absolutely love this idea and at first read-through, I had trouble coming up with notes for it. As is, it's mostly picky things.

The main thing is, I feel like it's slightly out of order. I want to know his dad is gone sooner. Somewhere between "Listening to Dad's voice ..." and "Christmas."

"He hadn't called back." I had a bit of pronoun confusion there. Better to say his name. 

When he said dad became a wildly successful songwriter, does he mean he's Harm's songwriter?

I love that he lied the last time he saw his dad. It's a great bit of character detail.

I was also confused by the last three paragraphs. Maybe reading further would have clarified, but here are my thoughts. 
- Oslo was canceled. That sounds to me like they had time to get to see their dad. It seems like not canceling a show would elicit the comment, "We couldn't have done anything ..." Not the other way around.
- "He didn't know that." Who's he? Paolo or dad? 
- I'm also not sure what "out there shuffling" means. Screwing around? Performing?

In short, great job! I want to read this, Maria!

Make sure to check out Maria's website at And head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see what they thought of GOODNIGHT SWEET PRINCE.

Monday, July 6, 2015


Our second submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Stacie Dempsey. DREAMKATCHER is a YA novel.


Chapter One

I woke with a jolt of familiarity. There was a memory digging footholds into my brain trying to resurface. The imagined stench of a charred experiment gone wrong lingering in my nose. Behind my still closed eyes I can see the outline of the old brick laboratory, black against the waking sky, flames escaping through its windows and matching the sky’s intensity. My heart pounds as I try to make my way back in. Heat sears my cheeks just as tears come flooding down to cool them. Their trapped cries resonate in my ears as a lone thought repeats in my head… I have to save them.

This dream clings to my consciousness, hanging like a low fog. A fog that a thousand suns couldn’t lift. There’s only one way to rid these terrible thoughts from my mind, something I should have done last night. I reach for the BAND on my wrist, knowing what I will find before I see it there. Blank screen, battery dead.

As I stumble across the room, limbs still heavy with sleep, my body begins convulsing with sobs. Overwhelming pain takes over and threatens to pull me back into the abyss of depression. It’s as if each sob slices into my soul, fracturing it until I’m spread thin enough to be carried away by the morning breeze. Wrapping my arms around myself I attempt to pull the pieces of me back together long enough to reach the port.

Racing the last five feet to the wall, I hold my wrist against the port ready to evict the nightmare from my mind. The glass panel glows red, confirming it’s dead battery and my failure to sync. As the BAND charges the panel slowly changes from red to yellow and finally green. The sync begins and I can feel my thoughts flowing out of me like a stream. It’s as if a dam has been released and is washing away these painful memories that infest my sleep.

Four years later and still the same nightmare plagues my thoughts. The same feeling that I should have done more, I should have tried harder to get them out. The same feeling of guilt for having survived. 

This latest episode marks the second time this month I’ve forgotten to keep my BAND charged. Gram will be furious when she finds out. “Our BAND’s are meant to relieve the burden the day’s thoughts have on our soul. Without a proper sync each night we won’t be able to make it through the day”. It won’t be the first time I’ve received this lecture. Taking one last deep breath, I pull myself together and head downstairs to face Gram.


First, I find the BANDs absolutely fascinating. Those devices feel not far removed from our phones and other idevices. How many people "plug in" to the internet as the last thing they do before bed and the first thing they do before they get up? That said, there is a stigma about starting a novel with waking up from a dream. It's disorienting because the reader is trying to get a feel for the character and his or her reality. Dreams distort that reality, so the reader isn't getting a true picture at the start. Is there a different way to begin that tells us more about the BANDs?

Second, I have a couple of picky notes regarding tense and wording. The first two sentences are past tense, while the rest is in present tense. 

Also, "Racing the last five feet to the wall," is in contrast with the other physical descriptions of her since she seems incapable of running in the previous paragraph. 

Last, I love this line, "It’s as if each sob slices into my soul, fracturing it until I’m spread thin enough to be carried away by the morning breeze."

I think this a wonderful idea, and I'd love to read more of it. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. 

Make sure to check out Stacie's website at She is also on Facebook at And head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see what they thought of DREAMKATCHER.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Our first submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Mark Murata. TEMPLE BEYOND THE SEA is New Adult historical fantasy.


To be a priestess, the walk had to be flawless—the smooth heel-to-toe motion beneath the woolen robe that would soon be spattered with blood. Iphi had practiced this walk for two years, knew it was perfect, knew the ceremonial dagger at her waist was not bouncing from the motion. Sheathed at my navel, the center of life. Her slippered feet continued their smooth whisper on the stone floor of the temple, taking her through the darkness to the sunlight that shone through the linteled doorway, where the victims waited outside.

At the doorway itself she paused, heavy stonework on either side, the scents of life and fresh air greeting her. She had no need to blink—though the veil that hung in front of her eyes was thin and gauze-like, its deep-set purple shielded those same eyes from the sudden change in lighting. Iphi made the pause purposeful, foreboding. The whiteness of her face would sharply contrast against the darkness of her eyes, dimly glimpsed through the veil. Arms outstretched, she stood ready to receive the sacrifices lying on the altar. Any supplicant standing directly in front of her would have seen her framed by darkness. And further on, in the interior of the temple, hints of the image of Artemis herself showed—a pale statue in the same posture, lit by hungry flames.

The pause also gave Iphi time to contemplate this, the last phase of her training. She would ascend to the priesthood by performing human sacrifice. The dagger rested easily against her waist.

Her lips parted. There was no need for a last glance at any polished bronze mirror. The red on her lips was perfect, the same as the whiteness of her face. She stiffened her belly for the pronouncement, her voice deep and confident.


The goddess will have her sacrifice
Virgin am I, who serve her
All you who stand here, adore


Silence greeted the words. If any worshipers had been present, they would be murmuring in awe and fear. As it was, only two guards from the palace stood in the place for worshipers—no one else occupied the temple grounds, bordered by sharp cliffs that dropped off on either side to the sea below. Beyond a heath a few young women watched in rapt fascination, hoping the distance would keep them from being rousted out by the spear butts of the guards. 


First off, I thought this was an amazing beginning. The image of a blood splatted robe, the knife, and the sacrifices all promise an exciting beginning. As such, I don't have many suggestions for plot and character, but I do have a few notes.

This is written in third person. However, a few of the phrases place the action firmly inside Iphi's head. For example, "The whiteness of her face would sharply contrast" can easily be replaced with "sharply contrasted." This takes it out of her head and makes it active instead of passive.

I'm also unsure of why her speech is formatted the way it is instead of with quotes. Of course, it could simply have gotten formatted strangely through email, but if not, it's something to consider. As it's shown above, it looks more like a thought or even a different scene.

The last paragraph takes me out of the story a bit. At this point, I don't feel it's important to state what would happen if other people were there. I want to know instead about the people that are there. Perhaps it's listed later, but I'd like to know how the sacrifices are reacting. They are the other characters listed in the beginning of this scene.

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Mark. Based on this beginning, I would definitely keep reading!

Make sure to check out Mark's website at head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see what they thought of TEMPLE BEYOND THE SEA.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Pink Snow

Small Child has written and illustrated his very first book. It is a spellbinding meditation on weather and how it affects us all.
The Pink Snow by Small Child

It was a sunny day.

It was spring and there was a house. 

Then pink snow fell.

Then it was morning.

It was very sunny.