Riding the Dam

Blogiversary Giveaway, March Contests & My First Page

Lori M Lee is celebrating her one-year blogiversary and giving away some really great prizes.  Visit her site here.

Blogger and writer, Sharon Bayliss, scours the blogosphere for great contests. Visit her blog here and check out what’s going on in March.

Check back later this week for a super easy cheese danish.

Note for my regular readers: I’m participating in a blogfest this week. You can see my first page below. All comments welcome!

Bloggers, I’ve incorporated some of your extremely helpful comments.

Title: Riding the Dam

Genre: Middle Grade, humorous, coming-of-age

Word Count: 40,000

Pitch: 1952 Texas is a boy’s paradise providing ten-year-old Allan with endless adventure; but when his mother becomes ill, Allan discovers it’s not excitement he longs for, but the comfort of family and the gift of friendship.

San Angelo, Texas, 1952

Today, Raymond and me were going to ride the dam. I’d been waiting for this day for three solid years. This wasn’t just any dam, but the biggest dam in the world. If it was in Texas, it had to be the biggest.

We both owned bicycles, but I had decided early on that it was a lot of work to pedal around looking for adventure, so I convinced Raymond to let me ride on his handlebars while he did the pedaling. I told him riding this way allowed for easier conversation. This arrangement came with some risks. Kids were known to get their toes cut off in the spokes of a bike riding like this, so I learned to wrap my toes around the front axle like an eagle wrapped his talons around a branch during a windstorm and hold on for dear life.

It took us thirty minutes to get to the far end of the dam and there, we began our slow ride to the highest point.  It was straight uphill and Raymond was pedaling, almost standing straight up. This was going to be harder than we thought.

Raymond was trying to catch his breath and in rhythm with each down pedal, asked, “Why. Am I. The one. Always. Doing. The pedaling?”

I said, “You know good and well, this way I can watch for rattlesnakes. Just because we ain’t never seen any doesn’t mean we won’t.”

Raymond was deathly afraid of rattlesnakes–they were the only thing he feared more than Principal Hanover and Fifth Grade Math.

I guess I sounded convincing because Raymond was quiet the rest of the way. ‘Course it could have been that he preferred breathing to talking. Twenty minutes later we were finally at the top. As Raymond positioned the bike for the long, almost straight down slope, I began to rethink this idea. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I had never been afraid of anything before, but the dam was made entirely of dirt and the ground was so uneven and rocky. Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea.

I hopped off the handlebars and picked up a rock. I threw it and we watched it hurl down the dam, twisting and spinning and bouncing until we couldn’t see it anymore. I wondered how many pieces it was in, once it landed. I turned to Raymond and said, “You know, Raymond, I think it might be best if you rode the dam by yourself. It might be easier for you to see where you’re going if I’m not riding along. Come to think of it, my extra weight could be a problem too.”

Raymond had something of a temper and he said, “Allan, this was your lame-brained idea to begin with. If you don’t ride down this dam with me, you’re walking home!” He reminded me that I was supposed to be watching for rattlers on the way down. It was settled. It was my idea after all. I hopped back into my position, curled my big toes tightly around the front axle, and grabbed the handlebars with a death grip. Then together we counted, “One. Two. Three.”

And down we went.

To see pictures of the real characters go here

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28 thoughts on “Blogiversary Giveaway, March Contests & My First Page”

  1. Little boys are going to love your book. Very well done, great voice, great description and setting. I’m in the CP contest, too. I write YA paranormal and don’t think I’d be a fit for MG. Good luck!

  2. Wow, this is a really great piece of writing. I love the voice and the setting. My father-in-law is working on a memoir of sorts and this is what he’s going for but he has a long way to go. You capture the innocence and joy without forcing it, it feels natural.

    I regretfully do not have much (any) experience with middle grade, and I think another mg writer would be the best match for you. But I really like this, and you’re a strong writer with a handle on description that isn’t cliche or reliant on adverbs. It’s crisp and flows well. This is hard to pass up! My story is also historical AND in Texas, but it’s 1963 and YA. I personally want to focus on critiquing in YA rather than younger.

    Anyway, I’m going to follow your blog so I can keep up with your progress! it sounds like you’ve already done a lot of work on this and I hope you’re planning to pursue publication.

    1. Thanks, Stephanie! I have finished my 5th revision, and it’s only taken…one and a half years! That is so cool that your MS is set in Texas too. I’ll come by and read your post. You’re right – I think another MG writer might be the best fit. A very kind blogger (who is taking some time off with a new baby) has recently offered to read it. I am hoping I can eventually get a MG crit group to join. Best of luck to you also!

  3. I really love this. The writing is strong. I have read very little MG in my life, so I’d be hesitant to jump on too fast as a beta reader. But, if you aren’t able to find a lot of good readers and want to do a swap, let me know.

  4. Barb – thanks for coming by and for your nice comments.

    Sharon – thanks for your kind words. I’d love your feedback. Let’s see how things go for us by the end of the fest. If you’re not too swamped with other offers, let’s talk.

  5. This put a smile on my face . . . the real pics you linked it to were adorable:) The only thing I would say is watch your use of ‘had.’ When stories are written in first-person, there is already a big tendency to tell rather than show, & agents watch out for those passive words. Kudos to you for undertaking the task of writing your father’s memories . . . Love the characterization:)

  6. I love the voice, and the descriptions of riding bikes (especially since I just came from spinning class!). I also like that it’s in a boy’s voice, and that it’s the same genre I write, 20th century historical.

  7. I already commented in the last blogfest, but I can again! I think this page is excellent, great humor, voice, and characterization. I can almost hear their little Texas accents.

    I love these lines:

    If it was in Texas, it had to be the biggest.

    “You know good and well, this way I can watch for rattlesnakes.”

    You could remove these lines:

    Raymond was deathly afraid of rattlesnakes.

    Raymond had something of a temper

    They match with the “I’m going to tell you a story” sort of voice, but they still are telling, and not necessary because you show too.

    Great work! I look forward to reading it all soon. 🙂

  8. The voice really stood out for me in this piece… it has a nice pace, and kept me engaged the whole time. It’s pretty clean actually… my only thought was when I read this line: ‘Raymond was deathly afraid of rattlesnakes. We had never actually seen any, but I reminded Raymond that it was always a possibility.’ It felt like this should be in dialogue rather than her telling us this… and then we’ll also get to see Raymond’s scared response.

    Best of luck.

  9. This is a cute story and fun and adventurous, which boys would love. Editors are looking for more middle grade boy stories. And this page literally ends with a real cliff hanger!

  10. Jamie, Carrie-Anne, Sharon, TF, Nicole, Alice, and Jennifer,

    Thanks all for coming by! Your comments are extremely helpful!
    If only we could do this sort of activity with our query letters! Mine stinks!

    Good luck to you all!

  11. Great boy-centric MG here. I love how you focus on things that boys of this age would focus on like adventure, things that are big, snakes, etc. The relationship between the boys is very authentic-feeling, as well.

    I agree with the comments about telling vs. showing and the examples given so I won’t add any more b/c that’s all I really noticed needing some work. Great job.

  12. This is awesome! I definitely want to read more. I think you could cut this: ‘Raymond had something of a temper and he said,’ since you show his temper through his dialog. This line: ‘He reminded me that I was supposed to be watching for rattlers on the way down’ would be more effective through actual dialog.

    Nice job, and best of luck to you!

  13. Aine, D’Ann, Shell Flower, and Lindsey,

    Thanks for your kind comments and critiques! This particular blogfest has been the best I’ve participated in because I’ve received some really helpful suggestions.

    Best of luck to you all!

  14. I love your voice. You really set a picture up in the mind of Texas kids, with the way they talk. ❤ your first page! Hope to see it at the libary someday so i can see if they make it across in one piece! Lol! Like someone else said hough watch the hads.

  15. This was great! I’m a mom, my son is 8, so I was cringing with the idea of him pulling something like this soon 🙂 I think your writing has a ton of voice and flows beautifully! I write in past tense and find it tricky to maintain. One suggestion people have given me is to be careful with using words regarding time like ‘today’ since it’s already happened. I love your opening line and would be loathe to change it, just something to consider on the past tense thing. Good luck and I think your story sounds fantastic!

    1. Thanks, Hope! I will consider your suggestion. I’m a little tricky (and this may not be a good idea…) but right after that last sentence, I say, “Wait a minute. I’m getting a head of myself. Let me start at the beginning.” Then I go back in time and pick back up with the ride in the last chapter.

      I may be making this more complicated than I should.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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