Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August Secret Agent #20

TITLE: The Toast Bitches
GENRE: Contemporary Romance

Hana hesitated on the unnaturally clean sidewalk and glanced at the note in her hand. She looked at the street signs again to make sure she had the right address. This wasn't a newspaper office.

Ninth and West 48th. Streets with numbers, a world away from McCann and Dunkling.

She'd read about Michael Preston's swift rise through Dempster Media, and his determination to remain a bachelor as his empire grew. She didn't care about the trail of broken hearts. She had her eye on that starting salary.

She pushed her rimless glasses up her nose and studied the polished brass nameplates. She pressed the red button beside number three.

Nothing. She pressed again.

"Who is it?" His voice sounded okay, but what can you tell from a voice?

"Mr. Preston?"


"I'm here about the job."

"Come on up. Third floor." The door clicked, and she pushed it open. The scent of lemon polish wafted through the small lobby. She struggled with the ornate elevator door, ripping off a fingernail in the process.

"S***." She sucked her finger and tried again. Finally, the lever budged and she entered the elevator.

At the top floor, the door slid open to reveal a sparely furnished loft. Late afternoon light spilled from a large multi-paned window onto a faded Oriental carpet. "Hello?"

At first, all she heard was distant birdsong from outside, but she soon detected the clatter of cutlery.

She followed the sound and found the great Mr. Preston doing the dishes.


  1. Love the set up here. Love the last sentence, especially calling Mr. Preston "the great." Makes the fact that he's washing dishes that much better!

    Maybe it's just me, but I laughed at "pushed her rimless glasses up her nose..." I know it's not what you mean, but the immediate metal image is of the woman ramming a pair glasses up her nose.

    Also, double-check the word, "sparely." I think you mean "sparsely."

  2. I like the "but what can you tell from a voice?" - definitely a question I've asked myself when speaking to prospective employers, etc. on the phone, so right away I'm tuning into the MC a bit. Not sure how she ripped off a fingernail opening an elevator, but I enjoyed this and would certainly read more.

  3. I too was confused over the, an entire fingernail or just the tip? And I'm assuming it's an old fashioned elevator?
    Good opening, enjoyed the last sentence as well.

  4. I like but I'm totally lost at the "numbers" and "mccann and dunkling" bit. What does either have to do with one another? Do we know what McC&D is? Why are they worlds away from each other?

  5. Loved the last sentence and would eagerly read on. I thought the broken fingernail was too much and distracting at this point, but maybe it is important later.

  6. I also didn't get the comparison of street names/numbers. I'm assuming she is in New York and far from her suburban roots?

    The fingernail pulled me out as well, I wanted her in that elevator right away so I could meet this Mr. Preston.

    Last line is great.

  7. If she read about Preston's rise in the business (supposedly on the Internet) and there was much to read about him and his empire, I would assume there would surely be plenty of photos of him as well. I dunno, this just distracted me that she was trying to judge him by his voice.

    I like the set up of the story. I get the impression she is a small-town girl in the big city when you referenced the street names. And pushing the glasses up her nose makes her sound a little nerdy. Hah! Lots of women wear glasses, but for some reason I just got this young, librarian-type impression of Hana.

    Regarding the fingernail, I think what pulled my focus was "ripping off a fingernail." I'm not sure how you 'rip off' a fingernail on an elevator lever, but maybe this is a NY thing? I'm west coast and we push buttons--lol. The broken fingernail seems inconsequential in your opening and kind of cliche. Unless this is typical of Hana.

    Your title baffles me. Eek, not trying to be so critical! I really think this is an intriquing opening. I would definitely read on.

  8. The title caused me to stop and read! I had to go back and make sure I'd read that correctly =).

    While not normally my genre, this was interesting to me. You kept my attention the entire time and I loved the last line, where Mr. Bigtime CEO is doing his own dishes; not something I expected.

  9. I liked this. I thought it had some great moments. I knew exactly where she was and what she was doing. Good job.

  10. This sounds a little disjointed to me. Staccato action, but not much reaction. The bachelor comment seems a little too early. I do like the setting and the set-up and female character sounds determined. Consider slowing it down just a bit.

  11. I like the line about the street numbers and names - gives me the feeling she's out of her element. I think you could smooth it out a bit, but I like the voice and I would read on. Good luck!

  12. :-)
    You need to vary your sentence structure. You have a whole lot, including a series of sentences after the line about 'McCann and Dunkling' staring with 'she'. A LOT.

    Given how electronic media has changed things, how can she tell from the outside of a building whether or not it houses a newspaper? You could say it was trendy, high priced loft apartments.

    Give the reader a clue what McCann and Dunkling are, 'a world away from the publishing house of... or the insurance office of...' Or add in even more: a world away from the (dingy, run down, frentic, something) (business type) McCann and..

    Give us a motivation for her wanting the salary. Why? Sick kid" Ill Uncle? Gambling debts? We need to immediately 'get' why she's going through this and telling this would help us understand her actions.

    Describe 'okay'. a pleasant tenor? a cultured baritone? A clipped brogue? :-) Okay, that last is sexy, not merely 'okay'.

    Describe the lobby a tick - which will make us 'see' the ornate old elevator door, and sympathize with her struggle to get the thing open. Do be clear on how much of that nail she rips!

    No apartment door? There's got to be some way to secure his house so other people can't get in?? Oh, maybe he's the only one there. Here's where having that tick of description for the lobby won't throw out the reader.

    Love the light description on the rug.

    LOVE the doing dishes!!

    Right now, not enough information on who she is and why she is where she is and doing what she is doing to fully draw me in. :-(

  13. I enjoyed this. The more of these I read, the more I realize how much I depend on the 'back of the book' description as to what the book is about :-) Nevertheless, I get a good sense of her - ambitious, ballsy, and poor. And the mystery of the great Mr. Preston :-)

    I'd keep reading!

  14. Love this! I'm drawn in from the start. It's quirky, fun, suspenseful, dramatic, and romantic--all in 250 words. Well done, you! OMG, can't think of a thing I'd change :)
    I'm even drawn by the title. Good luck!

  15. I like this, you have a great set up that feels natural to start the story and weave in a few details. Some lines can be omitted for pacing: the line about her glasses and studying the brass nameplates is not essential. You could take out the two dialogue lines: Mr. Preston?/Yes and move straight to "I'm here about the job" as a response to "Who is it?" for pacing. I like that you involve different senses in her experience. Those last two lines can be combined: take out the birdsong and show how she follows the clatter of cutlery to find Mr. Preston.

    Nice job. This has commercial fiction all over it.

  16. Great start! And yay for another rom com! Just love those smart, sassy MC's fighting that loving feeling.

    I like our sweet little small-town girl coming to meet the "great" heart-breaking hotshot himself. Those old elevator doors can be a bitch, although yes, a bit more description there might be handy. I got it, but others didn't. And I hate ruining my nails, especially before a big interview.

    Sparsely, yeah. Someone already mentioned that. But we got what you meant anyway. :)

    Great start and we know where it's going (Hana and Mr. Great, of course!) But I want to be there for the ride!

  17. This is an interesting premise that raises a number of questions--why is the salary so important to her? Where is she from? What is the job, exactly?

    If this is NYC, 9th and 48th is the theater district...hmmm. It may NOT be NYC though.

    Unlike everyone else, the fingernail scene didn't bother me. I'm constantly breaking my nails.

    The scene seems sweet. There's nothing here that grabs me, but it seems charming. I'd be curious to find out the answer to the questions listed above.