Update! Where I’ve been and What’s Next

Hello, my creative preciouses. It’s been quite some time. Do forgive me. Sleep deprivation hasn’t fled from me for over a year now. This is mostly my ten-month-old’s fault, but my four-year-old has also been waking in the wee hours as well, causing this momma to awaken four or so times nightly. Three espresso shots barely help, but it’s just a season. I hope. (That was a lot of numbers and I loathe math.)

So yep, that makes four kiddos now, all five and under, two of which I homeschool.

Me. Plus one.

We also bought and sold a home after a year of living in it, then moved to another state, and it took seven months to finally close on a new home to which we finally moved into five months ago.

In writing news, I revised the first book I’ve ever written, turning the over 100K manuscript into three novellas. WANTED: A Boyfriend Who Doesn’t Suck drives you into the drama that began with my first love at seventeen, onto my second, and then my third and last. It’s my true, supernatural love story. I am looking for readers/reviewers so if you’re interested, do leave me a comment with your email and I’ll shoot it over to ya.

Excerpt from The Phantom Lover

What about you? What have you been up to? Feel free to leave a comment regarding your happenings.

At the end of the day, I’m thankful to God for the life He gave me. Mostly, for giving me Himself, because without Him, I don’t know where I’d be.

Happy reading!

Have you tried Canva for book covers?

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I made this for free with Canva.com. They have a really cool section with ALL book cover templates, even ones specified to Wattpad and it’s great quality text and whatnot for FREE! Look at that, 50,000 templates!

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Check out some of the Wattpad specific covers:

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Seriously, how cool is this? Have you used this tool. If you have, feel free to let me know and share a link with your cover. Happy cover making!

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Read my ongoing, NA urban fantasy story for free on Wattpad: CORYN OF BELLSFERRY: BLOOD THIEVES.

“With long snaking roads enshrouded by dense woodland and only smatters of clarity along the rolling hills, the beautiful countryside of Bellsferry was the perfect place for predators to stalk.”

Coryn knows fate when she’s pricked by it–she thinks.

In a world where American law has been overthrown, and wanna-be supernatural, self-made vampires exist–who by the way, are really creepy and demented and have started preying on the small town of Bellsferry–there also exists Coryn, a twenty-three-year-old single mother who’s just trying to survive through life–and give her daughter a somewhat decent one. But when Coryn is taken under her gunslinging neighbors’ wings and something…otherworldly happens, forget decent; she and her daughter’s lives are now even more dangerous than before. Sigh. That’s what happens when you accidentally become the only real nemesis to the deranged psychopaths who have iron-gripped your hometown.

Since before the demolition of law, Coryn grew up surviving through life, but now she has to protect not only herself and her seven-year-old daughter, but their entire town–doesn’t she?

 

Coryn of Bellsferry: Blood Thieves -Chapter 5: Unexpected Guests

Hunter aesthetic! 

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Coryn Aesthetic!

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Chapter 5 of Coryn of Bellsferry: Blood Thieves is here! Check it out on Wattpad!

“I shivered, despite the summer heat. What if something happened to me? What if the Blood Thieves got to me? What would that do to my daughter, losing the person closest to her? She barely knew Gunner and Dixie. She’d be devastated and scared, and the security and joy of her childhood bubble would burst and she’d be thrown into the dark, confusing maze of this dangerous world. Death was banging on all of our doors, especially mine and Krista’s, and who knew when it’d break through and seize its loot. It could happen tonight…”-from chapter 5

Chapter vibes:

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Coryn Aesthetic!

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SYNOPSIS TIME!

“With long snaking roads enshrouded by dense woodland and only smatters of clarity along the rolling hills, the beautiful countryside of Bellsferry was the perfect place for predators to stalk.” Coryn knows fate when she’s pricked by it–she thinks.

In a world where American law has been overthrown, and wanna-be supernatural, self-made vampires exist–who by the way, are really creepy and demented and have started preying on the small town of Bellsferry–there also exists Coryn, a twenty-three-year-old single mother who’s just trying to survive through life–and give her daughter a somewhat decent one. But when Coryn is taken under her gunslinging neighbors’ wings and something…otherworldly happens, forget decent; she and her daughter’s lives are now even more dangerous than before. Sigh. That’s what happens when you accidentally become the only real nemesis to the deranged psychopaths who have iron-gripped your hometown.

Since before the demolition of law, Coryn grew up surviving through life, but now she has to protect not only herself and her seven-year-old daughter, but their entire town–doesn’t she?

 

Have you been following along? If so, what are your thoughts so far? Got a WIP you’re working on? Are you on Wattpad? Let me know! Happy reading! -Natasha

What is it about a book’s first page that keeps you reading?

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I’m curious:

What is it about a book’s first page that keeps you flipping?

Are you able to share an example of a book whose first page just grabbed you and held on until the last page? I want to know what book did that for you and why. Then I can go Amazon-“Look inside”-stalk and see if I agree with you or not. 😉 Happy discussing!

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Killing Your Characters

So killing off characters in your story: is it fun for you, or torture?

I’ve been on both sides of this fence, and I can say that now, it’s leaning toward more fun. For me, there’s something about the shock of it, the later oh-so-hoped for justice, the real-ness it adds to the danger and the story in general, and of course, the emotions it stirs. But what say you? I wanna know your reasons as to why you enjoy killing characters in your story, or why you hate it. Let the discussion begin!

Cheaper Edits for Some Special Preciouses

Those of you interested in having me as a developmental editor are getting a price-break from my already reasonable editing service fees.

Short story edit

A thorough edit of your story, improving various aspects such as plot, characters, dialogue, stakes, emotional appeal, originality, conflicts, and resolution.

Short story edit rates

$0.04 $o.03 a word.

Novel edit

A complete edit of your story, enhancing key aspects such as plot, characters, dialogue, stakes, emotional appeal, originality, conflicts, and resolution.

Novel edit rates

$0.02 $0.01 a word, so if your manuscript is 70,000 words, it’ll be just  $700 for a developmental edit of your entire story!

But, these rates won’t last. I’m offering this price-break until March 1st. Fill out the form below with your genre, synopsis, and word-count, and I’ll get back to you soon.

Happy helping!

Critique Friday: “Allies of the Night” Reading 

It’s Critique Friday! Today’s reading is from an action-packed horry/fantasy/adventure by Nicholas Scott. If you want your first 1500 words to be read and posted here on my blog and on my YouTube channel, send it via email to NatashaSapienza[at]gmail.com 

Don’t send your manuscript if there’s anything erotic in it. 

Happy helping!

Writing Craft Wednesday: Action Scenes vs Rest Ones

When the heroes in your story are fighting the villains, there shouldn’t be too much time to take in every detail. Long sentences must be shortened. Short sentences make us more anxious. For example:

Sara mustered all the strength she had left and swung her fist at Bale’s cheek. He grabbed her hand and twisted her arm behind her back with such force she stumbled onto her knees. His grip tightened, squeezing so hard Sara was sure her blood circulation was cut off. A scream ripped through her mouth and echoed off the cave walls. Bale shoved her onto the cold, stony ground and unsheathed a large double-edged dagger with a leather hilt. 

Vs:

Sara swung her fist at Bale. He grabbed it and twisted her arm. His grip tightened. Sara screamed. Her cry echoed through the cave. Bale shoved her to the ground. He unsheathed his dagger. 

Admittedly, I like both. But if you can keep your sentences from running long, yet include actions that intensify the emotions, go for it. You want to both grip your audience emotionally and make them anxious. 

Rest scenes are different. They are the moments of reflection and/or contemplation. It is when your hero is recalling a lost loved-one, or trying to stoke the flames of hope in himself or his friends. Or it’s a romantic scene where your heroine pours her heart out to her beloved. Longer sentences are welcome here. You can milk these. Details are fine. But, you can and should end these with tension. Tension is what keeps the story moving forward. You can even have the primary emotion of the scene grow stronger and stronger, increasing the tension or anticipation for what will happen next. So even though nothing is happening action-wise during this rest scene, inwardly, something is rising in your character and it can be felt. Like this excerpt from Bryan Davis’s Reapers, book one:

As we continued, heat rose from the roof’s tacky surface, making the air even more stifling on this sultry night. Wearing a cloak with a long-sleeved tunic underneath added to the discomfort, but at least Crandyke wasn’t complaining. A half moon veiled by hazy vapor hovered over the skyline and provided a new frame of light around Sing—a flowing silhouette of cloak and curls running at my side. The daring rescue and her willingness to accept an unorthodox Reaper like me meant a lot. We would probably get along fine.

Yet, not everything made sense. Showing up at exactly the right time seemed too coincidental. And that speech about freedom and being a robot? Practiced. Her acting skills nearly glossed it over but not enough to quell suspicion. It would be best to keep her in sight, at least until after she called for help from her people, whoever they were. Still, she could get in a lot of trouble hanging around me—a medical black-market trader who was trying to, as the Gatekeeper’s Council often put it, “Interrupt the natural order of death and reaping.” If she stuck around, she would eventually learn the truth and maybe get entangled in the danger.

I focused straight ahead. I would probably learn soon enough. The road to the Gateway might very well prove Sing’s alliances.

What novels have you read with some awesome action and rest scenes? Feel free to share your thoughts in a comment.

Happy helping!


Critique of “Song of the Daystar” by Nichole

I know it’s Main Character Monday, but I’m finding it quite difficult to film and edit readings and then edit/critique your pieces when sent the day of or before Critique Friday . So if you would like a recorded reaction to your first 1500 words and a written critique, I ask kindly that you please send me your work by Wednesday, 5pm est. Thanks!

Here’s this week’s critique for a cool fantasy piece by Nichole. All of my edits are in bold. You can find an overview of my critique and suggestions at the bottom of this post. 

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Chapter 1

Black Portent (What does this mean?)

The bells of Cythla Mael had not pealed their dirge in decades, yet now their voices rang over the streets of Marratow in dark and mournful song. (Nice hook!)

Bong, bong, booonnnggg! Bong, bong, booonnngg!

(Whatever you do, DON’T write onomatopoeia’s like this. It gives a bit of a comedic feel. Try a simple: Bong. Bong. Bong. I think the majority of readers are going to hear the typical bong created by such large bells.)

Morven raced through the palace’s corridors, bare feet slapping the marble floor as his night robes fluttered wild behind him. Please, no, he prayed into the dark. Not tonight. Not now. Please… let it not be true…

Bong, bong, booonnnggg!

“Morven, slow down!” The voice cut through his chanting thoughts, causing him to stumble.  He caught himself and continued on, ducking his head as if to shield it from the voice’s owner. (Instead of saying “the voice” twice, just put “the voice of Nephraim, the younger of his guards, cut through etc.”) It belonged to Nephriam, the younger of his guards – a tall man in his mid-thirties with a serious outlook on life. (This was a mini info-dump. It sounded contrived. Don’t describe Nephraim unless your POV character which I assume is Morven, is looking at him.) No doubt Torran followed close behind, trying to keep up on much older legs. Neither one was a match for his (since Torran was mentioned last, this “his” is confusing and incorrect grammar. Change to Morven’s) speed… especially tonight. Especially with the song of those bells resonating through his bones.

“Please, my prince… wait!  We only wish to help.” Nephriam’s pleads fell on deaf ears, though that didn’t stop him (from) trying. “We have lanterns!”

“No use yellin’ after him,” said a second voice, and Morven knew he’d been right about Torran (again, just say “Torran sounded out of breath.” Cut to the chase.) The older guard sounded out of breath. “Boy’s got a flighty head on his shoulders, and he’s fast. Besides, he knows well what those bells mean. So do you.”

“We’ll never catch him at this rate,” Nephriam panted. “What if something happens to him? Tonight of all nights? It’s our necks, not his.”

“We’ll catch him. He has to stop at some point, and until then he can handle his own. Besides, we know where he’s going… poor lad.”

Nephriam tried once more. “Moven, just slow down a moment! Try to listen to reason!”

But Morven sped up, leaving the echoes of their voices behind. He liked his guards well enough, but he didn’t want their company. Not tonight. He didn’t need their lanterns to light his way, or their words to ease his worry. They would only slow him down, and he must not slow down…(See, the POV is confusing. Is it omniscient? If so, reporting what the guards are saying is fine. But if it’s third-person-intimate then Morven wouldn’t hear this conversation unless they’re yelling it.)

Booonnnggg!!! Booonnnggg!!!

(Never use more than one exclamation. And again, this one is especially comedic because of the excessive letters and exclamations)

Heaving breath, Morven skirted around a corner so fast he caught his shoulder on the stone wall. Sharp pain lanced through his arm. He ignored it, allowing it only to quicken his stride (to get rid of the double “it” try: “He ignored it and quickened his stride.”) When last he’d heard the Dark Twins sing he’d been but a lad of three, and then their song had (you can get rid of this “had”) made him cry. Now, at twenty-eight, he found he still wanted to.

Please let it not be… He pleaded with the shadows. Aern’s Teeth, please!

BOOONNNGGG!!!

(This one really looks funny)

Morven threw himself around the last corner and skidded to a halt in front of the great black door, just as the bells’ final notes shivered in the air and faded to silence. The two guards beside the door posts glanced at him, wary. (Same sentence structure as previous sentence. Change it up.) He could have sworn he saw pity in their eyes, but they said nothing and he was grateful for it. Drawing in a deep, shuddering breath, he tried to collect himself.

(I think you can do without “tried to collect himself.” It’s telling and unnecessary because his actions are showing it. It’ll be more dramatic as well if it were: “He drew in a deep, shuddering breath. Please.”)

Please.  His mind whispered the mantra over and over again. It cannot be… Let them be wrong, if only this once. Let this not be… (I think you can do without “let this not be.” It isn’t as strong as the previous line. It’s what I call a “throw-away” line. And ending at “if only this once” sounds more dramatic.) And placing one hand on the door, the other on the gilded nob, he pushed it open (the “And” is unnecessary.)

The room beyond the door was darker than he ever remembered it. Thick, heavy drapes hung over the windows like funeral veils, blocking Eirna’s waning light. (hmm…if it was still dusk out, why did his guards offer him a lantern?) Morven had never seen the windows covered before. It made the large chamber feel stuffy and cluttered. Dark candles burned along the walls in sconces, yet instead of offering light and comfort they seemed to drain it from all around them leaving only sorrow and pain, and a thick, cloying scent as greasy as it was sickly sweet (nice descriptions, however, you used thick a few sentences before, and cloying is a rare word. I like fancy words, but too fancy can throw off some readers.) He stepped forward (forward isn’t necessary) into the room, drawing the door shut behind him and pulling up a section of his robe to protect his nose and mouth from the wretched smell. An inexplicable urge came over him to snuff the candles out, plunging the room into darkness. Somehow that felt more comforting than having the nasty things lit.

In the center of the room sat a large square bed, as gnarled, majestic, and immovable as an oak. Morven approached it with wary trepidation, dreading what awaited him there, (yet) longing to confirm his own suspicions. His memories of the bed had always been kindly but now, in the light of the baleful (this word threw me off) candles, it seemed to have transformed. Gone were the red and gold brocade (this word also threw me off, but probably because I don’t know much about fancy curtains) curtains he knew so well. Replacing them, heavy black ones spilled to the floor in oppressive folds. Gone, too, was the large blue and silver comforter that reminded him of a night painted in stars. Now thick black (so as not to repeat words maybe you can do “ebony” in place of one of these “blacks”) blankets lay over the bed, trimmed in the barest hint of gold and piled high near the center. They made him think of a beast hoarding jewels, and did not look the slightest bit inviting. They looked like death shrouds.

Morven inched nearer, watching the pile with growing dread. It never moved, nor made a sound. There was no hiss or rattle of breath, no sudden shudder of the blankets to betray life beneath them. As he came closer to the head of the bed, he saw something pale lying on the pillows… a face. His breath caught in his throat. The face, framed in a mane of salt-and-pepper hair was both familiar and strange in all the wrong ways. He knew it like he knew life, like he drew breath…

But never so still. Never so pale. Never so…

Dead.

Morven reached out, caressing one sallow cheek with his fingertips. He didn’t dare hope… refused to believe…

It can’t be true. The Dark Twins lie… it can’t be true!

“Father?”

No reply. No movement. No breath.

The Dark Twins never lied.

Something rustled on the other side of the bed, a sound like snake skin sliding over stone. Morven’s eyes flicked towards the source of the noise, searching. For an instant he saw a hand, pale as ghost shades and gnarled (you used a gnarled tree reference before to describe the bed) like tree roots, brush the top of the bedclothes. Then it slipped over the side of the bed and out of sight. An inhaled  breath (breath isn’t necessary) hissed through the air, followed by a familiar rusty voice. Morven knew that voice all too well.  He hated it.

“So. You have decided to grace us with your presence at last. Too bad it is a moment too late, but I suppose that’s hardly unexpected from you.”

Morven jerked his hand away from his father’s face as if  stung. Straightening, he squared his shoulders and glared at the shadows on the other side of the bed. “Aldriand.” He growled the name through gritted teeth, and did not regret the hate his voice implied.

“The same.” The shadows shifted and a face came into the wan light, long, pale, and swept in a snow white (to avoid your readers thinking of the cute Disney princess, maybe you can simply say ivory or snowy) beard. A hooked and crooked nose perched like a vulture’s beak over thin lips turned down in a perpetual look of disapproval, while black beady eyes glared out from beneath thick white eyebrows (Although I love the vulture beak, I think you’re going a little overboard with describing this man. Your audience doesn’t need this much description. You can do without the thick white eyebrows and even the beady black eyes. Besides, if his beard is white your audience knows his eyebrows will be, too.) The Lord High Erath scanned Morven’s haggard appearance – tousled hair, untied robe, and yesterday’s wrinkled tunic and breeches – with barely veiled contempt before his gaze settled on Morven’s face. Aldriand’s frown deepened, but he dipped his head. “Prince Morven,” he said (he said is unnecessary. You can use Aldriand’s actions as a speaker tag. Just do a sentence break.) The words were civil, but only just. Morven sensed the loathing behind them. “Or, I suppose it should be King, now, shouldn’t it? Though I can’t help but wonder if you’re ready for such responsibility. Especially at so young and…” – he raised an eyebrow at Morven’s attire – “impressionable an age. The burden of such a title usually falls on the backs of older, more mature men. Those who can shoulder the responsibilities with strength, endurance, and dignity. Your father was just such a man, but I suppose in his – well – unfortunate absence, you will have to do.”

Morven’s jaw clenched so tight, he was sure Aldriand could hear his teeth grinding. “What are you doing in my father’s chambers?” he asked. (He asked is unnecessary. Again, his action where you state his name, followed by an action, and then the line is a speaker tag.)

“What you should have been doing all along,” Aldriand reprimanded. (You can take out “Aldriand reprimanded. It’s telling rather than showing so it isn’t necessary. We know by what he is saying that he’s reprimanding Morven.) “I stood with my king in his last hour when even his own son had forsaken him. I wonder how he felt about that in the end.  Knowing that his only son and heir to his throne could not be bothered to see him into the courts of Anwynn.”

Morven winced as the words struck home. (as the words struck home also is telling and unnecessary. The wincing shows us it hit home.) His eyes stung, but he refused to cry. He would not give Aldriand the satisfaction. Besides, the tears were selfish and that realization angered him. He didn’t want their comfort or deserve the self-pity that would come with them. Instead, he drew himself up, squared his shoulders, (used this already. Try a different action) and glared into the calculating eyes of the Lord High Erath. It took all his mustered will to keep his voice from shaking as he spoke. The words that came out felt mindless and stale.

“Thank you for your services,” he said with measured respect. (Because of all that you say before this line, “he said with measured respect” isn’t necessary and the prose flows better without it.) “I’m sure my father was most comforted by your presence in my absence. Yet, now I must ask that you leave. I would like to spend a few moments alone with the body and my private thoughts.”

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Overview

Prose

This was really well written, Nichole; very rich and dramatic. Just look out for repeat descriptions, words and actions which you didn’t have much of, and unnecessary words. Utilize actions along with the character’s name as a speaker tag to get rid of unnecessary “he saids.” 

You used some fancy words. I like using bigger words as well, but I hesitantly simplified them a tad for the sake of keeping my audience in the story. This piece sounds like it’s for adults, but there will still be those (like myself) who get tripped up. 

I know this is fantasy, but I personally don’t like omniscient POV. I favor third-person-intimate because you can get, well, intimate. Omniscient can be distant and reporter-like. I do think it works well in children’s books. Ultimately, it’s what you know will work best in telling the story, just really consider this IF you haven’t yet.

Plot

This was definitely a good, dramatic start. I like the introduction of the characters and especially of the creepy Lord High Erath. I also like that you leave your audience wondering why Morven wasn’t there for his father. What caused the distance between them? It makes us want to read on and find out why. And keep the tension going. Morven’s guilt, the friction between him and other characters. Tension is the best!

Characters

I like that there’s a younger and an older guard; it makes for a more dynamic cast. Contrast in characters is good. Hopefully we see very different personalities and desires that can create good tension. 

Dialogue

Not much to say here. Every word is calculated like Lord Erath’s eyes. And the tension in the dialogue was agrivating in a good way. Made ya wanna yank Erath’s beard off. There was only one place during Morven’s thoughts that was redundant. Lots of times, less is more, especially in dialogue. You can show a lot with actions. Only say what really needs to be said with words.

I look forward to seeing your career hit the ground. You’re a gifted and passionate writer. Well done!

Do you want your first 1500 words critiqued? Send it to NatashaSapienza[at]gmail[dot]com by Wednesday, 5pm est. 

Happy helping!

Critique Friday! Video Reading of “Song of the Daystar”

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You know what time it is: Critique Friday! Here’s my initial reaction/reading of Nichole’s, “Song of the Daystar.” It’s another fantasy piece–yay!–so I decided to get into character and wear my special tunic and headband. For more readings and funny moments be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel.  And well done, Nichole!