Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Secret Agent #25

TITLE: The Spy Who Loved Me
GENRE: Historical Romance

London, 1831

For a man presumed dead, he was feeling quite chilly.

In the corner of a graveyard, Alexander Gamage huddled in a gorse thicket surrounded by crumbling tombstones and weathered stone crosses, packed as tightly together as the crowds on a London city street. The wind kicked up, bringing the first fallen leaves tumbling across the dry grass and rushing clouds over the moon. He turned his collar up against the chill, tugged his cloak tighter, and hunkered closer to the ground.

As he kept guard, Alex ventured a glance at his friend, stretched out next to him. He whispered sharply, “James, you asleep?”

A soft, muted snore emanated from where James rested face down on his arms, long and skinny as the poplar sapling that grew outside Alex’s rooming house window. Alex sighed. It was difficult to stay vigilant, especially near midnight when the wait was long and unproductive.

Lucky bastard. Alex himself craved sleep. Yet it evaded him night after night.

He longed for the days when there had been nothing else on his mind but his youth and his glorious future and one beautiful girl. Not that he was old—five and twenty to be precise—but he felt a hundred.
An image danced inside his mind, of a girl in a white gown, running through a field of wildflowers, her long brown hair flashing sparks of copper in the bright sunlight. Her laughter fell on his ears like the tinkling of the stream nearby. She beckoned, and he reached for her.



  1. There's some good writing here (love the gravestones packed together like London crowds), but a few things to watch out for:
    the title is already associated with the James Bond franchise, so seems unusable; I don't see why a man presumed dead shouldn't be chilly; and there are a lot of similes packed into a short space here. I think we need to know a bit more about his situation before he starts reminiscing.

  2. I like it and don't mind the backstory but don't be afraid to lose it. We'll get his dreams later, right now milk out the mystery of his presumed death. That's your hook and it's a compelling one. Nice job!

  3. Your graveyard scene made me feel chilly. Love the way you compare the gravestones to a crowded London street. Nicely done!

  4. Oh, heck yes. I'd be turning the page so fast I'd rip the paper by now.

    The last paragraph describing the girl has a lot going on. Maybe it could be trimmed but that is purely subjective opinion on my part.

    Good job.

  5. Great job here. Nice writing, great suspense. I agree that you could hold the reminiscing about the girl until you're farther in. Give us more of a feel right off of what's going on, who they're watching for, etc.

    Good luck!

  6. I like the setting and the possibilities of a graveyard in old London after dark. I am left wondering of course why he is presumed dead so that hook would work to keep me reading. I am not sure if his age is important at this point and if the setting is 1831 (you mention that specifically) so I am left wondering if your story is about the great Cholera epidemic of that year. One nit pick, he may be 25 but the life expectancy in those times was so low that I doubt he would think how young he was...I mean in London it was 37 and it Liverpool it was 26 so I don't think he would think that - I think he would think he was lucky to be alive. Also, as was mentioned, the title is so James Bond that I likewise think it is unusable.

  7. @OWL -- going to nitpick on the life expectancy comment. That life expectancy is calculated from birth, and since infant mortality rates were so high then, it dragged the whole average down. However, if you lived past 5, it was a lot higher. Pretty close to ours. He might be thinking he was lucky to be alive due to the cholera epidemic, as epidemics like that were what could cut down a healthy adult, but it wouldn't be because he's like, hmm, I'm 25 and most people grow old and die by 30.

  8. I liked the imagery a lot and would definitely keep reading.

  9. I like this, but I want you to be careful with your word choices. I know that your first line is to shock us that he's presumed dead, but feeling chilly doesn't have anything to do with being "presumed" dead. I can be presumed dead and feel a lot of things, since, ya know, I'm not dead.

    It's more shocking if you said something like "For a dead man, he was feeling quite chilly."

    Because dead men shouldn't feel chills, you see.

    Just a nitpick, but one I think is important. Feel free to disagree, but I just thought I'd throw that out there. Might help tighten your sentences. Good luck!

  10. I generally assume corpses are cold, so the first line didn't have the intended impact for me.

    Overall, I liked the choice of setting and the use of language. You could trim some of the descriptions a bit and save some fo the reminiscing for later in the story.

    I would read more, but I hope we get to why he's there and what he's waiting for sooner rather than later.

  11. Form rejection. The first line does nothing for me, and putting the character to sleep on the first page slows down the action.