Wednesday, May 13, 2009

20 Secret Agent

TITLE: Mermaid's Blood
GENRE: Young Adult fantasy

“Go ahead, kill me,” the small boy said, gripping his sword between fingers still rounded with baby fat. A thin circle of gold gleamed through his shock of dark hair. “The clan will never accept you as their leader.” Though only four, Prince Theo spoke clearly, his cherubic face glaring defiantly at the soldier who towered over him.

Theo’s mother put both hands on the boy’s shoulder as if to help steady his resolve. “This is not what my husband would have wanted, Belino,” Queen Jessamine said. Her wide green eyes shone bright against her pale olive skin. “He made you commander of his army. He trusted you to protect us!”

Belino laughed, amused by the boy’s heroics and the Queen’s sentimental naivetĂ©. He shook his head at the Queen before turning his eyes back to the boy. The sword-wielding child looked enough like him to be his own son, Belino thought, their hair and eyes matching shades of black, their tails matching shades of green. His own tail flicked steadily back and forth like a metronome, the emerald scales flashing with each swish.

Finally he smiled, looking down at the boy staring up at him. “Your father’s accidental death was a shock to us all, Your Highness,” he told Prince Theo, sarcasm dripping from his every word. “But the Adluo clan needs more than a boy to lead us to victory in the coming war. You may bear the Mark, but it is I who should be King.”


  1. Good opening. Whole first paragraph is great.

    The second is good too, but I'd leave off the sentence describing the mother. It halts this very immediate action, and we can probably learn later what she looks like. She's queen, its her son, that's enough right then.

    Same thing with the opening of the third para. Belino laughed and shok his head at the Queen. You don't have to tell us he's amused- the laugh says that. Keep this great action/dialogue moving.

    Loved the line about the tail just thrown in so casually. Loved that last line. I want to read more.

  2. The tail does make this much more interesting than it would be otherwise. :-)

    Two issues that pulled me out. First, it almost reads as quote, sentence-describing-something, quote. The sentence about Jessamine's looks doesn't belong in the middle of a conversation.

    Second...and this is the bigger issue, and is probably what's causing issue #1. Your POV isn't grounded. If it's OMNI, then I think you need a narrator's voice. Omni isn't as popular now-a-days, though, so I suggest you ground us in one person's POV. It's really difficult, from just this selection, to say whose POV would be best.

    This is YA, so I'm wondering if this is a Prologue of sorts, and the boy will soon be a teenager...and that's where the story starts.

    If you ground us in the boy's, then you've got to describe all of this from a four-year-old's eyes, which might be hard to pull YAs into. I'm actually thinking that the villain's POV might work best, although I don't know how conventional that is...starting out in the villain's POV. To do that, alter all your descriptions so that they're through his jaded, twisted, sarcastic thoughts.

    Good luck!

  3. The mermaid angle is almost enough on its own to pull me in. :) A few thoughts: you're doing what I call "reader-proofing" your writing. (Don't worry, I do it too!) It's writing too many obvious descriptions that we should be able to infer from other details; like the amused/laughed redundancy already mentioned. Have a little more faith that your readers can figure it out. Also, too many physical descriptions at once definitely drags down the pacing. Find ways to insert those details more organically, so the narrative can proceed smoothly. At this point I would be divided between reading more and putting it aside.

  4. WHOA! I loved that first paragraph! I especially loved the first sentence: '“Go ahead, kill me,” the small boy said, gripping his sword between fingers still rounded with baby fat.'

    That's a super-cool image — the sword gripped by the baby-fat fingers!

    An excellent opening with conflict already getting pumped up, and some fun characters established. Keep it up, I'm loving it! :)

  5. I'm hooked but more by the later paragraphs and imagery than the first. I like the implied conflict and the unusual setting. Mermaids are cool!

    I'm not crazy about a sword weilding 4 year old. It doesn't work for me and neither does the dialog. I just can't see a 4 year old saying it.Maybe it's just me who doesn't see it, but I might buy it if Theo were a little older.

  6. I felt the description got in the way of the action. I loved the opening, but had difficulty believing a four-year-old would word the second sentence like this ("the clan will never accept you..."). I thought he would use different language.

    The idea of a young boy as heir to the throne, father's dead, and another man is trying to take over, felt a little cliche, even if this time they're mermaids.

    It might just be the description that's putting me off. The writing is very nice.

  7. I love the first paragraph, but I agree that it sounds like the boy should be older than four, even six or seven would work better. He'd still very much be a child, but more aware of himself and the world. I have a four-year-old right here with me, and she would never have the presence of mind to talk that way (and she was an early talker).

    I agree that the descriptions can come later and that you need to pick a POV. AND that with the book labeled as YA, I hope this is a prologue and the boy ages several years pretty quickly.

    Having said all that, I would keep reading.

  8. Who's the main character here? Belino? Theo? This was confusing, and the abrupt mention of tails, when there was no hint as to what they might be, threw me off and interrupted the flow.

    Not hooked.

  9. The description with baby fat hooked me right away. I pictured a cherubic sword yielding child.

    "Though only four" sort of kills the moment.
    I was surprised too when the mother is present, but then if he is only four?? I guess she should be.

    Nice paragraph: "Belino laughed"

    And then I learn that the boy has a tail. I love it. nice surprise.
    I would read on.

  10. Twitches about the tail... I kinda don't read books with animal-people. :]

    That said, I think the writing here is great and I would otherwise be hooked<:

  11. I'm not sure. You had me with baby fat, lost me in the middle, but got me back with the mermaid angle.


  12. You had me at hello, or uh "go ahead and kill me," as the case may be. :) I'd totally read on.

  13. Except for the tails, this could be any familial unit in just about any story. You need something more to set it apart. Not until I hear what I think is a threat in the uncle's last line does this do anything for me. Prior to that, it's just a conversation.

    You're telling me the boy was displaying heroics, but there's more going on with the tails than what the little boy is doing. Give me a bit of his parry/thrust play.

    The first sentence gives me the little boy's defiance. Then you tell me he's only four and spoke clearly. My girls (and I'm not the only parent who has experienced this) were speaking clearly, in complete sentences by the time they were two. It's not an unusual thing.

    In essence, there's nothing going on here to really hold my interest.

    And I do not like the little boy's name at all, but that's due to personal reasons. And the fact that all I can think of is the Huxtables. I hope this is Greek because that's a thoroughly Greek name and will be associated with Greek myth by many readers.

  14. Not hooked.

    Great opening line, but he might grip his sword WITH his fingers, rather than between them -- he certainly wouldn't be able to use it very well holding it that way. And how big is the sword? Swords are heavy and this kid is 4 years old.

    And while I think a four year old could say the things this kid says, I can't see him coming up with these lines on his own.

    There's no pov character, and even if you're using an omniscient pov, I can't tell whose story it is.

    The writing could be tighter, and you might give us a sense of where we are. What type of world is this?

    And perhaps the last line should read, . . . but it is I who WILL be king.

    Just a bit too cliche for me.

  15. I'm not getting hooked by this one, perhaps because I'm not so thrilled by merpeople, which I assume they are. I'm far more interested in whether Belino actually slept with the Queen, and whether Theo is his son than in what I presume is going to be the rest of the novel.

    Royal affairs aren't typically explored in YA fiction, unfortunately...

  16. From the author -
    Thanks to everyone who left helpful comments! I really appreciate the feedback, and am all fired up to work on the rewrites.

    This is a great forum, and a great opportunity! Many thanks to Authoress for giving us all this chance to get our work out there.