Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October Secret Agent #41


My brother just killed me. Again. I know, because I wake with a knife to my throat and the cool barrel of a phaser pressed against my forehead. Good morning to you, too.

“Blazing suns, Sam,” I murmur, rubbing the grogginess from my eyes. “If a Sepharon soldier manages to find camp while I’m sleeping, I accept that I’d be dead, okay? Now let me rest.”

I lower my hands and peer into the darkness of the tent. It must be earlier than I thought, because the suns haven’t risen yet. A shadowy figure cloaked in black stands over me. Silence twists through my chest. The hiss of shifting sand nearby sets my pulse racing. There are others here. And since when does Sam wear a cloak?

“Sit up, boy,” the figure says, and his light voice surprises me—he’s a kid, can’t be older than fourteen—and he’s calling me boy? He nudges the phaser. “Scream for help and I’ll cook your brain. Now move.”

I obey. My fingers are cold and my heart’s about to explode, but I force a slow exhale and swallow a bout of nausea. If this is some kind of training exercise, Sam’s gone way too far. As Head of Security, he’s obligated to be paranoid about raids from the Eljan Guard, but if they ever find us, they won’t sneak into my tent and hold me at phaserpoint—they’ll just raze the place to the ground.


  1. I'm not a big fan of sci-fi, but the first line caught my attention, which never wavered as I read the whole thing. I'm not sure I would keep reading if the book was in my hands, but the writing's strong with nice touches of world building and some good tension. So I believe those who enjoy the genre would dive right into your novel.

  2. There's some very nice writing here, and the pacing is excellent. I was momentarily confused because there's no moment of recognition that the figure at his throat is not his brother Sam. It goes from, "since when does Sam wear a cloak?" to "the figure." A moment of realization and some type of emotional response seems warranted. The first emotional response we do get is an egotistical one about being called boy by another boy, so maybe that's what caused the confusion, because I would expect fear to be the first reaction, not the second.

  3. I like this! The voice is really good and there's a since of place and world building involved. If I had it nitpick on something, I wasn't sure if the cloaked figure is in front of him or behind him. His placement is just a little awkward. It's the only thing that slowed me down in this passage.

  4. I like this a lot! The hissing of the shifting sand is an excellent audio. I like the intrigue you've created here with your MC being taken captive by someone who isn't a known enemy, and a child too. I'd totally read on.

  5. I loved this! I loved the first line. I love the MC's narration - if this is some kind of training exercise, Sam's gone way too far - for example. I think that's great. I love the way the characters are introduced. I know the main character, Sam who is a guard, and the enemy who I am guessing is from the Eljan Guard. I would like to more know specifically how old the MC is. Older than fourteen, I can see, but I am curious by how much. I'm also curious who he is. Like a prince or something??
    Maybe I figure it out later. There's only so much you can stuff into 250 words. Curiosity is a great thing because I definitely want to keep reading! Great job!

  6. Make sure it's legally okay for you to use the word "phaser."

    I'm going to be different from the others and say it was jarring to switch the assailant from brother to unknown. It's usually not a good idea to jerk the reader around at the start of a story. (Star Trek can get away with it -- oh, that was just a holodeck simulation -- because their fans will keep following no matter what.)

  7. I'm thinking the line about the training exercise could be moved up to the third paragraph for some earlier context; could just be me, but I was wondering about the dichotomy of being killed and yet waking up; obviously not actually killed, but what is going on?

    "Silence twists through my chest" gave me pause, I'm not sure it works, though I get the sentiment. Since the next line shows a physical reaction with the pulse, you could drop the chest line. Lots of tension here and seems like a good starting point for the story.

  8. Great voice, and excellent and subtle world building.

    I agree with others that "silence twists through my chest" seems a little off. I think you can eliminate it entirely, which will keep the pace going, without sacrificing tension. We know the figure does not speak immediately, since the mc hears nothing but the shifting sand in the next line.

    I would definitely read more. Intriguing!

  9. This is a strong opening. Without a blurb, we already have a strong grasp on the setting, conflict, and character dynamics. From the first sentence the suspense level is high, but it reads like a regular adult sci-fi, not a New Adult.

  10. I thought the story would gain a lot more if you took the asides from the MC out. The unnecessary chatter lessens the intensity of the situation. If you just show us what's happening, the tension would be so much greater. For example, compare your first parg with -

    I wake with a knife to my throat and the cool barrel of a phaser pressed against my forehead.

    As is, he's dying, and then oops! he's not. It's just a game, and then oops! again, it's not a game, so your not setting a serious tone for your beginning which leads to the serious situation coming up. Making light of it lessens its power. If this were a humorous story, the asides might work, but here, they're taking away from what you have.