Friday, December 2, 2011

#2 Urban Fantasy: Wicked Spirits

TITLE: Wicked Spirits
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

Demon bartender Vess discovers the only way to break her 4,000 year loveless streak is to trigger the apocalypse. To make matters worse, her only potential suitor happens to have a contract out to kill her. Along with her drunken demon cohorts, Vess and her buddies fumble and carouse their way towards the big, red button.

If my best friend wasn’t already dying, I’d kill her for this.

The man in front of me eyed me coldly, his gaunt face a mask of displeasure. I inhaled slowly and tried to center myself with some yoga-breathing. He noticed my discomfort and smirked. I wondered at the cruel jest my life had become as I stared down one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. My body tensed, deciding between fight or flight. Then I remembered my promise to her, and mustered the courage to give it a shot.

“Diah didn’t mention your name when she set this up,” I said, trying to start the conversation with the grim figure seated across from me. “I’m Vesshana—Vess for short,” I offered.

He looked at me flatly. “My name can only be properly pronounced in the throes of agony,” he answered, taking a sip from a glass of sweating ice water.

“Oh,” I answered, wondering what the hell I should call him. I certainly didn’t plan on ending up in any kind of throes tonight, let alone agony. “So what do you go by?”

The ice clinked against his teeth as he responded, “Walter.”

I suppressed a laugh. “Ok, Walter,” I said with a smile. Judging by his demeanor, probably the first and only of the evening. “So what do you do for fun?”


  1. You have a great voice. I love the 4000-year dateless streak and the fact the horseman's name can only be produced in the throes of agony.

    There were a few minor things I'd change:
    I don't think you need a hyphen for 'yoga-breathing'
    You say 'her' in the last sentence of the first paragraph, but it's been several sentences since you mentioned your friend so it feels strange to have you refer to 'her'. I would use her name instead. She's the only other female character at this point so we will know to whom you're referring.
    I don't think you need to have 'I offered'. Just end the sentence at 'Vess for short."'You've already told us it's Vess speaking and there's no line break so we know it's still her speaking.

    Apart from that, I liked it, though I didn't get the idea that they were on a date at first. You mention dating in the logline so it's probably a problem at my end (it's nearly midnight here and I'm tired!) but when you mentioned that your best friend was dying, I thought Walter had tried to kill her just before the scene started. If it were me, I would think about removing the logline-type start for this reason, and also because I have a personal dislike for these type of beginnings. That's just me though, so see what everyone else says. That's the brilliance of these critiques.

    Good luck for the auction!

  2. I like this! Interesting concept. I agree with the previous comment that you don't need the second attribute, "I offered." May want to lose the "He looked at me flatly," too. Reads stronger without it (words ending in "ly" tend to diminish action/description, in my humble opinion). Fun read!

  3. The first few paragraphs didn't hook me. The first sentence I've read in so many forms and guises it feels incredibly clichéd. The second paragraph can do with the cutting of adverbs.

    And even in the rest of the fragment there are quite a few slips that make me wonder if the writer has been careful enough combing through it.

    But the thing is... "“My name can only be properly pronounced in the throes of agony,” he answered, taking a sip from [a] glass of sweating ice water." made laugh. Vess's reaction made me warm to her. Walter is an ace name. And in those few paragraphs, despite the sometimes (apparently) careless prose, you convinced me you can write and write very well.

    It may not be my cup of tea, but all the best with it! :D

  4. Oh goodness, fabulous voice. You had me sucked in with the first line.

    There's a lot out there with demons, but the voice in this is so compelling, and you have great tension in the opening scene. I loved that she's facing the four horsemen for her dying best friend--very intriguing! The humor was just icing on the cake. :)

  5. *I write YA, so I'm mostly just commenting as a reader. :)*

    Logline - Okay, this sounds epically, morbidly, HILARIOUS.

    Awesome voice. Like seriously awesome. I really love that we slowly, slowly learn this is a date. Which makes my favorite line even more hilarious:

    "My name can only be properly pronounced int he throes of agony."


    So much luck to you.

  6. LOVE this!! Your voice is great! I also laughed out loud.

    I'm trying to find something else to say, but honestly, this is done really well. Nice job and good luck!

  7. Hilarious. Love the 4,000-year loveless streak. Love the horseman. I'll bid... oh, right, I'm not an agent. Good luck!

  8. This has got a killer voice and I had to chuckle once I realized she was on a date with him. I really like that it takes a couple paragraphs to figure that out as it kind of pulls the rug from under the reader, but in a good way.

    The Walter piece is perfect!

    Good luck!

  9. I like the premise - though there are alot of demon stories around, this one has a unique take that helps set it apart. Great humor in the piece as well. Kudos there.

    I did find the logline a bit confusing, and I am not sure if I read only that, that I would be buying the book. Didnt feel it really gave justice to the story that followed it.

    That opening line is just plain great. I'd keep reading if I had this book in my lap.

    Good luck with the auction!

  10. Vess's voice is great, and I think the overall premise is good. I certainly like the log line.

    For me, the first sentence is kind of cliche, and in the next paragraph almost all the sentences begin with a pronoun and the rhythm is off. You could fix that by varying your sentence types and openings.

    Also, there are too many dialog tags or attributes or whatever you want to call them. It makes the rhythm of the dialog stilted. With only two people talking you don't need to attribute every piece of dialog.

    I love the line: "my name can only be properly pronounced in the throes of agony."

    The glass of sweating ice water: is the glass sweating or is the ice water sweating? As you have it, the ice water is sweating, which isn't really possible.

    I love the sentence: "I certainly didn't plan on ending up in any kind of throes tonight, let alone agony." It goes a long way to establishing Vess's voice.

    The next sentence: the ice clinked against his teeth as he responded...can he talk and have his teeth clinking with ice at the same time? I'm having a hard time picturing this.

    And the last sentence confused me. "judging by his demeanor, probably the first and only of the evening." The first and only what?

    Overall, I think this has potential and the voice is great, but it needs a lot of cleanup and tightening. Otherwise, I'd be interested to see where the story goes.

    Good luck on the auction!

  11. I also thought the "throes of agony bit," was funny, but you really had me laughing at "Walter." Plus, your log line already has me cheering for her because of the 4,000 year loveless streak. Instant sympathy vote, and it just sounds fun!

  12. I loved this. The voice was great, and I loved finding out that she was on a blind date! With the tone and pace, I really didn't notice any of the things that some of the ohter commenters did, I just really wanted to read more!

  13. Hilarious--LOVED it! My favorite so far.

  14. Walter. Bwahaha! You have a funny voice, a fun premise. Great job.

  15. I think humor is one of the hardest things to master, and you've nailed it. I'd love to see where this plot would take me as a reader.

    Good Luck to you!

  16. This makes me smile in all the right ways. Full of snark and comedic dry wit.

  17. I love the tone and character here. She's immediately relatable. It sounds like the ride will be hilarious and fun & I honestly can see this published.

    Good luck!

  18. Nothing wrong with the premise here, but if I were to recommend anything it would be to tighten the prose a bit. Unnecessary dialogue tags weigh this down and take away from the snappy and morbidly hilarious plot you seem to be setting up. (For example, trying to start the conversation with the grim figure seated across from me is definitely unnecessary, as we already know he's grim and the dialogue itself implies the conversation is starting.)

    The only other thing is that I couldn't tell if Diah set up the meet for Vess to make a deal with the horseman, or if this is a date. Might want to replace some of the unnecessary text (second example, he looked at me flatly) and use the extra word space to fully set up the circumstances. Loglines are part of this contest only. Remember that won't be on your first page if this is published, so all the clues have to be right there in the text. In this case, as a reader this being on a date would be more of a hook (not to mention clue me onto the fact that I, a woman, am the target reader), so I don't want to wait beyond page 1 for that info.

  19. This entry has one of the best lines of dialogue I've read in a long time: “My name can only be properly pronounced in the throes of agony.”--

    Your opening is funny and provocative with a nice tension. The very first line--"If my best friend weren't already dying, I'd kill her for this"--has a real snap to it.

    My suggestions are to not withhold quite so much--we need to know if her best friend set this up as a date or something else and also why this would necessitate a promise--and to watch the adverbs. "He eyed me COLDLY." "He looked at me FLATLY." Try to convey the mood without an adverb. I think you can do it!

    The logline premise is written well, promises some fun and thrills. I wonder if the title is a little soft for the irreverent, modern tone of your writing.

  20. The premise alone makes me laugh - she's so desperate to end her dry spell she's willing to bring about the apocalypse? Pretty sure most of us have felt like that at some time in our lives.

    The voice of Vess is great. Her dry sense of humor is very clear.

    Looking forward to seeing more of this story in the future.

  21. I like the premise and the setup, but I would also recommend tightening up the prose.

    I have a special dislike for "as" as an indicator of simultaneous action, because it's usually actually being used in those situations to describe linear actions, or cause and effect. Like in "the ice clinked against his teeth as he responded." If the ice clinked, and then his response was a new sentence, that would work for me, but I don't think he'd be talking into his glass with ice against his teeth. The same with "wondered at the cruel jest my life had become as I stared down..." It's not that those things happen to occur at the same time. It's the staring down that MAKES her wonder. Compare it with "I stared down at..., wondering at the cruel jest my life had become."

    You don't need "I said, trying to start the conversation" because it's evident that she's trying to start a conversation. You don't need "wondering what I should call him," because "So, what do you go by" shows that she's wondering that. Those spots, if you take out the redundant, are ripe for little observations that further show her voice.

    I like the way the date teases out and the "throes of agony" line, but see above comments on the sweaty water. I'd like to see the dialogue and the action separated by a period so that they don't seem simultaneous. I'd also like to see "flatly" replaced by a bit more description about his grim, deadpan behavior, maybe something about his posture or his eyes? Adverbs sometimes shout out to the reader that they're shortcuts, in places where you have opportunities to let us see that behavior for ourselves.

    With about five minutes of analyzing your prose and tightening it up, this can really shine. Best of luck!

  22. I loved this last month, and I still love it. A lot. My only nits are that I think you can cut the "I offered" dialogue tag and the hyphen in "yoga breathing" (both of which I think others have suggested above, too.) And in the logline, I assume that her "drunken demon cohorts" are the same people (I mean, demons) as "her buddies," so you can probably tighten that part up to avoid the repetition.

    Other than that, all I have to say is go Wicked Spirits, go! I hope this one takes the auction by storm. =)

  23. wait, never mind, I cvan't so 150

  24. AND NOW I CAN, Full.

  25. Josh, I am calling you so many names in my head right now!

  26. well played :)