Monday, March 1, 2021

Are You Hooked? #3

TITLE: The Secret of Bushland Bees 
GENRE: Contemporary Fantasy

Something feels different today, the way the last day of school feels different from the others. It’s weird because trips to the farm aren’t special, not in the least.

“Lara, can you come to the kitchen, please,” Dad calls. Hearing his voice surprises me. He usually heads straight to the paddocks when we arrive, to check on the cows.

I leave my mostly-unpacked bag on my bed and take the short hallway to the kitchen. Hopefully, I'll be able to solve the double mystery as quickly as possible. I hate mysteries.

Dad’s sitting at the table with Mum and my younger sister, Nellie. They’re all grinning, a loaf cake and glasses of juice between them.

“Here she is,” Dad says.

“We’re having another cake?” I take a seat, trying to act casual. Cake is a rare treat and we only finished off my birthday cake—a tall one with aqua icing and a number twelve in rainbow sprinkles—yesterday. I’m not complaining, who doesn’t love cake? I just want to know why I’m getting another.

“We’re celebrating!” Mum says with a wink. “I did some sneaky baking yesterday afternoon, while you were at the drama club meeting at school.”

“Lara, today is another special day for you.” Dad raises his orange juice in the air, eyes glistening.

Mum lifts her glass to touch Dad’s, so does Nellie. The three of them look at me expectantly and I do the same, as an idea dawns. Did my Kingsley results come early?


  1. Well, I definitely want to know what this family is celebrating! Especially since Lara doesn't have a clue and she knows something is up. I'm also intrigued about what Kingsley is and how that factors into her life. If she's turning 12, is this a MG book? Or does Lara age throughout the course of the book? The voice feels young, so it makes me wonder whether it's going to mature or whether this is a children's book. Either way, I'd read on!

  2. I'm curious and want to know what they are celebrating! Some of the dialog doesn't read realistic such as "..., while you were at the drama club meeting at school."

  3. This definitely reads like a kid's fantasy (maybe upper middle grade or lower YA). You do a great job packing in the details and hooking the reader to want to read on! Also, you characterize your MC very well - with the promise of the premise that something feels different, very foreboding, love this observation by your MC. And other points, like her surprise at her father's voice and the fact that she hates mysteries. Makes me think she'll be solving a bigger one not too far down the line. think the flow is great, and I'd def read on.

  4. Agree this reads like a middle grade novel. Love how there's something different happening for Lara, especially with her not knowing what today's celebration is for. Be careful about telling words: you can cut "hearing" out of the "Hearing his voice startles me" line to put us more in Lara's shoes. I love that she hates mysteries because it sounds like there are more headed her way. Agree that Mum's line about the sneaky baking sounds forced. Perhaps she could just say "while you were out"?

    This is just a major nitpick for me, but drinking orange juice with cake feels wrong. How can they taste the sweetness of the cake if they're drinking juice?

    I'd read on.

  5. Thanks all for the comments. Yes, this is upper middle grade :)

  6. I enjoyed this. I think it might be a little rushed in terms of the build-up to whatever is about to take place, but I'm intrigued enough to keep reading, and I guess that's the main point. Nicely done.

  7. I think opening on 'mysterious unexpected good news' is probably a good call, but I would suggest re-working your opening sentence. You are quite literally telling the reader that something feels off -- try showing it instead, to set the tone of the story. 'The cat puked on my bed again. That's never a good sign.' 'I figured I was in for a weird day when a meteor fell through the roof and landed on my bed'.

    Try providing a concrete example, see where it takes you.

  8. I love the voice here - "I’m not complaining... I just want to know why I’m getting another." - and that's pulling me in. I like too the hint that the MC is waiting for something (if I had to guess, though, I'd say that what Mom and Dad are about to announce isn't what she's waiting for - that could make for some nice tension). I agree about showing something specific in your opening line. I'm curious as to how the fantasy elements will come into this. This doesn't necessarily need to happen on page one (I would introduce this somehow by the end of the first chapter), but if you can work in a small hint here, that would be awesome. I'm hooked and would read on through the first chapter to see what the MC's problem is and what's standing in her way (well meaning but clueless parents, perhaps?).

  9. I like how you pull us right into the story with action, dialogue, and thoughts from the character. I want to know what the family is celebrating! I would definitely read on. I am a little confused about the time frame- sounds like they just got to the house, but already the MC's family is set up with juice and a cake in the kitchen. That felt off to me. Also, small detail, in the sentence about Dad going straight to the paddocks, the phrase "to check the cows" seemed out of place. I would rewrite to say Dad heads straight to the paddocks to check the cows when we arrive. Great start and good luck with this project!

  10. I enjoyed this. The only part that threw me was her thoughts on solving the double mystery, and how she dislikes mysteries. I felt she should have gone from her room to the kitchen. The mystery stuff would work in the first paragraph, though. It following through on her thoughts before her Dad interrupted her. Just a thought. I definitely wanted to keep reading though. Thanks for sharing

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