Escape from the Past: The Duke’s Wrath by Annette Oppenlander

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Annette Oppenlander will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

My Take on Critique Groups
by Annette Oppenlander

I’ve been in critique groups since 2009 and consider them invaluable. I can’t even list the hundreds of things they taught me. Here are just a few amazing things they did for me.

1. Teach me about punctuation and dangling participles
2. Were available every two weeks through all kinds of weather and holidays
3. Kept me on track with bi-weekly submissions
4. Pointed out inconsistencies in my plot, short comings of my characters, superfluous paragraphs and chapters, confusing sections, questionable endings, etc.
5. Patted me on the back when I was down and pulled me down when I was getting full of myself

But the longer I’m writing the more I’m finding that critique groups can be a mixed bag. Don’t get me wrong, I think critique groups are an absolute necessity for any writer, especially new(er) writers. They provide valuable feedback for everything from grammar and spelling to plot development, dialogue and beginning chapters. But I’ve heard and read plenty of nightmare stories.

If you are in a group and your gut tells you that something isn’t quite right, it may be time to move on. Here are a few points that make a critique group questionable:

1. Your critique partners tear apart your work without providing constructive suggestions.
2. Your critique partner considers him/herself an expert in a particular area though s/he is unpublished or self-published.
3. You write a much different genre, i.e. fiction versus non-fiction, screen plays versus fiction, poetry versus fiction.
4. Your critiques come back to you under-edited with little or no constructive comments. Your critiques return with too much editing and potentially in the voice of the editor.
5. Your group meets off and on without a reliable schedule and meeting format. Some members only submit sporadically and often suffer from writers block.

Being in a critique group isn’t just about receiving feedback for your work. You learn as much if not more when you edit your fellow writers’ manuscripts. Over time this practice hones your eye for what works and what doesn’t. You will learn to express the shortcomings of a paragraph or a chapter in a constructive way. You will learn how to suggest improvements.

A good critique group keeps a writer on task and on schedule. Even if there isn’t one nearby, you can find groups in your genre online through forums and blogs. Ask around in your area, contact fellow writers, peruse notice boards in bookstores and make contacts at conferences. In a pinch you can start exchanging your work with just one other writer. Once you find/develop the right group, you’ll never look back.

When fifteen-year old nerd and gamer Max Anderson thinks he’s sneaking a preview of an unpublished video game, he doesn’t realize that 1) He’s been secretly chosen as a beta, an experimental test player. 2) He’s playing the ultimate history game, transporting him into the actual past: anywhere and anytime. And 3) Survival is optional: To return home he must decipher the game’s rules and complete its missions—if he lives long enough. To fail means to stay in the past—forever.

Now Max is trapped in medieval Germany, unprepared and clueless. It is 1471 and he quickly learns that being an outcast may cost him his head. Especially after rescuing a beautiful peasant girl from a deadly infection and thus provoking sinister wannabe duke Ott. Overnight he is dragged into a hornet’s nest of feuding lords who will stop at nothing to bring down the conjuring stranger in their midst.

Enjoy an excerpt:

I heard more rustling. Louder now. Not from the men, but from the woods behind me. My knees buckled and I was vaguely aware of the thudding sound I’d made. I had to figure out what had just happened, retrace my steps. Where was my room? My mind churned as I scanned the ground for some sign of home, something familiar.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw the bearded thug turn his head. Ducking behind a hazelnut bush, I squinted through the leaves. The thug had raised his sword and stepped toward my hiding place.

I crouched lower, my ears filled with the pounding of my own heartbeat. Rough laughter came from the other two riders. Despite my panic I caught a glimpse of them poking their swords at the injured man’s shoulder. I smelled their stench—and the wounded man’s fear.

The bearded thug continued in my direction. Sunlight bounced off the edge of his blade. He took another step, scanning, listening. I forced my shaking body to be absolutely still. This had to be some kind of challenge in the game.

The man kept coming. Twenty feet. Everything about him looked menacing: his eyes the color of mud, his razor-sharp sword wide as a hand. Fifteen feet. I held my breath.

A scream rang out.

“Have mercy, My Lords,” the bleeding man cried. He was kneeling now, waiving his good arm in a pleading gesture. “I beg you,” he wailed.

I lowered my gaze. Somewhere I’d read that the white of a man’s eyes could give you away. Keeping my lids half-closed, I peeked through the leaves once more. The thug was ten feet away. Close up he looked worse, a brute with arms the size of my thighs, his chest covered in leather and wide as a barrel. Despite his size he had the soundless walk of a stalking animal. I watched with paralyzed fascination. Any second I’d be discovered, but all I managed was to shove my hands into my jeans pockets to keep them from trembling. It’s a computer game, my brain screamed. It’s real, my gut argued.

About the Author:

Annette Oppenlander writes historical fiction for young adults. When she isn’t in front of her computer, she loves indulging her dog, Mocha, and traveling around the U.S. and Europe to discover amazing histories.

“Nearly every place holds some kind of secret, something that makes history come alive. When we scrutinize people and places closely, history is no longer a number, it turns into a story.”

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  1. I really enjoyed reading the article “My Take on Critique Groups”. Thank you for the post and the giveaway!

  2. Thanks for hosting!

  3. Happy to be a part of this tour, thank you for sharing!

  4. What character in a book would you like to sucker punch in the face?

    • Annette Oppenlander says:

      That would be Duke Schwarzburg from “Escape from the Past: The Duke’s Wrath.” He was a ruthless guy, intent on amassing power and wealth. He didn’t care about the people he ruled.

  5. Annette Oppenlander says:

    I’m excited to be here today and look forward to your comments and questions.

  6. I’ve enjoyed following the tour and reading all of the reviews and excerpts!! Can’t wait to check this one out myself, thanks for sharing!!

    • Annette Oppenlander says:

      Hi Victoria, glad you liked the tour. It’s been a lot of fun! Hope to see you again on the next one. 🙂

  7. Rita Wray says:

    I have enjoyed the tour and learning about your book.

  8. I enjoyed your comments on critique. Enjoyed the excerpt

  9. Sound very interesting

  10. I enjoyed the guest post, Annette, and the book tour, too! Happy writing!

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