Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January Secret Agent #20

TITLE: A Shot At Forever
GENRE: Contemporary Adult Romance

Rules. Sheridan Ward lived her life by three. It was because of those rules that she sat in this nameless bar on another Thursday night somewhere in West Texas.

She scanned the honkytonk and sighed, feeling as worn down as the sole of a rancher’s boot. She liked rules. They helped her make her way alone in this crazy world. Everything worked out in the end if you followed the rules. That’s what Old Jim had taught her. And he’d been right. Mostly.

Only now they’d become more like a cage that locked her away from the life she really wanted. A life that would soon be within her reach.

She tamped down the ridiculous flare of hope that lit inside her at the thought and concentrated on the real reason she was here.

Rule number one: Know the game better than anyone at your table.

She flicked a glance at the crowded bar. After an hour casing the place, she was damn sure she knew the game better than anyone in here.

Besides, even though the honkytonk was jumping like a grasshopper in a chicken coop, she’d snagged the third stool at the far end of the bar. Her lucky spot no matter what dive she walked into. She’d take luck anywhere she could find it. Lord knew it was the one thing her rules couldn’t counteract.

She picked up her beer and took a long swallow then placed it back on the coaster—right in the center, with the label facing her.


  1. I really like the setting and she seems like an interesting character. I like the first rule and the stuff right after it. I would recommend moving that rule up and sprinkling her introspection about the rule throughout what happens after these first few words. That first rule makes her seem confident but all the introspection doesn't. If you give it to us in small doses I think it will make her more relatable. Also, I'm a big fan of folksy, country sayings but maybe spread them out a bit. Thats' my opinion but I think overall it's a strong start.

  2. I also liked this sample. It has good rhythm and voice. Perhaps it would be stronger if you cut the third paragraph. I think it could use more immediate tension as well, but I would continue reading.

  3. Agree with the other critiques, it's an interesting start and I get the sense of the setting. I also get the sense that the heroine has an agenda, which is intriguing. One suggestion is to vary your sentences more as many of them start with "She..." Perhaps adding some action (nursing a warm beer, scuffing her cowboy boots against the rod of her bar stool, etc.) could both give a sense of her mood and help mix up the sentences.
    Best of luck!

  4. There are a few hints at the type of character Sheridan is, which is nice to see in the first 250 words.

    For the "They helped her make her way alone in this crazy world" line, I think there should be commas on either side of "alone".

    I agree with Silas Champion on the sprinkling her introspection throughout. The "She scanned the honkytonk..." shows she's upset/depressed, so the "She liked rules" was a tad jarring to me (though that might just be me). I wonder if the line would work better at the end of that paragraph. It starts off somewhat positive and then could end with her current reality.

  5. I agree that the rule is too far from the statement about rules. And there are a lot of those, and maybe a couple of them could be removed. We get that she likes them, and lives by three. That's all we need.

    Other than that, I'm interested to read more. Because I can tell she has plans, and one of them is NOT falling in love! So I would love to keep reading this to find out what happens in this honkytonk that is going to shake up her world.

  6. Opening at the honkytonk is an interesting location and draws us in, but I’m not sure we need the idea of rules repeated so many different ways in such a short sample. I’m also not sure that “Rules” as a first sentence is as strong as if you incorporated it differently, like “Sheridan Ward lived her life by three rules” and then continued on with the three rules throughout the first chapter. It seems like Sheridan is a strong, no-nonsense heroine from what you’ve shown, although with some tightening this opening could be a bit more intriguing.