Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye, 2011!

2011 has been a tumultuous year for me, to say the least.  There have been fewer ups than downs, but I am so utterly grateful for the support I’ve received from all of you.  You’ve helped me get through and I can’t wait to continue this ride with you along by my side.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I adore you all.  <3

They’ll be lots going on in 2012 here on the blog with the new monthly critique rounds, so make sure to check in with me on here, Twitter and Facebook for the submission announcements.  And don’t forget to spread the word and tell your friends!  The more, the merrier.  I’m also working on some more new features and hoping to have a full blown website up before the summer.  I'm really excited.

Not to be a buzz kill, but please be smart while celebrating.  As a victim of a drunk-driving accident, I implore you to be careful and responsible.  Splurge on a cab (or heck, even a limo), find a responsible designated driver, get a hotel room, stay in, or utilize the AAA tipsy tow service, being offered for everyone tonight, including non-AAA members here in the states.  Whatever you need to do to stay safe, it’s worth it.  Living to see 2012 is more important than having cocktails and then getting behind the wheel and possibly hurting or killing someone. 

Here is to an amazingly fantastic, fabulous, successful, happy and awesome 2012 for everyone, myself included.  May it be one of the best years yet.

2012, we will, we will, ROCK YOU!    

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December Buyer's Remorse #11

TITLE: Utterance
GENRE: Young Adult Fiction

Nat felt the cat's warm face pressed up against her neck, urging her to wake up. Gray eyes and gray fur made Storm appear suspicious even when she was trying to seem playful. Of course, in this case, she wasn't being playful, Nat thought. She was being annoying.

"I'm up, I'm up." Nat mumbled, "Get off of me." She pushed the feline nuisance aside and rolled onto her back. She wasn't thrilled about being woken up, but was grateful to have someone around who replaced the shrieking beep of her alarm clock.

Was it the first day already? The summer had felt so long while it was happening, but now Nat felt the pang that came with the first day of school. Her final year of high school, the last 9 months that she couldn't wait to be done with. Get out of bed, she thought. With each passing second, you're getting later and later. You can't skip a shower. You can't skip doing your hair on the first day. You'll regret looking like a cat lady at 17. You need to feed Storm.

Her obligation to her housemate decided it. She sat up, wishing she could wear her comforter to class. "Come on, Storm. Gotta do that whole 'Breakfast of Champions' thing today, at least."
Storm followed her down the stairs into the bright, sunlit kitchen. Nat set a kettle on the stove, poured food into the cat bowl, and read through the emails on her phone. 

December Buyer's Remorse #10

TITLE: Extraction
GENRE: YA Dystopian

When Logan finally arrives, he's holding a flower that could kill me.

I stop tapping my nails on the fence and stare at the green stem, at how the petals glint silver so they almost look like metal.

"What the hell's wrong with you?" I shove his arm away and back up so fast I ram into our shack's windowsill, but I've felt worse.

It's been eleven years since I've seen petals like that. Inventors used genetic manipulation to make silver aster flowers calming for the mind, but I'm severely allergic to their pollen.

Logan chuckles.

I sift my fingers through the dirt, find a rock, and throw it at his shoulder. Hard.

His laughter dies. "Jeez, Clementine." He lifts a calloused hand and tears off a flower petal. Thin silver wrapping falls away, leaving behind the blackening blue of a common aster. It's grimy, of course. Everything's covered in grime on the Surface.

My cheeks grow hot.

He smiles. "You didn't seriously think I'd sneak into the Core to find a silver aster for you? God."

"Oh shut up, Logan. You're such an idiot."

He tosses me the perfectly ordinary flower. I scowl, but sniff it. Smells like dust. Same as everything.

"You ready to go?" he asks.

I snort and flick a red-orange curl out of my eye. Of course I'm ready. I'm wearing my only dress, light blue with faded pink flowers speckled across its fabric. I'm evening wearing shoes - Laila's old ones. She would scold me for not wearing them more, if she were still around.

December Buyer's Remorse #9

TITLE: The Hourglass Bridge
GENRE: YA Historical Fantasy

Midnight, 30th September, 1509

An hourglass stood on the altar stone in the centre of the clearing. Serena’s breath caught in her throat, as if she would never exhale again.

“Take the glass,” the witch instructed. “Turn it once and see that you have controlled time.”

It felt like ice in Serena’s trembling hand as she turned it. Beneath its surface, the rushing sands of time slowed to a trickle and were still.

Serena reached into her cloak pocket, reassuring herself that a second hourglass was tucked inside. It was her last remaining hope, but there was no guarantee she could deliver it into the right hands and every chance that the attempt would lead her into a trap. Serena swallowed dryly, fighting a wave of nausea at the thought. Such a betrayal would cost thousands of lives and rob her of her children… again.

She set the hourglass back upon the sacrificial rock.

“Alasdair,” the witch continued, “you too must control the passing of time.”

Serena glanced at her husband; his eyes, like hers, were wet. With slow, agonizing care, he completed his part of the spell. Then his hand found Serena’s and their fingers intertwined as they embraced this final, physical memory together. In marrying him, Serena had bound him to this fate. She wore her guilt like an open wound.

The witch smashed the glass against the altar stone and gathered a handful of ghostly white sand.

“Your palm,” she said softly. Serena raised it, and agony shot through her body.

December Buyer's Remorse #8

TITLE: Raptor Snatch
GENRE: Commercial fiction

The window smells like sweet vomit with a hint of pine scented ammonia. I was already nauseated when I boarded the plane – my stomach full of overcooked bacon, and undercooked eggs. My attempt to drown them in coffee as bitter as my ex hadn't remedied the situation. The noxious vapours radiating from the window don't help matters either. You can't force me to call what I choked down 'breakfast.' I hope that my only souvenir from this town won't be food poisoning. My mouth starts watering, but not in a good way. I swallow hard, and breathe shallowly.

Blending with the puke scented aroma of the window on my right, is the smell of the man sitting on my left. Stale sweat, stale cigarette smoke, stale coffee breath, I wonder if his life is as stale as he smells. Even his suit looks defeated – the fabric starting to wear thin on his elbows and knees, the material becoming shiny where the rest of him is dull.

I am keeping my face in the sweet spot. Facing directly forward, the smell of the man and the window cancel each other out, and my nostrils are safe. I am in the eye of the smell.

From the eye of the smell I can see a chip in the plane's windshield. Strangely, this doesn't fill me with fear – on the contrary, the longer I look at it, the more reassured I feel.

December Buyer's Remorse #7

GENRE: Mystery

Calvin Alsop, Wayberry city councilman and owner of Alsop Chrysler Plymouth Motors, prided himself on his ability to look at a man and predict what kind of car he would choose—Chrysler or Plymouth—and model and color. But on a cold Oklahoma morning in December 1956, this faculty failed him.
Alsop was drafting a proposal for the council when a young man entered the dealership. Alsop watched him through the glass wall separating his office from the showroom. The man was about twenty, a decade or so younger than himself.
Alsop put down his pen and indulged in a bit of his prognostication.
Average height and lean, the lad had dust-colored hair swept-back with something akin to motor oil. It took a moment for Alsop to recognize Bucky Ontario in his blue parka. He worked at Gustafson’s Grocery a few blocks over on Central. Alsop didn’t recall ever speaking with him.
Bucky drifted among the cars, pausing occasionally to examine a grill, run his hand across leather seats. He stopped beside a red Plymouth Belvedere with a bold white stripe, bent down, looked at his reflection in the window, and ran both palms over his hair. His gaze fixed on the eggshell colored Plymouth Fury. He studied a memo taped to the window. Alsop knew what it said: V-8 Engine, Duel Exhaust, Torsion-Aire Suspension, Pushbutton Automatic. Bucky stepped back, lifted a camera strapped around his neck, and clicked off a shot.

December Buyer's Remorse #6

GENRE: Paranormal Romance/Fantasy
People lie.
Death hurts.   

A lot!

In horror, I watched in my mind’s eye as Arianwen danced, macabre-like, before falling to the ground, rolling and smothering the flames that crept up and over her body.  Her banshee screams rent the morning air, while fire licked and kissed her skin leaving bubbles and blisters in its wake. 
As Arianwen lay in the dirt smoldering and crying I felt her intense pain surge throughout her body.  Arianwen’s gasps for air are mine.  Her pain is mine.  Everything she is I am, because I am (was) her. 
The psychic and Owen told me I would see and feel Arianwen’s emotions, but I hadn’t expected such an emotional roller-coaster ride.  This past-life regression is surreal, and it’s not finished. All I want is to go back to the present day and my body, but I can’t.  The past lingers – it waits for me.
The internal struggle against the old memories and feeling her pain course through me is fierce.  Arianwen’s pain is washing and taking over me.  I don’t fight anymore, I can’t. My end - death - is here. 
The air is filled with the pungent smell of smoke, burnt hair and skin. My eyes are closed as I breathe in shallow breaths.  The feel of the cool earth against charred flesh is comforting - almost. In an instant I feel them, my betrayers. My rage grows as I hear their laughter and chants surround me.

December Buyer's Remorse #5

TITLE: Transmigration
GENRE: YA/Paranormal Mystery

The scream pushed up through my chest like a hairball that demanded to be dislodged. I swallowed, willing it to expel itself from the hold it had on me. But the pain was clogging my airways, and my attempts were weakening. I willed myself to be stronger, to blink away the fear that was just shown to me. The pain was too much. Relenting, I sprang up in my bed and released the chilling, agonizing scream. And like a girl who had just been exorcized, my feeble body fell back onto my pillow and prepared itself for the calm down process that always followed.

Looking around the dark expanse of my room, I wasn't floating lifeless on the placid surface of a pool, but rather in my bed, a layer of sweat drenching my sheets. I caught a glimpse of my appearance in the full length mirror on the side of the room and cried out. My reflection, if I had to describe it any other way, looked like I just came from a swimming pool. My long brown hair was plastered to my head, wisps of sweaty strands clinging to the sides of my neck. Shivering more from fear than temperature, I pulled my sheet tight across my chest, looking longingly at my purple comforter twisted in a heap at the foot of my bed. With the glow of my nightlight, I could see sweat glistening on my forearm as I stretched out my arm and begged it to stop shaking.

December Buyer's Remorse #4

TITLE: The Forces of Heaven and Hell Alike
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

Liam was back on his Harley after only five hours of sleep, heading through Davenport, Wyoming to try and track down the local diner. He promised he'd meet Sid on his way through town, but that was something he was regretting now. When he took over the body of the railroad worker in Buffalo Gap fifty years ago, Liam hadn't realized he'd be suffering from caffeine withdrawal every morning until he had his fix. But when he traded up, he wasn't being picky.

Rounding the next block, the sign for the Davenport Diner came into view, and Liam headed towards the far right of the parking lot, safely away from the crowd of cars. He'd rather not be forced to do harm to some fool who scratched his beloved Road King, even by accident. The altercation in Stewart was still fresh in his mind and he didn't have the desire for a repeat.

Shutting off the engine, Liam saw Sid coming towards him. Unlike himself, the other demon looked like he had been up for hours, filled with energy and illegal substances. On second thought, Liam pondered as he saw Sid's appearance close-up, it was more likely he hadn't even been to bed yet.

“I need coffee,” Liam said with a growl. “Drag me out here way too early and then you're all hyper. Something's wrong with your head.”

Sid smiled wide. “You always said we've got to be crazy in our line of work. I'm just living up to my reputation.”

December Buyer's Remorse #3

TITLE: Seven Silver Swords: Heirs to the Throne
GENRE: High Fantasy

Sparks flew as the hammer struck the glowing metal. The hammer rang again.  Torches flickered on the cavern wall casting dancing shadows in the dim light.  The forge’s fire crackled and roared.  Steel glowed red.
The hammer sang.  The smith’s strong arm raised the hammer yet again, perspiration dripped from his bulging muscles.  His bald head glistened with sweat.  His bare chest and back gleamed in the red light of the forging fires and the heat they generated.   He swung mightily and again the metal clanked as it was wrought in the smoke filled cavern.
Kroft stood against a wall watching the Mastersmith work.  The figure leaned on his staff, his interest riveted on the workings of the sword.  The fate of the kingdom rested with this sword.  He was waiting for the moment in the reforging when his talents would be melded with those of the Mastersmith.  But there was to be a third member here, someone who also had a part in this.  The question that was on the cloaked figure’s mind was – where is Prince Edwind? 

# # #

 Edwind rode to where Kroft had instructed him to come and dismounted.  He could hear the sounds of hammer strokes from the cave.  What was being forged in the middle of the night?  He wondered why Kroft wanted him at the Mastersmith’s cavern at such an unusual hour. 
The cave opening was not overly large, but he didn’t need to stoop to enter.  His slight frame allowed for that.

December Buyer's Remorse #2

TITLE: Sign of the Star
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Someone approaches, the winds tell me. A rider.

Silently I welcome the winds in return. Though I may journey for the next year and a day by myself, healing and helping others with my landmaiden’s talents, at least I will not travel alone.

The road to the mines—really a dirt path barely wide enough for a wagon—is empty this sunlit afternoon. Those passing through Porden did so earlier, if they traveled at all, for the mines are a full day’s hike from town. I doubt that anyone but me has gone anywhere today. Last night was the rite of Midsummer’s Eve. Mother and I led the people in the sacred celebration, honouring the new season with dance and song. When we slept at dawn, we were hardly the last to retire.

I step to the side of the road in time to see the grim-faced rider fly past on his chestnut horse, the whisper of a breeze in his wake. I cough at the dust kicked up by his flight. But I do not have time to wonder who he could possibly be, for before I can, the mount’s rear hoof catches on a protruding root, and the beast pitches its rider, foundered.They have been with me my whole life, these winds—or at least for as long as it has mattered. Warm Northern breezes swirl through the cedars and caress my face the moment I leave Porden that first afternoon. They linger as the day wears on.

December Buyer's Remorse #1

TITLE: The End World
GENRE: YA sci-fi

If Mortimer told me three years ago to go climb a three story
building in eighty-degree weather, I would have told him to fuck off.
By now, I learned to say yes sir like any good Spinner and would climb
a skyscraper if I had to.
The faded theater sign stood on side of me, most of its plastic
letters lost in time. There was no telling the last movie that was
playing before The End World went to hell. I shrugged. Finding
similarities and differences between Earth and this dump was a pastime
of mine. Researchers said the similarity ratio was about seventy-three
percent. Who said I had to take their word for it?
I grabbed the rough cement ledge above me and hauled myself up.
Across the street, Sal was already lying down, scanning the street
with his own NF P90.
Damn, he is fast.
His voice crackled in my earplant. “Need to lose a few pounds,
girlfriend. Soon you won’t be able to climb a speed bump.”
I gave him the finger.
“Love you too, Lana.”
“Just focus on our mission, will you!” I hissed in my vocollar,
taking his silence as agreement.
Control always programmed our earplants and vocollar on the same
frequency before a mission. I squirmed at the idea of getting the
implants bored into my body but I had to admit, they prevented more
than one sticky situation. We could have an entire conversation
without anyone else knowing.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Buyer's Remorse--December First Page Critique Round *Submissions Start Today!*

I’m calling this critiquing round “Buyer’s Remorse”.  This is for those of you who’ve entered a contest or submitted a first page somewhere, but didn’t receive the response you’d hoped for or maybe don’t understand why it wasn’t chosen.  Here is your opportunity to see what might have gone wrong and to help others with the same.

From Sunday, December 11 at until Wednesday, December 14 at , I will accept submissions. I will post them later that day right here at KTCROWLEY.COM for critiquing.
Please send submissions to ktcritiques [AT]
In the subject, please state “DECEMBER FIRST PAGE”

This round I will accept all genres and it is one entry per person, per genre (So you can submit 1 adult 1 YA/MG).
Please list the TITLE, GENRE and your SCREEN NAME (I will not include these in the critique posts) above your 250 words (format it the way you normally would).  Please do not stop in the middle of a sentence.  If it goes over the 250 limit by a couple of words, that's fine.  If you stop at say, 235 words, that's fine, too.
Your submission should look like this:

SCREEN NAME: Your Screen Name Here
TITLE: Your Title Here
GENRE: Your Genre Here
(Excerpt here.)
  • Please leave out "chapter one," chapter "titles", etc.  Otherwise, I may count them toward your 250 and you could lose some of your first page entry.
  • You will receive a confirmation email, but it may not be right away.  Only resend if you don't get one by the last hour of the submission window.  
If you enter, you must critique at least 5 other submissions (if there are only five, please critique all except your own).  This is so it's fair for everyone involved. 
I will accept up to 20 entries.
That’s it!  If you have any questions, please hit me up in the comments.
I hope we can fill up the 20 spots!  Spread the word.  :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

My Adventures in NaNoWriMo...

Let me start by saying I never intended to get intense about NaNoWriMo.  As you remember from my anniversary post, my plan was to take it on and see if I could come out triumphant, no pressure… 

But then I got fixated on winning, applied the weight of the Statue of Liberty on my shoulders to do so, and spent every minute I could on it.  I think I fooled myself when I entered with the "no pressure" tag removed, because who am I kidding, I can't enter something and not see it through to the end.  It is a part of my nature that I'll describe as valiant—or competitive, to just be frank. 

My journey began with a couple hours a day the first week, brainstorming an idea I've been kicking around.  But I couldn't write organically anymore, at least not with this book for some reason.  It had to be clean and precise from the start, which meant I was extremely particular about every little detail, every piece of dialogue, and every turn the story took.  Hard to write 50,000 words in 22 days when you're trying to make the first draft look like a final one.  I knew that editing would still need to take place, but I could not stop trying to make it perfect out of the starting gate.  I admit I'm a forever perfectionist, but not usually with first drafts.

So 2 hours turned into 4-5 hours one day, then the next day that doubled.  But I wasn't blasting through the pages, typing until smoke appeared from under my fingertips.  No, I was sitting, staring, fixating on one scene or another, trying to write in perfect order so I wouldn't have to fill in the cracks later.  After five days, I finally stopped the cycle and wrote out of order, the way I should have.  I had so many things my characters were telling me to write that when I let go of the control, the incessant and ludicrous need for perfection, they overwhelmed me.  I prevailed, though, and got it all down, the way they'd been asking me to from the beginning.

I don't know why I ignore my characters sometimes.  It's their stories, so they're the best at telling them. They are the catalysts of my creativity, without them I wouldn't have their wonderful stories to write.  When they start sharing, I'm there to listen and type away, contest or no contest, plain and simple.  My thoughts and input should not be applied until after, hence the "write now, edit later" method my characters usually hold me to, my organic writing style.

Anyway, fast forward a bit to deadline day, a mere 3,700 words away from my goal. 

Now, with an egg timer ticking in my ear, I was racing to beat the clock... so Murphy's Law, of course, took over.  My husband was late coming home from work, we got stuck in traffic driving back from the train…pretty much everything that could have went wrong, did. 

When I tell you that when I arrived home with 5 hours and 31 minutes to deadline was like a scene from a movie, I'm not kidding.  Bob (my husband for those who don't know him by name) pulled into the driveway, the car wasn't even in park yet and I swung the car door open and fled to the house.  As I'm scrambling with my keys to unlock it, he called out a flurry of good luck sentiments from the car (he took the baby out so I'd have no distractions).  With a fleeting glance, I nodded and charged into my house, up the stairs and dove to my laptop which is on the other side my bed.  So yeah, I had to dive over my bed, which was much more Ferris-Bueller-like than I had intended. 

I’m SO lucky I didn’t hurt myself, ha-ha. 

I was jonesing for my laptop to load like an addict on red bull as I was checking the clock every other second.  I was also panic-stricken because I'd been told the website to validate word counts tends to get really glitchy the closer to deadline you get (I try never to cut it that close to deadlines—this was new territory for me).  As soon as the document opened, I just typed.  And typed.  And typed.  Calm came over me, I focused on the goal and 3 hours later, I was declared a 2011 NaNoWriMo winner with 2 hours and 17 minutes to spare.  I came in 2,802 words over goal, and I couldn't be prouder of that and my final hours’ performance. 

Because I'm a "winner", I'm going to make an acceptance speech. 

Thanks to Bob and my son, Jack, for their patience, love and support.  Without them, this wouldn't have been possible and I may have quit out of pure exhaustion if they hadn’t pushed me and motivated me.
Thanks to The Script for their phenomenal albums for which I listened to on repeat for almost the entire duration of this contest.  Their music was the main muse.  I also have to thank The Fray for the last 48 hours because their song "Heartbeat" was an additional muse I found I needed to boost my writing in the home stretch. 
Thanks to my parents for being there, offering support and checking in on me, offering help if I needed it—even if it didn't work out that last day.  Just knowing you wanted to be there is enough. 
Thanks to all of my friends and followers for not bailing when I went off grid and for your continuous encouragement and support.    
And last but certainly not least, thanks to my characters, Kat especially.  Hers is a story I can't wait to share, and one scene in particular has become my favorite ever written by me.

I recommend NaNoWriMo for any writer who wants to push themselves and discover the true potential that lies within them.  It was not only a fantastic challenge that pushed me, but it was so much fun that when I finished celebrating my victory, I was actually bummed it was over.  In fact, I still sort of am.  The NaNoWriMo community is another I fell in love with (writers are awesome sauce), and even though this year I was a spectator in the forums and such, next year—should I be able to compete again—I hope to be much more involved on the other side of it all.

I’ve got a critique session planned for submissions starting later this weekend, so be on the lookout for the official post here and announcements on Facebook and Twitter.  And please, spread the word!  The more who know, the more who can critique, which helps out everyone. 

Sorry for the long-winded post, but I just had to share.  Fingers crossed I’ll have more good news to post before the holidays…because that would be an epic way to leave 2011 and start 2012.