Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Secret Agent #8

TITLE: The Watchman
GENRE: Mystery

Santa Barbara police officer Claire Hartman had focused her sights on plenty of people, but she’d never once wanted to pull the trigger. Willing? Absolutely. Wanting? Not so much. Jamie Sullivan changed all that— and he wasn’t even within twenty miles of her.

Across the southbound lanes, the ocean shivered in the sinking sun. He waited for her at the police station. Each exit along the Ventura coastline brought her closer to the impending confrontation and she found herself slowing. There was nothing left to say. Too much time had passed.

Anger heated the interior of the unfamiliar detective car and threatened to suffocate her. She ran her hand across the armrest, searching for the window control and cursed that she wasn’t in her patrol car. But she’d spent the afternoon teaching at the academy in Camarillo. The department didn’t like their marked cars going into other jurisdictions. Her fingers finally brushed the right switch. Cold February air seared her nostrils and raised goose bumps on her bare arms.

The message from dispatch replayed in her mind. She’d listened to it four times, each time hoping to hear different words. Jamie Sullivan had stormed back into her life with no notice. Hell, even hurricanes had warnings.

Up ahead, red and blue police lights colored the right shoulder of the freeway. She glanced at her speedometer and tapped the brakes.

She neared the traffic stop and scrutinized the scene, processing the subtle clues that whispered of danger.


  1. This line made me LOL "Jamie Sullivan had stormed back into her life with no notice. Hell, even hurricanes had warnings." A question popped into my head about why she has bare arms in February? There's a lot of great description going on, but I don't think enough clues/details about why she's not wanting to see this guy. There's more focus on setting than there is on the hook. Work a few more tidbits to clue us in, hook us other than her disdain at the thought of seeing him.

  2. I think the concept here is very intriguing. Also, I love your writing style. Nevertheless, there is too much description and too little valuable info. I liked the joke too and think that, maybe, the important info is a little further down? If this is the case, no worries! Just rearrange your beginning and you're good! :) beginning are so very difficult to nail, you have my total solidarity here. Just do not give up. As I said, I smell a good story here!

  3. I would read more (sounds like an interesting story is ready to happen), but would want more of the plot soon. She listened to a message four times? Why not tell us the message -- or even start with that? Or begin the book with a confrontation of some sort, rather than stewing in a car. (I know sometimes that's impossible. Mine starts that way LOL)

  4. I absolutely loved this, I think you have done really well here. You left plenty of questions that make me want to read more to figure out what happens. You can't give it all away in the first 250 and you have given just enough to make me ask why and want to know more.Good job.

  5. The first paragraph was compelling--sets us up immediately with the MC and a problem.

    Then the second paragraph threw me. You start with a description of setting (fine) then shift to the police station. I think it would work if you deleted that sentence and rewrote the third one: Each exit along the Ventura coastline brought her closer to the impending confrontation st the police station and she found herself slowing.

    The third paragraph takes us out of the action by making an emotion the subject. Delete the first sentence and tighten the next one by saying: She fumbled to find the window control and cursed that she wasn’t in her usual patrol car.

    I agree--what was the message and what did it have to do with Jamie Sullivan? When I got to the next paragraph, I wondered if the dispatch had anything to do with the traffic stop, or is that just something she ran into on the way to the police station? If so, you could put it into her POV, have her wonder what it is, or even be thankful for it delaying the confrontation at the station. (BTW, if she slowed earlier, why does she tap her brakes now?)

    This last line made me want to read on!

  6. I love this entry! I didn't see anything that needed to be fixed but there are a couple of places that maybe could be slightly improved.

    In the first paragraph--I love the idea that you're going for, but maybe hit it home a little harder? "Jamie Sullivan has officially changed all that--but unfortunately not while he was close enough for her to act on it." Alright, that's really not any better, but maybe you can see where I'm going?

    Instead of "She ran her hand across the armrest" consider something like "She fumbled along the armrest," that way the readers can picture the motion and wonder what she's trying to find before you tell us.

    Maybe combine these two sentences? "But she’d spent the afternoon teaching at the academy in Camarillo. The department didn’t like their marked cars going into other jurisdictions." to "But she’d spent the afternoon teaching at the academy in Camarillo and the department didn’t like their marked cars going into other jurisdictions.

    I thought the last couple paragraphs could use a little clarifying. Her seeing lights, checking the speedometer, and braking makes me think she's worried about getting a ticket which didn't quite fit with the next paragraph which makes it seem like she's slowing down to look for danger. Also, is there a specific reason she's looking for danger or is it just habit because she's an officer? I'm assuming the latter, but if so maybe chose some words to convey that like "Reflexively I scoured the scene, looking for danger..." TINY nit-picks and really not crucial.

    I don't think you need to give us the message right away. That you didn't just makes me want to read on!

    Good luck!!

  7. I also loved the, "Hell, even hurricanes had warnings." line. The, "red and blue police lights colored the right shoulder," was great as well. You definitely have some strong creative writing, but I would work on less information in a more active voice. Tease me a little- just don't tell my boyfriend ;)
    I'd, personally, edit out the 'Santa Barbara police officer' beginning and just begin with her name or simply 'she'. It'd keep the reader more off balance. Re: Am I reading about someone having a bad day? A soldier? A sociopath? I'd definitely read on to find out (which I do by the 3rd paragraph anyway).
    Last thing, you write that, "the ocean shivered in the sinking sun." Shouldn't it be, 'the ocean shivered below the sinking sun'? Otherwise I have the image of the ocean in, or being reflected in, the sun, which is a little off putting for me.
    Keep writing, you definitely have talent!

  8. Unfortunately, I have no idea what is going on.

    The first paragraph had me double take a few times. I thought at first it was saying she'd finally killed someone, but instead it was simply that she wanted to. Not as compelling.

    Then we get a lot about her being angry and slowing down and no details as to what is really going on.

    One shining light was the paragraph starting with "The message." I love that even hurricanes had warnings.

    However, we end this section on yet another unrelated note.

    Honestly, I probably wouldn't read anymore, but I'd try starting with the message from dispatch and going from there.

  9. I think this is a strong entry, it reads easily, matches the genre, and had a polished feel when I read it. I also questioned the bare arms in Feb, (though she is in Santa Barbara, not like it's Minnesota). The paragraph starting with Anger could be cut in half for pacing, and then there would be room to show more detail on the plot on this first page. We want to know what she's driving toward, so the extra detail about the armrest and the window feels like filler this soon in. The last line, showing what she sees in the scene will paint the visual for the reader. A great spot to show the scene through the character's lens.

  10. I thought this was pretty good overall. The last line feels overwritten, though. I'm sure you can find a more understated way to phrase it.

    There are some other phrases I think you could polish a bit, like "he wasn't even within twenty miles of her" which feels awkward to me (vs. "he was more than twenty miles away"), possibly because the way you have it feels like the distance needs to be connected to her ability to make the killing shot.

    I'd keep reading for at least a few pages to see where you're going.

  11. I like this entry. In skimming the other comments, I am not finding a problem. The first paragraph is clearly humorous, and the last paragraph is not overdone to me. It is understandable that in many coastal towns the days are hot, the nights cold, hence we wear sleeveless shirts and carry a jacket. Normally I wouldn't spend an entire comment rebutting other comments, but I feel many of these comments are way off.

  12. I see what some of the comments are getting at -- making it more about the action and less setting...bam, bam, bam. Which I like in a crime thriller. I liked the idea of opening with just Claire and not Santa Barbara Police Officer. I also think the last line could be written. Maybe: She neared the traffic stop and scrutinized the scene. Something seemed off.
    I'd read on -- especially to find out what she sees at the traffic stop.

  13. I felt like almost none of this stuff mattered. The hook is Jamie Sullivan. WHo is he? WHy is he back? What connection does he have to Claire? WHy is she not happy that he's back?

    I wouldn't answer any of those questions. I think they would be the questions that would keep the reader reading.

    But having her on her way to meet him, and mentioning the message, perhaps even starting with it, is all you need. If that accident at the end matters, you'd obviously keep that, but the arm rest, the detective car, listening to the message 4 four time, it's all padding. And by paring it all down, you have room on your first page to perhaps actually introduce Jamie, or get in whatever happened at that accident if it's important, giving the reader lots of reason's to read on.

  14. I like this after the first paragraph, which feels like the first paragraph of a back copy blurb and not like the opening to a novel. After that it has a much better voice and an interesting balance of worldbuilding (information about police logistics) and tension. With the introduction of Jamie, whose sudden reappearance is so flustering, it would be nice to have a sense of whether his appearance is a dangerous surprise or a sexy surprise- or both!