Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Secret Agent #19

TITLE: Panama
GENRE: YA Historical

Old widow Johnson went home to meet her maker late Friday night. Ma Riley sat vigil at her side. Mrs. Johnson’s ragged breaths grew weaker with each tick of the clock on her mantle. At the stroke of midnight, Ma reported, the widow’s eyes popped open. She clutched at the faded quilt covering her withered body and gasped for air. In a clear voice she stated: “It is wondrous beyond.” Then she died.

Ma Riley was prone to dramatizing important events. For instance, she claimed the night Amos was born a meteor shower peppered the moonless sky. She watched through her bedroom window as a hundred or more stars shot down from heaven.

The moment Amos rocketed into the world, Ma Riley saw his name spelled out by God himself. A brief, fiery burst of the letters ‘A’, ‘M’, and ‘O’. The ‘S’ was nowhere to be seen, but she’d been distracted at the time. Amos and his brothers squirmed in an agony of discomfort with each retelling of the story.

The Riley men exchanged glances over the kitchen table. Not one of them could imagine “it is wondrous beyond” crossing the lips of Mrs. Johnson. A scrappy pragmatist, the widow clucked with her tongue when the church preacher dissolved into raptures during the sermon.

Nonetheless, Amos took the supposed parting words of the widow as a sign. It was wondrous, mayhap, beyond the fields and roads of New Madrid, Missouri. Maybe there, beyond the confines of the farm, he would find what he sought.


  1. I love this. Great voice.

  2. I like this, nice to have some unmagical YA. I'd read more but would want more of a feel of Amos quick smart

  3. Your people seem very real and I really like the way you've prepared us for Amos to go on an adventure.

    I don't think you need the first two sentences-"Mrs. Johnson's ragged breaths . . ." would be a great opening sentence.

    I found paragraphs 2 and 3 distracting, and think you should keep that info for later.

  4. You have a nice writing style and a great voice, but I didn't really get a feel for who the protagonist is. I didn't realize until reading the comments that it's Amos. I guess from reading "Ma" in there a few times, I thought this was in 1st person but we just hadn't met the protagonist yet.

    Good luck!

  5. I love your narrative setup in the first few paragraphs, and don't really mind so much that the MC isn't introduced immediately. Historical fiction does require a fair amount of world-building. It's nice to find someone else who writes historical YA instead of fantasy or paranormal! Is this supposed to be 19th century?

  6. Thank you to everyone for the comments. They are spot on. This is a prologue - I should've entered the 1st page instead. Doh! Carrie-Ann - the year is 1901. Good luck with your YA!

  7. Form rejection, and here's why: 1) No YAs in the opening of a YA novel. (I can assume that Amos is the YA in question, but that's not a fact as it appears on the page.) 2) The fourth paragraph doesn't seem to fit with anything else.

    I would be more inclined to read this if it began with the last paragraph, then introduced Amos, and then brought in why these words were so important to him.

    There's potential here, absolutely, but having only this information to go on, I would have to decline.

    I saw in a previous comment that this is a prologue. I am really burned out on prologues, because 99% of the time all they do is try to bring some action to what is otherwise a slow beginning, or tell backstory that can be told just as well, if not better, later on. This may or not be the case here, but having a prologue is almost always a strike against a book for me.

  8. Great writing. Really, really.

    Maybe this belongs in a different genre. I'm not sure but this reads like John Grishom's A Painted House type genre. I would LOVE to read more.

    If the rest of your writing style is anything like this, you'll find rep soon.

    Good job.

  9. I thought the writing was strong, and I liked the voice. I would have liked to know earlier who the MC was. I had trouble figuring out who Ma Riley was. I felt omni would call her by her actual name... so I assumed everyone called her Ma Riley, which made me slow in understanding that she is Amos's actual ma.

    overall, this has a nice world-building, singsongy feel to it. But I am a bit distanced from the characters and don't know if I'd invest emotionally in the story, yet.