Friday, November 28, 2014

(3) Mystery: ADRIFT

TITLE: Adrift
GENRE: Mystery

Scientist-turned-divemaster Mer Cavallo doesn’t believe in ghosts, so she’s justifiably spooked when the leader of a paranormal dive team disappears on one of her dives. Law enforcement suspects she had a hand in it; the crew believes something shadier was involved. To clear her name she must overcome her skepticism and outwit an enemy she can’t even see.

The deck rolled beneath her feet as another swell hit the boat broadside. Meredith Cavallo unweighted one foot almost imperceptibly before the other, rocking her hips to absorb the motion. If only everything else in her life could be weathered as easily.

The wind had picked up since their fourteen scuba divers had plunged off the LunaSea, a commercial dive boat, and into the water above Key Largo’s famed Molasses Reef. She scanned the water’s surface, looking for bubbles. Most of the divers were experienced, but she worried about one couple from the Midwest who had just received their certifications. These waves were going to be a problem when they surfaced.

Sweat dampened the back of her neck. She pulled a hairband out of her shorts pocket and wrangled her dark hair into a braid while mentally reviewing the emergency equipment stowed on board.

A bigger swell slammed into the LunaSea, forcing her to hop to keep her balance. Scuba tanks clanged against each other as the boat settled into the trough of the wave.

“Brace yourself,” Leroy called from the wheelhouse.

Mer grabbed the rail above her head and turned toward the deep male voice. The boat shuddered as another wave smashed into it.

In the next instant two tan bandy legs appeared as the captain descended the aluminum ladder connecting the upper and lower decks.

“That’ll make a rabbit smack a bear,” he said.

Mer crinkled her brow. “You realize that wouldn’t end well for the rabbit, right?”


  1. Kudos for starting in the action at a moment of tension. You do a good job in the first two paragraphs of establishing the sense that something is about to go wrong. I also love the exchange between Mer and Leroy at the end.

    I think this opening would be even stronger, though, if you tried to engage more of the senses in your description of the waves. Show Mer feeling spray on her face and tasting salt in the air. Is it sunny or cloudy? Windy or calm? A few more of those details would put the reader in scene with her, and you could probably do without her checking the emergency equipment and tying back her hair.

    Good luck!

  2. I disagree with the comment above. I think you did an excellent job of making me feel what Mer felt and putting me in the scene. And of course she pulled her hair into a braid, her neck was dripping in sweat. I have long hair and I would've done the same thing. Great job! Good luck in the auction!

  3. I was immediately drawn in to this story. I liked your description of the way Mer has to shift her weight as the boat rocked. It gives a real sense of action and movement. Watching for the bubbles on the surface is a wonderful detail that helps ratchet up the tension. I can picture it all. Well done.

    Good luck on Tuesday!

  4. I appreciate that you don't get caught up in descriptive details in your opening, but manage to weave them in seamlessly while cutting to the chase. Nicely tense opening. Good job!

    The only part that tripped me up is the second line in your first paragraph. It feels clunky to me and I had to read it over 3 times to get its meaning. If you can simplify to clarify that she shifted the weight from one foot to the other, that would help.

    I also didn't understand what the captain means by "That'll make a rabbit smack a bear." I've never heard that expression and I'm still trying to figure out how it applies. I do, however, like Mer's response.

    Good luck!

  5. You had me at "paranormal dive team." :)

    I agree with Karen that the second sentence was a bit clunky. That said, I loved the way the sentiment worked with the last line of the first paragraph, and how it immediately involves us in Mer's inner life.

    And I also wondered at the "rabbit vs bear" comment - maybe having Mer note that this was one of his odd turns of phrase? But, I do like her quip back to him.

    I love the tension you’ve created in just a few words, and I love the premise so I'm all in! Best of luck!

  6. Another reader here that you had at "paranormal dive team." I would buy the book on that alone. Fascinating!

    This line took me out of the action and didn't seem necessary to the opening: "If only everything else in her life could be weathered as easily." You'll show that to us by her other actions in the book.

    Good luck in the auction!

  7. The phrase "Key Largo's famed Molasses Reef" seemed odd. This is from her POV so why would she describe it that way? Is this her first time there? It sounds like a description of someone going someplace for the first time. "So this is the famed Molasses Reef." Like a travel brochure lol. The other thing I thought was odd was putting her hair in a braid? Pulling it back or up in a quick pony tail maybe but taking the time to braid it seems weird. And shouldn't the captain's legs be tanned not tan? I know they are nitpicks but my opinion was those things stood out.

    But I like the atmosphere, setting, and ocean descriptions. I think the story will be good.

  8. You do an excellent job of establishing your protagonist and your expertise in the subject of diving. I wanted to see Mer's concern for the old couple demonstrated through action rather than spoken (and it does seem odd that Mer takes the time to tie back her hair into a braid). I don't get a good sense of Leroy's character here so I would either not include Leroy in the first 250 or give him more of an exchange with Mer. That being said, I'm really excited by this entry! It sounds like an underwater ghost story and I've never heard of that before! Best of luck!

  9. Very intriguing premise!

    I thought the log line was a little confusing. If she doesn't believe in ghosts and has to overcome her skepticism, why would she be spooked?

    Really liked the detail about the Midwest couple. It put me right into Mer's head.

    It took me a couple of reads to understand that Leroy and the captain were the same person.

    Overall, very nice writing. Good luck!

  10. Could this potentially be a urban fantasy set on the ocean meets a thriller or is this a Scooby Do mystery? I'd like to have seen us go a little further into the story. You're great at description but we didn't get enough in this intro to pull us totally in. The pitch is strong, writing clean, but the ending is flat for me.

    But, I'm interested in the premise enough to ask what is going to happen next!