Why I chose to speak about critique partners.The universe planned a chance meeting between myself and the lovely and most talented, Erin Grace. She, a writer of historical romance, was much published—me, a writer of fantasy? Not a run on the board. I have learned many craft lessons during these past three years. But most importantly, I have learned that like any relationship, as critique partners, there is respect and regard for difference. Now...here I am, a published author. Why? Because I was mentored in craft, scene structure and voice. But the most important lesson for me was to realize I was very precious about making changes to my work. I was holding my own work back. So this article is for you Erin Grace, my bestie, critique partner and mentor. I am grateful.
Who is Kathrine Leannan?
I smell rain before clouds gather across the sky. I feel the dawn before the sun paints my world the colours of the earth. It is the flit of gossamer wings above my head as I walk through the garden that warms my soul and makes me glad that faeries exist. The universe is my mistress and my strength. Things that growl in the shadows or snap at my ankles in the night are my dark friends—the source of my creativity. I, am Kathrine Leannan
Critique Partner or no Critique Partner? That is the question.
When seeking the mentorship of a critique partner or when critiquing someone else's work, a minefield can lay in wait, for the unwary. Our writing is our craft—our creation. As writers, we are sensitive not only about our work, but also, about how others perceive our skill level. To avoid hurt feelings or worse, broken friendships and a loss of momentum to write in the future, there are issues to be considered before inviting a critique partner to review your work and assist you on the journey to writing great books.
The first challenge is to ask yourself if you are ready to work with a critique partner. Not everyone is comfortable to amend or indeed cull altogether back story that really does not move the work forward. It is important for aspiring authors to find a critique partner that has more experience, so lessons can be shared and experience is gained. A positive attitude towards writing is vital as there are days (or longer) when the jaws of procrastination seize us and sabotage the writing progress. Writing is a joy, not a chore.
Be aware that when another person takes the time to critique your work, there is an expectation that you will consider the tracked changes comments, in a reasonable time frame. Also, it is challenging to find the time in our busy lives to critique hundreds of pages at a time. Keep it doable. It is often frustrating to manage this amount of critiquing while your quill is lying un-inked on the table.
Maintain your voice, for it is your story. Be aware, when working with a more experienced writer that you may find your writing is changing or you may feel unsettled in yourself, that the work is not going in the direction you had planned. Remember to confine your growth as a writer, to the lessons of the craft and storytelling. Our voices are unique, let yours be heard.
I wish you the blessings of the universe and may the pleasure of writing, always be with you.
Kathrine’s 1000 year old dragon Muse Mimi... She demanded an appearance so you can admire her magnificence (her words, not mine).
An excerpt from Warrior Born - Book 1 of the Katana Series
Exhausted after her practice session with Yokami, she slept a deep, dreamless sleep. Connor woke with a start when a hand touched her and shook her shoulder. Moonlight flooded through her bedroom window. She sat bolt upright, her hands clenched in front of her.
Marie jumped back out of reach. “’Tis only me, lass. The foal is comin’. Your da asked if ye would come to the round yard and help.”
She blinked a couple of times, then squinted at the digital clock sitting on the wooden table next to her bed. The green luminous numbers confirmed it was 4:30. She threw back the blankets and flung her legs over the side of the mattress. With her head down and bum up, she rummaged around on the floor for her jeans, socks, and boots. She snatched the sweatshirt flung over the back of the chair in front of her dressing table and struggled to get it over her head. As always, her hair stuck out in all directions like a birch broom. She gathered her waist-length hair in one hand, peeled the black elastic band from her wrist, and pulled the thick bunch into a high ponytail as she bolted down the stairs to the kitchen and out the front door.
A single kerosene light hanging from a wire hook on the top fence rail glowed a pale yellow in the dim, early morning light. Angus walked a noisy, distressed mare across the sandy expanse of the enclosure as she threw her leg through the space between the rungs and climbed into the arena.
Exhaustion lined his face. “I thank ye, lass, for comin’, sorry for the early start, but I’m worrit. The mare,” he ran his hands down her sweat-lathered neck, “should have delivered by now. I heard her groaning’ aboot ten o’clock last night.” He shook his head in frustration as he crooned to her. “I’m fashed about the size of this foal. Its great-grandsire was the stallion that almost scared your mother to death when you were just a wee thing. God help us, this foal was to be the finest Friesian we have ever bred. The bloodlines are as pure as they get.” He shook his head as sadness as disappointment showed on his face.
The mare groaned heavily as he clicked his tongue and urged her forward, walking the perimeter of the enclosure. The hoof prints and boot prints in the sand were testament to the many laps they had already walked.
Connor approached the horse, and then squatted down on her haunches. Her forearms rested on her thighs as she clasped her hands in front of her to maintain her balance. The mare, awkward in her movements, stood with her head drooping. Her massive belly looked sucked in, as if to escape the pain. Sharp grunting sounds heralded the next contraction. When she bore down, she wobbled on her front legs with the convulsive, shuddering effort of trying to expel the foal from her womb.
Connor rapid-fired questions without taking her eyes off the mare. “Da, what should we do? Has it been too long? Is the foal still alive?”
“I doona ken, lass. If she has not birthed by the coming of the sun, we’ll call Doc Evans, for surely the foal will be lost.”
Suddenly, a great flood of birth fluid drained from the rear of the mare. She groaned, strained, and bore down again. Her legs buckled and gave out as exhaustion claimed the last of her energy. She collapsed to the sand, snorting and panting. White foam bubbled around her dry lips.
“Nay, beauty, we canna let ye lay down just yet,” Angus cajoled as he clicked his tongue and strained on the halter to be bring her back onto her feet. He spoke over his shoulder. “Hold her head, lass. If we canna keep her upright, she’ll die for sure.”
Connor stood and moved to stand in front of the horse. She shortened the lead on the halter and took a firm grip of the cheek strap and the lead rein. Angus ran his hand over the wet coat as he moved quietly to the hindquarters of the mare and pushed his fingers, hand, and arm up into the horse’s hot flesh. He leaned his shoulder hard on her rump for leverage, as he pushed his hand farther up the birth canal, fingers searching to identity what part of the foal was presenting. He groaned, then his chin hit his chest. His eyes closed in defeat. In a quiet voice laced with pain, he looked up. “Connor…go oop to the house and get my gun. The bullets are in the drawer of the sideboard in the kitchen. The foal is stuck…there’s naught more we can do. ’Tis best if we end her sufferin’.”
“No da! No! Jesus no!” She released the halter and let the lead rope drop to the ground. Running her fingers over the back and belly of the mare, she soothed and crooned to her. “Da! We can’t lose this foal. You said yourself this foal will be the best we have ever―”
Lightning sizzled across the starless night sky as thunder rumbled in the distance. A rasping male voice mind-spoke to her. Summons the old ones, girl child of my blood. You will bring the Friesians to victory. Listen to your Highland instincts and do what you were born to do.
She turned in the direction of the voice. Standing next to her da was a very tall, muscular, wraith-like man dressed in a kilt and plaid held fast with a silver brooch that winked in the lamplight. She sounded very unsure when she spoke. “Da…?”
Angus followed her stare to the space beside him.
“Well met, grandson.”
His hand flew out to touch the barely corporeal image. “Jesus Christ, Connor!”
“Nay, lass, not ye. This is yer great-grandsire from Scotland, the one for whom ye are named.”
The clan chieftain threw back his head and laughed. “Ye look as though ye have seen a ghost, mon.”
Angus smiled. “Ghost or no’…Christ I am glad to see ye. We were told Epona―”
Connor moved around the mare, smoothing her wet coat with her fingers as she walked over to stand beside her da. She cocked her head. “Epona? Epona? Where have I heard that name? How do I know that name?”
Her grandsire walked over and placed a hand on top of her head. “Blessed be, lass. Do what it is you were born to do. Save the one the clan has waited for.”
She looked to the clear starry sky as lightning sizzled just above her head. The thunder in the distance matched the shouts of the ancients, anxious for the Friesian of the old blood to be born.
The exhausted mare looked defeated. Her breath came out in raw snorts. Connor squatted down in front of her again, lowering her face level with the horse’s head. After placing her hands under the wet muzzle, she blew a slow breath down over the horse’s face. Her fingers stroked the lovely strong neck draped with three feet of black curly mane, the ends of which pooled on the trampled sand. The mare trembled, then screamed when the next paroxysmal contraction forced her to strain deep in her hindquarters.
Standing up, Connor walked behind the horse, shut her eyes, and placed both hands flat on the taunt abdomen. Blood and fear pumped under her fingers as she focused on the contents of the huge black belly. Blurry images came together as the shape of a foal formed in her mind.
Angus stepped toward her. “Lass…enough. The foal is lost, it has been too long.”
The clan chieftain grabbed Angus's forearm and jerked him backward. He looked at his grandson and shook his head. “Let the bairn find the Sight. It is what we have waited for all this while…it is why you are here in this time.”
Connor looked up and frowned, then returned her hands to the mare’s belly as she closed her eyes and started moving her fingers along the black coat. “Come on now…that’s it…Jesus, da! No wonder this foal has not birthed. The position is… Oh crap! This foal is huge and God knows how, but it has got its head twisted backward. She can’t birth him until the head comes forward into position.”
The thunder was deafening now. The whites of the mare’s eyes were huge as the noise of the Horsemen both soothed her and terrified her. Connor worked her hands on the enormous belly. Suddenly a vivid green glow enveloped her and the mare as the lightning above surrounded her. The Horsemen roared as they channelled their power into her while she kneaded and manipulated the horse’s flesh. The stroke tracks glowed like phosphorescent lines on a roadmap. A sharp movement in the mare’s belly preceded a scream of pain.
Connor raised her head to the sky and yelled, “Thank you, grandfathers!”
The mare grunted and tossed her head, then gave one almighty push. The nose of the foal appeared, wet and shiny. With the next push, the slimy body plopped to the ground with a thump, severing the umbilical cord.
Angus and his grandsire were on their knees the second the foal hit the sand. He looked at his grandfather and shook his head. “Christ almighty, it’s a big lad. Will ye look at the size of him? Blessed be, he’s as black as the pits of hell!”
They watched while the mare stood, then used her sharp teeth to strip the membranes from the foal’s slippery body. The placenta came away unnoticed with a wet splash onto the sand as she continued to nudge and whicker to her new son. Within minutes, as is the wonder of newly birthed foals, the colt struggled to his long, wobbly legs, instinctively seeking his mother’s waxy teat, which he sucked into his mouth and began to drink.
The old chieftain pulled himself up to his full height, then walked over to Connor, gathered her up in his arms and lifted her off the ground as he whirled her around in a circle.
“Ye did it, lass! Christ, it was worth the wait to see you save the Friesian who will take our bloodlines to greatness. You truly are the one of our prayers.” As he kissed her on top of the head and faded to invisibility, his words rang out in the darkness. “Our thanks to ye. We will meet again, Daughter of the Highlands.”
Connor reached out to him, but he was gone. “Da?”
Angus beamed as he wrapped his arm around her in a tight hug.
“We doona question the ancients, lass. Just be grateful to know him for the great man that he is…er…was.” He stood with his arm looped around her shoulders, staring at the foal. “Jesus Christ, I have never seen anything like what ye did tonight. He’s right, lass. The foal and the mare would have died without ye and the Sight.”
They stood together, staring and smiling at the big beautiful colt. He turned to her. “What should we call him, then?”
Connor reached over and took the kerosene light from the hook on the railing, then walked around the mare, watching the foal as he suckled. “Well, he is as black as the pits of hell, that’s for sure.” A warm feeling of connectedness filled her chest. “I think we should call him Hades.”
Connor MacDonald, chieftain of the ancient Horsemen, resumed his place alongside his fellow warriors as they beat their swords against their shields in celebration. He turned to Epona, picked up her hand, and kissed it. Her tinkling laugh was like a feather across his heart. She smiled up at him as he spoke.
“She sees and knows the ways of the old ones without being shown. The Sight and the rune patterns of the ancients are known to her blood. She is indeed a rare woman and will become an even rarer horsewoman. Our bloodline will survive! The girl child of the Highlands has this night earned her place among the masters.”
Grimoire Books Publishing: http://store.grimoirebooks.net/
Amazon Australia: http://www.amazon.com.au/Warrior-Born
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