Thursday, April 28, 2016

Are You Hooked? Middle Grade #39

GENRE: MG - Fantasy

The tunnels are home to eleven-year-old Lilly but as her body grows so do her fears. For when she grows too big she’ll be Taken. They all will. As secrets of the tunnels and her past are revealed she must make difficult choices to save herself and her friends or lose the only family she’s ever known.

There was a song the children knew, but kept to themselves:

Crawl and Creep
Creep and Crawl
Move on through
But don't get tall
Do your work
Zag then zig,
Move on through
Don't get big
Tunnels, tunnels
Walls get tight
Take you, Take you
She just might          
Lurking, watching
Always near
Might be pretty
But let’s be clear
Rotten, foul.
Beware her meaning.
May seem kind.
But likely scheming.

* * *

Lilly knew the tunnels as well as any of them. Heading to light her hearth to earn her meal, she paused - her hands and knees resting on the cool, firm dirt beneath her. The slight breeze always present in the narrow shafts brushed against her cheeks. Her stomach rumbled. Was that a clang far off or just her imagination? She didn’t believe the stories anymore—not really. The Beetle King, Brundibar the Centipede and all that. The old tales were for Smalls new to the tunnels. Stories to keep them wide-eyed and behaving. Though without the stories to explain their situation, things got as murky as the tunnels were dark. And the tunnels were dark.

Her flame carved a wobbling, deformed sphere of light into the darkness. The small shadow of a torch alcove was set in the upper right wall there to illuminate the tunnel. There was usually one every few paces. This one must have blown out. She touched her lit torch to the small space and a brief flash of blue added a welcome glow to the dim surroundings.


  1. The children's song at the beginning felt right for the age group. "Don't get tall" resonated with my inner child. At the end, it felt a tiny bit abrupt. "Beware her meaning.
    May seem kind. But likely scheming." I had a feeling there should be one more line after scheming to complete the rhythm. Not a poet, so that's just reader feedback. "Brundibar the Centipede" is just perfect and I don't want to meet him/her in that tunnel.
    This line didn't feel quite in sync with the rest: "Heading to light her hearth to earn her meal." Does it mean her job is to light someone else's hearth to get paid or to get fed? Or to light her own hearth? The welcome glow sounds a bit warmer than the blue light. What if they were combined in some way? "a welcome flash of blue glowed in the dim surroundings"I like the way she doesn't believe in the stories any more and you know, as the reader, that the stories are going to be important. Evocative.

  2. I was intrigued by your logline and the song was creepy and cool. I stumbled over the second line which totally pulled me out of your submission. "Head to light her heart to earn her meal" was confusing and stopped me dead. Love the mention of the Beetle King. I could feel the closeness of the tunnels and the dark. I think you could lose the last line of the first paragraph. You said it's dark and then in the line before and you show the dark in the bit of action. Although, I question the flash of blue being associated with a warm glow.

    I would read more. I'm sure her not believing anymore will change soon.

  3. I love your premise here and I think you voice is spot on. The poem and the prose drew me right in and made me want to keep ready. You've go some good tension building right of the back with a bit of creepy to go along with it.

    I only have two minor nitpicks.
    1) in your pitch, you used the phrase "she must make difficult choices" I know you don't have a lot of real estate here but when you form your query, be mindful that phrases like that don't really tell the reader much. Hopefully you can include a bit more detail about what difficult choices she has to make with more space.

    2)The repetition of the phrase "And the tunnels were dark." at the end of the first paragraph threw me out of the story. It didn't work for me there for some reason and I'm not sure you need the extra emphasis.

    Otherwise this is definitely something I'd keep reading. I wish you lots of luck moving forward with this.

    Jamie - entry #35

  4. The logline is intriguing and the song at the start is nice but once you got into the story it was just okay. I don't think I would read on with this beginning. Maybe you could start at another place to add umph

  5. It's so interesting to see how readers are so different. I personally liked the emphatic and it was DARK line. It made me really feel the intensity of it. I also found the poem rather long for me. I kept wanting to skim. If the poem is really valuable, maybe break it into parts? Or just know that if its in italics at the top of the chapter but not part of the actual chapter one text, readers like me will skim or skip it. It's a great poem. But it was a lot to take in without any context or character to care about. For me. As you can see above, everyone else was drawn in by the poem and were taken out by the line I liked. :) I do agree about the line about the hearth though. It confused me as well. But I would definitely keep reading. There is a deliciously creepy feeling to this world.