Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #50

TITLE: DARK SKY'S ASHES
GENRE: Upper MG Fantasy


The brick house was the tallest building on the street and the brick house knew it. It towered over the competition on its city boulevard and that was without the rooftop launch-pad smashed to rubble in 1940. It was three stories tall and had a thousand to tell.

On hot days, its limestone windowsills smelled like burnt barbecue and gunpowder. Dark red stains clung to chalky mortar. Thick concrete floors hid old bones and air shafts that whistled in the dark.

A century-long line of home inspectors said, “Completely safe and stable,” and each time, the brick house grinned quietly. It was immovable and ingenious and fireproof, but the best word to describe it to someone outside the Dragon Agency was “dangerous.”

The brick house kept its eyes open. It was biding its time. It expected a lot and usually got it. The house had never settled, would never settle for anything. Its jazz-blue front door and curling ivy vines swaggered. The brick house was strong and good-looking and the brick house was kind of a jerk.

But that didn’t change the fact that it knew its stuff, didn’t change the things it had seen and the lives it had helped begin and end. That didn’t change the dark corners it would show the right tenants and the questionable plans it had for their futures.

And the brick house knew that gangly, twelve-year-old Conley Hoss was the perfect kid to help it stage its comeback.

21 comments:

  1. I think you forgot a word in the first paragraph. It had a lot of what to tell? I'm assuming stories, but you might want to add the word in ;)

    I think your third paragraph would be a stronger beginning. It gives us an immediate feel for the ominous house in a way that your current opening sentence doesn't. I wouldn't ditch the first paragraph, I would just move it around a bit.

    You have a lot of short sentences. I know this is MG, but I would still combine some of them into a longer, smoother sentence. Like "The brick house kept its eyes open, biding its time."

    I think this is a pretty solid start. It definitely grabbed my interest, mostly because I would love to see what king of mischief the house gets itself (and poor Conley) into.

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  2. I like the foreboding nature of the Brick House. I'm enjoying the way you add personality to the structure and make the reader want to know more about it.

    But is the story is about the house or Conley? Also can some of the detail be removed - fr'ex: "without the rooftop launch-pad smashed to rubble in 1940." This is great back story, but if it doesn't come into play within the narrative I'd encourage you to loose it.

    I went through a lot of the same types of things. So hopefully this helps you. I enjoyed reading. Thanks for participating.

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  3. Fun opening, but I am a bit confused. I feel like the house is the main character (though I'm assuming it's not) and Conley is a pawn or supporting character in this. I would read on, though.

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  4. Oh my gosh, I adore this. I have the same problem mentioned above -that the house really sounds like the main character...and maybe it is, but probably in a more tacit way than is implied here. Having said that, I just love this. So different and really effective at building the atmosphere and situation for Conley. I agree that you can move things around, but I'd go with the 4th paragraph as your opener. You could mitigate the feeling of the house as MC, I think by giving us just one sentence or two about Conley at the woven in. Really cool start.

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  5. There's a lot to like here. I'm intrigued by the “house as character” plot line. I think this beginning would be more effective, though, if it were streamlined and reorganized. I’d begin with a slightly shorter version of the fourth paragraph.

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  6. I'm hooked. I like the threatening tone and am curious as to what evil comeback this house is planning. I am in agreement with some of the other comments,the house does come off as the MC (not sure if this is a problem or not). Good luck.

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  7. Love this! Love the fact that the house is "a jerk." Lol

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  8. I like the beginning - including the 1940 detail. You don't give the age of the house so that kind of detail gives some reference. You also don't give a location but bombing reference sounds like WWII - London? I imagine the kid is the human MC. This sounds like an intriguing prologue or first chapter.

    The spelling of "stories" for the levels of the house is interesting. It used to be that a structure had "storeys" not "stories" - but that seems to be changing.

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  9. Great voice, perfect for upper MG. I'd start with the line: "The brick house was three stories tall and had a thousand to tell." That would be a more effective hook. I assume Conley is the main character, in which case this could work as a prologue, and then chp. 1 starts in Conley's POV.

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  10. I don't have much experience with anthropomorphism, so if what I'm about to say is common practice, just ignore me. It's jarring to me when you give the house physical human attributes like a mouth ("the brick house grinned") and eyes "kept its eyes open). On the other hand, when you say, "didn't change the things it had seen," I'm not jarred because I'm not forced to envision actual physical eyes.

    The 1940 rooftop launch pad intrigues me, but I'm not sure if it's supposed to. If this is WWII London, what was being launched? Helicopters didn't exist, planes need a runway, and barrage balloons would never fit in a house in the first place. When I later see "Dragon Agency" mentioned (and I see this is fantasy), I'm wondering if dragons were launched from the rooftop? If you don't want me to be wondering that, or if the answer wouldn't be clear by the future book jacket, consider changing.

    The line, "the lives it had helped begin and end" is interesting because it suggests the house isn't a complete jerk if it does help some people (unless you mean it helps them begin to do bad things!).

    Great creep factor and lots of potential here. I'm curious as to how dragons tie in to this.

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  11. This is really creepy. Well done! If the story is going to be about the house, this is a great start. But if the story is about Conley Hoss, Conley should be introduced earlier. Don’t get bogged down with details like stating the year 1940. It’s distracting. Your writing is good though. I particularly like the “jazz blue front door” that “swaggers.”

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  12. Is this a prologue or is your whole novel told from the house's viewpoint? I realize we're only seeing the first 250 words -- not enough to really understand what's going on, although I find your details about the house vivid and intriguing. It seems fiendish and downright diabolical.

    I get the feeling the rest of this will be told from Conley's POV, but am not sure. Anyhow, nicely done!

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  13. I enjoyed your humanizing the brick house and your play on words - three stories tall and a lot to tell. The red stains in the chalky mortar made me wonder if it was blood. Would someone outside the Dragon Agency see house as dangerous or would it be someone inside the agency. That sentence made me pause and read twice trying to figure it out. The passage would benefit from tightening some of its prose to read a bit smoother.

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  14. I like the fact that the house has character. Makes me want to read on, to see what plans it has under its roof, for young Conley.

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  15. Hopefully it's ok to comment on my own entry. :) Just wanted to say thanks for the great suggestions! I've combined sentences, pared and smoothed to the point that Conley (the MC) gets a couple paragraphs on this first page.

    But the brick house is so central to the plot that it totally needs an intro.

    @JohnCC, your prologue suggestion made me smile, because this section used to be a prologue. I got so much flak for HAVING A PROLOGUE that I merged it with chapter one. But I kinda agree with you...unfortunately, prologues are non-pc these days.

    Other then that, you guys gave me 3-4 different suggestions on where this section could start. Gather in the foyer and reach a consensus, would ya? ;)

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  17. This works for me. We definitely get the sense of the house as a dominant character in the story. Naming Conley as the instrument of its intended machinations is both funny and just right. And, of course, the Dragon agency hooked me immediately.

    Kindly send more.

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  18. I would definitely read more. I like the voice and the condescending tone the house(?) feels. Personification where you would least expect it. Well done.

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  19. Really exciting opening. Maybe you overdid it a little bit, but I think the novelty will draw in your reader. Also, you say jerk but do not explain. You say the house does not settle for anything, but do not explain. I would have preferred a little less telling and a little more description of the jerk. Actually, it would have been nice to work more on the characterization because this is going to be on of your main MCs. Good luck with it!

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  20. Great scary beginning. Watch out for repeating words in a same sentence. Check out your very first sentence. You write "brick house" twice. It's annoying.

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