Wednesday, February 11, 2009

27 Secret Agent


Tang Dynasty China, 758 A.D.

The palanquin dipped sharply and Ai Li had to brace her hands against the sides to stay upright. Amidst the startled cries of her attendants, the wedding sedan lurched again before crashing to the ground with the splintering crack of wood. The ceremonial headdress toppled from her lap as she was thrown from her seat.

The clash of metal upon metal rang just beyond the curtain. Sword strike, a sound she woke up to every morning. She struggled to free herself from the tangle of red silk about her ankles. This skirt, the entire dress was so heavy, laden with jewels and a mile of embroidery thread.

The shouting outside sent the blood rushing through her ears. She fumbled behind the padded cushions of her seat, searching frantically for her swords. Where were they? She had put them there herself, needing some reminder of home while she was being sent so far away. The way another girl might find comfort in a doll.

Her hand finally closed around the leather wrapped hilt and she tightened her hold to stop the shaking. From outside the sounds of fighting grew louder.


She ignored the inner voice and pulled the other sword free, straightening as much as she could. The short blades barely fit in the cramped space. She had no time for doubt, not when so much was at risk. With the tip of one sword, she pushed the curtain aside.


  1. Now, I'd definitely read on. There are unanswered questions that would propel me into the story. Very nicely done. I'm hooked.

  2. I liked this opening! You got my attention right away by starting with action. Your writing is clear and sharp, showing us what the character is facing at each moment.

    I happen to love girls who kick butt, so any chick with swords is cool by me! :-)

    I'm curious to see what and who is behind the curtain.

  3. Great job! I love that it's not the usual English/Recency fare. And the action is compelling. Your first paragraph sets the stage, giving all the information we need without going into too much detail.

  4. Okay so, like the others... this is very good and interesting. Great job showing us things about her. The only thing I noticed is that it seems unnatural to mention "a mile" of embroidery thread. This is old China... did they use miles?

    Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it jerked me right out of the story to see that word.

  5. I'm hooked -- we learn interesting things about your character as she deals with an interesting situation. And the details are great. I feel like I'm there.

  6. I'm not usually a fan of historical fiction, but I love exotic locations, different cultures and kick-a** heroines. Nice start with the action, the wedding, the swords. So yes I'd keep reading.

    JMO, I would also put in more of her reaction. For ex.

    The ceremonial headdress toppled from her lap as she was thrown from her seat. [HERE I'D PUT REACTION -- SHE SWALLOWED AN OATH. OR HAVE HER WHISPER A CHINESE NOT-SO-LADYLIKE WORD. OR SOME SUCH THING.]

    The clash of metal upon metal rang just beyond the curtain.

  7. Oooh, I LOVE this! I would definitely keep reading.

    I love everything about it. The setting is so unusual, and you obviously have done your research. The action starts right off the bat. The heroine is obviously about to kick some a**, and yet, she has a perfectly logical, even sweet, reason for hiding swords in her wedding palanquin. *g*

    Very cool. Email me as soon as you sell this. Or, even before, if you want a beta reader. I'm serious.

  8. Very hooked. It's well written and an interesting place to start a story. She's not just an ordinary bride. I like how brave she is. The one part- Reckless- doesn't fit with the rest. It made no sense to me.

  9. YES! As a fellow writer of Chinese historical, I'm so there. I'd agree, the "reckless" line caught me up. Also, I think you mean "when" she was being sent. You probably just slipped up, but a li is one third of a mile, so just say "several li worth of embroidery thread". Small things: "a leather-wrapped hilt", since she's got two swords and I believe you need the hyphen. Someone correct me if I'm wrong! But yes, absolutely hooked and I would love to read the whole thing.

  10. I loved the descriptions here. Great detail. I'm hooked. I loved it.

  11. Absolutely hooked. Great details and world building, good narrative voice for Ai Li, and action, right off the bat. Great job!

  12. I feel like I'm right there with her.

    I want to read more. Well done.

  13. This is the first entry I've read where I've screamed (okay, not literally because it's 5:45 am and my kids are asleep) because I want to keep reading.

    Great writing. Your pace and descriptions are perfect. I have one little issue, though. "The way another girl might find comfort in a doll" makes the MC sound 8 years old.

    My fingers are double crossed for this one.

  14. I liked it. The only problem I had was when her inner voice came out with "reckless." It kind of stopped me for a moment because it didn't really go with the rest of the writing.

    But I dig girls with swords, so I would totally read on.

  15. This was just LOVELY.

    Need I say more?

  16. Hooked!

    "Miles" threw me also, and it took me a couple of reads to grok that "Reckless" was her talking about herself and not the fighters outside, but the setting and the fact that she's about to kick ass in her wedding finery drew me right in.

    Would love to see more.

  17. I would definitely read on. Not a traditional time period for romance so that will be hard but I like a lot of the imagery here.

    The reminder of the swords the way another girl might find comfort in a doll is good.

    I also really felt how heavy the wedding dress is.

    I'm not sure I'd open a novel with this scene as I wouldn't mind more grounding in the character and setting before a battle erupts.

  18. Here's my nit pick. Put a comma after outside in graph 4. ;) From outside, the sounds....

    And I'd read on for sure! Beautifully done.

  19. I enjoyed this - good job. I might, as another critiquer said, like to hear a bit more of her thoughts in a few points but I think it's off to a great start.

  20. I'm not a romance reader, but I love the setting. A little more grounding in the character might help.

  21. This has been so much fun and endlessly helpful! I've been incessantly checking back to read and to comment on entries. Thanks for all the wonderful feedback from everyone on my entry.

  22. This one left me feeling like I'd stepped into the movie theatre five minutes after the film started.

    Love the setting, though; so unusual for a romance.

  23. I almost didn't read further than the category of historical romance, but I'm glad I did. The first page drew me in, right across genre boundries :)