Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #30

TITLE: Handmaiden of the Alahim
GENRE: Contemporary Fantasy

In a city that never sleeps, everything is open, almost all the time. That’s what bugged Brielle MacAvoy most when she and her new partner, Callum, arrived at the front door of Goldstadt’s Pyramid Antiquities: the shop was closed and dark during business hours, on an otherwise-normal Thursday morning.

Brielle stood in the shade of a spindly maple tree, contemplating the gold-lettered sign in the front window. It read: ‘It is Folly for a Man to Pray to the Gods for That Which He has the Power to Obtain.’ How was obtaining anything possible, when the shop wasn’t open?

She rubbed her temples to soothe the jet-lag headache that pounded behind her eyes. As the yellow cab sped away, Callum tried the glass door.

"Locked." He cupped his hands around his eyes to peer into the large front window, his breath fogging the glass. "I don't see anyone inside, either. It's dark, and looks fairly cleaned out."

"I don't understand. Aaron knew we were coming.” Brielle tucked a stray hair behind her ear, and tried to quell the hollow feeling in her stomach.

Two pedestrians walked toward them down the tree-lined street. A woman pushed a stroller across the next block. The area appeared primarily residential, with only a few small stores, including a laundromat and a Korean market, occupying the corner lots. Even the upper floors of the semi-attached, red-brick building in which Goldstadt's Pyramid was situated appeared to be apartments.

She leaned close to Callum’s ear. "Something’s wrong.


  1. Your opening line sounds more like a logline or query hook than the first line of a novel.

    Also, commas. You're misusing them all over the place.

  2. This is an intriguing premise. The title is interesting, as is the opening scene you've set up. Here are a couple of thoughts:
    -Some of the details (MC is hungry, MC is jetlagged) don't really tell us anything about the MC, and the first 250 words are expensive real estate. Make it count by providing meaningful description.
    -Some of the setting details also have these same issues (eg. description of store types in neighborhoods). I might rather know what's visible through the store's front windows? or some other detail important in the pages to come.
    -I like that you didn't just jump in to dialogue, but "the city that never sleeps" may feel a bit cliche, and I wonder whether you could find a better way to introduce the city.

    I enjoyed reading this. Good luck!

  3. Yes, I agree with the key points of the others. Why have they come to this store? Perhaps we don't need to know that yet, but how is that "why" affecting these guys? Aside from jet-lag and general annoyance, what other emotions are they feeling? What's weighing on their minds that's relevant to them being here? We certainly don't need the backstory to all that, just the consequences of how it's affecting them.

    If Brielle ultimately decides that something is wrong, what's fuelling that suspicion, what are her gut feelings? Is there something off about those two pedestrians, or that lady with the stroller? That's far more compelling, and revealing about her as a character, than your current general description of the area where the shop is located.

    Hope that's helpful.


  4. Aside from the commas, I didn't find too many problems except in the first paragraph. The city never sleeps makes me think of the Citibank logo and I believe it also refers to New York, The "almost all the time" in fact is wrong since in a city like NY something is always open, all the time.

    I get that "something's wrong" is because Aaron is the owner or manager of the store and he was expecting them, so why would the store be closed? So I don't agree with what someone said that it wasn't clear. It was clear, and I was interested.

    But the first par really needs work. Briell MacAvoy: why do we need to have the first and last name? Here the narrative is forced and to me it signals an amateur right away. Is that the most important thing you want to tell us about Brielle? Her last name? I think if you just opened with "The store should have been opened. That's what bugged Brielle, It was a Thursday on business hours in a business district and she had called ahead. They had traveled from xxx for god's sake. She was so jetlegged that pain pounded from behind her eyes

    (you should not say that she had a headache in her eyes. It feels wrong to me, like it should be a face ache. Just say an ache.)

    I also don't see the "standing in a shade of a spindly maple tree." If you're talking about trees that line the sidewalk in big cities and one that is spindly, at that, it could not have been much of a shade, and the way it's thrust there makes me feel like we're not in a city but in the country. I would honestly get rid of the tree.

    Now, if it's a residential area, I'm not sure why they'd be so surprised the store was closed. It would seem more likely, since stores in residential areas have less frequent business than stores in non residential areas.

    Having said that, I would read on. I do feel tension from the fact that something is seriously amiss here and would also get the feeling that something is wrong. Just clean it up, especially before sending it to an agent.

  5. I like Brielle leaning over and whispering to Callum that something's wrong, but I'd like to see you build that wrongness from the very first sentence. It doesn't feel that way right now. Also, the title feels like I've seen it a million times on a million fantasy books. And NY is "the city that never sleeps." Starting with that in your first sentence feels cliche. All that being said, this is some nice writing.

  6. This opening works for me. There is some suspense going on and the MC are well presented.
    However, I was wondering if they know the place or not because in the first pargraph the narrator seems to know the place well, but in the last paragraph, you use the word "appeared" residential, which means the narrator does not know the place. That would have been nice to have the name of the city. Maybe add "the cab sped away without them" because I was confused for a moment. I thought they were back inside the cab.
    I would read more.

  7. I like this opening. Looks like your first 250 needs a little technical cleanup in the punctuation department and a new first line. Add a hint of something that's off, in the description, a feeling into spit of the MC's stomach, and you've got a winner!