Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February Secret Agent #15

TITLE: Dark Ambitions
GENRE: New Adult Historical Fantasy

I’d never seen a dead body before. The old woman lay lifeless on the forest floor, a cluster of wild mushrooms still gripped in her fist, her half-filled basket knocked over.

“Wait.” Damon turned up his collar against the oncoming rain, fat drops staining his oiled cloak. “What do you see?”

I looked at the corpse. Or was it a corpse? For all I knew, it could be some old lady Damon hired to play the part. Would she jump up when I touched her? Was this some kind of initiation prank?

There was only one way to find out. I bent down to roll her onto her back. “Dual puncture marks on her throat, pale skin, no signs of struggle.”

“What else do you see?” he said.

“A second set of track marks. Smaller. Barefoot.”

“What else, Chago?”

I searched the clearing for something I missed, something to satisfy Damon.

My entire future weighed on my answers. I had passed all the written exams, but the field test was the deciding factor. If I failed this, there would be no second chance for me. I’d never even considered doing anything else with my life. Would I have to go home, a failure before I even started?

The pressure shut down my brain.

“Close your eyes,” Damon said.

A rare hint. I squeezed my eyes shut. The pungent odor of decay assaulted my nose. No mistaking that smell – this woman was dead. Another scent lingered behind, rancid like rotting meat.


  1. I don't know exactly what's going on, but you have some strong visuals, and I definitely want to read more. The puncture marks on the neck gave me pause, but the genre is historical fiction and not paranormal.

  2. I'm intrigued :) so far it seems like a spy-in-training?

  3. Very nice, strong sense of place. You can feel the moisture in the air, smell the forest. And Chago's tension becomes your own.

  4. I thought the scene setting was good, very detailed, but aside from a few telling nouns (oiled cloak, basket), I didn't really get "historical" from the voice. From the third paragraph on, it seemed like it could be modern paranormal.

    My understanding is that he's training to become some kind of supernatural investigator?

    it was interesting and entertaining, though. I'm not sure what the requirements are for voice in historical paranormal... if they're the same and historical romances, for instance, but I'd read a little more to see what happens.

  5. I really enjoyed this entry. The imagery is great. Lots of delicious sensory detail. I had the sense that maybe she was "auditioning" to be a monster slayer of some sort:) Or some sort of detective.

    The only nit I have is that it's raining fat drops and she has no reaction to them... even when she squeezes her eyes shut, you'd think she'd feel the wet on her eyelashes, on her cheeks... she's concentrating but I still think she'd feel something.

    I definitely want to read more! Well done.

  6. Loved how we immediately get thrown into the scene, so rich with imagery. I'd want to read more for sure.

  7. I feel like I'm in this scene, watching it happen and the tension is just subtle enough to tell me something's at stake, something I want to read more about.

  8. Hmm, I keep wondering how Chago can be so close as to roll the corpse over and inspect it yet not smell the rot until stepping back, looking around, and then finally being told to close his eyes. Aside from that I did enjoy the pace and the tension of the scene. The line about failure is a great and relatable line, it's where I began to feel invested.

  9. I think the line with 'no signs of struggle' could be shown instead of telling us. Why does this person believe there are no signs of struggle? Show us.
    I also found the POV was more feminine than masculine, and if it hadn't been for the name Chago, I probably would think the main character was female, by the way things are described.
    The pondering of his future intrigued me and I thought this was more character-like.
    A good piece from what can only be an interesting story.

  10. "I searched the clearing..." Was wondering with what?
    There's a little bit of telling that could be shown more effectively. Overall though, I do feel the pressure that your mc is feeling. Great emotion description! I'd love to keep reading to find out more.

  11. Nice strong opening that is attention grabbing, and the writing is good. Just a few suggestions. A number of your paragraphs started with the pronoun "I" so you might want to watch that. Like someone else mentioned, if there was a strong odor I would've expected it to be evident before she closed her eyes...maybe have it occur when the body is rolled over. Only other thing I would suggest (and it's not necessary but just might make the scene stronger) is maybe just one or two more details about the physical environment like temperature, humidity, etc., to anchor the setting.

  12. I think this is almost there, but I wished it was more concrete if the MC is training for a program and what. You don't need to infodump on it, but you hint at what I think would be stronger if said outright. Given this is historical, I wonder if you can show an item that identifies the past--an old instrument or something. Just a few more added details to establish time and place will strengthen this.

  13. I am interested to read on. My only nit-picky thought was the name Damon - a little over used.

  14. Overall, I liked the voice, and I'd be interested in seeing where you're going with the story.

    That being said, I do have to agree with some of the other comments. I didn't really get the feeling that this was a historical fantasy.

    Nice start, though.