Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Secret Agent #18

TITLE: A Crossing of Shadow
GENRE: MG Fantasy

The wheels from my bike whirred as I raced down the narrow trail behind my house, taking the shortcut through the thick woods. As I neared the bottom of the trail, I slowed. My knee still ached from the memory of the crash I’d taken from hitting the bulging roots of the sycamore a few months ago, just before my twelfth birthday. I carefully swerved around the tree before pedaling harder, sweeping through the quiet forest. The smell of the moist pine needles did little to lift my gloomy mood.

I skidded to a stop by the main gate of the abandoned amusement park.


The bright-colored paint of the words had long since faded under years of damp Portland winters. A “Closed for Repair” sign hung crookedly over it. Even with the sign, the place was a favorite of kids playing hooky or hippies holding drum circles.

I slipped through the hole in the chain-link fence, my pulse still pounding from the bike ride, and wove through the wooden beams of the rollercoaster. The “Jackrabbit”, along with the rest of the carnival had closed when World War II had started. I passed by the carousel, a cheery parade of prancing horses now overgrown with green moss and dead leaves. The faded colors today seemed especially dull. This had been the day I'd said goodbye to my brother Jeremy. The day the draft had called him to war.


  1. This is SO atmospheric and I love it! It tugs at my heart too--you end on such an ominous sentence, and I feel your MC's longing/missing so deeply.
    My one comment is that she refers to it as World War II. I think at the time it wasn't called that (it maybe wasn't labeled that until after wards), so maybe it makes more sense for your MC to just refer to it as "the War." I'm sure there are other clues you can give to set the scene so that we know the time period (the draft is already one of them). Anyway, it's such a nitpicky comment because I really couldn't pick anything else out--you have SUCH a strong opening!

  2. So many great elements! The line "a cheery parade of prancing horses now overgrown with green moss and dead leaves" is great description that gives wonderful details. The only thing I would say is the line "this had been the day I'd said goodbye to my brother Jeremy." I'm not sure if that day happened in the past or is happening right now. You might reword it without "had been". "Today I said goodbye to my brother. Today the draft called him to war." Overall a very strong opening. I'm very intrigued!

  3. Great images! To tack onto what Julianna said, even just adding "This had been the day I'd said goodbye to my brother Jeremy __ years ago."- if that's what you mean, vs what Julianna put.

  4. I honestly think you should start with "I skidded to a stop by the main gate of the abandoned amusement park." Also the word "seemed" takes away from the tension. As for the description of the park-NICE! Also the last line left me with a very ominous feeling. Totally pulled me in.

  5. You've described the setting so well, I feel like I'm there! Clever how you've let us know how old she is too, I like the detail of the hurt knee and the sycamore tree :-) my only feedback is the war element - instead of stating WW2, could you say 'fifty years ago' ,or something similar? so it doesn't confuse the sentence at the end of this about her brother Jeremy being drafted for war - it sounds like he was drafted in WW2. Unless of course, that is what you mean! Great opening, loved reading it!

  6. Ooo! An eerie vibe is coming from the abandoned amusement park, and I adore it!

    I've got a couple suggestions. In the line where the MC's age is mentioned, maybe instead of using 'just' a time frame could be in its place. Such as a few days or weeks.

    The second suggestion is since 'sign' is mentioned already on the same line, maybe change this second 'sign' to 'obvious notice to keep out' or something like it. ( A “Closed for Repair” sign hung crookedly over it. Even with the sign,)

    I also love the new layer about the drafted brother. I wish there were more words so I could read on. Great job!

  7. You had me at abandoned amusement park, and honestly the fact that I went on after reading the word "moist" speaks volume (haha I really hate that word). I love the creepiness that sets in the more I read, and I really admire the way you've worked in so many details. I already know the setting, how old the MC is, and that she has a brother. And I can't wait to read more about what happened to him... The atmosphere and the description of this is just gorgeous!

    I am a little confused about the timeline. There are a lot of "hads" and a references to World War II, but what time is it now, what time is it when the MC rides into the park?

  8. The ride through the woods doesn't seem to add anything. Pershaps start with the MC arriving at the amusement park. That seems to be where the story starts. If you keep the woods, perhaps consider slowing him down since he's in a gloomy mood.

    When you begin describing the park, perhaps turn things around, meaning describe what it looks like now first, and then say what it used to be like. Right now, you're doing it the opposite way, and reading how nice it was first made me think that's how it actually was. Mentioning the worn down ugliness of it all first could also help with the creepy mood.

    Also, it seems like this is happening during WWII. If so, perhaps add historical to your heading. It's a bit confusing at the end as to whether 'now' is during WWII, or he's remembering back to when he was a kid (This had been the day ...) or if something magical has brought him back to this time period. (Fantasy).

    I'd read more.

  9. I love the setting. There is always something magical about abandoned amusement parks. I liked the mention of the moist pine needles and the moist Portland winters--nice sensory details. The atmosphere is beautifully tense, and I can feel that we are just on the edge of something changing.

    The only thing I was confused about is the timeline. When is this taking place? WWII?

    Great job!

  10. All the elements for a MG: bicycle, sycamore tree, abandoned amusement park, brother going off to war. I wish I knew which war and a sense of time. I know it's after WWII since the park is now overgrown and creepy. It could be Korean War or Viet Nam. I love what you have so far!

  11. I agree with all the other comments about the timeline. If the park closed the day WWII started, could it be this overgrown by the time the brother is drafted? Or are you moving forward to Korean War? The Viet Nam War would be too far in the future I think. However, the reference to hippies would place us in the 60s with the Viet Nam War. So,the timeline is confusing. Love the descriptions and strong verbs.The third sentence is a bit long for a MG reader. I would suggest you tighten that sentence. You have identified location/Portland. But I would love to know the MC's name. I am envisioning a young boy on a bike.

  12. I had to read the beginning of the first paragraph a couple of times to make sure I had my bearings right, and while it might just be me right now, I think you may be well served to get the reader to see the forest before we go zooming through it.

    An abandoned amusement park? Well, that snapped my focus right back into place. LOL Are you sure we have fantasy and not horror?

    Hippies holding drum circles makes me feel like this is more of a retro than fantasy. Oh, yep. The draft. Not the setup I'd expect for an MG fantasy, but I'm still intrigued where we're going with this.

    Things I liked:
    • I'm intrigued, because I have no idea how this is going to be tied together into a fantasy genre, and I'm wondering how deep it gets for MG readers, given the reference to the draft.

    • I was confused about the past tense use in the last paragraph and had to reread it to see if he was talking about the day as now or the day as in the past. I think that could be cleaned up a bit.
    • If I pick up a fantasy book, I usually like to feel that sense of fantasy pretty straight away, but I feel like young readers are going to need enough backstory that the pace may get off for middle grade. Maybe not, though! It's just a concern I have from reading just this little snippet.