Thursday, July 17, 2008

#101 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Malian Summer
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

It was seventy degrees and windy the day Grandpa died at Grandma’s funeral. Not a bad day, aside from the whole death thing.

Grandpa keeled over and his feet got tangled up in the ropes that lowered Grandma’s coffin. All I can see when I think back are those ancient wing-tips of his sticking up in the air.

“Grandma loved these shoes on me, Tristan,” he told me that morning. I was helping him get dressed in his room. It still smelled like Grandma—alive, I mean. She had a talcum powder obsession. Who uses that stuff anymore?

I was so busy trying to hold my breath I didn’t say anything about the shoes. Besides, I was wearing my checkerboard Vans, so I figured if he didn’t pick on mine I wouldn’t say anything about his. I knew whose were more comfortable, though.

I was watching the wind just before he fell at the funeral. It played around, sending old Kleenexes skittering and messing with everyone’s best black clothes. All of a sudden it got stronger and I felt it touch my face—you know how they say that? The wind touches your face? Nobody really means it. It’s just a metaphor. Well, this wind really touched my face. I mean, I thought it had fingers and everything. I jumped, my cousin Casey turned and stared at me, and Grandpa died. Just like that—right into the grave.


  1. There's a lot to like about this one, the first sentence for instance.

    However, I had a lot of trouble visualizing how "his feet got tangled up in the ropes that lowered Grandma�s coffin." Every graveside I've been to the coffin is held on straps at ground level over the open grave, so it just wouldn't work. The coffin would have to be way up in the air and he'd have to kind of cartwheel to get his legs tangled up in the straps.

    I like him dying though. And the voice is kind of there, it flickers in and out, but when it's there I like it.

    And I like the wind at the end. It doesn't seem urban really. I don't know about the checkerboard Vans. I'm so unhip I had to google them but a cemetary and the shoes and the talcum powder and the wind somehow conjures an image of a small town to me. If it's urban, give us some urban flavor. Bus exhaust wafting over the wall or something.

  2. I'd certainly read more! I love this kind of dark humor where you don't wanna laugh but just have to. Great set up and details.

  3. Hooked indeed.
    I really want to keep reading.
    I want to see the reaction shots of the family, and especially the MCs take on it.

  4. Yeah...

    wow! I'm trying to imagine that funeral scene. *wickedly amused*

    OK - the kid was holding his breath why?

    "I was watching the wind" <- How can you watch the wind? Maybe something like "A wind had picked up just before he fell."

    And really cool about the wind fingers<:

  5. Aside from the whole death thing? What kind of flip remark is that? For some reason it just doesn't endear me to the main character at all. And i don't understand the second to last sentence where the main character " jumped, my cousin Casey turned and Grandpa died."
    I thought Grandpa was dead already!!!

  6. Yes. I really liked the voic of this and what happened. My only concern is that he seems kind of indifferent about his grandfather's death. Also, I'm not sure how long ago the funeral was (it could have been a week ago for all I know); it might be helpful to let the readers know early on.

    Emily H

  7. I think the voice is the strongest part of the first page. I don't interpret Tristan as being indifferent so much as that being the tone of the book - slightly twisted, but comically so. I think it's a matter of taste. I like this one for its voice and detail.

  8. I'd keep reading. I liked the distracted teen and the suddenness of Grandpa's death.

    Good luck!

  9. Yes. I'm in. Love the voice, the character, his checkerboard Vans, all of it. Nicely done. :)

  10. Hook, line & sinker! 8^) Loved it. However, work on that last graph. It's rough and I had to read it a couple of times for it to make sense.

  11. Loved it.

    Wonderful dry, dark humour. A little heartbreaking. Which makes me wonder why the MC said it was a good day. I'd like a little more of a hint as to why.

    'I was watching the wind' could have been change to something like: I was watching the wind's antics. Like your other readers, this sentence didn't quite work for me, even though you go on to explain it.

    The fingers of the wind, at the end, made me wonder: is this a signpost as to how your story goes from this to fantasy? That drew me in more: I want to learn about the impending fantasy.

    Overall, you've got the beginnings of something great here.

  12. Great voice, great story. I would definately read more.

  13. Very good voice of the MC. You flavored him with this warped sense of humor that really gives him a personality right away. I'd definitely want to find out more about this character. He may be a bit off kilt, but it works! Good luck.

  14. I like this one! Very nice, although it still needs some editing.

  15. You got me. Great voice. I'm ready to follow Tristan wherever he goes!

  16. Some parts, like with the time jumping back and forth, are a bit confusing, but overall this worked for me. I liked the subtle humor and the introduction of something paranormal. So yea, I think I would keep reading.

  17. Wonderful voice. Yes, I'd read on.

  18. Sure. I liked the first paragraph -- that second sentence made me laugh. The last paragraph provided the hook for me, but I didn't get the point of the paragraphs in between, to be honest. They felt rambly and unnecessary to me, personally, and distracting from what's actually happening. But I'd probably keep reading. :)

  19. Hooked. I love this so far. The voice is great, the situation unusual, and the dark humor fits it to a tee. I'd keep reading, even if I didn't adore UF.

  20. LOL! Sorry. Couldn't help that. It was my first reaction to this opening -- in a good way!

    Loved it!

    From the first line to the last, I was hooked. Tristan's got quite a disaffected, cynical teen thing goin' on here, and it's absolutely delightful.

    Good job! :-)

  21. Not hooked.

    Um, I get it's supposed to be dry, twisted humor but having his grandpa die at his grandma's funeral and then referring to it all as not a bad day seems pretty cold for a kid.

    It'd be funny if the MC was older, but to have a kid this indifferent through the whole story....I'll pass.

  22. Rambling, jumping from then to now... but funny. I might keep reading, but I'm leaning towards no.

  23. Your opening paragraph is terrific and certainly hooked me. Loved the asides on the shoes even though I don't know what they look like. That's what imaginations for. LOL. I was confused by first his death and then the description of what had passed during the day. Also, while I loved the shoes poking out of the grave, the tangled ropes seemed a bit odd. Still, hooked enough to read on

  24. Yep, loved the wind and Tristan's story has to be interesting to start like that.

  25. Yes.

    I love your first two lines.

    Research the ropes thing. I'm pretty sure most funeral homes use something else. They're more like nylon belts, 3-4 inches wide.

    I like her attitude that she knows Grampa might not appreciate her wearing checkerboard Vans to a funeral, so she doesn't comment on his shoes.

    The Kleenexes, and the wind, and fingers, and faces really slowed the pace though. Needs some trimming.

    I like the humor, but at this point, I'm not sure what's at stake for Tristan yet. And BTW, is Tristan a boy or a girl? I'm guessing a boy's name, but to me, the voice feels like a girl. Probably because of noticing the talcum powder smell.

  26. YES! Love it so far and really do want to read more. Great opening situation and voice for Tristan! B-)

    Good luck,


  27. I love it. Great voice - I'm intrigued to see why he's so flippant towards death - and fabulous situation :D

    I didn't have a prob visualising it - from the funerals I've been to, I can easily see how he could trip in the ropes around his feet as they lowered the coffin.

    Nice :)

  28. Hooked. Yay for boy narrator (I'm guessing). I didn't care for the second sentence of first para or the second para and wondered if you might make the last para the new second para, then work in the segue to the shoes (vans a great signifier for Tristan and I like the interaction between him and grandpa). Nice work--I'd for sure keep reading.

  29. Not hooked.

    I like the premise, and I love the idea of Grandpa dying at Grandma's funeral, also the wind appearing to have fingers is a cool image. But I actually had a lot of trouble following this. It kept jumping in time: Death, right before the death, earlier that day, then even earlier to describe Grandma's talcum powder obsession, then back to right before Grandpa dies.

    So I had to work too hard to figure out what was going on and the order it occurred in to be truly hooked.