Wednesday, January 29, 2014

First Two (YA Fiction) #8

TITLE: Dreamwalking Under the Bloodmoon Sky
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Chains chinked as Rose shifted her weight. A low snore was cut short by a snuffling noise, and her warden, Sander, glared in her direction. Rose rolled her eyes at him, trying to run some feeling back into her swollen, manacled hands. As if she could go anywhere. He’d been snoring soundly through the clinking and rattling of chains all night as the other girls giggled and gossiped, their light voices eager for the ceremony that would arrive with the dawn tomorrow, the day of the Fertile Moon. But now, with the noisy girls sleeping peacefully, every time Rose adjusted an inch he was instantly wide awake.

Rose was torn between laughter and tears. Hers were the only bands locked. The other girls’ bonds were just for show—part of the tradition. She wasn’t going anywhere, whether Sander slept on the job or not.

Repositioning herself was more difficult than she’d expected. She ended up halfway on her side with a rock digging into her ribs. A shame the view wasn’t much better. Beside’s Sander’s pointy face drifting back to sleep out of the corner of one eye, the only thing visible was a slice of halfnight sky and the thatch roof of her own home. This crisp smell of smoke was not coming from her chimney. And the half dozen copper pipes that sprouted out in bunches around the chimney were also missing their usual steam and colored vapors. It all served as a harsh reminder for what Rose already knew—her home was empty.

Father was in the pub, drinking to celebrate the handsome deal he’d made trading her away. Or perhaps he drank to forget how she very nearly ruined it all. Rose’s mother, Merelinda, was locked in the public dungeon for matrimonial disloyalty. Utter cocfa. Merelinda hadn’t done a single thing to help Rose. Father only locked her away because he was afraid she’d use her magic against him. Not that she ever would. Coward. They were both cowards.

If only Rose had her mother’s talents.

Rose tore her eyes away from her house, and blinked through her tears at the glittering sky. Tomorrow the moon, which now resembled an overlarge, slightly squashed dumpling clinging to the edges of a blackened pot, would swell into the Fertile Moon. She and all the other girls would be ripe for their new husbands.

She closed her eyes and prayed to whatever gods would listen. She was not ready. Not ready to be a wife. To be a mother. Regardless of what the Fertility Mark on her neck implied. A small, lovely rose, with three sharp petals, corresponding to the days of her monthly bleeding, had been inked onto her neck on the day of her first Bloodmoon to indicate her fertility and eligibility for marriage.

It had been relined with fresh woad ink earlier this evening, along with the other brides’ tattoos. It was a small discomfort, and none of the other girls had complained.


  1. Firstly, the title. I really liked this title when I first read it. But then I got to the end of the text and realized that the "Bloodmoon" really refers to when a young girl gets her period. And honestly, that left a really weird taste in my mouth. I'm not sure if a title that refers to menstruation is the best way to go to attract readers.

    I love how well-written this is. Rose's voice shines through with the asides ("Coward. They were both cowards" and "A shame the view wasn't much better").

    My questions lie with the chains, though. Why is Rose the only girl with real chains on? Why does the guard care so much about keeping her from running away? Is this simply because she's a flight risk? Why aren't the other girls considered flight risks? Is that because the other girls feel ready for marriage but Rose doesn't? Maybe I'm actually answering my own questions as I ask them, haha. Either way, I wouldn't mind some further explanation of this later. You've definitely caught my attention and you've made me want to read more!

    Other things that keep me guessing: What magic does Rose possess? What are her mother's talents? Does everyone have a rose on their necks, or just Rose since that's her name?

    Oh, and one more thing. In the first paragraph you said "As if she could go anywhere." In the second paragraph you said "She wasn't going anywhere." That felt repetitive to me.

    Great job!

  2. I like this story and I feel for Rose, pushed into an impending marriage she doesn't feel ready for. I like that she comes from a family in which there's some magic--makes me think she might have abilities she hasn't yet discovered.

    I have the same questions, though, the previous commenter had. I don't know how Rose was picked to be truly bound when the other girls only had a token binding, especially since it's clear a little further down that her father and mother didn't do anything to stop her from being taken.

    This makes me wonder if that scene might not be important to show. Wouldn't that be the inciting incident, the event that disturbs her "normal" and sets the story in motion?

    If so, I think it should be shown, not alluded to.

  3. You have an interesting beginning--a girl in chains waiting to be married against her will. But you could make the scene more tense. (I don't know how, I just know it is lacking.)

    And I was distracted by your frequent use of "eyes." Rolled her eyes, one eye, tore her eyes, blinked through tears, and closed her eyes--all within the first 500 words. Try eliminating some of them. The action would feel more immediate if you didn't filter it through her eyes.

  4. The concept here is really interesting. You may want to look for ways to help the reader connect more with the MC in the beginning, so we feel sorrier for her situation (because it's pretty bad).

    I was originally going to suggest that the title be shortened to either "Dreamwalking" or "Under the Bloodmoon Sky" because it's such a mouthful, but now that I know what Bloodmoon is - yeah, I'm squicked. I wouldn't use a reference to menstruation in the title. It tends to gross me out, and most of your target audience is probably AT LEAST as squeamish as I am (since I'm not a teenager).

    Also, it feels slow. I started and stopped reading half a dozen times. Is there a way to include more action in the beginning? A scene between her fighting parents? A conversation she had with someone? You could also show us WHY she's the only one chained. Or if the action comes after this scene, then you may want to look at ways to shorten it. Removing the eye references, as suggested above, is a good start.

  5. This is extremely slow because nothing is happening. A girl is laying in captivity and thinking for 500 words. And all the thinking does is fill us in on the backstory. If the backstory is so important that you need to get it in right now, then just start the story there. SHow Rose being taken away by whoever, or show her father trading her away.

    If you'd rather start where she is, let her do something besides think. Perhaps show the other girls giggling and give us some dialogue that's relevant to their situation. Give us a description of where she is. If she's in a prison cell, I wondered what a rock would be doing in there. If she's outside on the ground, then why can't she see more than the sky? And give us some insight into the situation. What does she think of the other girls? How do they treat her? Why doesn't she want to marry?

    You don't have to start with big action, but try to begin with some movement, with something happening.

  6. This was a tough one, because overall, I liked it and immediately felt connected to the character. Rose is going to be married against her will! It's female slavery and it's horrifying. (shudders) (shudders some more)

    To bring a bit more action to the scene, maybe have Rose trying to escape? Then it'd be clear why she's chained up and the others only have the manacles on for show. Instead of the guard starting to wake whenever Rose shifts position, have the guard start to wake whenever she bangs on her chains with a rock. Instant tension.

    Finally, get rid of Rose rolling her eyes. That's usually a bratty, teenage gesture and immediately take away from the peril of the situation.

    Good luck! You've got a great start here and an interesting, scary world to build upon.