Thursday, July 17, 2008

#92 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

Title: Ghosts in the Shadows
Genre: Western (contemporary)

Em felt a chill creep into the warm April evening the moment she saw the man's face. The blood drying on his chambray shirt and caking his hair against his temple was alarming, but the face she had hoped never to see again caused cold apprehension to curdle in the pit of her stomach. The sharp angles were slack now, the dark eyes closed, but in a shadowy corner of her memory Em still could see the tacit threats that defined Brit Moonchaser's existence.

She considered slamming and locking the door, but a twinge of guilt caused her to step out of the way instead. Pressing a palm against her forehead, she stood to one side as two of her wranglers stumbled up the steps and into the living room, dragging Brit's limp, bloody form between them.

"What happened?" She was almost positive any answer they gave would represent no real surprise.

Most of Mac's breath was consumed by the effort of hauling dead weight, but the small part that wasn't squeezed out an apologetic reply. "Dunno, but he's hurt pretty bad. Didn't know where else to take 'im."

"Lay him on the couch." A resigned sigh accompanied Em's words, but it did nothing to relax the frown pinching the bridge of her nose. What is he doing here? She had fired the Apache a decade earlier and demanded he stay away from Ghost Shadow Ranch. His presence was no more welcome now than it had been then.


  1. Ha! Yes I would read on, and already have.

    I think I read this somewhere before, lol. But you have improved it significantly since I last read it about 4 months ago. You've obviously been working hard.

    Of course a guy covered in blood who you don't want to see turning up on your doorstep is a hook. What more could you ask for?


  2. Yeah, I'd read further. Love the name Brit Moonchaser.

    Could be tightened a bit, e.g. you'd get the message if she slammed the door, does she need to lock it too? Cut words such as 'almost' unless you really need them.

    'resigned sigh' aren't all sighs resigned?

    Okay I'm being all nitpicky, but you could make a strong piece stronger with a little pruning, imo.

  3. Yes(ish)

    I do not read Westerns - something that probably showed in my first reaction to her "wranglers" stumbling up steps and into her living room. I blinked and wondered how her jeans got animated. :) Heh.

    Anyway - I do think this is great, strong voice, and cleanly written<:

  4. I would read on. I would tighten it up a bit, esp. the first sentence. I would take out the warm April evening, as the shock of seeing him takes presidence over the fact that it's a warm April evening.

  5. I would definitely read on, even though I am not a fan of westerns. There are too many questions that I would like answered.

  6. Yes, although I am not a western fan, too many questions have been posed that I would like to see answered.

  7. Not my cup of tea, but very well written.

  8. Yes, I would definitely read on. It's well written and raises lots of intriguing questions. I'd maybe shorten that first sentence though, as someone else suggested.

  9. I get the chill creeping into the warm evening and how it relates to this man who was banned from the ranch. But it could be stronger.

    Take out the every "had." They're not necessary. Even the last one becomes "no more welcome now than then."

  10. Maybe.

    The first para is confusing. As a description it's ambiguous. I imagined that the man was standing. There's nothing to say he's not. There's nothing to imply he's being held up by others. Until the third sentence we have no indication that he's unconscious.

    And because I've been reading quickly, I missed the implication, and imagined him as a threatening figure (she considers slamming the door on him).

    So anyway, that initial confusion threw me and I found it hard to engage.

    Once I discovered my mistake, it became more interesting, but TBH, this is not really my thing.

    The early intro of a native American character in a western is interesting, and is intriguing.

    Anyway,good luck with this.

    Hope my (confused) first impression helps somhow.

  11. It's a tentative yes. Good tension, but it gets lost between Brit showing up on her doorstep and him being brought inside. There are too many words and not-important-to-the-moment backstory inserted in between.

  12. yes, if I read Westerns
    I liked the amount of information you got across in the first paragraph.
    Chambray threw me, and after looking it up, and seeing the connection with France, I'd suggest striking it--I know his shirt was probably US made, but the reference sounds French.

    Maybe move the dragging of his body before the description of the blood on his shirt & face?

  13. Not for me. I'm not a fan of Westerns at all. The writing itself looks good, but I'm not compelled to read more. I do feel this would hook others who like the genre.

  14. Moonchaser threw me for a loop, for a moment I thought you had an elf lying dying on her sofa. Which really would have been awkward in a western.

    Right now I'm saying, no, the writing is good but I'm not connecting with the MC and don't see a reason to find out about this almost-dead guy when there are so many other almost-dead guys on the shelves already.

  15. Mildly hooked.

    I'm not big on westerns but the writing flowed and the premise is interesting. The MC and the other characters didn't come through strong enough so I felt a little distant to what was going on.

  16. I started to get hooked and then I read "the face she had hoped never to see again caused cold apprehension to curdle in the pit of her stomach."

    That was probably fun to write, but I can't picture apprehension curdling at all, anywhere, let alone in any part of my stomach, especially the pit.

    I think this could be tweaked just a tad and be compelling. Most of it is quite good but the writing in a few spots draws attention to itself, which tends to curdle my apprehension.

  17. I've read on, so call me hooked. :)Though, I do think this could still use a little more tweaking. Perhaps cutting down and combining those two first paragraphs would allow more room to squeeze in some of what comes next.

  18. Sorry, but no. A lot of -ings in the first paragraph; first sentence was a bit long/strange for my taste. There's got to be a way to rephrase it... or cut out some words. Just my opinion.

  19. A tentative yes. I was turned off by the "felt" words in the opening (they didn't so much) but I like the situation and while I don't read many westerns, I'd read on for a bit to see what happens.

    Good luck,


  20. Yes. I love westerns and read tons of Zane Grey as a teen, although I don't read many now.

    This is a great hook because it both prompts the reader to ask questions, and it promises the reader they will find answers as they read on. Well done.

    However, the weakest paragraph, IMO, is the first one. Somehow I don't think the month, time of day, or weather are important enough to lead off with them. Start with the body. And I say body, because I initially thought he was dead.

    The emotion in your second sentence feels off. I think it's because alarming is such a strong word. I feel like the fact that he's returned is more alarming to her. Maybe if she indicated that the amount of blood or whatever concerned her, or indicated that he was gravely injured, but make the fear in the second half of the sentence stronger.

    Maybe start with her noticing the blood etc., without emotional reaction. In many westerns, the women were strong, and used to dealing with stuff like this. So her reaction not so strong, but then, she sees who it is and reacts.

    Play with it and see what you come up with. And good luck!

  21. Not really into westerns, but this seems like it has potential to be a good opening.

  22. Yes. Good setup, though I agree you could pare back some of the first paragraph ("tacit threats that defined") and dialog tags ("would represent no real surprise," "resigned sigh") to get things moving faster. Good work here though.

  23. I liked this (which surprised me because I don't read Westerns)!

    There's one sentence that sticks out to me, though- "She was almost positive any answer they gave would represent no real surprise"
    The wording is kind of awkward and clunky, but it's easily fixed. 'Represent' in particular seems like the wrong word to me.

    Consider something like: She was almost positive any answer they gave would come as no surprise. Or She was almost positive their answer wouldn't be a surprise. Or She was almost positive she could guess their answer.

    Good luck!

  24. Not into westerns, and a bit overwritten in the first two paragraphs, but I'd read more.