Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#41 January Secret Agent

TITLE: Kitt Wilde's Wyoming
GENRE: Historical YA

"Kitt, come alive," Pa called in a low voice meant to wake only me. But I was already awake and halfway into yesterday's jeans. Not even the thick log walls of our ranch house could block the ruckus going on outside. To hear the horses and dogs tell it, another grizzly had found its way to the Bar G.

My sisters stirred. "Stay in bed," I whispered. "I'll go." It felt much earlier than get-up-for-chores early.

With my unruly curls knotted high on the back of my head, I stepped into the kitchen to tug on my boots and coat. Pa had coaxed the lantern to a soft glow. He handed me a lever gun and a handful of cartridges, then took the same for himself. The door gave a mournful whine as it closed behind us.

"Stay on the porch now. If you get a shot, take it." He took a long look in the direction the dogs were pointed. "I'll be out by the barn."

"Jake, Clipper," I commanded. Both dogs came to me, even if unwillingly, growling and chuffing, hackles up. "Shush." Cow dogs are fearless and protective, and these two thought they could boss anything wearing hair. It was for their own good that I shut ‘em in the house.

I hung the lantern high on the north end of the long covered porch and walked quietly past the door to the other end, boot heels striking dull thuds on the wood planks.


  1. Great description, I felt like I was there during all the excitment.

  2. Wow this is good! It wasn't over done or under done. The information that you told us was everything that we needed to know as of right now, and the part about the "dogs thinking they could boss anything with hair around," was really funny! I would read more!

  3. I liked this and I'd read more.

    The only thing that stands out is that this seems to be business as usual, just an ordinary day. Even though there's a problem (something's out there) it seems to be something they're not too worried about. It's something they can handle. There's no underlying issue (what does Kitt want?) Does it matter it's not there in the first 250 words? Probably not, but it would have to come up soon. And maybe what's out there really is the problem.

    Other than that, I just have a few very minor suggestions. Perhaps cut 'with my unruly curls' and just say hair. That's basically for the reader. People don't say 'I'm going to tie up my unruly curly hair.' They just say 'hair.' You can get her curls in in a more natural way. Maybe as she raises her rifle a curl falls over her eye and she pushes it back, something like that.

    You might say 'and tugged' on my boots and coat. 'To' says she intends to. It doesn't say if she did or not.

    They need to go out before the door can whine closed.

  4. Superb last two paragraphs. I'd get there a bit faster.

  5. YES!!! This is fantastic. I desperately want to know what they're looking to shoot. I already love the relationships between the girl and her sisters and between her and her father. Nice work.

  6. I like the writing but I don't get any sense of excitement - as someone mentioned, it seems like something they're used to, even if it is a huge grizzly. Maybe if you started the scene a bit later, with them already finding/ fighting whatever is out there.

  7. I liked this. I like the voice, the twang in the speech. I'd read more!

  8. The voice is fantastic! There's a real sense of setting and character. I do agree that there doesn't seem to be much sense of excitement or worry, however. Maybe that's intentional and the real surprise is going to come in the next page or two. The voice alone would keep me reading, but I'd expect the pace to pick up in the next few pages.

  9. I would probably read more to see if it grabbed me. You did a great job in giving us the 'rustic' feel of living in the wilderness. I was curious from the start about Kit... Is this a girl wearing jeans? Or a boy? I couldn't tell.

  10. Like others, I like the writing. It flows well. I wasn't sure if Kitt was a girl or a boy. I assumed girl, but then she/he put on jeans, which didn't seem to match my (limited) understanding of the time period. On the other hand, he/she knotted his/her hair... so I was confused. Also, if Kitt's a girl, I wasn't sure why Kitt was chosen to help over the other sisters (not to be sexist, but in this time period it does seem more likely that a son would have helped the father). I would maybe a add a few more clues indicating that Kitt is a girl or boy.

    I think you've started in a good place, although there could be a bit more tension in Kitt's POV.

  11. This flows really well and is engaging. Your descriptions are good and to the point, which I love. I am a little confused as to the time period also. They have no electricity and live in a rustic cabin so I am thinking olden' days, but she wears jeans? Maybe say denim pants? I am sure if I were holding the book in my hands with the cover art summary on the back there would be no confusion. Overall, I really like this. Good job!

  12. This is lovely writing. Your descriptions, the pacing, the dialogue--spare, yet complete.

    I'd read this book :)

  13. Like the concept here, and the characters we’ve been introduced to so far. I assumed that the protagonist was a girl, and I actually liked that she was grabbing a gun and stepping into what many would probably consider a boy’s role; it made her seem unique and interesting right off the bat, and spoke to my inner tomboy :)

    It’s not something I noticed while reading, but as some people have said, the tension seems to be undercut by the way she acts as though this is an everyday experience. But at the same time, I think that’s a really good way to show us both her character, and the setting/circumstances of her life. Not all stories have to start with things blowing up; if you have a strong sense of character/setting (which I think you do), I know I’d at least be willing to read on—as long as something a little more intense happens in the next few pages.

    I agree with Barbara about the “unruly curls” line; nobody thinks of themselves like that. It’s harder to get around that in first-person (and by “that”, I mean giving physical description without resulting in the old “I looked in the mirror” trick). Her suggestion about curly hair falling into her eyes was good, though.

    One phrase that struck me as odd: “boot heels striking dull thuds on the wood planks”. Maybe “sounding” instead of “striking” would make more sense. I just know it made me stop and wonder how you strike a thud into something. But now I’m just being picky ;)

    Overall, I think this is really great, and I would definitely read on. Good job!

  14. I like this.

    I agree that this seems like an everyday experience, but I'm guessing that it won't actually be a bear in the barn but something else, and that is what will kickstart the plot.

    The sentence that starts "Both dogs came to me" is a little unwieldy. I think you could fix that by cutting the "even if unwillingly", especially since you detail their aggressiveness in the next two sentences.

    I would read on.

  15. Hey, Secret Agent here! There’s some good, vivid writing here. One thought: can you put a little more context on that bear? What does it mean to the narrator personally (and the narrator’s family) that this bear is there? Raise the stakes and we’ll care more.