Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mysteries For Danielle Svetcov #9

GENRE: Mystery/Suspense

Fire-fighter Jo Woods’ life stopped the day her husband and daughter died. Discovering they were murdered just kick-started it again.

Death approached, not with a scream, but a whimper, as six-year-old Lucy Hamilton’s thumb slipped from her mouth. She sat up in bed and peered into the darkness, wondering what had awakened her.

Outside, the wind whistled and screamed, and she shivered as the branches of the old oak tree tapped against her window, like brittle knuckles rapping for entry. She reached for her Barbie, but found the bed empty.

Taking a deep breath, Lucy slipped out of bed, legs trembling beneath her bright pink nightdress. Determined not to cry, she held tight to the mattress with one hand while the other groped shadows until her fingers found the smooth curve of a plastic leg. With a relieved sigh, she clasped the doll to her chest and clambered back into bed.

A loud thump came from the direction of her parent’s room and Lucy froze. She heard a cry, quickly muffled, then a thud, as if something heavy had fallen. She waited, but the sound wasn’t repeated. ‘It’s okay, Barbie,’ she said, arm tightening around the doll, ‘there’s nothing to be afraid of.’ She dipped her head, nuzzling its fine blonde hair. The wind eased, silence descending once more over the house. Safe and warm in her bed, with Barbie to keep her company, Lucy was lulled by its gentle whisper. Her eyelids drooped.

‘Little bird?’

Lucy bolted upright. ‘Who’s there?’ she asked.

Her answer was a laugh. A laugh so cracked her skin shrank in protest, shrivelling until it felt much too tight for her bones.


  1. Logline: You have what you need to set up the inciting incident but we need more than this. Is she going to call the police? Try to find their killer? Get revenge? Make a nice casserole with a mushroom base?

    Good luck!

  2. I saw this excerpt on another site recently and loved it then--still do! You've done a great job of setting up the suspense and tension of a little girl alone in bed and foreshadowing bad things to come.

    The only part I found jarring was the final sentence. I like the first part of it (a laugh so cracked her skin shrank in protest) but the second part (shrivelling until it felt much to tight for her bones) pulled me out of the little girl's POV quickly... you've done such a nice job with the close POV, I really wanted to stay inside her mind and see things from her perspective.

    (There's a bit of that separation with "brittle knuckles rapping for entry" too, but as a reader engrossed in the story, I was willing to let that one slide!)

    A great start--I look forward to reading the rest of the book someday!

  3. I'm crap at log lines, so I'll leave the critique of yours to those better suited...

    As for content, I really only have very picky things to mention as I found myself drawn into this little girl's world very easily with your words.

    2nd Paragraph: "She reached for her Barbie, but found the bed empty." She's *in* the bed, so it might be better described as the bed beside her empty...

    3rd Paragraph: Where are the shadows she's groping? Was she groping on the floor? Under the bed? On a bookshelf? Bedside table? As I was reading, I was wanting that detail.

    Other than those two very picky things, I enjoyed this read and would like to read further. Well done!

  4. I was a little thrown that the story started with a 6-year-old and not fire fighter Jo from the logline.

    Besides the disconnect I think the logline is pretty good and I liked the excerpt, but was wondering about Jo Woods the whole time.

  5. I'm starting to figure that most mysteries start with some kind of death scene that's not in the MC's POV... ?

    Anway, the logline was spiffy, but didn't really give me an specifics about her goal, obstacle, and plan.

    I thought the first page was good. Creepy. Agree with the empty bed and shadows comment above.

  6. I think the logline will easily hook readers.

    Loved everything. Would agree with the few nit picky items mentioned above. The only one I'd add is to change the word "screamed" in the second paragraph to something else. The word "scream" is used so well in the first paragraph to use it again competes.

  7. Logline: Short and to the point so it works for me. On the other hand, you may need a few more action/descriptive words that pull a wider range of readers in.

    I like the entry, but it feels more like a Prologue since you talk about a grown woman in the logline. But, is the little girl the grown up woman so she will be able to remember this OR is she the daughter that is killed? If the latter, then the woman won't be able to know any of this for the investigation. You have a good, suspenseful way of writing.

  8. I loved the line- 'her skin shrank in protest'. I totally got what you were going for there. In fact I loved everything about this.
    Good luck!

  9. A really vivid scene that makes you ache for the young girl and the fear that you capture in every line. I would want to go on reading.

  10. Logline was interesting but the bang/whimper thing didn't work for me in the sample; and then when there are more sound effects in paragraph two, you lost me. Generally, the language felt overwrought in too many places.

  11. Oooh too realistically creepy for me. But that's a good thing! This would keep me up at night. Agree re the log line. I was confused as to where the MC was in this opener.

  12. I really liked this, both the logline and sample. My only suggestion would be tightening the sentence, "She heard a cry, quickly muffled, then a thud, as if something heavy had fallen." I think you can take out the fact that something heavy has fallen. From the muffled cry to the thud, we get it.

  13. Wow! You've drawn me in. The writing is very evocative. Lucy's experience is chilling to the bone.

  14. This is a evocative piece of writing that makes you ache for the little girl, especially since you assume from the logline that she will die. Far too realistic and creepy to be put down. Genuinely scary when the person laughs.

    I don't like the opening line of the first two paragraphs--scream is repeated too closely and the atmosphere is being set up far more awkwardly than in the later lines. I also found the final line would be better re-framed to sound more like a child would describe it. Keep us with this little girl a bit more. The narrator is actually taking away from the elegant, scary simplicity of her POV. Tone it down a bit so we're not so distracted.

    For the logline--I liked it. I'm no expert on loglines, but this peaked my interest immediately. I think it's profoundly obvious that she will involve herself in finding the murderers so I don't need stuff like that explained. The idea of someone killing a child and her husband makes me think 'why' and that will pull me to read on.

    On the whole, I would read this in a heartbeat.