Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Agented Author #1

TITLE: Shadow of Vengeance
GENRE: YA Fantasy

There were two things wrong.

One: a drunk customer was going to pat my butt as I walked past. He had that narrowed-eyes and trying-not-to-grin look, and his hand slid toward the edge of the table. I sidestepped at the last second and he swiped empty air; his friends guffawed.

Two: someone was watching me, and not the drunks seated at the bar, or the less inebriated crowd in the tavern's main room. Their eyes were trained on food and friends. In that order. Customers came and went; the watcher's attention was constant, making the back of my neck itch like a peeling sunburn.

Since I didn't know who it was, or where they were hiding, I delivered mugs of ale and plates of rye bread and steak, and tried not to let the watcher bother me.

Because in four days, only stealing and revenge would matter.

"You look worried, Megan." Oriph's puckered brown scars shifted when he lifted an eyebrow. "Try to relax."

Of course he could say that, leaning against the bar, gazing across the Harp's Lullaby like a proud father. He wasn't the one being stalked. He also wasn't the one carrying heavy trays across the garlic-and-sweat-scented room.

I slid the serving tray into the rack on the bar and flashed my best waitress smile. "Sorry, boss." Trainees were supposed to control their emotions, or at least not let real ones show.

Oriph shrugged. He understood about graduation coming up; most of his employees were like me, thief trainees. We were the reason he had this tavern in the first place.

I lowered my voice. "Does someone usually watch trainees about to graduate?"

He faked a cough, flickers of surprise and praise in his eyes. "You know how it is. People watch beautiful young women."

"Ah, they must be admiring Ruma then." I smiled, but his not-answer confirmed my suspicion: the watcher was a thief. A guild thief, not like the hungry street trash or petty thieves who stole out of greed. The guild meant family, so in theory I could stop worrying about my watcher because they wouldn't mean me any harm. But I knew better.

Oriph started to reply, but his expression sobered as he gazed beyond me. "Stay here."

The tavern had two exits: one in the kitchen, and the main one around a long, curved hallway. Oriph strode toward the mouth of that hall where a cloaked and hooded figure waited. The cloak would look normal to customers--it was similar to those draped over chair backs--but there was no crest of nobility or house embroidered on the front, and light wouldn't touch the black cloth.

A guild thief.

He was tall, straight-shouldered, and almost invisible in shadow. From the lighted area by the bar, I couldn't see his face, not even a hint.

Maybe he was the thief who'd killed my parents. If he was, I'd kill him.

17 comments:

Patty said...

Great opening.

I did find the 5th paragraph confusing when you mentioned that Oriph was being stalked. It threw me because I thought Megan was the one with a watcher.

The last line was great! What a zinger!

theflightytemptress365 said...

This is so full of awesome I don't even know what to do with myself. But overall awesome.

I found the second paragraph tripped me up a little as I read. I think it's a tense shift? Going from past progressive in the first sentence and into straight-on past tense in the second. Play around with it.

The fifth paragraph ("Because in four days, only stealing and revenge would matter") was an excellent raise of stakes.

I think you should rework the description "carrying heavy trays across the garlic-and-sweat-scented room" to make those feelings more expressive. Change the verb carrying and emphasize the smell. What is it about Megan that makes her notice the smells? Because if she was born and raised in such an environment, they'd be normal.

"He faked a cough, flickers of surprise and praise in his eyes". I don't like the second clause as a fragment. You could easily make it its own sentence by adding a verb in there somewhere.

"The guild meant family, so in theory I could stop worrying about my watcher because they wouldn't mean me any harm. But I knew better."

I get what you're going for here, but I think it could be a lot stronger. Maybe because you pull us in with "the guild meant family" which seems like we want to trust it, and then in the next sentence we're not. Perhaps to...

"They told us that guild meant family. If I believed that, then there was no reason to worry.

I kept worrying."

This seems a little out of character for your narrator: "The cloak would look normal to customers--it was similar to those draped over chair backs--but there was no crest of nobility or house embroidered on the front, and light wouldn't touch the black cloth." This wouldn't be news to her, which means the description is solely for my benefit. As much as I like the attention, I think you could integrate it better so that it works more with Megan's perspective.

And finally, HOLY CRAP THAT LAST LINE IS SO GOOD.

A lot of this is super nit-picky stylistic stuff. Which pretty much means, to me, that the bits of plot and character you're hinting at are just waving giant BADASS flags at me. So rock on, dude, cause this is great.

~Jamie said...

HOOKED.

I think I'd play with the descriptions a little bit and the dialog--just to make them a little tighter, but I am SO all over this!

I wish the last line packed a little more oomph though...

I want her to say something about how she feels about him maybe the thief that killed her parents not just what she's planning to do about it...

Maybe he was the thief who'd killed my parents. If he was, I'd kill him.

Like, maybe if you just added in a 'good.'

Maybe he was the thief who killed my parents. Good, because if he was--I'd kill him.

I don't know... it might be awesome as is, I just kind of want to hear how she feels about knowing he might be the guy.

But, this is greatness... LOVE IT.

Joel Q said...

I liked it and would read more.
But I got the feeling it was overwritten a little bit.

Brooklyn Ann said...

I really enjoyed this opening, and would totally have kept reading. About the cloak, maybe instead of using the words, "Look normal" maybe it was "usual or typical of regular customers."

Anonymous said...

Looooove it! I am thoroughly hooked & want to read more! :)

Dani. said...

I commented anonymously above^ but I just want you to know that I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY love what you have so far & I sooooooooo want to read this in book form! :)

DJ said...

Love it! The last line was great, stating something so important in such a casual way gave it more power.

We want more!

Christine said...

Thanks to Authoress for this great idea about seeing WIPs from agented / soon-to-be-published writers. A fantastic learning experience.

What I like here is that the author made every sentence count. You'd be going along, reading, and then WHAM! A sentence that makes you stop and go whoa. Talk about punch:

"The guild meant family, so in theory I could stop worrying about my watcher because they wouldn't mean me any harm. But I knew better."

"Because in four days, only stealing and revenge would matter."

"Maybe he was the thief who'd killed my parents. If he was, I'd kill him."

See how much you learn (and hear) from just those few sentences?

Makes you want to know more about this guild, more about the plot (of stealing and revenge), and more about the character and what happened to her family.

Hooked.

Anonymous said...

Very evocative. Great way to launch us immediately into the premise. I thought this was excellent-- except for the very last sentence. It felt like too much, too soon.

Vicki said...

I'm so hooked and would read more and I'm not usually a fantasy fan. My one criticism is in this:

"The guild meant family, so in theory I could stop worrying about my watcher because they wouldn't mean me any harm."

"They" took me out of the narrative.

Otherwise, great job! Thanks for sharing.

Bekki said...

The writing is great, and this starts to build a very realistic world. I wonder, however, what would happen if you started with the last line. Everything up until then seems to be for the benefit of the reader - telling us who the characters are and what's going on. The last line gets us into Megan's head and tells us exactly where this story is going (at least I hope it does).

Hooked - although I would have stopped reading if the last line wasn't there.

Cat said...

I liked this a lot. Especially the drunk who missed her but. It sets the scene without drawing the readers attention away from the important parts.

Another Christine said...

Very nice opening. On my initial read though, I tripped up on the third paragraph, interpreting Megan as surprised that she was being watched, rather than somebody watching the drunks at the bar. It could be just me.

Great job at establishing the setting, introducing Megan, and what's going to happen later on.

Angela Ackerman said...

You nailed the voice I think, and I feel quite close to the character. The description is well drawn and you have some excellent comparisions that really pop.

One thing that confused me was when you refered to her as a trainee. That and her "Sorry Boss" made me immediately assume she'd just started the job here, so when the explanation of her actually being a thief trainee comes, it hits a beat too late. Also not sure how 'trainee thieves' translates into why the tavern is there. If you alluded to a nearby school or learning guild, then it would flow better.

Tiny bits to worry about tho. I think the only thing I'd add here is that it suprised me that since Megan couldn't figure out who the watcher was, she decides to 'not let it bother me.'

I don't know...her personality, especially when factoring in that you allude that she's training to be a thief to gain revenge for her dead parents, would indicate to me that she would be more driven to find out who it is, all while appearing not to be concerned. Too, it seems odd to me that she can't pick out the watcher yet Oriph does immediately.

When you describe the thief too, you show that he is recognizable by his cloak to your MC, even though likely the average person would not notice. If this is the case, again, why didn't your MC pick him out of the crowd when she is familiar with the garb?

Anyway, those were the only bits that jarred me. Small stuff as I said. Good finish here as well. Good luck with this. :)

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Steph said...

Fun read. Just a few comments to help the reading flow:

In the second para, you need to either complete the hyphenated adjective (to narrowed-eyes-and-trying-not-to-grin look) or make it two adjectives by using narrow-eyed instead of narrowed-eyes. You cause the reader to stop and re-read the sentence when it's incorrectly punctuated, and you never want the reader to do that. Or the editor who is getting his first impression of your writing skills.

Secondly, Use fewer semicolons. They're falling into disfavor (which makes me sad).

Mix a few more of the five senses into the scene--smell, maybe an initial chill down the backbone at Wrong Number Two (third para), noise or music hammering on the ears. This is a great scene for senses helping to bring in the reader.

I like your use of present tense. Got some good enticers in there too. I'd definitely keep reading.

Angela Robbins said...
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