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.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


Our second submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Shannon Cortazar. SILHOUETTE is a YA fantasy.


We were invaded the day we buried my brother. It was autumn, crisp and bright. “A good day for a burial” I heard someone say behind me. A tragic death, such a shame, the voices went on and on. Clucking their tongues as if rationalizing his death would make it okay. The coffin bore the mark of the Throne, a twisting tree within a circle and a three pointed crown above. That same mark was branded on his wrist when I took a peek at him lying still on white satin.

They’d sent a note thanking us for our cooperation in these “changing times”. It was signed by Elin Grayl, the new leader of our Nation. 

The coffin was a token of their gratitude, to ease our financial burden, they said. I thought it was ironic, since they’re the ones who killed him. 

A few hours later chaos broke out. From my bedroom I saw a quick purposeful momentum come from each of the hundred or so legion. They were herding everyone they could find. Before I knew it I was sitting between my parents tearing through town in my dad’s pickup truck, heading for the mountains flanking our crumbling community. And it’s here I sit, waiting for the next onslaught. 

I’ve learned that counting calms me before a kill. One, focus on my target. Two, steady my breath. Three, account for the wind. 

Four, don’t hesitate. Aim between the eyes. 

I don’t worry about the snap of the bow, just the direction which the arrow will soar. If it were an animal, I’d quiet my release. But the human boy daring to enter our village is too dumb or too careless for me to bother. He’s just another threat, I tell myself. One I won’t think twice about killing. 

I wait, watch him. He isn’t moving like someone who’s controlled. From this distance, at least a hundred yards, I can’t see the Thrones mark on his wrist. 

But they’re clever, so I wait. 

To my left I can see a lone magpie land on the thin branch of a birch tree. One for sorrow, I think it goes, the rhyme I learned years ago. It’s appropriate; since we live in a suffocating state of sadness. Tufts of snow fall to the frozen ground below him as he sits perched with his eyes darting around. Until they land on me. I refocus and clear my mind, ease the tremors in my arm.

“You have to kill him Noelle.” A voice behind me whispers.


While her brother's funeral is a good opening image, I feel like you have an even more powerful opening further down - I’ve learned that counting calms me before a kill. Wow. You learn so much about her character in that line. Give us that first. Wait until later to tell us about her brother and how she got to the mountains.

The description of the boy, or rather what he didn't look like, drew me in. I know she has doubts by the way she counts. His lack of a mark and the way he moves give her more doubts. I love how you show that.

I also love the magpie and how she uses it to convey how everyone is feeling. I would like to see why his stare make her refocus though. She is stalling when she is looking at him. What is it about his eyes that puts her back on task?

Then, the last line. Wonderful. I want to know who's saying this. I want to know the rules. I want to know more.

In all, it's a great opening. Thanks so much for sharing, Shannon!

Make sure to check out Shannon's website at She is also on Twitter under @SLCortazar. And head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see what they thought of SILHOUETTE.

Monday, June 1, 2015


Our first submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Valerie Hobbs. WILD GINGER is a contemporary MG novel.


There were times living with her parents when Elizabeth “Lizzie” Lessing has had to be the grownup, or at least feels as if she does. Like right now on the Big Island of Hawaii as their tiny rental car passes a sign on the side of the road. “Hey, you guys,” she says. “We’re driving into a volcano. Did you see that sign?”

Her mother laughs. “Not into it, honey. Not exactly. Nothing to worry about.”

Lizzie thought about the day her sixth grade teacher, Mr. Sylvester, did his amazing volcano imitation. “Kaboom” he cried, leaping into the air, sending them all into shrieks and fits of laughter. “Is it active?”

Lizzie’s father, too big for their rented car, hulks over the steering wheel. “Kilauea is an active volcano all right,” he says. “If we’re lucky we’ll get to see some lava.”

Her parents are crazy. Always chasing after some new “folly,” Lizzie’s grandmother says. But nothing seems to work. Lessing Cake and Coffee had attracted only flies. Lessing Laundry went belly up when a fancier one opened on the next block. There were penny stocks and bubble gum machines, a dog washing service and Mack Of All Trades home repairs. Her father finally took a job as a manager at Burger King but lost it in a week.

And now there is this new thing her mother had spotted on a real estate flyer. “Old plantation house surrounded by  lush vegetation, perfect for a bed and breakfast”. The flyer had no picture.


I love the set up of this - the failed businesses, her crazy parents. That information, along with the flyer with no picture, brings to mind an image of a ramshackle house better than any description ever could.

I do have a couple of suggestions though. While the page as a whole is delightful, I'm wondering if you could pack more punch into the opening line. Right now, it's passive and a little bit clunky. Instead of saying she feels like the grownup, I'd love to see how it makes her feel.

I also feel like the flashback to her sixth grade class isn't necessary here. I'd like to stay in the car and get to know Lizzie and her parents a bit more. The image of her father and how he doesn't fit in the car is perfect.

In all, this book definitely sounds like something I would pick up off the shelf and read. Thanks for sharing, Valerie!

Make sure to check out Valerie's website at And head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see what they thought of WILD GINGER.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Writing and Re-Writing

Memorial Day. No school. No work. So naturally, a sinus infection decided to grace me with its presence. With the family at Universal, I decided to use my free day to get some writing done. I wrote all of one page and thought, Well, this sucks. Every single word was boring. Tedious.

I gave up on writing for the afternoon. Maybe I just needed to rest. But then I came across this while scrolling through Twitter.

I've read it before. It made sense then. It made even more sense today. Readers don't need a list of what's happening. They need to feel what's happening. With that in mind, I went back to my manuscript. My MC, Ellie, is flying through space on her way to a distant moon.

This -

She didn't care much for the stars anyway. There was too much blackness out there. The pinpoints of light made it worse.

Became this -

Ellie's skin itched every time she looked at the stars. The sharp pinpricks of light stretched through the blackness, ready to scratch those daring enough to gaze upon them. 

And as much as she hated the stars, she longed for the trees that would soon come into view. The words needed to illustrate her relief. So this -

Ginormous trees raced beneath them, a forest fifteen stories tall and strong enough to support an entire city in its branches. 

Became this -

Just when Ellie couldn't stand it any longer, the shuttle broke through the moon's atmosphere and the trees came into view. Roofs, walkways, and pipes jutted from the treetops, where the city lay nestled fifteen stories in the air. The emerald leaves were the size of blankets, and Ellie wanted to wrap herself in one. She smiled because she knew it was possible.

It's not perfect yet. It's only a rough draft after all. But if I can remember to delve more into the feeling of the scene, I'll know I'm moving in the right direction.

Monday, May 11, 2015

First Impressions

Beginning June 1st, I will be joining Dianne K. Salerni and Marcy Hatch with their First Impressions critiques. This is where we (kindly and constructively) critique the first page of your work on the first Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of every month. 

Have a book that you're interested in submitting? We still have one spot open in June.

To submit a first page, send an email to Dianne at with First Impressions in the subject line and your first page pasted in the email (not attached, please). Please don't forget to identify yourself, so we know it's not spam.

FAQs -- 
1. How many words is "a page?" ~ 350-400
2. Should I send my prologue or first chapter? ~ Send whatever you would query an agent or editor with
3. Will you rip my work apart? ~ No way. We are nice people and we try really hard to be helpful and kind! :)
4. Can I send you the first page of the book I'm promoting? ~ This service is really intended for authors who are currently revising a manuscript. If you'd like to promote a published or soon-to-be-published, finished work, contact Marcy's other blog, The Unicorn Bell.

I look forward to reading your work!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

YA Scavenger Hunt - Team Purple

Hi, everyone! Welcome to the YA Scavenger Hunt! Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are EIGHT contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all to win sets of signed books! I am a part of the PURPLE TEAM.

If you'd like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.


Directions: Below, you'll notice that I've listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the purple team, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!).

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

Now for the fun stuff!

I'm hosting Stephanie Keyes, and today she is sharing a deleted scene from her novel THE STAR CATCHER.

Kellen and Cali will battle bewitched armies and unknown foes as they fight to stay together. Will Kellen embrace his immortal destiny? Or will his world, and the man he is fated to become, be destroyed by The Star Catcher?

Deleted Scene

In an instant, I'd left Alistair's and arrived in the rear of a pub in Boston. Ironically, the place was only a couple blocks from Gabe's Law School, but it wasn't Gabe that I'd come to meet. Walking around the side of the building, I straightened the collar on the coat I didn't need and shoved my hands into my pockets.

The moment I stepped into the pub, a warm blast of air rushed me. Pushing through it, I surveyed the joint. License plates from all fifty states hung in neat rows on the walls, interspersed with random car parts and the unmistakable odor of fried food. I didn't see him. I must be early.

“How many today?” the hostess asked.

My eyes darted to her blue ones. She was petite, some might even say pretty.

Another pair of blue eyes haunted me, though and I needed to get this meeting over with so I could get back to them.

"Just two.”

"Sure,” she said, her Bostonian dialect making the word sound more like shore.

She directed me to a table next to the fire. Warmth licked up my left arm as I took a seat.

Old sports awards with minuscule patches of rust on them, pennants from local teams, and framed newspaper clippings reign in this are of the restaurant.

My fingers grew numb then, a tingling running up my arm. He'd arrived. Roger stood at the door, appearing uncertain, so much less the bully he'd once been. Covered in Arawn's magick, my senses screamed warnings at me. I pushed my concerns down.

Arawn was dead.

I’d killed him.

And this time I knew it would stick.

"Kell," Roger said, as he made his way over to me a nervous smile on his face. He held out his hand.

I took it. "How've you been?” I shook his hand. It took a second for the rush of magick to leave me and blast into Roger. The magick that would purge him of Arawn's power, yet still leave him oblivious to the horrors that he'd endured at the Lord of the Underworld’s hand.

His eyes flashed out of focus for a moment, his hand squeezing mine for just an instant before he let go. He blinked, an empty expression crossing his face. In a millisecond he appeared healthier, stronger, without the influence of Arawn on him. It worked. Just like Calienta said it would.

“Why don’t we grab a chair?” I drop back into my seat by the fire.

“Sure.” Roger snaps out of it, pulling out his wooden chair, which squeals in protest against the rough, brick floor.

A waitress showed up at our table, then, a wide smile plastered on her face. "Can I get you gentleman something to drink?"

"A Pepsi," I said, more out of habit then interest. I’d never need to drink anything again. Of course, some traditions are too amazing to end entirely.

"Same for me." Roger leans back in his chair and rests his hands on his gut. "I was surprised that you wanted to meet today. I didn't know you were back in town."

“It’s just for today. I have to drive to Yale to pick up some paperwork. I’m flying back on the afternoon flight out of Logan.” It was so bizarre to be sitting there having a normal conversation with Roger. It’s possible we’d never actually had a conversation that didn’t involve insulting one another. Beyond that, what would he think if he knew the truth about me, about what I’d become? How would Rog react if he knew I’d just teleported from London in the bat of an eye?

Probably not well.

“Flying where?”

A sudden stab of pity for Roger swamped my veins. “Back to Ireland. I live there now. Remember? Since Gran died?"

“Yeah. I forgot about that for some reason.” Roger shuffled in his seat. "The thing is, that I feel like I've done something really terrible to you and I-I can't remember it."

I let out a slow breath. If only he knew how he'd tormented me as a kid. Yet, that had been the influence of the Changeling blood in his body. He probably never would have done those things otherwise—at least if the Roger sitting before me was any indication. Who was to say, though?

"It's cool." I tried to answer the way Gabe would. “We all make mistakes.”

Roger sighed, still appearing worried. "I read the letters from Mom."

"Oh." I guess I’d understood that sooner or later Roger would read the letters. The letters our mother had written when she'd been Stephen's prisoner at the mental institution in Scotland. It wouldn't have been easy for Roger to find out that Mom hadn't died when we'd been told, but instead suffered for eleven long years. I got that. Hadn’t I done through the same thing?

Still...when I sent those to him, I never imagined we’d actually discuss them.

Honestly, I’d never expected to meet up with my brother again.

"I didn't know. All those years...I thought I knew him," Roger said.

That makes one of us.

"I can't believe he's gone. That they’re both gone," Roger said. He wiped his eyes on the heel of his hand.

I couldn’t, no didn’t, respond, and we sat in silence for a while, our own memories taking up ghostly chairs at the table until our waitress returned to take our orders.

"I have to go away for a while, Rog."

"Yeah?" Roger sat up straighter. “Why? That’s a shame. I’s been ages.”

He frowned. “Hasn’t it?”

I’ll really have to get used to him being...nice. "It has. I'll give you my number, okay?”

Part of me wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep in touch with Roger, but he was my brother. Maybe I didn't want my mortal contacts to lapse, the way Cali's had with Rowan? Although the circumstances were different, it would have been easy to forget about mortal time.

"That’s cool. Where are you going?" He asked. “I mean, technically, you don’t need to tell me.” He frowned, as if sensing how off our relationship was.

"Well, the thing is, I got married."

Surprised crossed Roger's face. "What? You're only..."

I knew he's been about to say seventeen, yet I no longer looked seventeen—probably more like in my early twenties. Although becoming immortal had healed my body from the damage that the amulet had caused me, not everything returned to normal. There was nothing for it. Reaching out with my mind, I planted a memory of my wedding in Roger's mind.

Roger shook his head. "I'm sorry, I should have realized that you'd be going on your honeymoon soon. Where's Cali?" He looked around, his face appearing confused.

And no wonder? I'd given him the barest hint of information.

"Meeting me at the airport," I said. “She’s visiting a friend right now, otherwise she would have come with me.”

The waitress arrived, setting a plate down in front of me. She placed another before Roger. We'd both ordered the same thing: Bacon Cheeseburgers.

"Why do I feel like I'm not going to see you for a long time, Kell?" Roger asked, before taking a bite of his sandwich. "I don't want you to disappear on me or anything, the way some guys do when they get married."

I stared at my brother. What if we could be brothers? Real brothers who hung out and got along and fought... Maybe he didn't have to be someone I detested? After all, he didn’t know what he'd done. He would never have to.

"Nah. It’s just a trip.”

Roger nodded, taking another bit of his sandwich. I did the same, enjoying the taste, though I didn't need to eat. "So tell me about school," I said, between bites. Roger’s face lit up as he described the course he’d started taking that term. He had a lot of make-up work, but the school had understood with Stephen’s death and all. As he spoke, I realized something. Maybe I didn't have to say goodbye to my mortal life,

Perhaps there were a few things still worth salvaging.

More than a few.

© 2015 Stephanie Keyes and Inkspell Publishing


Stephanie Keyes grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and spent years traveling and working as a Corporate Trainer before she made the decision to pen her first novel. As a teen, her family always accused her of having an “overactive imagination.” Now, she’s encouraged to keep her head in the clouds and share her world with readers.

Keyes is the author of the YA Fantasy series, The Star Child, which currently includes The Star Child, After Faerie, The Fallen Stars, The Star Catcher, and The Last Protector, all from by Inkspell Publishing. The Star Child has topped the Amazon best-seller list several times since its 2012 release. The Fallen Stars was a 2013 semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Awards. The Star Catcher was just listed as a finalist in the 2014 Dante Rossetti Young Adult Novel Awards. Steph writes YA novels because she’s a hopeless romantic who lives to believe that Magick truly does exist. She is hard at work on a new YA novel.

Purchase links for her wonderful books are located here. I hope she writes at least 9 more of them.

And make sure to check out her website here.


For the next step in the scavenger hunt, check out