Monday, December 9, 2013

Sylvie Leclerc: Crossing the Twin Maze Rev 1

Name: Sylvie Leclerc
Genre: Young Adult paranormal fantasy
Title: Crossing the Twin Maze

Reen, my best friend, had warned me not to sit at the edge of tree shadows or dappled shades.

“That’s where the hidden ones hang out,” she said.

Even though  I dismissed it as old Wampanoag lore, I listened. I went inside when the sun went down because, as she said, djinn spread out then and take things. The Cape Cod Indians have loads of tales about kids being kidnapped, especially at night.

But on that day, I wasn’t paying any heed to it. And I got myself a spirit companion.

Midsummer. The warm wind ruffled the sand into dunes. The distant sound of waves crashing along the beach lulled me to daydreaming. The sunlight streamed though the treetops, bathing me in dappled shades.

That’s when a man whispered in my ear, "Janna."

I bolted up and threw my hand in the direction I heard the voice, but no one was there. A distant squirrel jarred away with a twist of rust, but not the voice.

“Janna, listen.”

“Oh no, no, no!” I moaned. “Who are you and why are you in my head? Leave me alone.”

I wished I had my iPod to drown out the voice, but the player had vanished from my cabin last week. I’d ranted about it for days.

Who’s taken it? My wannabe friend the voice, maybe.

These spirits would do anything to get my attention. I was a psychic and as such I could see ghosts. However, none were a stalker like that djinni.

Since I couldn’t drown him out, I rigged up a tent with my blanket and hid in it.

“Watch for Moira,” he said so close I could feel his breath dislodge hair from the side of my face. I closed my eyes.

I wish you away.

The voice stroke me again, loud like a thunderbolt, “Janna, go to bed before it’s too late.”

I can’t believe a shadow person is dictating my bedtime.

I pulled my cell out of my jeans’ pocket and texted my best friend:


I looked in the direction of the cabins that separated the beach from the road. Some of the windows in the cabins were lit up where the girls had switched on their individual lamps. The bunch of high-schoolers who had registered for summer camp this year were probably  either talking, playing games or sleeping. There was no curfew; just a set of common sense rules. Reen wasn’t outside.

I hope she got my text.

I breathed deeper. Hope filled my heart. “Is there anyone here?” I murmured.

The voice sighed almost as if he had given up on me. “I am here.”

Icy sensations rippled along my body, tensing my muscles. The intimate voice filled me, like it was coming from some imaginary earphones. It felt so close.

“Quit stalking me!” I cried.

I ran toward the cabins with my eyes half-closed and my hands over my ears. I ran into my sister Moira.

“Janna! Are you all right?”

A moist breath blew onto my neck. I wiped it off with my hand.

“Look at me,” Moira said, forcing my hands away from my ears.

“Did you see anyone around?”

She watched me, concerned. “You know I can’t see them. Darn it! You sound like  they’re after you or something.”

“No, no. He bounced, ” I said, bracing myself.

“Hey, big guy!” said Moira, talking to the air. “Stop screwing with my sister’s brains and come meet her evil twin.” She laughed.

“I swear Moira. I heard someone.”

Moira brushed a few dark strands over her messy bun and ear cuffs in the shape of a bow and arrows. Then she readjusted her studded leather biker jacket thrown over a tee with an old iron union jack held in place by safety pins. Moira was what someone had once defined as edginess meets glamour. In comparison, I had my grandmother’s old-fashioned try-to-blend-in looks. Sixties all over me.

“Damn, Moira! I wish I couldn’t see all these guys.” I looked away, screwing a piece of drifting wood into the sand with my foot. “Actually, I don’t see him I only hear him, which is even creepier.”

“Poor Janna,” she said, doing a good imitation of myself. “I’m a psychic. I can do all those cool things, talk to spirits and all that. It’s so unfair.”

        “Stop being a bitch!” I yelled, angry.

“What did he say this time?” asked Moira, crossing her arms.

“It sounded like something important is going to happen. He said your name.”

“Omigod!” said Moira with excessive force.“Hey, big guy, come and sweep me off my feet!”

She pulled a chain out of her tee and whirled it around her fingers. A crooked cross shone on her mate skin.

“Don’t tell me you’re still wearing this?”

Reen opened the door of her cabin and I got distracted. I waved and she walked toward us. Her long skirt made the sand twirl around her like small sand devils. She wasn’t bad ass or anything, but Moira flew every time she was about.

Moira sighed and said, “Ah, Reen. That’s my cue.” She turned around and left.

“Are you okay?” Reen asked me when she arrived.

“I’m all right. A little freaked out, but Moira made the stalker go away.”

“Sorry I came out late.”

“I hate it, Reen. You know… being a psychic. Moira thinks it’s fun. Why me? Why not my sister?” I said, shaking my blanket to get rid of the sand and sitting next to the fire.

“You’re all emo, you know that? It’s a gift, Janna. Nobody is asking you to share it. But think of the ways you can use it to help people.”

I ignored her reply and hugged my knees. “Well, the gift has gone all berserk on me.”

“I know… I don’t like spirits one little bit more than you do. But this voice? It’s like he’s only trying to be your pal or something. Anyway, it’s not a ghost, it’s a djinni.”

“Or something. Right. You say that ‘cause it’s not stuck in your head.”

“I guess.”

“Don’t you know that spirits can turn nasty?” I asked.

“You sure?”


“Well, he never turned nasty on you before.”

“Yeah… but maybe it’s because I don’t let him in. He’d be all over me. ”

I watched the cabin door nervously, afraid of seeing my twin sister coming out.

“Did you see Mike recently?”

“No!” She stared. “Why? Something happened?”

I shifted nervously. “Moira thinks I kissed her boyfriend.”

“Really? Is that even possible?” Reen razzed. “I mean… he cares so much for her.” I gazed knowingly at her. She paused. “Oops. I’m glad I don’t have a twin.”

I shrugged. “Duh. He thought I was Moira. It was dark and… ew…”

Reen waved her hand in front of her face. “No need for details. I’ve got it.”

“The worst is, Moira has been a pest every since. And she’s wearing this swastika around her neck. She knows it makes me cringe, but she’s like trying to go all punk on me.”I made an imitation of her. “I’m rebellious, blah blah. It’s not a swastika, but the hammer of Thor, a spinning hammer. The hammer that strikes for truth, that protects against all evil.” I patted the sand nervously. “She knows my parents would kill me if they knew I let her wear that. It sounds like a bunch of hooey to me.”


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I like the additional details. The story is more evocative. Though I thought some of the new material improved the story, it did leave me with a lot more questions.

    Geography & Setting: It is never explicitly stated that the story takes place in Cape Cod. A reader might assume it take place there based on the use of the words Wampanoag and Cape Cod Indians. For example, “the camp was on the northern tip of Cape Cod and was surrounded by pine trees . . . or was x miles from the bay, etc. You could possibly give the camp a name. All I know about the camp is that it is situated between the beach and the road.

    Character of Janna: Why does anybody believe that Janna’s thoughts are invaded by ghosts? I can perhaps believe that her twin sister feels or knows when Janna’s thoughts are being invaded because of their closeness. But no one else except for someone who either has the same condition or Janna has somehow proven to that person she has this ability. Otherwise, Janna would most likely be a pariah to everyone else (unless you can suggest how this somehow could not be the case.) Reen is pretty sympathetic and seems knowledgeable about Janna’s condition. This doesn’t seem very believable right now unless the reader is given some insight into Reen that suggests otherwise. I am also not sure what’s purpose Reen plays in the story. Can’t Janna and her twin be besties? Reen doesn’t do very much for the scene and acts like a sounding board for the protagonist. What’s her role in the overall story?

    The Spirit World: Wampanoag, an Indian tribe is brought up and the hidden ones (perhaps capitalize), then there are ghosts, and there are also djinni, who are Arab in origin. There are a lot of different spirits and cultural representations to sort out in a very short amount of time.

    If this is a piece about a person having a psychic connections to a spirit world and that spirit world is inhabited by spirits of different kinds and cultural traditions, I would introduce them slowly. If the djinn is the most important spirit in this piece, I would probably stick with him. At some point, Janna might say, “I hear the voices of ghosts, djinni, demons, angels and other spirits from the beyond . . .” (If she can only hear them, you need to figure a way of how she sorts out all the different visitors).

    I still don’t know why spirits invade Janna’s thoughts. If she has been living with this condition for years, she would have some idea of why they bother her. My previous note spoke of what motives the ghosts might have. This continues to be unclear.

    It’s better that a spirit that is talking to Janna that might be different from the rest (instead of a spirit suddenly giving her visions of the future), but I don’t know how this spirit is different (aside from stalking Janna). I’m not really sure why it has to be a djinn. Can’t it be another ghost who is simply communicating with her differently than other ghosts, e.g., “All ghosts ever do is talk about themselves, their pain, their suffering, they just want someone to share in the misery that keeps them stuck in this world. But the voice I heard today was different. He spoke my sister’s name. Why?”

    The illustration above gives the motives for the ghosts and demonstrates something different with the new ghost. This is currently what you have with my notes:

    These spirits would do anything to get my attention. (WHY? WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT FOR THE GHOSTS TO GET JANNA’S ATTENTION). I was a psychic and as such I could see ghosts. (I THOUGHT SHE COULD HEAR THEM, NOT SEE THEM). However, none were a stalker like that djinni. (HOW DOES SHE KNOW IT’S A DJINNI? SHE CAN’T SEE THE VISITORS ONLY HEAR THEM.)

    The sensations that Janna has upon receiving a visitation are better.

  3. Physical Description: The reader doesn’t get much of a physical description of Moira. She has dark hair. And there is a description of her clothes. Remember Moira is a window into Janna since I assume their identical twins. You could play with things like

    “Her blonde hair was dyed black.” (This at least tells us the twins are naturally blonde.)

    “We had the same green eyes but hers always sparkled with mischief” (The twins have the same color eyes, but a personality trait of one of the twins is highlighted.)

    Why have this scene take place while Janna is alone. Why not have it happen when she is on a rafting trip with the other campers. She starts yelling to the ghosts. Stands up in the raft. May nearly tip it over. It might also showcase her pariah status as the other campers shun her.

    You mentioned in your previous post that her sister wishes she had Janna’s ability. The only problem with that scenario is at least presently there seems to be no benefit to this ability. It is almost and anti-ability and unless Moira has some sort of morbid curiosity or believes she can somehow get the ghosts to do her own bidding, I don’t see why she would want this power. If, on the other hand, Janna could control the ghosts get them to do her bidding, if she wished, that may work. However, she doesn’t do so because there is always a price to be paid when using spiritual powers.

    It’s confusing when the djinni says ““Watch for Moira,” then “Janna, go to bed before it’s too late.” Those are two different directives and I don’t know how one has to do with the other. Also, asking someone to go to sleep

    Why would Janna have a tent in an area with cabins?

    It does not appear that the camp is far away. Why doesn’t Janna simply run back to the camp instead of text her friend?

    Evil twin line is nice if Moira lives up to this later on.

  4. I would probably have it that Janna hears dead spirits but does not see them. She has never described a ghost looks like or clearly made this distinction.

    “I can do all those cool things, talk to spirits and all that. It’s so unfair.” – Uh, why is it cool to talk to spirits. Isn’t fun for Janna. Why would it be fun for Moira. (See previous note)

    It seems like this could be better focused between the two sisters. Although this is not always the case, often twins are very close, even each other’s best friends.
    Actually, when Reen enters the picture she diverts attention from Janna figuring out why the spirit said her sister’s name and the scene ends rather flat.

    Finally, if the djinni spoke Moira’s name why is Janna trying to get rid of him. Why isn’t she questioning why the djinni spoke her sister’s name:

    “What about my sister? What do you know?”

    The djinni may not answer or answer cryptically.

  5. Thanks Paco,

    This is definitely going to give me a lot of food for thoughts this week. I have all the answers, but I see that I have to go back to all my versions and mix them up in order to answer them on paper.
    I have been struggling with my first three chapters for two years now. This story is a very deep mystery with characters who have complicated relationships. That's because of the nature of Janna's gift.
    It is very important that the voice be a jinn (written Djinn in Arabic) and he acts very differently from a regular ghost. Psychics can see ghosts and talk to them, but jinns are the hidden ones who are usually only heard, not seen. But they are also shape-shifters. Ghosts are people who used to live on earth while jinns are another creation on earth. So, you're right, I have to make this distinction very clear.
    Reen will play a big role in the future because she is American Indian. She is the one who warned Janna about the hidden ones. She will keep warning her and foreshadow situations. She is the one who tries to help her see the jinn differently, which is not a small thing, IMO. And yes, she plays the archetypal role of the helper and the friend. It was very significant that Moira is afraid of Reen. She has prejudices. Actually, in the story, people from different cultures will interact and share their beliefs.
    Actually, the story is not about ghosts or jinns, but about how we perceive other cultures and how each culture interprets the same data differently.
    I think if the story left you with more questions, that means that maybe it made you want to know more about it. Am I wrong?
    By the way, I did not say Janna had a tent, I said she used her blanket as a tent.
    And yes teens text any occasion. They text messages while next to each other all the time. So Janna is texting because that's her reflex. It's just a YA cultural thing.

    Thanks again
    Happy writing :)

  6. Soumayana,

    These are a lot of great ideas that aren't currently not revealed in the text. Obviously, you can't give the reader everything, but you do need to fill some gaps, make the storytelling richer so some of these things come to light. I didn't know, for example, that Reen was American Indian and what her connection is to the spirit world. (Her experience seems different from Janna, but I don't know how or how the spirits speak or interact, if they do, to her.) You also have to be aware that ghosts and djinn and any spiritual beings mean different things to different people and make it clear what they mean in the spirit world that Janna and the others taps into. For example, to me djinn are not necessarily only heard and not seen. Also, if a ghost suddenly began speaking to someone but that person couldn't see them, that someone wouldn't necessarily draw the conclusion that it is a different kind of spiritual being. Janna has to give some context why she knows this other spiritual being is a djinn. Is it from a book? Knowledge past down from generation to generation? A spiritual guide?

    Hope this helps.

    Good luck!

  7. Thanks so much, Paco.
    Yes, I can say that your feedback is really helpful.
    I really hope I can find a good way to start this story. The concept is very complex, so it is really hard to introduce the reader to it. But I'm not giving up :)
    Little soldier on the front line of writing.

  8. I would suggest starting off that whatever Janna encounters is a "spirit" -- this would cover both ghosts, jinn, and whatever other fanciful creatures inhabit the spiritworld. Part of the mystery you can build is Janna finding/figuring out exactly who or what the spirit is during the course of the story and what the spirit wants or what's is its purpose. This will simplify things a little bit and as Jenna learns more about the spirit this can be revealed over the course of the story.

  9. Hi Sylvie,

    Paco did a great job with his input, so I am just going to add/emphasize a few things.

    FIrst, you have done a beautiful job of pacing this so that there is a lot happening while simultaneously giving us a sense of place and character. You've squeezed a lot into this short piece, and that's a hard thing to accomplish!

    Where I think you really need to focus your attention is on making this feel real. Right now, I'm finding it difficult to believe her actions/reactions and that makes it impossible to suspend disbelief the way I need to as a reader. Often when I find myself in this situation, it's because I don't have a deep enough point of view, and I need to take time at every line in the story to ask myself what my character is really feeling, seeing, hearing, tasting, and experiencing. That tends to help me strip away what I am putting in as an author and focus on putting the character on the page.

    For starters, your opening paragraphs don't add much except distance between the reader and the mc. I would recommend starting here:

    Midsummer. The warm wind ruffled the sand into dunes. The distant sound of waves crashing along the beach lulled me to daydreaming. The sunlight streamed though the treetops, bathing me in dappled shades.

    That’s when a man whispered in my ear, "Janna."

    Now start by asking yourself how often this has happened and how she would react. Is this any different from previous experiences? How? What would she really do? And how would he respond? Don't go where you think the story is going. Go where the characters and the things that have already happened to them in the past dictate THEY will go. Let them lead.

    Once you have done that, consider every line for clarity and precision of language. You've got a few places where the phrasing is making me pause instead of reading on. And sometimes, things seem to really come out of left field. Make sure that everything here is clear and has a foundation that the reader can follow.

    Overall, I love the dynamic between Janna and her sister and her best friend. You've got a lot of conflict going on already, which is fantastic. Just make sure we can follow it all and you'll do very well with this.

    Eager to read again!

  10. Thank you Martina.
    Yes, I need more precision and realism. I would second this. Working on it really hard.