Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May Secret Agent #2

TITLE: Warped

He turned the miniature screwdriver once more to the right, tightening the tiny screw into the hinge of the gold and silver pocket watch. The work was slow and precise, but only held part of his attention. The singular end of the telephone conversation that was going on at the opposite side of the kitchen was much more interesting.

"You think that we'd want to get rid of her as well?" she said into the receiver. Then she sighed, "Yes sweetheart, I know."

He felt her eyes on him, but did not look up.

"No, that's fine dear. We would be happy to have her here," she continued. "When can we expect her? All right. Give us a ring when you have the times. I love you."

Only when the conversation ended did he glance up from polishing the cover of the pocket watch. She smiled gently at him, which made the moisture in her eyes glisten in the light.

"That was Reese." She eased down next to him at the table.

He worked in silence for a moment, acknowledging her with a nod of his head. The morning light came through the window above the sink, glinting off of the metal of the watch.

"Charlotte's coming to stay with us for the summer."

"That's wonderful."

"Jacen," she said, wiping her eyes.

Jacen looked at his wife. "I know, Fan," he said, setting the watch down. "We knew it would be soon. Full circle."


  1. This has an interesting beginning, and the cryptic phone conversation held my attention, but I really thought that the woman on the phone was his mother until the end when she was identified as his wife. Perhaps that's my own perception based on the fact that this is a YA/MG round, and I expected the character to be younger.

  2. Interesting opening. But I also thought it was mother and son for the same reasons. Most stories open with the MC (unless it's a prologue) I got the feeling Reese will end up being the MC, and if that's the case, you may want to start with her/him. But I'd read more.

    And this was very well done. As I write this, I'm still seeing Jace bent over that watch, working, but not working. Very vivid!

  3. Agree on the assumption the woman on the phone was his mother. I didn't mind the "he" at the beginning, but not naming the woman on the phone right off pulled me out a bit.

    Other than that, the writing is great and that's what's pulling me in.

  4. I guess I'll fourth that I thought this was a son listening in on his mother's phone call, just because it's YA.

    Also, I would have preferred if the opening paragraph started with his name instead of just he.

  5. It took me a couple re-reads of the first paragraph to get who was talking on the phone, and to orient myself in the story. I'd give another sentence or two in the first paragraph to clarify the layout, etc. Say at the very least that he heard his mother's (or sister's or whoever) phone conversation from across the room. That would help a lot.

  6. I really like the suspense and mounting tension in this, but like the others, I thought with a YA story a boy was listening to his mother talking on the phone at first. Possibly take the suspense out there. Add (his name) listening to his wife's conversation. I'd be eager to read more.

  7. I agree with the others, but wanted to say how much I like the writing! Excellent job :)

  8. I liked it, but at the same time, I was a little confused - for the same reasons mentioned above.

  9. I really liked the writing, especially the slow way you drew us in, creating a feeling of anticipation where the reader knows there's an explosion around the corner. Great writing. But I did think it was the son, too.

  10. I like the strong writing here. I was hooked. But... I have a concern, which is that, if this is YA, starting with an interaction between two adults is probably not going to work. YA really needs to start with the young adult protagonist--unless they're a really young couple (which I don't think so)? I hate to say that, because I really was drawn into this. And I want to know what they mean about coming full circle. Is this perhaps adult, rather than young adult?

  11. The writing is pretty solid, and I'm willing to see where this goes. But I got confused who everybody was. At first, I assumed "sweetheart" was the woman's husband (and the watch-fixer was somebody else).

    On second read, I see that Reese is probably their son, but it's a lot of names to take in at the end there, and I only have hooks for two of them. Reese and Charlotte are still mysteries.

  12. I found the style of your prose engaging. I liked the idea of the phone conversation and the girl's imminent visit. I felt the character wasn't well introduced in the beginning. I assumed he was her teenage son. I got quite a surprise when it turned out he's her husband. With all the "dear" and "I love you" on the phone, I thought she was speaking to her husband. Trust is important between narrator and reader. I think it would be better to start with "Jacen" in the beginning and not "He". I would have liked to know at the beginning she's his wife.

  13. Don't like the presentation that has him appearing to be a workman eavesdropping instead of the woman's husband - feels like the writer playing a trick on the reader. And nothing happens - way, way too slow. The "hint" at the end is too obscure to get my interest. I'd pass on this one, sorry.

  14. What I liked: Setting up Jacen through his actions with the watch. Writer also shows some nice restraint with the language.

    What needed work: Pronouns! Very difficult to get a sense of characters with the very vague “he” and “she” usage, and I was confused, unless this is a prologue, as to why we were starting with the adults rather than the presumably teenaged main character.

    I also have a pet peeve regarding too much planting of details within dialogue. Feels like something from the first act of a play.

    BUTLER: (On phone): Oh, the governess? Why, she’s away for the weekend! Yes indeed! The whole house will be empty! Plenty of opportunities for thieves, I’d think!

    Finally, some commas issues, like failing to use it before direct addresses “No, that's fine dear.” Should be “No, that’s fine, dear.” Deal breaker? No, but makes me wonder if I’ll have to do lots of line editing.

    Would I continue reading based on this first page? Yes, but with trepidation.

  15. Like everyone else,I assumed Jacen was the MC, a kid, and the woman on the phone was his mom. So it was jarring to find out i was wrong so far into the piece. I also assumed Mom was talking to her sister for some reason.

    Clarify these things,and I'd happily read on!

  16. I also assumed Jacen was the MC, a youth. It was a little confusing. It's a bit slow, though. I'd read on, but probably not with the intensity I'd like to have in the opening pages of a book.

    I liked the descriptions, a good visual set up.

    Good luck!

  17. I thought this was really well written and I agree with the above comments.