Monday, July 6, 2015
Our second submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Stacie Dempsey. DREAMKATCHER is a YA novel.
I woke with a jolt of familiarity. There was a memory digging footholds into my brain trying to resurface. The imagined stench of a charred experiment gone wrong lingering in my nose. Behind my still closed eyes I can see the outline of the old brick laboratory, black against the waking sky, flames escaping through its windows and matching the sky’s intensity. My heart pounds as I try to make my way back in. Heat sears my cheeks just as tears come flooding down to cool them. Their trapped cries resonate in my ears as a lone thought repeats in my head… I have to save them.
This dream clings to my consciousness, hanging like a low fog. A fog that a thousand suns couldn’t lift. There’s only one way to rid these terrible thoughts from my mind, something I should have done last night. I reach for the BAND on my wrist, knowing what I will find before I see it there. Blank screen, battery dead.
As I stumble across the room, limbs still heavy with sleep, my body begins convulsing with sobs. Overwhelming pain takes over and threatens to pull me back into the abyss of depression. It’s as if each sob slices into my soul, fracturing it until I’m spread thin enough to be carried away by the morning breeze. Wrapping my arms around myself I attempt to pull the pieces of me back together long enough to reach the port.
Racing the last five feet to the wall, I hold my wrist against the port ready to evict the nightmare from my mind. The glass panel glows red, confirming it’s dead battery and my failure to sync. As the BAND charges the panel slowly changes from red to yellow and finally green. The sync begins and I can feel my thoughts flowing out of me like a stream. It’s as if a dam has been released and is washing away these painful memories that infest my sleep.
Four years later and still the same nightmare plagues my thoughts. The same feeling that I should have done more, I should have tried harder to get them out. The same feeling of guilt for having survived.
This latest episode marks the second time this month I’ve forgotten to keep my BAND charged. Gram will be furious when she finds out. “Our BAND’s are meant to relieve the burden the day’s thoughts have on our soul. Without a proper sync each night we won’t be able to make it through the day”. It won’t be the first time I’ve received this lecture. Taking one last deep breath, I pull myself together and head downstairs to face Gram.
First, I find the BANDs absolutely fascinating. Those devices feel not far removed from our phones and other idevices. How many people "plug in" to the internet as the last thing they do before bed and the first thing they do before they get up? That said, there is a stigma about starting a novel with waking up from a dream. It's disorienting because the reader is trying to get a feel for the character and his or her reality. Dreams distort that reality, so the reader isn't getting a true picture at the start. Is there a different way to begin that tells us more about the BANDs?
Second, I have a couple of picky notes regarding tense and wording. The first two sentences are past tense, while the rest is in present tense.
Also, "Racing the last five feet to the wall," is in contrast with the other physical descriptions of her since she seems incapable of running in the previous paragraph.
Last, I love this line, "It’s as if each sob slices into my soul, fracturing it until I’m spread thin enough to be carried away by the morning breeze."
I think this a wonderful idea, and I'd love to read more of it. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.
Make sure to check out Stacie's website at www.smocussmocus.blogspot.com. She is also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/smocussmocus. And head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see what they thought of DREAMKATCHER.
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Our first submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Mark Murata. TEMPLE BEYOND THE SEA is New Adult historical fantasy.
To be a priestess, the walk had to be flawless—the smooth heel-to-toe motion beneath the woolen robe that would soon be spattered with blood. Iphi had practiced this walk for two years, knew it was perfect, knew the ceremonial dagger at her waist was not bouncing from the motion. Sheathed at my navel, the center of life. Her slippered feet continued their smooth whisper on the stone floor of the temple, taking her through the darkness to the sunlight that shone through the linteled doorway, where the victims waited outside.
At the doorway itself she paused, heavy stonework on either side, the scents of life and fresh air greeting her. She had no need to blink—though the veil that hung in front of her eyes was thin and gauze-like, its deep-set purple shielded those same eyes from the sudden change in lighting. Iphi made the pause purposeful, foreboding. The whiteness of her face would sharply contrast against the darkness of her eyes, dimly glimpsed through the veil. Arms outstretched, she stood ready to receive the sacrifices lying on the altar. Any supplicant standing directly in front of her would have seen her framed by darkness. And further on, in the interior of the temple, hints of the image of Artemis herself showed—a pale statue in the same posture, lit by hungry flames.
The pause also gave Iphi time to contemplate this, the last phase of her training. She would ascend to the priesthood by performing human sacrifice. The dagger rested easily against her waist.
Her lips parted. There was no need for a last glance at any polished bronze mirror. The red on her lips was perfect, the same as the whiteness of her face. She stiffened her belly for the pronouncement, her voice deep and confident.
The goddess will have her sacrifice
Virgin am I, who serve her
All you who stand here, adore
First off, I thought this was an amazing beginning. The image of a blood splatted robe, the knife, and the sacrifices all promise an exciting beginning. As such, I don't have many suggestions for plot and character, but I do have a few notes.
This is written in third person. However, a few of the phrases place the action firmly inside Iphi's head. For example, "The whiteness of her face would sharply contrast" can easily be replaced with "sharply contrasted." This takes it out of her head and makes it active instead of passive.
I'm also unsure of why her speech is formatted the way it is instead of with quotes. Of course, it could simply have gotten formatted strangely through email, but if not, it's something to consider. As it's shown above, it looks more like a thought or even a different scene.
The last paragraph takes me out of the story a bit. At this point, I don't feel it's important to state what would happen if other people were there. I want to know instead about the people that are there. Perhaps it's listed later, but I'd like to know how the sacrifices are reacting. They are the other characters listed in the beginning of this scene.
Thanks so much for sharing with us, Mark. Based on this beginning, I would definitely keep reading!
Make sure to check out Mark's website at http://suburbanfantasy.