Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March Secret Agent #2

TITLE: Going for Kona
GENRE: Contemporary Women's Fiction

My pink bike sliced through the early morning fog at 20 miles per hour. The heavy dew collected on my sunglasses, making it impossible for me to see County Road 2672 extending in a crooked line in front of me. I shouldn't have worn the glasses, but it was too late to take them off unless I pulled over, a tricky proposition in a stream of over one hundred blinded cyclists.

"I can't see s***," I said to my husband.

"I don't see any either," he said.

A laugh escaped my nervous lips. "Adrian. I'm serious. I need to take off my glasses."

Before he could answer, we both swerved to avoid a bicyclist pedaling in the center of the road, just fast enough to stay upright. Objects in fog are closer than they appear.

"Excuse the cart, please," Adrian shouted at him, like the annoying mini-shuttle drivers in the walkways at DFW airport, but with his customary joie de vivre. When Adrian shouted at people, they smiled. As did this fellow, moving to the right.

"Sorry! Have a great ride!"

"You, too," Adrian said.

I licked the moisture off my lips, then reached up and wiped them with my gloved hands. I only succeeded in smearing the condensation around. I didn't dare touch the glasses.

"Adrian?" I moved closer so he could hear me.

"Yes, honey?"

"I really can't see. I either need my glasses off or we need to slow down." Given a choice, Adrian - a competitive triathlete - never slowed down.

15 comments:

Ramona Dark said...

Great imagery and some fantastic writing here, and I must say, seeing such excellent grammar really makes me happy. I must admit though, I'm not super hooked. Perhaps it's because I'm not a cyclist (or exerciser of any sort, for that matter) but I didn't see what the big deal was about he road conditions.

Kalen O'Donnell said...

I have to both agree and disagree with Ramona here. I also really enjoyed the writing, but I was hooked despite having little interest in either the current subject matter or the genre. Your pacing and narration pulled me in and did a great job of building urgency and tension, and I already trusted your writing enough that I felt you're talented enough that you had to have a reason for starting with this as your conflict.

The caveat of that however, is that when you do such a good job of pulling a reader into a relatively minor seeming conflict, we expect a big payoff. The tension is such that we're kinda leaning forward, expecting the seemingly innocuous bike race to end in disaster or something similar. Like, if I keep reading and the conflict you introduce here ends up being relatively minor and not worth the tnesion you've ramped up, I'll feel cheated and stop reading, whereas I might have read longer just due to your writing if you opened with a lower stakes conflict. So it is a gamble.

It's also of course entirely subjective. Good job!

Heidi said...

I love the imagery, too. I'm not a bicyclist either, but I don't think I need to be in order to get into this. It actually made me feel a little nervous, wondering what they might run into in the fog. I liked this line..."Objects in fog are closer than they appear." Good luck, Number 2!

Anonymous said...

LOVE IT!
I feel damp wind on my face and adrenaline in my veins. I think you have done an excellent job making the reader feel like they are dropped right into the action. The description of the scene is excellent and there is a strong hint of voice for such a short piece. Well done

Patti Larsen said...

Nice job! This is wonderful and I was also sucked in. There were moments that you lost me however--having to veer off and try to picture an airport after you have me on a road doing 20mph. I don't think that description is necessary. Otherwise, fab!

Barbara said...

I wondered why a bunch of cyclists would allow themselves to be in that position - being blinded by condensation on their glasses. If this is something they do regularly, and I assume they do if they're competing, wouldn't they know that might happen? Wouldn't they be prepared for it? I'm not a cyclist, so I don't know.

I also wonder why she can't simply take the glasses off with one hand, or why she can't slow down for a few seconds to do it without her husband slowing down too. I guess I just don't see the dilemma.

But that last line, I think, saves it. I thought that was where the hook was. It seemed the relationship between the MC and her husband would be the real issue rather than the cycling.

Parg 4 - she can be nervous, but her lips can't.

Amy said...

I really enjoyed this. I liked the hints of her relationship with Adrian, and I like their joking around.

I didn't get why she couldn't grab her sunglasses off with one hand, the way she smears the condensation around her lips. Are they like rec specs that fasten around the back or something? That's probably just my cluelessness talking.

LTM said...

hey, this is great! I like the writing, and I got a great sense of the characters right away. I'm kinda with Amy, though. Not that that's a big deal, I'm sure...

Best~ :o)

Trimon29 said...

I'm a cyclist, so Barbara/Amy, maybe I could help shed a little light; this may get long, though. The author gives two very clear clues in the opening paragraph with “20 miles per hour” and “stream of over one hundred blinded cyclists" that these are relatively serious riders. It is not unusual in road bicycle racing to be faced with a heavy patch of fog and have to deal with it, and there really is nothing that you can do to prepare for it. Most riders wear glasses to protect their eyes not just from sun but from bugs, rocks and other projectiles, the wind itself, and even in low light. Bike races often last for 6 hours or more through changing weather and if you try to wear something that matches the initial weather conditions, you have to suffer with it for the rest of the ride. You just deal with what comes at you as best you can when it happens. With respect to “why she can't simply take the glasses off with one hand”, you really just don't take your hands off the handlebars in a pack of cyclists riding inches apart when, zipping along at 20 miles an hour. Too dangerous. As I read it, the author has cyclist credibility to me, and I am drawn in and want to read more. But not just because I'm a cyclist. I think the story opens well with the hint of an interesting relationship and in a situation that is tense and has a lot of possibilities. I guess I'm saying the author has author cred with me too. I read stories all the time about worlds I know little about: pilots, mountain climbers, ballet dancers and doctors performing surgery. I get sucked into them too, and I try to let the author teach me and leave my mind open to him or her describing that world so I can live there for awhile and enjoy a good story, and sometimes learn a little while I'm there. If I'm lucky. :-) I hope that helped, for any of you that wanted to know more about cycling.

Kate Larkindale said...

I enjoyed this because everything was presented in such a clean, subtle way. Nothing screamed at me, it all just flowed nicely together. We get hints of the relationship between her and her husband, of their competitive natures and that they enjoy doing things together, all without any of it being explicitly stated.

I'd read on.

Nancy Clements said...

I love this little window into the world of a triathlete and her husband! Already we get a sense of their relationship and their shared passion (as well as critical details surrounding competitive cycling, something about which I know nothing, and I personally enjoy learning something new when I pick up a book). The imagery of the fog foreshadows something lurking, unseen, ahead of them, and I can't wait to find out what it is, because I suspect it will serve to build suspense throughout the book. The writing is clean, engaging, and well-paced with strong action verbs, and the dialogue is well-written and believable. Overall, I think this is a great sample of strong, professional writing! Good job!

ryoko861 said...

Use Rain X.......hee hee hee.....

Sorry trimon29, I'm one of those clueless as well(Pam and I discussed this already). I guess you have to participate in a race to understand. I'm still marveling at how the cyclists just stay alive that go down my rural country road without getting killed by the locals. One reason why I won't ride my bike. Too dangerous.

If this was just a memoir with the real names used, it would have a totally different ambiance about it. But since it's a story, it's more than just a blog post feeling. I definitely want to know what's next.

Anonymous said...

I really liked Adrian and I'm terrified something extremely bad is going to happen to him during the race.

So great job Author - you've hooked me :)

Good luck!

Shannon

Secret Agent said...

I had to read this twice to figure out that we're talking about serious cycling, or anything other than a Sunday ride with your beau. There was so much specific detail in the 1st paragraph that my mind was spinning trying to figure out why it was all important (Is 20 mph specifically important? Is just "fast" ok? Is the country road number necessary?)
And then I thought, "Why doesn't she just push them over her head?" I realize now that's not feasible, but it didn't seem clear from the first read. I would suggest communicating the race information earlier (Maybe the title is The Biggest Race Ever?" That would do it. :) ).

The characters seem interesting here and I'm curious to see what makes them tick, but I'm too confused about the set up here to be hooked. Focus on less specifics in the early opening and paint broad strokes to anchor the reader in the world.

Pamelot said...

Thanks for the feedback -- will do, and I appreciate your critique.