Monday, February 4, 2013

Bouncer Post #108

Genre: Upper MG Urban Fantasy
Word Count: 62,000


Set in twentieth century London, the story follows thirteen-year-old William Tucker, who is the youngest, and smallest member in his family’s long-line of creature catchers.  Started by his grandfather and now run by his father and two, rather large, rather awe-inspiring older twin sisters, The Gryphon is now the most respected in all of London. Tuck longs to be assigned creatures larger and far more perilous than those he has been assigned to hunt so far, but his astonishing accidents, unbelievable incidents and incredible mistakes have not yet allowed that wish to come to pass. 

Finally he is given the opportunity with a task at the Spellbynder School of Practical Sorcery in the north end.  He meets Stella, a thirteen-year-old wizard’s apprentice who helps him, with her emerging talent, sharp wit and unfathomable knowledge, follow the trail of the wisps of jet-black smoke and the ravens that have been seen near every disaster throughout the city. 

The trails do indeed lead to larger and more perilous creatures, but also to casters of arcane magic who are casting spells to tear away the fabric of reality. It is within these gaps that the Morrighan, goddess of battle and death is manifesting her power, building her strength and her armies for an assault on London. Tuck and Stella are separated from the others and find new allies in a group of orphans, children much like themselves who catch creatures on the streets of London in order to survive.  They soon realize they will need the entirety of Gryphon House as well as a faith in these new allies if they hope to stop Morrighan before she has reached her full power.

THE GRYPHON HOUSE OF THE FEARSOME, FRIGHTENING AND FORMIDABLE is my debut.  It is a 62,000-word Urban Fantasy MG novel with plans to be a series.

I am a few credits away from getting my Masters in English Literature with a concentration in Fantasy (Tolkien, CS Lewis, Lewis Carroll, GK Chesterton, etc.) and wrote this novel over the past three months while taking these classes.

First 250

The last remnants of the morning mist hugged the cobblestone streets tightly after blanketing all of London on a very uneventful night. As the first bit of sunlight pierced through the darkness the mist began to race, skimming the surface of the cobbles as it moved wildly through the streets, trying to avoid the touch that would ultimately dissipate it.

Moving farther and farther from the Thames, the mist twisted and turned, down back alleys and snickelways, eventually being caught as it turned on to Barrow Street and faced the slowly rising sun. The last bits of mist floated away, falling just short of the darkness within a snickelway that lead off the road.

Several stories up, thirteen-year-old William Tucker waited silently at the edge of an old, drafty, tumbledown brick building and stared down onto the street below. Five feet tall, with wispy blond hair, both uncut and unkempt, Tuck was slightly smaller for his age and occupation than he and much of his family had hoped. He wore a grey button down shirt with the word GRYPHON neatly printed on the single pocket (well, as neatly as could be managed by a thirteen-year-old hand in haste). At his feet there lay several items that were rather unusual for someone his age: an old canvas bag, a long length of rope, a whip, and a bright silver hammer. In his hand was a piece of blackthorn, pared clean of its bark and razor sharp thorns, hand rubbed to a smooth polished finish.


  1. I really like the writing (and I love the word snickelway!). My advice for the query: don't mention you wrote this in three months or that it is your debut. But overall I thought it was intriguing and I'd read on :)
    Mara Rae #119

  2. Both your query and your opening 250 words have hooked me in. I especially like your description of following the wisps of jet-black smoke and ravens. Definitely sets the mood! I have one little suggestion about your query. You state that the story takes place in twentieth century London, but that's a fairly wide time span. I'm getting sort of an old-fashioned vibe from the cobblestones and snickelways (I'm with Mara--great word!) but it might help to pinpoint a more specific time period. Good luck in the contest!

  3. Erin thank you so much! The time frame is 1910 so you're right it is a little old-fashioned. Great words available to use and the influence of Steampunk. the story is a lot of fun.

  4. Mara I appreciate the suggestions and will make the changes for later use. I love the word snickelways too.

  5. Very nice! I'm another fan of 'snickleway'.

    I *love* the flavour of this -- the mythology mixed with London -- and I'd agree with Mara and Erin that it would be good to use a more specific term for the timeframe -- "on the eve of the First World War"? "Shortly after the turn of the century"?

    Such a tiny point I feel silly for mentioning it (but it made me twitch so I will): "It is a 62,000-word Urban Fantasy MG novel with plans to be a series" implies to me that the novel has plans. Often, I think, people say "with series potential".

    I agree with Mara that I'd remove the bit about 3 months (although congratulations -- that's fantastic!).

    Anyway, those are really minor points -- it's a fantastic-sounding story.

    1. Anna thank you so much for the ideas. Minor points are important in things you would hope to do well, so I appreciate all of it.

  6. I agree that playing up the setting is very important.

    Also, given that your MC is a wand-wielding adolescent with uncooperative hair and a quest to prevent a big bad magical foe from manifesting power and gathering her followers for an assault on England, AND that this same MC is a junior member of the highly respected "Gryphon House" (where a set of older twins rule the roost), has an extremely talented and knowledgeable young female wizard sidekick, AND must raise an army of magical child vigilantes to overcome evil, I suspect there are some details that you probably want to change to ensure that your story comes across as fresh.

    Since we only have your query + 250, only you know how closely your novel actually parallels the best selling fantasy series of the past 20 years, and how much it is really its own story that isn't well represented in the query. If the former, you may want to set aside and revise/scavenge the manuscript later. If the latter, I would recommend revising your query to really focus on the uniqueness of your story.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. That second sentence is 102 words long and extremely inaccurate. You should consider breaking it into several sentences next time you wish to write a critique in a tone that might or might not be appropriate for this site. Thanks for your time though.

  7. HAHA thank you so much for your words of wisdom. The MC has no magical powers except a few tricks he has learned in his line of work. His twin sisters would beat you half to death if they were to hear you compare them to Ron's brothers. The Gryphon House is a very well established business in London and they spend most of their time on the contracts they have accepted to capture and bring back alive the larger beasts. The army is not magical nor vigilantes but street urchins trying to earn a living the best way they know how. After re-reading your comments I appreciate your opinion but need to ask if you had really read the query? Also, Anonymous is a rather interesting way of presenting yourself as well. Thank you for your comments.

  8. Your premise is really interesting - I was immediately grabbed by creature catchers. I do think your query could be tightened up a bit and focused more. We're told a lot about the Gryphon and the main character's family, but I don't really know what the initial conflict is. What is the task he is given at the school? There's a disconnect between when he gets the task to discovering the Morrigan that I think could be expanded on too.

    Your first 250 words are strong, and this was a tough decision, but unfortunately I decided to pick another entry to move to the next round. Good luck with your writing.

    1. Thank you so much for the help. The Gryphon and the MC's family and the adventures they go on catching these creatures are the story, each adventure being a conflict in its own. The task at the school is just another contract they have taken out and it allows the MC to come of age a little as well as meet Stella. There are several other adventures that connect the task to them discovering the plot to release the Morrighan, about 150 pages actually. It is a series of instances where darkness comes onto the streets of London, they have to struggle with each one until they are brought together for the final battle.