Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #50

TITLE: Curious Invasion
GENRE: SF/Steampunk

Queen Victoria was dead. Long live Queen Victoria.

The bells of Westminster sang out dolefully as Dr. Althea Jones scurried out of the morgue. The gas lamps sputtered as the heavy rain slammed against the glass casing. The old man had called it down to the exact minute. At five minutes after midnight, January 5, 1848, Queen Victoria died at the hands of her own physicians.

Only to be brought back by the miracle of modern science.

Brought back by vampiric science really. The physicians who surrounded her would steadfastly deny it, but Althea wondered how many vampires had been drained this night to give England an immortal ruler.

Shivering with a cold not born of the midnight air, she walked faster. Rarely did she stay this late at work anymore; however a pleasure dirigible had collided with an armored war zeppelin late in the afternoon. All told thirty five people had found their way out of this world this night.
Althea clutched her umbrella tighter and walked forlornly past the shuttered garage door. Gaston had made her promise she would never ride Lula Belle in the rain. She was a fine steamcycle, his newest invention, but he couldn't seem to make her navigate in the rain. Of course, living in London, this limitation meant Althea was extremely limited in the days she could drive her.

Pondering her current dilemma, she could hardly be blamed for failing to notice the man behind her until he grabbed her neck.


  1. Definitley hooked!
    Intriguing first line, good grasp of steampunk, an MC I can relate to. Good job!
    You might work on clearing up the paragraph about the zeppelin and the dirigable. It's not quite clear. Also, calling
    LulaBell "she" and Althea "she" is a little confusing. Be careful with that.
    But I'd definitley read on!

  2. I haven't read any steam punk yet (on my "to check out" list), but I enjoyed this. An interesting concept so far.

    However, I found some of the language confusing. Lines like "Shivering with a cold not born of the midnight air" and "The physicians who surrounded her would steadfastly deny it" read clunky to me.

    Try reading outloud a bit more. The lines all seem to be almost there, but not quite. Like I say, the writing is good, but needs some cleanup to improve the flow overall.

  3. Hooked.
    Loved the line about the Queen being dead and then the next stating long live the Queen. Was catchy and humorous. I felt the word choices and voice in this were authentic for the genre. Ooo, a vampire Queen Victoria... this gets even better. I'd read on.

  4. Definitely hooked.

    Great concept. Writing could be tightened around the dirigible and mention of Lula Belle.

    Also, the final sentence could have a lot more impact if tightened up just a little bit more.

  5. I really liked this!

    My only concern is that there are a few places where the writing could be tightened up. The second and sixth paragraphs are a little choppy. In the last sentence of the sixth paragraph you say "this limitation meant Althea was extremely limited..." This seems like sloppy writing to me.

    The last sentence is where your hook is. I would tighten it up until it was pitch perfect.

  6. I liked it and thought it was pretty good. You set up your world nicely and have an interesting premise.

    As others have said, look at the writing again. You might want to cut the adverbs - steadfastly, forlornly, extremely. Gas lamps is plural but casing is singular. And if you showed us a man jumping out of the dark and grabbing her in that last parg., it would be much more exciting than stating it.

  7. I'd read on.

    I'm hoping the book is somehow connected to the queen's situation, because if it's not I'd feel misled.

    Nice imagery.

    I didn't care of the last sentence. I think it's supposed to be a shock to the reader, but I didn't feel it.

  8. ooh - London, Queen Victoria, tombs, a female doctor...what's not to like! I'd read on. I do agree that I'd love to see the neck grabbing more than have you tell me about it. And some of the writing could be tightened. But nice job.

  9. Nice start! I like the vampire Queen and the tone. I felt like I was in this place.

    Probably just me, but I was confused by the sentence "The old man had called it...". At first I thought maybe Dr. Jones was male with a female first name but as I read I realized that's not the case which took me out of the story because I kept wondering how I had missed who the 'old man' was. Since I don't know the story, it may be that this is clarified soon.

    Best of luck and thank you for sharing!

  10. I like the idea of a vampire Queen Victoria and a female doctor in the nineteenth century -- equally unusual! Couldn't help thinking of SOULLESS, since that's also English steampunk with vampires, but no doubt you're familiar with that series and you're charting a different course.

    I think the other readers' advice about word tightening is good. You might also want to reconsider quite so much worldbuilding on the first page, unless it's critical to understand that there are dirigibles, zeppelins and steamcycles this early on. Pick one, maybe, and give us the rest later? Just a thought -- I was definitely interested and would read on.

  11. You had me hooked until vampiric science. I was caught breathless, trying to figure it out and as soon as I saw that, my pent up breath became a sigh and you lost me.

    Sorry, just feel a bit burned.

    Beyond that, I don't think you need to say steamcycle (or that it's his latest invention). Just say it's a fine ride, then give some indicators that it's not diesel but powered by steam.

    On a final note, the last sentence pulls out of the POV character and, in an attempt to hook us, feels cheap. I'd much prefer to see her leaning down to tinker with the cycle, then having her grabbed.

    I wouldn't read on, but that's just because of my aversion to vampires right now.

  12. Interesting premise. Do they save Prince Albert as well?

    I wasn't sure at first what Althea was doing at the morgue if Queen Victoria had been brought back to life; I assumed Althea was one of Victoria's physicians. But if she's been working on other patients, how did she learn about the queen's death and resurrection so quickly?

    "Thirty-five" should be hyphenated.

    There's some repetition of words in the sixth paragraph: "rain" and "limited"/"limitations." "Althea was extremely limited in the days she could drive her" sounds awkward to me.

    I'm not sure what exactly is Althea's dilemma. Is it just that she can't ride her steamcycle, or does it have to do with the queen?

    Althea seems like an intriguing character, and the last line makes me want to turn the page.

    Good luck with your story!

  13. I'm not familiar with Steam Punk, but I loved the opening.

    I was confused a bit by Althea's role. Obviously, she's a doctor, but is she a coroner, one of the Queen's physicians or someone else?

    The last sentence would make me turn the page. Good job.

  14. First line is great! This part:

    Rarely did she stay this late at work anymore; however a pleasure dirigible had collided with an armored war zeppelin late in the afternoon. All told thirty five people had found their way out of this world this night.

    Needs some explanation and tightening up. The repeated use of "this" in the last sentence, especially.

    Awesome excerpt!

  15. Nice grab! I like the opening, but I feel like it bogs down quickly. The switch from modern science to vampiric science jars, but the concept is good.

    The paragraphs that follow (Shivering with a cold..) need a better transition - how do they relate to the queen living or dying (I realize this is hard with only 250 words).

    Also, remember the comma is your friend - I can count at least 6 places that could benefit from one. Anywhere you'd take a breath reading out loud, anywhere you'd pause - comma.

    All in all though, nicely done. Good grab to begin, and again at the end. Mostly just need to tighten up those middle paragraphs.

  16. I’m a great fan of steampunk, and I love both your ingenious premise and your opening. I thought your first four paragraphs were wonderful, really drew me in. By paragraph five, however, I felt that you had started to abandon the somber, mysterious mood of the story in order to bring in a quick mention of steampunk machines. By paragraph six, I felt that you had definitely abandoned the fantastic opening mood in order to concentrate too much on the bicycle. Good luck with this! I think it has wonderful potential.

  17. I’m definitely hooked. The first line was intriguing, but I was really hooked by the third paragraph stating that Queen Victoria was alive. The last line is also fantastic.

    I also got a good sense of the genre right away.

    I’m a bit unsure how Althea is related to the death and revival of Queen Victoria. Right now they seem like two unrelated figures, so I’m hoping their paths intersect.

    The sixth paragraph is a bit lengthy and could be condensed to make the opening stronger.

    I’d definitely keep reading.

  18. Contrary to some of the above comments, I like your tone and word choice. It's fine to start with a somber mood and go on to some of the gadgetry.
    There is some repetition. Besides what the others have pointed out, your first two sentences both have "as" in them.
    You have the style, you just need forums like this or a good beta reader to spot the rough parts.

  19. Thanks everyone. The feedback has been great and given me lots of ideas. And thanks to our secret agent and to our lovely hostess!

  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

  21. I'm hooked. You're not 100% there yet, but you're well on your way. Love Althea and the setting already. Can't wait to see how the story ties into the Queen. Good stuff.

    You just need to tighten up sentences like: All told thirty five people had found their way out of this world this night.

    All told, thirty-five souls took flight tonight.

    I'd definitely read on.

  22. You hooked me with, "Only to be brought back by the miracle of modern science."

    I am a big fan of Gail Carriger and this has a bit of that feel to hit, not in a bad way.

    I would definately keep reading. I agree with the confusion in the paragraph about the steamcycle. It could be tightened a little to make it clearer.

  23. I'm hooked. I've never read steampunk, but this makes me curious.

    I'm unsure how Althea knows about Queen Victoria being brought back considering she's been in the morgue all night. I hope that those two things would connect.