Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January Secret Agent #1

TITLE: Portal
GENRE: YA Paranormal

The night was nearly moonless, as it had to be, and the only sound in the graveyard was that of dirt slipping off a dozen shovels. Some were far enough away that Grady barely heard them, muffled by countless headstones and monuments, oak trees and gently rolling hills. Most were closer, slicing though the soft dirt and saplings of the public section.

Grady counted himself lucky. It was murder digging through the roots and clay that choked the older graves. Still, if he’d been further from the road he might have been allowed a flashlight. Given his failing eyesight, Grady ran the real risk of shoveling into his foot. He was not overly fond of his supervisor either.

“Stop resting on your shovel, boy.” Grady had not heard Nikolai approach, but then, no one ever heard Nikolai approach. His heavy accent whispered through an embroidered handkerchief held tight against his nose, probably to dull the stench of the open graves, though Grady himself smelled nothing. “You are behind schedule again.”

“Shovel’s breaking, boss.” Grady hefted another load of earth. “Give me a break.”

Nikolai cursed in a language Grady did not know. A weight flashed across Grady’s back. Another whipping. If he didn’t steal more green thread soon, his tattered army jacket would fall to pieces.

“Why do you do that?” Grady asked, emptying his shovel onto the ground above him. “You know I can’t feel it.”

“No.” Nikolai pulled back for another blow. “But I can.”


  1. This is intriguing, but I have no idea where it's going...which is sometimes kind of fun. The use of the word 'murder' in the second paragraph immediately made me think they're digging graves for a murder victim, and that leads me to wondering who the murdered is. Obviously I'm off on tangents; don't know if I'm going in the right direction or not.
    The line about Grady's failing eyesight made me wonder about his age because typically a young person isn't losing their eyesight. But maybe it's something to do with the fact that he's not quite human?

  2. Just Another YA AuthorJanuary 16, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    This piqued my interest enough to continue reading. Mostly I want to know why he can't feel anything, and how this aspect of him will relate to the plot.

    Some of this was jarring, though. I like it to be clear what the setting/time period is right away. I'm not sure if this is modern-day, historical, or a made-up world.

  3. Nice tension and intrigue in this opening. The writing also has a beautiful, natural flow to it.

    I'd definitely keep reading.

  4. I like the first lines and the setting. I would keep reading. I know it's tough to fit a lot in first words, but I would give hints to the paranormal aspect of the story pretty soon, even if it's subtle; Grady reflecting briefly on something strange happening, etc. I agree with another commenter that the time period should be evident. If you can work in time/place a little to this opening.

  5. definitely intriguing, especially the way you add bits of information without seeming to do so. Hooked enough to keep reading!

  6. I liked this quite a lot. It's an intriguing opening. My first thought was that gravediggers with overseers was new, and I continued to be intrigued by Grady's inability to feel. What really hooked me is how nonchalant he is about it. I think you managed to pack a lot of characterization into this short intro, and it was very well done. I would definitely read more.


  7. I like this. It opens up a lot of intriguing questions and I would definitely continue.

  8. Wow, this is really really good! Exceptionally intriguing. I've heard of this rare medical condition that's a congenital insensitivity to pain. How clever of you to use it for a character in a paranormal story. The condition is dangerous because those afflicted are incapable of feeling the warning signs that let them know they're injured. I love this! I want to read more.

    The tone and atmosphere is a great set-up for a spooky story. The main character is digging up graves on a moonless night, and I'm eager to know why. His boss is a sadistic ass and I can't wait to see him get his comeuppance. Great job!

  9. I echo most of what was said above. The writing is good, and I like how you subtly show us who Grady is and his world. However, I don't see how this is YA. Because this is so well written, if I were an agent I'd ask to see the query in order to see how it fits into the YA category. As it is, I'm guessing prologue? Good luck with this.

    I hope you reveal yourself after the contest so I know who to stalk until it's published.

  10. I like it! It's dark and mysterious and I have no idea why Grady is doing what he's doing. I'm guessing zombies are in the picture but I'd love to read to find out more. I like the lack of sentimentality, the fact that it's not in a classroom, the fact that the MC is not snarky or moaning about this or that. Very refreshing. Good luck!

  11. Wow, this is fantastic. Very unusual opening scene, lovely smooth writing and barrels of intrigue - so many questions I want to read on to have answered. And a brilliant last line.

    My only small quibble would be to ask if this is historical? Something about the language makes it read like that. If it isn't, then it reads a bit more like adult than YA to me. But just my opinion, anyway I'd certainly read on.

  12. This is a terrific opening. It’s an intriguing scene, great set-up and characterization, and very good pacing. I’d love to know why they’re digging up the old graves. What are they looking for? Why is Grady losing his eyesight. Lots of good questions. I love the last sentence. I am definitely hooked!