Friday, March 29, 2013

March Test Run #7

GENRE:   Paranormal Romance
They came at dawn. In minutes everything that was – was not.

Fire engulfs my hut.  The flames sizzle and hiss exposing me to its fiery heat. I escape but not before my skin is ravaged. The pain is intense, as is my need for revenge. The bastard, Camalus, has taken everything I love. With my dying breaths I will see that retribution is made. I am the last of the realm witches. We three must come back. It must be done.

With labored breaths I look at the moon hanging low on the eastern horizon.  Strength fills my being. My voice is harsh and raspy as I cast my spell.
“My goddess, my mother hear your daughter, Arianwen’s plea.
Take my soul; find the two
~ Sulien and Tarrant ~
and once again, make us three.
Let us all come once more.
To right the wrongs
I beseech you, open the portal door.
To Land, Sea and Skye, hear my cry.
As above so below, with my blood sacrifice make it so.
Arianrhod, my mother, my goddess, as one make us three.
I cast my lot, so mote it be.”
I choke and sputter – I’m drowning. I no longer see the beautiful moon, it’s gone.  The glow of a new morning is chasing the night shadows away. Oh, how I hope my goddess will grant my request. To see Sulien and Tarrant once more…my heart beats faster, I can see them in my minds eye, smiling and laughing.  

March Test Run #6

GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy
I never thought of myself as a musical prodigy until I lost my ability to play piano. I could blame Panic. Or Aquamarine. Or even my own Mom. She’s the one who moved us from Manhattan to this sleepy town of Whitehall.

“The city is too full of temptations,” Mom had said, “with more dangers lurking on the streets than subway rats beneath.”

Turns out, Mom hand-delivered me to a city-grade danger hidden among small-town lemonade stands like a naughty secret.

But I can’t worry about that now. It’s my first day of freshman year at my new school - and my main concern is where to pick up the darn school bus.

Am I early? Where is everyone?

It’s not the kind of street corner I’m used to. Rather than the systematic grid of cement that maps the city, dotted with stations clearly marked ‘Bus Stop,’ here I have to guess. At the corner of Wheeler and Skene, the sorry pad of cement crumbles into the street like a poorly constructed wheelchair ramp. Beneath my black Ugg is a long and crooked crack, a witch’s finger, sprouting weeds and hairy caterpillars. I exhale, and the sound is startling – echoing off Skene Mountain and reverberating over the canal. I scan the empty street, sucking in cool air that seems thinner here somehow, and already carries the scent of newly fallen leaves. We’re ‘just a stone’s-throw from Vermont,’ Mom likes to say – an attempt at romance, I guess.

March Test Run #5

GENRE: MG Fantasy

Timothy didn’t realize his tail was stuck in the door until he slammed it shut. It took a split second for the pain to register. It took another second for Boddington to start shouting again. Screeching to be precise. Timothy wanted nothing more than to curl up on the floor. But what he wanted didn’t have much to do with anything these days.
Eyes watering, he hopped around in an attempt to shake off the fiery heat radiating along every nerve ending in his tail. Another screech set him off down the hallway at a half-limp, half-run. The hour was late and guttering candles, set high up on the walls, threw strange shadows across his path. The sconces holding the candles were shaped like dragons, and he felt their birdlike eyes upon him as he neared Boddington’s office.
Pushing open the door, Timothy saw Boddington seated at his desk, dressed in his finest suit, blonde hair combed into a side part. He didn’t look up, not immediately, but his nostrils flared briefly. Lowering his gaze Timothy took great care to avoid staring at Boddington’s neck. It was difficult not to of course. A vivid burn in the shape of a handprint covered most of the exposed skin, as though someone with a hand of fire had grabbed him by the throat.

Turning the page in front of him, Boddington paused before addressing Timothy in a clipped voice. “Well?”
“I’m finished,” said Timothy.
Boddington sniffed. “The entrance too?” 

March Test Run #4

TITLE: The Untimely Death of Jennifer Norwood
GENRE: Young Adult Paranormal Thriller

Jennifer Norwood still dreamt of her father’s head rolling down the
windshield. It left a blotchy red trail of blood and thunked against
the hood of the car. Jennifer knew the eyes had been closed and the
mouth silent, but at night her father’s dead eyes stared as his head
rolled away and he gurgled her name from the forest floor. She woke up
sweaty and bound in bed sheets, arms flailing for the seatbelt
release. There was no blood in her bedroom, no voice in the dark.

Reality didn’t help. Jennifer didn’t sleep anymore, but her
psychiatrist was all smiles and hopeful eyes.

“No more nightmares,” Jennifer said. Her hands clenched her sweater
sleeves. Thin white scars stretched tightly over her knuckles.

It wasn’t a lie. It was a kindness. Dr. Moran was a slight woman with
dark, smooth skin and a penchant for floral sundresses. She kept fresh
cut tulips around her office and served homemade lemonade on days when
Jennifer didn’t want to talk. Jennifer couldn’t bear bringing blood
and severed heads into the airy room that made her feel safe. Moran’s
sunny yellow dress and wide, unassuming brown eyes were bright and
cheerful. The ceiling fan circled slowly over head, ruffling
Jennifer’s hair. She hid behind a fringe of black bangs.

“Are you sure?” Moran asked.

Jennifer swallowed and nodded. “Sometimes I wake up and I don’t know
where I am, but I don’t remember dreaming.”

“That’s good,” Moran said. Her eyes glanced to the side.

March Test Run #3

TITLE: Watch Me
GENRE: MG Contemporary

Silence is a decent shield. But as weapons go, it’s crap. So Nick Anders created three simple Rules for surviving the bus ride. It was still a nightmare but a tolerable one. He was open to refining the Rules, and there may be a need to create more.

But the Rules had worked. So far.

Nick leaned his head against the dingy window glass. Ahead, the blacktop cut a ribbon through the hills of upstate New York. It was warm for September and the leaves had not started to change. A squirrel darted across the road, dodging the front tires of the bus with only an inch to spare. Nick wondered if the dumb squirrel appeared brave because it was stupid. Or maybe its decision appeared stupid because it was brave. Either way, what was it trying to prove? 

The bus announced the next stop with an ear-splitting squeal of the brakes. Nick watched the brave/stupid squirrel skitter up a tree and disappear.

For the last year, he had been working on his system for being invisible. He’d made good progress in sixth grade. But he was determined to improve his Rules this year in seventh grade. 

Rule One: never make eye contact. When the bus stopped at the end of his lane, Nick climbed on with his eyes glued to his scuffed tennis shoes.  

Rule Two: avoid the back of the bus at all costs.

March Test Run #2

TITLE: The Girl In The Yellow Bus
GENRE: General Fiction
The fusion of rotting earth and budding lilacs was intoxicating as I watched them haul away my childhood home.

I squinted against the slanting sun, which found pleasure at taunting me through bony branches not yet full with spring. The back-up beep of the monstrous tow truck drowned out songbirds I knew were watching nearby. Loyal friends, reliable neighbors. Their sweet voices had sung me to sleep and awoken me for school until the day I had to quit. What songs would they choose to sing on a day like this?

Men wearing plaid shirts and tall rubber boots worked feverishly to secure the old yellow bus. A few moments later it was gone, disappearing around a bend in the road like a faded setting sun.
I waited until the work crew had gone before I trespassed down the trodden path that served as a driveway for the past thirty five years, ironic since my family never owned a car.

A few minutes later the sound of a car door startled me in the absence of diesel engines.

Another reporter?

I didn’t bother to glance over my shoulder. They’d already written the story about a poor family forced to move into an old yellow bus. But they didn’t know the half of it.

Only when I heard the familiar telephone voice of Scott Thomas, the tax collector for the town of Promise, did I turn around. I’ve always found the name Promise to be a farce. As far as I could tell there clearly wasn’t any.

March Test Run #1

TITLE: The Bridge Maker
GENRE: MG Fantasy

While her mother rambled about staying home alone, followed by something weird about working late, Linh imagined herself laughing with fairies.

“Are you listening to me?” asked her mom.

Linh bit her lip. Both she and her mother were sitting on a couch in the living room, still in their nightgowns. Linh looked around. No fairies. Oops.

Linh panicked and could only say, “Uhhh…”

“You’ve been daydreaming again.” Her mother shook her head. “I have to leave for work now.”

Linh grabbed her mom’s arm. “No, don’t leave!”

Her mother sighed. “I’ll be back from the restaurant in a few hours. I put pho on the dining table for you to heat up in the microwave for dinner.”

She kissed Linh on her forehead and soon left the house. The front door clicked shut. Linh swallowed and looked at her feet. She was tired of being home alone all the time.

Eeek! Eeek! Strange sounds came from the walls.

Probably mice. No surprise there. Linh had grown used to hearing those horrible little rodents scuttling inside the clogged drainpipes at school.

Maybe they had come here. Her house had a clogged drain. She shrugged and fiddled with the phoenix talisman on a golden chain around her neck, given to her by her father. That was eight years ago when she was three.

It was the only thing she had left of him. Other memories had left her.

Bam, bam, bam. Thumps echoed through the same walls.

She jerked upright. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

March "Test Run" Critique Round *Call for Submissions*

In response to my post yesterday in regards to this month's critique round and my husband's health, I will be hosting a quick round now and possibly skipping April's critique round. My husband's appointment went well today, and our almost 10 month journey to find an answer to his perplexing case will be uncovered next month after surgery. It'll be such a welcomed relief to finally get answers and for him to turn on to the road to recovery. Our life was starting to feel like an episode of "House", haha. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your thoughts and prayers. We're not out of the woods yet, but we're that much closer to being so. April also brings a slew of events for me-most importantly my son's 3rd birthday-so I'll do my best to squeeze in a round if all goes well. I'll have an update in a couple of weeks once the surgery is done.

Since the opportunity to score feedback on WIPs is one of the more popular critique rounds I offer, we'll do yet another "Test Run” session. I will dedicate April (if possible) and May to different critique rounds. This is for any first page. Whether your manuscript is finished and polished, it's a work-in-progress, or you only have the first page, this is the time to test it out on readers and get some honest, helpful feedback and support from your peers. If you've entered previous rounds, this is also a great opportunity to get feedback on your revisions.

From Tuesday, March 26 at 9:00 AM EDT until Thursday, March 28 at 9:00 PM EDT I will accept submissions. I will post them on March 29 here at KTCROWLEY.COM for critiquing.

Please send submissions to ktcritiques [AT]

In the subject, please state "MARCH TEST RUN”.

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 screen names in the critique posts, these are for my purposes only. Your screen name is the name you'll use to critique others in the comments.) 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.

Please check your submission(s) carefully for typos, grammatical errors, etc. before submitting. Once the submission is confirmed by email, it is set to automatically post. Double checking it first will ensure your writing is critiqued appropriately. ;-)

If you enter, you must critique at least 5 other submissions (if there are only five, please critique all). If you enter two first pages, please critique 10 (if there are less than 10 total, please critique all). This is so it's fair for everyone involved.

I will accept up to 25 entries.

That’s it! If you have any questions, please hit me up in the comments or send me an email at crowleykt [AT]

Spread the word please; the more, the merrier! Let's fill up this round and help everyone involved get as much feedback as possible. Also, if you're not a follower of my blog, please do so, so I can continue to offer rounds like this to help writers like you perfect your work. :)

Thank you all again for your support and participation; it truly makes a difference!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Dear Diary...

Apologies up front—this blog post is going to read like a long, spastic, uncensored journal entry. And more apologies for taking forever to write it.

The past 18 months have been pretty difficult for me and my family. We’ve suffered 3 different, yet equally significant losses, faced struggles I only ever feared until recently, and I’ve lost most of my mojo. And by mojo, I mean my inspiration, my motivation, my determination and any shred of confidence I may have been holding on to.

The funny thing about loss (and by loss I mean death of a loved one) is that it changes you. For some maybe the change is temporary, for others (like me) permanent. Each loss took something away from me, and though I can’t exactly place my finger on what it took, I know on some level it’s really gone, like the existence of the loved one who’s past, though still consciously hard to believe. Every single time I’ve started to crawl out of my hole and start the true recovery process, BAM! I’m hit with yet another loss. It’s starting to scare me. Naturally, I'm reluctant to try the climb again.

The same goes for struggle. I try my hardest to remain positive, but when the blows keep coming, each hit is harder and harder to get up from. I’ve said it before; I’m an incredibly strong person, to a fault. But even the strongest fall eventually. I’m hanging on that cliff’s edge by the tips of my fingers.

I don’t want to discount the positive things that have occurred over the past 18 months—most significant would be the birth of my second son, Tyler. I’m eternally grateful for having another happy, healthy baby, and along with my oldest son, they are the true bright spot in all this darkness I’m enshrouded by. My world revolves around them. If I’m being completely honest, I’ve actually relied on them to carry me forward each day. That’s the other problem with being the strongest…people rely on you to be their rock, but who can be mine?

It’s not easy in the least to smile each day, drag myself out of bed and continue to live life like I’m supposed to. In times of difficulty, writing used to be my outlet, the place I’d go to escape my world. Hard times used to spur me forward, more determined than the last time. But now, I don’t know… I truly struggle with the prospect of writing another word, it’s the exact reason I’ve delayed writing a blog post for so long. I go through the motions, but that intensity I used to feel is muted to a dull ache. I don’t really listen to music or read the way I used to, and when I try to, a glimmer returns, but something quickly fizzles it out. I miss writer me. I miss reader me. I miss music-loving, passionate, driven, completely happy me. I miss it all.

If I wrote everything I’ve been going through, you guys wouldn’t believe me. I swear I should write it all out; it’d make a great soap opera/drama. And looking back at everything I’ve written here, I can see where I stopped being me, and started writing what I thought people wanted to read, I didn’t want to come off as unhappy and negative. I’ve been pretending I’m okay when I’m really not. Simply because people don’t like drama, and that’s all I’ve mostly faced. That was my first mistake. I always need to remain true to my core. I’m an organic writer, after all. I'm a little embarrassed of some of my past posts over the last 18 months.

I’ve attempted to force myself back into writing. I’ve interviewed editors, spoke with agents, participated in webinars and clinics. But it’s not helping. I can’t force the words out of me. When I do, it doesn’t feel right. Blog posts sit in files, waiting to be posted for all to read, but they feel like a shell of what I used to write like. I’ve hosted my monthly critique rounds, I’ve given advice and been leaned on, lending the little bit of myself left to those who needed it. I wanted to be there in that capacity, that at least, hasn't changed. I’ve given more of myself to others than I’ve given to me. Maybe that’s the problem. Who knows. I’ve spent my entire life giving, never getting. I don’t typically ask for help, I don’t like to. I’m the helper, not the helpee. I lend advice and tips to other writers based on my personal experiences. I mentor. I’m a critiquer, a beta-reader, an active member of the writing community… And I LOVE what I do, don’t get me wrong, I’m only listing these things because they are a part of my very intricate writing fabric. I’ve depended on these things, as well, to get me through, now that I think about it, but I haven’t done anything to help myself. I’ve pushed it all down deep and buried stuff on top of it, in an attempt to keep it down. Basically, I’ve neglected my own writing. Even my characters have silenced, with the exception of an outburst hear or there.

I can’t do that anymore.

In an attempt to get my writing life back to some semblance of normalcy, I’ll be returning to my writing roots, the place where this blog started. Me, writing entries, in hopes that what I’m saying impacts my readers. I’ll continue to host critique rounds, because I love doing so, but I need some ‘me’ time. My editor of choice will give me a time frame, and in that time frame, I’ll be throwing myself into my work, blogging through it. It’s a last ditch attempt at reigniting my passion for my own writing. I think this editor can help me climb out of this hole and up this mountain. I think asking for his help is what I need to do at this point. Though I will complete any projects I’ve committed to with full vigor, I am probably going to take a step back from taking on any further projects until I’m in a better place with my own writing. I started this journey with the promise to myself to land a traditional publishing deal. It’s time I follow through on my promises to myself, huh? I owe it to myself and to my stories.

I owe it to all of you, as well. You guys have been here, you’ve supported me, and you’ve cheered me on. So I’m asking you now to hold my hand, to be patient with me. To continue to have my back the way you always have. To take negative me for all that I am. Landing a deal is a reward I want to be able to share with all of you, and though it seems impossible to me right now, I know it is. I can do this, with your help and support.

And I apologize for not being honest from the very beginning of my struggles. Even though in my heart I know you’re here to support me and my dreams (as many of you have reminded me time and time again), I didn’t want to burden you with my problems. I don’t plan on unloading my dump truck of problems on you, haha, but I’m going to be much more open and honest again, like I was before I lost the baby. Cause that’s where this difficult road started. I think I’m finally going to see the end of it, now that I can recognize what I need to do. I refuse to let so much time go by between writing posts again, if it can be avoided. I refuse to forget that I am a writer.

As for this month's critique round, it's on hold until tomorrow, when I get the big news on my husband's current health situation. I'm praying for good things from this important appointment, and it would be wonderful if all of you could, too. So if there will be a round, entries will be accepted starting Tuesday, with instructions up tomorrow evening. If not, I'll try and host 2 rounds in either April or May to make it up to everyone.

Lastly, a question: what do YOU do when you're in a true funk? I'd appreciate hearing your tales of struggle and conquer, if you're willing to share.

First thing’s first. Off to talk to my editor. I’ll be back soon, promise.

Wish me luck.