Thursday, October 16, 2008

13 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Only In My Dreams

“You got Jake fired.” Kara’s words shot through my phone like bullets.

“No!” I dashed to Mom’s kitchen candy drawer; this news required chocolate. “How?”

“The cart thing,” Kara said. “It’s all on security tape. You’re spinning a shopping cart while your daughter does a handstand on it--and Jake’s there, watching. Total litigation nightmare for a grocery store.”

I slumped to the floor and tore into my Snickers. “This blows any chance with him.”

“You guys’ve been stuck on platonic forever. Move on, Lucy.”

“We shared some hand-on-knee action last week.”

She snorted. “I stand corrected. Listen, I’ve got class. Later.” She hung up.

I groaned. We’re supposed to be together! She’d never understand why.

Chelsea crawled onto my lap. “What’s wrong, Mama?”

I frowned, and shifted under her squirming body. “We can’t play on the cart anymore.”

Chelsea’s lip wobbled. “But I love it!”

My non-existent mothering gene left me silent while she whimpered. Luckily, my phone rang.

“Lucy Parker?” a man asked.

My heart thundered. Jake’s boss?

“Y-yes?” I grabbed another Snickers.

“It’s Grant Andrews from "Talent 2.0." Great news about your video.”

I sighed. “I don’t need any videos.” My pilates DVD’s were still shrink wrapped.

He laughed. “I’m not selling anything. You’re a finalist in our online contest. The shopping cart acrobatics thing with the little girl? That’s your video, right?”

Chocolate lodged in my throat. “I didn’t enter that in any contest.”

“Someone did. You could win a million bucks on our cross-country tour.”


  1. Hmmm... interesting set up, but I'm not hooked. I don't like the MC. You killed me at "my non-existent mothering gene". I'm more worried about the little girl with a bad mother than I am in seeing what happens next.

  2. I'm confused about the ages of the characters. The voice and actions of the characters sound like young teens (14 or 15), but the protagonist's kid is at least 3 based on her language, and at least 4 or 5 if she's doing handstands, so... Lucy was pregnant at 10? Or is she older than she seems?

    The age question is distracting me from your prose, which is quite nice, really. :)

  3. Can't say I'm totally hooked. But it had an interesting start and ending but was a little slow in the middle.

    Would someone say a million bucks?

  4. I'm not quite hooked. The ending adds an interesting twist, but I'm confused about the age of the protagonist, especially since this is entered as YA.

  5. Okay so I really love the voice and the personalities here, but I'm also having a hard time placing the ages.

    Things that threw me off about age:

    'this news required chocolate' - loved this line, but it made me think she was fifteen or younger

    'your daughter' - okay so now she's got a kid and I'm thinking 20 or older

    'I've got class' - now I'm thinking are they high-schoolers?

    'We're supposed to be together!' - sounds like a fifteen year old to me, again.

    'My non existent mothering gene' - now I've settled on her being a too-young mother.

    But if the child is speaking (and the way she speaks) she must've been born 4 years ago, and how old would the MC have been then?

    Love the set up, but it's really important that you clarify the ages here.

  6. I'm not hooked just yet. I think the bit with the phone call to set up the important information was a great idea, but felt a bit rushed. I'd probably read a bit further, though.

  7. The conversation didn't engage me. Plus, I was really confused on the ages. I'm taking that this is a teenage pregnancy type story, but you have to establish that right up front with me. I still can't tell if the Mom's candy drawer was the MC's candy drawer, or her mom's, or what.

  8. I'm too confused about the ages to be hooked. I started the piece thinking YA, which I soon upped to adult when you mentioned Lucy being a mother. The love of chocolate and Snickers and moaning over touching Jake's knee brought me down to YA again. Then the appearance of Chelsea threw the opening into adult land again. How old are these characters? I'm not sure a protagonist old enough to be a mother will interest a lot of YA readers. And on the flipside, I don't think adult readers will care about the escapades of a flippant teen mother.

  9. Thanks for the comments, everyone. Lots to think about.

    I think this is a case where I cut too much from my original beginning. I wanted to get that second phone call hook in the first 250 words. The extra 70 words I originally had in there set it up much better.

    The MC is 19, daughter is 3. She's a reluctant teen mother. Not sure if that's a turn off for YA readers or not. It's not the main plot, but it is a major part of who she is, obviously.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  10. I have to agree with other commenters on this. Is Lucy a teen with a daughter? If so, this brings up a good topic. Now, YA in recent years has stretched to encompass quite a lot- anyone who has ever picked up a Gossip Girl knows that sex is no longer taboo (I must admit, I kind of long for the days when "Forever" was guarded in the library). But it still stands that there are only a few venues for teen pregnancy, abortion, and other touchy subjects. The book has to be an "issue" book, where it is the focus of the story, or extremely commercial and, let's face it, a little trashy. I'm sure every now and again one sneaks through, but this is something I hear directly from editors. Something to consider while working on your novel.

  11. Um.... I don't know. I just can't get the mental image of a toddler doing a handstand on a spinning shopping cart.

    Then again, the writing itself and the characters are great.

  12. For me 19 is too old for a MC of a YA, especially if she's already a mother. The whole "Oh, crud, I'm pregnant" thing has been done to death recently in YA -- the book SLAM, by Nick Hornby and others, and even so all those MC's are sixteen, seventeen, and dealing with high school as well, not "grown up" things.

    The MC seems too cavalier -- she's got a kid but her biggest worry is the possibility of her object of desire being platonic? It makes me think she didn't just "accidentally" get pregnant but that she's irresponsible, and that frustrates me.

    If I were 19 with a child my biggest worry would be how to pay the bills not flirting with a grocery clerk.

  13. I too was a bit confused on how old she is; she sounds younger than I'd expect if she has a toddler... but, sorry, not hooked. While interesting, the MC doesn't appeal to me yet, and I'm not sold on her voice (the simile in the first line really bugged me and made me want to stop reading).

    Depending on the blurb and my mood, I might give it a bit more, as I'm curious who entered the video if not her and why. *shrugs* Would depend.

    Anyway, good luck. :)


  14. I'm hooked by the strangeness of the situation (handstands? on spinning shopping carts? and acrobatics contests?) ...hopefully I'm supposed to find it somewhat amusing. :) (if I'm not, there might be a problem here...) Not knowing the age of the character was distracting, but it didn't bother me so much that I'd not keep reading.

  15. Yes, hooked. I like the voice, like the scenario. And I can't guess where it's going to go next--it's taken a couple of interesting turns already.

    Like lots of other people here, I was a little confused by the ages--but I guessed about where you've put them.

    Good luck with it. It sounds like the teen motherhood issue might make it a hard sell.