Wednesday, October 14, 2009

32 Secret Agent

TITLE: Betrayed
GENRE: Historical Romance

Amber sensed the tension as soon as she stepped into the Charter room. The air was stifled with the macabre gloom of ancient weapons that lined the walls, some stained red where blood had seeped deep into the wood. The window slits allowed precious little light, making this chamber that much darker and colder than any other in Castle Spedlin.

Her uncle had his back to her. William Jardin was a beast of a man, standing at least two heads above her. His plaid hung on a wide girth and looped around the thick mat of ginger hair covering his otherwise naked back.

She frowned when she saw Mary huddled in a shadowed corner, bony fingers clasped over her heart.

"Go," Amber mouthed urgently, but the older woman seemed to be struck immobile, her eyes wide and glassy with the fear that was a constant presence since they'd crossed into the Scottish borderland.

Amber turned a hard stare on her uncle's formidable back, watching as he traced a finger almost lovingly along the edge of a wooden spear. William's coarse threats and raving had withered Mary into a fragile, timid ghost. Her former nursemaid was more like a mother to her. Amber's heart fumed at the man responsible.

Lord, what I'd do for a whisper of the evil William Jardin accuses me of! I'd strike him down with a fire bolt from hell and flick his ashes with my toe. Inserting herself firmly between Mary and her uncle, Amber said boldly, "You summoned me?"


  1. I thought the first four paragraphs worked. Really, really worked.

    The last two didn't work for me quite as well. You mention staring and watching in that first sentence in the 5th graf. But we already know the POV, so those verbs are now getting in the way.

    This might be just me, but "and flick his ashes with my toe" was a total anticlimax after a fire bolt from hell. Like following some dire threat "I'm going to stab you in the heart!" with something like, "AND give you such a pinch."

  2. She's a witch! Hooked.

    LOL to what JohnO said above, though. I have to agree with the flicking toe thing :)

  3. Would read, got me so far.

    At first I was confused who Mary was, re-read and think I have it.

    I was also lost on the I wording when it's been Amber doing these things. Is 'I' Amber?
    If so, I would separate her internal thought and put in italics or other font to clarify.

  4. I'd keep reading. My only confusion was Mary--who she is and just how old. Great job.

  5. Slightly hooked. I loved the "two heads above her". Great description.

    I would read on to see what Amber is doing there.

  6. I like your writing. The name 'Amber' is a little too contemporary for me, but it wouldn't stop me from reading. The characters are interesting and so is the setting. I'd read on...

  7. Liked this. Well written and tense - and a witch to boot:) What more could we want?

  8. "Amber sensed the tension as soon as she stepped into the Charter room."

    The tension was palatable?The tension was so think you could cut it with a knife. No matter how you spin it, this is cliche`. Start with sentence two.

    "some stained red where blood had seeped deep into the wood" Did the wood stain the weapons red?

    I have no clue what's going on and I don't mean I didn't understand any of it. Why did Amber enter the room? Did she enter alone? Are we still in the room when she has her uncle's back to her? Did he come in with her? Is Mary in the room or somewhere else? Who's responsible for Mary's condition and what does it have to do with being in that room?

    This is also overwritten.

  9. Wow! Excellent job with the setting. I got cold reading it.

    I was a bit confused about who Mary was. Maybe:

    "She frowned when she saw Mary, her former nursemaid, huddled..." Do you even need the word "former" in there? It's obvious Amber's an adult and doesn't need a nursemaid...but I digress.

    I liked the toe-flicking-ash action. It shows total disdain for her uncle, the cad.

    I'd give it a few more pages to see what happens.

    Good luck!

  10. Interesting story and characters with a lot of bumps.

    How do gloomy ancient weapons stifle the air?

    The wood is staining the weapons, instead of the other way around.

    The window slits allowed precious little light. To do what? Obviously to enter the room, but you don't say that.

    making the chamber that much darker - how much darker is 'that' much darker?

    Her uncle is standing at least two heads above her. That means he's either standing on air, or on something else, two heads above her.

    I know you mean taller, but your words don't say what you mean. And that, unfortunately, is what turns me off. If there are this many bumps in just two pargs. what will the rest be like?

    You've got a great character and premise. Take the time to go thru this sentence by sentence and make sure your words are saying what you actually want them to say.

  11. The characters seem strong and interesting but, as with the other readers, I was a little confused as to who Mary was.

    I also wondered why her uncle was naked from the waist up. I wasn't sure what time period this took place in, but couldn't think of a reason for a man to be partially nude in front of his niece and her nursemaid. Unless this speaks to his character. At this point, though, it unfortunately just throws me off.

  12. I had just one small nit with this - the third paragraph starts with 'She' but because we've spent the entire second paragraph reading about Uncle William, it threw me off. It's obvious you're referring to Amber, as she is the last 'she' you have mentioned, but I think it would flow a bit better for the reader if you start the paragraph with 'Amber' instead of 'She'.

  13. You paint a compelling scene here, and there are definitely some strengths to your writing. I have to say it doesn’t have the tone of a romance as it opens, but I’m assuming that will come soon.

    This doesn’t make me anxious to keep reading, I think largely because of several places where the prose is awkward, you give backstory and tell us too much, and there are a couple points of confusion.

    I don’t know what a Charter room is, so the first sentence got me off on the wrong foot. I had a hard time taking in what it meant to be “stifled with the macabre gloom” and I also couldn’t picture what you mean by blood seeping deep into wood, because I was picturing weapons as metal. I think you have to be very careful of any assumptions you make about your audience’s knowledge and understanding of foreign things. Later in the book there would be more tolerance for not quite being able to picture it, but not the first paragraph.

    The first four paragraphs have some nice description and action; the fifth paragraph devolves into backstory about Mary. This is unnecessary. We can already see that Mary is intimidated by William. And rather than tell us Mary was like a mother to Amber, you can show us, either now or later.

    I do like Amber’s boldness and the way we can already see she’s protective of Mary. (By the way, I assumed Mary was Amber’s mother until paragraph 5.)

    As written, there’s not a lot here to keep me reading for too much longer.