Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February Secret Agent #17

TITLE: Facing Fire
GENRE: YA Contemporary

I’m positive Mom wanted me to find her body. I’d been taking care of us both for so many years she trusted I’d know how to handle things. She’d say, “Arlie, if something ever happens to me, don’t let the police or ambulance boys find me in a compromising position.” Translation: flush any remaining drugs down the toilet, make sure she had on clean panties and tidy up the motel room. These instructions were rote by the time I carried them out two weeks ago.

Jane, my court-appointed therapist, asked what I thought of my mom’s instructions and if I believed her suicide was selfish. I didn’t think she killed herself but I hadn’t found the words to convey the doubts in my gut.

“Arlie, you’re not paying attention.”

I appreciated that Jane didn’t use a soothing, sing-song therapist tone with me, the type designed to make a person feel cared about or special in some backhanded way. Instead, she took a ‘no bullshit’ approach. No one in my life had done so before and it was why I trusted her.

“I’m listening.”

“Well, are you adjusting?”

“To high school? It’s only been a week.”

I sat cross-legged on the overstuffed loveseat, the one spot in Jane’s office where I could stare out the window. When we first met, I’d avoided looking directly at her. She probably thought I was embarrassed by what had happened to my face and didn’t want her to stare at it.


  1. Hi,

    I'm really intrigued by this. The first line is great. The hint that there's something odd about the mom's suicide is good. My only suggestion/question relates to her mom's words in the first paragraph. Why would her mom care if the drugs were flushed down the toilet or if the hotel room is clean if she's dead?

    I realize that you're giving us a glimpse into the situation and her mom's personality, but I think the first paragraph may be better served giving the reader insight into Arlie's state of mind. (This is so hard. It's only 250. I'm sure you give us more about her state of mind in the coming pages, but there you go.)

    Oh. One nit picky thing. I don't think you need 'and didn’t want her to stare at it.'

  2. This is good. You have an interesting start, and so much can be inferred about the relationship between the MC and her mother. I'm curious as to what happened to her face and what it has to do with her mom's OD.

    There's one line I have a problem with: "she took a ‘no bullshit’ approach. No one in my life had done so before"- It seems to me her mom took a no bullshit approach. One can't provide her daughter with rose-colored glasses while telling the daughter what she needs to do in case of an OD.

  3. This is a great beginning. It grabs my attention right away. I think the mother's instructions underscore both the personality of the mother and the daughter -- the mother in giving, the daughter in following. The mystery with the face is intriguing. Definitely enough here that would make me want to read more to see where the story's going. Good luck!

  4. I don't know how you did it but I felt like I could relate to the character immediately. The pace is perfect, and I enjoyed the little hints here and there...her mothers suicide, and how she thinks it wasn't a suicide, and then hinting that something happened to her face.


  5. Love love love your voice, love your opening, love the relationship with the therapist already. More, please. <3

  6. What is her reaction to all this? Is she relieved she doesn't have to take care of a druggie mom anymore? Anger that she's still covering up for Mom? Something else? She seems too calm. At least show us her inner thoughts. They might make nice contrast to what she actually says.

  7. I would finish this story because you brought me in with the story of the mother but that last line about her face makes e reader ok me wonder if it was something that happened to her having to do with the mothers death.

    I do agree with the comment above. Rather than a no bullshit approach should could say that she didn't take shit from you or pushed you to be better or something like that. Other than that's liked it.

  8. I'd read more of this. I was really intrigued by the line about her face. The MC seems really detached about her mother's "suicide"... I'm not sure how I feel about that. Sounds like she reconciled herself to the idea a long time ago.

    I got a little confused about whether the therapist asking how she felt about the instructions was a part of the current scene or something the therapist had once asked.

    I also wasn't sure whether the mother was a drug addict and the "drugs" were illegal drugs or she was just suicidal and the drugs were pain pills or something. I think naming the drugs would make that clear.

  9. I liked this. Great voice, a nice flow of current and backstory, and some dialogue thrown in for balance. I think your first paragraph would benefit from breaking into two; I think two shorter paragraphs will show more impact given this is so dramatic already.

  10. I'm intrigued and would definitely be interested in reading more. I really enjoyed the voice and the interaction with her therapist. Very nice start!