Friday, November 29, 2013

(60) YA Fantasy: THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY

TITLE: THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY
GENRE: YA FANTASY

A seventeen-year-old Mirror Walker travels between worlds in desperate pursuit of the World Mirror that allows other-worldly creatures to possess her mother. But the man who has the mirror also has the guy she loves, and saving Mom could cost his life.

Silence fell in a quiet crash as I pulled away from the keys, the final chords fading into stillness.

“That didn't sound like Chopin, Gracie.” Mom shuffled into the living room, bleary-eyed and yawning. Steam rose from the black cup cradled between her interlocked fingers.

“And that doesn't smell like decaf.” I hid a smile. She and Dad were doing some sort of cleanse—Mom’s idea—and caffeine was on the no-no list.

I moved my hands along the worn brown wood of the piano, following the grain with my fingertips. Rare Vancouver sunlight poured through our condo’s floor-to-ceiling windows and the piano was one of the few things that didn’t shine with the threat of reflection. The threat of monsters.

Mom moved to stand beside me. She reeked of fresh ground beans. “Don’t tell your father,” she said in an exaggerated whisper.

“I won’t if you don't tell Mr. Lee I’m ditching Chopin for the day. I swear, if I play those audition songs one more time—” I left the thought unfinished and launched into the haunting tones of Regina Spektor’s “Samson.”

Mom laughed and caressed my cheek. Her fingers felt warm, the heat from her coffee cup sinking into my skin. The cup itself came into view and a warm spill of sunlight brought its glossy surface to life. I caught a brief glimpse of my distorted reflection and then the monsters replaced it. They always did.

Lines of fire traced patterns between their mottled brown scales, and the thick black horns protruding from their foreheads pulsed with a dull light.

26 comments:

  1. I remember reading this during WriteOnCon. I loved it then and I love it now!

    My only tiny nit pick is that I wanted a stronger reaction from Gracie in the second to last paragraph when she glimpses the monsters in the reflection of her mom's mug. "They always did." tells me that this is a common thing for her, but I'd like get a deeper sense of how that affects her. Even if it's just a quick physical reaction before moving on to the description of the monsters themselves.

    This is seriously great though. Best of luck during the auction!

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  2. I liked this one. Especially the title. And I really loved the first part of your first line: "Silence fell in a quiet crash" but I was confused when the second part said "the chords fading into stillness" - if silence has fallen, how can she still hear the chords?

    I also wasn't sure about the "doesn't smell like decaf" line - it's funny, but unless your MC's Mom has really different taste in caf and decaf coffees, I don't know how Gracie would be able to smell the difference. I do like the banter of the line, and those that follow it, though.

    I agree with CherylAnne that it would be great to get a reaction from Gracie about the monsters, but it's also possible you have one next, right after where the 250 cuts off, which would also work.

    Good luck in the auction.

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  3. The monsters showing up in the coffee reflection is your big moment on this page, but it's glossed over, Instead of saying, 'and then the monsters replaced it.' show the appearance of the monsters. Give the reader something to visualize.

    The last parg is a bit of a description, but it's writerly. It's descriptive in the way a setting might be. They're monsters. Perhaps don't just make them sound ugly, show their ugliness and make the sentence structure harsh and rough, too.

    Good luck!

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  4. I really enjoy this one. It catches my attention, it's a fantastic premise, and it's well written. I agree with some of Barbara's comments up there, but in all, it's a really strong pitch.

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  5. This is one of my favorites! The pitch is strong and the stakes are clear. I also love the sample. The language is gorgeous and lyrical. The banter between the mom and Gracie is lovely. I didn't think much about the decaf, but now that it's mentioned, I think they're right. Decaf doesn't have a distinct scented difference than regular. Unless it's flavored coffee... And "reeked" gives me the impression Grace doesn't like the smell of coffee. If that's what you're going for, then it's perfect. If it's not, then I'd suggest changing it.

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  6. Enjoyable read and you've intrigued me with the premise.

    Only two small things - with the opening line, it seems like "the final chords fading into stillness" isn't necessary. If you left this part off, I think it would have more of an impact. If silence has fallen, she wouldn't still hear the chords fading. But I really like your descriptions and feel this is really strong overall.

    The other thing is the Regina Spektor song. I don't know how true this is, but I've been told that mentioning song titles, unless they're REALLY well known (I happen to know and love this one :), can just add confusion to the reader if they don't know it. It wouldn't faze me, but possibly others?

    Great work and best of luck! :)

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  7. Thank you for all the encouraging and constructive critiques. What a fabulous community of authors this is! :)

    I've already rewritten the first page and am so pleased with the results. Many thanks!

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  8. This sounds really interesting! I didn't think the coffee line was an issue until someone pointed it out. I enjoyed the banter and I too wanted to know what the monsters looked like. Best of luck!

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  9. Love the easy rapport with Gracie and Mom. Real nice feel for their relationship, showing how close they are, without over explaining. Premise is intriguing and love the creepy factor with the mirrors.

    Best of luck!

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  10. I think I'm going to offer a dissenting opinion: remembering that this is only the first page of many, and that it's job is to entice, not to absolutely solidify, Grace's experience of these monsters from the reflected worlds, I really like that the first glimpse we get of them is something she tries to gloss over. After all, this is Grace's mind we're dealing with, in a very well-constructed first person, and she's probably spent a long time seeing, and trying not to see, these horrors. I want page one to tease me, and the tease of the last lines works well, IMHO.

    Good luck!

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  11. Yeah, I really enjoyed this opening. it starts nice and quiet, some quick and witty back and forth, and then just when I'm wondering what the conflict might be we get "The threat of monsters." A great line. I was intrigued befroe. Now I'm hooked. Nicely done.

    I will mention that I found the wording of the logline somewhat convoluted. I think maybe it could be smoothed out a bit. The necessary parts are in there, but considered a rewrite to tighten it and make it flow beter.

    Best of luck with it!

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  12. I've been intrigued by the concept for awhile having seen this posted on a few contests in the past. I like this opening too which gives more context than what I remembered reading before.

    In the first line, I think adding the word piano will help set the stage, either before "keys" or "the piano's final chords."

    I like the way the monsters are worked in, but I agree it feels a little glossed over as others noted. Maybe a little less on the coffee cup itself in those first two lines and show a little more reaction about the monsters in place of it.

    Good luck!!

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  13. I liked the mixture of comfortable everyday life with the threat of danger. I think you eased in the "otherworldy" nicely. Enough to raise eyebrows and interest until the final lines. Nice!!!

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  14. As there were a number of comments that previous commenters made that I deeply agree with it, I'm not going to rehash them and I'm now seriously curious as to this re-write you've teased us with in the comment section.

    What I would like to say is 1) I feel as though the log line does not do your writing or this sample enough justice. From the log line I was expecting a more straight-forward, authoritative voice in the sample. instead, the voice of the excerpt is strong and fluid and wonderfully addictive, very enticing. (I might be a touch biased at that since, to be honest, your writing style is, like mine, very poetic, and I adore that).

    As for the sample itself (keeping in mind that there exists this updated/revised version I so much want to read), 'silence feel in a quiet crash' is just a wonderful turn of phrase (so exquisitely poetic) and had me hooked pretty much from there. I'm hoping (if the cleanse/coffee/Chopin conversation still exists) that there will be a payoff later in the novel for the immediate mention of a parental cleanse. Otherwise it just delays the hook of the mirror monsters and while it sets up the characters really well (which is a testament to your writing ability) it threatens to obscure the meat of the opening, which is the appearance of the monster.

    Though, to be honest, the thought of losing 'the heat from her coffee cup sinking into my skin' pains me...plus you do need the cup for its reflective properties. Perhaps, as I think on it, it's the dubious mention of the 'cleanse' (will most of your prospective readers know what that means?) that is throwing me out of the story. "Cleanse" after all is not as 'poetic' as the rest of the writing.

    I'm thoroughly hooked and love your voice and style...really, really want to see your revision!

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  15. I think this is an interesting premise, and the writing is good.

    I wonder, though, if you couldn't do a bit more with your 1st person narrator? 1st POV is all about attitude for me and there's not quite enough of it here for me to be captivated by Gracie. Here's what I mean: when Mom comes in with the coffee, you have the chance to show us what Gracie thinks. It can be as simple as adding a word (of attitude). "She and Dad were doing some sort of weirdcleanse—Mom’s idea—and caffeine was on the no-no list."

    Oftentimes, it would just be the addition of a word or two, and I would feel more secure in my knowledge of Grace.

    Nit: "Rare Vancouver sunlight" sounds odd in 1st person POV. This feels like the writer giving stage directions ("we're in Canada, folks") rather than what the character herself would focus on--unless they'd just moved to Vancouver, and then she could be more focused on the sunlight, so different from that of Arizona etc.

    Good luck with this!

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  16. I like the build up to the moment when she sees the monsters in the reflection of the coffee. The casual reference to avoiding any reflective surface was enough to create curiosity. But when we finally see them, I think we need more of a reaction from Gracie. "They always did" just hangs there without giving us any insight to her feeling about them.

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  17. I noticed the coffee thing too and it did kind of give me a huh? moment. Decaf smells and tastes the same as regular coffee so that made no sense.

    I like the descriptions and the set up here, though not crazy about the title, it seems you could come up with something more original.

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  18. I like this excerpt a lot, and the concept is intriguing, even if there seem to be many stories with premises that are somewhat similar.

    I have to say that I found the 'quiet crash' jarring (although I see that many other folks here loved it!). Rather than striking me as poetic, it seemed contrived, and the image that came to me wasn't right--it didn't make me hear her stop playing, if that makes sense.

    Also, I'm concerned about the title. Naturally a lot of titles get reused for different books--you usually can't copyright a title--and it's particularly common when the title is a couple of words that make up a fairly common expression or phrase. But since this is such a distinctive phrase, the fact that there's another novel and a classic film with the same title seems problematic. So although I can see how it could fit this book perfectly, you might want to consider changing it.

    Good luck!

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  19. In reference to L.C. McGehee's very savvy and insightful point about titles, I think this is one case where the author can afford to NOT worry about the fact that the title has been used elsewhere. You're right that titles aren't generally copyright-able, but beyond that, this phrase is so familiar because it's actually a Biblical reference. (Sorry if I am behaving pedantically; I bring this up because I think writers should get some credit for having titles that are inventive and appropriate on a number of levels.)

    Here's the reference, from the King James Version:

    1 Corinthians 12:13 -
    "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

    I would keep this title because this whole portion of Corinthians has to do with coming-of-age, the arrival of maturity, and the realization of one's true self. It's pitch-perfect, IMHO.

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  20. My fourth grade students work hard on writing poems that touch on all five senses. You hit four out of five of them very naturally and it made for some very strong writing. It grounded me immediately in your story. :)

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  21. Hi Kimberly,

    I agree wholeheartedly with many of the comments above--Peter's in particular--so in the spirit of not endlessly rehashing things, I'm going to touch on a few other things.

    I really enjoy the relationship between Gracie and her Mom. It's easy to see the natural camaraderie and the depth of the love between them. It’s actually far more difficult to capture a realistic, healthy relationship between parent and child than it is to capture a difficult, dysfunctional one—and you managed to do so with a cheek caress and some intimate repartee. Kudos!

    Your logline made it clear that the Gracie’s dilemma of choosing between her Mom and the guy she loves is the crux of the plot line. This is sweet, but I fear it is not exciting or different enough to tempt readers. Work on bringing out the alluring elements of the plot in your logline that distinguish it from any other book in the market. Sell your story right from the get go—it’s always helpful to an editor to see how you, the author, visualize the elevator pitch for your story. A fantastic, well-developed pitch not only makes us immediately want to move reading your manuscript to the top of our reading list, but it also helps us to formulate our pitch to our in-house team (marketing/publicity, school & library marketing, sales). Help us, help you!

    Give me more of a hint about what kind of monsters we are talking about and how they are able to inhabit Gracie’s Mother. Foreshadow this story element—it’s fascinating. For example, Gracie caught a glimpse of a monster with horns in the reflection of her Mom’s coffee cup, but wouldn’t it be interesting if that reflection moved from the coffee cup to Gracie’s Mom’s eyes?

    I think you have a strong beginning here. I hope to have a chance to see the revised excerpt some day!

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  22. Hi Kimberly,

    I agree wholeheartedly with many of the comments above--Peter's in particular--so in the spirit of not endlessly rehashing things, I'm going to touch on a few other things.

    I really enjoy the relationship between Gracie and her Mom. It's easy to see the natural camaraderie and the depth of the love between them. It’s actually far more difficult to capture a realistic, healthy relationship between parent and child than it is to capture a difficult, dysfunctional one—and you managed to do so with a cheek caress and some intimate repartee. Kudos!

    Your logline made it clear that the Gracie’s dilemma of choosing between her Mom and the guy she loves is the crux of the plot line. This is sweet, but I fear it is not exciting or different enough to tempt readers. Work on bringing out the alluring elements of the plot in your logline that distinguish it from any other book in the market. Sell your story right from the get go—it’s always helpful to an editor to see how you, the author, visualize the elevator pitch for your story. A fantastic, well-developed pitch not only makes us immediately want to move reading your manuscript to the top of our reading list, but it also helps us to formulate our pitch to our in-house team (marketing/publicity, school & library marketing, sales). Help us, help you!

    Give me more of a hint about what kind of monsters we are talking about and how they are able to inhabit Gracie’s Mother. Foreshadow this story element—it’s fascinating. For example, Gracie caught a glimpse of a monster with horns in the reflection of her Mom’s coffee cup, but wouldn’t it be interesting if that reflection moved from the coffee cup to Gracie’s Mom’s eyes?

    I think you have a strong beginning here. I hope to have a chance to see the revised excerpt some day!

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  23. There is some solid writing here. The dialogue is natural and flows well. I also agree with Michael GG's points about going a little further with voice.

    Just a thought, and I seem to be the only dissenting view, so take with a grain of salt, but I'd be careful of overwriting. "Silence fell in a quiet crash as I pulled away from the keys, the final chords fading into stillness." This is a good example. The sentence felt jarring to me, mostly because I think of a crash as being loud. Then you have the chords fading after the crash of silence, so you might want to rethink the order. Another example is "...piano was one of the few things that didn't shine with the threat of reflection." This feels forced to me, mostly because I don't know what it means. I'm not sure how something can shine with or without a threat of reflection. Also using words like "reeked" instead of "smelled" draw attention to the writing instead of the senses.

    Another nitpick is I'm not sure you need two mentions of monsters that both serve the same purpose. Your second mention doesn't illuminate the situation any further so you could either recast with a hint more, or delete.

    Overall solid writing.

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  24. This is very good, love their relationship and your writing, and of course am intrigued by the monsters in the reflection.

    You've already been given various bits of good advice so I'll just mention the two things that pulled me out of the story: 'reeking' has a negative connotation so sounds off to me; and I don't think it's a good idea to mention a particular song unless it's hugely well-known. I don't know that song, so it ruined it for me a bit that I couldn't imagine what she was playing.

    Oh and one more thing - even if she has a close relationship with her mother, I still think most teens would probably pull away if a parent stroked their face, just because they don't want to feel babyish. 'Caressing' also seemed a slightly off word for a mother-daughter relationship.

    But with a touch of tweaking I think this could be excellent. I'm certainly drawn in by your story. Good luck!

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  25. Great premise and I'm intrigued. I was thrown with the smell of decaf. Maybe change it to herbal tea? Also, I agree with others about the monsters being the big hook and it's glossed over. I get that she's been there and done that, but it's new to me and I wanted it to have more impact. Good Luck.

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