Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #35

TITLE: Heritage Blade
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Seven stories high, Jay paced the ledge of a building like a caged panther; anxious, eager, and irritated. How the hell did a four-legged, supernatural, killing-machine the size of an F150 vanish? Magic was an easy answer but transport spells left remnants—potent ones. He would’ve sensed something like that a county over.

“Not like it took the metro,” he reasoned. The pounding behind his eyes intensified and he pinched the bridge of his nose. If he hit one more dead-end, he’d shoot something. Or himself. In the face.

Think, idiot.

Howlyngs weren’t the Einsteins of their kind. Eat, sleep, repeat.

But this one’s smart enough to hide.

Damn thing must’ve gone underground after its last kill attracted Primetime attention. The newscast flashed through Jay’s mind; a sobbing mother pleading for clues about whoever mutilated her daughter. There was no who.

He gripped his sword, banishing the memory, and scanned the skyline. The Near North Side rose around him with buildings transformed to solid shadows by the overcast night. Sirens crested and faded like the tide. The tangy scent of the lake drenched the air, and the wind belted him with bitter cold, cutting through his leather armor. October in Chicago—arctic.

Jay returned his attention to the streets. Police found the girl’s remains in the alley below. She’d been a petite thing. The howlyng wouldn’t stay sated for long.

There was one trick he hadn’t tried. It would expose him to the beast but prevent another innocent having their throat ripped out.

He stood. Desperate times…


  1. I liked this opening. Even not knowing what any of these things are about, I have a sense of what is going on. The only confusing part was when he mentioned the newscast and the mom wanted to know who was behind it. The the next line said there was no who. I think if you offset that line, it will be clearer that this is the mc thinking this and not part of the news.

  2. Good tension and worldbuilding. The italicized sections (Jay thinking) are all strong.

    The opening could be stronger without the panther comparison. "Pacing" is strong enough without it, and describing Jay as a pacing four-legged panther creates confusion with the following sentence about an unnamed four-legged animal.

  3. I really liked this opening. Good tension and very high stakes, details explained very clearly. I wanted to know a little more about the killer, and maybe why the MC knows about it, but the public doesn't.

  4. I like the writing and feel immersed in the scene. I feel like I have a strong sense of who the character is right now / what he's feeling. That being said - to me he sounds like an adult, very confident in his own head. I don't have any sense of the YA portion of the genre you specified.

  5. I like this opening a lot. Definitely drew me in and I would keep reading to find out more about the story and who this mystery MC is.

    I agree with the comment Zach made about taking out the panther comparison. It was only slightly confusing after the four-legged animal comment and for a moment I thought he was the animal. "Pacing" is definitely a strong verb. And the fact that he is pacing on the ledge of a building seven stories high paints a pretty clear picture of stress. But if you wanted more, you could say something like, "...Jay paced the ledge of the building, his muscles straining from the adrenaline that refused to fade..."

    Great job!

  6. I really like Urban Fantasy and I think you need to establish that upfront. There's just something magical about, well swords and magic in the "real" world.

    I'm also eager to be transported to a setting early on, rather than opening inside someone's internal dialogue and then being set in the setting.

    October in Chicago--arctic. Jay could see his breath as he paced the ledge seven stories high above the wind belted skyline. He had been tracking a four-legged...and it vanished into thin air.

    Not like it took the metro (Great line by the way!).

    I like Jay. I like his internal dialogue very much, I just prefer to be grounded first. Just a personal preference.

    This is something I'd read. I like the line about Howlyngs not being Einsteins.

  7. I liked the opening, too. Think you can skip the panther analogy.
    Other than that, some tightening. Perhaps the girl was small - not enough to keep howlying busy for long? Is the fist person a human? Some language suggests he's not. Ah, the brevity of only 250 words!

  8. This is some good writing. I like how quickly you've built the world, and set up the tension going into his next moves. Of course, I'm concerned that you're in a really crowded subgenre with a piece that feels like a "detective must stop monster before the killer gets another victim." That isn't a bad thing, but it's something to really be aware of. I've read a lot of these recently, so it might be hard to catch the eye of an agent. Having said that, you might want to consider starting with something that is really unique to your world.

    I really like your writing, and I suspect I'm not the only one. Good luck with the agent.

  9. Love this! And I disagree about the panther line. I found the image of a caged animal very apropos. It painted an immediate picture of your character for me, that carried forward beautifully into the rest of the excerpt. I'm normally a nitpicker, but I can't find much of anything to change here. Well done!

  10. Oh, I've seen this before! Perhaps this is why I didn't find anything confusing. IDK. But I do agree to offset the line "There was no who."

    I loved reading this from before, and I love it now. I'm ready to read the book please:-)

    Good luck!

  11. Love this, love Jay. I would only suggest two things. The first paragraph has three comparisons. I'd drop the first simile. The line: "Seven stories high, Jay paced the ledge of a building like a caged panther; anxious, eager, and irritated." Take out like a caged panther. You can always use the comparison elsewhere but this line is strong without it.
    Then, at the end. This line:
    "There was one trick he hadn’t tried. It would expose him to the beast but prevent another innocent having their throat ripped out.
    He stood. Desperate times…" I think it reads stronger if you go from ripped out straight to "Desperate times..." I don't remember him sitting so I don't think we need He stood. I love Jay. :-)

  12. I agree, great imagery here. I'd take out the line: there was no who. It reads awkward and I also agree to move from ...throat ripped out to desperate times. I think this is a strong opening! Good luck!

  13. There’s certainly a lot at stake here, which is compelling. This throws me into the action a bit quickly, before I’m really connected to Jay. I’d love a better sense of who he is before we’re in the heart of this dilemma. I was also thrown off by the panther comparison in the first line, it’s an easy fix to just cut that part, so it reads: Seven stories high, Jay paced the ledge of a building; anxious, eager, and irritated.