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Jay Greenstein
February 4th, 2017, 07:59 PM
This is the blurb and first chapter of a Tween/YA I’m about to begin querying, and I need reaction before I do. You can be a huge help. What I’m seeking is reaction to both the query blurb and the sample. Specifically, would you, or your kids, want to read more?

The query blurb:
Dave Cook lives with a crazy-man. Ted, his father, likes nothing more than to drive his son to distraction. It's part of his plan to teach young Dave to think for himself, but at times Ted is apt to do such things as introducing himself as his nonexistent twin brother, or as a creature from a far off galaxy. Ted has a penchant for such bizarre things as bringing live chickens on a camping trip, and for trying to convince young Dave that the voice coming through the heating vent is that of a creature who lives within the floor.

Over the years, through Dave's memories of his father, we learn of tricks played at home and on camping trips, and of Ted's effect on Dave's life. In the end, when his father lies dying of cancer, Dave must, with his father's help, learn to face his grief, and come to terms with it.


Chapter 1 - In which I meet magic

Magic entered my life on the day I met Floorzan. I must have been about four years old, but I remember it as if it was yesterday. I was in the living room, lying on the rug and feeling pretty good.

We had just come from grandmom’s house, and I was playing with the toy they’d given me when, from the heating vent, came the oddest noise—what I later learned was called yodeling. At the time I thought someone, or something was inside the floor.

You might wonder why I was so easily fooled. But for me, at four, strange things happened all the time. After all, television sets and telephones talked, why not floors?

For a while, I stared at the vent wondering what was going on. After all, it’s a surprise when something you believed a benign—and inert—part of the house seems to be hosting living things. It’s more of a surprise when it begins to talk, which the vent soon began to do.

The yodeling continued, so I hurried over for a look. I was nervous about what I might find, but figured the tiny openings in the vent would keep whatever was making the noises safely inside the floor. Besides, no one ever said the vent could be dangerous, and they surely would have if it was, right?

I strained to see into the vent, but it was pretty dark in there. In any case, before I could do much in the way of checking, a high-pitched voice said, “Hello?” That got my face back from the vent with a jerk. I would guess my eyebrows probably tried to climb into my hairline, too.

I suppose I should have been scared, and maybe I was for a moment or two. But now, I only remember being surprised and intrigued. In the interest of establishing communications I said a friendly “Hello?” I was still a bit unsure.

“Who’s that?” asked the voice, as though it had been expecting someone else.

“I’m David,” I said, wondering if I should stay or run for help. “Who…who are you?”

“I’m Floorzan,” the voice said. “I’m hunting pergles. Where are you? I can’t see you.”

That set me thinking. In the first place I didn’t know what a pergle was. Added to that, I really wanted to ask the creature what it was. Four year olds aren’t able to handle too much at once, though, so I concentrated on the problem of where I was, informing Floorzan, “I’m here.”

That wasn’t much help, I suppose, because he asked, “Here? Where’s here?”

I’d never given much thought to the idea that “here” might not mean the same thing to someone else as it did to me, or that it wouldn’t tell them too much about where I was, especially if they couldn’t see me. I must have waited too long, because Floorzan prompted me with, “Are you in the floor?”

It made me giggle, that he could be so silly.

“No,” I said, laughing, “Of course not.” Then, I had a thought and stopped laughing. I leaned close to the vent to ask, “Are you...do you live in the floor?” An intriguing possibility.

“Sure,” he said. “Doesn’t everyone? Where else would—” He stopped, abruptly. Then in a hesitant voice, said, “You’re not...not a wallzan, are you?”

By then I was having a wonderful time, so I lay down next to the vent and rested my chin on the back of my hands, asking, “What’s a wallzan?” It sounded as though there were a whole host of things about my house I didn’t know.

“You don’t know? How can you not know? A wallzan is a tall thin creature who lives in the walls. They don’t talk and they smell awful. They scare me, because they’re mean and rotten, and they eat floorzans whenever they can. That’s why I never get close to the walls, and why I use the vents to get from one floor to the other.” He was quiet for a moment, then asked, “What do you look like? Are you handsome?”

With four year old brilliance, I said, “I look like me, David. What do you look like?”

After a thoughtful silence, Floorzan said, “Well, I’m very handsome. I have ten beautiful legs, and—”

I couldn’t let that statement pass uncommented on, so I interrupted with, “You have ten legs?”

“Of course. How many legs do you have?” He sounded surprised that I would ask.

“I have two,” I told him, firmly.

There was wonder in his voice when he finally spoke. “Only two legs? How horrible. Did a wallzan catch you and eat them off?” He sounded sorry for me, but I laughed.

“No,” I said, still giggling. “Everybody has two legs.”

“I don’t,” he pointed out. Then, in a voice every bit as as assured as mine, he said, “I have ten, just like everyone else.” There was a sudden frown in his voice, when he said, “Hey, what are you? Aren’t you a Floorzan, too?”

There I was on firm ground. “I’m a boy, “ I said, but he only asked what a boy was, and when I said I was a human, he asked what a human was. That had me stumped, but before I could say anything in response, he said, “I have to go now, I hear a pergle.”

With that, he began the strange yodeling again. It got softer and softer as though going away. I called, but no answer came.


Several days passed before I heard from Floorzan. This time I was in my bedroom, investigating the underside of my bed. It was much more interesting than the underside of the dresser, which was just unpainted wood, with my scribbled pencil marks here and there. Cloth covered the bed’s bottom, and if you pushed up on it with a fingertip there was nothing on the other side, so it just stretched upward. There were holes marking the spots where I pushed a pencil through, trying to write on it, and I was wondering what was on the other side. I was about to spread one of the holes with my fingers, so I could find out, when from the bedroom heating vent, came the call of the Floorzan. By then I pretty much knew it was Dad. Impressed with my own deductive powers, I hurried to the vent, laughing as I said, “Hi Daddy.” I hadn’t figured out how he did it, but still, I knew it was him.

“Daddy?” asked the voice. “What’s a daddy? And who are you? I’m looking for the David creature. Have you seen it?” He sounded confused, and wondered if I’d been wrong about it being Dad.

I was about to insist, when I realized that if I did, the game would be over. I was having too much fun for that, so instead, I said, “You’re silly, a daddy is somebody who takes care of you. Do you have a daddy?”

As though I hadn’t questioned his reality, he went on with the game, deliberately skeptical of my assumptions—forcing me to think for myself, and challenging my tiny intellect to solve the problems he posed.

Over the next few years I came to know and love Floorzan in his many variations. There was Carzan, the creature who lived under the car seat, and Frank, the vent-cleaning beast, who only came on Thursdays. There were many other creatures living under my floor, and I loved them all.

I never did catch Dad at it, though I tried pretty hard for a time. He always heard me coming, or guessed by my silence that I was stalking him, and when I charged into the room where he was, he was always well away from the room’s vent, reading, or pretending to be asleep. If I mentioned Floorzan, he always denied that such a creature existed, claiming I had an overactive imagination.

Of course my friends thought Dad was crazy, if he did it when they were visiting, but they loved it too. I can’t wait until I have kids so I can do the same thing to them.

bdcharles
February 5th, 2017, 06:21 PM
Hi Jay,

In general I rather enjoyed it. Here are some comments:

Query blurb:

The first thing is I am not sure how much I buy into a four year old called "Dave Cook". This name sounds more like an off work labourer down the pub, so maybe a simple "David" might suffice.

The next is that, while perfectly followable, the blurb seemed a bit "bitty" in places, not as succinct as it could be. Phrases like "Such things as" and "camping trip" surface twice in this short bit, and there's some padding words. In my head I wanted it to read:


Four year old David lives with a crazy-man - Ted, his father, who likes nothing more than to drive his son to distraction, which he hopes will teach David to think for himself. For instance, he introduces himself as his nonexistent twin brother or as a creature from a far off galaxy, and has a penchant for bringing live chickens on a camping trip, or trying to convince young David that the voice coming through the heating vent is that of a creature who lives within the floor.

Through David's memories of his father, we learn of tricks played over the years, and of Ted's effect on his son's life. In the end, when Ted lies dying of cancer, David must, with his father's help, learn to face, and come to terms with, his grief.


Chapter 1:

Love the opening line - just perfect. Though maybe you could fill out the details and maybe use this moment to bring in anything of later significance, for use as a motif or other device. Additions in blue.

"Magic entered my life on the day I met Floorzan. I must have been about four years old, but I remember it as if it was yesterday, lying in the living room, [playing with XYZ significant toy] on the [rug and feeling pretty good."

Again the voice carries on through pretty well. One thing:

"You might wonder why I was so easily fooled. But for me, at four, strange things happened all the time. After all, television sets and telephones talked,[<- why comma splice this bit? adding "so" might work here] why not floors?"

The woird "vent" gets mentioned alot. I know it's a major thing, but is there some way you can rephrase? Otherwise it sounds a bit too ... ill-considered, rushed even. Eg. you could work around a repetition here as follows:

"For a while, I stared at the thin vertical strips of metal through which warm air flowed, wondering what was going on."

That way, we avoid repetition, and get some sensory info and scenery that David interacts with. Of course you may have to research A/C construction terms to get even more altertatives but them's the breaks :) Maybe you could even imbue the warm air with a stench - or a sweet smell, depending on whether you want thtreat or comfort issuing from it.

Is there some way you can make more of David's realisation that it is his dad? I think it would be good to believe that the floorzan is an actual monster for longer - it could give it a really Dalh-esque feel. That magic is gone too soon, for me. Have that realisation a bigger plot point or reveal or something.

Love the names - Floorzan, Wallzan, Carzan. I really enjoyed the slightly nutty feel of all this. To me wallzans have a "bad monster" vibe which of course only serves to increase the creep, which is good. It's just a few repetitions and minimally clunky bits needing smoothing over to address. Hope this all helps :)

Olly Buckle
February 9th, 2017, 10:59 PM
Chapter 1 - In which I meet magic

Magic entered my life on the day I met Floorzan. I must have been about four years old, but I remember it as if it was yesterday. I was in the living room, lying on the rug and feeling pretty good.

Mark Twain, seven and a half cent word “Magic came into my life the day I met Floorzan” Keep it simple and easy to read would be my advice
“I must have been about four years old” come down a peg, ‘I was about four’? shorter the better, it is not wildly important so long as they can associate, I could even make an argument for keeping it vague, “I was just properly walking and talking” , but that is another kettle of fish.
“but I remember it as if it was yesterday”
Do you really want to use such a cliché second sentence, first paragraph?
There are also four I’s in those first two lines, couldn’t you amalgamate some of them?
My impression is a bit more description of the rug and the room wouldn’t come amiss, my feeling is young readers like to ‘position’ themselves.


We had just come from grandmom’s house, and I was playing with the toy they’d given me when, from the heating vent, came the oddest noise—what I later learned was called yodeling. At the time I thought someone, or something was inside the floor.

“We had just come from grandmom’s”
‘Just’ is one of my ‘pet hates’, it adds hardly anything in most situations and is also a mongrel of many, many meanings. I think it is a carryover from speech with all its ‘you know’ and ‘anyway, and ‘so like’ that we all use to give us time to think. Rant over.
“, and I was playing with the toy they’d given me when,” brief version, ‘...and I had a toy, when...’
“...when, from the heating vent, came the oddest noise”
Yes, the commas for the sub clause are right; but why not simplify the order of the concepts and do way with it all-together? ‘... when the oddest noise came from the heating vent, yodelling I learned later’.

This is quite hard work, and I am going to stop for a bit, but I think the overall message is simplify and relax, your projected audience are not familiar with literature yet and have many distractions, addmittedly just my view.

Theglasshouse
February 9th, 2017, 11:17 PM
I felt like commenting since I usually comment on concepts after reading and besides I found your comments helpful to me. I enjoyed the read. Don't know why he refers to it as a creature but should have lots of references to how my reaction is how creatures are disrespected. Maybe there is an idea there.

It was difficult to understand the advice you often give but now I know scene construction is swain's subject matter.

Anyways sounds like a mix between utopia and dystopia since I get the impression technology speaks in this story to people. I liked the story and think it can be deepened in getting a response. I don't often read stories with technology besides robots talking to other people in the flesh.

I felt on commenting on the ideas since that is all I can do at the moment.

The quote about tv talking to you don't know if it has been done, or phones. But could be something I got from the reading.

The fact that one the character values animals or has a penchant for chickens and collecting them,
could hint he is sort of misguided too.

Lastly, I didn't get it could be his dad playing tricks on him but makes sense. This is something I like. It bonds the reader. You ask why is he doing it? (if it were me I would have delayed that information and played around with this though maybe it is me thinking that would be better?)

Thanks for posting this story to read it.

Jay Greenstein
February 10th, 2017, 02:05 AM
The fact that one the character values animals or has a penchant for chickens and collecting them, could hint he is sort of misguided too.Actually, they're dinner. :D

GoodBadger
February 11th, 2017, 12:14 AM
This reminds me very much of Roald Dahl. I think what you have is the basis of the first four or five chapters of a children's book, rather than chapter 1 of a YA. Of course it needs panning out, but there-in lies the joy. Tell the story of Floorzan and Carzan and Wallzan without the immediate reveal that it is Dad. Clever sub-plotting and a considered ending will lead you to an accomplished children's story.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

malone76
February 11th, 2017, 07:26 AM
The Query blurb got me very interested to read what was next. Mission accomplished. I enjoyed your writing style very much. I think my 14 year old nephew would enjoy this.

qwertyman
February 11th, 2017, 11:50 AM
Hi Jay, My first impression is the blurb is overwritten. Also, if the intention of Ted's behaviour is to prepare his son for his father's approaching death, it falls short on clarity.



The query blurb:
Dave Cook lives with a crazy-man.,Ted, his father, who likes nothing more than to drive his son to distraction Too near to a cliche, consider revising.. It's part of His plan is to teach young Dave to think for himself, but at times Ted is apt to do such things as Consider...game plan/ strategy/ purpose? introducing himself as his nonexistent twin brother, or as a creature from a far off galaxy. Ted has a penchant for such bizarre things as Repetitive. bringing live chickens on a camping trip, and for trying to convince young Dave that the voice coming through the heating vent is that of a creature who lives within the floor.

Over the years, through Dave's memories of his father, we learn of tricks played at home and on camping trips, Repetitive. and of Ted's effect on Dave's life. In the end, when his father lies dying of cancer, Dave must, with his father's help, learn to face his grief, and come to terms with it.
***
It might read like this:

Dave Cook lives with a crazy man, his father. Whose bizarre behaviour - like introducing himself as his non-existent twin brother, or as a creature from a far off galaxy, and furniture that can speak, has a purpose. Dad is dying of cancer and he wants to prepare his son to face an adult world without him.

Chapter one is convincing. Although, not my genre, nor my subject matter, I would read on. I worry that a potential publisher of a YA would be attracted by a parental cancer-death story.


I never did catch Dad at it, though I tried pretty hard for a time.

I would prefer to know the age of the narrator, it makes it easier to interpret the voice (maturity of word choice etc.).

It's only my opinion.

Just saying,

qwerty.

WordAddict
February 16th, 2017, 12:58 AM
Hi Jay,

I don't feel I have the experience to critique your writing but I know what I like and I liked your story. I'm neither Tween nor YA but I was charmed by both the little boy and his father and I would like to read more.