Wednesday, January 29, 2014

First Two (YA Fiction) #9

TITLE: The Last Timemaker and the Stolen Sun
GENRE: YA Fantasy

On the night Thomas Wright became a murderer, his grandpa tucked him into bed at 8:15 and then told him a story. When he was finished he began to tell it again.

“Er, Grandpa?” Thomas said when he started the tale for a third time.


“You already told me that one.”

“Did I?” His grandpa frowned and then said, “Oh, yes. Of course I did. I read it last Monday. Not to worry. I’ll read you a different one instead.”

While his grandpa shuffled over to the bookcase, Thomas played with the sheets on his bed. He didn’t like watching him walk. It made him sad and scared to see how slow he moved. But tonight, something made him look up.

“Grandpa?” he said. Every time his grandpa took a step, a strange crunching sound filled the room. “What’s that?”

“What’s what?”

“That thing in your shoe.”

“It’s, a, um …” Unable to remember the answer himself, he peered down for a clue. “Oh! It’s a chocolate for dessert.”

“You put chocolate in your shoe?” Thomas was used to his grandpa doing odd things, like putting the eggs in the oven instead of the fridge and eating breakfast for dinner and lunch for dessert, but he’d never done this.

“Well, I had to put it somewhere.” Now that he knew where it was, Thomas’s grandpa tried to get the chocolate out. But his back refused to bend.

“Don’t worry. I’ll get it, Grandpa.” Thomas climbed out of bed and hurried over to help. He was used to helping by now. His grandpa had all sorts of problems: a bad back, a bad hip, bad blood sugar too. It hadn’t always been like this. When his grandma was still alive he’d been pretty healthy, but now every part of him was failing, and no matter how much Thomas tried to help things kept getting worse.

He knew he should tell someone what was happening, like a doctor or a teacher, but what if they said Grandpa was too old to look after him? What would happen then? Would they put his grandpa in a hospital and him in some stranger’s home? He didn’t have anywhere else to go. It had always been just the three of them: him, Grandma and Grandpa. Well, just the two of them now.

“That’s my boy,” Grandpa said when Thomas pulled the squashed chocolate from his shoe. With shaking hands he tore off the wrapper and held the treat towards Thomas. “Here you go. I bought it just for you. It’s your favourite. I remembered, see?” he said proudly.

“Um …” Thomas stared at the chocolate. A piece of the wrapper had torn inside his grandpa’s shoe and now green fluff stuck to the sweet. “Thanks, Grandpa, but I’ve already brushed my teeth.”

“Well, that’s even better. Now it will taste like a Peppermint Crisp.”

Thomas didn’t want to eat the chocolate, but he didn’t want to let his grandpa down. So he took the offered sweet and ate it all up.


  1. I love your first line. It made me desperate to read more. The only issue I have with this is that I can't figure out how you get a piece of chocolate into a shoe. There's no room in a shoe for candy when the feet are inside.

  2. Great situation, great setup, but I can't figure out how (or more importantly why) this is moving toward fantasy. There is a straightforward MG/YA coming-of-age tale in here waiting to get out, I feel. (BTW, if he's getting tucked in at 8:15, he sounds like an MG-aged MC.)

    Also, a minor cavil/suggestion: It's awkward to keep referring to "Thomas's grandpa" or "his grandpa." If the story calls for it, give him a name, but otherwise the narrator is already speaking from Thomas's POV, so you can just refer to him in narration as grandpa (or Grandpa).

  3. The first line is great and I read on hoping to see when that action would come. By the end of the 2nd page, I felt kind of let down. I know you're building this world for us, but I want to know why this kid is going to be a murderer NOW! :)WIth that being said, I love the conversation between the characters and I would continue to turn the page.

  4. I thought the whole scene was adorable, and really well-written, but I don't see how this is YA. With a main character young enough to be tucked into bed and have his grandpa read him a story, it seems like this must be MG, or even earlier.

    That said, I got a little choked up when Thomas ate the chocolate. Sweet kid!

  5. Thomas is SOOOOO likeable. You've done a great job connecting the reader to your character, and suggesting major conflict with that intriguing first line.

    I agree, though, that this is middle grade, not YA. The character has a middle grade voice. An endearing middle grade voice. Now I'm going to worry for him, poor little guy.

    Well done.

  6. Thanks for pointing out this is MG. I was a bit unsure which category it fell into. The tone at the start is a lot younger than the rest of the story.

  7. I love this. The voice is so strong and the interactions between Thomas and grandpa are so evocative of their characters. I agree with other posters that this is MG. I think the slower paced start is a strong choice, because the character building you've managed in this section is incredible. I'd want something to happen pretty promptly from here though.

    The only part that bothered me a little was the 'He knew he should...' paragraph, especially the rhetorical questions. It pulled me out of that moment with them. But overall I loved it.

  8. I think this is touching, and I also agree that the voice feels appropriate for MG.

    The chocolate in the shoe bit simply doesn't work though, for three reasons. First, as SueJay said, I can't see how he would have gotten a chocolate into his shoe without taking the shoe off. Second, if he has a bad back and can't bend over to get it out, it seems unlikely that he would have been able to bend over to put it in. And third, it just isn't believable.

    When people start to get confused, they mix up things that they've normally done in the past -- putting eggs in the oven instead of the fridge is a perfect example. But since no one ever carries anything in their shoe, I just find it impossible to visualize an old man doing that. Instead, why not have him sit on it because he'd forgotten that he'd put it in his back pocket? Then have the boy still accept it even though it's crushed and has pocket lint stuck to it.

    One small thing: I thought it was a little unclear whether the grandfather was telling him stories from memory or reading to him -- you say 'told' and 'tell' in the first paragraph, but then you mention him going to the bookcase; I think if he's actually reading from a book you should replace those two words with 'read'.

  9. I absolutely adored this. You immediately caught my attention with the first sentence. The rest set the scene really well. Someone above said that the paragraph starting with "He knew he should tell someone..." felt out of place. I disagree--it made me feel for little Thomas even more. My heart is breaking for him.

    I also really want to know WHO Thomas murders... my first thought is grandpa!

    I agree with everyone else about the age stuff, but no need to reiterate that.

    Great job!! I hope to see this on a bookshelf someday.

  10. This had a Roald Dahl feel to it, and reminded me a bit Charlie's home life in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Nice job there!

    I thought the first line was problematic in that it's not a real hook. It's a gimmicky hook, and it doesn't deliver on its promise. We don't learn how he comes to be a murderer by the end of the excerpt, and that's disappointing.

    If you cut the first parg. and start with something relevant to the scene you're showing, it could work better for you because, as you've seen by the comments, you've created a scene that has power and emotion and can stand on its own without the gimmicky opening, and when I reach the end, I'm not disappointed, I'm eager to read more.

    I agree about the candy in the shoe. I thought it was weird but was willing to accept it, because, as I said, I got that Roald Dahl feel for the piece, and it is fantasy, but maybe sticking it somewhere else would be better.

  11. Thanks for all of this help!

    I promise that Thomas does kill someone by the end of the first chapter (luckily it is on the 5th page so most agents will be able to see it in the query sample pages).

    I'll have to look over the chocolate in his shoe. I hadn't even thought about him not being able to bend down!