Monday, March 7, 2011

Catch Me if You Can Blogfest

Kristina Fugate is hosting a great blogfest over at: So hurry over and get signed up and participate! The rules are simple, and she's giving away a $20 Amazon gift card to a lucky participant! She says: "We've all heard it a millon times: If your book doesn't catch the agent/publisher's eye quickly, they'll probably reject it. So, I'm sure at one time or another we've asked ourselves, "Does my WIP catch people's attention right away?""

Here are the first 550 words of MANIFESTED, currently undergoing a major revision. :) So, please, leave your critique in the comments, or feel free to email me (my email is listed in the sidebar to the right). THANKS!


Luke Michaelson sat at the small desk in his bedroom and methodically spun a closed pocket knife with his index finger. A camping trip in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho sounded like a stupid idea to him, but Mom and Dad insisted this next week would be a great adventure. Dad expected him to help pack today, but first Luke needed a few minutes alone.

With his thumb and index finger, he tugged at the stubborn blade of the pocket knife. Unable to open it, Luke reached across his desk and dragged the lamp closer. He gripped the casing of the pocket knife tightly with his left hand and yanked with his right. When the blade flipped out suddenly, it surprised Luke, and he let go of the knife. As it slipped from his hand, the blade slashed the skin between his thumb and index finger.

Luke groaned, shook his hand, and then tried sucking the cut to alleviate the pain. Nausea swelled in his gut, but he refused to panic. When he withdrew his hand to examine the damage, no slice remained. He leaned forward and held his hand under the bright lamp. Light glinted off the opals he wore around his wrist, making him squint momentarily. But no cut remained. Nothing. He studied the alarm clock next to his bed, 10 a.m. Dad shouldn’t miss him for awhile yet. So, he hopped up, locked his door, turned up the volume on his music, and sat back down at his desk. He picked up his pocket knife and examined the blood glistening on the edge of the blade. Luke looked at his hand where the cut should have been. Nothing.

He held the knife near his forearm willing himself to make a small cut, but he couldn’t do it. He set the knife back down on his desk and walked over to his bed. Am I crazy? he thought and ran his fingers through his hair. He looked again at his healed hand. With determination, Luke moved back to his desk, grabbed the knife, and quickly pulled the blade along his forearm near his opals.

As the pain seared through him, Luke collapsed onto the chair and propped his arm against the edge of the desk. He took slow controlled breaths as he watched the wound neatly knit itself back together. A thin red line remained visible, but no blood. It wasn’t his imagination. He pulled the blade across his skin again. A drop of blood fell from the blade, but within a few seconds, only another narrow welt lingered on his skin. Of course, the slices hurt, but less each time, and the ones closest to his opal bracelet healed the fastest. He made one more cut, slower and deeper, and watched it mend. Crazy, Luke thought and shook his head in disbelief while his mind raced for a solution. He wondered if the metaphysical properties of the Boulder Matrix Fire Opals he wore could be responsible for the rapid healing.

“No,” Luke whispered to his empty bedroom and shook his head faster. Even though his younger brother Billy had constantly yammered about the special properties and powers of rocks and crystals, Luke had never believed him. “No way.”

He wiped the blade on his jeans...

Leave your critique and comments below! Thanks. Happy blog-hopping.
(Oh... and if you'd like to read the whole chapter, visit:


  1. You have my vote - I love this. :)

  2. Hi Margo, there's some great tension in this piece.
    I've been reading a 'how to' book that suggests that you shouldn't explain too early in the piece e.g. about Billy and the crystals, but keep the reader wondering/ guessing why the cuts were healing so fast. Maybe have Billy come in and snatch his crystals back angrily.
    Also I notice you insert 'Luke' rather a lot and suggest you might replace them with 'he /his/him'.
    I'm certainly intrigued :O)

  3. This will be a great story. I agree with Madeleine. Also, maybe take out a few extra words.

    I.E. Dad insisted (this) next week
    but (first) Luke needed a few minutes alone.
    (then) tried sucking the cut to alleviate the pain

    You have a great story in the making.

  4. This seems like an interesting set up, but the discovery comes very early if this is the very start.

  5. Great feedback - thanks.

    Stu - just wonder ... if "this" is revealed early - what else is going to happen to keep the story going? Hmm? :-)

  6. This is really fun. I like the plot and pacing, the only thing that stuck out to me as awkward were the two words suddenly and momentarily.

  7. This is an interesting concept, but I'm not feeling a lot of tension. Luke's interest in his miraculous healing seems too casual to me. I'd think he'd be totally freaked out. Maybe the pacing just feels too slow and matter of fact. But we don't have a really good feel for Luke's character, yet, either. So maybe he's a very level-headed, methodical kind of guy, in which case this pacing would be perfect for him. Overall, though, I like the idea of the Miraculous Mending Opals and would definitely read on to see what happens next.

  8. Hey Margo!

    The first paragraph does a good job of telling what Luke wants (or rather doesn't want) and establishes the setting for the story. I suggest revising the second paragraph to remove some of the repetition. For example, "no slice remained" and "no cut remain." I also agree with Mara about the pacing. My writer's group uses the term "stagey" when we have scenes which focus mostly on what the MC is doing rather than the emotions behind their actions. The line "as pain seared through him" sounds removed. "He winced at the pain" is more active and shows him responding to the action.

    I think you have a great start. I have a story where my MC uses gemstones, too, so I'm intrigued by your story. I'd read more.

  9. Great idea and good pacing. I agree with Writesbymoonlight on the repetition and staging. After writing a scene like this, it's a good idea to review it for places that are slowed by repetition. I believed the MC's shock at this revelation but am curious as to why he has the opals on?

  10. Sounds like Luke has many exciting adventures ahead. I would keep reading to see where he goes.

  11. I'm hooked. This kid will have Adventures! I agree with some of the other comments. Luke is said a few too many times, and telling us it is connected to the opals takes a bit of the tension out. I thought it was, but the reveal needs to hold off for a bit.

  12. I was intrigued by this. There is tension and mystery. I agree with the other comments about the repetition, but that's easily fixed. I have to say I was a little confused by his reaction though, this seems like something new to him and yet he only comes across as fascinated rather than scared (which I would be) or freaked out. I'd read more.

  13. Interesting start. You've raised a lot of questions with the cuts and the healing and the beads. I'm intrigued.

    One thing that stood out to me as odd compared to the rest of what you have posted is the second paragraph. I was wondering 1 - why he pulled the lamp closer and 2 - what he was planning on doing before he realized he had magically healing wounds. It seems like he's got something to do with the pocket knife other than cut himself, but you never mention it again.

    Great hook. A little clean-up and it will shine.

  14. This is a very interesting concept. I agree with what Madeleine is saying with giving away too much info too soon, and what Mara is saying about Luke's reaction not being big enough. I feel like you could inject more emotion into this piece--tell us what Luke is feeling. I know I'd be freaking out big time.

    Other than that, you've got a great idea and some fascinating things going on. All it needs is a little polishing :)

    Thanks for sharing!

  15. I like how you started this. Most superhero/fantasy hero stories start with the character getting his magical powers (i.e. Peter Parker gets bit by a spider), and then they discover them. When you start out with the discovery, we're just as surprised as he is. This made me disappointed when you revealed what caused it so quickly. I'd like to be strung along into the mystery.

  16. On a second look, the other comments are very insightful, but on my first read, most of those things didn't trip me up at all.

    I did wonder why he was wearing the opals in the first place. I wondered why he would be looking for a "solution." I thought the way he wondered about it being the "metaphysical properties of the Boulder Matrix Fire Opals" was worded in an info-dump way. Maybe he could have wondered about a few other things first - maybe he ate something, maybe it was the knife, etc.

    But I assumed the discovery is just the beginning of his adventures, so the revelation didn't seem to early for me.

  17. Sounds pretty eerie. I like it. One suggestion, though. Start with Luke running the knife over his skin. That shock factor might pick up the pace. There's also a lot of description, and I'm a description hog, so I can't complain, but if you could cut out some of the backstory (camping trip, Dad's waiting, etc.), you'll create more tension.

    I'd like to read more. Definitely.


  18. I think there wasn't enough character establishment, the Opal's mystical connections, and tension before the big event happened. Mara Nash is right. But I do want to see what comes next with Luke--which direction you will take him, or he takes you.

  19. Yeah, I agree with what has been said about that info coming a bit too soon - but it is definitely an interesting piece, and I'd want to read on and find out what it means that he has those beads.

  20. I really like the supernatural twist in this, his incredible healing powers. It's a nice "same-yet-different" since it's a more gentle, personal power than the power to kill with a thought -- or whatever.

    The bit about the camping trip feels unnecessary -- I know we need an excuse for him having the knife out - but it basically sets the story up for one direction -- and they you go another way. I think you could easily cut it (HA!) snd get to the meat of the story more quickly.

    I'd read on.

  21. I agree with most of what's been said. Madeleine in particular got what I would have said. I think mention the stones would suffice to foreshadow that they're going to have something to do with what's going on (love the stones by the way, I'm not really into crystals, and yet I totally believe that stones can have an effect on people) but you don't need to come out and suggest it to the reader.

    My nitpicks:

    Luke seems younger in the first sentence, because of how annoyed he is with his father and the camping trip. But then he seems much older when you bring in 'metaphysical properties' into it.

    Um, opals aren't the sort of stones most boys would ever wear. So maybe we could get a hint as to why Luke wears them?

    The first sentence could be tightened a bit from the standpoint that I was at first confused by what Luke was doing with the knife. In my head, I saw him holding it and it was only into the second paragraph that I understood he had it one the desk spinning it like a pinwheel.

    I would totally read on!

  22. I like the concept, but agree with the rest, you give away too much too soon. Let us readers discover things, we are smart creatures, instead of spelling it out for us up front.

    A couple of nit picks, take what you want and leave what you hate:

    My suggestion is to shorten the second paragraph to one or two sentences. At the minimum, you really don't need: index and thumb, right and left hand, and then index repeated. (keep the thumb and finger part on the last sentence, it works okay there).

    With his thumb and index finger, he tugged at the stubborn blade of the pocket knife. Unable to open it, Luke reached across his desk and dragged the lamp closer. He gripped the casing of the pocket knife tightly with his left hand and yanked with his right. When the blade flipped out suddenly, it surprised Luke, and he let go of the knife. As it slipped from his hand, the blade slashed the skin between his thumb and index finger.
    This is a whole lot of words spent on saying: He griped the knife and tried to flip the blade open. When it didn't budge he tried again. The blade shot out and he dropped it, cutting the skin between his thumb and finger.

    Paragraph 3: you use Hand 4 times, really repetitive.

    All 'ly' words could be cut and the flow would still be there.

    Hope some of this helps.