Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May Secret Agent #15

GENRE: YA historical fantasy romance

I clung to the saddle as Major tore down the path in front of us. My muscles burned and sweat dripped into my eyes, but I could not let my horse slow down. Not when the heaving sound of his labored breathing tore at my heart. Not when my face and arms stung from low-hanging branches ripping at them. Not even when a monstrous fallen log loomed before us. Leaning forward and ducking low on Major’s neck, I extended the reins. With a grunt, he launched us into the air.

For the barest of moments, time hung suspended, leaving only the soaring.

His hooves slammed back down, but he stumbled on the landing. I pitched forward, nearly flying out of the saddle. I flailed and tried to straighten while my horse regained his footing. My left stirrup dangled uselessly beside my foot, but I pushed Major back into a gallop, even as I struggled to recover my balance. We could not stop. I gripped Major’s sides and clutched handfuls of his black mane as the next bend in the trail swallowed us whole.

Then the path opened up, and I let out the reins. Major shot forward, racing beside the river on our right side. It led all the way through the Golden Woods to Braythel. If I could make it to that kingdom, I might have a chance. Digging in with my heels, I urged Major on. I had to get to Braythel.


  1. I love that you put us right in on the action in this. Your descriptions of Major's movements all seem spot-on and really put me there with your main character.

    I do feel like it's missing a little bit of an emotional connection to your MC, though. The action is very engaging, and I do get a sense of desperation from your MC, but it feels like there's a disproportionate amount of explaining how Major is moving (even though I do like those parts) in comparison to what and why your MC is pushing so hard.

    All THAT said, it was very engaging and I would definitely read more.

  2. Good writing, I definitely could picture the horse and rider, and the fatigue the horse was feeling.

    In the first paragraph, when I read the "not when" sentences, I kept thinking you were going to give a reason why they couldn't stop. Example: "Not when Darth Vader was hard on our heels." Finally, you put the "not even when" in and I got it. That could maybe be cleaned up.

    Overall, you left me curious as to why they couldn't stop and I wouldn't definitely read more.

  3. I liked the opening and your descriptions.

    One suggestion would be to cut back a bit on the descriptions to get the plot moving forward faster.

    I'd keep reading.

    Good luck.

  4. Right in the thick of it straight away. I like that. Think this is interesting. I'd keep reading, but I'd tone down on the description as this chase or ride feels a bit drawn out.

    Still, good.

  5. This is one of those times when mystery and suspense would do more to pull in a reader than out-and-out action. She's about to fall from her horse, and I should care, but I don't know her, so I really don't. Consider starting before this, at whatever happened to send her on this ride. It must have been big. We should see it with her, and bits of backstory would let us get to know her.

  6. Starting in the middle of the action is great, but you haven't given us much to go on here, story wise. Someone is riding a horse. The horse's name is Major. There's a slight sense of urgency in the journey...

    I think this is all great, and your descriptions are good, but this doesn't feel like the beginning of the story. Either it happens earlier (and we've missed it) or it hasn't happened yet.

  7. While the writing is tight, and you do a very good job of describing the ride and the urgency (especially the soaring bit, followed by the slamming hooves), I got antsy very early in the third paragraph.

    The description of the ride is well done, but there's just too much of it. I kept expecting pursuers or a revelation of what she was riding from (or even to), but none materialized. I need a reason to care whether she can or can't stop. Her telling me she can't doesn't cut it; I need to see at least a hint of the stakes.

    I'll echo what the silent h said about the "not when" issue.

  8. I think you did a great job of establishing her tension and urgency and describing the horse's movement so I could understand and even feel it. Just a couple of suggestions to tighten the writing:

    I'd drop "in front of us" from the first sentence (where else would the path be?).

    I can't picture what "extended the reins" means. Extended her arms so the reins are loose? Pull back so they're tight and the horse's head goes up? (I know nothing about horseback riding, but that seems like how you'd get him to jump.)

    I'd also drop the very last line and instead say why she needs to get there. A chance to what?

  9. I originally started my ms with a racing horse scene and pretty much everyone agreed that they didn't care about the rider in that situation because they didn't know her before. I did make changes and it's been received much better.

    Definitely remove "in front of us" because I actually thought Major was a dog running in front of the horse at first.

    I totally get the tension in the scene (but then I did the same thing and am a rider.

    Also, I would change "Not..." to "Even though the heaving..." because otherwise it sounds like she doesn't give a crap about the horse (horse lovers will notice this!)

    Would love to know more of why she is riding so hard - that reason "could" allay some of the lack of caring the reader has about someone they don't know yet.

    Good luck!

  10. That’s one heck of a horse ride. I felt the leap and those few seconds of hang-time. Nicely done! A few suggestions –
    ‘ I clung to the reins’ -- instead of -- I clung to the saddle,

    ‘Not when low-hanging branches stung my face and arms,’-- instead of the original,

    ‘and he stumbled’-- instead of -- but her stumbled,

    ‘and’-- instead of -- even as I.

    I gripped Major’s sides and grabbed handfuls of his black mane—how can he do both at the same time, and what happened to the reins?

    Then the path opened up and I let out the reins – so he had the reins all the time, which meant he held the reins, gripped Major’s sides, and grabbed his mane all at the same time. If he’s using his legs anywhere in there, perhaps mention that.

    ‘To our right’ -- instead of -- on our right side.

    “If I could make it through the Golden Woods to Braythel, I might have a chance’ -- instead of -- the original.

    And perhaps cut the last sentence.

    Again, nicely done!

  11. Listen to the above comments, they'll clean it up just a bit. I'll disagree with Barbara on the last sentence though. I can feel the mc's desperation to get there.

    I'm connecting to the mc just fine. Actually, I feel like you're holding us back on purpose, letting us go on this breathless ride. I don't mind being in the dark. The next 250 have a lot of work to do with character, setting, and plot since you're getting away with giving us none of it in the first 250.

    I'd read more.

  12. I ride, and I jump cross country, so I figured I might want to chime in here.

    As a rider, I understood everything that you were saying. But you might want to listen to some of the above comments about where people got confused, because not everyone reading the book will be a rider.

    One part threw me: her reaction to the log. It sounds like she completely threw herself into jumping position a good 3-4 strides out. This is something an inexperienced rider might do, but from the rest of your description, she seems to know her way around a horse, so it jars.

    Coming from a cross country rider who jumps logs all the time, the rider would sit up, pick up her hands and nudge the horse with her legs. You want to get the horse to rock back on its hind legs so it can power off, not throw yourself forward and throw the reins away (thus encouraging the horse to lean forward and put more weight on its front legs - not what you want coming into a large log at a gallop).

    Other than that, though, I thought it was a pretty realistic ride. Good job :)

  13. You gotta love specific commentary from an actual rider!

    I enjoyed the excerpt but like many others said, it felt like a scene that comes later rather than to start. Perhaps even just a line or two about who is riding this horse and why will help, along with a few lines interspersed with the action to give context to the character.