Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February Secret Agent #30

TITLE: Desire Under the Elms, Oaks, and Maples
GENRE: Contemporary Romantic Suspense

"If I wasn't an artist I'd be a fortune teller like great great granny Elvira, the witch of Salem, if I didn't ignore the signs. Like the woman at the airport. Was it just a coincidence or a bad omen? She recognized me. Many people look alike, I said. Did she believe me?" All that crossed Dorian's mind that wintry day she flew two thousand miles across the ocean to a place she'd been warned not to go.

On a steamy Wednesday morning in June a battered and bloody body is found in the pool at the exclusive New Jersey community of Hidden Valley. There hasn't been anything that eventful since a gaggle of geese attacked Mrs. Havermore on the golf course. The victim, an itinerant gardener from south of the border was known as a peeping-tom privy to all sorts of goings-on beyond the elms, oaks, and maples of the lush estates.

When news of the ghastly discovery spread throughout the community some folks sighed in relief, others jaded by the Havermore incident said, "who cares...he wasn't a rock star or the president."

Someone did care, the architect of the crime who obviously had the most to gain and no doubt the most to lose as his or her secrets were carried with the peeping-tom to his watery grave.

The coroner, a staunch advocate of gun control, pleased the assault weapon wasn't a firearm pinpointed the time of death to around eight or nine o'clock the previous night.


  1. There is a lot of information here. I have to admit that I got lost in it all. The only time I get a feel for the character is the first paragraph, which feels jumbled, and the rest is an info dump.

    Is there a way you could stay with the character more and still share this information, possibly in conversation? Do we need it all right up front or can you scatter it through the first couple of pages? The voice is good, I like the mystery and I think it’s a great starting point.

  2. I was excited to read this since I love romantic suspense, but I was disappointed.

    You start off with dialogue which is a big no-no. Then it turns out it wasn't dialogue. It's was the character's jumbled thoughts. And that's the last we hear about your main character.

    I don't want to keep reading because I don't care about her. Forget the other stuff. Let us experience her emotions. And as far as I could tell, the first paragraph didn't tie into the rest of the entry. I don't care about that the other people are thinking. I only care what Dorian is feeling. It doesn't matter how great your plot is, this is a romantic suspense. And as with any romance, emotions are extremely important.

    Also this is all telling. Show us. ;)

    Good luck with it. I bet once you rework the beginning, it'll be great.

  3. I'm afraid I didn't get much past the first paragraph. I thought the dialogue was actual dialogue, which was a problem because it was very confusing but then that was internal. And then, it felt like you were in omniscient (sp?) view point so there was no way I was going to be connected to character. Definitely, this is telling, not showing.

  4. I had to re-read this a couple of times, especially the opening paragraph. I want to feel connected to Dorian, but you didn't give me anything to feel connected. You tell me a lot about why she's there, but not how she is feeling about being there.

    I loved "If I wasn't an artist I'd be a fortune teller like great great granny Elvira, the witch of Salem" It's a great line.

    Good luck.

  5. This reads like flap jacket copy or a synopsis of the book - not a novel. Not the place to start.

  6. I'd like this a lot more if you revealed this through the character of Dorian. As it is we get the one mention of her and then she disappears and instead get a large info dump. It is not very engaging.

    I have to agree with the other comment that said this reads like a synopsis.

    This is a lot of information and I'm sure all of it's important but I don't think this is the way to give it to the reader. I liked the hints of the mystery.

  7. After the first paragraph, I felt like I was reading a synopsis instead of the story. I am confused...

  8. The first paragraph didn't blend with the rest.

    I have to agree with Marne, the rest was all telling. I have no idea where this story is going.

  9. I know you have a story here. You need to start with a scene, not a summary of events. Give us a main character to ground us in your world and let the story unfold through her experience. And you might want to start with the dead body. I'm not up on romantic suspense all that much, but I believe they often start with a dead body on page one.

  10. The first parag. seems to be a jumble of thoughts (written as dialogue) that have little connection to each other or what follows.

    What follows reads like a report. If you want to do omniscient POV, cut the first parg. but, in all honesty, I can't imagine romantic suspense done in that POV. Of course, there are always exceptions.

  11. The opening sentences really interest me, but I'd cut the rest of the paragraph after, "All that follows . . ." I get lost there. The quotation marks made me wonder who was talking, but it didn't sound like dialog; it sounded like internal monologue. Dorian has a great voice, so I'd like to hear her more. More Dorian, please!

    In the following section, the details of this murder are interesting, but we switch to a whole different framework. Who is telling this story? Where is it set?

    I think you have it all there, but it needs reordering so we are oriented in one time and place and can get to know this MC more.

    Best wishes to you in your writing! Thanks for sharing.

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  13. You're making your sentences too complex, perhaps because you paired down to 250. I'd mix it up and make sure they were all clear. Then you'd have a much better read.

    For example (the last paragraph reads): The coroner, a staunch advocate of gun control, pleased the assault weapon wasn't a firearm pinpointed the time of death to around eight or nine o'clock the previous night.

    Try this:
    The coroner went on-and-on about necessary gun control and how happy he was a gun wasn't used. Weird, dead is dead.

    At least he pinpointed the time of death to eight or nine last night.

  14. I was very confused. If I have to read something twice, it's not for me.

    Sorry but this felt more train of thought or synopsis-like rather than narrative fiction.