Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Secret Agent Contest #23

GENRE: YA Historical Fantasy

Noises where there should've been silence. I sucked in a breath, fear closing my throat, holding it there. I listened until the sounds faded away outside, but I didn't breathe until Papa did.

"Papa?" I whispered. I was answered by stillness. I slumped down against the wall, the splintered fibers of the wood tugging at my cardigan. The fire in the woodstove popped like the static on a phonograph and I wished that we had one. I hadn't brought my records, though. I hadn't brought anything.

Papa dropped his gaze from the door and stared down at his hands. "We'll head out again as soon as Simon is well," he said. "The Germans won't make it to Siberia. I feel it."

"Josef," Mama whispered. Papa twisted to face her. They shared a quiet moment, a conversation held without words. Mama rested her cheek on Simon's shoulder. Simon's too bright eyes held mine, a knowing smile on his lips.

Papa's feelings were something we didn't talk about. My grandmother said that he was gifted, special like her. Even if he was right, and he usually was, if the German army couldn't make it to Siberia, neither could our exhausted little family.

Papa twisted the gold medallion hanging from his neck, something he did when his nerves were stretched too thin. He slipped the chain over his head. Between his fingers he flipped the pendant, rolling it across his knuckles like a coin, the chain trailing behind.


  1. I really like this. I get an immediate sense of place and of tension. Plus you make your time period and location clear without spelling it all out.

    I'm definitely hooked!

  2. It took me a few paragraphs to sink into this one, but by the end, I was hooked.

    To hook us a little faster, you might try adding a sentence like, "How had the soldiers [or Germans] found us?" after the "I sucked in a breath..." sentence.

    WORD VERIFICATION: geobble. A possible character name for you? :)

  3. I like this a lot. I wasn't hooked immediately, but the setting details and their situation had me hooked by the end. I'd totally read more.


  4. I'd definitely read more - good job!

  5. Historical fantasy is a new one for me, but I am curious and would keep reading. I love history. I love fantasy. Why not combine them?

  6. Doesn't grab me, and seems a bit slow - although there may be something intriguing right around the corner. I think the issue may that you're going back and forth between the present - the noise, Papa speaking, Papa twisting his medallion - and a lot of back story: the Germans, Siberia, not bringing phonograph records, not talking about Papa's feelings, his being gifted.

    And the only action is Papa playing with the medallion.

    I'm suspecting you can save some of the back story for a bit later.

  7. Hooked! I really liked this one. You've got people in a situation with a problem that they're acting upon. Hiding is action.

    The only thing I'd suggest is a bit of tightening.

    Papa dropped his gaze from the door and stared down at his hands. Could be - Papa stared down at his hands, because if he does that, he's obviously looking away from the door.

    Get rid of words like 'that' and 'the' where you don't need them. And look at 'was' and 'were' sentences --

    "Papa's feelings were something we didn't talk about. My grandmother said that he was gifted, special like her.

    Papa didn't talk about his feelings. Grandmother said he was gifted . . .

    Interesting and well done!

  8. Like others, I took a couple of paragraphs to get into this. Most definitely into it now. So hooked.

  9. It feels a bit clunky to me, but I don't know why. I am curious, I'd read more.

  10. I liked this. I'm intrigued by Papa's feelings and the medallion and how the family will get to Siberia.