Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Secret Agent #25

TITLE: First the Dark
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

Before the blood tap-tapped in black beads to the floor, before the bones shone so white beneath the flayed flesh, there was music. Everything started with the music, and it was beautiful.

The melody was like nothing I’d heard before. Harmonies unearthly and strange lapped against the corners of my mind. Vaporous tendrils reached out; they tested the resonance within me. My blood hummed in reply. The song swelled, teasing me to pick out the notes as the autumn leaves fluttered to the quad beyond the plate glass doors of Lesley Library. I strained to listen, leaning unconsciously forward across the circulation desk, but the chords retreated. They hovered just out of reach.


I jumped. The music abruptly contracted, then vanished.

“How’s my favorite bit of jailbait? Eh?”

I turned toward the voice, and my eyes refocused on a lopsided grin I knew well. Wolfgang Moser. Wainward College DJ. Double major: shamelessness and Spanish. I exhaled.

“Hi, Wolfie.” I rolled my eyes, suppressing a small smile. “Why are you in the library?”

“Gotta check on you, of course. Make sure no undergrads get any ideas I have copyright on already.” He turned away, then leaned backwards across the wide desk and grinned up at me. For real? I pushed him upright by the shoulder and got a sharp whiff of something unmistakable.

“Are you drunk?”

“Me? Do I look drunk to you?” he asked, turning around and standing up straight in mock-offense.

“You mean right now or in general?” I felt like being difficult.


  1. This is YA. Sorry I omitted the age from the genre information.

  2. I love the opening paragraph and I love the description of Wolfie! Nothing more to say really. I want to read on to see the link between what happens in the first paragraph (blood tap-tapping and flayed flesh) and the rest of the story.

  3. You caught me with the opening, with the strange music, then lost me with the dialogue. I wouldn’t read more because I wanted to be in that world you created in the opening, and then I was disappointed with the reality, which may be more my personal taste than anything to do with your story. The two sections just seemed too far apart, too separate from one another. And it seemed that strange music was not something the MC heard all the time. It seemed like it was a first time occurrence, and I just didn’t believe she would let it go so easily. It seemed she might still think about it during her conversation with Wolfie. Otherwise, it seems like a tease, like it’s only there to get my attention. Which, of course, it is, because that’s the point here but, to me, it felt like more of a gimmick that part of the story.
    Perhaps if you do let her think about the music once or twice during the dialogue, you’ll bring that opening part into the second half, and it won’t feel gimmicky.

    The copyright line – you can’t copyright ideas – but Wolfie is drunk and maybe you want him spouting incorrect information.

  4. I love this. I definitely keep reading. Good luck to you! :)

  5. I was hooked...until I saw the comment that this was to be YA. The tone, the content, especially since Wolfie calls the MC jailbait making him obviously over 18 made me lean towards that "new adult" age bracket.

    Ya/Adult category aside, there are some moments of brilliance in here-- loved the double major comment. The opening paragraph had me, and continued to have me all the way through to the end. I feel like you could leave off "I felt like being difficult" because its quite obvious that's how she felt. Other than that, I want more. I want to know about the music she hears, what Wolfie is up to and how he relates to this music because its so obvious there's some sort of correlation - DJ, music. Duh. Great job and good luck.

  6. I like the first para and the conversation a lot. The 2nd para, about the music, is a bit purple-prosey imo. And then the three together just jarred to me, because they are so different. I get that you're trying to start punchily, but my 2 cents would be just to start with her in the library, then hearing strange music, then Wolfie etc. Just because the first para is good, doesn't mean it's right for your first page. Perhaps consider telling us a bit about our MC instead. Hope this doesn't come off as too critical because I like your writing a lot. Good luck!

  7. I really enjoyed your style and your voice, but I had some trouble with the lack of transition between 2 disparate scenes happening at the same time: creepy atmosphere that hints of pain and torture mixed with fantasy music, and then the mediocrity of an ordinary library. The absence of a link between the two creates confusion that jarred me out of the story.

    I like both scenes separately, but not together.

    The second paragraph seems over-worked to me. I love metaphors and similes, but the images and sensations here are a bit mixed up. Vaporous tendrils is visual, not auditory. Unearthly harmonies lapping suggests liquid. And then you have things humming and swelling and fluttering after all that. It's too much. Focus on a theme and stick to it.

    Good luck!

  8. A few notes:

    The first two paragraphs don't match the rest of the text, which makes it jarring. The tone of the two is so different that they don't mesh well together.

    This isn't YA, as the characters are apparently in college. There's a lot of debate about New Adult as a genre and how to categorize books with college-age protagonists, but as it now stands, YA is up through 18, and anything older is considered adult. There are some agents and editors looking for NA books, but they're still in the minority. Even then, publishers looking at NA are doing so from their adult side. YA is still part of kid lit. So take that how you will, but you likely won't find much success selling this to a children's agent, unless they specifically list New Adult as an interest or something they're actively seeking.

  9. Thank you for your time and feedback. I have a quick question. The protagonist is seventeen, finishing her last year of high school by taking classes at the college where her uncle is a professor. Would this make the manuscript YA or New Adult?

  10. It's YA. And sorry I didn't catch your omission in the genre; normally I catch that and email the author!

  11. Thanks for the clarification, Authoress.