Monday, October 7, 2013

First Impressions - Gerald and the Amulet of Zonrach

Our final first impression of the month comes from Carl Hackman. You can find him here, or @CarlHackman, and if you'd like to read the query and entire first chapter, head over to Carl's blog. To see what Dianne Salerni thought about this first page, skip on over to In High Spirits, and please do add your comments because critiquing helps all of us :)

Here is the first page of GERALD AND THE AMULET OF ZONRACH, an Upper MG humorous fantasy.

A flash of blinding blue light filled the room, followed by a billowing cloud of dark, acrid smoke.

“Oops...” Love this beginning, lol.

Now this is not the sound you want to hear from a wizard, especially a short one, and Gerald was only five feet tall, meaning he wasn’t very good yet.  He had dreams of exceeding six feet but only the best wizards in the land ever reached those dizzying heights. This might be a good spot to explain why only good wizards get tall. Not too much of an explanation, but maybe a one or two liner.

A rumble under his feet, steadily increased in strength until the floor beneath him rolled like a ship in a storm.  Trying to stay upright, he staggered to the window at the front of his weather-beaten cottage.  The small hill supposed to be growing outside - to improve the view - failed to materialize.  But the cotton ball clouds normally gently drifting on the warm summer breeze were fairly whizzing by.  The sight of villagers clinging to structures for dear life deepened his frown of consternation.  His flint grey eyes nearly popped out of his head when the village herbalist flew past his window and, as he followed her progress across the green, he spotted Lord Moleheart (omg, I LOVE this name!) hanging onto a tree like a flag in a gale.

“Kack!” said Gerald.

“Gerald!  What have you done?” shouted Colin, dodging flying crockery as he made his way across the room.

“Hmm?” replied Gerald. The point of his especially tall and illegally obtained wizard’s hat twitched, as his bushy eyebrows bumped against the brim in a tattoo akin to a drum roll. This bit confused me a little. Is this a description of Gerald? I think I thought he was a kid for some reason.

Colin, who had only been posted to Molehaven as Gerald’s assistant two weeks ago, very rarely shouted.  If he could get away with it he even whispered his spells.  So, shouting indicated Gerald had been especially naughty and confirmation came when he shrank one inch before Colin’s eyes.

At this rate Gerald would not be a wizard much longer.  Four feet eight was the statuary minimum for all wizards.  Anything less and Gerald knew he would be back working in the fields, or shoveling horse poop until he reached the minimum height again. 

“Double Kack!”

“Have you been buying words again to strengthen your spells?” said Colin.

This is a fun first page and kid or no, I'd be turning to find out what happens next! I do hope some of my MG readers will chime in on this one as I don't read a whole lot of this genre. I'd read this though :)

And thank-you Carl for submitting!


  1. The description part confused me as well.
    Why does height matter? Agree an explanation would help.
    However, the people from the village flying by was hysterical. Sounds like it will have a great sense of humor.

  2. Nice to meet you, Carl

    Love the title. Perfect for an MG. I agree with Marcy's suggestions, especially the second one about the height of a wizard. That really intrigued me. You wouldn't have to go into great deal here; frankly, I wouldn't do that. Just give something to answer the reader's 'head questions' for now. Elaborate more later.

    Best of luck with this!

  3. I know commenters aren't supposed to say they agree, but I DO: Alex and SA hit the nail on the head.

    1. I DO want to commenters to weight in! The more the better so Carl can judge whether what he's writing is working.

  4. are those pooches Carl's beta readers? :) Love the photo....

  5. Ha! It is a fun opening.

  6. Thanks you for posting my snippet. I really appreciate all the great comments as I am just about to start an R&R I received over the weekend.

    The brindle dog, on the left, sat by my side every day as I wrote GERALD. He passed away (only 4 years old) just after I completed the first draft. I didn't realize until I read it through again, after printing, just how much of his personality is in Zach, a character you meet a little later. The bond between Zack and Gerald are also pretty close to mine and Digby's

  7. I commented over on Dianne's blog, but wanted to come over and see what you thought. Gerald is a fun character to take an adventure with. I really enjoy humorous MG and since this page had me laughing, I'm confident the rest of the story would too. Nice writing, Carl!

  8. The opening is great. And the imagery is very compelling. I'm willing to wait for the height change explanation, but I was confused about Colin. I didn't think he was behaving like an assistant. And I'm not sure about the characters' ages either. But the plot sounds like fun and I think my son would really like this.

  9. The opening is wonderful. Imagining this short wizard made me think of my mother who is only 4'8". I totally get wanting to be taller.

  10. Love the 'oops' and the name. Fantastic start. Yes, the description could be clearer. Great voice.

  11. Really loved this piece. I have no problems waiting for the height explanation. The fact that Gerald becomes shorter each time a spell goes awry is enough for me (for now). The assistant does come off more as a superior than an assistant. That is a bit confusing, but easy to fix. Great job!

  12. Thanks for all the great suggestions, I love writers and readers. I have been beavering away today on the opening and have uploaded the first chapter to my blog again with your comments addressed. I hope you like the latest version :)

  13. The height of a wizard depends on how good he is at wizardly things. I get that and assume there will be more on this as the story unfolds. I don't think in a linear way, so I don't expect it in movies, books, or even life. I guess that explains the swarm of locust that live in my head...

    I almost forgot! I loved the first word...

    Thanks for doing a first impression on this Marcey.


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