Friday, December 2, 2011

#16 Historical Fantasy (Romance): The Call of the Sea

TITLE: The Call of the Sea
GENRE: Historical Fantasy (Romance)

There is no denying the call of the sea.

Thanks to the selkie blood coursing through his veins, Daniel O'Rourke is tied to the ocean--whether he likes it or not. In an effort to earn a living while staying close to the coast, Daniel takes a job aboard The Surf Runner as their cabin boy. When his captain and mentor is murdered by pirates, Daniel must work with the captain’s headstrong daughter to hunt down the captain’s killer.

Youghal, Ireland 1653

With pulse racing, eleven-year-old Daniel O’Rourke watched from a shadowed corner of the candlelit bedroom as the doctor hovered over Ma. Fear tickled the hairs at the back of his neck.

The doctor straightened and cleared his throat. He drew up scruffy gray eyebrows as he looked over his spectacles at Da, who hunched on a stool clasping Ma’s frail hand. “She’s gone. I’m sorry, Joseph.”

The words crashed against Daniel with the force of a winter gale, sucking the breath from his small lungs. How can she be gone? She’s laying right there! At his quiet gasp, two sets of eyes swung his way.

His father’s bleak expression darkened. “Get yer boney arse outta here, boy.”

Daniel pressed back against the wall. His eyes sought his mother, locked on her closed lids, her peaceful face. Hot tears blurred his vision. She’s just sleeping. Wake her up!

“Now!” Da swung a burly arm toward the door. His giant hand shook as he pointed.

The command echoed through Daniel’s numb body, spurring him to action. He tripped over his feet scrambling for the open doorway and tumbled down the hall. Upon picking himself up from the floor, Daniel brushed at the fringe of chestnut hanging in his eyes and barreled out of the cottage as if hellhounds nipped at his heels.

He raced through the night, tears streaming down his cheeks. His feet pounded against the ground like war drums.


  1. I like the premise here, and there's a lot of raw, powerful emotion. I got tripped up with little wording issues, though. For example:

    - With pulse racing, eleven year old Daniel watched the doctor hover over Ma from a shadowed corner of the candlelit bedroom.

    For some reason I want to cut the opening "with"; I believe "eleven-year-old" is hyphenated; and I'm not sure why a doctor would want to examine a patient in poor lighting.

    The father's reaction intrigued me. Clearly not a good father-son relationship here, and one that made me sympathize with the boy (sadly, more than the mother's death; I got that she mattered, but never got to see what she or her relationship to the others was like).

    But I get the sense that the mother's death is going to be a trigger for something bigger. It'd have to happen soon to capture my interest, and I'd even think about condensing some of the details in this excerpt to get there sooner. His mom dying is important, but doesn't really make the story stand out in any way for me.

  2. Intriguing! Your descriptions are amazing, and the emotion here really drew me in and made me sympathize with Daniel right away. I'd definitely read on. Good luck!

  3. Good clear logline here and I have to say I've never read a pirate story, so I'd definitely give this a chance as a reader.

    In the excerpt I think you did a great job of showing the panic and disbelief of the young boy - really made me feel for him.

    The only sentence I didn't think we needed all of was the third from last. I'd change it to 'He barreled out of the cottage...' and lose the part about picking himself up and his hair. His hair's not important right now and the 'Upon picking' seems like clumsy wording to me.

    Other than that I'd absolutely read on to find out what this event is the catalyst for in Daniel's life. Great stuff and good luck :)

  4. The premise is intriguing. I feel sympathetic toward the boy and I have to echo an earlier comment. My sympathy for the MC comes from the way the father treats the boy rather than the mother's death. If you want us to feel the mother's death, we need a tidbit of their relationship, a very brief snapshot of a memory perhaps.

    I like your use of metaphor and simile; just be careful of overuse.

    You may want to check some of your sentence structure. When you say "from the shadowed corner" I'm pretty sure you meant the boy was in the corner, but it comes off as the doctor being in the corner.

    Overall, I enjoyed it. Good luck!

  5. The writing is beautiful. I felt the strong emotion in the scene, and an early connection to the MC. You can't understand motivation or plot from a slice of story this small. All you can do is turn the reader on or off to wanting more, and I definately want more. :)

  6. I like the emotion and the words/language used to convey it. Pulled me in right away and I want to read on. More, please!

    A few things of note:

    It the age important that you used it instead of stating 'young'? Is it going to be a theme throughout the tale of saying the exact age? Or is YA your target audience?

    Like someone else noted, though I suspect it's told later in the story, a little bit of the relationship between his mother and he would be nice. Death of a parent is hard on a child regardless of the relationship and all, yet it could add to an already emotionally churning scene.

  7. Excellent. Cannot wait to read the rest!!

  8. I love the words. I want to read more. Keep on writing, can't wait to see how Danial turns out!

  9. Your writing is poetic. The style and rhythm caught my interest straight away. I'm intrigued by the father/son relationship, and wonder if the father blames Daniel for the mother's death, or if Daniel is a stepson.
    If I had the book in my hand, I'd have to read on.
    Good luck.

  10. This is good. You start your story right as the MC's life changes. A few minor tweaks:

    When you say Daniel 'tumbled down the hall' I wasn't sure whether he had tumbled to the ground or was stumbling down the hall. He picks himself up in the next sentence so I'm assuming the former, but unless the hall is sloped I find it hard to picture how he tumbled down it. Perhaps have him tumbling onto the hall floor.

    Secondly, I would cut the bit about him brushing the chestnut hair out of his eyes (I think someone else mentioned this too). If he's that desperate to get out of the house I doubt he would stop to brush hair out of his eyes, and mentioning chestnut is a clear authorial intrusion - you want us to know what he looks like. At this stage the colour of his hair doesn't matter and it's not something he's going to be thinking about at this point in time.

    I'd keep reading. Good luck with the auction!

  11. Not sure what the first line adds to the logline. Also thought there was a bit of a synopsis feel in the first line of the 250, giving age and full name. To me, stronger with something like, "Daniel watched from a dark corner of the candlelit bedroom as the doctor hovered over Ma." There's some great imagery in here, but I trip over some wordy descriptions like "drew up scruffy gray eyebrows," "words crashed against Daniel," "bleak expression darkened," "tripped ... scrambling ... tumbling." With a little tighter editing, shows real potential. Good Luck.

  12. Yes, yes and yes. Your descriptive language is very powerful. My only issues - He sounds a lot older in the logline, too old to start working as a cabin boy (I think). Also, I really stumbled over the wording "Upon picking himself up..."

    Overall, intriguing and enough to make me want to read more.

    Good job!

  13. This is a strong logline and emotional opener. I have to be honest--I don't know what a "selkie" is. Perhaps everyone in the fantasy genre does, but if there is even a chance that there are others like me (and I'm of Irish descent) then I suggest explaining.

    The death of a mother is always a really powerful way to start a story. What makes yours even more intriguing is that the father is so cruel to the MC.

    For me, there were some redundancies in the writing. It could be trimmed down and still be effective. Do you need "pulse racing" AND "fear tickled the hairs at the back of his neck"? If words crash into someone like a gale, you don't need to say the breath is sucked out too. He can barrel out of the cottage without hellhounds on his heels. As an exercise, slice out the extra phrases and see if it still moves you. I think it will.

  14. I like the logline, but I'm not quite sure this feels like the right place to start, for me. If I read the logline on the back cover of the book, I'd want to start reading about him either already working as a cabin boy, with things coming in as flashbacks, or with him getting the job. If it's important that his mum died when he was young, then I think there's other ways to bring that through. That's just a personal preference though, just sharing what I think.

    I love the description "with the force of a winter gale" - if the story is about to the sea, that just fits so well!
    I don't think he needs to brush at the fringe of chestnut hanging in his eyes - it could just be the chestnut hair hanging in his eyes. There is a lot of description going on in the last two paragraphs that could be trimmed down just a little bit.

    Good luck in the auction.

  15. The logline is missing some urgency for me. All these things are what he *wants* to do, but not necessarily what he *has* to do.

    I'm having trouble getting into the first few lines. Maybe if you started with the doctor and then cut to Daniel watching tensely from the corner, it would build more tension. I feel the authorial hand here, like we're getting action in a quick and choppy way just for the sake of advancing the plot.

    I'm not saying to have less action, but maybe to consider the pacing of it. Without many more words, you could build up more suspense and hope and fear to turn her passing into a major event, but in the third sentence I don't care enough about him to be struck by it as strongly as I would if it were the first sentence, or if it was just a little bit farther down. Alternately, you could start with the doctor announcing that she's already gone and have Daniel's altercation with his father be the first event.

    It's a pacing issue for me -- the events here feel like they have too much weight to be handled so quickly. They need either less weight or more time.

  16. Lovely writing. The story has a Dickensian / epic feel to it starting with the MC as a child. I'd read this, not having read any stories about selkies before.