Thursday, October 15, 2009

40 Secret Agent

GENRE: Mystery

It all started with a penny.

When the elevator doors went their separate ways, I stepped out, and it bounced off my head and jumped into my black suede bag.

Cascading waterfalls of light fell across the marble walls of the Chicago Chronicle as I looked for the source. I shielded my eyes from the penetrating October sun and scanned the lobby.

Nothing above but empty space, so I knew I was the target.

You can't get much clearer than a knock on the noggin, but what message were the spirits sending me?

I fished through my bag and pulled out the penny. Flipped it over, as I always did, and checked the date. The year I was born. From my experience that could only mean one thing.

Trouble ahead.

It might seem strange to some people that a reporter for Chicago's north side paper believed in silly things like superstitions. Or pennies from heaven. Especially since I’ve dedicated my adult life to fact-checking and truth-seeking, no matter where it lead. And in this town, it could lead straight to the morgue. But those people never met my Irish grandmother.

Grandma Geraghty insists everyone call her Birdie, short for Brighid, Celtic goddess of fire and hearth. The name means 'one who exalts herself' and, well, let's just say that it suits her.
I pocketed the penny and crossed the lobby floor, headed for the revolving doors and a much-needed coffee break when Bruce Springsteen started shouting out Thunder Road.


  1. Hooked, by a thread. Interesting premise and that's keeping me intrigued.

    Cascading waterfalls of light and penetrating October Sun seem overwritten to me.

    I don't think pennies can jump. I suggest changing the verb.

    Don't tell us about the empty space, show us.

    I'd keep reading a few more pages hoping for conflict/action. But, it better happen fast.

  2. It seems to jump all over the place. Pennies falling from the sky, Grandma Geraghty and Bruce Springsteen? I'd keep reading for clarification and because I like your voice, but not for long. Good luck!

  3. Love the premise, the bit about the grandma seemed forced and interrupted the flow even though it was a nifty description. I think I'd find a better place to put it.
    Kinda hooked.

  4. I like this! Like the voice.
    But there's a couple places I think you should tighten so readers can get to that great voice.

    Ex. cascading waterfall is redundant and that whole sentence made me pause.

    I'd stick to something simper- I looked up scanning the marble walls of the Chicago Chronicle. I didn't see anything but bright October sun and empty space.

    "target confused me a little until the next line which I loved. So, I'd just skip the target line.

    I loved the next paragraph too, but the last line needs to come quicker. "those people" is too far from what it refers to- I'd forgotten. But its tough, because I like all that para says.

    I think you can cut "for chicagos's north side paper" we've already read Chicago Chronicle.
    And you can leave off "Especially since." Its a given.

    Hope this helps. Keep writing! Its a great premise. Love the bit about the Grandma and the Boss line.

  5. Definitely interested enough to read on because I love your voice! Love the witty humor and that will draw me in every time.

    I agree with the others on the "cascading waterfalls of light" paragraph. It confused me and I kept having to re-read before moving on. I wasn't sure what was going on there. And I agree if you describe more of the "empty space" it might be better.

    I love the part about the grandma, she sounds like a hoot, but I think the description of her belongs a little later, it's distracting for this portion.

    I'd keep reading... so good luck!

  6. I like this so far, just a little nipping and sounds like you're off to a good start.
    I like the premise of being hit with a penny from the year she was born, which would make me wonder if something weird was going to come about.

  7. Good voice.

    The 4th paragraph contradicts itself. Knock on the noggin is clear, but you don't know the message. Doesn't seem too clear to me. Also, why is a penny from the year the MC was born a sign of trouble?

    Do they play Springsteen music in the lobby of the Chicago Chronicle?

    Good voice and interesting premise, but I think it needs to be tightened up a bit.

    Good luck!

  8. I love it and I am hooked - love the start with the penny.

  9. Definitely an original opening, and I was intrigued enough to read outside my genre to find out where the penny came from. However, once it go to the paragraph about the grandma I was drawn back out, by the the interruption of that tidbit and the fact that despite this being a mystery novel, the mystery of the penny doesn't seem like it will get solved.


  10. Ooops, sorry "interruption with that tidbit", not interruption of the tidbit. Too very different things.


  11. Hooked. Witty voice and curious incident.

    I'd move the "But those people never met my Irish grandmother." line down to its own paragraph. And then possibly move the paragraph about what Granny's name means elsewhere. It distracts here.

    I'd read on!

  12. I was hooked. I loved the description of Grandma, name and all, and I'm curious about the penny too. Mostly I love the voice.

  13. I like the voice, but you've spent the entire first page telling us about a penny -- and you made it sound like pennies hit her in the head all the time: made sure she was the target, checked the date "as I always did" and "from my experience that could only mean one thing."

    It drags on too long and by the end, I have no idea what this story is about other than there's trouble ahead. I think you could really tighten this (I don't think we need to know about her grandmother here) and introduce us to the conflict sooner.

  14. I was hooked, but I agree about the grandmother. Not yet. I don't think you need "target" either. It confused me for a second. I was imagining that Empire State Building story where a penny can penetrate a skull and then imagined her being the target of some sicko instead of it just being a random act. Other than those minor things I think you have a winner.

  15. This is a very cute way to open the story, and I think it establishes a really nice tone for an upbeat mystery. The POV character has a nice voice, colloquial yet educated, and her superstitions make her more interesting.

    I agree with some of the other commenters about some details—overwriting, and a feel of being all over the map with grandma, Bruce Springsteen. Maybe just tone it down a bit, streamline.

    I have no idea who she is talking about when she says “But those people never met my Irish grandmother.”

    I’m interested to read on and see what’s happening here.

  16. I loved, loved, loved this. I want to know more about how the MC's superstitions w/ "pennies from heaven" clash with her fact-checking reporter sensibilities.
    I want to know what the mystery with the pennies is!

    I love the reference to the grandmother. It's clear that more about her is coming soon.

    "Cascading waterfalls of light" seems awkwarda and the reference to Bruce Springsteen caught me off guard.

    Best entry I've read so far.