Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January Secret Agent #30

TITLE: Running With Wolves
GENRE: YA mystery

Eight summers before she was murdered, my sister got a job as a chainsaw artist.

Actually, she was the assistant to the chainsaw artist – a buff, elderly man called Ben – but to my younger self, Lara wielded the real magic when the chips flew.

Ben’s shop was just down the road from our house. It was a rambling log building that sat on the main highway. Tourists in RVs and sometimes buses would stop by, captured by the huge totem poles out front, the looming ten-foot tall carved grizzly bears, or the rugged personalized name signs that Ben called his bread-and-butter. When he was younger, Ben toured the country as one of the first who carved wooden sculptures in front of crowds. He’d earned huge shoulder muscles and massive forearms that, even at his advanced age of 50-something, still held the noisy machine steady through the curl of an eye, the twist of a lock of hair.

Lara thought Ben was the most awesome person on earth. At sixteen, she fought more with my parents than they got along. I followed her around that summer simply to be near her when Mom and Dad weren’t because when I was nine years old, she was my hero. Away from them, she changed back into her familiar big sister self – a little distracted, her eyes always focused on something else, over the next mountain, just beyond our small Alaskan village. I’d ask questions so she’d look at me instead of that far-off, invisible place.

16 comments:

  1. I love your opening line, and the rest of the entry held my interest. I'd definitely keep reading.

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  2. Intriguing opening, for sure. By the end I'd almost forgotten about the sister being murdered. The last paragraph had a couple of sentences that seemed awkward...the second and third.
    But the voice is good and a chainsaw artist...I don't think I've ever read a book featuring a chainsaw artist. So definite points for originality.

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  3. Oops. Sorry, forgot to include my name in the previous comment.

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  4. I like the opening 2 paragraphs. The line, "Lara thought Ben was the most awesome person on earth," belongs at the end of the paragraph above.

    I'm definitely interested.

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  5. A female, teenage chainsaw artist caught my immediate interest. I like the way you're setting this up with the girl looking back to when her older sister was alive.

    Your last paragraph doesn't flow as well as the rest, so it needs some polishing, but overall, this is very good.

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  6. Love your first sentence. I was a little confused with the rest. Would she call an elderly man "buff"? And is he "buff" to the 17 year old writing this or the 9 year old when her sister went to work for him? Or did the sister think he was "buff"? (I'm annoyed that she thinks a 50-something is elderly, but I understand that most YA readers would think that! :-D) Anyway, I'm having some problems with the voice. Not sure if this is the MC POV or the sister's. Last paragraph is disjointed. How does MC know Lara thought Ben was awesome? The next sentence - Lara wasn't her hero when she was fighting with the parents? And if she fought with the parents more than not, how was Lara familiar when she wasn't fighting with them? I'd also like to see more of the MC. Who is she besides a younger sister? But, I like the concept. I would continue reading.

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  7. I think there is the kernel of a great sotry here but it is lost in some of the set-up. I think to begin with a murder 8 summers removed from the event is not a good choice.....it might have had more impact if we learned about this interesting lifestyle/relationship and only found out at the end she was murdered. Some of the description is first-rate - the carvings outside etc beckoning visitors...I can see that instantly. The "elderly" is a problem for me - not because of the 50-something part but it seems a too decrepit word for someone who shows no signs of being "elderly". I also thought "buff" was out of place - as I think a narrator of that age would associate that with a teenage boy...and regardless, they would never put buff and elderly together. So, I think it is an intriguing set-up but I need to know more character here. The age difference between a 9 and a 16 year old in retrospect might seem okay but at the time the 16 year old would have seemed like an adult to her - a grown-up. ( a pseduo parent) That's different from a hero. Some tightening - don't have someone look off into a far off place because that is too nebulous to be understood. The voice is of a much older narrator - an adult looking back - so I qonder if this is YA.

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  8. I love the first sentence! It would make me keep reading for sure!

    I think the line, "Lara thought Ben was the most awesome person on earth" should be in it's own paragraph. Also, the whole section is telling us a lot, not showing. I love a book that opens with a scene instead of recounting. That saying, though, I would keep reading this. Your voice is great.

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  9. Chainsaw artist, hmm, haven't heard that one before. It instantly caught my eye. I would definitely give it points for originality. Your detailed description in the third paragraph is brilliant in the sense that I can really picture the setting.

    However, I'm not sure who is speaking in the last paragraph. You starts of with "Lara thought Ben was the most awesome person on Earth." Okay great that sounds like it is in third person, being told by the Author. Then you change to first person and the voice becomes Lara's sister's but how would Lara's sister know what Lara is thinking? Don't you think that you could show us this little detail rather than tell us about it? I think the last paragraph compared to the first few, was quite haphazardly thrown together. I can't see a natural flow and I feel like all the things you're telling us could be easily shown.

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  10. I don't have a problem with the MC relaying things her sister probably told her. Who thinks so-n-so is the most awesome person in the world and keeps it to herself? It would be wierder if Lara's sister didn't know that.

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  11. I thought this was well written overall, and you've created a nice tone and mood, and an interesting voice.

    But I did think you also spent a lot of time on Ben, and if this is Lara's story, it seemed more of it should have been about her. Maybe tell us how she ended up working for Ben.

    And for some reason, I thought the narrator was male. Perhaps clarify.

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  12. Just Another YA AuthorJanuary 18, 2013 at 3:00 PM

    Completely hooked by the first sentence. You start losing me in paragraph three. It feels disjointed and verges on info-dump territory. This is all backstory. By the third paragraph I'm eager for something to be happening in the present.

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  13. Well, that’s a great opening line. Certainly caught my attention. However, you give us way too much info on “buff, elderly Ben”. The voice is also a bit distant, like an adult reflecting back, but I'm intrigued enough by the opening line and the concept to be hooked.

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  14. Thanks, guys! Your input is really helpful...

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  15. Like the other commenters, I loved the first line, liked the first few paragraphs, and got a bit distracted in the final bit. If this is a quick -sum-up of their relationship as a flashback, I'd say make it even shorter, cutting the first two sentences. If you're launching into a scene, I suggest scrapping the paragraph altogether and giving us some dialogue or action. All that being said, I'd definitely read more. Great stuff.

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  16. I'm basically echoing Shoshanna.
    Great opening line. Remained interest as I kept reading, and the last para was very poignant. I did struggle with this line: "At sixteen, she fought more with my parents than they got along." I took me three re-reads to understand what you meant, so consider rewriting to clarify.

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