Wednesday, January 23, 2019

January Secret Agent #25

TITLE: IN LIEU OF FLOWERS
GENRE: Adult Mystery

Jagged urgent streaks in my beloved shade of midnight blue materialize into dainty petals at the practiced stroke of my hand. Grim and perfect, the stone structure exposes centuries-old secrets.
Most people have family traditions such as apple picking, camping, or oyster roasts. Not me. My tradition roots from my mom’s peculiar hobby of gravestone rubbing at sunset. What started for her as a high school dare evolved into a historic collection for our rural county. She said she preserves their existence, and maybe a librarian or genealogist may want a copy.

To this day, we’ve never received a request.

“Norah, you done? I don’t wanna be late, again.” Lucy, my best friend, kneels at one of many crumbling gravestones two plots over.

She doesn’t mind the dark mud swallowing her jeans. If she sunk any deeper, I’d have to extract her with the dead tree limb dangling over the Todd family’s obelisk. The lingering after-effects of an afternoon thunderstorm almost spoiled our plan. Instead, we gathered our courage to sludge through the muck of the oldest cemetery in Copperville. We’re isolated from town, on a dirt road behind a big box store.

“Don’t you want to add an angel’s ass to your morbid collection?”

Her seedy pride twinkles through her green-framed glasses. She presents a giant sheet of paper and points to the naked angel cherub in purple crayon. Even on this thirteenth day of February, my mom’s murder anniversary, Lucy knows how to lighten a somber mood.

14 comments:

  1. Overall I love the details and decriptions. I feel like your second paragraph should be your first. REALLY hook the reader with "Most people have family traditions, etc" I also wouldn't know this is adult without knowing the genre ahead of time, so if you could slip in age, or perhaps the Lucy's age and or they work together or attend college together. Something to clarify their age would help me imagine the scene better. I love how dark and morbid it is though, so WELL done!

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  2. I'd have to agree with Sarah on the opening, I miss a more snappy and attention-grabbing opening, and I think switching up those paragraphs would really help with that!

    I love this contrast we see here as well, how they're in this morbid environment but you still manage to throw some humor in there and it's so fitting. I really liked that!

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  3. I also agree with Sarah and Christine. This should be your opening line: "Most people have family traditions such as apple picking, camping, or oyster roasts. Not me." Right away we know we're reading about something different, something unique, out of the ordinary. It's not often we read about someone who does gravestone rubbings.

    Also the first sentence, as it is, was a bit confusing. I had to read it a couple times to know what she was doing. Painting, was my first thought. Switching it up fixes that.

    But... nit picky, but still... Are oyster roasts a common family tradition?

    Other than that, I like the tone of this, the juxtaposition between the humor and the mention of murder. I'd totally read on.

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  4. I love the setting of this opening page--however, I had to read the first paragraph several times, because I didn't know what our main character was doing, where we were, and why she was doing whatever activity. I kind of thought she was painting?

    I definitely agree with everyone that P2 is stronger. Maybe go into more sensory detail, as well, re: what the process of rubbing a headstone is like, for those who haven't done it before!

    I also don't like the phrasing of "my mom's murder anniversary" -- somehow it sounds more flippant than "the anniversary of my mom's murder." Could be the tone you're going for, though.

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  5. I think starting with the tradition of grave rubbing would be awesome!

    I love the atmosphere you get going in these opening paragraphs! Dropping the mothers murder anniversary in there makes me wonder if it’s solved vs unsolved and if we’ll get some mystery in this book! Very intriguing, and I would def read more!

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  6. This screams "mystery" from its first moments-- you're drawn into the eeriness immediately. Lovely. I tried not to look at the other comments but couldn't help it... I have to agree that although the imagery in the first paragraph is beautiful and ethereal, that it feels like exposition as opposed to action, as if it starts in the character's imagination and we are then brought out into the cemetery. I'm not sure that's even a criticism, except I mostly hear agents say they're looking for things to start with action as opposed to description. So maybe find some way to make that creepy imagery show something more active from the get-go? E.g., maybe all it would take would be to hear the scrape of the pencil against the paper before moving to the more poetic grimness of the crumbling stone underneath?

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  7. I'm getting strong fall, The Raven Boys-kind of vibes from your atmosphere, which I really like! It was kind of hard to get through the first paragraph, especially the first sentence. I feel like it was kind of too long, and maybe too many adjectives, so it made me worry the prose was too purply. I think you would really benefit from switching up the opening paragraph like everyone else suggests, or maybe even scrapping the first. I LOVED the last paragraph. It hooked me for sure!

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  8. No matter how many times I read that first sentence I couldn't figure out what was going on. After reading the others comments, I think I know what their doing, but still not sure.

    I liked the isolated from town behind a big box store description gave me a good visual

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  9. I agree that the first line of the second paragraph should be the first (if that feedback resonates with you, I mean). You have all these nice traditions listed... and then boom, you're hit with this weird creepy detail right at the beginning. I love it and with the 250 as a whole, I'd definitely keep reading. Her mom was murdered? I must know more ASAP.

    My only worry is that the narrator sounds a little young - announcing someone is her best friend, something about the tone... I like the suggestion of clarifying age soon, if possible (has she been friends with Lucy since childhood? college? etc.), that could help. Maybe make the language a little more formal, too, depending upon the age. "The anniversary of my mom's murder" instead of "My mom's murder anniversary" etc. Overall though wonderful job!

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  10. I don't have much to say that others haven't already mentioned. I agreed that you may want to start with the line about family traditions and save the description from the first sentence until after we already know what she's doing. Otherwise, it can be a bit confusing.

    That said, I love that we learn right away that her mom was murdered. It quickly drew me into the store and made me want to read more. The atmosphere here is also great. You get the setting and tone for the story across right away. I'm also a big fan of graveyards as settings, so really, this is a winning set-up for me.

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  11. I agree that the second paragraph would be more engaging as the first.

    I love the imagery and descriptions throughout this. I love Lucy's comments.
    As a way to help reveal their age without explicitly saying it, you can hint that Lucy has been friends with her since high school, letting the reader know that they are at least not teenagers.

    I love the end of the scene with the naked angel cherub it made me laugh out loud and I can already understand the dynamic between the friends.

    I'm intrigued and would want to read more!

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  12. I really like this beginning--I'm definitely intrigued and would read more! I agree with everyone that the second paragraph would be a stronger start, and I might say "Not mine" instead of "not me." Other than that, I don't have anything to critique!

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  13. Ooh! I’ve read this one before. �� I actually think I may have liked your opening paragraph better in the older version I read… You read these first two sentences several times without quite understanding what she’s talking about. But it’s a very well-written intro and it absolutely hooks the reader.
    Since I’ve read more of this one, I’ll add that one of the things that tripped me up in the query was how quickly and easily ghosts are introduced without it being a very big deal. I felt like that first chapter could be polished a bit more. The concept is great, the hook is strong, but my only suggestion would be to keep working on craft, perhaps with some critique partners.
    This was a hard one to say no to for me. ��

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