Monday, December 17, 2012

Hangover Round 1 Entry #41

TITLE: The Gear'd Heart
GENRE: Steampunk Fantasy

Magic-handler Keira Fennel's search for her father intersects with shape-shifter Lowen McCrae's hunt for a murderer in the alleys of 1888 London. When they uncover a plot to construct a mechanical heart from stolen flesh, Keira's skill with gears and magic makes her the target of the otherworldly villain. She's forced to participate in the experiment or lose both Lowen and her father.

Keira sits in the dancing grass, the tip of her tongue caught tight between her teeth as she watches the sun through her eyelids. It's a confusion of sparkles, trembling lines of gold and red in a sea of orange.

Opening her eyes, she bends over the cluster of gears in her lap, carefully fitting each to the next. There's a piece of quartz on the one side, gears interlocking over the top, then a tiny spring; the whole affair fits into a carved piece of brass.

The spring, ornery as springs always are, slithers out of her fingers and disappears into the grass. “Pox.”

“That's a strong word, Kee.”

She twitches, scrambles to her feet as Da settles against the stone wall that separates this stretch of green from the next. “Da.”

“What've you got there?”

Keira tucks her hand, the broken Sun-catcher clenched between her fingers, behind her back. “Nothing.”

“A funny bit of nothing to warrant a pox.”

She hands him the charm, wipes her hands on her dress – waiting for hard words over wasting her time on gears. But the words don't come.

Da examines the charm in silence, then tips his head back and looks at her, serious. “You built this?”

“Tá. It catches the sun all gold and green and violet.” She chews her lip. “It did catch the sun.”

“Did you drop it?”

She shakes her head. “Ma...”


  1. Very cool premise. I loved the first three paragraphs of this and then it gets confusing when "Kee" or Keira starts talking in odd monosyllables. The placement of her dialogue throws things off as well. I think a few qualifiers of her dialogue at this point could really help the reader move through this first scene with greater ease.

  2. I think you have a strong premise, but I was confused about "a mechanical heart from stolen flesh." Maybe you mean insert a mechanical heart in a stolen body?

    I really liked the dialogue with her father. The bit I'm missing is how old she is. Also, I'm wondering if your opening would be stronger if she was working on the charm instead of staring into the sun.

  3. I loved paragraph number one as well, but didn't grasp the meaning with some of the words: pox, Da(her father?), and Ta. Another language is pretty hard to tackle, especially right at the start, but your story does sound interesting.

  4. "Pox" didn't throw me (made me think of "a pox on both your houses") but the Da, Ta, Ma, gave me pause.

    I don't think I've read a 3rd person present tense novel before. I know 1st person present seems to be en vogue at the moment, but I don't know if 3rd person present would go over as well with prosective agents/publishers.

  5. I don't know why, but I really enjoy the third person present tense of this prose. I think the words Da (Dad) and Pox (akin to crap or some comparable curse) are pretty common Irish terms, maybe British too. I'm not sure about Ta (like ya?), but whether i understood them or not did not take away from the compelling story. I loved the imagery of looking at the sun through closed eyes, the tongue tight between the teeth. It drew me right in. Was the suncatcher broken? What happened to it? This prop is so interesting. The logline intrigues me as well. All around, I love this!

  6. Thanks so much for the feedback, folks. Really appreciate it. :)

  7. I like this. My only confusion is the MCs age. From the logline, I was expecting either an older teen or young adult (maybe even older) but then she starts talking and I'm thinking she's a tweenager at oldest...maybe as young as 7 or 8. I'd read on a bit longer. Oh, and I really liked the language. Gave the story an otherworldly feel to me.

  8. I like this a lot. I'm surprised it didn't make the cut. The only thing I didn't like was the present tense, which sounds odd to me in 3rd person, I'd change it to past. But that's really the only advice I have - good stuff, and fascinating premise!

  9. Thanks again to everyone who commented. I built a query out of this logline (expanding it to about 175 words + one paragraph of personal info/publication credits) and have two partials out so far. So this (Baker's Dozen and this follow-up critique round) has definitely been worth my time.

    Wishing everyone else equal success in their endeavors. :)