Monthly Archives: March 2015

Giving & Receiving Constructive Criticism


criticismOne of the greatest things a writer can get from someone is legitimate constructive criticism. It can help the author to grow and see their work in a different light. It can help them to be aware of things like passive voice and how to better create a sensation for the reader that brings them into the story rather than just having them watch from the outside.

I’ve got some great fellow writers who give very good feedback, and I’ve got some others who mean well but don’t really know how to give (nor receive) criticism.  A writer needs to learn that criticism isn’t meant to bring you down but rather bring your craft to a higher level. It’s not easy to learn how not to take it personally, but if you’re not open to hearing what others have to say, then you’re probably not really looking to improve your writing.

When you belong to a crit group, go expecting to maybe have your ego bruised a bit but know that it will be helpful in the long run. Go knowing others are looking for real feedback that consists of more than “I liked it.” If you really have nothing to say, be honest and say whether you enjoyed the work or not (it’s okay if it’s not your type of story) and tell them you don’t have anything constructive to add. Don’t nitpick just for the sake of having something to say. It’s not constructive to tell them you don’t think a girl from Iowa would have rainbow colored hair or that you would never say what their character said.

I’m going to share with you all the feedback I received from round 1 of NYC Midnight’s Short Story Challenge. I appreciate that they cover the good and the not so good. For what it’s worth, I think all their constructive criticism is dead on and should I use the piece elsewhere I will look to improve upon those points to make the story that much better. Also, I completely agree with their comment on the title. I hated it but nothing else appropriate came to mind in the time period!

”The Fear Within” by MaryBeth Mulhall –

WHAT THE JUDGE(S) LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – ……………The opening is fantastic — it’s a grabber, and the reader is thrown into such a conflict he wants to go forward; the mechanics, as far as sentence structure and grammar, are solid, and the narrative flow is smooth. There is also excellent use of syntax (sentences longer and shorter) as a tool to ratchet the tension (for example, “No. Such. Luck.”)…………………………………………This story is great. Lively, funny, original voice, vivid scenes, memorable characters, kickass last line. A+……………….………………………

WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – ……………What’s missing here is the reason for the incident — this character is getting a comeuppance of sorts (according to the synopsis), but for what? Being a scumsucker? Relishing the fact that he’s alone and miserable so he wants others to be too?That would be an interesting thing to consider: he loves watching divorces, and show us his motivation for that — and now something dark has come to claim him as punishment.//It’s not made clear up front what he does for a living; the reader won’t have the benefit of the competition parameters.//”an unpleasant smell” — rather than a general that the reader has to contemplate, combine two familiar smells to create an unfamiliar one. For example, “rotten eggs and cherry cough syrup.” Getting the reader to “smell” what you’re imagining isn’t that difficult to do, and it makes all the difference in leaving a strong impression.//”A movement beckoned me from the corner of the office…” although this is active voice, it’s written in a descriptive manner, using longer sentences, so the impact is lost. Instead of the reader feeling tension, he just “watches” what’s there without any emotional connection — this is compounded by the fact that the character isn’t reacting; no fear, no surprise………………………….………………The title isn’t as clever or as fun as the story itself; find a new one. You should be clearer about the main character’s gender earlier on—there’s a noir-ish tone to the narrative that had me picturing a man. A couple of awkward sentence constructions: (There’s an unclear antecedent in this line: “Sharp, manicured nails dug into my palms in the hopes that pain would snap me out of my delusions.”) These are minor quibbles, though. Great story…………………………………….

Moving On!


March 10th is finally here! Today is the day we get the results of round one of the NYC Midnight Short Story nyc midnight moving onchallenge. The top five in each heat get to move on to the next round. That means around 1,400 authors have been culled to 240.  I’m not sure how many move on from the next heat, but I’ll find out at midnight on Thursday when I get my new assignment!

That’s right, The Fear Within was chosen as one of the top five in my particular heat. If you haven’t read it yet and are interested, clicky here!

I will have just three days to write a 2,000 word (max) short on a topic and in a genre I don’t yet know.  It couldn’t come at a worse time with my work schedule, but I’ll make it work. Hopefully the subject will be inspiring because there will be no time to get stuck.

Wish me luck!

An Interview. A Book Release. A Chance to Win Stuff With Raine O’Tierney!

Look at that sweet cover!

Look at that sweet cover!

I have the delightful honor of being the first stop of author Raine O’Tierney’s blog tour for her new release I Will Always Miss You, a LGBT YA novel that deals with diversity and reminds its readers that family doesn’t always mean the people you share DNA with.

I was able to pin down the busy author for a bit and got her to answer some questions about the book and her writing in general. Let’s see what she had to say!

(Keep going after the interview for blurbs, excerpt,purchase links, contest info and more places where you can connect with Raine!)

1) Is this your first Young Adult book?

It is! And I’ve got to say—mad props to anyone who writes YA exclusively. Getting the ever-changing voice of a teenager right is hard work! How we talked as teens is insanely different than how teens today talk, and I don’t even consider myself a *total* dinosaur.

(MB- as a fellow YA author, I understand this struggle completely!)

2) Why do you write Young Adult?

Even though I’m closer to 30 than I am to 18, my experiences as a teenager—the good, the bad, and the awkward—are still so vibrant in my head. Writing YA lets me explore some of those emotions in a creative way.

(MB – as someone over 30 I can tell you some of that vibrancy never fades…)

3) What’s so important about I’ll Always Miss You that made you have to tell the story?

In addition to trying to contribute to positive LGBT literature for teens, I wanted to write a story about an Arab-American teenager. We need more diversity all around, but there’s a noticeable lack of Arab characters. Throughout this story Isa Zaman struggles with how others perceive him and his family and how he perceives himself.

4) Were there any parts that were difficult for you to put down on “paper”?   Why?

Any time the boys were in a fight. I would argue with them, nooo, guys, let’s all get along! But characters do what they do.

(MB – They have a mind of their own, don’t they? Silly characters!)

5) What do you hope people take away with them upon completing the book?

There are so many things you can walk away with depending on the angle you look come at it from. But, hmm, my favorite theme? Family doesn’t always mean our blood relatives.

6) Who was your favorite character in the book and why?

Isa’s oldest sister Aaliyah is my favorite character. She has completely embraced her Moroccan heritage and creates beautiful things that inspire Isa on his journey. She’s also very kind—the sort of person I wish I knew in real life. I’d love to spend the afternoon with Aaliyah.

7) Who or what inspires you to write?

Siôn O’Tierney (my writing partner and hubs!) He said he married me for my sweet, sweet writing monies (hahahahaha…ha…) so I keep writing stories for him.

8) What are five of your favorite reads?

(In no particular order)

Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassedy

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby

(MB – I…don’t know any of these! To the!”)

9) Do you have any other projects in the works readers can look forward to?

I have an adult work coming out from Dreamspinner Press in May called All That Shimmers and a collaboration I did with the fantastic Debbie McGowan called Leaving Flowers that will be out in June from Beaten Track Publishing.

10) Where can fans connect with you?

Swing on by my FB page for randomness! ❤

11) Bonus Question! If I’ll Always Miss You was turned into a hit Broadway musical, what would the name of the big song played in all the commercials be called?

Shoes on the Wire! (With the exclamation point.)

ISBN-13: 9781632165244

Pages: 256 pages

Cover Artist: Bree Archer

Categories: Young Adult | Bisexual | Coming of Age |



Isa Zaman might forgive his parents for taking in a friend’s son if only he wasn’t the most boring teenager in the universe. Macklin “Mackie” Cormack’s only interests are reading and the outdoors. Yeah, right. Isa’s convinced Mackie is either a pyro or a klepto. Plus, as a white kid, Mackie looks ridiculous in the Zamans’ Arab American household. Forced to share a bedroom, the boys keep butting heads until an absurd fight finally breaks the tension between them.

Isa’s just starting to figure life out: this new houseguest, his cultural identity, school, and even girls, when the entire family is uprooted from their home for reasons Isa can’t understand. They move from their tiny city apartment to a giant, old house in a small town, hours away from everything he’s ever known. Oh, and the new house? It’s probably haunted, or so says the blank-faced ten-year-old next door. As if things weren’t weird enough, Isa’s friendship with Mackie suddenly takes a strange turn down a path Isa’s not sure he’s ready to follow. It turns out Mackie Cormack isn’t nearly as boring as Isa once imagined.


He took a deep breath. “That’s sort of the thing. I don’t like anything about her.”


“She asked me out.” Mackie shrugged. “But I don’t really like her all that much either.”

I couldn’t wrap my head around it. We’d been ignoring each other for all that time over a girl he didn’t even like? Bullshit. Complete and total bullshit.

“Are you for real?”


“So why are you going out with her, then?” And then I remembered what he’d said in my room that day, that he was dating her just because…. Because why? If we were ever going to be friends again, then I needed to know. “Why are you going out with her?”

“I really don’t want to talk about that, Isa.”

“C’mon, Mackie. It’s been driving me nuts. Why would you date someone you didn’t even like? Or do you like kissing her?”

“Not… really,” he said. “That’s kind of the thing. I thought I would. But… I don’t.”

The book.

“Okay, then stop.” I shrugged. “We’re supposed to start working at Rashid’s, and we could hang out again, and there’s only like a week left of school. We could be friends.”

I don’t… think that’s… a good idea.”

“You don’t want to be my friend?” I demanded. “What? ’Cause of Katy? ’Cause I was a jerk? That’s stupid, Mackie! It was your fault too! I don’t understand you at all.”

He was quiet for a really long time.

“I’m screwed no matter what I do,” he finally said on a low sigh.

“You think?” I asked, not knowing what he meant. I rolled Dad’s nine iron with my palm.

“Jesus H, Isa. You’re going to make me do this, aren’t you?”

“Yup,” I told him dryly. “Yup, I’m going to make you do this, whatever the hell ‘this’ is.”

He turned his face and stared at me. He stared at me so hard and for so long, I started to get uncomfortable. And then he leaned in, and I thought he was going to whisper it. Whatever the big secret was, whatever he’d been hiding from me, his reasons for dating a girl he didn’t even like, his reasons for not wanting to be my friend, all of it. Instead, he kissed me.





 Rafflecopter prizes: $25 giftcard and an e-copy of I’ll Always Miss You

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Raine O’Tierney lives outside of Kansas City with her husband, fellow Dreamspinner Press author, Siôn O’Tierney. When she’s not writing, she’s either asleep or fighting the good fight for intellectual freedom at her library day job. Raine believes the best thing we can do in life is be kind to one another, and she enjoys encouraging fellow writers! Writing for 20+ years (with the last 10 spent on M/M) Raine changes sub-genres to suit her mood and believes all good stories end sweetly. Contact her if you’re interested in talking about point-and-click adventure games or about which dachshunds are the best kinds of dachshunds!


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