Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Our second submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Christy Hintz. EVERGREEN is YA Contemporary.


Everything looks perfect.  Strings of red lights drape across the ceiling and dangle from the center of the gymnasium, cloaking all the dancers in crimson.

Everything sounds perfect.  The music is upbeat, the bass a perfect volume, not that crass loud overbearing beat that makes everyone's ears bleed and heart hurt.  Not like last week's prom at East High--which naturally I crashed to be sure I didn't overlook any details.  Nope, my prom is nothing like that.  Everyone is laughing and having a good time.  I circulate, smiling at my classmates, nodding at their dress and accessory choices.  The food table is topped off. The chaperons are keeping their distance.

I approach a girl standing at the foot of the bleachers. I tap her bare, brown shoulder.  "Where have you been?"

She's wearing a strapless, short black dress, one electric blue heel and one emerald green heel.  Her nails are each painted a different color of the rainbow, and today her eyes are a natural brown.  A thick strand of her black hair matches the electric blue shoe.

"Bathroom."  She turns toward me.  "I sat on the seat and everything."

"Ew."  I fumble through my purse.

"What are you looking for?"

"Sanitizer." I hand her a bottle.

She doesn't take it, but asks, "And what, pray tell, shall I do with it?"

I steer her toward the hall.  "Spread it on the back of your thighs."

She ducks out from under my hands and moves back toward the dance floor,
laughing.  "You really are crazy.  Remind me again why I love you."

"Why wouldn't you?"  I put the sanitizer under her nose for one last try.

She shakes her head and I return it to my purse with a huff.

"I promise to wear sweats to sleep in later.  My germ-covered legs won't touch anything in your house."

"What about our toilet seats?" I watch as a girl in a mermaid dress takes the last water bottle from the refreshment table.

"Man.  I'll shower when I get there. Okay?"

"Fine." I gesture to the transformed gymnasium. "It's all fantastic, right?"


Ms. Fulton, the only teacher not charmed by my straight A+ average and over-abundance of extra-curriculars is glaring at me from ten feet away like something's gone amok.  All the other teachers patted my back and congratulated me on successfully orchestrating the prom-week festivities, parade, and dance.  Not her.


I love the contrast between the two characters. I love how you show the narrator is extremely OCD as opposed to telling us. Her friend's description gives us great insight into her personality as well. 

There are just a few things I think will improve the page. 

The food table is topped off, but a few lines later, someone takes the last water bottle. Besides the water disappearing too quickly, I don't think the narrator would ignore that and keep talking to her friend. She'd fix it or delegate someone to fix it straight away.

"I approach a girl ..." Can you say her name? It's first person, and judging by their exchange, they're best friends. She wouldn't think of her friend as "a girl."

I'd also like to see a transition between their conversation and Ms. Fulton, even if it's just her friend gesturing toward the teacher or looking in her direction.

I'm not sure what the novel is about, but I think that's okay. You've set up the characters well, and I think it will be fun when the narrator's perfect world is knocked askew. Thank you so much for sharing your page with us. Good work!

Make sure to head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see what they thought of EVERGREEN. You can find Christy on Twitter as @ericaandchristy and visit her blog at

Monday, May 2, 2016


Our first submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Kristen Zayon. OVERLAND is a Young Adult Post-Disaster Adventure.


It was a seemingly innocent thing, that first flicker. We were sitting in the Anchorage airport waiting for our flight home to Cordova when it happened. The lights trembled once, twice, then went out completely. If it hadn’t been daytime, the blackness would have been absolute. There were none of those emergency back-up lights shining in the corners, no glow from someone’s iphone. Anything electrical or computerized was just finished. We heard what sounded like a few distant explosions, then an eerie silence. We looked at each other and around at the other passengers. Everyone was stabbing fingers uselessly at their phones, laptops, the kiosk computer terminals. A murmur of voices rose, as everyone began to speculate.
Some of the airport personnel arrived with good old-fashioned battery powered or crank operated flashlights. The intercoms weren’t working either, or the little cars they sometimes drive around, so they were busy hoofing it from gate to gate, letting everyone know as much as they did, which was not much. There appeared to be a blackout that was at the very least spread across the Anchorage Bowl and Matanuska-Susitna Valley, and was most likely statewide. Perhaps it went even further. Nobody knew because communications were gone along with everything else; even old school land lines.

We hung out in the airport for a few more hours, until the time of our flight had come and gone. Eventually, someone announced that all flights were cancelled for the day, or until the power came back on. We left the airport to go back to the hotel we had just checked out of that morning. We had to walk, because anything with a motor was simply not running. Something major had happened, we knew. Power outages don’t affect cars. Solar flare? Nuclear bomb? We noticed smoke rising in several spots over the inlet, and remembered the explosions we had heard immediately after the outage. The planes. They had all crashed. I started feeling sick to my stomach.

We were in Anchorage for the state cross country running meet. For the first time ever, both the boys and girls teams had qualified, so we’d taken the ferry to Whittier and made the short drive to Anchorage. There were seven guys, six girls, and two coaches for the three day trip. By the time we were supposed to return, a storm had moved in to Prince William Sound, cancelling the ferries, so we had to book flights back to Cordova. This was always a hazard in Alaska when traveling in remote areas. Then we couldn’t all get on one flight at such short notice – it’s a small plane – so eight kids and Coach Ron were on the first flight, while the rest of us waited for the next one with Coach Casey. 


I like this premise. It's eerie, and I really want to know what disabled everything. I think if you add more specifics, you can make it even more foreboding.

- Do a search for the word "was" and take it out whenever you can. That will take away some of the passive feeling of the piece. 

- Tell us what is, not what isn't. ie "none of those emergency back-up lights ..." With this statement, I can't tell if the lights are in the corners, but not working, or are just not there. Tell us what's there. 

- "I started feeling sick to my stomach." Can you make this more specific? Tell us what it feels like.

- Show more details so we can really be immersed in the setting. When you talk about the cars they drive in the airport, can you show what happened when one stopped? Did the driver fiddle with some switches? Did he got out and kick it? Anything with a motor was not running. Are the streets filled with abandoned cars? What are the people doing? Are they panicked or are they quiet?

- I don't think we need all of the details of the track meet yet. Take us from the narrator feeling sick to their friends on the crashed planes. Name someone, and make the narrator feel the loss of that person.

I found myself really engaged in your first page, and I wish you lots of luck! Thank you so much for sharing your work with us!

Make sure to head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see what they thought of OVERLAND. You can find Kristen on Twitter as @AKLibraryChick

Monday, January 4, 2016


Our first submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Christian Bensing. SWIFT is a Middle Grade Fantasy.


Chapter 1:  3pm

Bobby Conrad used every last ounce of his brain power in an attempt to somehow stop the marathoning minute hand of Mrs. Winkey's clock from reaching its destination, but its will was unstoppable, silently cheered on by the eager eyes of his classmates.  Three o'clock, the end of the school day, had come despite Bobby's best efforts to forestall the dreaded moment when he would have to leave the safety of the classroom and enter the unsupervised, terrifying world seventh graders of his minimal stature and reputation had to face on a daily basis.  If only Mrs. Winkey's algebra test, which looked to Bobby as if it were written in Egyptian hieroglyphics, had not racked his brain to the point of delirium, maybe he could have stopped that clock through sheer concentration and enjoyed the serenity of 2:59 for a few more precious seconds.  Instead, the minute hand ticked forward with one more click.  The bell rang, and his classmates scattered.  Bobby faced the fact that he had to go home, his own virtual prison.  The only thing worse was getting there.
Bobby slowly shuffled through the classroom door to the bustling hallway.  He took one last look at Mrs. Winkey, who seemed to take great pleasure in dishing out deliberately dramatic red slashes  across the test she held in her hands.  Her eyes went from the test to Bobby, then back to the test and back to Bobby again.  It was as if she had to restrain the corners of her crooked mouth from forming a smirk.  Winkey's eyes continued this dance as her head swayed sideways, back and forth in disapproval.  Bobby knew deep in his heart she was grading his test.  He impulsively looked at his feet as metal locker doors crashed closed behind him.
“Crap,” was all he could say in a hushed tone as he found a break in the hallway traffic and exited the room with the cartoon-like vision of a sneering Mrs. Winkey engrained in his brain.
Bobby navigated his way to his locker and waited for the hallway to clear before he dared open it. He slowly gathered his books and stuffed them into his backpack.  The backpack had seen better days and already had more stitches in it than Frankenstein's monster after a car accident.  A new tear had developed which required repair, and Bobby could clearly see his recently acquired library book, Strange Tales of the Weird, peeking out one of its sharp, new corners.  The sight of the book made him forget all about the bloodied math test and Mrs. Winkey's mocking features.  He had gone to great lengths to secure this book, having stalked its very first borrower, Randy Reinhold, the entire first week Randy had it, waiting for its return to the general circulation. When that rat Randy had renewed the book for yet another week, Bobby almost lost his mind. 


First thing, this page reminds me of The Neverending Story. Is it anything like that? Because that would be awesome! And if not? Still awesome!

Now, onto my comments. As I was reading the first couple of paragraphs, I found myself wondering about the fantasy aspects. Then, I got to the part about the book, and I was very intrigued. I also wondered why he was dreading for the bell to ring when he was looking forward to the book. You might have more impact if you started with the book details, then went on to describe his struggle getting home, etc. That would also help eliminate the telling that's happening in the first couple of paragraphs, and you could show us instead. 

Thank you so much for sharing your work with us! It's a great start!

Make sure to head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see what they thought of SWIFT.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Our second submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Mary Livingston. THE OLD DAYS is a short story aimed at an adult audience.


Some people claim they have a vivid recollection of themselves in their mother’s womb and claim they can tell you, in detail, the usually elusive experience of birth.  They see themselves a little ball of flesh, floating in darkness.  The volcano erupts, the walls heave violently and close tightly around them.  One solid shove and they are forced into the world of things to come.  I must confess that I have no such recollection, but I can remember my parents before they were my parents.

He used to steer her down the streets of the past when she was just a baby.  And who would have thought that he would be steering her baby one day.  Certainly not him, for he was busy.  Busy maintaining his freedom to be wild, strutting like a male peacock, knowing the attraction of his brilliant color.  Busy trying to spread two dollars on as many girls, as many drinks and as many laughs as he could.  Seven years his junior, she was busy then writing in her diary, while he had already read (Since she's writing, it seems like this word should be "written" instead of "read.") that chapter in the book.  Today, he says, “I was waiting for your mother to grow up.”  And everyone smiles and slyly glances at everyone else, knowing that those laughing blue eyes in that devilish Irish face were looking anywhere but into a baby carriage. 

I remember about a year before the “big war” was over.  His number came up.  His family said, “Thank God that no good son of a …is leaving.”  They cackled and chuckled to cover the dull ache in their guts.  For people feel sad when a while (wild?) animal is on the verge of becoming domesticated.  The battle in the streets was common to them.  But this new battle was foreign to them.  And although they had slackened the line attaching him to them years ago, they now held tightly onto their end.  They gave him a party, as people will do, on the night before he was to go.  But, true to his leprechaun nature, he didn’t go anywhere, (I'm not sure how this makes him like a leprechaun.) except to sleep with a smile on his face.  And if they all hadn’t been so hung-over, they would have killed him.  When he was out of sight, they would commiserate in humor about the boldness of his nature.  In his presence, they would mumble their disapproval, look everywhere but at him, and stifle an urge to grin.  (It sounds like he was drafted. How did he get out of that?) Today, he winks while opening a beer and says, “I had a lot of parties when I went into the army”.  She moves her eyes without moving her head to look at him, and when he looks away, she smiles and he knows she is smiling.

In those days, she was totally and wholeheartedly obsessed with the smile of the boy in the grocery store.  And the boy on the corner.  And the boy…Mind and eyes mesmerized by the silver screen, she would lick the last bit of her sundae as she ("She" here refers to the mom. Do you mean that? If so, can it be clearer?) and Astaire finished their dance.  He (Here, "he" refers to Fred Astaire since he was the last named male.) was her older brother’s friend and another piece of furniture in the mishmash that was her home.  And though they were so close, she could lean slightly to the right and touch him; in those days, she was looking past him into her own reality. 


I think there is some really beautiful imagery here - the peacock, spreading the two dollars, the parties when he didn't go into the army, etc. It shows so much about the characters without telling. You just have to be careful that it doesn't become confusing. For example, the last line in the first paragraph mentions a baby carriage. However, since both the mother and her baby are referred to as babies earlier in the paragraph, it is unclear who the baby in the last sentence is referring to. In the last paragraph, the shift from her obsession to local boys to Fred Astaire is a bit awkward. In both of those instances, it might help to cut down on some of the images and pick just a couple that really bring the point across.

I also had pronoun confusion in a couple of places. A bit of rewording can clear those up. 

I like how he was wild and she was completely uninterested and would love to see what ultimately brings them together. Keep working on it, because I think you have a wonderful talent for words. I felt completely immersed in the time.

Thank you so much for sharing your work with us!
Make sure to head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see what they thought of THE OLD DAYS.

Monday, November 2, 2015


Today's First Impressions is a bit different. BROTHER WOLF is an MG contemporary novel originally released in Portugal. The author is Carla Maria de Almeida and the illustrator is António Jorge Gonçalves. The novel is now being translated into English by Lyn Miller-Lachman. 

Lyn states, "Along with writing my own fiction, I'm a translator of children's books (and other materials) from Portuguese to English. I'm applying for a grant, due November 16th, to translate a novel for older middle grade readers by the Portuguese author and journalist Carla Maia de Almeida titled Irmão Lobo (Brother Wolf). I'm somewhat limited in how much I can change the original text, but there are ways I can tweak it to appeal to both the grant committee and tween readers, so I'm looking for suggestions."


I once believed I was madly in love with Kalkitos. But that couldn’t be, because I was eight years old at the time and Kalkitos was the same age as Fossil, my much-older brother. He could have almost been my father, and something about it didn’t seem right. Actually, a lot of things didn’t seem right.

First of all, according to Blanche, I was the one born “out of time.” I began to believe this before I could put the feeling into words. I’m fifteen now and almost ready to start my own life, but I still don’t understand all the things that happened to me.

When I was eight years old, time was the microwave oven’s red numbers, always changing and blinking in the dark kitchen.

Time was Blanche running around like a crazed chicken, beginning at daybreak when she woke me and helped me get ready for school. She would glance at her cellphone and say, We don’t have time right now. We don’t have time. She’d keep running throughout breakfast, leaving crumbs of toast all over the floor like Hansel and Gretel. The crumbs never led us to a house of chocolate, and the next day they were sucked up by the vacuum cleaner.

Cold, rain, sunshine—those were the seasons of time. Jackets, boots, hats, gloves, scarves, sandals, t-shirts, shorts—all ways of dressing for the seasons. I understood. It was easy to figure out.

The same way, when Grizzly Bear sat on the sofa in front of the television and said between clenched teeth, “We are living in ungovernable times,” I knew whether this was good or bad by the way he changed the channel. Bored, zap. Annoyed, zap, zap. Enraged or worse, zap, zap, zap.

Now, I know. I wasn’t born out of time. I simply didn’t understand.

Because in the end, I went to school like the other kids, I wore sandals in summer and a hat when it turned bitter cold. I had a home, like all the kids. In this home lived Blanche, Grizzly Bear, Fossil, and Miss Kitty—my family. My parents and my older brother and sister. It wasn’t possible that they all lived in time and I lived outside of time.
But there were things that didn’t seem right.


First off, I love the way time is described. From the seasons to the crumbs, the descriptions are stunning.

I'm not exactly sure what Lyn is able to change here, but these are the things that jump out at me.

- Fossil, I'd like to see a definite age instead of "much-older."
- The line, "I'm fifteen now ..." seems out of place. If it can be cut, the line before it, "I began to believe this ..." is a much better lead in to the discussion about time. Her age can be inserted later into the line, "Now, I know."
- "I simply didn't understand." What didn't she understand?

Other than that, I feel like it's pretty well polished. If I picked up this book, I would keep reading simply because of the lyrical writing. 

Thank you, Lyn, for bringing this challenge to us this month. You can visit Lyn's website at And here's a piece on Irmão Lobo:

Make sure to head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see their thoughts on BROTHER WOLF.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Our third submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Mason Matchak. THE BOOK OF LOST RUNES is adult fantasy.


The last man Shiloh ever wanted to see again stepped onto her airship.

Shiloh looked him over, wondered just how much ten years had changed him, and hoped she wouldn’t have to deal with him for long enough to find out.  “Lord Figaro,” she said, “welcome aboard, and thank you for choosing a Caldwell Company flight.”  The greeting was a habit, and helped Shiloh keep bitterness out of her voice.  She resisted the urge to check her schedule to make absolutely sure he was on it.

“Lord Edwin is fine,” he said, smiling at her, his teeth bright against his dark brown skin.  “Lord Figaro is my older brother.”

Of course, Shiloh recalled.  Edwin was the second son of the Brinmaar branch of House Figaro, and his elder brother must have taken over the merchant house’s business sometime in the past decade.  When last they met, Edwin wasn’t ‘Lord’ of anything.

“As you wish, Lord Edwin,” Shiloh said, forcing her voice into the practiced politeness she reserved for enduring difficult customers.  She did check her schedule then, tapping a few carved glass buttons on the runewoven bracer she wore on her left forearm.  The bracer was emblazoned with Caldwell Company’s red and gold logo, which clashed with the pale blue dress Shiloh wore, but there was little she could do about that.  After a moment, a few gleaming words appeared in the bracer’s largest crystal, confirming that Lord Figaro had indeed made a reservation for the evening.  There was no destination listed.

That wasn’t common, but Shiloh had dealt with wealthy folks who liked to think they were traveling incognito before.  She tucked a strand of her bangs back behind one ear; most of her wavy blonde hair was tied back in a simple ponytail that reached her waist, but she wore her bangs loose.  “Where do you wish to travel today, Lord?”

Lord Edwin glanced around the small airship as though it was his own.  He stood a bit over six feet tall, only a little taller than Shiloh herself, and wore a dark blue suit with beige trim, in what Shiloh figured must be the height of local fashion if he was wearing it.  His hair was tightly curled and trimmed close to his head, and she guessed he wore the neat mustache and goatee because he thought it made him look dashing, the same reason he wore a short, curved blade at one hip.

Sons of merchant families all seemed to have some of the same traits, no matter where they came from or how powerful their families were.  Or weren’t.  Shiloh frowned at another old memory, then waited by the airship’s wheel for Edwin’s reply.


Great start! I love the character descriptions. You've shown a lot of their personalities through their clothing and hair styles. There are just a couple of things that I think will bring tension to the story and help pull the reader in even more.

You did a wonderful job of showing that Shiloh doesn't like Edwin (the way she checks to see if he's really supposed to be there, the way she has to force her voice). However, I'd like a hint of why she doesn't like him. Were they a couple? Was it business? Giving that hint will add another layer to the tension.

If Edwin wasn't Lord of anything the last time they met, why did she address him as such? If she doesn't address him as Lord, and then he insists, then that adds extra impact to the sentences that follow.

Is Edwin the only passenger? Are Shiloh and Edwin the only people on the ship? If so, mention it. That will add more tension as well.

In all, you have a very interesting beginning. You've put a lot of questions in my mind (Where is he going? What happened in the past? Did he know it was her ship?) that would keep me reading. Thank you so much for sharing your work with us!

Make sure to head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see what they thought of THE BOOK OF LOST RUNES.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Our second submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Nathan Koronkiewicz. A LUMINOUS APPARITION'S RESOLVE is a YA Fantasy.


Life had begun in an instant, had changed over time and it was bound to change once more. This change would send shockwaves throughout the universe shattering everything and rewriting the path of history, as we knew it. Not one species would be safe from the wrath to come. From the midst of Garrett’s good intentions was the birth of a force of pure evil.

“A Hero, a mystical person, someone who sets the criteria of what is righteous. Each culture, each world, we all have someone who has once reached this title. Yet, why is it that my race has no one to call a hero of their own?” Looking out across my blank canvas, the pathways were as sleek as ever, the reflection of the stars below glimmering. My eyes drifted downwards, and I looked upon a lone planet in the emptiness of space.

 Taking my brush, I had painted the scene, which had unraveled before me.

 Sword and shield in hand, the man stood next to a flag of his people. His face filled with anguish and gratitude as he looked out across the battlefield. None of his comrades had remained, but in the distance, a flag of an empire was burning.

“A sole survivor, huh? He managed to accomplish his goal, but what was his price? Was it worth the blood spilt from the war to achieve freedom? I suppose it was for his people that he set out for victory.”

My feelings were mixed on the matter; I was intrigued by the concept known as heroes. How could it be that something known as ‘heroes’ existed in almost every world? But, each of these heroes differed from one another, their morals, their personalities and what they set out to accomplish. Is there some sort of connection between all heroes? Are they somehow drawn towards this concept? I don’t quite understand it, but if I could, I’d strive for it as well.

 I grasped my painting and took one last look at it. It was the birth of a hero in action, a marvelous scene, which depicted only one kind, the hero of war. I had come across many types of heroes in my time, but I had never witnessed a war hero. If I had to guess, it was a near perfect depiction to add to my collection.


To me, this scene seems to be about the concept of a hero and the MC's depiction of one in a painting. I loved the MC's thoughts, how there can be different types of heroes and what drives each of them. He/she seems to be a collector of heroes, which I find really interesting.

Here are a few suggestions on how you can make the opening clearer.

- The first paragraph doesn't seem to tie in with the rest of the scene. Go straight to heroes and the painting.

- Where is the MC? He/she seems to be in a spaceship, looking down on a devastated planet - "My eyes drifted downwards, and I looked upon a lone planet in the emptiness of space." Bring in some more details to ground the reader in the setting. 

- "Taking my brush, I painted the scene ..." Take out the "had." 

- I'm a little confused about the quotes. Is the MC speaking to someone or just saying the thoughts out loud? If the MC is not speaking out loud, then take away the quotation marks.

This is a good beginning, and I see some really interesting concepts in there. Thank you so much for sharing your work with us! 

Make sure to head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see what they thought of A LUMINOUS APPARITION'S RESOLVE.