Monday, January 21, 2013

Bouncer Post #40

Genre: MG Fantasy
Word Count: 52,000


Orphaned twin girls Ailish and Rylan never thought that a school field trip to the museum would launch them into a dangerous race to find out the identity of their long-lost parents.

Ailish and Rylan are too tall, smart, and peculiar for their own good, and it doesn’t help their social status that they were left on the doorstep of a loving but scatterbrained old maid. Although they love their caregiver, the girls have always felt different and they wonder who their parents were and why they were abandoned with only a note and two miniature swords.

While exploring the Somwellshire Museum, Ailish and Rylan stumble upon an ancient stone box with an Arthurian inscription and are shocked to discover their miniature swords (now worn as necklaces) are also the keys to opening it. After unlocking the box, the twins find five stone coins decorated with mysterious symbols. In order to decipher the coins, Ailish must learn how to stand on her own and Rylan must learn to trust her instincts. Unfortunately, they soon realize they are not the only ones who want to figure out the box's secret.

With help from Sammie, their enchanted dog, the girls use intuition, intelligence, and magic to outwit Dr. Medraut, the museum curator who has been struggling to open the box for decades. Ailish and Rylan must solve the mystery before Medraut does or they will never find out the truth of their lineage. 

THE MYSTERY OF THE STONE BOX is an upper middle grade fantasy complete at 52,000 words. As an identical twin, I strove to explore the complicated but fascinating relationship that often exists between twins. 

First 250

1953 Somwellshire, England

Mrs. Fipps turned her gaze towards the back of the year seven classroom.  Her cheeks were gaunt and large purple bags hung under her eyes like sagging balloons.  A well-worn wooden paddle hung from the wall next to her desk.  Family History reports littered the large desk.  “Even though we already know the story about how the twins were found on the doorstep of a lonely old lady, I suppose we’ll have to hear it again.” Her voice sounded like it was trapped in her stomach.  “Your turn to present, Rylish.”

Rylan twirled a tiny sword that hung on a necklace, not bothering to correct her name.  On the first day of school, Mrs. Fipps said she couldn’t take the time to tell her and her twin sister, Ailish, apart so she would just combine their names.  They had been Rylish or Ailyan ever since.

The two sisters looked exactly alike (pale skin, long raven black hair and emerald eyes).  No one besides Aunt Mabel and the town librarian knew which one was which.  And having the same haircut didn’t help.  But the truth was, if any of their classmates had taken the time to befriend the girls, they would have known the twins were very different.  Ailish was left-handed, Rylan was right-handed.  Ailish believed in magic, Rylan believed in logic.  Ailish was shy, Rylan was outgoing. Unfortunately, no one bothered to notice.  Somwellshire was a town filled with people who were suspicious of anything new and unusual, especially people who didn’t quite fit. 


  1. I really like your concept. I think this will be a fun MG fantasy adventure.

    Your query did a good job of setting up the problem and the stakes.

    I found your first 250 really interesting. I loved the name mashup. Even though there's a lot of information about the girls and their differences, I like the way you presented it, and I found myself wanting to know more about them.

    Good luck with your entry :)

  2. Great premise! Your query presented it very well. Of course, I want to know how the orphans get the stone box out of a museum (or get close enough to unlock it), but I guess I'll just have to read the book to find out.

    What I really love is the way you explained the orphans' backstory with the teacher's dialogue. Well done! As Jamie said, there is a lot of information covered, but the way it's presented, almost rhythmically, makes it fun to read.

    Good luck!

  3. I think you're query is really strong and I love the idea of miniature sword necklaces. Your 250 do a great job of introducing the twins, but I had a little trouble believing their teacher wouldn't even try to tell them apart. I know that is kind of nitpicky, but I couldn't get past it. I do believe that the other students and the rest of the town are like that. Overall, I'm intrigued and would read more.

  4. First off - I love the idea of identical twin sisters being the protagonists in the story. I can just imagine how they have some sort of "link" with one another that makes me interested to see how it plays out in the story. And the fact that they are "magic users" makes it even more interesting.

    The query was good but left me a little confused - I am trying to get a feel for the two main characters, and I get a glimpse when you say "In order to decipher the coins, Ailish must learn how to stand on her own and Rylan must learn to trust her instincts." I just wish I got a little bit more out of that to connect with the characters. I think it was a little vague there. I think you should bring up the fact that they have some sort of "magical" powers earlier in the query to make the query stand out more.

    But besides that, we do have their goal and that is to find out their lineage and it does make me wonder why is their lineage so important to someone else and what exactly is this box.

    As for you first 250, I love your descriptions, really in depth and it really paints a picture for the scene. It felt a tad "info dumpy" at moments in the last paragraph but it still made me want to keep reading just to learn more about the sisters. They seem outright mysterious.

    I can imagine how complex it must have been writing this story though with two protagonists like this! But so far I like what I'm seeing.

    Good luck with your entry!!

    (Copernicus post #43)

  5. Your entry made me smile as I have identical nieces. Your premise is fun - to me it comes off as reminiscent of Konigsburg's Mixed Up Files and Lemony Snicket's Events. I like that the swords are keys and it starts me wondering (in a good way) how the girls will use them to work together and get that box open. I'm totally rocking to the setting in a museum.

    I have a few things to consider regarding your query. First, I thought it convenient how the mcs found the box - just stumbling on it. The characters should drive the plot. My *personal opinion* is this inciting incident would work better if the girls went actively looking for the box. Second, the antagonist needs some work - as is, he doesn't sound like much of an obstacle. He doesn't need to be "evil" but his motivation, and why it is opposed to the girls', should be crystal clear. Generally, there needs to be more indications of what conflicts there are in the story. Third - I don't think you really need the second paragraph - the scatterbrained caregiver is not important enough to mention here. Fourth - the "magic" dropped in unexpectedly at the end. It should be introduced as part of the story earlier. Fifth, I agree with Copernicus above that the girls' personalities need to shine through more - perhaps put in something specific. For example: Ailish cuts her hair exactly like her sister's (perhaps also introducing conflict between the sisters) and Rylan draws up exhaustive lists before she makes a decision.

    Insofar as your 250 I really liked that you started in a place I as a reader can get a feel for Rylan's world. The major place for improvement I see is the POV needs to be deepened. I have no idea how Rylan feels about anything. Does she like her raven black hair? Is annoyed her sister cut hers exactly the same? Hate that her teacher can't remember her name? Like it in a mischievous sort of way? etc. I also agree with Copernicus about that third paragraph. The story grinds to a halt. It would be much better to work all that information into scenes where *things are happening* For instance, Rylan presents to the class her essay on Seurat's Sunday Afternoon painting, and she starts talking about exactly how many dots of paint she'd estimated it contained...

    One last thing I'm wondering is why the story is set in 1953. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that, but why couldn't it be contemporary? If there is a specific reason, I think it would be good to work it in somewhere (ex - some historical event is integral to the plot).

    That was an abundant critique, I know (I do that to my cps, you're not alone), but I think you have such a cool story here, I'd love to see it all shiny. Good luck!

  6. I enjoyed this and would love to read more. The only real nit I had was that their physical description (pale skin, black hair and emerald eyes) is becoming cliche, particularly the emerald eyes. Might feel less cliche if described more organically.
    Other than that silly nit, I think this is great.

  7. Love the start of your story! Definitely paints a clear picture of what's to come. Drew me in an I wanted to read more. Good luck!

  8. Great query, great first page, great premise. I wish you the best of luck, Twinkie.

  9. Oooh, I love MG that involves museums and artifacts! The sword necklaces are an awesome touch. And twin sisters adds an extra flare too. This definitely has a storyline I like. :) With your entry, I wish we had more than 250 words because I want to see how you handle the point-of-view situation.

    I think you could have some fun with these lines: "Ailish believed in magic, Rylan believed in logic. Ailish was shy, Rylan was outgoing. Unfortunately, no one bothered to notice."

    Instead of coming right out and telling us this, you could introduce their personalities to the reader through their words and actions. Not exactly like this, but maybe if the teacher calls on Ailish, she might squirm in her seat while Rylan takes over answering the question. Something like that.

    I think you've got a very fun story here! Best of luck!

  10. I’m afraid I’m not bouncing your entry in, but I do have some feedback and thoughts for you that I hope you'll find helpful.

    Query: Overall this is an intriguing concept, but a few things tripped me up.
    o For example, the hook at the opening sounds like it’s missing the second half. Every hook needs a “sinker” to go with it and this felt lacking to me.
    o The second paragraph felt like back story. Can this be summed up in one sentence?
    o I found this line is confusing: “In order to decipher the coins, Ailish must learn how to stand on her own and Rylan must learn to trust her instincts.” This may just be personal preference, but I’m not really sure what that means or what to take away from that. It’s rather vague.
    o The appearance of the magic dog was a bit sudden. Can this be hinted at or addressed earlier?
    o I think we need a little bit more about what this box is supposed to do. From the query it sounds like it holds coins. What makes it so special and what are the stakes for the bad guy?
    o I do want to say how much I like the concept - museum stories are one of my faves, and I love the idea of the MCs being twins.

    First Page:
    o I feel as though there’s a lot more tell than show here. That said, you’ve got a Fantastic voice!
    o The first paragraph makes me think we’re in for back story right off the bat. It's heavy on description and light on conflict. It's usually best to try for a balance between the two.

    Anyway, I hope you find something useful in my thoughts - keep writing, keep revising, and thanks for entering the contest! :D

  11. Thanks everyone for such great feedback! I'm excited to go back and revise - this has been such an awesome contest. Best of luck to all those moving forward!!!