Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January Secret Agent #45

TITLE: The Rule of Equity
GENRE: New Adult

Growing up on the rez, the conscript had been shot, stabbed, and shoved into a barb wire fence a few times. He’d been attacked by animals. Nearly lost an arm to a bear. Pain had infinite facets, and he’d experienced more than his share.

But this was different.

This time, he allowed it to happen.

The conscript clenched his teeth as the blind old Indian slowly carved his flesh with an ancient copper knife. The blade tore through his skin like a jagged claw. The medicine man’s faint, warbling voice uttered unintelligible words from a long-lost language. His weathered fingers worked deliberately. The conscript’s pain would pass, but the scars—one above each breast—would not.

There was no rush. The sacred symbols had to be perfect, and perfection took time. Both men breathed deeply in a regular rhythm. The scent of woodland herbs, selected to heighten spiritual sensitivity, filled the smoky room, almost masking the odor of the freshly prepared animal skins that draped the conscript’s bare shoulders.

The knife was made of pure copper ore that had been mined over two thousand years ago on Isle Royale in upper Michigan. From there, it had been transported along waterways to Virginia, hammered into shape with stone tools, and passed down through the generations.

The old man removed the knife and traced the bloody groove with his thick fingernail. A perfect circle. Satisfied, he pinched the barbed deer bone at the center of the circle and plucked it out. The conscript flinched and cried out.


  1. Wonderful, rich beginning.

  2. really visual and it pulls you right in. I personally don't like using someone's status or title "The Conscript" instead of their name, but it works here.

  3. The visuals are stunning, and your writing is very fluid. However, if he was raised on the rez, he wouldn't use "medicine man" -- it's a white man's term. And the story of the knife's origins, while compelling, are historically next to impossible. Native Americans from the mid-Atlantic area would not have traveled to the mid-North. These tribes, unlike the Plains tribe, were very stable in terms of geography. (Unless you're trying to say that this tribe emigrated from "Michigan", in which case I think you need to make that clearer.)

    Historical inaccuracies can undercut your story. Your writing is very polished and your story grabs the attention: it would be a shame to get some bad reviews for something that's within your purview to correct.

  4. You grabbed me immediately with "...this time, he allowed it to happen." I want to know more. Who is the conscript? I assume not a Native American. I can't speak to the knife's origin story, but I'm more interested in the conscript than the knife (although I assume it is important later.) Wonderful imagery, good job grabbing my attention without dialog.

  5. Beautiful writing! I especially liked "This time, he allowed it to happen," "weathered fingers" and "scent of woodland herbs."

    I admit I tripped over "conscript" at first. I was thinking of the army. But I don't have any suggestions on how to fix it if you don't want to use the person's name.

    Along the lines of what Shamrock said, instead of "Indian" I wonder if it would make sense to name the tribe. Even if the conscript isn't Native American, if he's letting someone mark him, I can imagine he might know that. Best of luck with this!

  6. I liked this, although I found the use of conscript disconcerting as it seemed to keep me at arms length, like I wasn't supposed to get to know him.

    A couple of things - how is the old man uttering the unintelligible words if the language is long lost? It can't be lost if he's using it?

    I also found the description of the knife - mined over two thousand years ago on Isle Royale in upper Michigan. From there, it had been transported along waterways to Virginia, hammered into shape with stone tools, and passed down through the generations to be very detailed for something so old. Would they really know this much about it two thousand years later? Seemed like a nice description put in for the readers benefit, but not necessarily a widely know fact in your world.

  7. Visually this first 250 has a lot going for it, so you can really picture what the conscript is going through. I think we might connect more with “the conscript” if we were given their name, something to humanize him even more and not feel so stiff (unless you’re purposely holding off for some reason for a later reveal). At this point it’s hard to tell how this story fits into the New Adult genre, but that could be due to sample size.

  8. Vivid, sensual images brought the scene to life. I would like to know who or what a conscript is - my main question. The copper knife intrigued me along with the promise of learning something new.