Wednesday, August 19, 2009

43 Secret Agent

TITLE: Few & Far Between
GENRE: Paranormal Historical

Carmen slammed her keycard on the counter. She was old enough to remember metal keys, much more satisfying when it came to slamming. Metal clanked; plastic only clunked.

Her head ached and she was filled with remorse at the slip of the tongue that had revealed her insomnia. Only sometimes, she'd added quickly, but the agent had already checked the box. Hell's bells. Mandatory end-of-life counseling, at age 52!

A noise from the old furnace vent startled her. Carmen tilted her head, listening, and heard nervous laughter followed by a series of thuds and muffled exclamations.

It was noon, and Shasta was downstairs instead of in school. Again. How long before a Social Enforcer buzzed? And what in God's name was going on down there? Carmen faced the basement door, wishing she had accepted the Aging Agent's offer of nerve pills after all. She took a deep breath then yanked the door open. Stealth be damned and it could take Anger Management with it; this time she would go down in a blaze of maternal wrath.

"It's her Mom!" cried a juvenile voice as Carmen's foot hit the last step with a deliberate thump.

"This way!" In the background Shasta's friend Mariah herded two or three kids toward the patio door, but Carmen's eyes were on the couch, where a bearded man sat holding her daughter's limp hand in both of his. Shasta's eyes were open but unfocused and she made gurgling noises in the back of her throat.


  1. The only part that hooked me was the last paragraph. Finally, something happened that I understood. I read the passage several times in order to feel as if I got what was happening but that is not somethingy you want a reader to do - reread because she's confused. And I was reading for it to be a historical but where's the history? I guess it's too confusing and vague to be a hook for me.

  2. A little confused. It felt more futuristic than historical. However, the last 2 paragraphs intrigued me so I might be tempted to read more.

  3. I would read the next page to see if it gets more interesting, but I think the writing could be a little clearer. The world building here intrigued me -- mandatory end-of-life counseling, the plastic key cards, and the Social Enforcer-- but the writing would need to be stronger to really hook me.

  4. Hmmm...if this is a paranormal historical, I'm guessing something happens that takes Carmen out of the present (future?) and puts her into the past. Interesting concept if so but it would have to be marketed correctly. The back cover blurb would have to be darn good, but of course that's not the intent in this contest...

  5. Lots of interesting stuff here, but it doesn't sound historical. Does the opening take place in the future?

  6. This seems scifi or fantasy to me. I was looking at that 'Aging Agent' and 'Social Enforcer'... Code words for government workers, I assume. :]

    I was a little confused about what was going on, but assume that her daughter was the one on the couch and she's having a seizure of some kind.

  7. Once in awhile it's nice to have the previous comments. I was afraid that I simply wasn't following what was happening.

    Carmen is 52 and dying, right? But her daughter Shasta sounds near death.

    A re-visit for clarification is in order I think. Or I'm just dense--and that can happen!

    Best wishes on your writing. I like Carmen's voice and loved the "metal clanked, plastic clunked".

  8. I like the ideas behind this -- metal vs. plastic keys, insomnia -- but I didn't feel grounded into the setting. I'm still not sure where exactly the character is, or what's going on, honestly.

  9. The last sentence hooked me, because I want to find out why her daughter is gurgling, but until that point I was confused and thinking "not hooked". Still, unless the next few paragraphs are really good, I'd probably set this book down and look for another.

    (Oh, and I love the line "metal clanked, plastic clunked")

  10. I kind of liked the first paragraph because I've shared the mc's feelings about keys and can relate, but after that I quickly got confused about what was going on. Clarity is the most important quality in writing, and in this case, I felt like I had to work too hard to put the pieces together. I also thought the writer may not be clear on her genre--this just doesn't read like a historical.

  11. I didn't pay much attention to what the genre said, and this opening grabbed me right away!! Sounds like what we here in the good old USofA may be up against in the near future!

    The ending paragraphs only served to hook me further with what's happening to her daughter, who from how I read into it has maybe been drugged by skeezy older man...

    So yes, the genre doesn't seem to fit, but perhaps it's mislabeled or we find out the reasoning later on. I for one would read on to find out!

  12. So Nathan Bransford is wrong when he says writers shouldn't lose sleep over classifying their work in the proper genre because a savvy agent can easily work around it?

  13. Anon--There's a difference between having a slightly off genre (i.e. urban fantasy vs. paranormal, or even YA vs. MG). But if you're calling it a historical and using modern key-cards, then that a) doesn't make sense and b) implies ignorance on the author's part. This isn't genre-confusion, it's logic-confusion.

    Not hooked. Like the others said, this was too confusing.

  14. There were some intriguing elements here but I, too, was confused about the setting. It took me a little while to figure out she was in her house. You're introducing a lot of new concepts to us, so I think it's important that everything else is clear. Even a change as small as, "Carmen slammed the keycard on her kitchen counter" will establish the setting for us.