Wednesday, July 2, 2014

First Impressions - Coward and Capes

Wow. A month went by fast! I don't know about you but it's definitely summer here, with temps in the 80s and high humidity. But I'll take this over winter any day! 

Anyway. It's time for First Impressions, whereby author Dianne Salerni and I critique your first page. Today we have the first page from Garrett Vander Leun's YA novel, which "combines some of the superhero themes and real-world history of a book like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay with the wild, coming-of-age adventure found in the movie GOONIES."



There are consequences for breaking a supervillain's window.
"Charlie!" Glenn yelled.
"What?" Charlie had already moved on.
"You just tossed a newspaper through the window of that house!"
"I what?" Charlie's big face recoiled into his neck meat. "No I didn't."
Once a liar, always a liar. On the day they'd first met, Glenn caught Charlie drawing a picture of Golem inside his math book. His black leather costume, the signature aleph engraved on the forehead of his cowl, and two middle fingers poking right through a set of algebra problems. It was crude, vulgar and completely illegal.
Glenn had tried reminding the brazen artist to maybe not draw a Cape in public. And Charlie, being Charlie, whipped around with a reply. I'll tell you what's illegal - me being best friends with Golem and him teaching me fifty-seven different ways to shut your fucking spaghetti hole for good.
Which was a pretty stupid reply considering the Capes had been dead for decades. Controlling the urge to tattle on the well-fed liar, Glenn whispered something back. Fine, he'd said, but I'm a Cape Chaser, too - and for your information, I hate spaghetti.
Glenn squinted at the house. "Just go deal with it, Charlie."
"Deal with what though? Seriously, nothing happened."
"I heard it break, or whatever." Glenn could hear a beetle break wind in the quiet of their morning paper route. Everyone said that if the Soviets were going to launch again - and they were definitely ready to do it again - then they'd do it in the dark. Everyone who was anyone stayed inside until the sun came up. 
"Look, I'm sure whoever lives there gets it. Accidents fucking happen."
Charlie's constant cursing made Glenn twitch with itches. Sure accidents frigging happened, but that was not an accident. "You did like, you..." He brought his hand back behind his head to show Charlie how hard he'd tossed the newspaper. "You chucked it - sure as '64!"
God, he sounded like one of his teachers. I told you kids we had a test today, sure as '64! It had almost become a joke, as throwaway as two digits in a phone number or a street address. 1964 was the joke with an endless punchline.
First the Soviets launched, then the Capes died stopped it and that caused a worldwide blackout. Almost two million people died and all kinds of industries along with it. Music was gone, the film industry expired and the general business of being happy was flat-out extinct.

 On the day they'd first met, Glenn caught Charlie drawing a picture of Golem inside his math book. This confused me. I'm not sure who Golem is so the significance - if any - is lost on me. On the other hand, the fact that the drawing is illegal is curious. Is drawing Golem illegal? Any drawing? Only drawings in school books? In my mind, this is a clue telling me that things are not the same in this 1984.

Glenn had tried reminding the brazen artist to maybe not draw a Cape in public. This was another confusing spot. What is a Cape? A type of person? An organization? And why are they dead?

First the Soviets launched, then the Capes died stopped it and that caused a worldwide blackout. This sentence is missing something. Should it read: 'First the Soviets launched, then the Capes died stopping it and that caused a worldwide blackout.' ?

Lastly, I may be in the minority here but the last paragraph is the most interesting one to me. It immediately grounds me in the world. I wonder if there's a way to get to this quicker. I think the rest would be less confusing knowing these facts early. I'm also one of those readers who doesn't mind a little back story though I know others will disagree.

Overall impression: like I said, that last paragraph nailed it for me. There's room for improvement here but I definitely want to know what's going to happen next. 

Thank you, Garrett for submitting and readers, please do chime in with your comments! You can also find Garrett in MONSTER TOWN and don't forget to check out what Dianne Salerni thought of this first page.

We will have another First Impression for you on Monday -


  1. It had personality, but I was confused while reading it as well.

  2. That's a great first line. And I was confused in a few places, like about the Capes, but the voice here is great. Just needs a little clarification here and there.

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  4. Thank you Marcy (and readers). I've literally got one foot out the door for work, but I was so inspired by the comments, I stopped to make changes on the manuscript before I left (and the sample on my website). The story takes off after I lay out the rules (those dang rules!) and I truly appreciate the help in laying them out more clearly and concisely. Thanks again.

  5. I agree about the mention of Golem. When I'm confused at the beginning of a book, I rarely will keep reading unless something compels me to keep going.

  6. I'm assuming Golem is part of the Capes? Maybe? I like the humor and the voice of the author.

  7. 'into his neck meat'.... what the what? Dezzy no likey that sentence

  8. I love the voice too! Keep going!!!

  9. I immediately assumed I wasn't in the target audience for this piece, because I am oh-so-woefully uninformed when it comes to the latest superheroes... which is what I assumed Golem and the other Capes to be. But since others are confused, too, maybe with some background clarification, I wouldn't have so many questions. Bottom line, though, I love the voice in this snippet, and suspect this story would capture the interest and resonate extremely well with young readers, especially boys. Good job!


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