Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Secret Agent #28

TITLE: Spiritmaster Simon
GENRE: MG Fantasy

My best friend, Toby, is an accomplished street performer, a terrific listener, a smooth talker and without a doubt the most skilled pickpocket I’ve ever met; he’s also a duck.

He doesn’t like it when I call him a duck, though. He prefers the term “humanly challenged.” But I think that’s just to make things more difficult than they have to be. That’s also one of Toby’s strong suits. He likes things complicated.

“Stop stalling and pick one,” I tell him as he watches the sixth couple walk past our hiding spot. “What about that lady with the big feathery hat? Doesn’t that make you mad? That could be your long-lost cousin, you know.”

“Stop being dramatic and calm down,” Toby whispers back at me, dark blue feathers ruffling up beneath his eyes. “I’m looking for something in particular.”

I sigh and lean my head back against the cold alleyway wall. I always find it silly when he whispers; it’s not like anyone can overhear him. Or at least, it’s not like anyone would hear anything more than quacking if they did.

A low rumbling sound rises up from my stomach, reminding me that I haven’t eaten in three days. Unfortunately, that’s fairly normal during winter months. In the summer, Toby and I can make a killing doing impromptu shows for happy mothers and their children at the local park. They think I’m some kind of duck-training genius and usually respond by tossing away their hard earned money.


  1. I love the opening and the casual last second throw in of "he's also a duck." Really imaginative and creative. I also like that you took the time to make it clear from the beginning that everyone else would hear only quacking but the boy alone can talk to Toby. There is a real spirit in your writing that combines humor and a lightness in spite of what is - on its face - an objectively desperate situation - i.e. a hungry boy. I think the challenge will be to maintain Toby's voice going forward once the novelty wears off. But, I thought this was a very strong beginning.

  2. I really like the voice in this. The flippant tone combined with the serious situation could be too much, but you've pulled it off well.

    I also like your opening paragraph a lot. "he's also a duck". I didn't realize you meant literally until a couple more paragraphs in, but I think that worked here. You do a good job of showing Toby, and of diving us into the situation and making us feel sympathetic for these two pick-pockets. Great job.

    The only suggestion I have is to see if you can tighten up your sentences. They're almost there, so it's a nitpick. For instance "He doesn’t like it when I call him a duck, though." You can lose the 'though' and still convey the same meaning and voice.

    great job and best of luck ^_^

  3. Hooked! Really, really fun one. One of the best MG entries I've read on here. I'm dying to know why Toby talks. Your MC is really cute and sounds perfect for the market. Good job!

  4. Nice job! I also love the humor mixed with the sadness of their situation.

    I was a little confused with the "...whispers back at me, dark blue feathers ruffling up beneath his eyes." I wan't quite sure what you were trying to say.

    Sounds like a great read. Good luck!

  5. I love everything about this. It has energy and wit. There are some things already apparent that I think bode well. One, you have made Toby at least an equal to the boy in terms of spirit and plotting their next score so that opens up endless possibilities. One thing I did not like - "Humanly challenged". Toby already sounds like a rather confident sort and it seems he might view himself as a superior or equal in every way rather than diminish his own existence by using a term that indicates a lacking of something. But, that was all. I love this and would be reading it through right now if I had it in front of me.

  6. I enjoyed the voice in this one, and the flippant attitude of the MC. That his bestie is a duck is a great twist. Rather than stately so openly, i'd almost like to see it slid in there smoother, ie: For a duck, he's does pretty well. Overall, I really enjoyed this opening and would be interested in what comes next.

  7. I'm sorry, I started reading before looking at the genre and thought the voice belonged to an adult, not a middle grade aged person. Also, the duck thing is cute, but not my thing. I wouldn't keep reading. But that's just me, looks like everyone else loved it.

    Good luck with it.

  8. I agree with all the posts above (except AFK who clearly doesn't read MG as he/she stated). There are a few words here and there that could be lost and it would tighten your writing, but I'm very interested in this boy and his pick pocketing duck friend. Sounds like great fun and adventure. More pages!!

  9. This is so charming, and I don't read a whole lot of MG. My tiny nitpick would be that I've learned more about Toby than the MC, but I also think that Toby's probably equally important, so that may not be much of an issue.

  10. I really enjoyed this. I thought the voice was great, I thought the dialog was authentic. I love that his best friend is a talking duck... and that he seems to be calling the shots. I love how the MC tries to goad Toby into robbing the hat lady. Very funny throughout.

    I actually thought "...dark blue feathers ruffling up beneath his eyes" was a great line. I could vividly see Toby narrowing his eyes in scrutinty without you telling it. I actually squinted when I read it.

    You can always tighten prose, but this is pretty darn strong (imo) as it is.

  11. I'd like to keep reading this, though it's a personal thing that I generally don't take on books that involve talking animals. The dialogue helps to develop the characters and there's enough description for me to see that this will probably be more than a boy-and-his-dog story.