Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July Secret Agent #4

TITLE: Christopher's Medal
GENRE: Contemporary Women's Fiction

"Arse like a fry cook," Harry declared.

Grace glanced up from the hoof she was examining. "Who's got an arse like a fry cook?"

"This horse, Boss."

She straightened up and looked at Harry.

He had just finished putting the shark's tooth quarter-marks on Allonby's hindquarters and had stepped back to admire his handiwork. Considering that he had probably spent at least three hours in the pub after morning stables, he looked relatively sober.

The quarter-marks were perfect and the colt's coat gleamed like varnished oak, even in the gloom of the saddling enclosure.

Grace had learned that Harry could be as pissed as a rat and still turn a horse out to a very high standard. She smothered a yawn and wished the colt's owner wasn't going to be there. She was glad that it was the General rather than one of the syndicates. He and his wife were much easier to deal with than a group of inebriated bankers or estate agents.

"He does look good, doesn't he?" A racehorse trainer had once said that a good horse should have 'the look of eagles'. Grace was pleased to see that Allonby had that look when he lifted his head and surveyed the activity on the lawn beyond the enclosure.

His ears were pricked and his eyes were fixed on something that no human could see.

That serene and arrogant stare gave her goose pimples. She knew that she was looking at the winner of the night's five-furlong sprint.


  1. On the whole, this flowed well, and I liked the last sentence. The dialogue at the beginning was a little off-putting, since I had no context in which to ground it.

    Also, seems like there should be a smoother transition from the dialogue to the exposition than "She straightened up and looked at Harry." It strikes me as unnecessary stage direction.

    Good luck.

  2. Any time the MC smothers a yawn on the first page, it's a bad sign for me. I don't see the tension here, since she already knows the horse is going to win. The writing is fine, with good detail, but I'm not hooked. Sorry.

  3. I'm not sure the dialogue at the beginning's needed. You say, she glanced up and then she straightened and looked at Harry, which basically tells one and the same thing. I agree that there's no tension if she knows the horse is going to win. We also learn so much about Harry (that he went to the pub but looks pretty sober etc.) while we know so little about the MC. If Harry's an important character, then that's fine, but if not I'd cut the extra details. I'd love to see what Grace sees though, hear what she hears and feel what she feels.
    I also think you could cut 'that' where it's not needed. If the tension doesn't come in the next 1-2 pages, may I suggest starting somewhere else?
    Your writing is beautiful though.

  4. I'm afraid I'm not hooked, though I like a good horse story. i agree with the others that I'd really like to understand the characters more. Does the MC think Harry was talking about her? Is she catching him out? Hard to say from her lackluster response.

    You have a lot of potential here, and obviously you have talent. I'd say some careful revision would give the opening the hook you need.

  5. I'm always a sucker for a good horse story! That said, I wasn't as drawn in by the writing here as I usually like to be, especially because as I was reading, I had the distinct impression I was coming into the story at some middle point, which left me feeling vaguely confused and out of the loop.
    The writing is definitely solid, but if this is in fact the intro, I advise that the author take a 2nd look and revise it for greater clarity.

  6. I liked this a lot. I'm not even sure what all the horse terms mean, but they're interesting.

    One nit pick - I think "His ears pricked and his eyes fixed on something that no human could see." would read in a more immediate way.

  7. I think that this flowed very nicely and that your writing is solid. Descriptions were good and dialog was natural.

    I'm not a horse person though, they just don't interest me, so if I were to pick this up at the store and scan the first page, I wouldn't purchase it. I guess that's what agents might mean sometimes by "not for me." :) But I do like your writing!!

  8. You've got a gift for description - Allonby comes across as a magnificent creature here, and Grace clearly is a 'horse person', even if she's bored by some aspects of her job. It'd be simple to turn bored into 'uncomfortable', I think, and you'd get back to a higher level of conflict other commentators were looking for, maybe.

    Personally, I liked the ending of this - to me, it doesn't portray a foregone conclusion, it portrays a woman who's got confidence in her horse and her own skills as a trainer, and I like that. I'd read on to see how the race goes...

  9. I like the dialogue at the beginning, but I would like to know more of what Grace thought about Harry's comment. Is he talking about her? Is there tension between the two characters?

    Grace strikes me as almost too calm, more of a detached observer than a participant in the scene. That being said, your description is spot on and I had no trouble visualizing things.

  10. Nice voice. 3rd person POV voice is tougher, IMO, but you nailed it. The "like varnished oak" comparison is terrific. A lot of jargon in here, which could trip some people up, but you do a nice job establishing the relationship between the two characters in a short space.

  11. Reading this, I sense the horse is important to Grace. However I don't know anything about her as if this excerpt is from the middle of the story.