Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 25, 2016

Free Fall Friday – Results

Rachael dugasAssociate Agent Rachael Dugas at Talcott Notch Literary is now seeking fiction, particularly YA and middle-grade fiction, along with women’s fiction, romance, paranormal and mysteries. She’ll also consider nonfiction, with a strong interest in the arts.

Associate Agent rdugas@talcottnotch.net

Rachel joined Talcott Notch Literary in July of 2011, directly following a six-month-long internship with Sourcebooks, Inc., where she assisted the editors with their romance, women’s fiction, and Jane Austen-related titles. Her fabulous fiction clients have written works of young adult, middle grade, romance, and women’s fiction. She also represents two incredibly delicious cookbooks. She hopes to continue procuring works in all of the aforementioned areas (especially YA/MG), and would also love to add some memoir (especially food memoir) with a unique voice, 20th century American historical fiction, mainstream fiction that incorporates fairytale/magical elements, and non-fiction pertaining to the performing arts or food/cooking. In general, Rachel looks for books with incredible writing and real, loveable characters that make me laugh and/or break my heart.

BELOW ARE OUR FOUR FIRST PAGES FOR MARCH:

QUEST FOR THE KALEVALA by Julie Artz – MG Fantasy

The basketball thuds against the driveway as I run warm-up drills. I line my toes up with a crack in the pavement, but before I can shoot a free throw, someone draws a rasping breath behind me. I spin, holding the ball out for protection, half expecting to find an evil hag or an ax-murderer lurking in the eerie fog. But nothing’s there except a pale circle of sun hiding behind clouds so low they touch the treetops.

Finland officially creeps me out.

Dad never mentioned a cold sun or endless fog when he described the “unusual atmospheric disturbances” he came here to study. I’ll ask him about it if I ever see him. He headed straight to the lab after the shuttle dropped us off, only coming home long enough to sleep.

Curtains swish in the neighbor’s window. A gaunt, wrinkled face stares out, gawking at me with unblinking, washed-out eyes. I dribble a few times, my gaze flicking from her to the ball, then aim for a patch of ivy on the cement wall of our house. An imaginary hoop will have to do—I haven’t spotted a single basketball court since we arrived last week.

I chase down my rebound and shoot, but I can’t ignore the spooky audience. She’s still there, her lips moving behind the glass, when a voice echoes all around me.

Lem-min-kä-i-nen.

The ball drops from my fingertips as I race for the mudroom door. It creaks open right as my fingers touch the knob. I fling myself backward, heart hammering its way out of my chest.

“Did you by chance unpack anything besides your basketball before you snuck out here, Kai?” Mom asks, a packing peanut stuck in her messy curls.

“You seriously almost gave me a heart-attack,” I say, pulling in a huge breath and dodging her question.

“I didn’t think so,” she says.

HERE’S RACHAEL:

The (Comment: The first part of this line is nicely atmospheric, but the second part peters out a bit. I would cut it or find some other place to let us know about the warm-up drills, if it’s important we even know tha there.) basketball thuds against the driveway as I run warm-up drills. I line my toes up with a crack in the pavement, but before I can shoot a free throw, someone draws a rasping breath behind me. I spin, holding the ball out for protection, half expecting to find an evil hag or an ax-murderer lurking in the eerie fog. (Comment: Justify this more. Maybe with some foreshadowing of the creepy feel of this place first or maybe by showing the physical sensation of fear. Or letting us into this character’s head.)   But nothing’s there except a pale circle of sun hiding behind clouds so low they touch the treetops.

Finland officially creeps me out.

Dad never mentioned a cold sun or endless fog when he described the “unusual atmospheric disturbances” he came here to study. I’ll ask him about it if I ever see him. He headed straight to the lab after the shuttle dropped us off, only coming home long enough to sleep.

Curtains swish in the neighbor’s window. A gaunt, wrinkled face stares out, gawking at me with unblinking, washed-out eyes. I dribble a few times, my gaze flicking from her to the ball, (Comment: Not a big fan of this sentence construction. It might be more interesting, also, to SHOW this character’s gaze going back and forth, really showing the face and how this makes him feel.)  then aim for a patch of ivy on the cement wall of our house. An imaginary hoop will have to do—I haven’t spotted a single basketball court since we arrived last week.

I chase down my rebound and shoot, but I can’t ignore the spooky audience. She’s still there, her lips moving behind the glass, when a voice echoes all around me.

Lem-min-kä-i-nen.

The ball drops from my fingertips as I race for the mudroom door. It creaks open right as my fingers touch the knob. I fling myself backward, heart hammering its way out of my chest. (Comment: Awesome.)

“Did you by chance unpack anything besides your basketball before you snuck out here, Kai?” Mom asks, a packing peanut stuck in her messy curls.

“You seriously almost gave me a heart-attack,” I say, pulling in a huge breath and dodging her question.  (Comment: Keep showing how that feels here.)

“I didn’t think so,” she says.

Comments:

Very solid opening! I like the eeriness you are setting up, but I want to see you take it even further. If this place gives Kai the creeps, I want to feel the unsettling feeling inside of him, the prickles on the back of his neck, etc. If he’s jumping out of his skin, you really need to justify it. Also, I would really love to have seen you let us into his thoughts and emotions more. If his dad isn’t around, how does that make him feel? Resentful? Ok with it? Same with moving. Make it clear. A strong start, though! You write well.

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The Lake by Carla Green – YA Contemporary

Some people believe the mysterious stranger was Cokie’s doing. They say he brought the stranger with his hoodooing. I don’t believe them though. I don’t believe them when they say he’s a witch doctor, a voodoo man, or practices the dark arts. They say he comes from a long line of voodoo, dating back to Africa from where his ancestors came.

I’ve known Cokie for as long as I can remember. Before I worked summers with him in his junk shop. Before the town descended into madness. I know the real reason they don’t like him. They don’t like him because he’s the only black man that ever lived north of Pine Bluff Rd. He’s tall, well built, hides his seventy years of age behind a youthful spirit. They didn’t like him because they feared him. Mayor Blackwell said Cokie wasn’t a man. ‘Cause he had no family, lived in a cabin in the woods off the lake. No matter Mayor Blackwell’s definition of a man. If Cokie was no man ‘cause he had no family, then my father was less of one cause he left his.

My father left in the middle of the night like a thief without a word. Stealing my mother’s words to curse and scream at him, to reveal to him what he really was – a coward. He left with her words ten years ago. I remember the morning after – breakfast smells wafted to my nose, tickling me awake. My eyes fluttered open to a blinding bright day. Sounds from the kitchen – clang, sizzle, music, – floated up the stairs. Unfamiliar sounds. My mother had never made breakfast. Something was wrong, something was terribly wrong. I crashed down the stairs and tumbled into the kitchen.

“Oh baby. Look what I made.” She brushed an auburn hair out of my face and smeared flour on my cheek. “It didn’t turn out too bad. You’ll like it.”

I felt on the verge of tears, welling inside my six year old body, tipping the scales. The world wasn’t right, I felt it in my heart. My mother barefoot, her back hunched, standing over a mixing bowl and wooden spoon, moisture pooling on her forehead.

HERE’S RACHAEL:

The Lake by Carla Green – YA Contemporary

Some people believe the mysterious stranger was Cokie’s doing. They say he brought the stranger with his hoodooing. I don’t believe them though. I don’t believe them when they say he’s a witch doctor, a voodoo man, or practices the dark arts. They say he comes from a long line of voodoo, dating back to Africa from where his ancestors came.  (Comment: For an opening this could be a bit more exciting. It’s a log of telling.)

I’ve known Cokie for as long as I can remember. Before I worked summers with him in his junk shop. Before the town descended into madness. I know the real reason they don’t like him. They don’t like him because he’s the only black man that ever lived north of Pine Bluff Rd. He’s tall, well built, hides his seventy years of age behind a youthful spirit. They didn’t like him because they feared him. Mayor Blackwell said Cokie wasn’t a man. ‘Cause he had no family, lived in a cabin in the woods off the lake. No matter Mayor Blackwell’s definition of a man. If Cokie was no man ‘cause he had no family, then my father was less of one cause he left his.

My father left in the middle of the night like a thief without a word. Stealing my mother’s words to curse and scream at him, to reveal to him what he really was – a coward . (Comment: Nice!) He left with her words ten years ago. I remember the morning after – breakfast smells wafted to my nose, tickling me awake. My eyes fluttered open to a blinding bright day. Sounds from the kitchen – clang, sizzle, music, – floated up the stairs. Unfamiliar sounds. My mother had never made breakfast. Something was wrong, something was terribly wrong. I crashed down the stairs and tumbled into the kitchen.

“Oh baby. Look what I made.” She brushed an auburn hair out of my face and smeared flour on my cheek. “It didn’t turn out too bad. You’ll like it.” 

I felt on the verge of tears, welling inside my six year old body, tipping the scales. The world wasn’t right, I felt it in my heart. My mother barefoot, her back hunched, standing over a mixing bowl and wooden spoon, moisture pooling on her forehead.  (Comment: Great!)

COMMENTS:

I have very conflicting feelings about this one. I LOVE the voice, which is awesome and has a great sense of place to it, even though you haven’t told us where we are yet. There are some nice turns of phrase as well. So if I was to strictly critique the writing, I would say it was very nice. As an OPENING page, however, I found myself wishing you had started with scene, a specific moment in the present of the story, and then slipped into this information. It’s always a stronger, more engaging choice and I like to really know who our narrator is right away. I also found the connection between the mysterious stranger paragraph and her father a little tenuous. It felt like you were trying to connect them, and I think it could have been a little more natural. I do think giving us a chance to really “meet” your narrator and see her situation would help with this. Maybe the present moment scene prompts her to think about the mysterious man, and then I don’t think I would mind your transition as much. However, I don’t want this critique to diminish the fact that I think you write very well. This is an incredibly strong voice and one that would definitely catch my attention. Lovely.

_________________________________________________________________

Dragon Talker: Heart Stone – Eric Haan  –  Middle Grade

Jake Bruggman stood on the craggy ledge of rock that grew out of the mountain north of the town, looking down on the structures below. The castle rose out of the forest floor, far below and to his left, set into the side of the hill; the bustling village was beyond the castle, on the flat ground.  The farms and fields stretched further in the distance.  Everything was surrounded by the forest, which extended below him, covering the lower part of the mountain.  The majestic evergreen trees also climbed up the slope behind him until the elevation was too great for even the hardiest foliage and only bare rock reached toward the sky, touching the clouds.  It was a familiar sight. This was where he always started out in the dream.

He pushed off with his feet and rose above the earth, powerful wings beating the sky.  He could not see himself, but he knew if he could look in a mirror, the scaly reptilian features of a dragon would be reflected back at him.  He grinned in delight as the wind swept past his face and body.  He soared high into the air, turning figure eights and doing fast dives.  He flew out over the cove on the backside of the mountain, marveling at the clear, sparkling water.  He flew to the top of the mountain that towered high above the village, enjoying the frosty air, which steamed as it hit his fiery throat.  He circled the mountain twice, then once more just for fun.

But something wasn’t right. Now he felt himself being pulled back down toward the village.  His wings would not do what he wanted them to do.  He no longer had control of where he went.  Suddenly a terrible pain filled his head, like hot knife blades were being inserted right in the center, and a sinister voice filled his mind.  It said only one word. “Destroy.”

Fighting to rise into the blue sky, Jake instead dove toward the town.  He panicked, tried to pull up, but his wings wouldn’t move, they remained tucked tightly to the side of his body.  He kept diving until he could see the black Os of people’s mouths, screaming in terror as they ran for their lives.  A searing heat grew in his long neck.  Jake knew what it meant and tried to hold

HERE IS RACHAEL:

Jake Bruggman stood on the craggy ledge of rock that grew out of the mountain north of the town, looking down on the structures below. (Comment: Opening line could use a little more pizzazz. It’s not bad, but I think you do more with it.) The castle rose out of the forest floor, far below and to his left, set into the side of the hill; the bustling village was beyond the castle, on the flat ground. The farms and fields stretched further in the distance.  Everything was surrounded by the forest, which extended below him, covering the lower part of the mountain. (Comment: This gives us a good sense of the physical layout, but it could be more descriptive. What kind of castle? What color are the farms and fields? What is the forest like? This is your world- it has to be super specific.) The majestic evergreen trees also climbed up the slope behind him until the elevation was too great for even the hardiest foliage and only bare rock reached toward the sky, touching the clouds.  It was a familiar sight. This was where he always started out in the dream. (Comment: Nice.)

He pushed off with his feet and rose above the earth, powerful wings beating the sky. (Comment: Good – Give us even more detail.)  He could not see himself, but he knew if he could look in a mirror, (Comment: This feels a little gimmicky. Just describe it – you can reference the sun gleaming off his scales, for example, or the edge of his snout being just visible to him. Things like that.) the scaly reptilian features of a dragon would be reflected back at him.  He grinned in delight as the wind swept past his face and body.  He soared high into the air, turning figure eights and doing fast dives.  He flew out over the cove on the backside of the mountain, marveling at the clear, sparkling water.  He flew to the top of the mountain that towered high above the village, enjoying the frosty air, which steamed as it hit his fiery throat.  He circled the mountain twice, then once more just for fun. (Comment: What does this feel like? He delighted, but what does that delight feel like inside him?)

But something wasn’t right. (Comment: Show. Really want to see that moment where he goes from elation to foreboding.)  Now he felt himself being pulled back down toward the village.  His wings would not do what he wanted them to do.  He no longer had control of where he went.  Suddenly a terrible pain filled his head, like hot knife blades were being inserted right in the center, (Comment: Awesome) and a sinister voice filled his mind.  It said only one word. “Destroy.”

Fighting to rise into the blue sky, Jake instead dove toward the town.  He panicked, tried to pull up, but his wings wouldn’t move, they remained tucked tightly to the side of his body.  He kept diving until he could see the black Os of people’s mouths, screaming in terror as they ran for their lives.  A searing heat grew in his long neck.  Jake knew what it meant and tried to hold

COMMENTS:

LOVE the last few paragraphs. They are very vivid. Keep working to make the opening match them, in terms of showing vs. telling and excitement. You are building a unique world here, so you have to be as specific as possible so we can see and understand YOUR world. Also, work on letting us inside Jake’s head more. Want to know what he thinks about all of this!

___________________________________________________________________

Cecile Mazzucco-Than,                       Under the Fig Tree,                YA historical novel

As soon as she felt the kitchen floor shiver under her feet, Frankie threw open the window, rested her forearms on the sill, and leaned out a nose-length over the fire escape. In seconds, the Third Avenue Elevated Train would come roaring by rattling the eight drinking glasses in the cupboard until they clinked for mercy. She gathered saliva at the tip of her tongue behind her pursed lips. She knew that if she screamed at the exact second the train passed her window, the force would rip her voice right out of her throat and throw it past 175th Street without it ever reaching her ears, but what would happen if she spit? Ever since first grade she’d told her best friend Sophie Goodman she could probably hit the engineer right in the eye without even aiming. Sophie maintained that the spit would whip back into her own eye. Maybe today she was in just the mood to see who was right.

“Francesca!”

The first cars flew by, and a blast of stinging dust choked Frankie and pushed her into the kitchen toward her mother’s voice. The thundering of metal pounding against metal crushed the rest of the sentence. Frankie’s mother slammed the window shut and pulled the flour-sack curtains across it. Too late, but the next train would come in less than half an hour.

“No, Mama,” her brother wailed. He had been sitting on the floor in the corner of the kitchen rolling the Spaldeen Frankie had bought for his sisters to play stickball. “I want to wave at the train, too, like Frankie.”

He waddled over to the kitchen table and tugged at the leg of a chair. Frankie caught the back of it and pulled it over to the window.

“Francesca!” her mother scolded. “You should know better!”

“Remember, Beppe,” Frankie said as she tugged at the waist of her brother’s pants to help him climb on to the seat. “Only watch the trains with the window closed.”

HERE’S RACHAEL:

Cecile Mazzucco-Than,                       Under the Fig Tree,                YA historical novel

As soon as she felt the kitchen floor shiver under her feet, Frankie threw open the window, rested her forearms on the sill, and leaned out a nose-length over the fire escape. (Comment: I like where you are going, but keep playing with this moment. I would really like to see you SHOW us Frankie in this moment—show the floor shiver and how she feels that, etc.) In seconds, the Third Avenue Elevated Train would come roaring by rattling the eight drinking glasses in the cupboard until they clinked for mercy. She gathered saliva at the tip of her tongue behind her pursed lips. She knew that if she screamed at the exact second the train passed her window, the force would rip her voice right out of her throat and throw it past 175th Street without it ever reaching her ears, but what would happen if she spit? (Comment: Nice line!)  Ever since first grade she’d told her best friend Sophie Goodman she could probably hit the engineer right in the eye without even aiming. Sophie maintained that the spit would whip back into her own eye. Maybe today she was in just the mood to see who was right.

“Francesca!”

The first cars flew by, and a blast of stinging dust choked Frankie and pushed her into the kitchen toward her mother’s voice. The thundering of metal pounding against metal crushed the rest of the sentence. (Comment: Lovely.) Frankie’s mother slammed the window shut and pulled the flour-sack curtains (Comment: Great detail.) across it. Too (Comment: How does this make Frankie feel?)  late, but the next train would come in less than half an hour.

“No, Mama,” her brother wailed. He had been sitting on the floor in the corner of the kitchen rolling the Spaldeen Frankie had bought for his sisters to play stickball. “I want to wave at the train, too, like Frankie.”

He waddled over to the kitchen table and tugged at the leg of a chair. Frankie caught the back of it and pulled it over to the window.

“Francesca!” her mother scolded. “You should know better!”

“Remember, Beppe,” Frankie said as she tugged at the waist of her brother’s pants to help him climb on to the seat. “Only watch the trains with the window closed.”

COMMENTS:

Some really lovely writing here. Some of these phrases and images are super visual and your word choices are quite nice. I would keep playing with that opening moment. Also, I would love more of a sense of the relationships here. How does Frankie feel about her mom? Her brother? Is her mom annoying or does she recognize good intentions in her nagging? Is her brother a burden or does she feel genuine affection for him? Does she feel happy/comfortable here? Trapped? I want more of a sense of this, which would give me more of a sense of her. However, this is absolutely strong enough to compel me to read more.

____________________________________________________________________

Thank you Rachael for sharing your time and expertise with us. Great job. We all can learn from your comments. It is much appreciated.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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