The Writer’s Voice

Thanks to Krista Van Dolzer, Brenda Drake, Cupid’s Literary Connection and Monica B.W. for hosting this contest!


MG Magical Realism

43,000 words


Thirteen-year-old prodigy Miranda Harper craves the kind of perfection that goes beyond hitting all the right notes – like she’s inside the music. Thanks to her new violin, she achieves her goal, but it’s more than she bargained for. A flawless performance of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” lands her in a flying chariot piloted by a six-and-a-half-foot Valkyrie delivering a dead soldier to Valhalla. She’s sure there shouldn’t be dead bodies inside the music.

Miranda snaps back to reality, only to battle exhaustion and a reluctance to play for several days. She decides the Valkyrie incident was a hallucination, until the magic strikes again during a Halloween concert. This time her world goes black and white, and a dress-clad psycho chases her with a butcher knife. As a bonus, the scratches Miranda gets during her escape come back to the real world with her.

With each trip into the music, it’s harder to return and the side effects get worse. Miranda knows she should stop, but perfection is addictive. The euphoria of one extraordinary performance is worth a few days of exhaustion and some minor injuries. But when she discovers continuing to play the violin could trap her forever in an alternate reality, she must decide what perfection is really worth.

Complete at 43,000 words, DUET WITH THE DEVIL’S VIOLINIST will appeal to fans of Lindsey Leavitt’s PRINCESS FOR HIRE series and Jacqueline West’s THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE.

FIRST 250:


I knew it wasn’t really possible. Near perfection, yes. Total perfection, no way.

I’d learned that lesson after years of playing the violin. Something that sounded flawless to the average person was bound to have minuscule errors.

A tone so slightly off pitch that even someone with a highly trained ear couldn’t tell.

A note played a hundredth of a beat too soon.

A bow pulled at the wrong speed to produce the right sound.

A measure performed in mezzo piano instead of pianissimo.

Joshua Bell, classical music superstar and my idol, once said: “ … when it’s perfect … I feel like I can do no wrong. I could change my fingers – do it on a different string – because I have that much concentration. Also, you feel like you’re inside the music.”

That’s what I wanted to feel – that I was inside the music. That I was the music.

I especially wanted that sensation today, my first day as concertmaster of the youth symphony. Miranda Harper: concertmaster. I loved the sound of it. I should have had the title last season, but Dr. Kamensky said I needed a year to observe. It probably didn’t help that my first year was the previous concertmaster’s last year before going off to college, and it would have really sucked to be bumped by a seventh grader.

Instead he named me principal second violinist. At least we played some Mozart. Good old Wolfgang sometimes let the second violins outshine the firsts.

Now it was my turn to shine. And we weren’t playing Mozart today.

Responses to “The Writer’s Voice”

  1. Stacey

    Hi, I’m just a writer browsing some of the entries to the Voice contest and I really like your query! (I think it will be really interesting to see who they pick!) Good luck!

  2. merikeh

    The idea of being transported physically by a perfect performance is really fascinating! Good luck!!

  3. Kristen Wixted

    My thoughts on “Not your cup of tea” echo yours–I’ve been reading some of these and thinking, wow, now I understand when agents say I just don’t connect or that kind of thing. It’s not bad, just not my thing.
    Good luck–I have a MG entry too. #147

  4. Krista Van Dolzer

    I want you! I love this fascinating concept and your smooth, lyrical writing. I even relate to Miranda’s tendencies toward perfectionism:)

    My only real suggestion has to do with your title. I think DUET WITH THE DEVIL’S VIOLIN flows slightly better than DUET WITH THE DEVIL’S VIOLINIST; something about that last syllable is throwing me off a little. But that’s a very small thing, one that I’d certainly be willing to concede if you felt strongly about it. So pick me, pick me! I’d love to have you and DUET WITH THE DEVIL’S VIOLINIST on my team!

    • Michelle Mason

      Thanks, Krista! I’m not married to the title as it is. There’s a reason for it, of course, but it’s not evident until a few chapters in, so if it’s awkward, I’m definitely open to changing it.

      I really want to say yes right now, but I’m supposed to wait, right? So excited you want me on your team!

      • Krista Van Dolzer

        YAY! *clears throat* I mean, yes, you are supposed to wait until May 11 to tell us your decision, just to give the other coaches a chance to pick you, too.

        P.S. I just wanted to add that your entry was literally one of the last five I read. Way to stand out from the pack! (I have to admit, I was getting a little query-weary…)

        • Michelle Mason

          Wow! Thanks for telling me that. I only got through about 2/3 of the entries before they started blurring together, so I admire you and the other judges for reading them all. I have a whole new respect for agents now. *sits on hands until May 11*

  5. Michelle Mason

    Thanks to everyone who has commented here. I’m having so much fun checking out the other entries. The quality is so high. Good luck to all!

  6. Ben

    This is something I’d read. The query’s great. So is the sample. I think my wife would love it too, as she’s a violinist.

  7. Tina Hatch

    Congrats! I really think you’ve nailed a Middle Grade voice and topic. Loved your query.

    Tina (#194)

  8. SC Author

    Congrats on getting in! I loved your concept so much; definately 100% unique. I’d love to be transported with playing music. Nice job, and congrats!

    SC (#159)

  9. Carla Cullen

    This sounds like a fantastic entry. I’m psyched to be working together on Team Krista. My current WIP is about a teenage musician, so I’d love to read more of your book.

  10. Andrea

    This sounds like a great story! I already have a good feeling for the character in the first 250 words. Congrats and Good Luck!

  11. Ryan

    You are an AMAZING writer and I love your concept!
    Go Team Krista!


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