Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #9

TITLE: The Silver Sphere
GENRE: MG Fantasy

The sky above the pine trees turned pink and orange with the setting sun, and Cecilia still couldn’t find her sister. Their foster parents would worry if she and Maya didn’t return home soon. Cecilia had overheard them talking about adoption last night and didn’t want to risk anything changing their minds.

She knew she shouldn’t have agreed to a game of Evil Queen Versus the Princess so close to dark, but Maya had begged, and Cecilia couldn’t say no to those pleading blue eyes.

Now she traipsed through the woods behind their house in Middleburg, Florida with minutes to spare before the Sanchezes expected them home. The scents of pine and dirt surrounded her as twigs cracked beneath her feet.

She tripped into a perfect circle of palm-sized stones. A candle still smoked in its center, and the scent of sandalwood floated on the breeze. Cecilia glanced around, wondering who created the formation. She heard running footsteps to her right and stepped toward them.

“Maya?” Cecilia called through the trees.

Maya jumped from a pine tree behind her with a loud shout, brandishing a long stick.

“You will torment my people no longer, Evil Queen!”

Cecilia smiled and held her own stick in front of her, prepared to make this duel quick.

But then Maya lowered her weapon, staring at a place over Cecilia’s left shoulder. Cecilia turned and saw a hovering silver sphere about the size of a tennis ball a few feet behind her.


  1. Oooo I'm intrigued! I like that in the first 250 words we get right to the fantasy part (and the title of the book). Great creation of suspense!

    I already know a lot about the sisters' relationship and that they are foster kids--I'm curious to know more about that.

    For a moment I thought Maya had created the formation to trick you want the reader to think that?

    "Now she traipsed..." Would she traipse if she is looking for her sister? It seems more urgent than that. Maybe she plunged through the woods?

  2. I think you have elements of a good start, but it feels like you're trying to cram too much info in too soon: they're foster children; the name of their town, their foster parents' names. I wanted things to slow down a bit after Cecilia discovers the stone circle; instead, she wonders briefly and then Maya shows up. I was also confused by Maya's location--she jumped from a pine tree behind her. Behind Cecelia? If so, how can Cecilia see that she's brandishing a stick? Still, you do set up some tension that pulls the reader into the story.

  3. This promises fun fantasy stuff right away! I like it.

    "Cecilia still hadn't found her sister" might make more sense in the first sentence.

    I agree about "traipsed" unless she's really tired, which you haven't indicated. Maybe "searched"?

    "Surrounded" is not a particularly strong verb in "The scents of pine and dirt surrounded her..." You have "the scent of sandalwood floating" (a stronger image) in the next paragraph, so you could use another sense besides smell in the traipsing paragraph. Maybe she feels the cracking twigs beneath her feet as well as hears them?

    Other descriptions could make the scene come alive. Is it hot, sticky, humid? Are her clothes sticking to her? Mosquitoes zinging? Or is it unseasonably cool?

    I don't know about the pines in Florida but the pines here in NC lose their lower branches fairly quickly and the ones they may have are too spindly to climb on. Or did you mean she jumped from behind the pine tree?

    Also, if this is a pine forest, the ground would be soft with needles and not particularly twiggy.

    Stepped is very deliberate. I'd think she would hurry toward the running footsteps. While still wondering about the stone circle.

    I agree, she needs to whirl around or something in order to see Maya brandishing a stick.

    The hovering silver sphere is a definite interest grabber!

  4. I enjoyed the strong sense of color in the excerpt -- you don't usually see that. I also liked the early clue that Cecilia fears a misstep will ruin the adoption plans, but would she think of her foster parents as the Sanchezes?

    'Traipsed' stopped me; I had trouble picturing her walking aimlessly when she's looking for her sister and trying to get home on time. Also suggest trimming to stay firmly in Cecilia's POV: A candle (still) smoked...

    I, too, liked that you brought in the magical element right away and I'm curious what the sphere does and how it will impact Cecilia and Maya's lives.

  5. I LOVE your opening line! It immediately made sympathize and root for Cecilia! Great job!

    In the third paragraph, I would suggest leaving out Middleburg, Florida. It took me out of the story and slowed the pace. Can this be reintroduced elsewhere?

    I searched for something else to critique with this opener, but you had me! I can't find anything else! I can tell that this has been tweaked and perfected!

    Well done! I would definitely read on!

  6. I love opening the story with a game of Evil Queen vs. the Princess.

    I do wonder if you might want to save the foster parents and adoption stuff for a little later, just to get us to the silver sphere sooner.

    "Traipsed" also knocked me out of the story a bit just because it is such an old-fashioned word.

    As others pointed out you could make the scene a bit clearer here and there, but it isn't anything your can't fix.

    As for the silver sphere, good way to hook the reader for more.

    Best Wishes,

  7. I remember your old opening and this is a big improvement. It's not only a lot clearer, you also get us to the hook.

    A few nits

    Parg 1 - Change the last Cecelia to 'She.'

    Parg 2 - cut 'She knew.' and
    change Cecelia to 'she.'

    Parg 3 - Cut 'Now.' Change 'traipsed through' to a better verb. You could cut the rest of parg 3 and jump straight to parg 4, giving you - "She searched the woods and tripped into a perfect circle of palm-sized stones.'

    Parg 4 - Cut 'still.' Change Cecelia to 'she.'

    Parg 5 - Keep "Maya?" and cut the rest.

    Parg 6 - Maya jumped from BEHIND a pine tree, brandishing a long stick.

    Last Parg - 'and stared' rather than staring.

  8. There are lots of elements here that draw me in - the circle of stones, the still-smoking candle and the hovering silver sphere.

    I wonder if the information in the first paragraph about the foster parents could come later? I feel like we don't need to know this right up front.

    Cecilia and Maya are both appealing characters.

    Best of luck!

  9. Way to open with some great tension! Not only is Maya missing, but not finding her may endanger the sisters' future with their foster parents. I also love how this opening sets up the relationship between the sisters, their closeness. I imagine Cecillia always plays the Evil Queen, which is a touching inversion of the protector role she's playing here.

    Is "traipsed" too casual and relaxed a term here? She's searching for her sister, the consequences for not finding her are so high- perhaps use a more urgent verb?

    Maybe reveal the silver sphere with a little more drama. You can do this by breaking up the moment into several sentences, slowing down the action. She senses something behind her. She turns. She sees something unlike anything she's ever seen before. It's almost like a...silver sphere...