Thursday, April 28, 2016

Are You Hooked? Middle Grade #16

TITLE: The Midnight Flight of the Salem Magi
GENRE: MG - Fantasy

Salem's witches must ally with the patriots because when dragons are coming, it's 1 if by land, 2 if by sea, and 3 if by air. 

At dusk I'll burn at the stake. I don't like to brag, but I'm very good at it. This will be my third time. It's made me something of a celebrity around New England. While burning magi has always attracted large crowds, I like to think I've taken the spectacle to a new level.

Thanks to my reputation, the villagers have packed the town square despite the short notice. A local baker rambles through the crowd, hefting a food tray overhead. "Get your gingerbread cookies! It's not a bonfire without your favorite foods."

I'd wave the baker down, but I'm chained to a stake atop a log pyramid. Unwilling to let mere captivity get in my stomach's way, I hop in place to rattle the chains. "Do you have any oatmeal cookies?"

The baker raises his bushy eyebrows. "Kid, no one likes oatmeal cookies."

"Well, I do."

He shakes his head. "Magi are weird."

I let out a huff that turns to fog in the cold air. "I'm surrounded by barbarians."

They form a crowd that stretches toward the horizon until their faces blur in the fading light. Latecomers scramble up ladders to reach the nearby rooftops. A few have even taken the time to bring telescopes.

From the audience size, every person in the region must have come to find out if I can honestly survive being burned alive. Thank goodness. If everyone is watching me, no one is searching for my sister and cousins.


  1. I'm hooked - I love the premise and the voice jumps right out and grabs me - I like this main character and want to find out not only what happens but how does she deal with it. great job

  2. Dang, this is cool. Minutemen and witches vs dragons!
    But I'm a little torn. The voice is great, but the opening itself is really dark, and even with the touch of humor, it's risky. Maybe?
    With that said, I love the last line.

  3. Thank you both so much for taking the time to offer your thoughts! It's very comforting to hear you both like the voice. It was something I've been worried about.

    I definitely agree that opening with one of the main characters, Ark, tied to a stake is certainly darker than normal for MG. I tried balancing it with Ark's unconcerned attitude here and on the next few pages with Ark's thoughts, which reveal Ark's not worried because Ark's magic ensures the fire is no threat. Still though, having a kid tied to a stake is dark even if they're in no danger.

    I decided to use the scene because I thought the contrast of Ark's unconcerned attitude with the danger of the scene highlights Ark's voice, while also serving as a great backdrop to introduce the story's villain. Hopefully, the trade off is worth it although making it is certainly a risk.

    Thanks again to both of you. :) :)

  4. It looks like your reader will have a great adventure, but this is one of those ideas that it's hard for my adult mind to turn off.

    They didn't burn witches in Salem, they hanged them -- and a hundred years before patriots -- and this feels more like a Knight's Tale than something dark, with the same fun and ridiculous anachronisms.

    Anyway, I'll focus on the voice. It's got a great wryness that I like. You've got a great energy in the narration that pulls you forward.

  5. I actually loved your opening lines. The first three sentences were my favorites of all the entries. Great job with the hook. Having MG kids of my own, I can say with relative ease it's not too dark for them. If anything I think the characters wit comes through just fine. I would cut the next sentences and begin with - Thanks to my reputation ... as I think it keeps the energy of those first three sentences going. But great job. Enjoy building your world and good luck with the book!

  6. I loved the voice and found this opening hilarious as well as intriguing. You open and end with a bang. Yes, it's a bit dark, but for an older MG, I think it's fine. Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is even darker and it's done quite well.

    Best of luck with this. You're off to a strong start.

  7. ^.^ Thank you everyone for all your comments! It's really helpful for getting my bearings on where the story is at. I'll take them all to heart as I revise. :)

    Good luck with all your own stories!