Wednesday, January 14, 2009


TITLE: Myron’s Bookshelf: Mason and the Pirates
GENRE: Early Middle Grade

Two steps past my mom’s coffee shop I saw him: Psycho Boy. And of course I did the stupidest thing ever. I ran.

“Mason, wait up!”

A snowball whizzed past my ear, exploding against the brick wall. Slush oozed down my collar. I ran faster, slipping on the icy sidewalk, his broken glass laughter chasing me down the street.

WHAM! Another shot hammered me in the back. Randy, AKA Psycho Boy, had moved in next door a week ago. Ever since, he’d been showing me his favorite winter game—target practice.

I swerved past a frosty green mailbox to throw off his aim. My destination was close—a new bookstore called Myron’s Bookshelf. I could make it.

The store’s bright red door gleamed in the afternoon sun. Five steps...three steps…one step... I made a grab for the door handle.

I yanked it open, threw myself inside…

…and ran smack into a wizard.

“My first customer!” He grabbed my hand and began shaking it. “Quick, what’s your name?”

“M-Mason,” I said, my arm jerking around like a wet noodle. I squinted at his neon purple robe and tall, glittery hat. Had one of Randy's snowballs had messed with my brains? Add a mile-long beard and a staff and this guy had the perfect wizard's costume!

“I’m Myron,” he said, pointing at the crooked nametag pinned to his robe. “Get it? Myron's Bookshelf!”

“Uh-huh,” I said, trying to see past him. “But what’s with the Halloween costume? Isn’t this a bookstore?”


  1. I wouldn't mind more of a description of Psycho boy, even a phrase, b/c I'm not sure why the mc is running away. Psycho boy could mean many different things.

    As I read it, I wasn't sure who said, Mason, wait up. The mc? or is the mc, Mason? Now, I know Mason is the mc, after reading.

    I like the high tension opening scene of Mason getting pelted with snowballs and trying to escape.

    Maybe start with - A snowball whizzed past my ear. Then we don't even know who is chasing him and you start right away with the tension.

    I would definitely read on.

  2. I agree with ldpauling, that you could start with the snowball whizzing past Mason's ear -- the rest falls into place as you go.

    The only part I don't get is why the bookstore would be his destination if this was his first time going there? Maybe just a change of a few words to say something like "There. A door. I'll just slip in there . . ." (or some such thing.

    As for hooked? You bet I am!

  3. I smiled as I read. You have a touch of humor as you unfold this chase scene. Good job. Nice visuals, though Psyco boy could have been described just a tad more in the beginning. I’d read on to find out if the wizard is a true wizard. Nice job.

  4. I was rather confused for the first few lines. As the piece progressed, clarity improved, but then slipped with the 'wizard'.

    What I like are the early story elements.

    What I don't like is this confusing bait and switch of information. It does add to tension, or whatever, but I can't read a book that is written to confuse the reader from one sentence to the next. It's just too much.

    You've demonstrated your skill for writing, so it seems this can be straightened out somewhat w/o losing the story's flavor.

  5. I'm hooked! Seems like an interesting concept, and your writing is very good. Like several other people pointed out, the beginning needs a little work, but I would definitley read more!

  6. I liked this very much. Nice voice. Good fast pace.

    Three things:

    why is slush going down his collar when the snowball whizzed past him and hit a wall beside and to the front him?

    I think the broken glass laughter feels out of place with the rest of the boy's voice and with how one would think as one was running from a psycho kid--maybe ghoulish laughter or nuthouse laughter or something like that would work better.

    I think you should cut "isn't this a bookstore" because obviously it's a bookstore and the kid seems a little dumb to ask the question. You can end with "What's with the Halloween costume?" and not lose anything, I think.

    But I'm hooked. I like your character's way of thinking and I like that he's running to the new bookstore. My kind of kid.

  7. I was drawn right into this, but I, too, wondered why the slush went down his back if the snowball missed him.

    I think this would have a huge appeal to younger boys if the writing continues to be as insightful as the beginning indicates.

    Definitely hooked!

  8. I liked this. I'd read more. I agree with most of the others' suggestions except I liked 'the broken-glass laughter' description.

    You have an extra 'had' in this sentence: Had one of Randy's snowballs had messed with my brains?

  9. I liked everything but the broken glass laughter, but I understood what you were trying at. It just didn't work for me; I wasn't picturing it right.

    Also running into a wizard was almost too stark for me. A fruitloop dressed like a wizard, or something. It made it sound like he already knew he was a real wizard from the get go, until I read further.

  10. It didn't do it for me. There's too much going on here and it seems disjointed and all over the place.

  11. Love it. Really, really do. The broken glass laughter--great. The running into a wizard--great. There's nothing really I'd change here; I just really like it.

  12. I didn't get who is who with the snowball scene. Who called for Mason to wait up? Who is the MC?
    The bookstore part did intrigue me. Pretty funny guy, Myron. I would probably read more to see if it got less confusing and find out the deal with the book store and wizard. And with a little editing the beginning could be a good hook, I'm sure.

  13. yes, I'm hooked. A little tightening as some others have suggested - the slush down his neck, the broken glass laughter - and for me, "wait up" seems a bit friendly from a bully - but other than that I'm hooked. Myron seems very intriguing.

  14. One thing:


    I yanked it open, threw myself inside… …and ran smack into a wizard.


    Might be better if you show he doesn't think it is really a wizard.


    I yanked it open, threw myself inside, and ran smack dab into a weirdo in a wizard's costume.


    Also, I really squinted at the 'broken glass laughter' because I imagine that sounding shrill and super high pitched. Which could be true of a kid nicknamed 'Psycho Boy' for all I know.


    Otherwise - nice job<:

  15. I liked the descriptions, but the part about running into a wizard was a bit too flippant. Is it a common thing?

    Otherwise I like it.

  16. This sounds really cute, and I'd keep reading. I do think you could tighten up the snowball stuff since the wizard is where it's at. Also, having two characters with similar-sounding M names right away could be a problem.

  17. Nice job. I would read more. I wasn't tripped up by the snowball scene. I'm wondering if he says he runs smack into a wizard instead of some guy in a wizard costume because there might be an element of fantasy in this book.

  18. Doesn’t hook me…
    Because it’s cute and all, but it reminds me a ton of the Pagemaster. With your title, I’m willing to bet Maisen goes on some adventure starting from this bookstore and Myron just might be a wizard (Myron sounds like Merlin, heehee). Anyway, it just doesn’t hook me because it doesn’t seem original enough.

  19. Nit pick here:
    Had one of Randy's snowballs had messed with my brains?

    Get rid of second had.

    Okay. I liked it. I agree with the wizard comments. I'd read on.

  20. Really love the set up of this one--action and mystery right away! Though, the opening is very similar to the beginning of the first Neverending Story moving, where a kid getting bullied hides out in a mystical bookshop.

    Also, the description his broken glass laughter doesn't feel in line with a middle grade narrative voice, nor do I understand what the description is supposed to mean.

    But yes, I'd definitely read on!

  21. I like this - it's a funny surprise that he runs into a wizard (and I do like the 'wet noodle'!) and you handle that nicely. But why is he heading for the bookshop in particular? Is Psycho Boy going to return later in the story? I think he'll have to, to make sense of this. But it's fun writing and feels original.

  22. You've gotten some great feedback already. I think this would be really appealing to your target audience. You've set up the conflict, the setting, the characters and a hint of mystery.

    Good job!

  23. This is good. I love the 'psycho Boy'

    I would read on.

  24. I loved the bookstore wizard. I'd read on

  25. Doesn't compel me to read further.

    Why would "Psycho boy" call for Mason to wait and then pelt him with a snowball?

    What's "broken glass laughter" sound like?

    "he’d been showing me his favorite winter game—target practice" If the MC is the target, would he phrase this like this?

    If the "wizard" was new to town, how did the MC know he was a wizard? Just because he wore the traditional outfit wizards appear to wear throughout literature.

    Myron and Mason may be too similar (both two syllables; start w/ M). Consider changing one.

    Would Mason's attention be so quickly changed if he was running to get away from the bully?

    This just lacks something. Maybe it's too distant from the MC?

  26. Author here--thanks to everyone who commented, especially Secret Agent. I know the time it takes to offer your thoughts on all these entries and I really do appreciate the thoughtfulness it takes to do so.

    For those who asked, the bookstore is Mason's destination because his mother has asked him to scope it out for her, hoping the nearby bookstore will mean better business for her coffee shop. He's waylaid by Randy, the new kid next door who has it out for him only Mason doesn't know why...yet.

    I appreciate all the feedback, and I'm glad many of you were hooked. Thanks too for letting me know where you were confused and why. It helps me gain perspective where cutting during revisions may have affected the overall clarity. For example, the slush in the collar was from the spray of the snowball hitting the wall right next to him, but through your comments I can see how I cut too much and the two events don't line up.

    Excellent stuff. You guys are great!

  27. Definitely presents conflict and character humor. I'd read on a bit more.

  28. I know this was a long time ago, but I wanted to repost here to thank anyone who may pass by for their comments. Your tweaks and advice helped me gain an agent just this past week.

    Bask in your awesomeness, people! I appreciate the time you spent on this!