Friday, November 30, 2012

(42) YA Steampunk Romance: When I Called You Mine

TITLE: When I Called You Mine
GENRE: YA Steampunk Romance

To rescue her kidnapped brother, Meg must reunite with the boy who broke her heart, hitch a ride on the pirate airship of which he is now captain, and find an ancient Mayan treasure hidden deep within the jungles of southern Mexico.

My job was dangerous in its simplicity.

I should have remembered that, considering I’d worked at the Harrison & Sons’ Diving and Processing Plant for three years now, screwing lids onto vials filled with phosphorus sea slugs and the gelatinous solvent that preserved their light. Really, it should have been at the forefront of my mind.

Every day, for twelve hours straight, it was the same. The swooshing of the rubber belt beneath the vials, pushing them down the line; the soft sighs of the women around me as they twisted caps onto the various tubes, sweat dotting their kerchiefs; the clucking of their tongues as they sorted the vials based on size and grade—military, industrial, or commercial—around their workstations.

It was easy to forget the danger when the process became repetitive to the point of terminal boredom. I’d watched over a dozen girls leave the plant permanently disfigured after forgetting themselves, daydreaming about God knew what. They were clumsy with their thoughts and with their hands, and the solvent poured down their arms, seeped into their shirts and down their leather work gloves. The burns could be treated, but not fast enough to stop their hands from shriveling, their muscles from deteriorating.

Most women did not last very long in this factory, but the work did not bother me. The monotony of it all was usually a welcome reprieve from my life outside these walls.


  1. Kudos on your creative setting, ie. bottling phosphorous sea slugs. : )
    This may be the first steampunk I've read, but I love the voice. It's right up front in the second sentence (I should have remembered that...)
    The reader is definitely ready to hear about her life outside the walls, which you set up on the last line.
    I'm wondering if you could somehow weave a mention of her brother or ex-boyfriend into the first page, perhaps by moving some of the info about burns and disfigurement to the next page. Just a thought.

  2. An intriguing setting! I'm wondering right off, though, what the sea slugs are for... I love your wording in the 3rd paragraph (swooshing, soft sighs, clucking). Good job of making the reader visualize being on the factory line. In the 4th paragraph, 2nd sentence, I would remove "...forgetting themselves" and just say "...daydreaming about God knew what."

  3. Beautifully written, and your descriptions of the factory pulled me in and made me wonder a couple of things: 1. What are the slugs for? and 2. How soon can she get away from this dreary life? I think your MC is a sympathetic one and I'd keep reading so I could join her on her adventures!

  4. I love steampunk and your logline is great, it really makes me want to read your story.

    However, I wasn't such a fan of the excerpt, sorry. The first line is good, but then you go into too much detail about the work, and I lose interest. The description itself is well done, and the slugs are a fun idea, but it goes on for too long, and it's all backstory. I think by the end of 250 words, I want to be in the here and now.

    I also think the title sounds too much like a category romance novel.

    You write well, though, so perhaps if you either started the story a little differently, or got to the coming accident that I am guessing is implied in the first line, a bit quicker.

    Good luck!

  5. I have to say this is the best YA entry I've read yet.

    I'm a fan of Scott Westerfeld and I think you've nailed the steam punk genre here, especially with the scientific/technological detail.

    The description of the dangerous job totally hooked me. Can't wait to read the book!

  6. I like this very much and would read on. Two hopefully constructive crits:

    I believe it's "phosphorescent" sea slugs, if you want them to emit light.

    I'd suggest cutting back a bit on how boring the work is -- I once heard someone (editor? critic?) say "if your character thinks something is boring, chances are your readers do to."

  7. This is some really lovely prose, with very confident voice and excellent worldbuilding. That said, I'm not sure it really works as an opening -- it's too passive and lacks any hint of conflict whatsoever (whether internal or external). Unless of course this is all setting up something in the next couple of paragraphs. I think you do begin to hint at something or at least present an intriguing contrast with the final "welcome reprieve" line, so the pacing doesn't actually bother me as much as it stands -- steampunk allows for a bit of a more old-fashioned opening, imo.

    But the above commenter's point on writing about something your viewpoint character finds boring is something you should consider too. Despite being an objectively interesting/alien description to the reader that ought to invoke a sense of wonder, the POV does subtly affect our emotional reactions to it. Without seeing what comes next, it's hard to say whether or not this needs to be "fixed" or not. (The whole thing would fall flat if her life outside the walls doesn't actually live up to the weirdness of factory life.) But definitely something to think about. There may be a more effective place to start.

    Otherwise... this was one of my favorite entries. Must confess I don't care for the title, and even the logline seemed pretty generic... but the voice + worldbuilding hooked me. Which is why I'm not sure the slower pacing is something you need to fix. :P Or in other words, I want to read more, so you've already gotten past one hurdle. The problem lies in whether I'll still want to read on after another few pages!

  8. The writing here is solid and I can see hints of a developed world. I would keep reading. As for the comments regarding it feeling passive, I know the first 250 is tough to judge because the expectation is to cram so much there. I do think there is opportunity here to weave in specifics related to your MC. What is she doing right now? Can she interact with anyone in a context that would make sense for these reflections? Maybe you could show someone getting slug juice on their hands and how your MC keeps working. I'm definitely intrigued!

  9. I enjoy steampunk a lot, but it’s a very tricky, niche category, so it needs to be handled just right.

    When I think steampunk, I expect cool tech and serious excitement, and that’s not reading in your opening lines. I’d give you a pass on that to be revealed later in the manuscript, but given that we’re starting in a factory, the familiar foreignness (that’s the only way to describe steampunk tech) should be readily apparent.

    If your character’s bored, your reader’s going to be bored, too, especially given the monotony of Meg’s task. So, it comes down to either paring down the description of the repetitive task, or thinking about if this is truly the right place to start your novel.

    I think your writing is self-assured and lovely. You have a confidence in your narrative, and your ear for description is fantastic. So, even though I don’t love where we’re starting, I would absolutely want to read more of your novel.

  10. I also love the setting. I'm curious about the dangerous factory and the MC who likes being there.

    The log line also hooked me. It lets me know the book will be filled with action and excitement.

    I would keep reading! Great job!


    Boy howdy, life outside the walls of the plant must be horrific if it beats the possibility of deteriorating body parts. I feel like you're setting up the monotony she's chosen to get us ready for the adventure I'm assuming she'll be forced into to save her brother.

    Beautiful writing, too. Can't wait to read it!

  12. Your logline scream buy me, but without any dialogue and a bored MC in the first page, I lost interest. I might read another page to see if it picks up, because there are bits of intrigue and an overall hint that something bad is going to happen soon.

  13. I like this premise and would love to read more! I bid 25 pages.

  14. I'll go 75...

  15. wait wait. I thought you could only bid against yourself after 150! I call full! Authoress--what is the story??

  16. I bid 75 w/out refreshing the page first! I didn't know it went up. So I bid 150 and then outbid myself. Is that wrong??

  17. Fine. I didn't see that part. You win. Said with a sourpuss face

  18. if this were like horse-racing, you would BOTH get thrown out. So just in case Authoress is using the kentucky derby judging rules as random inspiration for this contest. FULL ;)

    *don't actually do that Authoress, it'd be too mean, even for me.

  19. *shakes head*


    Item goes to Sarah.

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