Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Secret Agent #20

TITLE: Flying Ships and Shadows Sweep
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Dusters crawled all over Madinah Zarkah, the blue city. It was one of those days where it seemed like the doors of hell had been opened, letting in a sweltering heat and welcoming more and more evil into North Africa. The fountains had run dry. Soon, people would have to suck on their own sweat to wet their tongue.

How did the dusters get in? thought thirteen-year-old Anise Mimooni as he left the school of magic and closed the heavy wooden doors behind him. Desert dunes lined one side of the Moroccan oasis, offering a barrier to the desert dusters. Today, the barrier had been breached.

Anise’s hometown buzzed with the voices of sellers in the souk. He had to compete for space with pack animals piled high with goods. Standing guard in front of the magic school, he whipped his rod. The wooden stick sizzled away, absorbed into the peddlers’ cries, “Knife sharpening,” “Fruits, bananas, oranges.” The oasis inhabitants hadn’t noticed the intrusion yet.

The ting of hammer hitting copper pots startled him. The aroma of the street filled with pungent spices made him turn. The grilled meats on open fires sizzled. The heat filled his belly and worry knotted his guts. It would be so easy for dusters to hide behind the hodgepodge of stands and tousle everything. Something clattered on the ground close to him.

Anise jumped to the side. A duster danced around him, lightly sweeping the sand of the desert into powder puffs.


  1. I really like the setting, and I want to know more about these dusters!

    I do find myself a little lost amid some of the descriptions. For example, I would change the verb about the doors of hell from "welcoming" to "releasing." And the sentence about the wooden stick being absorbed by the peddlers' cries made me think that the stick itself had dissolved, but I assume you meant the sound of the stick being drowned out? There are several similar instances that might benefit from different wording.

    Also, I want to be able to visualize where everything is in relation to Anise. Why has he noticed the dusters but not the others? What is his vantage point? I'm trying to create the scene in my mind and it's not quite crystalizing.

    I'd love to read more. Good luck!

  2. I feel like there are too many sensations whipping at him. His rod is sizzling, then there are at least 2 voices, then there's a hammer ting, then smells of spices, then sizzling again (this time meat), then his belly is hot and knotted, then we have clattering and finally sweeping sand. And this is all in the last 100 words. Instead of really feeling like we are there with him, I'm dizzy and confused. I would suggest you pick one thing for him to focus on and really describe it well.

    Good luck!

  3. Maybe I'm the only one, but I have no idea what a duster is. I figured it's some sort of spinning dust thing, but then I didn't know why that would be a problem, especially if they are only lightly sweeping the sand into powder puffs. But then I thought maybe they are some sort of bad guy, as they could hide behind the stands. I really like the setting, but need better understanding of what's actually going on. I would also be curious to know what age range for middle-grade. Probably the description of the market could be simplified to keep the pace moving along. Thanks for sharing.

  4. This is a very unique setting, but I found myself uncertain as to what a duster was. While you don’t necessarily need to spell it out, there needs to be more context clues for me to gather what these things are so I can understand why their arrival may not be a good thing. Also it mentions Madinah Zarkah and his hometown. Are these one and the same? I also struggled to visualize where exactly Anise is in the scene—and the location of the school and the market in relation to each other. There are a lot of micro details that could be simplified further to give way for some more macro level details that would help me visualize the scene better. But overall, a very promising start.