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Public Critique: MOONY HILL

Good morning!  Today I have an excerpt from a 695-word story called MOONY HILL by Dana Gaar up for critique.  The excerpt gives a taste of the beginning and end, and she envisioned it as a picture book but says that may change.  If you have the time, please give it a read and offer any advice or constructive criticism you may have.  If you're interested in having a query, synopsis, or excerpt posted on Lit Rambles for critique, check out my contribute page.

ETA:  At Dana's request, I've posted the full story.


By Dana Gaar


Walking to a party over Moony Hill 

Where trees are blushing and autumn’s revealed


In the hollow below, in the late night air

Tables covered with drinks and plenty of fare


A bonfire is roaring 

to lessen the chill 

But we’ve all 

heard the legend of Moony Hill


Spun by our fathers

in the full moon light

Tales of old man Moony

and his mean old wife


The rumor is wild and the tale it is tall

A time after summer, before the snow fall

They lived back in the woods

at the top of a rise

And fought night and day

for most of their lives.

Legend’s not clear

what happened to him

But she was found headless

where daylight is dim

The hill remained quiet

for a day and a year

When the harvest moon rose,

we thought we could hear. . .

Some say it’s a panther

at times we hear wail

Though seen many nights

by those who dare tell

Alone before dusk,

you may do what you will

Her head in her hands,

she haunts twilight till


But the stories are old 

and it’s been a long time

Things parents made up 

to get children to mind


Though it’s quite dark, it won’t be that bad

Let’s not be afraid, there’s fun to be had


A moonlit ride in a wagon of hay

A quiver and shiver at the coyote’s bay


Legs that dangled when the night owl screeched

Were quickly pulled up and tucked underneath


The wind would howl 

and the bushes would wiggle

Bringing squeals and shrieks 

that turned into giggles


The graveyard crept by

in a ‘lay in wait’ manner

While the hair on our necks 

belied our brave banter 


Roasting wienies on sticks

round the great open blaze

Dark phantoms behind 

danced in long fiery waves


Burnt to a crisp 

were a dozen marshmallows  

Glancing over our shoulders 

at strange moving shadows


Wearing sly little grins

we poked and we picked

Deliciously soaked

in the hour of the witch


At the end of the night when the haunting was done

We banded together as though we were one


Walking home from the party back over the hill

We laughed at the things that gave us a chill


But black is the color of autumn at night

Different shades of the same creep around in moonlight


Sounds are so different when light’s not around

They’re louder and closer and fearfully bound


Hearts jumped in our chests 

when we heard the low moan,

Was it animal, wind, or the trees that had groaned?


Impossible to tell if imagined or real

We all drew in close, hushing our squeal


Some looked to the left others looked to the right

Wishing for home with all of our might


The air was quite fluffy, like clouds on the ground

We could not see up, we could not see down


When you look hard enough 

the darkness takes form

Like clouds in the sky 

on a cool autumn morn


Is that moss hanging down in the trees just ahead 

Or giant black bats about to be fed?


We teased each other with a joke and a dare

Cringing with dread, but in love with the scare


Just about then 

as we rounded the curve

We heard a far wail 

and there went our nerve


Is that?  Oh my! You think it could it be? 

Go see! No way! Please go before me!


The legend of old no longer a lark

Lady Moony’s arrived so we must depart!


With the swoop of a bat, 

we missed not a beat

The only thing left 

was the dust from our feet!


Running and screaming does not require balance

Tripping, not falling, now that takes some talent!


Did you see? Yes, I saw! Though he shook his head no.

Was it her? Yes, I’m sure! I felt her so close!


We gasped and we panted and started to slow

With hands on our knees, a thought started to grow


Of all the night’s spooks and whimsical ghosts

We find, after all, we’d scared ourselves most!

Dana Gaar


Gemma said...

Wow, I really love this excerpt. The biginning made me just want to keep writing, and the first line is beautifully writen. My only comment would be the rhythm, sometimes it just seems slightly off :S However, I am a very picky reader, and I LOVE this! I hope to read all of the short story :D I can picture it so- well, that all I have left to say is: Beautiful!

Dana said...

Thank you! I agree about the rhythm, even I have to restart a line here or there when I read it. I'll keep working on it.

Laura Pauling said...

Love the visual imagery through out - I could totally picture the illustrations.

The first two lines threw me off a bit. I wasn't sure who 'you' referred to b/c then the next line started with 'she'.

And some of the meter is off, like some sentences seem to have too many syllable. Maybe read it aloud?

Good luck with it!

Dana said...

I'm trying to resist commenting each comment but one more time. It starts in the middle of the story so seems to have a stunted beginning. Also, how do I let someone see the entire story when asked. Newbie here hating to show my lack of basic blog savvy.

Casey McCormick said...

Hi Dana!

I don't know much about meter or rhyme or, well, much of anything about picture books, but I do love the imagery here. I agree with the others that some of the rhymes seem a bit off, but it's a fun little tale. Perfect for Halloween!

I can post the entire thing here, if you'd like, or maybe you can get in touch with the other commenters and see if they'd like to see it over e-mail.

I hope you get a few more comments. I was hoping you'd get some input from a picture book writer or two. Good luck!

Dana said...

Thank you all. I hope to send it again in the next day or so. I know its too long for a picture book but that's what it started as so that's what I keep calling it. Its just that I can see the story so vividly! Its great to know you can too. Recently I read it was a mistake to make a rhyming picture book so I need to find another home for it. I hope someone can help me work the kinks out of it. Thanks again!

Casey McCormick said...


I don't think it's really a mistake to write a rhyming picture book. They do still sell, there are just a lot of them. It has to be done really well and stand out to have a chance. Because of this, and because of the market, a lot of people advise avoiding rhyme all together.

Anyway! I still think it would be fun as a holiday poem for a magazine or e-zine. It would probably have to be shortened though. Not sure. It would depend on the market. Might be something to look into when you're done revising.

Anonymous said...

I love this!
I think it's really good and has fantastic imagery, sometimes the beat is just a little off but otherwise it's good!
How do we submit something for public critique, I looked on the contribute page but it didn't seem to actually say where to put your material?

Casey McCormick said...

Hi Anon!

You need to e-mail the excerpt to me since I often need to schedule them out. I'll try to make that clearer on the page. Thank you!

agentspotlight (at) gmail (dot) com