Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August Secret Agent #12

GENRE: Women's Fiction

Lang knew better than to smile about her unnecessary love letters. She didn't want to tempt fate, trash-talk God. Still, she felt a tiny bit smug knowing she'd covered all her bases, that the letters she'd written him after her diagnosis were tucked away, unopened.


Dear Jack,

I shouldn't feel glad at all after the news.

But I do. I’m grateful for the warning. That it wasn’t sudden. That I have a chance to prepare us.

I hate to miss the next part, the one that was supposed to be so golden. Eggs Benedict late on a Tuesday morning. Napping after lunch like cats in the afternoon sun.

I wish eaten béarnaise sauce on everything. Condensed milk, too. And learned the constellations.

I sit here, reeling from the doctor’s words. Only four more seasons on earth, at best?

You have that long as well, to get used to the idea.



Lang leaned heavily on the shovel and tried to slow her breath.

A florescent red Cardinal perched jauntily on the feeder, dapper and energetic. She scanned the garden for his mate, and found the dull, drab-feathered female scuttling in the leaves. Lang and Jack Ellis if they were birds.

Lang put all her weight on the shovel, balancing carefully as the earth gave way and the shovel easily slid in the damp November ground. She hadn't smelled the earth in over a year. She closed her eyes and breathed in the rich, damp scent of dirt.


  1. "I wish eaten béarnaise sauce on everything."- This sentence doesn't make sense. Is there a typo?

    Okay, she's dying and she didn't send a letter and she's digging in the dirt. I'm sorry, but I feel disconnected from the MC. I want to connect with her but I don't.

  2. I like it - it sounds like she was given a death sentence but maybe beat it. Now, the question is, what will she do with her stolen time?

    I also liked the birds - interesting way to show how she feels about herself and Jack.

    Good start.

  3. I actually think the line, "Lang leaned heavily on the shovel and tried to slow her breath," would make a better opening sentence because that's what caught my interest. Why is she digging in the dirt? I'd read on to get the answer to that question.

  4. I agree with Genevieve. Start with the dirt.

  5. Also agree about the dirt. Good opening, I'm interested and enjoyed the voice.

  6. I would read on. And I agree about starting with the dirt. Usually don't like cancer stories, but I'm hoping this is a second chance at life book.

  7. I had to read this twice to make sense of it. At first I got the impression Jack was dead and she was digging a hole in his grave to bury her love letters to him. Eek. I think I watched a Twilight Zone episode similar to that.

    Okay, so Lang is in a garden. She hadn't smelled the earth in over a year. Intriguing, but I'm just confused.

    I think a word was left out of your 4th sentence within the letter. I wish [I'd] eaten... ?

    Consider switching things around. Your last paragraph seems like the better opening.

    Also, IMO, the very first page of a novel is not where I would put a letter unless someone received a letter in your first scene. I'd like to see more substance for the set up. Posting the letter(s) can always be weaved in later.

    I'm sure there is more interesting backstory after the first 250 words, so I would read on.

  8. The first 250 words are meant to intrigue and hook and I was definitely intrigued. I am interested in where the story is going. And I have a feeling its going to be sad. I do like Genevive's suggestion for an opening line - she's good at those - but I also like the first paragraph. Good job.

  9. I'm a little confused, too--I don't understand what she/you mean about covering bases with the letters hidden and unopened. The letter itself, while I wouldn't call it a love letter, is a beautiful piece of writing, but I don't understand a lot of what frames it.

    Whatever you do with the opening, dirt or no dirt, hold on to trash-talking God. That's a terrific image.

  10. Is Lang keeping her diagnosis a secret from her lover/husband/Jack? Why - ever - would love letters be 'unnecessary'? Is 'fluorescent red' the right description for the cardinal? (Is cardinal capitalized?) Damp appears twice in the last para. I guess it fell a bit flat for me, unfortunately.

  11. I like this. It's moody and wistful, and full of regret. There are a few things that could be cleaned up. Love the line about trash-talk to God.
    o Something's missing from the beginning of the Bearnaise sauce line.
    o The florescent red Cardinal is trying too hard. Ditto the dull, drab-feathered female. Simplify. One modifier for each is enough.
    o Word damp is used in successive sentences. Cut one.
    o Love the line about Lang and Jack as birds. Immediately tells us something about them as a couple and Lang as a person.

  12. Oh! I've seen this line before. :-) On the one hand, I understand trying to set the mood and tone with your word choices to start but, unfortunately, it's confusing.
    I think your first line without the uncessary love works better and put the information about them being unnecessary perhaps with the line about tempting fate. And I'm not sure you need to include the letter here. I think you might be better served, as a plot device, to put them between chapters?? Chapter one, then read the first letter. Removing it would give you more room to show Lang and her setting. Just a thought. I like it although it is a bit more thought filled than I prefer.

  13. This drew me in right away.
    After the mention of the diagnosis I immediately knew why she was burying love letters. (I presume she'll leave instructions so her husband can find them?) And the letter tells me so much about their relationship, with so few words. It worked for me, reading the letter so soon. I loved "napping after lunch like cats in the afternoon sum." I'm already so sad that they will lose each other!

    My only little technicality would be that the first paragraph mentions that the letters "were tucked away, unopened." Yet we find after the letter that she is actually just starting to bury them (unless I'm reading that wrong.) That could easily be solved by saying the letters "would be tucked away..."

    I'd definitely keep reading. Good luck!

  14. I'm afraid I'm a bit confused by this and I don't understand what's going on. Sure, she has a year to live and she's writing letters to Jack that he won't read for a while, but the way it is presented is perplexing. I don't understand how she's tempting fate. I don't understand why she hasn't been out in a year. I assume this is explained later, but for now, I'm confused. Yes, there's a typo but I forgive typos easily. Otherwise, I do like the tone and I'm curious as to where this is headed but I think it needs work.