Tuesday, July 20, 2010

2 #31 Holly Dodson

Title: Emerald's Keeper
Author: Holly Dodson

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Mandy Samkirk had no warning of the life-changing events about to unfold; only the lingering worry from a recurring dream that nagged at her thoughts. She could still feel the shadow of evil that hung like an impenetrable cloud in the sky, the smell of decay. Cries for help echoed through her mind with panic so thick it was palpable. She squeezed her eyes shut to block the memory out; the cool kitchen counter beneath her arms anchored her to reality.

“We’ve got a special surprise for you today, sweetheart,” her mother said, setting the last clean plate in the rack beside the sink to dry. The bright smile on her mom’s face had been plastered there all morning.

“What kind of surprise? Is John coming?” Mandy tried not to get her hopes up but failed miserably.

The last time she’d seen John had been at Christmas over a year ago, and that had been the first time she’d seen him since his fight with Dad. He had really looked awful too, like maybe he had the flu or something. Mandy missed him more than she cared to admit.
“Sorry, sweetheart.” Her mother turned to face her across the bar, a sadness in her eyes Mandy hadn’t expected. “He’s not coming. I did try to convince him but well, you know John. He sent you a letter though.” She rifled through a stack of mail on the counter and pulled out a battered envelope, “Here it is.”


  1. Great writing. Love how you use all your senses. Be careful about using too many semicolons though. Eliminate where possible. I'd be worried that using two in the first paragraph might send up a red-flag. I know it sounds picky, but when agents and editors have piles to go through and they glance at the first paragraph just looking for a reason... Well, you get the idea. The only line that bothered me was "Mandy tried not to get her hopes up but failed miserably. I think a show vs. tell here would be great. What was her physical reaction when she thought about John? Does that give us a better clue to what role he is going to play in her life? Also, would her mother be distracted from sharing her surprise long enough to dig out the letter? I don't know the answer to that one because I don't know what's going to happen, but thought I'd point it out.

  2. I think the first paragraph is very evocative, especially the line “the cool kitchen counter beneath her arms anchored her to reality.” I agree that you should get rid of the semi-colons – I feel like those are for essays, not fiction. The first paragraph is a bit adjective heavy. I had to read it through a couple of times before I had a clear picture, and you risk losing your audience. I love the image that the paragraph evokes, but maybe there’s a way to do that with a few less words. The interaction between Mandy and her mom felt a little forced, like you were trying too hard to convey information to us rather than let the interaction happen naturally, and trust that the information will then be revealed naturally. Maybe just changing or eliminating the explanation paragraph in the middle of the dialogue and eliminating unnecessary information like “the last clean plate” would help. I agree with Lisa’s comments about show vs. tell and with her comments about the letter. The way the letter was presented was distracting, rather than intriguing.

    Since you haven’t included a query, I’m not sure what the story is about except that the first line told me that life-changing events are about to occur and the first paragraph is clearly a premonition of some sort. I’m definitely interested at the outset, but I feel like you need to carry the suspense/mystery through the page more or the reader won’t have a compelling reason to find out what life-changing events are about to occur.


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