Wednesday, January 23, 2019

January Secret Agent #20

GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

Every birthday is important, but for witches, it’s the seventeenth that counts.

I lock my arms around my knees as I look out at the gently rocking ocean, shimmering under the moonlight like a dragon scale. A steady breeze makes my long, thick hair tickle the sides of my face. This rocky New England coastline is as familiar to me as the floors in my house. I’ve never gone without callouses on the soles of my feet, salt on my skin. But only in the past few months have I seen so much of the ocean at night.

According to my phone, it’s two minutes to midnight. Two minutes to my seventeenth. And for the first time since we’ve started to meet, Lara is late.

“You came at the very start of the day,” Mom told me once. “A mere minute after midnight.” She usually refuses to tell me anything about what life was like when I was little, when my father was alive and around, but I’d managed to wring out that detail one night as we binged on Real Housewives. She was stirring a pot of eversleep potion – two strokes clockwise, four counterclockwise, repeat – and as usual, I could watch, but not touch. Thanks to her, the rituals of magic have always been frustratingly inexplicable. “You didn’t cry. You looked calm, like you were exactly where you were meant to be. Like you’d always been with us.”

I glance over my shoulder.


  1. I adore this. So moody and intriguing and some VERY economic worldbuilding in just these few words !!!!

    I was confused on the transition from Lara being late to the mom saying "you came..." Maybe even her saying "you were born " would contextualize it a teensy bit more ?

  2. Yesss, WITCHES. I already love it after that first sentence! The mental images conjured by your words are beautiful, and I'm so curious to see why a witch's 17th birthday is so important.

    I'm also wondering why her mother made/makes magical rituals "frustratingly inexplicable" to her. Maybe this could be elaborated, or maybe it's explained more later?

  3. I can't wait to find out what happens to witches when they turn 17, and who Lara is.
    I love the description in the 2nd paragraph.
    You might need a little more of a transition to her memory of her mom? Or maybe just switching the sentence order like, '...Lara is late, with only two minutes until my seventeenth' and then that leads into her birth paragraph...or something? Otherwise, it looks great :)

  4. YOUR descriptions are so well done!!! And I agree with other comments, from sentence one I'm hooked into knowing WHY her 17th birthday is important! The only nitpicky part is I'd like to know who Lara is a little more earlier on, like "My friend Lara, Or "or totally human, Lara" just because she talks so much about her family I'd be a little confused if she was a sister, or fellow witch.

  5. Killer first line! You nailed that!

    I agree about the transition between slats and the memory of what mom had said, a minor fix :)

    You did a great job worldbuilding here without it being ‘telling’ as we can picture the setting and time period very well! Bravo!

  6. Wow, this completely sucked me in! I love how much world building you are able to fit in to these first few paragraphs, and the witch element is so enticing! I agree with the other comments that the dialogue needs more transitioning, but otherwise I think this is really solid :)

  7. I don't generally like fantasy, and this pulled me in.

    Loved this line..."This rocky New England coastline is as familiar to me as the floors in my house." It's full of so much info without actually saying it. Love it!

    Overall, no addition critique...just that I enjoyed your entry.:)

  8. Your descriptions are spot on, and you set the scene really well. And for some reason, the idea of her mother "stirring a pot of eversleep potion – two strokes clockwise, four counterclockwise, repeat" really hit home the witches theme and it made me feel excited for a witchy story... Like, oh there's potions!

    Only criticism is the transition between present (Lara being late) and past (her recollection of what her mother said about her birth) is a bit abrupt.

    But I like where this is going, and I'm intrigued about the significance of the 17th birthday, why she's been to the ocean so much at night, who Lara is, and why she's late. I would definitely read more.

  9. I love the mc’s voice. “Usually refuses me,” seemed a bit awkward to me. Sounds like a great YA fantasy.

  10. That first line! I'm like why??? and want to read more! :) I like the voice A LOT.

    The atmosphere and the mood is so lovely. Maybe add smells? What does the ocean smell like?

    My only question...why did she glance over her shoulder? Did she hear a sound or see motion?

  11. I love your description, and this is so eerie. I'm immediately drawn in and want to know more.

    I do wonder why her mother has kept magic so inexplicable to her. This isn't necessarily a critique, because it may be explained later, and it does set the scene for the story, but I am curious about it.

    As others have said, the jump from Lara to her mother's story of her birth seems a bit sudden, but that's really just a small thing. Overall, I love this entry and want to read more.

  12. Nice opening hook. I love the descriptions. I do agree with the transitions. This make me want to read more and why she was cursed on her 17th birthday. It does make me want to care for her.

    Minor nits:I think you meant I've seen and not I seen in first graph. Plus, try to use adverbs sparingly and show more than to tell like how frustrating it was for her. Have it a tiny bit active more. Nice start!

  13. I found the mom paragraph a bit out of place, and then with no transition we are back to present.

    But other than that, it seemed interesting to me

  14. I really liked the opening. It creates mood and tone and hints at something to come.

    Like the others, I thought the jump from present to past was too abrupt. I'd suggest cutting parg 3. It kills the atmosphere you've built in the first two pargs, and you can always use it somewhere else. Sticking with Lara and the mood you've already created could be the better choice. It keeps us in the story rather than taking a curve into left field.

  15. I love books about witches! Great first line. Very Sabrina-esque. And I love all of the details you’re sharing in the second paragraph, but I don’t think they’re blending together very well just yet. It’s just this one paragraph that I’d suggest working on a bit more, because the way you introduce her family life and her relationship with magic is very well done. I’d keep reading!

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