Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Secret Agent #6

TITLE: The Gear'd Heart
GENRE: Steampunk/Fantasy

The clouds thickened as Keira picked her way down the muddy slope toward the grotto. Not the best day for a walk, but the chilly halls of the abbey, quiet with most of the students already departed for the winter holidays, made her restless. Especially since the arrival of the telegram.

She tightened her fist, the damp paper crumpling in her fingers. The envelope was unopened, but she knew what it would say. Da has business to take care of. Perhaps he had been called away suddenly, perhaps his investigation was more complex than he first thought. She’d had every variation of theme before and the actual words this time made little difference.

The fog tangled around the abbey spires curled down the hillside as she reached the grotto, a few heavy drops of rain splattering against the overhang. Keira settled on the stone kneeler, her back to the carved figure of Meta, Mother of All, and tore open the wrinkled envelope. The letters on the slip of paper inside were damp-blurred, but still legible.

From: P. Laine, London, Britain

To: K. Fennel, Spinners Abbey, Ballaghaderreen, Eire

Have been delayed on business. Matter is urgent. Cannot predict when return to Eire is possible. Apologies. Much love.

Keira rubbed her forehead. Sod. Da always had a good reason for his absence, but it never softened the ache of one more year passed at a distance or the holidays cut short.

“I thought I might find you here, Fennel.” The voice was instantly and uncomfortably familiar.



  1. I liked the set up. The first two sentences set the mood and place, and the last sentence signals a change.

    I stumbled on the opening of the third paragraph. I had to read it several times to understand it. Consider cutting the part about the abbey spires and start with the fog in the grotto.

    I also have a quibble with the language of the telegram. Consider making it more terse. Telegrams were expensive. It also would ratchet up the tension between the girl and her Da.

    Consider: 'Delayed on business. Matter urgent. Return to Eire unknown. Apologies. Love.'

    I would definitely read more.

  2. I too like the mood and it flows well. Perhaps cut the third and fourth sentences in the second para as they are a little redundant since she's going to read the telegram.
    Maybe add the result-- i.e. he's not coming.Love abbeys and fog!

  3. LOVE this one. As the other's said, great atmosphere and good flow.

    I would definitely trim the telegraph as MargotG suggested. And (teeny tiny nitpick) maybe use a phrase other than "tore open" for the envelope, something that implies no urgency whatsoever--like maybe "peeled open."

    Other than that, loved it! Good luck!

  4. Very much like the tone and mood of this piece.

    The second sentence reads a bit awkward. I'd recommend breaking it up for easier reading.

    Some information could be cut from the second paragraph to remove redundancy and keep the reader wondering just a bit longer why Kiera is out in such weather.

    As this is steampunk, could replace the cut info in the second paragraph with more Victorian aesthetic. What is she wearing? Is she comfortable in traditional Victorian wear or is she dressed differently?

    This segment finishes with a nice hook and I would read on.

  5. I like the atmosphere of this one, but some of the things feel like they're just thrown in there.

    For example, sitting against Meta, Mother of All. The name is fine, but Mother of All just adds a bit to get slowed down by. Also, with her hardened reaction, it feels a bit overwritten and a shift to have her say Da always had a readon and then note the ache. Tighten and could be great.

    Would read more, if nothing else than to get my bearings.

  6. I know titles change a lot, but having that apostrophe in there put me off a bit right from the start. I never know how I'm supposed to pronounce a name with an apostrophe in the middle, and it makes me stumble over the word.
    I can't quite understand what's going on in the sentence "The fog tangled around the abbey spires curled down the hillside as she reached" - are the spires curling down the hillside? Maybe it would be clearer if it was "The fog which tangled around the abbey spires also curled down the hillside". The next little bit from there is fine, I think, until we get to "I thought I might..." I think it's strange to me because it sounds like she's gone somewhere quite rural, she's just arrived at this grotto, and already there's someone there looking at her?

    I'm not really sure if I'd read on or not - it just wasn't exciting enough to really catch me. But I am curious about who this guy is and why she is uncomfortable.

  7. I would definitely keep reading, and I think your first page ends at a good spot.

    I second the suggestion to remove part of the 2nd paragraph, but would go with the 2nd & 3rd sentences. The opening of the third paragraph would be more clear if you added "and" before "curled" (if that's what you meant.)

  8. I admit, I was initially put off by the title as well, but found I enjoyed this. The writing reads smoothly and the first paragraph sets a nice visual.

    The line about the fog needs a little tweaking; it's the tangled and curled, I get it but it doesn't flow when read aloud. The line truly could be cut and you can go straight to her reading the letter. The letters line does not need "on the slip of paper," that could also be cut.

    I agree on the telegram suggestion, especially if you are conveying tension between the characters. I like the setting and the intro here, I would definitely keep reading.

  9. I like this one. The mood is set nicely--what with the fog and the abbey, it actually makes me think gothic rather than steampunk, but I'd read on.

    I do agree with the previous comments about shortening the telegram.

    I actually like "Meta, Mother of All." It strikes me as an invocation, like Keira is hoping/praying the telegram will say something other than what she fears. I think it works.

  10. I liked this. You introduce your character, we have a bit of setting that gives us time and place, we have the issue with Dad and the appearance of a perhaps unwanted intruder.

    You could cut all of parg 2, because it's basically a repeat of what's in the telegram, and it works better shown in the telegram than being told to us. And I agree about cutting down the words of the telegram. The shorter the better, as long as it's understandable.

    I'd read more.

  11. There is a great voice here, and the little touches of worldbuilding seem to set it apart somewhat from other steampunk worlds by giving it a gothic feel (although it’s still noticeably set in the UK.) There is nice tension in these opening paragraphs.

  12. Thank you to everyone for taking the time to comment. It's invaluable.

    And thank you to Ms. Udden for participating in the Secret Agent Contest. :)