Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January Secret Agent #9

TITLE: A Time of Magic
GENRE: MG Contemporary Fantasy

The hint of a whisper. Soft, like the swish of silk.

Elena thought it might be trees rustling or a faucet turned on somewhere else in the house. But there was an eeriness about it that made her look up and listen. The sound grew louder, as if coming at her through a long tunnel, and then burst out, filling the room. “El-e-naaa…El-e-naaaaaa…”

Elena stiffened and almost dropped the empty pickle jar she was preparing for a science experiment. Her knees wobbled, and she leaned against the kitchen counter to keep from falling.

“El-e-naaa…El-e-naaaaaa…” the whisper chanted, swirling around her. A moment later, it was gone.

Elena ran to the kitchen window and nudged aside the white lace curtains to peer out. On the lawn, her ten-year-old brother Connor was racing around in the sun, tossing a plastic bag in the air and attacking it with a stick.

“For the king!” Connor cried. “Victory is ours!”

“Did you call me?” Elena shouted, startled to hear the high, nervous pitch of her own voice.

“No.” Connor impaled the bag.

“Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

Elena glanced at the woods beyond the lawn, knowing there was nothing for miles around and that Gram was still out shopping. She crossed the kitchen, peered out the swinging door to the living room, and surveyed the solid stuffed chairs and mahogany tables. All was still. The steady ticking of the grandfather clock and the familiar smell of old books and fireplace ashes reassured her.


  1. This is definitely eerie. I like the transition from the complete creepiness that Elena's experiencing to the fun, frolicking that her brother's exhibiting. But since we don't know Elena yet, it's hard to worry about her. Maybe if you could get her grounded in just a couple of sentences so we have some idea of what she's about, then the reader will feel more for her when a creepy voice says her name. She's working on a science experiment, so maybe something on how she feels about it or what she's doing (not much...don't want mundane).

  2. This has some great sensual detail that makes me want to keep reading more--for the story but also to enjoy more of the author's writing. The first line hooked me with a creepy feeling. And I liked the contrast to what Elena was experiencing and the brother outside in the sunshine. I understand Heather's point, but I do think the author gave us some of Elena's grounding with the description of the woods and the house, and her emotional reaction to the voice calling her name.

  3. I like the building of tension in this piece, but (and this may just be the English teacher in me)I don't the first sentence should be a fragment. Maybe: It was the hint of a whisper, like the soft swish of smoke.

    Now I know this ups your word count, but try cutting a few of the adjectives in the last paragraph, and tighten the "knees wobbling" sentence, maybe: "Her knees wobbled, and she leaned against the kitchen counter." I don't think you need to tell us it will keep her from falling-I think we can infer this.

    Nice start!

  4. I enjoyed this excerpt! I do agree w/ what Heather said about having a few sentences to acquaint us w/ Elena before bringing in the eerie voice. Great job w/ the little bro playing outside (I loved the line, "Connor impaled the bag." Your descriptures in the last paragraph are great, but I want to know WHY those things reassured Elena, so maybe add a few words about what the clock, books and ashes mean to her. Good luck!!

  5. I think the beginning is too abrupt. Writers are always told to hit the ground running, but sometimes you need to take a few steps first. This would be such a case. The rest of it is great. Good luck!

  6. I agree that you could start with ELena working on her science project, and perhaps place her somewhere. (Bedroom, kitchen table) just so we're grounded somewhere.

    Nice job with creating an eerie atmosphere. Perhaps put each Elaaannna on a separate line to make it stand out a bit more.

    WHat I liked most was what you did with her brother. The image you created with the bag and the stick was great, and his little bit of dialogue was wonderful.

  7. I have to agree with the others about the abruptness. Looking at this closely I think that your opening lines work well--they are intriguing and mysterious--but you don't ground me in Elena's perspective until the pickle jar paragraph. So it felt like things were happening too quickly; I didn't know where anything stood.

    Honestly, if you just tweaked the "look up and listen" line to include where she was standing when she looked up, or what she had been doing, or some other small detail like that, would have been enough to ground me at that point.

    All that said I do want to mention how much I loved the brother! If I was waffling a bit by the eerie voices, Connor sucked me straight back in. I could visualize it happening. I loved the impaling line, too; it was such a guy thing. Those realistic details really sold me me on this, even if I had felt a bit lost at first.

    Would keep reading :)


  8. Nice sensory details, and you did a good job of creeping me out at the beginning. Elements like the white lace curtains give us the feeling that we’re in an olerd person’s house. Nice middle-grade fantasy voice. I would read on.