Wednesday, March 18, 2009

24 Secret Agent

TITLE: Digging Up Bones
GENRE: Series Mystery

Sometimes a vision of your own mortality doesn't come the way you expect it. At least, mine didn’t. Sometimes it comes with broken high heels and a torn letter. Death wears a lot of unexpected disguises.

The day that I decided to move to Birdwell, Texas (population five-hundred-and-sixty-two) wasn’t the day I thought, “now I’m going to jump on the death train.” It was the day I woke up to police storming my apartment. The one where I began to suspect that my fourth, and believe me final engagement might not work out after all.

My first clue (that I chose to acknowledge) was those pesky officers who banged on the door, destroyed my new Prada sling backs and arrested my fiancé, Lenny De Carlo. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure which of the two losses I resented more-the fiancé or the brand new shoes.

Lenny, who taught math at a private school, had been having the raunchy sex that he wasn’t having with me with his nubile, blonde students. So Lenny was going to the lock-up and I was going to Texas.

As it happened I would regret the choice but that’s the story of my life-a lot of impulsively made choices that I lived to regret at leisure. But luck, the bad variety, would have it that two days before the arrival of the cops was the arrival of The Letter, (as it shall hereafter be known.)


  1. Hi Author,
    I love the opening paragraph!! It sizzles!!

    But for a book like this, I think there should be some dialogue up front. I wanted faster pacing. And, not sure if this means anything or not, and I don't know why I say this, It sounds like it's written by a guy. I absolutely don't know why I say this, I wish I did. Does it make a difference in my reading it? No.

    Just some opinions....

    Good luck!!

  2. I like the narrator's attitude--makes me like her immediately.

    A few nitpick suggestions:
    "slingbacks" instead of "sling backs" and you could also write 562instead of spelling it out.

    At the end of the third paragraph, you could just end it with "To be perfectly honest, I wasn't sure which of the two losses I resented more." We know which two losses you're talking about, so you don't have to tell us again.

    One other question, and maybe this gets answered later, but why would police officers destroy her shoes? I thought she destroyed them later (maybe getting chased or something?) but the third paragraph makes it sound like the officers did it after they banged on her door.

    You have a great setup and I'd want to read more, particularly if dialogue came up soon.

  3. I really enjoyed this opening. I grabbed me in a way that many of the others did not. The narrators voice is wonderful! I really wanted to hear about the Letter, so I was hooked!

  4. I think you could cut the first paragraph entirely. I think the opening of the second paragraph is much more interesting and immediately pulls me in - I mean, police storming the apartment? Yeah, I need to know about that.

    A couple of items:

    - You use parentheses twice in this one short section. It stuck out.

    - Most of your "thats" could be deleted.

    - The sentence that begins "Lenny, who taught math..." was really awkward for me. I had to read it several times. I get what you are trying to say, but it needs to be smoother.

  5. Janet Evanovich?? From what I've read so far, the main character reminds me of Stephanie Plum . . . which might be intentional on the author's part.

    I like the voice. I also like the first sentence - definitely a hook, at least in my opinion.

    I also think there's too much backstory thrown at the reader too quickly. From my own writing experience, I'd incorporate the backstory into an actual scene. At this point, I have no clue 'where' the character is or even her name. Is she in Birdwell, TX at a local cafe sipping a bad cup of coffee and reflecting on the broken slingbacks that brought her there? Is she on the train? What's her name? Why the vision of death? Is someone currently pointing a gun at her that makes her reflect on everything?

    I do like the 'voice', but that could do with the Stephanie Plum comparison (again, only my opinion). Very good writing overall. Keep up the good work.

  6. Nice voice here. I agree that there are a few places that could be tightened (and I agree with cutting "the fiance or the brand new shoes")

    Regarding the Lenny paragraph, I think it would flow more smoothly if the first sentence was rearranged:

    "Lenny had been having the raunchy sex he wasn't having with me with his nubile, blonde students. Students at the private high school where he taught." or something.

    I would read on for great voice, and good story questions.

  7. *stabs parenthetic interuptions*

    I felt that this might be too long to be stringing the reader along with background info. Maybe two or three paragraphs, but leap into the story after that.

  8. The voice you have here is great. It hooked me right away. I love the details of the high heels!

    I think this goes on a bit too long with the background information, though. Your last sentence is fantastic. I definitely want to keep reading!

  9. I love the first sentence. It grabbed me immediately, and this isn't even a genre I read. Your voice is great, too. I really like the character's attitude.

    The only thing I'd really suggest is dropping the parenthetical at the end of the last sentence. If you call it the Letter from here out, we'll still know what you mean without letting us know that's what you'll be calling it.

  10. Err ... that should have been the first paragraph, not the first sentence.

  11. Great voice!

    Like Chris, I initially got an impression the MC was a male. I THINK the reason I thought this was the broken high heel comment. For some reason this gave me an image of a man thinking about a woman limping along on broken shoes. It cleared up quickly though and I don't think it's a major problem -- probably just me:)

    You have a great way with phrasing!

  12. I'm hooked! Great wry tone. The narration is lively and interesting. I get the sense that she knew she was in a losing situation with Lenny even before the scandal so she's a woman on the verge of a new life - and apparently more disaster.

  13. Great first para; tight and full of voice which is pretty much continued throughout, barring the first sentence of para 2, which softened it somehow. And 'pesky' leapt out at me in para 3, as a bit 'grannyish'!

    Really promising start for me. Although I'm wondering how she affords Prada.

  14. The voice is good, but I'm not hooked, sorry. You've got two flashbacks in the first 250 words, which leads me to believe that your story might be stronger if your started with the arrival of the letter, then lead into Lenny's arrest.

  15. I think a better first line would be "Death wears a lot of unexpected disguises." That line would drive me forward for several more pages, hoping for more like that. You could follow it up with "Even broken high heels and a torn letter." or something like that. I don't mind the other sentences, but they don't carry the zing of that "Death" one, IMO.

    I also think the end of the fourth paragraph would be stronger if it ended with a decision, like, "So Lenny was going to the lock-up and I decided Texas needed one more citizen." Or something like that. I want the MC to *decide* to go there and in the same smart voice. Just a thought.

    Good job! :)

  16. I like the narrator's self-deprecation. In a few places, it seems a little stiff or wordy where it should be conversational ("as it shall hereafter be known," "my first clue--that I chose to acknowledge--was those pesky officers who banged on the door.") I don't think you need to spell out "which loss I resented more"--the joke is clear. BUT you do a great job of setting all this up very concisely in 250 words--no small feat!

    However, I think I agree with the comments that say you should lead with the present conflict (the Texas-based one) and not let the flashback set the scene.

  17. Hi,

    I really like the wry, philosophy of your first para.

    After that, I agree with the others in that you should move into the present conflict pretty quickly.

    Maybe it's just me, but I found the second para plain confusing.

  18. Agree "Death wears a lot of unexpected disguises." would make a dynamic opening line. Like the voice although it does feel a bit "Stephanie Plum-ish."

  19. Loved the tone. I'm right in the heroine's head. Good job!

  20. The second paragraph was very confusing. You need to place the police-storm in time ("It was the day, six weeks before, when...")

    Here's the thing: There are a LOT of quirky, Prada-wearing, unattached and somewhat sexually frustrated detective-novel heroines out there. Like, a WHOLE lot. In order for this to work, the character needs to be more original than this one appears to be. I see hot-chick-in-miniskirt-out-of-water story (like the new Renee Zellweger movie with Harry Connick Jr.), and she would need to have a hell of a hook really quickly in order to be marketable. The writing seems fine--fun and zippy, like it ought to be. Not as polished as I would like, though.


  21. This sounds to me as though you're already a published author. Very good cadence and tight wording. I love the Prada shoes comparison. I'm ready to settle down for a couple of good hours reading this mystery. It's starting out to be fun. Great work.

  22. I appreciate the comments, especially the one from the secret agent, in that this story was written many years ago, about a decade, when my son was a baby. At the time the chick lit feel mystery was new and different and, to my knowledge, there was no such thing as Stephanie Plum.

    But it literally never occurred to me that I would need to address the way the market has changed. Now that I realize people are making that comparison, I know I'll need to change this beginning since it changes gears really fast and becomes a sort of fish out of water not at all Prada wearing New York type of story.

    I'm seeing this as a problem with new eyes and that alone makes this contest worth it. Much thanks.

  23. I liked this, but I agree with most of the comments made by others. Since I read the Plum novels for fun now and then, I wouldn't mind another such character if there was a twist. I'd read more if it were more polished.

  24. I liked the first para but the second para didn't connect to it.
    I would forget the authorial asides (the bits in brackets)they slow down the action and if the reader needs to know something about the MP then put it in dialogue or the action. Likewise with the para on Lenny, maybe he tells the MP the bad news about his liking for underage students via a telephone call. Aside from my crit you are a funny writer with good ideas and a little re-writing will fix any problems.