Our second submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Shannon Cortazar. SILHOUETTE is a YA fantasy.
We were invaded the day we buried my brother. It was autumn, crisp and bright. “A good day for a burial” I heard someone say behind me. A tragic death, such a shame, the voices went on and on. Clucking their tongues as if rationalizing his death would make it okay. The coffin bore the mark of the Throne, a twisting tree within a circle and a three pointed crown above. That same mark was branded on his wrist when I took a peek at him lying still on white satin.
They’d sent a note thanking us for our cooperation in these “changing times”. It was signed by Elin Grayl, the new leader of our Nation. The coffin was a token of their gratitude, to ease our financial burden, they said. I thought it was ironic, since they’re the ones who killed him.
A few hours later chaos broke out. From my bedroom I saw a quick purposeful momentum come from each of the hundred or so legion. They were herding everyone they could find. Before I knew it I was sitting between my parents tearing through town in my dad’s pickup truck, heading for the mountains flanking our crumbling community. And it’s here I sit, waiting for the next onslaught.
I’ve learned that counting calms me before a kill. One, focus on my target. Two, steady my breath. Three, account for the wind.
Four, don’t hesitate. Aim between the eyes.
I don’t worry about the snap of the bow, just the direction which the arrow will soar. If it were an animal, I’d quiet my release. But the human boy daring to enter our village is too dumb or too careless for me to bother. He’s just another threat, I tell myself. One I won’t think twice about killing.
I wait, watch him. He isn’t moving like someone who’s controlled. From this distance, at least a hundred yards, I can’t see the Thrones mark on his wrist.
But they’re clever, so I wait.
To my left I can see a lone magpie land on the thin branch of a birch tree. One for sorrow, I think it goes, the rhyme I learned years ago. It’s appropriate; since we live in a suffocating state of sadness. Tufts of snow fall to the frozen ground below him as he sits perched with his eyes darting around. Until they land on me. I refocus and clear my mind, ease the tremors in my arm.
“You have to kill him Noelle.” A voice behind me whispers.
While her brother's funeral is a good opening image, I feel like you have an even more powerful opening further down - I’ve learned that counting calms me before a kill. Wow. You learn so much about her character in that line. Give us that first. Wait until later to tell us about her brother and how she got to the mountains.
The description of the boy, or rather what he didn't look like, drew me in. I know she has doubts by the way she counts. His lack of a mark and the way he moves give her more doubts. I love how you show that.
I also love the magpie and how she uses it to convey how everyone is feeling. I would like to see why his stare make her refocus though. She is stalling when she is looking at him. What is it about his eyes that puts her back on task?
Then, the last line. Wonderful. I want to know who's saying this. I want to know the rules. I want to know more.
In all, it's a great opening. Thanks so much for sharing, Shannon!
Our first submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Valerie Hobbs. WILD GINGER is a contemporary MG novel.
There were times living with her parents when Elizabeth “Lizzie” Lessing has had to be the grownup, or at least feels as if she does. Like right now on the Big Island of Hawaii as their tiny rental car passes a sign on the side of the road. “Hey, you guys,” she says. “We’re driving into a volcano. Did you see that sign?” Her mother laughs. “Not into it, honey. Not exactly. Nothing to worry about.” Lizzie thought about the day her sixth grade teacher, Mr. Sylvester, did his amazing volcano imitation. “Kaboom” he cried, leaping into the air, sending them all into shrieks and fits of laughter. “Is it active?” Lizzie’s father, too big for their rented car, hulks over the steering wheel. “Kilauea is an active volcano all right,” he says. “If we’re lucky we’ll get to see some lava.” Her parents are crazy. Always chasing after some new “folly,” Lizzie’s grandmother says. But nothing seems to work. Lessing Cake and Coffee had attracted only flies. Lessing Laundry went belly up when a fancier one opened on the next block. There were penny stocks and bubble gum machines, a dog washing service and Mack Of All Trades home repairs. Her father finally took a job as a manager at Burger King but lost it in a week. And now there is this new thing her mother had spotted on a real estate flyer. “Old plantation house surrounded by lush vegetation, perfect for a bed and breakfast”. The flyer had no picture.
I love the set up of this - the failed businesses, her crazy parents. That information, along with the flyer with no picture, brings to mind an image of a ramshackle house better than any description ever could.
I do have a couple of suggestions though. While the page as a whole is delightful, I'm wondering if you could pack more punch into the opening line. Right now, it's passive and a little bit clunky. Instead of saying she feels like the grownup, I'd love to see how it makes her feel.
I also feel like the flashback to her sixth grade class isn't necessary here. I'd like to stay in the car and get to know Lizzie and her parents a bit more. The image of her father and how he doesn't fit in the car is perfect.
In all, this book definitely sounds like something I would pick up off the shelf and read. Thanks for sharing, Valerie!
My first 3 posts of each month are devoted to FIRST IMPRESSIONS-- short crits of first pages submitted by YOU! I'm teaming up with Marcy Hatch of Mainewords and Dianne K Salerni for this feature.
To submit a first page, send an email to Dianne at email@example.com with First Impressions in the subject line and your first page pasted in the email (not attached, please). Please don't forget to identify yourself, so we know it's not spam.
1. How many words is "a page?" ~ 350-400
2. Should I send my prologue or first chapter? ~ Send whatever you would query an agent or editor with
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