Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July Secret Agent #32

GENRE: YA contemporary fantasy

Crazy Aunt Patti. Maggie loved her, but Patti was as superstitious as they came.

Patti set a saucer of milk out every night to appease the local pixie population, kept a pair of metal tongs above her daughter's cradle to ward off supernatural baby snatchers, and was forever on the hunt for a river rock with a natural hole in it, which she claimed, when looked through, would allow her to see the wee creatures for what they really were.

Maggie's mom said Patti did it to play up the 'quaint Irish folk' thing; that Patti gave the Irish a bad name and played into American stereotypes; that she reveled in the attention that came with being the wacky one in the family, always clinging to the old ways.

But Maggie liked Patti's stories. When she was really mad at her parents or her sister, she daydreamed about living with Aunt Patti and Uncle Finn, Maeve and Liam and Cillian and Aoife, in Ballyshee, County Mayo, Ireland.

The tiny village was romantic, gothic, fantastical--opposite in every possible way to Maggie's average, lawyer's-daughter life. She imagined it as a lush, picturesque place where it rained as often as it shined. Where life was simple. Where she might have a cheerful mother and a present father and siblings that adored her. Green grass on the other side of the pond.

Ballyshee, where Crazy Aunt Patti wasn't so crazy after all.


  1. Another one I liked!! There are really some great stories here. The first thing I noticed was that in your second sentence, I think it should read "but Patti was as supersticious as they come," not came. Maybe you were trying to stay in past tense here, but you've already done that with the verb "was." Anyway, after that I was sold. The descriptions of Crazy Aunt Patti and her quirky habits were wonderful. The words were well-chosen and told us a lot without slowing the pace down. The last paragraph, however, I think could be tightened up so that we get to the punchline--"Ballyshee, where Crazy Aunt Patti wasn't so crazy after all"--quicker. Good job!
    Ninja Girl

  2. And I just realized I misspelled superstitious.
    Doh! >.<

  3. I like this. I'm already a fan of Crazy Aunt Patti.

  4. A very specific kind of voice here and it works really well! I'd like to get a better sense for how old Maggie is as she comes off a bit younger than YA to me.

    Other than that, this is a great way to establish the character of Crazy Aunt Patti (who I'm sure plays a big role in Maggie's story). Judging by the title, I'm guessing Maggie gets her wish to visit the town of Ballyshee and I'd like to go along with her!

    Good luck!

  5. Yes, I like Crazy Aunt Patti. Great character already. But by the third paragraph it did slow a bit with the description of the village. Maybe move that description a little further away from the crucial first page. I would like to hear a little bit more about Maggie. Just a bit more since I think she's your MC.

  6. An interesting beginning, considering it's pretty much background. We're usually told to start with action and tension, but this was interesting on it's own.

  7. Count me in as a fan of Aunt Patti. ;) Because the genre is fantasy, I'd read on to find out just how many of those superstitions are actually for real. You've also set up Maggie nicely, hinted at her unhappiness with her own family situation without an info-dump.

    A few issues with the writing; nothing too big. I would rephrase the sentence about the river rock - too many phrases surrounded by commas. But mostly I'm impressed with how you've described some tricky things while keeping the prose clear and clean.

  8. I like the interplay of the grounded mom vs. the crazy aunt. But I think this story might be better served starting off in Ireland (because I assume Maggie ends up in Ireland) and have these quirks come out more naturally instead of telling us about them. And we can see more about the mom as Maggie interacts with her.

  9. I went back and forth on this one because it really is a beautiful opening, and it lends a nice atmosphere to the piece. I didn't care that there was no action right off the bat.

    But when I finished reading it, I thouht, what a beautiful description. It didn't make me curious about the story. I was wrapped up in the imagery. And there was a part of me that wanted to see Maggie, not Aunt Patti. It's her story after all, ans she really is left out. We do get that bit about her home life, but we know so much more about Patti than we do about Maggie.

    Perhaps start with a traditional opening, let us get to know Maggie, and save this for when we actually meet Aunt Patti? I pose it as a question because I really don't know.

  10. Hi! This is the author. Thank you for the wonderful feedback so far! I'm not sure if this helps any (for Barbara in particular, on the back and forth), but this is a one page prologue (which I actually have labeled as Ch. 1, because prologue feels like such a dirty word in publishing, but effectively, that's what it is). The next page picks up with Maggie leaving for Ireland. The reason I chose to open with this is because (beyond bits of foreshadowing) the fantastical elements do not enter the picture until ~p. 50. I wanted the reader to have some sense of the fantasy element, yearn to know more about it before then. I feel it works well when you can turn the page immediately and enter Maggie's world, but that may be me deluding myself? :)

  11. Just my two cents, but I'd label it a prologue. Knowing it's a prologue makes a big difference in how it's perceived, IMO. It works as a prologue. It doesn't work as chapter one. And I think the prologue is more acceptable in the fantasy genre than elsewhere. It's kind of a staple.

  12. Thanks for your thoughts, Barbara! What you say does make sense. I may just change it...

  13. I loved the description of the village. In fact, I almost wished it came a little sooner on the first page, but I know how hard it is to get in all the elements you'd like to. I hate second-guessing other writers' first pages because I feel as though we (as critiquers) inevitably point out holes that are easily explained in the NEXT 250 words, know what I mean? :)

    All in all, it's a great job. I would definitely read more (esp. as I now know that this is a prologue). Aunt Patti sounds like someone I'd like to get to know.