Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July Secret Agent #49

TITLE: The Egyptian Playbook of the Dead
GENRE: YA urban fantasy

Running away, even to the mortal world, was harder than I'd expected.

Voices bleated around me as I entered the Detroit International airport from the jetway. I could have deciphered the jumble of Arabic and English and French, but that would remind me what I was running from. It was easier to follow the crowd. The sheep.

Baa, I muttered as a particularly large couple jostled around me.

I gripped my carry-on--considerably lightened, since they'd confiscated the shampoo and toothpaste in Cairo--and waited as the other passengers claimed their luggage. I knew where mine was. I could just catch its faint odor of leather and dust as it circled the far side of the belt. I edged closer, and an airport worker shot me a suspicious look and pulled out a radio. With a prickle of sweat I focused on the inner circuits of the radio, and a moment later, the guard tapped the device in frustration and hurried away for a replacement. My suitcases popped through the flaps from the other side. I snatched them off the belt and headed for the customs line marked "non-U.S. residents."

Like the security guard, the eyes of the customs agents lingered on me, the smell of mistrust reeking from their skin. I didn't need English to understand that. I shifted under their gaze and straightened the suit I'd swiped off a student passed out drunk in an alley. I felt unclean.


  1. I'm hooked. I especially like the second and thrid paras. If you went a lot longer without giving some indication of why people look suspiciously at the MC I might get frustrated.

  2. like your opening sentence, but then...

    bleated? don't sheep do that?

    "Baa" in quotes if said

    long sentence with gripped in it

    lots of weak was verbs; consider using stronger verbs

    with a prickle of sweat I focused--
    where was the prickle of sweat and what does it have to do with focusing? rework this?

    too much info about the airport; I want to know what happens in the story.

  3. I definatly want to know more about who this person is. I'm assuming it's a boy but I'm not totally sure. I like your opening sentence and I think it would work better if you switched up bleated with muttered and maybe did something like voices swirled around me? It sounds kinda magical I guess so it might flow beter. I'm hooked.

  4. I found this interesting storywise. I wanted to know who this person was and why they wanted to escape the land of immortals.

    The writing made it fall short. There are a lot of passive, telling sentences. And most of it could be tightened considerably.

    Then you have stuff like his confiscated shampoo and toothpaste lightened his luggage considerably. Each weighs a few ounces. He would have had to have been carrying lots and lots of it to make a noticeable difference.

    And why is he stealing someone's clothes? Because they don't wear clothes where he comes from, or because the clothes they wear are so different?

    Perhaps consider a revision or two with attention to the writing.

  5. It definitely has me intrigued! For some reason the edging closer making the security guard nervous seems a little coincidental, but besides that I would keep reading to learn more about this mysterious MC:)

  6. I like this, especially the humor. I'm wondering if it might work better in the present tense? I think then the reader will feel like he or she is right there with the MC. Just a thought!


  7. Liking this so far. I did notice a couple of things others have mentioned - the 'considerable' lightening of the carry on, for example.

    Someone mentioned voices 'bleating.' I actually like that wording because it conveys nicely the feeling that your MC has about the crowd he/she is in.

    I would keep reading.

  8. I liked the 'Baa...' sentence. It made me smile. This has a good feel to it and i'm intrigued by your main character. I was a little surprised that the MC was wearing a suit from a student as I don't think of young adults wearing suits when they travel and it took me out of the story a bit but that may just be me.

    I'd read on! Best of luck to you.

  9. I am somewhere between hooked and confused, which I suppose would make me read further. The title is fantastic. (Just read Red Pyramid - loved it, btw) Your character is interesting, with a clearly interesting background and some, shall we say, unique capabilities.

    What's best about this is the immediate tension you've introduced. The confusion I felt was around certain sentences like "I could have deciphered..." I was trying to figure out what that meant and why it was there.

  10. I liked this piece. It shows us a character under pressure and with supernatural abilities. The only thing I wondered was why the airport worker was looking suspiciously at someone edging closer to the belt. In my experience, people stand as close to the belt as possible, so I didn't think this rated as suspicious behaviour. Upon reading further, and seeing the customs agent was also suspicious, I began to wonder if it was the character's appearance that was prompting it. I'm satisfied for now but I hope this gets explained or hinted at soon.

  11. I liked this. Your writing is really good, and you've got a great setup. And you've made me curious about who this person is. I think we should know by now whether it's a girl or guy...but other than that, the mystery is great and hooks me.

    Downsides...that first sentence has got to go, in my opinion. It's one of those dramatic ones that doesn't fit with what follows, so even if we're intrigued by it, initially, we end up rolling our eyes when we read on.

    If you want to keep a first line like that, then it would help to tie it with his/her thoughts. ie:

    Running away to the mortal world was harder than I'd expected. If it wasn't someone looking at me like they knew something wasn't quite right, than it was someone else who knew I wasn't supposed to be here __(doing something paranormal)__. At least the airport worker who stared so suspiciously was one of the former, and therefore easily seen to. I focused on the inner circuits of the radio until he tapped it in frustration and hurried away.

    I snatched my luggage from the belt and headed for the customs line for non-U.S. residents.

    See how something like that has your same idea, but has it grounded in the character's thoughts? That avoids that strange abrupt "what does that have to do with anything?" question that hit me after that first line.

  12. I like this a lot. It's definitely mysterious and I have lots of questions. For some reason, however, the prose doesn't quite draw me in. Despite the close POV, I still felt distanced.

  13. I like all the mystery and questions I have formed while reading this. I like the voice. I agree with a commenter above in that I couldn't imagine a student wearing a suit, so that part threw me a little.

    I would definitely read on.

  14. There is a potential problem here, and it is one the others have overlooked. It seems your MC cannot speak English, correct? If so, how is he able to narrate in English? It is the same as writing in the first person POV of a blind man and describe things in a visual context.

    I came across this little flaw because something kept nagging me after I had read this line: "...and headed for the customs line marked "non-U.S. residents." As well as this one: "I didn't need English to understand that." Here you are clearly denoting his lack of English, yet HE is narrating as such.


    If my theories are indeed true, then fixing this will be easy. As it stands, the reader is led to believe that he cannot speak English; input somewhere or show that he knows at least enough to tell this story in first person.

    Another thing I found jarring was this: "...and straightened the suit I'd swiped off a student passed out drunk in an alley."

    Um...when did this happen? This bit of info dump is terribly confusing and pulled me out of the story. I suppose you did it to show he was wearing a suit, but how he got it was not necessary.

    "Running away, even to the mortal world, was harder than I'd expected.

    Voices bleated around me as I entered the Detroit International airport from the jetway. I could have deciphered the jumble of Arabic and English and French, but that would remind me what I was running from. It was easier to follow the crowd. The sheep."

    I liked the opening--very dramatic--but something about your characterization is off. Okay, here we have a seemingly powerful boy running from an entity more super then he. Check. Instinctively, I would expect him to be somewhat on edge--afraid, even--yet he describes humans as sheep in a condescending manner.

    He even mutters an insult!

    What you wrote and what should be are at odds, resulting in a character with a strange and imbalanced emotional state. However, like my prior critique, this too can be easily fixed, simply be redacting his feelings toward us mere mortals.

    That, in my humble opinion, would even the inconsistency in your prose.

    Good Luck! :D

  15. This is an interesting premise and a unique set of circumstances, but technically, the writing needs more work--more active, vivid verbs, more varying sentence lengths. For that reason, I would not read further at this time.

  16. i like this. I'm guessing your protagonist is some sort of mummy creature. Very interesting. Also I don't think you should change the word "bleat" since clearly your protagoist associates humans with sheep and doesn't identify with them.

    One thing though, your main character in this excerpt is not likeable. Is that intentional? It wouldn't stop me from reading. I'm guessing the point of view changes later to the real hero/heroine

  17. This really got me intrigued mainly because I like mysteries and intrigue. It's an excellent first sentence too i thought -
    I'd definitely keep reading! :)

  18. I like the "Baa" sentence as others have noted, that's great. And I also like a lot of the little details you've chosen, it's very vivid.

    I do think some varying sentence length would help as SA mentioned. Reading it is a bit on the monotone side.

    I think that comment two up is interesting about your MC not being likable. I actually don't have much of a sense of the MC here.

    I'd flip forward to see what this is about, but the writing would need to become more active. Good luck with your novel.