Wednesday, February 11, 2009

2 Secret Agent


The unopened e-mail taunted me, sitting bold-faced in my inbox. It didn't move or disappear or do any of the creepy things I'd expect an e-mail from a ghost to do. It just sat there.


I squeezed my eyes shut and held the air in my lungs until it burned. I was terrified to open my eyes and see nothing but an empty inbox. But the prospect of reading the e-mail was equally terrifying. I wasn't sure if I wanted to know what my presumed dead ex-best friend would have to say to me on the anniversary of her disappearance.

I let the air out of my lungs and opened my eyes. Yup, still there. Cue the men in white coats because it was entirely possible that I, Kate Lowry, had officially lost my mind.

Of course, even if this was some type of prolonged psychotic episode, I still had to read the e-mail. I mean, if I was going crazy I might as well go crazy. Go big or go home, right?

I'm not sure if it was the dense September air or the emotional shock, but the walls of my already cramped bedroom seemed to close in on me. Okay, deep breaths. I steadied my hand and clicked on Ava's name.


Sent: Sun 9/14 11:59 PM


Subject: (no subject)

I'm here…

sort of.

Find Christian.

He knows.

I shouldn't be writing.

Don't tell.

They'll hurt you.


  1. Definitely hooked!

    This is a good opening that gets my attention with the early ghost comment. Then the actual email grabs me by the throat.

    One quibble is:

    "I wasn't sure if I wanted to know what my presumed dead ex-best friend would have to say to me on the anniversary of her disappearance."

    This throws me out of the moment with too many words and qualifiers. Whether or not the ex-best friend is dead, a shorter, more to the point comment is in order, something like, "Did I really want to hear from my dead ex-best friend?"

    Even if later the former friend is to be found alive, in this moment Kate thinks she's dead.

    Again, however, I'm hooked. Nice job!


  2. I was hooked immediately and curious about what the email was going to be. I also was hooked by the fact that the email was from a ghost- you know then it's no ordinary message. She does stop and think just a little too long, though, before opening it. I did really like the men in white coats comment- it added voice and character to the story.

  3. This is a compelling opening, and I would definitely read on. But like the previous poster, the word "presumed" threw me. If she was only presumed dead, I would think that Kate's reaction would be excitement - holy cow, could she be alive?

    The email itself is a great hook, though. Good job.

  4. I really enjoyed this snippet of Gmail. The title, nice! The first two lines, great!

    Writing first person POV is always tricky but you pull it off without bogging down your sentences with I all the time. I can't do humor myself, but you can, and very well!

    I would continue to read this!

  5. Yes, I loved this one. Loved the writing style and I'm hooked. I want to know what's in the email. Nothing stood out too distract me from the story at all. I liked all of it.

  6. I liked this a lot -- an email from a presumed dead person is a great hook.

    The only thing I'd suggest is to edit out the words you don't need. For instance, "I, Kate Lowry," since we see her name in the To line of the email a few paragraphs down. And "Go big or go home, right?" takes away some of the punch of "I mean, if I was going crazy I might as well go crazy." (I loved that sentence.)

    Good luck with your novel!

  7. I loved this, definitley hooked and I would really want to read on. Like a few others have said, there are bits that are wordy, but I think with a tight edit this would be great!

  8. Brilliant opening. Great voice.

    I agree with Sheila about the 'presumed' part. The story was really intriguing with the idea of an email from the great beyond. The intrigue diminished just slighlty when I realized the best friend might actually be alive. Still, everything is very well written with great voice. Well done.

  9. Fantastic premise -- email from a ghost! I don't usually read YA, but I'm very tempted with this. You've got a nice balance of interior monologue and action, reads smoothly. You do a great job of showing the POV character's emotions.

    The only thing I wondered -- and maybe this is addressed later in the scene (it's so hard to get a grip on the whole story from 250 words).

    Since you're not listing this as a paranormal and we're in the heroine's POV, I wondered if she believes her friend is dead, or if she doesn't believe her friend is dead even though everyone else does?

    If I got an email from someone who I actually thought was dead, I would probably:

    A) have a moment of hope where I thought, "a miracle, maybe she's not dead!"


    B) assume that the email was from an imposter and wonder why someone would want to impersonate my dead friend

    Since you haven't established that she's a medium or that she's using state of the art ghostbuster tech :) I have to assume that she doesn't know of a way that a ghost could actually send email.

    But here's the good news -- I would HAVE to read on to find out what's going on. So as long as the reason why she believes the email is genuine is actually addressed in the early part of the story, you're golden.

  10. I'm hooked, though I was unhooked in the third paragraph when you tried to drill in your MC's terrified feelings for the e-mail. It lost some of it's original power. You could cut out the second and third sentence of the paragraph and it would sound stronger.

    Otherwise, I really enjoyed it.

  11. I love the protagonist already and your style is great! What sealed it for me was the "I mean, if I was going crazy I might as well go crazy. Go big or go home, right?" Classic.

  12. I loved the go big or go home line too. It was awesome.

    But the believability faltered for me a bit when you described the situation. I mean, if my best friend was presumed dead for a year and then I suddenly got an e-mail from her, a rush of thoughts would fill my mind, but one of them would definitely be hope.

    Why doesn't she say something about even a sliver of hope that she is still alive?

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Wow, I'm definitely hooked!

    Things slowed down a bit between the paragraph starting "I let the air..." and "Of course, even..." but I still I would definitely read on.

    I have to agree the email makes me shiver, but that's a good thing.

  15. I'm hooked! I could feel the tension.

  16. Love this! Definitely hooked. Only a few nit-picks. I don't like "Existing" on a line of its own. "presumed dead ex-best friend" is a very wordy. Was she the ex-best friend before she died? Or only ex- because she's not around? And is it presumed rather than certain only because of the new email?

    This story has me very intrigued, and I like the MC's voice. Great hook at the end.

  17. Very compelling. The e-mail is great. But do kids even use e-mail any more? Most seem to spend all their time texting.

  18. This is great stuff. I like the way you take old tropes, "Gosh, am I going crazy?" and make it fresh. Cue the men in white coats because it was entirely possible that I, Kate Lowry, had officially lost my mind.

  19. I really, really like this. I was hooked from the beginning, and though I stumbled over that wordy bit about the presumed dead person, it wasn't a huge deal. I am in love with that email. I'd definitely read on. =)

  20. Hooked, and I so want to read on! :D Nice job.


  21. I was gently hooked, but became unhooked as the paragraphs went on.

    Your hook is the first two paragraphs -- Kate has an email from a ghost and she's scared. The next four add one detail (the friend's death) but mostly just repeat that Kate is scared in different ways, and that's where you lost me. I'd worry that the rest of the book would be similarly over-written.

    Given "GMail" is a trademark, you may find you cannot call your book that, even though it's presumably meant to mean "ghost mail" rather than "Google mail" here. It's like calling your book "Coca-Cola".


  22. Am I hooked? No. Sorry again.

    I really like the email part that wraps up this submission but the opening just strikes me as a lot of telling about how creepy it is rather than just being creepy. A tad on the melodramatic side as well.

    As a reader, I want to feel this narrator's shock of receiving an email from a dead person.

    I do, however, think the overall concept is potentially sound and intriguing.

    Secret Agent

  23. My thought is: how could anyone not read on?

    Great job!

  24. The only quibble I had is I really hate it when characters tell me their name like this. I, Kate Jane Doe, doesn't work. Have her friend's email say: Kate, I'm here... sort of. LOVED the email closer and you've got a GREAT voice and wonderful premise. Yes, I am definitely hooked.

  25. Heh. If I got an email from a 'ghost', the creepy thing I'd expect is for the text to swirl around and turn into a horrible face staring straight back at me with dead eyes. ["]

    This does start off very slow with her reacting to the email. I would actually prefer if you started earlier with her clicking into her inbox and seeing the DEAD PERSON email staring right back at her with an unknown message from the next life.

    I skimmed until I got down to the email itself - and I'd read on because of that email.

  26. I really like the email and the concept. It seems a little too much like a YA version of Harlan Coben's Tell No One, though.

  27. The email message was great and a good hook. I wonder if condensing/removing some of the paragraphs prior to that point might increase the pace and tension.

    Nice start and best of luck!

  28. There’s nothing not to love about this! A great character voice, a strong hook right off the bat, a mystery from page one, and very engaging narrative. I’d absolutely read on!

  29. Author of #2 (Gmail)February 13, 2009 at 11:55 AM

    Thank you everyone for all of your insightful comments. We have already been working on an updated version that we feel is much tighter than the original that we posted above, and your comments and feedback were instrumental in helping us get there.

    Thank you so much!

  30. This gave me chills. Very cool hook. I want to read more. I do think some tightening at the beginning would make this stronger though.

  31. I liked this, and I was hooked (I’m just disappointed that this isn’t YA fantasy/paranormal, but that has to do with my own tastes, not your writing). I think I would have been hooked even more if you had started with the e-mail (no introduction) and given us Kate’s reaction and the backstory afterwards. Then I could have experienced her fear and confusion as she experienced it, and would have been more emotionally invested and compelled to read on.

  32. I'm just plain hooked. I love stories like this. I wasn't to sure about the title, but maybe it was on the spot or there's more further on in the story that would go with this title. I'm having trouble with "presumed dead ex-best friend," is the friend really presumed dead? Was she her ex-best friend before she died? If not I wouldn't put ex in there. Great story though, keep it up.

  33. I loved this, and actually felt chills. I would read on.

  34. I say get to the email much quicker. IMO:

    The unopened e-mail taunted me. It didn't move or disappear. It just sat there.


    The fine hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, and a trickle of sweat ran down my back. There had to be a perfectly logical reason why my presumed dead ex-best friend would have sent me an e-mail on the anniversary of her disappearance.

    I let the air out of my lungs and thought, cue the men in white coats because I, Kate Lowry, had officially lost my mind.

    Of course...(liked this rest of this.)

    I know this lost your voice, but it gives you a rough idea I hope on one way to tighten this.

    Not that I'm an expert or anything, and you can by all means ignore this, but I like this a lot, and want to see you succeed with it.

    I took out things that seemed repetitive to me.
    I do like the idea of her being terrified, but I want you to show us how.

    she closes her eyes and breaths and then opens them. That shows disbelief, kind of. Are her palms sweating? do the little hairs on the back of her neck stand on end? Does her stomach twist or knot? Would a noise make her jump.

    If you're going to take longer to get to the email. I want to feel her fear. You don't have to tell us she's going crazy, though I do like the white coats and the go big or go home, but I want to FEEL.

    Good luck with this!

  35. Thank you again for all of your comments. In case you guys are interested in seeing our revamped version, please check out our blog. You gave such insightful comments the first time around, we'd love to hear what you think of the edited version.

    Lisa and Laura (authors of Gmail)