Monday, September 17, 2012

Rd 1 Agent Pitch Contest #20 - MIRROR OF SAND AND FLAME

Mirror of Sand and Flame
Upper middle grade adventure with fantasy elements
43,000 words


Twelve-year-old Zeb Reardon just watched his cousin Bryce disappear down a mineshaft in the smoky, abandoned town of Martinsville, PA, but nobody believes him—and that’s no surprise to Zeb. Folks quit trusting Zeb six years back, when he failed to report in time the underground coal fire that demolished Martinsville and forced the whole town to relocate a mile away to New Martin.

Since no one believes Zeb about Bryce’s fall, Zeb goes after Bryce himself…and discovers that the old coal mine tunnels around Martinsville lead to the eerie setting of his father’s fantasy novel CandleLand. In this burnt-up world of yellow sand and poison flame geysers, cruel Empress Avella threatens to destroy Bryce and all of New Martin. Zeb’s no hero—he’s proven that before. But this time he’s holding the secrets that might save everyone, right there in the pages of his father’s book. Now he just has to find the nerve to trust himself, and walk through fire.
First 150 words:

The fence isolating the dead town of Martinsville hid in the dark. I had to get to it. Under it. Out of here.

No good light anywhere. No lit-up house windows, no cars. Just grainy glow from nighttime sky. Shadowy mounds lumped up the road underfoot, like iron moles had ripped tunnels through the asphalt.

Gray wisps had looked like mist at first. Then the click—like Jason says in science, Zeb. That brain’s been in there for twelve years, time to switch it on. Not mist; smoke. I’d sleepwalked up into Martinsville.

Took another dozen stumbling paces downhill, cold air clawing my pajamas. Still no fence.

Something moved in the gritty dimness. Four-legged, whitish. Hairy mop of a tail tucked and hid. Wolf? Coyote? Couldn’t be, too big, too tall. It dipped out of the woods, stepped into the ruined street, and went still. Looked at me.

I didn’t breathe.


SugarMagnolia said...

Thanks for participating! My plan is to read through all the entries and then begin my comments and critiques. I will give out my top ten my votes when I'm finished.

Best of luck to you, and stay tuned!

Katharina Gerlach said...

You perfected the query, but the sample reads really choppy (e.g. Took another dozen stumbling paces... is missing an "I"). I know you're trying to show his confusion and disorientation, but it's not working for me.

I love the sentence "That brain’s been in there for twelve years, time to switch it on" but it jerks me out of the nightmarish setting, and makes me wonder what science has to do with where he is now. Especially since I didn't even realize that he didn't know his own whereabouts in the first place.

If he sleepwalked, should he really look out for fences, house windows, and cars? I'd expect him to wonder about his bed, why he's standing outdoors in a pajama, and where his parents might be.

And I'd expect a lot more confusion. Right in the first sentence, you state where he is, and since your writing form his POV, I assumed he knows too. But in the 3rd paragraph, you tell us he doesn't. It doesn't fit together.

Sorry to say so many negative things but the writing in your query shows that you can do better. And I'd be delighted to read the story. The premise sounds so cool.

gailecn said...

I like the way you changed the beginning of the first 150. It's more concise. I still love the voice - it's subtle and different! :)

SugarMagnolia said...

(Hi again! I plan to give out comments during this round, and then I'll give out my top ten votes as soon as I have critiqued everyone's queries.)

What a great voice! Zeb sounds unique and masculine, and I can only imagine all the excitement he will get into in the mines. Your writing is evocative, and it sounds like you have a great story on your hands.

I just have one small point for you. Although your first 150 words were very rich, I struggled a little to know exactly what was going on. The phrase about Jason in science confused me, and I think Zeb would seem more confused if he were actually startling awake from sleepwalking.

That being said, I love the choppiness, and I love Zeb's stream of consciousness. Very well done!