Wednesday, January 14, 2009


TITLE: A Tale of Two Hearts
GENRE: Middle Grade Light Fantasy

Lightning flashed — chasing shadows into the corners of the garage and illuminating the thing in front of us. Thunder shook the house as wind slapped rain against the garage window. April Logan scooted closer, grabbing my arm. The fear in her blue eyes was evident as she stared at the thing we had dug up earlier that morning.

Matt Bodine looked at me over the top of his black-framed glasses. The thick lenses couldn't hide his excitement.

"Well, Grant?" he said. "Are you going to cut it open?"

I offered Matt the hacksaw. "Do you want to do it?"

"No." Matt shook his head.

I shifted my glance to the thing. It sat in a puddle of water on the concrete floor — rain from the storm that had sprung up right after we unearthed it and soaked us as we ran carrying it from the field to Matt's garage.

It was black, about two feet square and half as tall, with a rusty hinge running along the back. Golden dragon's heads were bolted on each end, their nostrils pierced by gold rings. An ancient padlock guarded whatever secrets were hidden inside. I scanned the words engraved on the lid.

The Stone veils secrets, dark and cold.

The Crystal's Power sleeps within.

Beware the Mystic Force of old,

Before a Magic Spell you spin.

"Let's not open it," April said. "Let's just put it back where we found it."

"Are you nuts?" Matt said. "We have to open it."


  1. Well, realizing I'm partial, I still must say I love this opening. You've set the scene so well, we know the MC's, and we can anticipate that something unexpected is about to unfold.

    However, I wish there were a way you could get right to the point and just say it's a trunk, or a chest, or whatever. I don't know why, but I think it slows down the story a bit to keep calling it a "thing". But I don't see how to work around it.

    Overall, lovely, and I would definitely keep reading.

  2. Definitely draws the reader in. I agree with Sissy about using the word, thing. I like the mystery of not knowing what it is, I just think a better word could be found than, thing.

    I wouldn't mind being there with them as they dug it up with lightning flashing around them. Could be an exciting scene to open with.

    I'd read on.

  3. Oh, yeah. HOOKED! I'd agree with Sissy though. Let us know it's a chest or whatever sooner. Maybe say wooden box. That's what kids would think. At least not thing.
    But loved it. Great poem!

  4. The cheesy opening (ie first couple lines) let's this down; lightning flashing is a bit . . . ho hum. You need to come up with something fresher, more impactful (but not overwritten, which is always the temptation) But the rest I rather like, and you conjure the feeling of a weird and strange object very well. HOWEVER: this could be even more impactful if it were done 'actively' not 'passively' - ie, if we were actually THERE with the kids when the dig up the box. Hmm, worth thinking about?

  5. I'd like to see where this goes, but I agree, there's too many references to 'thing'.

    I think the dialogue at the end comes too late--they've dug it up, they've brought it here. Too late for let's take it back. We need to know the stakes of why they brought it here in the first place, I think.

  6. I'd read on. You've set up an interesting mystery/adventure. You might reconsider your opening. Rather than describing the weather and the kids, maybe zoom in on the box since that is, after all, the catalyst here. Describe it and give us the inscription right up front.

    Or perhaps cut your entire first paragraph and start with the dialogue: "Well, are you going to cut it open." I'd certainly wonder what they were going to cut. Then describe the box.

    Definitely intriguing!

  7. I think Barb may be on to something about starting with the first bit of dialogue. I'm never a fan of the weather as an opening and it's doing the rest of the opening an injustice. Cut the first paragraph and I'll keep reading! Nice work!

  8. I enjoyed this. I liked the mystery and the dark backdrop. Your writing is solid.

    I agree with the others about 'thing'...wasn't prepared for a treasure chest, but wasn't disappoint that's what it was. Some other word could be used instead of 'thing'.

  9. I'm hooked, but man, this writing seems like it's really sophisticated for a MG. Maybe it's just me?

  10. Sort of.... I like the premise, but:

    I think you could edit this though. There are a lot of characters crammed in here, including Lightning and Thunder...

  11. I loved the writing; however I would start with the dialogue. It gets right into the story there and you could still give a description of the glasses if they fell off when he bends over to retrieve the trunk. Maybe show them scrabbling around in the puddle.

    I love the voice and the rhyme at the end was great. I’d definitely keep reading to see what happened next..

  12. I really like this, but like some others have suggested I think it could be stronger if you dive in at a later point. Get rid of the thunder and lightning. You've got a great set up and it's very nicely written. I'd keep reading for sure. Good luck!

  13. Hmm, magical talisman MG fantasy. The writing is good and of course I want to know what's in the box. I'd read on to find out, but if it really is a crystal or something then I'm done.

  14. It needs more editing for me. I didn't really like the lightning flash, and it seemed a bit telly in spots.

  15. I agree with Barb and Trish to start with the dialogue. The suggestion to show them unearthing the box also works well.

    Sorry, but I've read too many books lately that begin with lightning. It's becoming cliche.

    Otherwise, you're writing is good and I loved the poem. I might read more.

  16. You get to the dilemna quickly yet you refer to the box as a thing. That feels disjointed to me. Maybe you can call it 'the mystery' instead of 'the thing'.

    I love the verse on the box, good teaser.

  17. I would like more characterization since there are several people involved. I would not read on.

  18. ooooh, they have to opened it and I have to read on!

    I'm hooked. Good job.

  19. Hooked me…
    Because of the mystery and adventure that is sure to follow. The only thing I didn’t like was that you called the box a “thing” about three times before saying it was a box. I was picturing a creature of some kind and wondering why they’d cut open a creature. For a box, “thing just doesn’t seem right in repetitious use.

  20. I could have liked it, but the chest should have been a chest from the beginning, not a thing. Then you gave way to much description of it. And I liked the cheesy opening. It set the mood. And trust me, I read a lot of MG and youndg adult. Secret agent you may need to get a beta audience of young readers going.

  21. Not sure I'm hooked just yet. There good clear tension and plotting, but the MC's voice just isn't resonating with me yet. There's nothing about it that stands out as unique or original yet.

  22. I am hooked.

    Gotta find out what's in the box! Just call me "Pandora".

    You have the perfect beginning sentence...but it's the third one.

    I think you can make the fear more immediate if you clean up the passive passages. "...grabbing my arm." becomes "and grabbed my arm."

    "The fear in her eyes was evident..." becomes "I saw the fear in her eyes."

    Maybe make the fear more visceral. Instead of "Let's not open it," said April..."Don't," April whimpered.

    Also, I wouldn't give away so much in the poem.

    A little more ambiguity, and you have a great story!

  23. Thanks to everyone who commented on my first page. I appreciate all of you taking the time and offering your suggestions.

    I did want to mention one thing. In it's original edited stage, this book actually took three chapters to get to the opening as it is now. That included the three friends going into the field and digging up the box. It was suggested by several of my writing friends to cut all of that info and get right to the point where it now begins. So, I'm in agreement with you to some extent, since that's the way I first created it.

    I agree about the use of "thing." I hadn't noticed that before, so thank you to those who pointed it out.

    Regarding the lightning. Perhaps it would be better not to start with it, but it's important that the reader know there is a storm going on because the lights go out in the next few paragraphs, and then really strange things begin to happen.

    Thanks again for all your insightful comments.

  24. I like this! A great way to start a book, Michael. I was relieved to discover it was a trunk - at first I was thinking dead body or alien. I would definitely keep reading!

  25. I'm hooked. Very intriguing. It's a little confusing and could use some clarification of who's who and where exactly they are. But that may be straightened out soon enough.

  26. I agree with other posters that the use of "the thing" is a little, well, corny maybe. But this promises to be a fun read, and I'd read on.

    You might think about the use of the sidekicks' last names here. With the first-person narration, we're in Grant's head, and I don't think he'd think of his friends that way. We could learn their last names later, if it even matters.

    But I love the verse--it sounds authentic and the meter is perfect. (Although I've often wondered why the inscriptions on ancient things in these kinds of stories seem always to be in modern English! LOL)

  27. I love the ending line...Of course, they should open it! I would.

  28. I would read further to see what they'd dug up.

    The writing is good but I'd like to see more from the author. More emotion underlying the facts. It seems a bit dry for such an intriguing situation.