Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August Secret Agent #18

TITLE: Mark of Eternity
GENRE: Contemporary Romance with Paranormal/Historical

The young woman could not stand still.

Today her father returned after an eight month campaign to expand the borders of their kingdom. Her hands had a mind of their own. They picked at the bracelets, the gown, even at her hair. The only thing stopping her from dancing in place was the look her mother was sure to flash if she messed up the painstakingly hennaed hands or smeared the gold dust servants had rubbed into her skin. It was a day for perfect behavior, not one to test the pharaoh’s wife who resembled Sekhmet, the goddess of war, when displeased. Which, thank Isis, was not that often.

She glanced at her mother with affection, which was more like staring into a mirror. They both ignored the tradition of shaving their heads and had long, thick hair as black as night, with almond shaped emerald eyes, high, round cheekbones and full lips. She only wished she was as poised as the older woman instead of fighting the desire to rush to the window and take in the sights.

Off to the side, she overheard the head vizier speaking to a younger, less important advisor. “They say Pharaoh brings with him a fortune greater than we can imagine and that once again, he will not share it with those closest to him.” The judgment in his voice dripped as thick as a bitter tar.


  1. This definitely doesn't read like contemporary romance. Call it Historical Romance or Paranormal Romance, whichever element you feel is the most integral to your plot.

    It's very well written, but I think I would have felt more integrated into the scene if I knew her name, instead of just "the young woman."

  2. I'm guessing this is a prologue or flashback or you would not have called it contemporary romance. I am also guessing that this "young woman" is not the MC (or that she time travels?)or you would have named her. Is her father the pharoh? Is the pharoh's wife her mother? I'm not clear the relationships. It's not important that the reader know everything, but I don't like being confused.

  3. The contemporary romance threw me off too.

    I had no trouble understanding that the pharaoh's wife was her mother in the first paragraph.

    Some things that bothered me:
    -"glanced" and "staring" in the same sentence.
    -I like the description of their hair, but the eyes, cheekbones and lips seemed unnecessary.
    -I don't know where they are.

  4. The genre really intrigues me - is this a prologue? It doesn't come off as contemporary romance to me. I'd probably call it paranormal/historical romance.

    Other than that, I was very interested. I felt the voice was distant, but I can see where this might not be the way the whole book is. In that case, no worries. I'd really like to see a query of this. Very interesting.

  5. There's a little too much emphasis on looks in this scene for me.
    o The second sentence feels jarring and disconnect to the first.
    o The first sentence in the second paragraph is also awkward. I think you're trying to say she and her mom look alike.(Sekhmet) But it sounds like she's looking in the mirror with affection for her own looks.
    o The dialogue at the end doesn't sound natural. It might be better if the second person makes the comment about not sharing the fortune.

  6. I've found, if you have a prologue, when you enter contests like this, the consensus seems to be to enter the first 250 words of your first chapter. Or at least that is what I was told for my MG novel. Because this does not read as contemporary.

    This is an interesting premise, but it needs a lot of tightening up.

    You jump narrative voice here. Your first line - The young woman - is stated from an omnipotent point of view. Then you switch to third. You need to change your first sentence to third to match the rest of piece. (Princess Amidalla could not keep still would work).

    I was thrown off, as well of the description of her not _standing_ still then the description of her hands being active. It threw me for some reason.

    I'd cut the 'mirror' analogy for her looks and insert the information later. The first sentence there is awkward and you don't need self description at this point.

    Hmm, not sure why she'd know tar is bitter??

    Again, interesting premise, but some revision needed, IMO to make this shine so you see the story clearly.

  7. Leaving aside whether or not this is a prologue and whether this is actually a contemporary piece, I think you start in a great place. Her father's homecoming is clearly the game-changer, but you take the time to introduce your characters before getting to the event that kicks off the story.

  8. I enjoyed this - although, like the others, the contemporary romance threw me off.

    I really liked the line "her hands had a mind of their own" - very nice imagery!

    I don't think the focus on the looks was overdone and think you did a great job with a start.

    Good luck!

  9. The genre has me scratching my head a bit; I think you need to pick a more solid genre, even if yours stretches the conventional category a bit. A book like Outlander, which does not fit neatly into any one genre, has been described as everything from Historical Fantasy to Sci-fi. Part of why I don't care for Outlander is that it was pitched to me as a time travel book. It's not! It uses time travel as a device to set up a historical novel. If you add too many genres together, you lose the readers you want to keep. Since this doesn't read contemporary, I would leave it at historical romance or romantic fantasy, something to that effect. Pick what the strongest elements are and go with those, but I would caution against listing more than two genres in your description.

    Is the young woman in your first line the main character? If so, I would name her. It feels very distanced leaving her nameless. I would stretch for another eye description than "almond shaped" to avoid cliche. I don't want something as minor as that to take away from the vivid description you've already provided.

  10. The way this blends the culture into description and character internals is lovely.

    Would prefer a closer POV for this genre--or maybe it's just that it's not solidly grounded from the very beginning. Right now, we pick up the character's voice around "Her hands had a mind of their own." but in this section, we still don't know her name. The "take in the sights" confused me. It struck me as a phrase one would use in a different land, as opposed to a young woman in her own country, waiting on her father's return. Perhaps something more specific--is there a procession of some sort to welcome him home going on outside?

    Great tension from the bitter adviser--I hope for impending sneakiness! :)

  11. I was confused about the genre and that was unsettling. I think the ultimate premise is quite fascinating, but I had trouble keeping interested because of the writing. I found the first paragraph to have choppy, disjointed sentences. There was so much information in that first paragraph that it was distracting.

    I also found some of the description to be overwrought, especially the description of the protagonist.

    I do like the set up that the Pharaoh will be bringing home riches that he won't share and some feel bitter about this. I also love the nod to rebellion with the ladies not shaving their head. That stated, I do feel this needs more work.