Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April Secret Agent #21

GENRE: YA gaslamp fantasy

“As Raymond would have wanted,” Veanne said, clinking her clay mug to her brother’s. She took an inexperienced mouthful of foamy pine cider and burped, immediately pleased by the chance to be improper.

“Bless you,” said Haeden.

“‘Bless you’ is for sneezes,” she replied, pinching his arm. Veanne took another sip, smaller this time, and admired the mirror behind the bar, etched with climbing ivy and forget-me-nots. At the top, a pillar and scroll clock sat, wooden dial stopped at the doctor’s time of death.

Veanne’s heart sunk in her chest. The aromatic scent of brandy and hops was a warm reminder of the man who had raised her and Haeden as his own.

She slid off her bonnet, even though she knew her ears were still red, and toyed with her curls, attempting to arrange them into some sort of acceptable shape. Without her hat, the bustle of the alehouse streamed louder and more chaotic. It was a welcomed distraction.

Peasants made up the majority of space and noise, happier away from the cold scrutiny of the upper class. Few of Haeden and Veanne’s age, and those that were carried steaming cups of coffee and mulled wine to patrons. Extra hands hired by the Vintner.

In the center of the house, a pair of familiar faces invited the siblings over.

“Welcome, young bantlings,” cheered Seamus Hartwell, pulling out a chair. “Here, have a seat.”

“Thank you,” said Veanne, accepting.

Haeden followed her lead.

“Put your stampers up,” added Deri Wren.


  1. I like the language and descriptions which quickly set time, place, and situation without being obtrusive about it. The clay mug. The stopped clock with the wooden dial. The bonnet.

    I can almost see what this alehouse looks like, although there's very little actual description of the room itself.

    As with some other entries here, I had to look up words like "bantling," but I really like that sort of thing in a book.

  2. What is a gaslamp fantasy? Not sure that is a genre, but I could be wrong.

    First sentence is a little too cryptic. I'd like to know the main characters, setting and main conflict on the first page to keep my interest.

    Reads as if the mouthful is inexperienced. Maybe fix this?

    Needs more conflict and some indication of the MC's goals/conflicts.

    Suggest you start the story where conflict begins.

  3. Very atmospheric. I'd read on because I'm curious about Raymond's identity and also to find out why, as the title indicates, they're damned.

  4. Love the new genre descriptor. On first read, this feels like the beginnings of a 'Clue' mystery. I like the language and setting a lot.

    As others have said, this should start where the conflict begins and define the MC goal from the first paragraphs.

    Starting a scene without showing who, what, when, where, why: No no.

    The paragraph 'Peasants made up' distances me from the story. Can you show the sights, sounds of them happy to be indoors and warm?

    Intriguing: young bantlings

    If you fix these things, I'd def. read on.

  5. I can't say this opening really pulled my in, and I think the reason may be that it started with dialog. I didn't get a sense of who this is, where we are, what the action is. Instead we jumped right to the talking heads and I felt like I was playing catch-up trying to figure out what was going on.

  6. I was a little swamped by the five or six references to alcohol in the first half page. She's drinking pine cider (twice). The smell of brandy and hops reminders her of Raymond. Then the peasants are drinking coffee and mulled wine. Because you also tell me it's an alehouse, I don't need all this to create an image. I'd suggest using this space to give us an idea of where the story is going, because at the moment there's not much to encourage me to read on.

  7. Interesting start, and a nice detail with the clock stopped at the doctor’s time of death. But wouldn’t that have been something they did at home, rather than the local bar? And you might cut her inexperienced mouth. I know you mean she was inexperienced with drink, but as written, her mouth is inexperienced.

    I also thought you could transition better to the friends inviting them over. It was kind of abrupt. Maybe she could notice them, give a line or two on who they are, then she and Haeden could join them?

    And is there any way you could give a hint as to what this is about? Did the doctor leave them anything when he died, or say something to them? What’s the hook?