Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April Secret Agent #44

TITLE: Gaia's Secret
GENRE: YA Fantasy

I never knew my mom. The day I came into the world, she went out of it. At least, that's what Dad always said. Asking him about it never did any good. Even after all these years his forehead would do that crinkly thing, his lips would fold into themselves and his eyes would glaze over. And then he wouldn't say another word to me. For about a day.

Dad was private about, well, a lot of things. I assumed that was why he moved us to the middle of nowhere, otherwise known as Fresno, California. Living in the middle of nowhere meant having more conversations with cows than people. And staining your skin forever with the stench of manure and hay. And not needing an alarm clock because your neighbors had roosters so loud you could swear they woke up all of China. But I learned to deal with it because I thought it would end. Right now, actually. I thought I'd get my freedom right when I finished high school. But Dad wasn't going to let that happen. In fact, he turned more secretive than ever.

Cadence jerked beneath me, yanking my mind back to the fields. Cadence wasn't my horse. She belonged to the neighbors with the obnoxious rooster, but I'd forgiven them for the rooster because they let me ride Cadence whenever I wanted. She was my one source of adventure in life.

28 comments:

Ella Slayne said...

Hi - I love the opening paragraph of this! That alone would make me want to keep reading. The details about Dad are great - in fact I wanted a bit more of this before moving onto the second paragraph - the shift was a little quick for me because the first paragraph was so intriguing.
:-)

Lisa Cram said...

I'm hooked. You've got me wondering about the mom (how she really died, or maybe not) what secret dad's hiding and how Cadence's non-adventuresome life is about to change.

The character's voice rang through the way she described living in Fresno. Great job!

In paragraph two, maybe you could remove the second "But" and just start with "Dad". Other than that, I like it just the way it is.

Sarah said...

I really like this. I want to know more about her Mum and what her Dad is hiding.

A couple of thoughts, as always just personal opinions, feel free to disregard :) In the second paragraph the neighbours have roosters and in the third they have an 'obnoxious rooster' singular. Tiny point but it might be worth changing the second paragraph to singular.

Also, at first I thought the 'freedom' she wanted was a physical one i.e. to go somewhere else but the line about Dad turning more secretive than ever makes me wonder if you mean she expected freedom from the secrets. I'm guessing that reading on would clear that up - and I would very much like to read on, I really enjoyed this.

Nicole Settle said...

I like this...and that's not just because I'm from Fresno :-). I'm interested to know what secrets her dad is keeping.

Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks you guys!...seriously...scary putting things up here :) Sarah, good point about the rooster. And yes, the "freedom" is actually clarified in the next sentence I was "forced" to drop!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Consider me hooked.

Your writing is clear, moves at a very easy pace, and made me laugh. I definitely want to know more about the secrets Dad is hiding.

Kelly said...

I would definitely read on, though I think your opening page rambles a bit more than necessary. I've already formed an idea about the dad, but knowing that he's keeping secrets really makes me want to turn the page.

Mme Jacie said...

I like your voice and your character. Your writing moves along beautifully, although the bit about freedom seems a little confusing.

Mme Jacie said...

I forgot to say that I really enjoyed how you began.

lbedge said...

I'm hooked and would definitely keep reading. Great opening and description of Fresno. I'm wondering if you could work the fact that she's on Cadence in earlier, so we picture her on the horse while she's musing about life. The switch in paragraph three seemed a bit jarring.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, that's a bit too much telling for me. Not sure what everyone is hooked on. She's riding a horse, so? Not much for action there. The genre is listed as fantasy, so I'd like a hint of what makes it fall in that category.

Emily Lavin Leverett said...

I like this and I'm hooked. (And I grew in Bakersfield, Ca. Go Valley!) That said, I think I'd move a majority of the second paragraph somewhere else. Keep the locale, 'cause we need that, but then get to Cadance faster. The first two paragraphs are backstory, and I think the first plus the "middle of nowhere" adn "still private" set us up well. But, I'd get to the rest a bit more quickly.

Anonymous said...

I like your writing, but I feel like there are many other books out there where the mom dies in childbirth. Maybe start after that. It is difficult to know where you're going in only a 250 words.

fictionwriter said...

Too much telling for me without a bit of seeing the MC in interaction.

HGrant said...

I loved this. It's intriguing, plus the writing is natural, not forced.

Tatiana said...

I was intrigued by the start... but I didn't really get a sense of what the story was about. (I'm assuming that it has something to do with discovering her mother/secrets her father is hiding?) Also, I didn't really get a sense of the MC's personality.

Sara J. Henry said...

OK, you don't stain your skin with a stench ... that stopped me. And I'm a bit frustrated by a heroine who says she can't get her freedom after high school, but I can't see any reason why not. You're 18 and finished high school? Take off. And this sentence is so "telling and not showing" that it sticks out like a sore thumb: She was my one source of adventure in life. I think this page could be much stronger.

Tori said...

I liked the voice and would willingly just follow along and keep reading, but I agree with lbedge, the third paragraph jarred me right out of it. Maybe make that transition a little smoother. It made me stop long enough to think, if she's out riding around on the neighbor's horse, then why can't she just leave if she wants to so bad? Don't let me stop to think about holes I'm sure you're going to fix in the next page or two.

Christine L. Arnold said...

I actually love the line about her skin being stained with the stench. It's one of those slightly off-kilter descriptions that just totally works. I immediately know exactly what you mean, and understand her frustration!

I don't think an opening page needs to be packed with action. I like this start, it's not slow, we're getting a lot of character and while some of it is back-story and set-up, it's really only lasting two paragraphs as we clearly get snapped into the present in the 3rd. It's so hard to judge these, as a page really isn't very much. But there's enough here to keep me reading for sure! Hinted tension with the dad, mystery with the mom, we already get the MC's want: freedom. I'd keep reading to find out why she hasn't just taken off and left already.

Anyway, great job and good luck in the contest!

JEN said...

I like the secretive dad, but I didn't get the point of why his secrecy would restrict MC's freedom. If there was an indication they were in a witness protection system, or he was hiding from the mob or something, then I'd be more interested. Right now, a high school grad seeking freedom is too abstract and universal for this to grab me.

Britany Clarke said...

Wow! The first two paragraphs packed a punch. The voice was so strong, it resonated in my head. With that said, I feel like the third paragraph is great, but has the potential to be even better.

"Cadence jerked beneath me, yanking my mind back to the fields." I love this. It invites a vivid picture in my head of this girl on a horse. To enhance this picture, maybe she could still the horse with her hand on its neck. It doesn't have to be this gesture, but by making some gesture to the animal, we get a greater sense of the animal and the MC, which only strengthens the rest of the paragraph: "Cadence wasn't my horse..."

Pk Hrezo said...

I loved this and didn't feel confused at all. Awesome voice and writing!

paintgirl220 said...

Nice. It draws you in immediately. Possibly a tweak or two with sentence structure here and there but other then that...a good solid read.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to thank you for your feedback! There were some great points in there, and I especially appreciate the encouragement, with all the negativity that's out there.

Barbara said...

I thought the voice here was great. There isn't a lot happening. As someone said, It's a girl on a horse. But the voice is so strong, it grabbed me immediately, the writing is clean so it's easily read, and what she's telling me is intriguing and holds my interest. Nice job there!

The only issue I saw is that she can have her freedom if she wants it. All she has to do is leave, so perhaps give us a reason why she can't, or won't, go.

Secret Agent said...

I'd read more. I'm curious about what happened to her mother, and I like the sense of
place and time. Her voice is engaging, but I think you can increase the tension by clearing
up a question I have about her relationship with her father.

I don't understand how his secrets effect her freedom? How does his being secretive
prevent her from obtaining freedom? I don't see why her Dad refusing to tell her anything means she can't leave Fresno.

I assume that her Dad is trying to keep her in Fresno with him, for some reason.
I also assume that reason has something to do with the main elements of the plot/mystery
but, I need a little more to go on.

With just a bit of revision and tightening,
I'd be all over this.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Secret Agent! I'm learning so much through the feedback you've given to me and everyone. This is invaluable! I see what you mean. Looks like I might need to rearrange a few things to clear up that "issue" sooner (I do in the next few pages). Again, thank you!!

tanyamaikai said...

I like your story so far and how you've introduced the setting. I think empty cowboy towns have great potential for some magic :) Maybe we can see where she is walking earlier so we can walk with her while she thinks instead of just being in her head. That's all! Thx for sharing :)