Tuesday, February 7, 2017

On The Block Concession Crit #2

GENRE: MG Fantasy

Twelve-year-old Madalece desperately wants to fix her broken Luck to regain Mother's love, but when Mother starts working on a mysterious cure, Madalece must accept herself as is to right Mother’s gruesome wrongs.

When elves die by sword or sorrow,
Owls make certain they see tomorrow.
Their souls are planted and reborn.
With pasts erased, they do not mourn.
But compassion fades and hearts harden
As rumors take root and poison the Garden. 

Earthworms of anxiety knotted in Madelece’s belly. She’d barely slept the night before, which meant sporadic Luck. And that wouldn’t go unnoticed by Mother.

Steadying her breath, Madelece climbed out of her canoe and pulled it onto the sand. She scanned the plain oak canoes anchored to the shore by Luck, until she spotted her mother’s.

She turned back to her canoe. “Madelece says, Stay.” Her voice was strong and sure. Reaching down, she gave the boat a small test push, and it scooted back into the water. Jinx! Thank the Owls no one was around to see her failure. She quickly grabbed the edge before it floated away.

Once she found the in-case-of-no-Luck rope she kept hidden under the seat, she tied it to a nearby tree, securing her canoe. She shivered and shook down her copper-colored hair over her shoulders—it was cooler in the Valley than where her papa lived on the fringe of the isle.

Madelece gathered her satchel and took a nervous sip of maple tea. The healers had to cure her sleeplessness. They just had to. Then she’d make Mother proud of her. But, it would mean staying with Papa during the Rite of Names ceremony, and Mother—the Mistress Gardener of the elven afterlife—would never agree to that.


  1. I had to read the pitch a couple times and I'm still a bit lost. Since Luck is capitalized, I'm not sure who/what it is.

    The beginning of the story is delightful! It took me a couple paragraphs to get sorted, but that didn't bother me because there was a nice payoff.

  2. I really enjoyed this a lot. I would keep reading. I love the use of Luck in your world. I think it's very clever and a fun world building/magic system.

    I wonder if your opening might be stronger if you switch the first 2 paragraphs. Start with Madalece climbing out of her canoe, so we're grounded in character and setting, and then mention her anxiety. I seems like it would flow a little easier, to me.

  3. Love your main character's name. The opening is a bit difficult to follow, which can often be a problem when the setting requires so much world-building. Perhaps if the pitch were clearer?

  4. Here's my issue with this one: trying to take in the whole Luck thing before we're actually into the book or know the characters. I think you need to pull us in first, then introduce Luck. Plus you've tossed the whole "canoe not obeying" thing at us, and the Rite of Names ceremony, and the Mistress Gardener of the elven afterlife ... it's too much for an opening.

    All these will be fine after we're in the story - but first draw us in.

  5. I think your writing is poetic, and your style suits the magical nature of your story. That said, I think Madalece (her name is magical, BTW), should be the primary focus of you first few paragraphs; she's somewhat lost amid a rush of detailed off-shoots. A few little things. Madalece says (present tense), but the story is told in past-tense. Sipping tea comes out of nowhere ... when did she prepare it?

  6. This concept is intriguing! And what I especially love about this is how you slowly introduce the fantasy elements so that they're easily understood and not bewildering. Definitely keep an eye out for passive voice -- I spotted a couple of instances in the first two paragraphs under the poem. I'd maybe start with the action (her arriving in the canoe) and then add the emotion (anxiety), just to draw the reader in a bit more. Best of luck!!

    1. Gah, I'm terrible at remembering to include my name! I'm Gail Nall. :)

  7. I was definitely confused by who/what Luck is. I couldn't figure it out in the pitch, and I couldn't figure it out in the excerpt. Does it mean literal 'luck'? Is it a renewable resource in this world? I think this could be a great opening, but you should give some thought to how to anchor the reader in this world, and showing up front who/what Luck is would go a long way towards doing that. The writing is strong and I second everyone who said Madalece is a great name. I'd probably read on to figure out what's going on with Luck, but if you did that work for me in the pitch or opening, I'd have no qualms about reading on based on the story.

  8. This sounds very fun and the canoe scene pulls us really nicely into the world. I too think that the second paragraph makes a great first sentence. I'm a bit confused about the way the concept of Luck is used because not being able to command a canoe to do something seems like one's special power isn't working rather than one's luck being broken. You've introduced us to a number of intriguing things about this world, but it feels like too much too fast, making it hard to absorb it all. Maybe dole it out a more slowly?

  9. I think Fantasy readers trust that you'll unspool and explain everything as we go, so not defining Luck on page 1 does not bother me.

    I like that we see her failure and her using the rope. That feels real and sets the tone. Part of me wonders why Luck is wasted at all when rope is so handy.

    Although the front cover might make it clear, I don't know if she is human or elf, or if this is "medieval times" or a hidden part of the contemporary world. A few hints are all that's necessary. "Her fingers were still dirty from pulling the dragon-weed." "She turned her phone off." "She rubbed her pointed ears." "Mother said Humans took care of elves but were not to mix with them..."

    Second part of the logline confused me. The "cure" is for Madalece? Need better words than "right wrongs." Gruesome wrongs? I need something more concrete. What did she do?

    I loved the poem, and definitely want more. Cheers!