Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February Secret Agent #3

TITLE: Blindfold Chess
GENRE: Romance

The Lioness of Iraqistan, Colonel Rebekah Carthage, hunted terrorists. Her men picked off chatter. "Today the pretty witch dies. Allah Akbar."

"You are pretty," Major Hollister said, tapping her helmet.

"Stay focused." She bopped Hollister's chest-plate, leaned against the hot concrete wall, and surveilled the cratered street and abandoned office building. "Sniper, nine-o-clock, second story, blown-out

Hollister adjusted his telescopic lens and shrugged. "I don't see anybody."

She never understood why her hunches paid off. "Do it now Hollister, before I get a hole in my head."

The major's counter-sniper team eliminated the threat. "He wasn't the chatter's source." Hollister touched her shoulder. . ."Let me take point, Colonel."

She never encouraged such fawning, or today, suicidal behavior. "You sap. Do you think Joan of Arc would dismount her horse?"

He didn't answer. Ever since her father rammed through the U.S. Senate an anti-age and sex discrimination bill for the military, she flourished. But, sexual liaisons destroyed careers, if you were a

The brigade slipped into a residential neighborhood, like ants. She held up her hand, approached the target's front-door alone, and paused, picturing the home packed with explosives.

"Fall back now." She ordered. Running, she watched the slowest soldier flop over the courtyard wall one stride ahead. She crossed herself. She didn't hear the explosion. Pieces of flying house pounded her
armored suit. No pain. Eyesight: gone. Senses: collapsing to black abyss. With one last desperate grab at brain function, she imagined a pup trapped in an oven, then nothing.


  1. I hate to say this, but this whole scene seems a bit flippant. We have a unit probing into Iraq, and while I'd believe the soldiers jesting at each other, I don't believe the foray into sexual territory here: Ever since her father rammed through the U.S. Senate an anti-age and sex discrimination bill for the military, she flourished. But, sexual liaisons destroyed careers, if you were a
    Just because this piece is labeled as a romance doesn't mean you need to mention sex on page 1. Think of the situation they are in. They are picking off snipers, and someone wants to kill the MC. Sex is the last thing she should be thinking of. What she should be thinking of is the safety of her men.

    A few other things:

    "You sap. Do you think Joan of Arc would dismount her horse?" This seems a bit poetic for the situation they are in. She's a colonel who has to keep her men in order, something made harder by the fact she's a woman. I'd imagine she'd be terser, more to the point, so this dialogue seemed a bit off for the situation. That's not to say it's bad, it just didn't fit a situation where they have a sniper and a bomb exploding.

    Running, she watched the slowest soldier flop over the courtyard wall one stride ahead. If it's the slowest soldier, how is he one stride ahead? Or is she staying back until her men are clear? Might want to mention that.

    The major's counter-sniper team eliminated the threat. This is a tell. I would show this.

    Her men picked off chatterThe phrasing here confused me. You might want to show the radios or whatever they are using to pick up the chatter. And I do think it's "pick up" not "pick off."

    Overall, I think this probably needs to be a tenser scene than what you have. The Lioness of Iraqistan brings a tougher woman to mind, which means all of the banter and the sex thoughts seem out of place. She's on the hunt. Make the reader feel they are on a hunt.

    That said, the fact that she seems to sense danger has interesting consequences for this story and could work very well. With better execution, this could be an excellent story.

  2. I feel distanced from the characters in this opening. I think your opening would be more engaging if you strove for a deeper POV here. Make me feel the tenseness of the situation along with the characters. Get right into the heroine's head and make me live the mission with her. And when the house explodes, make me feel her lack of senses. I want to feel her fear and confusion.

  3. For such a tense situation, I'm not feeling any tension. Like another commenter said I feel very distanced from the characters and feel like a deeper POV would really help. The dialogue read awkward and stilted to me. I was a bit confused by the second line and had to re-read it a few times.

    This has the makings of a great story but right now I am not engaged. Towards the end I really liked "No pain. Eyesight: gone. Senses: collapsing to black abyss." But then any tension I had begun to feel dropped off at the analogy to a pup.

  4. I agree with the other comments. I feel very removed from this whole situation. There's no sense of where they are (you tell us where they are, but there's very little showing involved), and the dialogue really doesn't match the scene. I love banter as much as the next person, but this felt forced, both for the situation, and the way the characters interacted.

    The writing could really do with being more vivid. I have no sense of your main character or her feelings. And yeah, that last line about the pup kind of cemented this for me. I just wasn't hooked, sorry.

  5. I'm with the others. I just didn't feel connected to the characters. I think you were striving for snarky, tough woman but she felt immaturish to me and not what I'd expect from a Colonel hunting terroists.

  6. I agree with above. I'd like to see more description of your protag. Though the story seems engaging, I don't get the feel of the protag. in this page. Good luck!

  7. Same here. Unfortunately I agree with flippant. In potential there's a lot to like about this setting. A lot of action going on, suspense, a strong female lead. But in my opinion, right now, it's failing to convince on those accounts. My suggestion would be - get rid of the dialogue, the snarkiness, everything you don't need. It *is* a hunt. You have a sniper getting ready to take out your MC and she only survives because of a hunch. How does that make her feel? Both the threat and the hunches? I'd imagine she's someone who wants to be in control, but she can't control those feelings. If they play a role in the story, maybe work from there?

    Good luck with it! :)

  8. I have to agree with everyone else. This is words on paper. I'm not there.

    I think part of the problem is that you have them in a tense situation and the dialogue is light and flippant, so I'm not buying it. It doesn't come off as real.

    You could also do a bit more showing. For instance - the major's counter sniper team eliminated the threat.

    Well, how did they do that? Show the team suddenly turn and blast away at the window. Show the sniper fall out and drop to the ground. SHow them doing whatever it is they did to eliminate the threat.

    The brigade slipped into a residential neighborhood like ants - Show us the neighborhood. WHat does it look like? Are there clothes hanging on a line, lights in windows? Then show the men marching or scurrying or running and ducking or whatever they're doing to slip in.

    Make the scene seem as tense as you say it is and it will make all the difference in the world.

  9. I love some of your descriptions. You have a fantastic setting here. I loved your last paragraph, there's some strong writing there, but unfortunately you lost me with the reference to the pup. It's a small thing and can be changed easily.

    I did not feel connected to your Heroine and I wanted to be. You have the makings of a great story here.

    Good luck.

  10. Hey everybody thanks for your suggestions. If I added all this in I'd have 800 words so I'll work on a solitary focus which is all you can get with 250. FYI: the pup in the oven is the key to the whole book. I can't explain it, because it happened to her right after she loses her sight and right before she became unconscious. She has Blindsight.

  11. This just needs a re-work to make it more immediate (forget some of the dialogue and stick to the action)and it would be original and exciting. The last sentence about the pup would be better being non-specific - use smell and sound to describe a trapped animal, later on she realises it was a pup in trouble. I would read on though; it's not every day us gals get to be a Colonel in the US Army.

  12. I love your premise - this story has great potential. Do agree with others that you should build more tension - make them whisper urgently not banter and describe the mean streets of Iraq. And yes, they picked UP chatter.

    Let's feel the heat and the sweat and the knotted gut.

    That said, I love it and want you to keep massaging away.

    Shebeen Queen

  13. Confusing because the tone is so flippant - I thought at first I was reading a regency romance - and because the meaning of "chatter" wasn't clear to me at first. I had to read this twice, slowly, to get it (and I am NOT a slow reader). May not be the best place to start your book. But I'd turn the page.

  14. Unfortunately, the writing just didn't engage me. This read as superficial, not depth to the character or situation. I needed more sense of setting, situation, character. It can be done on page one.

    The author comments about some things that will be revealed later than page one. They do seem intriguing but you've got to engage your reader (and the editor and the agent) from the first line.

    I see too many projects come across my desk where I'm asked to "wait" for the big reveal. Usually, I'm disappointed. So make sure the surprise is worth it.

  15. Oh boy, I'm so late I'm commenting AFTER the secret agent! I think you've gotten some good comments here. I do think there's a lot of promise in the scene, actually; maybe the Joan of Arc line could be internal instead of vocalized, because I thought it really illuminated her character. The one thing I haven't seen above is that we never actually saw the house explode. Or are you saying it hasn't happened yet, and she's seeing it in the future? If you can clarify that as well, it would be a big help.

  16. OK, just reread the last para and now I do see the house exploding. Still seems odd for her to just randomly think it's loaded up with explosives, AND it's about to blow, and then it does. It doesn't seem reasonable somehow.

  17. Hey all, I too, am determined to get through all of them, but the eight remaining on my to do list will have to wait til friday (or sat).

    After a day and a half I finally figured out how to fit an enitre scene into the first 250. DONT DO IT, if I have to sacrifice character development or anything else appropriate. So I can end the 250 with a specific reference to the impending disaster. (She figures she has ten minutes to live.) or the like.

  18. I agree with ckbasi - the Joan of Arc comment gives a big clue to her character, but maybe would be better as internal dialogue. Her strength comes through. There is a little too much backstory for me. I don't think you need that paragraph about her father pushing a bill through the senate, at least not yet. It took me out of the immediacy of the scene. I'd like to get more from her emotionally - is she afraid?

    I'd read on. I'd like to know what will happen to her.