Wednesday, February 10, 2010

44 Secret Agent

TITLE: DARK STAR (Bk 1 of the Talent series)
GENRE: SF/romance

Smuggling was a dangerous occupation but it kept much needed credits rolling in. Kat reminded herself of this as her stomach churned like an asteroid entering the upper stratosphere.
Taking a deep breath she stepped into the tavern and ducked into the shadows. Ignoring the raucous laughter she scanned the patrons, searching for the tell-tale cobalt hue of a Vorish patrol uniform. There were none. Relief made her light-headed.

“There has to be a better way to earn credits,” she muttered and drew her shaking hand away from the small hand-laser attached to her belt.

She scanned the room again, this time assessing individuals. Half a dozen alien races patronized Borvaal’s bar. Her arrival drew a few curious glances from the group of furred Hurrans and grey skinned Balian seated closest to the door. With a gentle thought she encouraged them to return to their drinks and conversations, pleased when their alcohol-muddled minds easily adopted her telepathic suggestion.

Sour sweat and stale smoke hung thick in the warm air. Her breath hitched and goosebumps prickled down her spine as past events mingled with the present. The crisp odor of burnt flesh and the echoes of desperate cries filled her mind. She could almost taste the dry dust of crumbled and broken walls in her mouth. She pushed the image back, hating how the simplest things triggered memories best left untouched.


  1. Check punctuation and grammar in first paragraph, missing commas there and different tense.

    I like sci-fi but this has a been-there-done-that feel to it. Maybe it is the bar intro or the tired-of-it-all thief aspect. It isn’t enough to grab me. Can you find a different place to start?

    If you're like me, a review like the above has you looking for chocolate. Don't get discouraged. Keep a chocolate bar close to the keyboard and keep on truckin'.
    Good Luck!

  2. I don't read that much sci-fi, so I didn't get the same feeling Huntress got, which is that this is an overused motif. If she's right, you should look into it.

    But, I liked it. I thought it started at a good place, introduced me to the character and a little bit about the place. I found it very interesting and would want to read mroe.

  3. I'm a SF gal, and this could be interesting, but it feels like it needs more "Ommph" Maybe increase the tension of her walking into the tavern? And the becoming light headed in relief might be a bit much if taken literally ;). It does feel like there might be a bit too much world building going on in this space- maybe start with her- why do we care about her? Then start to show us this strange new world :).

  4. I'd agree that this has potential, but it seemed to repeat itself regarding the credits. The first sentence seemed to be kind of a no-brainer, but maybe there's a better way to word it so it packs more of a punch.

    I liked the world-building here. That's definitely intriguing!

  5. I might start with the third paragraph. It sets the stage nicely. Give me half a dozen aliens up front and I get it, but I was pulled out by the smuggling, credits and upper stratosphere of the first two sentences. For me it was just too much to take in.

  6. Very repetitive regarding the credits and scanning the crowd. Starting sentences with dependent clauses "Taking a deep breath," "Ignoring the raucous laughter," lessen the tension. Also, her feeling relief so soon also takes down the tension. I would advise completely rewriting this opening, or find a way to start with the second paragraph.
    I love the sensory detail in the flashback, but it's too early to have such a detailed flashback. It's hard to establish a science fictional universe in the mind of a reader. A writer has to make sure it's firmly there before going back to a different scene.
    But you know to include good details, which is an important part of the craft.

    Mark in the Seattle area

  7. This is well written, but I was hoping to find a couple of details that made this world and bar stand out from the thousands that have come before it. I'd read more, but I'd be looking for that touch of the unique in either the main character or the setting.

  8. Not hooked. I agree with the others: decent writing, but nothing intriguing or unexpected here. One example: When Kat uses a thought to encourage the bar's patrons to return to their drinks, all I could see was Episode 2 of STAR WARS, when Anakin does almost that exact same thing.

  9. I want more information up front to know what exactly is going on. She's a smuggler walking into a bar... to do what?

    And, like Krista V., once we got to the telepathy, all I could picture was a jedi walking into the Mos Eisley cantina.

  10. Yes, this immediately reminded me of Star Wars and the cantina. Combine Han Solo with Jedi mind abilities and this reads like a scene from Episode IV. I'm sure your story has a lot to differentiate it, but I don't think that's shown so well in this sample. Perhaps you could start somewhere else or try to make the unique parts of your scene stand out.

    I also wondered why she was smuggling if she had mind abilities. Why not just coerce people into giving her credits? Again, I'm sure there's a good answer and I don't think it needs to come on the first page, but just be aware it's something a reader may be thinking, and it might be good to clear it up at some point.

    On the plus side, I really enjoyed your writing. Fixing scenes is easier than fixing your entire writing style, so please take heart!

  11. I thought this was well written.

    I'd agree that the setting and ideas presented here felt too familiar. I kept searching for something that would make this story 'different', and while her telepathy almost did it, it too, was a familiar device.

    There's hints of some interesting backstory near the end but too much of this opening spent time setting up a place we are already generally familiar with.

    If you could move a little closer to a scene showing her purpose or what she's here for (i.e., the action) it might encourage me to read further.

    As is, I would not read on.

  12. The start wasn't exciting or clear but the last three sentences were great. You're a good writer, a bit of tinkering with the beginning and this could be really interesting.

  13. The writing in this is fine but this scene reminded me of the bar in Star Wars or in DS9 and so it didn't feel fresh or interesting. I like the idea she is a female smuggler, but there is nothing to draw me in to keep reading in the first 250 words. The voice is pretty flat. I was a bit confused at the memory she relived and didn't know why it was included.

  14. Not hooked. It just didn't have special punch to it, and it places it felt a little overwritten.

    I liked the telepathy.

    A number of editors will tell you that beginning many sentences with dependent verb clauses is the mark of a beginner writer.

    Some of these sentences don't have commas where there ought to be commas.

  15. Another entry where I think it's an interesting setting, but the writing lacks polish. The first line would read a lot better without "much needed": Smuggling was a dangerous occupation but it kept the credits rolling in. "searching for the tell-tale cobalt hue" could just be "searching for the cobalt hue." And then, "There were none" doesn't make sense because she's looking for a color (singular) in the previous sentence. And "relief made her light-headed" felt a bit heavy-handed.