Showing posts with label MG. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MG. Show all posts

Update, August 2017

Hey, guys! If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, then you probably already know this, but for those who don't: my new game design gig (mentioned in the last post) has ended and I am currently looking for new work.

Being unemployed is weird, but I think I'm through the emotional worst of it (he says, just before his family runs out of money entirely and he discovers new meanings of "worst"). I have a few leads, though nothing concrete yet as of this writing. Honestly, I'm excited at the possibilities, but that's easy to say, isn't it? Possibilities are always exciting.

Here are some other things that are going on:

1) I'm still thankful. Remember that gratitude posting I talked about last year? I'm still doing it, day 257 and counting. And I'm really glad I have been. Not even counting the rotting landfill that is American current events, I've had a number of depressive times in my own life this past year. Forcing myself to literally count my blessings has really helped me get through them.

If my notifications are any indicator, it's helped other people as well. So no worries. I'm gonna keep going.

2) Sea of Souls. Last time, I mentioned a Middle Grade novel tentatively titled Sea of Souls. This novel has been outlined and the outline sent to the person who requested it. We'll see what they think. Me? I'm excited. This novel feels important to me, more so than most things I've written, and I'm anxious to see what comes of it.

3) I'm streaming on Twitch. What's streaming, you ask? Basically, you get to watch me play a game while you and other fun folk chat at me (my family, in particular, is pretty fun to chat with). I've been playing games like Thimbleweed Park, Black the Fall, and Old Man's Journey -- mostly games with strong narratives because that's the kind of thing I enjoy. If you'd like to watch, head over here on US Sunday nights:, or you can catch up on old streams at YouTube here:

(Yes, I realize I stream the same time as Game of Thrones. Whatever.)

I've got some other things going on, but I can't talk about them yet as they're all just possibilities at this point. None of them are guaranteed provision for my family, but they're exciting possibilities with the potential to provide. I'll tell you more when I can.

How are you guys doing? Tell me in the comments.

First Impact: THE ANKULEN by Kendra E. Ardnek

It's been a while, but we have another First Impact Critique, where we take a look at your queries, first pages, back cover copy, and more. You want to make an impact right from the start. We're here to help you do that.

If you'd like to submit your first impact material, send it to Details here.

This week we have the back cover copy for a fantasy by Kendra Ardnek (I see what you did there) called THE ANKULEN. My overall thoughts are at the end. As always, this is just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

Back Cover
When she was seven, Jen had an amazing imagination - one she could make real. Then her parents adopted Chris. He disappeared a few weeks later - and with him went her imagination. But when her adopted brother Chris disappeared, her imagination went with him.

Eight years later, he reappears and makes a startling revelation. He was her imaginary friend. Indeed, she has an entire imaginary world - and it still exists!

That's a mouthful :-)

The world-building is confusing me
here a little. See my thoughts below.
But it's dying - eaten by a horrid creature called the Polystoikhedron. She must find her Ankulen - the special bracelet that brought her imagination to life in the first place, and fight for her world. She's willing to fight.

But is she willing to die?

I'm assuming these are two versions
you want me to critique.
Or ...

Not a fan of this opening sentence.

Why is she wishing it now? Also it
seems odd that what she's worried
about is her imagination, not her
probably-kidnapped brother.
Stuck outside until her notebook shows signs of a story, Jen makes a wish that the adopted brother who disappeared when she was seven, shows back up and tell her what happened to her imagination. Which disappeared the same day. Of course, she never expected him to actually do so.

How did she not know she had this
bracelet? Wouldn't she have noticed
it ALSO disappeared the same day
Chris did?

I don't understand her 2nd task.
Turns out, he was actually her imaginary friend, and she had an Ankulen, a special bracelet that brings imagination to life. With her imagination in reach, there are only three things she needs to do to get it back: find the Ankulen, find her missing memories of building her imagination, and fight off the Polystoikhedron, a hydra-like monster that has been making a feast of her imagination in her absence.

All in a day's work, you know?

Adam's Thoughts
I like the concept, but I don't know if I'd read the book based on this back-cover copy. It raises a lot of questions for me in a not-good way, which makes me wonder if the author has thought the implications of everything through.

Here's the thing. As soon as I read that her imagination became real, I immediately begin thinking what *I* would do with that kind of power. I'm willing to grant a lot of leeway because she's seven at the time, but still, I'd expect unicorns and dragons and princesses in castles. Or SOMETHING totally fantastic that doesn't belong in this world. (And that's not even counting things like infinite candy/pizza/video games ;-).

But then what does it mean that it became real? Could her parents and other people see this stuff? If so, wouldn't that have freaked everybody out? And if not, what does "real" mean? Was it a world she went to? Did anybody believe her? Because the opening makes it sound like it was really, definitely real -- especially since her parents could presumably see Chris. But then why is she the only one who notices when it goes away?

Two other overall comments: (1) this feels like Middle Grade, though the submission labeled it as simply "fantasy." That probably doesn't matter for the back cover, but it's something you might want to know as you seek out your target audience. (2) This feels a LOT like The Never-Ending Story. That's not necessarily a bad thing (as I said, I like the concept), but I do think your back-cover copy could add something to distinguish it from that classic.

What do the rest of you guys think?

First Impact: HARD TRUTHS by Anonymous

It's time for another First Impact Critique, where we take a look at your queries, first pages, back cover copy, and more. You want to make an impact right from the start. We're here to help you do that.

If you'd like to submit your first impact material, send it to Details here.

This week we have a query for an upper middle-grade fantasy called HARD TRUTHS. My overall thoughts are at the end. As always, this is just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

Not sure what a "peacekeeping"
dragon is, but otherwise okay.
Fourteen year old Reyna longs for more in her life. High tea behind higher castle walls isn’t enough. But she gets more than she bargained for at an annual festival where she becomes bonded, by blood and magic, to a peacekeeping dragon.

Last paragraph makes it sounds
like she doesn't want to have a
dragon. Now she's determined to
be the best Dragoneer.
Fiercely proud, Reyna is determined to become a great Dragoneer, even though she lacks any useful skills. Seriously - any useful skills. Etiquette and embroidery don’t exactly prepare you for endurance and espionage.

I'm a bit confused here. Don't know
what his scheme is or why the
dragons are in the way.
Her father, however, has different plans. His nefarious scheme will lead to the death of the peacekeeping dragons that stand in the way of a war to expand his kingdom. He will let nothing, not even the safety of his own daughter, stand in his way.

Not sure about "be a good person,"
but I'm glad to see a choice :-)
Confronted with the truth Reyna must choose to either be a good daughter or be a good person. Maybe if she were any good at being a Dragoneer maybe the choice wouldn’t be so hard.

Hyphenate "50,000-word".
DRAGONEER: HARD TRUTHS is a 50,000-word upper middle-grade fantasy.

I am a member of SCBWI and have written commercial scripts. HARD TRUTHS is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Adam's Thoughts
If Reyna ends up being the queen, her name might be too on the nose ;-)

Overall, this is pretty good. It's clear and easy to read, with just a hint of voice.

I would like a little more voice, if possible, but it's not critical. Part of me also wants to know more about Dragoneers and their peacekeeping dragons, but that might clutter the query.

What I'd really like is to better understand Reyna's father's plan and (therefore) the choice she has to make. What makes her father's scheme nefarious? (The query says, but it's not as clear as it could be). What does it mean for Reyna to be a good daughter? Does she kill her own dragon? What does it mean for her to be a good person?

I think it's close, because I get the feeling from the query that you have answers to these questions; they're just not coming across yet. I'd request pages, but I think this query could be even stronger.

What do the rest of you guys think?

First Impact: SHADOWCATCHERS by Kimberly Callard

It's time for another First Impact Critique, where we take a look at your queries, first pages, back cover copy, and more. You want to make an impact right from the start. We're here to help you do that.

If you'd like to submit your first impact material, send it to Details here.

Remember, anyone who offers their comments this month is eligible for either $10 for Amazon or B&N OR a 20-page critique from me.

This week we have the query for an upper-MG fantasy from Kimberly Callard. My overall thoughts are at the end. As always, this is all just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

Query Letter
At only 14 years old Zane Blackthorne is the youngest Shadowcatcher on the force. He's also the best. He has to be. The ridiculous amount of gold he earns hunting down tax evaders is the only thing keeping him from ending up back in the slums where he was raised. And he'd rather eat a Narcow than end up back there.

Zane thinks he's hit the jackpot when the Empress commissions him to collect the shadow of a political opponent. Sure, she threatens to sic bounty hunters on him if he fails, but that doesn't scare Zane. He's too good to fail. At least, he is until a rat-faced urchin named Meescha gets in his way.

A victim of the Shadowcatchers herself, Meescha shows Zane what happens to those who can't afford to buy their shadows back. Most become husks of their former selves, withering away with agonizing slowness; the rest die instantly, their lives snuffed out like street lamps at dawn. Haunted by the faces of the suffering shadowless, Zane must make a choice: continue living in luxury as the Empress's enforcer or quit do the right thing and spend what's left of his life hiding in the slums with a target on his back.

I believe agents assume it's a
multiple submission.
SHADOWCATCHERS is a 48,000-word Upper MG fantasy told from two viewpoints: Zane's and Meescha's. I am submitting it to you because (insert personalization here). Please note it is a multiple submission.

I am an associate member of SCBWI.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Adam's Thoughts
There is a LOT of good here. Stakes and voice in the intro. Inciting incident in the 2nd paragraph. Sadistic choice in the 3rd. It's almost as if you've been reading my comments to the others, Kimberly.

The only comment I have is a nitpick about the choice. It's sadistic all right, but I kind of know what he's going to pick, and I'm curious about where the story goes after that. He doesn't hide in the slums, so what does he do? What's his new goal?

All that to say I feel like there's more story here. Honestly, this is probably good enough to garner requests, but if you wanted to improve it, that's the direction I'd go (but not too far in that direction, lest the query get too long, aye?).

What do the rest of you think?

Books I Read: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Title: The Lightning Thief
Author: Rick Riordan
Genre: MG Fantasy
Published: 2005
My Content Rating: PG for action scenes
Cliffhanger Ending: No

Summer after 6th grade, Percy Jackson learns that the Greek gods are real, alive, and one of them is his father. Oh, and half the Greek pantheon is trying to kill him because they think he stole Zeus's master lightning bolt. So, not the best summer of his life.

What I loved about this book (in list form, cuz I'm feeling lazy today):
  • It's funny.
  • Exciting action.
  • The plot is nice and twisty, even after seeing the movie.
  • Speaking of which, it is much better than the movie.*
  • The world-building is pretty clever.**
The only thing I didn't like so much was the scenes at Camp Half-Blood felt too much like Harry Potter to me (it didn't help that the brave, muggle-raised protagonist befriended the school's camp's smartest girl). But once they got on their quest, that didn't bother me so much.

I'm not a "Greek mythology! Love it!" kind of guy (I prefer Eastern mythology, which I'm less familiar with). But if you are gonna revisit the Greek stories, Rick Riordan figured out a really great way to do it.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

* Seriously, it was like Hollywood used all the boring, irrelevant parts and cut all the interesting stuff that made sense.

** The only problem I had with the world-building was how demigods were all dyslexic because they're "genetically predisposed" to read ancient Greek. It's the language geek in me. Sorry, Rick.

First Impact: MG Fantasy from Kristen Wixted

First off, I have to thank Matt MacNish for promoting this feature and single-handedly filling up October with submissions. You should thank him too, because until those submissions came in, there wasn't going to be a prize this month (and it's a good prize; keep reading).

Second, the winner of September's prize -- $10 for Amazon/B&N or a 20-page crit from me -- is PATCHI! Please contact me and let me know which prize you want.

And thank all of you for your thoughts. keep them coming. The authors always tell me how much they appreciate it.

Lastly, I have a special prize for October: a 15-page critique from the amazing and talented Jodi Meadows! To win, leave a critique on any First Impact post this month. Purchasing a copy of Jodi's fantastic INCARNATE won't improve your chances, but it will keep you good company and cure acne (maybe). Plus! Dragons!

Somebody stop me. We have a critique to do.

Disclaimer: This is all just my opinion. Feel free to ignore it. Overall comments at the end.

First Page
I like this opening. But unless kids
do get locked away in this story, I'd
snip that bit. Get to the point.
Not all attics are full of shadows, spider webs, and ugly hatboxes dotted with evidence of unwelcome creatures; those are the kind of attics where children get locked away. Some attics smell like lavender soap, are strewn with treasures, and if the right child should come in at the right moment, are full of possibility.

I was initially confused, as "diaries"
are different from ships' logs.

Love the voice at the end.
The treasures in Aunt Tibby’s attic were mostly old diaries. Crooked, nearly toppling stacks of antique journals and ships’ logs covered the wooden floorboards and wide shelves, because the museum had run out of room and Aunt Tibby wasn’t about to throw them away. Heavens no.

This snipped bit slows things down, I
think. And it's info you can give later.
Somewhere, in one of the piles of antique leather and cloth-covered books was a particular diary that Eve, Aunt Tibby’s grand-niece, couldn’t wait to find. It was the key to her questions, because now that she was eleven she had lots of questions, about her Mama.

Good description (all of this is, btw),
but now that we have a goal (Mama),
I immediately want to know more. I
think some of this could be snipped
to get us there faster.
So for months, every time she visited her great aunt on Martha’s Vineyard, Eve put on her favorite old jeans and sweatshirt—clothes that she would never be allowed to wear at home in New York City—and she scoured. She searched. She investigated, explored, and rummaged around in the attic. She flipped through yellowed books, she tossed aside threadbare scarves and feathered hats so she could get at more old books. One time, to reach a pile of diaries that was off in a corner, she was even forced to pick up, with two reluctant fingers, a ratty, blonde wig and fling it aside.

Adam's Thoughts
I don't have a lot to say except to elaborate on my comments there. The voice, and especially the descriptions, are really good. I get the feeling I'm about to step into a mystery or possibly an adventure.

My only real complaint is at the end, and honestly that could be just because it's cut off as a first page. If the very next line was like, "Her mama had died when she was little . . . " or else, "Then one day she found it," I probably wouldn't have a problem with the length of that last paragraph at all.

So I'm just being nitpicky, really, because I don't know how much longer I have to wait to get to the meat. This first page is enticing (that's why I want the meat!), and though I do see occasional tangents that slow things down, they're not so bad that I wouldn't keep going.

What do the rest of you think?

Buy a Book, Save a Baby

My friend Natalie Bahm is releasing her first book on September 28, but this isn't your normal debut.

I mean, it is a little -- bank robbers, secret tunnels, 12-year-old crushes -- but Natalie isn't selling this book for herself. All the profits are going to help Baby Jayden.

Just watch the trailer.

Jayden has been ill since birth. His parents have almost lost him at least a dozen times, and now they're struggling with a massive debt. This little guy is fighting to survive, and doing a heck of a good job with it. How much would it suck if he lost because of something stupid like money?

Plus you get a book out of it. You can pre-order it at Amazon or iTunes. Help Jayden's parents sleep better tonight (God, wouldn't that be great?).

Books I Read: Nowhere Girl

Title: Nowhere Girl
Author: A.J. Paquette
Genre: Middle Grade
Published: 2011
My Content Rating: G

Luchi Ann is an American girl born in an obscure Thai prison. Her mother was an inmate, but when she passes away, Luchi has to go out into the world for the first time. Her fair skin and blond hair mark her as a foreigner, though Thailand is the only home she's ever known. It takes a long journey through Thailand and overseas to discover who she is and what secrets her mother was keeping.

I love this book. I'm not usually one to care about prose, but this is beautifully written. I love the way Ammi-Joan (yes, that Ammi-Joan) uses comparisons everywhere that don't just describe a thing, but also reveal what Luchi is feeling, and also also connect everything to frigging everything.

And as a foreigner living in Thailand, I felt she got the people spot on: the caring grandmother, the kind relatives who still worry about saving face, the well-meaning (but sometimes deceitful) cousin, the girl who is perfectly nice to your face -- and means it -- but is also ripping you off because you're a farang.

I loved all these characters, I feel like I know them (or, in some cases, am related to them by marriage). Shoot, Ammi-Joan even made me want to visit Bangkok again, which is not a feeling I normally have.

If any of that sounds even vaguely interesting to you, go read this book.