Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May Secret Agent #38

TITLE: The Purple Wars
GENRE: YA Contemporary

The dining room is where the ghosts and monsters play. That’s what Jacob said back then, our necks curling around the half open door, eyes blurting fright. Twelve years on, it’s still my least favourite room in the house; it’s where adults endure dinner parties, where serious topics are discussed, and it smells of calla lilies instead of brownies and popcorn.

And it’s the only room in the house where I can’t see the Purple Woods.

So when Dad and Coach Kominsky invite me to take a seat at the solid jarrah table, the cream-cushioned chairs imprinted with the bums of ghosts, I wrap my arms around my chest and respond with a brisk, “I’m good here.”

Of course it’s Coach K who starts talking in his clipped Czech accent. Abrupt, cutting; the words may as well be tennis balls smashing into my chest. Even now, at the point of ambush, I’m pretty impressed by his perfectly round shaved head—no freckle, bump or indent daring to blemish it.

I grip the high-backed chair; add some flint to my stare. “How can you say I’m not good enough, Coach Kominsky?” My voice wobbles. The earth shifts beneath my feet. “I’m only seventeen—”

“Seventeen and a half, Harper,” replies Coach, fingertips tapping each other. He’s trained me to become a world class tennis player for over five years and I don’t even know his first name.

“Dad?” Dad glances at me, but for him it’s like staring into the sun.


  1. I had to read this twice and I am not sure I am following everything.

    Does this take place in Australia? (had to look up Jarrah). I think a 17 year old boy is being told he has no future as a tennis player. But I don't follow some of the descriptions: "eyes blurting fright" and why the Dad's look is like staring into the sun. Is the boy experiencing the sun or the Dad?

    I like the set up and think the story in intriguing, but I was stumbling over those things. And I think any 17 year old kid would know his coaches first name, just because he would have been asked who coached him over the years if he were a top flight player. Maybe I just don't understand tennis - actually I totally don't understand tennis, so I am probably wrong about this.

  2. I'm curious as to whether the MC is female or male. I initially read it as female. Maybe add a quick description to let the readers know. Have her tug at her skirt. Or have him rub his jawline. Something quick, but big.

    I also agree about the table. I have no clue what a Jarrah table is, so I'm assuming younger kids won't either. Can you describe the table instead of just calling it by a name? Then later on you can refer to it by name if you want.

    I do like the description of the coach. It says so much.:)

  3. I also stumbled over the "blurting fright" and also over the "chairs imprinted with the bums of ghosts" - I wasn't sure if ghosts were supposed to be in the room or if he just means that past bums have left an imprint. Also, I read this as a male protagonist, but I think Rebecca has a good point - a quick description would clear any confusion.

  4. Okay, I don't think that what happened when the MC was 5 has anything to do with this scene. Also the twelve years later made me do math. *scary eyes* Start her with the coach and her dad and let them talk with their mouths and tell her she isn't good enough.

  5. I like your writing style. You have some gems in there, and a dry humor. I found the MC's mood shift a bit odd - from fascination with the coach's shaved head (loved that sentence, and the one about the ghosts' bums, haha) to adding flint to her gaze to her voice wobbling. Otherwise, I liked it.

  6. I loved your first sentence and wanted it to be by itself, with the next few sentences turned into a separate paragraph. I realise this draws people further away from your first few words ('The dining room'), and so some people (like me!) could forget what room we're talking about here. Not sure how to fix that... Maybe add: 'our necks curling around the half open door to the dining room.'

    On that note, 'eyes blurting fright' didn't work for me. I don't know how eyes blurt fright, and if they do, how your narrator knows his or her eyes were doing it (i.e., it felt too much like something I'd see another person's eyes do rather than feel of my own). In sum, I'd rewrite that part or cut it.

    Your sentence about seeing the purple woods absolutely rocked! I was hooked.

    Then, I loved your MC's voice over the rest of it, but I got lost. We were in the dinning room, then there's a coach with a clipped accent, now we're talking about tennis, and now Dad's about to say something. Are we still in the dining room? Are the ghosts and monsters--and purple woods--about? Having said all of it, none of that was a problem on a second read, so maybe it was more a reader than writer issue!

    This was really good. Ghosts' bums on seats made me laugh!

  7. I play a lot of tennis and have coaches, and they never come to my house. You talk to a coach on the court, not in a house. And she or he, which we need to know sooner, would know the name. It would be on the wall fo the tennis court where the coach is a pro. And if he's that famous, in the news or on the internet.

    BTW, what did the coach say?

    I think this might read better if it took place on the tennis court with the court yelling at him.

    By 17, he should be playing national tournaments or winning one.

    Don't get the connection between ghosts and tennis.

    If you clear up some of these issues, Id like the story, which is intriguing.

  8. I enjoyed this! I think this is nicely written, and I would definitely keep reading. However, I thought you were setting me up for a paranormal read, which doesn't seem to be the case. Be careful with the ghost imagery.

    Not sure what this means:

    “Dad?” Dad glances at me, but for him it’s like staring into the sun.

    Looking at the protagonist (his son/daughter) is like starting into the sun? Or looking at the coach?

    Overall, nice work!

  9. I agree with the few items that hung others up like male or female, staring into the sun, the table, etc. That said, it's a good scene. It could be even better if the reader hears the actual words the coach says and sees her reaction to them.