Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October Secret Agent #4

TITLE: The Saint and the Smith
GENRE: Historical Fiction with strong elements of fantasy

Most claimed that I was a fair shadow of my willowy mother. So alike, apart from our eyes. Mine were the same odd silver as Grandmother’s. Mother’s were dark like that of a doe. Perhaps if she had been cursed with eyes like mine, the men would not bully her.

Men like Harold the baker.

In the rutted road stretching between my uncle’s farm and the village, Harold, cheeks ale-red and fists in knots, shouted into Mother’s upturned face. His voice was lightning in my ears.

Kneeling in the cracked earth, I concealed myself behind our cart, peeking between the stalks of wheat which we had bundled like sickly babes.

“I won’t pay it, woman!” Harold lurched closer to Mother, his spittle wetting the smooth skin of her forehead. “Your brother asks too much for his meager harvest! Do you want me to starve?” He bent to level his head to hers. “I know you call me ‘beast’ behind my back.” The hulking man swayed, bumped into the object of his discontent, and straightened himself, swearing like a horned devil. His ale breath rode the late summer air to my hiding place.

“No, I would never…” Mother held her hands, palms up, to him.

He blinked hard and focused his stare on her, his barrel chest rising and falling, faster and faster, just as it did when he beat his wife bloody in front of his young son not two days past. “Give. Me. My. Wheat.”


  1. very clear picture of the time period, but i'm not fond of the seems like a FB post--too modern and it distracts from rather than adds to the story.

  2. This is compelling, definitely. I almost stopped with the first paragraph, because the description made me worry that I was about to be assaulted by more, except you moved so quickly into your reason for it that I changed my mind. I loved your transition to the last sentence in the first paragraph and then "men like Harold the baker." Fantastic hook. Best of luck to you ^_^

  3. The first two paragraphs confuse me more than anything else. I'm not usually a fan of physical descriptions of the MC, unless it pushes the plot forward. Yours isn't too detailed, though, and I liked the part about her eyes (I did have to reread to understand who would avoid being bullied). But then the MC is hiding from the bully and I'm confused by the eyes comment.

    A few of your descriptions didn't quite work for me. Ale-red cheeks, and the voice like lightning in her ears, specifically. I wondered if maybe you meant his cheeks were red from drinking, rather than being the color of ale. Lightning would visual, rather than aural.

    I did like the wheat gathered like sickly babes. And I thought you described the heaving of the baker's chest well (but I wondered how the MC knew unless she was there, and she only relates it being done in front of the son). I would read on to see where you're taking us, but I think you need to tighten this up some).

  4. I wondered how old the MC is. It doesn't say if this is MG or YA. I got the sense it was MG. Hiding behind the wagon made me think the MC was young.

    I also wondered why the baker would meet her half-way between her farm and the village. Wouldn't he either go to her farm with a wagon to get his wheat, or wait for her to come to town? If she were to give him his wheat there, how would he get it all back to town? I'm guessing he'd want a lot since he's the baker.

    I also wondered what the object of the baker's dicontent was? And wouldn't they know his name if they did business with him regularly?

    Perhaps make all those things clearer. And since it's historical, perhaps find a way to get in the time and place the story is set in.

  5. This piece is a brief prologue concerning a tramatic event in the MC's childhood. The story is an adult historical novel.

  6. I like the voice. I'd keep reading.

  7. Intriguing for sure. I think if you're already talking silver eyes, you might need to go ahead and just call this fantasy :) But then, I'm a fantasy fan.

    Only one thing tripped me up - when it says he beat his wife in front of his son, how does the MC know this? Was she there?

    Nice writing. I would read on!

  8. This is actually historical fantasy which some claim is a sub genre of historical fiction and others say it is under sci fi. The story includes much true to history detail/people/events but it is laced with much fantasy as the MC is a type of saint figure with some rockin' powers. I would put it in the shelves next to Diana Gabaldon or, when Deborah Harkness' new one comes out, near the follow up to A Discovery of Witches.

    By the way, thanks so much to everyone for your comments. I've already been tweaking with your sound advice in mind.


  9. I actually really liked the sentence, "His voice was lightning in my ears." I imagine I would jump at a voice like that. Nice "image." The only thing I did wonder about was how the MC knew about Harold beating his wife... it almost sounds as if she was watching from a hiding place somewhere. And maybe she was, I don't know... but I would definitely read on to find out!

    Great job! Good luck!

  10. There are intriguing themes right off the bat here, and certainly compelling lines: “Perhaps if she had been cursed with eyes like mine, the men would not bully her.” However, I felt the actions came off a bit stilted (“his spittle wetting the smooth skin of her forehead”) and there was a POV jolt at the end (did our narrator witness the beating?). While certainly what is going on is interesting, I don’t feel that sense of curiosity, the “what’s going to happen?” feeling. A large, angry man threatens a lone, bullied woman while her daughter watches from a save hiding place; we know what’s going to happen. What I’m looking for is what makes this particular story unique, and I don’t get a sense of that in this opening.