Wednesday, June 13, 2012

WINNERS! + YA Page Critique

Thanks to everyone for entering the YA book giveaway this last week! Congrats to the winners I've already contacted, courtesy of

3. STARTERS: Tinkerbell the Bipolar Faerie!
4. DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE: Alexia Chamberlynn! 

I would also like to announce that due to me moving next week to sweatingly hot Chico, California, I will be on blog vacation for 3 weeks! I will reappear July 10th (yep, a Tuesday for that week). Sorry I haven't been active in the blogosphere lately, and I'm sad to miss your latest bloggy news, but I've been busy with yard sales, packing, and other moving prep.  

Today's first page excerpt is a YA paranormal by Alice Fleury that is more horror than romance. The title is A Certain Presence. Please add your helpful feedback below!

A black bird perched on the sign painted with the words: Fortune $5. He strutted and twitched and eyed the people outside the tent.

My best friend Bree had maneuvered herself to the front of the line. She hadn’t noticed I’d fallen behind. Kate wouldn’t like this. Not that I would tell her. It was cooler under the tree. A lake breeze blew stray hairs that tickled my face.

“Gen.” Bree jumped out of line. Her pink streaked hair straggled along her shoulders. “C’mon.” She pulled me inside. “We’re next. And you owe me five bucks.”

To our left a table displayed baubles and herbs. Decks of Tarot cards and booklets about psychic phenomena were for sale. Business cards with Madame Nadine’s information lay in a porcelain hand.

Smashed grass created a path to gauzy fabric draped from poles. The curtain parted and a woman walked past me and Bree like she was dazed.

“Come.” Madame beckoned us. Her bracelets clinked with the graceful movement of her arms. “Come.” Candles flickered on a red tablecloth casting shadows behind her.

Bree stuck her hand out. “Me first.”

Madame’s eyes shone like black marbles and her red lips smiled. She cupped Bree’s hand in hers. “Ahh, a long life line.

Bree giggled.

Smoke snaked from the candle flames accumulating in the space between us. Madame’s and Bree’s words became murmurs, their bodies’ silhouettes. My neck prickled and chills ran down my arms. “Genevieve.” A translucent figure whispered my name.

1. Opening Line. The opening line speaks of something unusual going on, and is attention-getting. It's possibly somewhat cliché to have a raven hanging around as an ill omen (or a witch's familiar?), but it's interesting nevertheless.
2. Things that threw me off.
Bree's maneuvering to the front of the line. There was previous mention of a tent and some people, but the line seemed to appear out of nowhere. I also got confused by Bree pulling Gen "inside" and then mentions of grass like they were still outside.
Bree vs. Kate. First Bree is introduced, and then the paragraph immediately switches to a mention of Kate. More info would be nice to tell who she is, or else the mention of Kate separated more from Bree.
Kate vs. temperature/breeze. It was cooler under the tree. A lake breeze blew stray hairs that tickled my face. These lines didn't seem to mesh with Kate's disapproval; are they connected? I expected to read more about Kate, or have those things relate to her. These could be bumped to a new paragraph, or a transition phrase added.
The dazed woman leaving tent vs Madame Nadine. Since it was Bree/Gen's turn at the tent, I assumed the woman emerging was Madame Nadine, and she was going to greet them. That threw me off momentarily.
3. A wordy sentence: Business cards with Madame Nadine’s information lay in a porcelain hand. Tighter: Madame Nadine's business cards lay in a porcelain hand.
4. Two ambiguous sentences: Smoke snaked from the candle flames accumulating in the space between us. Also: Candles flickered on a red tablecloth casting shadows behind her. Is it the smoke that is accumulating, or the candle flames? Are the candles casting shadows, or the tablecloth? It sounds like the latter in both instances, which I don't think is the intent. A comma would help, but rewording might make the intent even more clear:
Smoke snaked from the candle flames, and accumulated in the space between us.
Candles flickered on a red tablecloth, and cast shadows behind her.
5. Shouldn't Bree or Gen pay Madame? A short phrase or even a single word added would take care of this: Bree paid, and stuck her hand out.
6. No end quote, and no possessive needed: “Ahh, a long life line. Need end quote mark. Madame’s and Bree’s words became murmurs, their bodies’ silhouettes. There is no possessive involved with bodies, just a plural. The word "became" is implied: …their bodies [became] silhouettes.

Kudos and Overall Thoughts: Nicely creepily paranormal in tone, and I like the whispered voice at the end. Despite the minor confusions as I read, the page flows well and makes for an intriguing start. I like the smoke "snaking," and the way Bree's hair (and thus a bit of her personality) is described without stopping the action. I'm very curious as to what will happen next, which is a good thing!

What praise or comments can you add to help Alice refine her work?
Have you ever had your fortune told via palm reading?
If you have a blog, when's the last time YOU treated yourself to a blog vacation?


  1. Congratulations to your winners, Carol. I like the creepy paranormal feeling in this excerpt too - wonderful writing, Alice! Good luck with your move, dear friend. I'll be looking forward to seeing your blog again next month!

  2. Congrats to the winners and here's to a safe and successful move. See you in a few weeks. Cheers and boogie boogie.

  3. I'll miss you, Carol! See you when you get back!

  4. Congratulations to the winners!

    Good luck with your move. I hope it goes smoothly.

    I'd agree with your critique of the page.

  5. Yay, I'm a winner! Thanks so much for this awesome giveaway and congrats again on 400 followers!

    As for the crit, great as usual. I too was thrown off by the reference to Kate. I agree with your other notes as well. Overall though, I think this is a pretty strong page. As for ravens, I love them, and it was kind of a cool and funky opening line, IMO. Good luck, Alice!

    And good luck moving, Carol!

  6. Congrats to the winners!
    And great critique, as always!!

    You will be missed during your movers vacation!

  7. Congrats to the winners!!
    Oh, you're coming back to blogging on my birthday!!! YAY! Have a great break and a smooth move.
    Great excerpt and great critique. I particularly like the title too.

  8. Thanks for sharing. Always love reviews and articles on tarot. Love that there are so many to choose from as well, they all speak in their own language.

  9. Hope the move goes smoothly! Will see you when you return!

  10. Wishing you a good moving experience.

  11. Agreed with Carol's points (as always, so this week I won't repeat you!). Minor additions:

    "Kate wouldn’t like this." I assume you mean visiting the fortune teller, but the closest noun or verb to 'this' is the fact that the narrator had fallen behind in the line, whereas the fortunes are mentioned three sentences earlier. I'd like it to be clearer what 'this' refers to.

    My next point is really picky, but I notice several instances of the same or very similar sentence constructions being used in a row: in the third paragraph, one word of dialogue gets followed by a brief action beat twice; in paragraphs four and five you have very similar rhythms across four brief sentences that all describe what an object is or is doing. This is late stage editing stuff to think about it, but I just wanted to point it out. Variety is the spice of life and all that!

  12. Moving is sooo much work! Good luck and I hope you love your new home!

    I liked this excerpt with it's mysterious undertones, and your critique was as on-target and as insightful as always. I also liked some of the details such as the "smashed grass."

    Last but not least: Congratulations to the contest winners!

  13. Best of luck on the move! I know it can be pretty stressful so keep smiling! Look forward to hearing from you in July!

  14. Great crit as always.

    Good luck and safe travels for your move!

  15. Hope the move goes well, and you find a little time to relax xx

  16. Congrats to the winners and I hope the move goes well.

    Great crit.

    I would remove the colon in the first line and put the title of the sign in italics (or not, but I don't think the colon needs to be there).

    I was thinking paragraphs 4 and 5, which are descriptive, can be combined.

    There needs to be an end quote after life line.

  17. Congratulations to all the winners!

  18. Congrats to the winners. Good luck with your move! Stay cool!

  19. I've just had a blogacation actually! Forced on me by a trip to Uk and then getting back to find my PC burned out! Had to get a new pc - so back online now.. Phew... Good luck with the move!

  20. congratulations to the winners and good luck with your move....Look forward to seeing you back in blogland.

  21. Super job on the critique. Hope her rewrite is easier with your comments in mind. I haven't had a blog vacation for a year, but come Sept. I'm definitely taking a break.

    Joined your site!

  22. I've never had my fortune read. And I gave up on that powerful opening line. I just couldn;t come up with one. So I opted for a powerful opening page.

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  24. Congrats to the winners! Hope your move went smoothly, Carol. :-)

  25. Hiya

    Great piece Alice. It's coming along nicely. Thanks for being willing to post it and have others read it. I love the setting though it could be tightened a little. Eg adding the main character to your opening paragraph.

    Your characters come across strongly even though it's such a small piece. Though i wasn't sure who Kate was. Maybe you could either take it out, or add to it. Is she a older sister, a parent or someone of importance and how important. And why is she worried about what Kate thinks.

    Thanks again for posting it. It takes guts to put a piece of your hard work out in the public to be read and commented on.

    Well done Alice.

    Hope your move went well Carol.



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