Thursday, July 17, 2008

#110 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

GENRE: Historical Fantasy

Liu Pei raced into the peach orchard after his son – his only living child.

The moon’s full, bony face lit their path and the smell of autumn and sour wine rose from slippery peaches beneath Pei’s feet. Leaves chattered on branches, sounding like a shallow stream. Like the river that brings the dead to hell. Did his ghosts crowd him now?

“Quick, Papa! Someone's lying on the ground!” Shan gestured ahead.

Pei’s robes slapped against his legs. Hurry, hurry!

“Here, Papa!”

Each cold breath was a visible, white dash before he reached the garden. At last, Pei slid to his knees.

Moonlight dappled the hollow cheeks and blue lips of an emaciated teenage boy. Pei put his ear to the boy’s chest and heard unsure air squeaking from the child’s lips.

“Shan, he’s alive. Run and beg the innkeeper for hot water. I’ll follow you.”

Shan sprinted toward the inn.

Liu Pei cradled the child and ran as memories burst in upon him.

Twelve years ago he’d heard the river of the dead. He looked at the bony child in his arms, but didn't see him.

Pei saw his sons. Their eyes were open and clear in the moonlight. Clear and accusing.

“Why did you fail us, Papa?”


  1. Ohh, I like this, very good imagery. I especially like, "The moon’s full, bony face lit their path and the smell of autumn and sour wine rose from slippery peaches beneath Pei’s feet." Especially the peaches beneath his feet.

    It's got a good historical feel to it too. And I can't help but wonder who the boy is and why Pei is so affected by him.

    I can't say that I see anything here that needs tweaking. I really like it!

  2. Yes, Yes!

    I love historical fant-fic. :)

    Your writing is clean, lovely, strong characterization - nicely done<:

  3. Wow, this is wonderful! Beautiful imagery, captivating voice.

  4. I'm not much for historical fantasy, but I'm curious. I'd read more.

  5. You hooked me. I especially liked that you didn't use names that I couldn't recognize or pronounce. That's always a good thing.

  6. Yes. Also like the use of "pronouncable" names. Would read more.

  7. I'm hooked! Nothing like the seeing dead to get a story going. Nicely written. :)

  8. Yes and no, lol!

    Yes, because it started with action and we all want to know what happened to the child in the peach orchard.

    No, because You call Liu Bei, "Pei" and Liu Shan, "Shan" which is kinda weird, lol!

    I've never heard a Chinese person called by their given name in one syllable before. "Shan-shan" I could live with, but not "Shan," because it sounds strange on its own. Maybe "Xiao Lao Da" for Liu Shan, or "Di Yi," something more cute.

    And instead of "Pa pa," why not use the traditional Mandarin "Ba ba"?

    Chinese people are generally more comfortable being called by only their surname, so calling Liu Bei, "Liu" would work better. To distinguish him from his son, others might call him "Lao Liu" and his son "Xiao Liu."

    But the imagry and use of the famous Peach Orchard is great. Is this the same peach orchard where he makes his pact with the other two great heros of the Three Kingdoms Period?

    I bet this will be a great book, but I think you need to talk with some Chinese people on a few small cultural issues, such as name usage.

  9. Beautiful piece of writing! Favorite string of words--Moonlight dappled hollow cheeks and blue lips...

    You've engaged all the senses. Hope this will grace my shelves.

  10. The imagery was lovely. The last couple of lines were too abrupt a transition for me though. Overall, I'd probably read more.

  11. Wonderful use of senses! I love the "wine" phrase-I can even smell the sour edge! I am so IN!!!

  12. Love the imagery. I can see a clear picture of the scene. I would love to read more.

  13. How beautifully you've written this. Yes, I'd have to read more just to hear more of this melodic display of words and imagery. Captivating! Wow.

  14. Wow! I'd definitely read more! Fabulous voice, nicely constructed, beautiful imagery that engages all the senses in the most delightful way. This is true "painting with words."

    You had me at the first line. :-)

  15. I'd say yes. I was a bit confused to begin with, because at first I couldn't figure out who the son was -- the boy in the orchard or Shan -- since in the first sentence I thought his son would be in danger of some sort. Probably just me. I really liked the mood you set up here. :) And, of course, the imagery was beautiful.

  16. Lovely writing and sense of place. Yes!

  17. Sorry, no. I wish I was, as this is my sort of thing.

    The aside with the only child seemed awkward.

    I found the river of the dead confusing. Was I supposed to understand this reference? And the final revelation about Pei's sons didn't seem to follow or appear relevant - but I guess that's the problem with 250 words.

    I might have read on to see if the river of the dead reference turned out to be interesting. As it stands however, I'm not champing at the bit to see what happens next.

    Anyway, JMO.

    Good Luck.

  18. Wow. The writing is beautiful and spare. This one hooked me. It's quiet - sort of the way Linda Sue Park's A SINGLE SHARD is written. But lingered and I want to read more

  19. This is a good example of the fact that different readers resonate with different writing.

    Obviously, this hit the mark with many people, but I didn't connect with it. It felt to me like the author was trying too hard, forcing imagery a bit. Like watching a good magician (because I agree there's much to admire here) and noticing the card up his sleeve. Suddenly, the patter doesn't work.

    Because I recognize that this is a talented writer, I would not continue reading it immediately, but would put it aside to try again later. It is altogether possible I'd love it when my own mood was a bit different.

  20. I can't say I was hooked by this either. I found the imagry distracting from the action, and the random bits of interjections (like the line about the river) were more confusing than anything else.

    Other than the last line, I'd like to see more of a response from the MC. It seems like he's a passive observer, rather than a participant in the scene.

  21. I have to say that I like it. I was a bit confused as to why he couldn't see the child. You do mention his sons in the end, but one child in the beginning. So are all his son's dead and the one alive? I was a bit confused, but sometimes it hard to bring out what you're trying to say in 250.
    I'm on the fence here. I like the setting and who you've chosen for characters. It intrigues me.

  22. Yes. I like this a lot. The writing is smooth, well paced, and vivid. I feel like I'm right in the scene with Pei. Even from this short piece, I love Pei as a protagonist. I'd keep reading.

  23. I liked this enough to want to read on. There is some beautiful imagery and enough mystery to catch my interest. There are some confusing parts, but I'd expect them to be clarified fairly quickly. Its weakest point is the first line, I think. It's not as strong as the rest.
    Well done.

  24. Not hooked.

    Probably not my cup of tea.

  25. Nice imagery, but maybe not the best way to open. Sorry, but I'm not hooked.

  26. I might read on. There are some intriguing aspects but I don't like too many literary flourishes when I read fantasy. It's just a personal preference.

  27. Hooked? I think so.

    Good imagery and dialogue.

    The italicized part at the end is intriguing.

  28. Yes! I would read on--I like the tone and style and imagery, and it's polished and reads well. Nice job.

    Good luck,


  29. I think so. A couple of confusion issues, the imagery and tone is nice, so I'd continue :)

  30. I got a little confused that Pei was running for his only living child--but Shan, who he sent for water, calls him Papa? I didn't care for the "only living child" tell in the first line anyhow so maybe you resolve that by losing it. I'm intrigued, though, and I think this only gets stronger as it goes, which bodes well for reading more.

  31. I was hooked. I'd definitely read on. I love historical fiction and you show nice internal conflict for Pei.