Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#21 January Secret Agent

TITLE: The Nettle Spinner
GENRE: YA Fantasy

"Ay, lamb, it's time."

I stood away from the wooden chest and gave the burial shroud to one of the attending women. The spongy layer of rushes, crushed underfoot, lent a sweet fragrance from beneath my thin-soled shoes.

There were eight gathered in the room, including great-grandmother Adela and me.

Too many for our small cottage.

Grandmama had dozed off--a blessing as she was not asking me over and over where Mama had gone, or why she was not answering.

"Surely Joan must have longed for death even before she fell ill," said Mrs. Molke, who kept an inn at the north edge of Fenside, near the crossroads.

She hadn't even tried to lower her voice.

"Hush." Mrs. Bette chided her softly and darted a glance in my direction.

"Speak well of the dead or not at all," she cautioned, and Mrs. Molke pursed her thin lips and turned away.

I longed to speak in my mother's defense, for they had not known her as I had. Mama had been blessed--or some would say cursed--with determination. She was a proud woman who refused to accept that God had punished her with her illness.

"Richard Rupp is as healthy a man as ever there was," she once told me, "and he's never said a prayer in all his life."

Mama had said few prayers, herself.

And while her pride and independence kept the villagers' opinions from our doorstep, the price I paid was solitude.


  1. Interesting. I like your writing style and I'm curious about how her mother will (or will not) relate to the greater story. I'd read on!

  2. Cool title; I love the word "Nettle" always have for some strange reason. Hooked ;-)

  3. I love the first line, and I like how the dialogue in general gives the story a strong sense of place.

    I think it might be stronger without: "for they had not known her as I had. Mama had been blessed--or some would say cursed--with determination."

    I thought your last line was beautiful. I would keep reading.

  4. Wow, I think this is wonderful. Beautiful, clear, evocative writing. Can't think of any improvements! Congratulations on a strong start to what I imagine is a great book.

  5. Great writing! Not too much that needs improving, in my opinion. I'm curious about the mother and why someone would say that " she longed for death even before she fell ill." Sounds like an interesting story there. And I long to hear how the MC handles her mother's death, and the mark it seems she left on the village people.

    Great job!

  6. To me, too slow and languid. A bit of info dump: that Mrs. Molke keeps an inn at the north edge of town, near the crossroads. The chat about Mama not accepting that her illness was punishment feels like telling, not showing, and bringing up the unknown Richard Rupp further slows things down.

    Her mother died. The MC is alone, except for a grandmother and great-grandmother. Nothing else happens, and I don't know enough about the MC to know or care about her (assuming it's a her).

    Don't think there's enough here to make me want to keep reading.

  7. :( My last comment didn't upload so I'll try to remember what I said.
    You have a nice, quaint writing style. Good, solid descriptions. I especially liked the phrase "the price I paid was solitude". Fair characterization. I have a good sense of who the MC is and I especially like the characterization of her mother and I liked her refusal to believe that God would punish her. I could sense the solemn atmosphere.

    Unfortunately, this didn't hook me. I've read so many mother's deaths, I really didn't see what distinguished this from the others except for the religious aspect. Maybe seriousness isn't my thing or maybe it has something to do with my attention span, but this missed that "spark" for me to read more.

    This appealed to others, so of course this is all objective.

    Good luck!

  8. Some lovely writing and a great sense of time and place in just a few words. I'd probably read on for the writing but the story hasn't really hooked me yet.

  9. I disagree with most of the people, it seems. Though I find the premise interesting, the writing seems stilted to me, and that stiltedness is inherent in both the dialogue and the description. (ex. "for they had not known her as I had.)

    Nitpick: There shouldn't be a comma before "herself" in the second to last paragraph.

    I'm not hooked.

  10. The writing is very good, I thought, but still, I wouldn't read on. You start with them about to do something (perhaps bury the mom, or start the funeral ceremony) WHatever it is, she's told it's time, but we never get to whatever it is. Instead, you give us background info on Mom and the village. The story stops.

    Keep the story going. Whatever it's time for, let it start. Her neighbors can still make comments, and the comments will help get across what your MC is telling us now.

    As is, all I'm left with is that she is shunned. So if I read on, I'm going to read about a girl who is shunned. (There's probably more to it than that, but that's what I get fom this.) Not really interesting.

    But if you continue the story and I see the problems the shunning cause for your MC, I then empathize with her and form a connection, and once that happens, you have me.

  11. I liked it.

    But I agree with Barbara that you need to get on with the story in the first 250 words.

    Also, I'd like to know something about the time or place -

    The rushes on the floor made me think of England. The shunning made me wonder if the setting is New England.

    I'd read on. Nice work.

  12. I like the writing and think it flows smoothly. I got a little bored while reading because there was a lot of telling. I sensed the narrator's sorrow, but don't feel like I really experienced it. I would probably read on, at least for a bit.

  13. I liked this very much. It amazes me what people seem to want in the first 250 words when most of the books I read don't get started until 50 or 100 pages, IF they ever get started at all. IMHO, there's A LOT to be said for setting the tone and the flavor of a story, and for me, that's way more important than giving me a laundry list in the first five paragraphs. Well done!

  14. Hey, Secret Agent here! This is good writing, and has a lonely air to it which is quite well-done. I like the obnoxious neighbor. Problem is, they’re talking about a person and that person isn’t the narrator, so I know precious little about her. I want to have a bit more focus on her here, but I would keep reading, for sure. Also…what is it with these entries and smell? Did someone blog about putting smell details in the first 250 words? I’m noticing a lot of entries with really vivid smell descriptions.

  15. I loved this. Too choppy, though. When you have one sentence paragraphs, they give such punch to the narrative. Maybe use them a bit more sparingly. I'd totally read on.