Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April Secret Agent #38

TITLE: Firebird
GENRE: YA Fantasy

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, Echo mused, snagging a still warm pork bun from a nearby stall as she ran, that stolen food tastes exponentially better than food that’s not stolen.

With the shopkeeper’s indignant squawk all but lost in the clamor of the crowd, Echo knew this simple fact to be true. Feet flying across pavement slick with the day’s drizzle, twisting and turning as she dodged rickety carts and gawking pedestrians, she also knew that if she didn’t find her way out of Taipei’s crowded Shilin Night Market within the next ninety seconds, she probably wouldn’t live to steal again.

Taking a healthy bite of the pork bun, she spared a thought for her cozy, cramped bedroom, a long forgotten storage room nestled high above the stacks of the New York Public Library, warded to high holy hell to keep out intruders and nosy staff, and she wondered if she would ever see it again. It would be a shame, Echo thought, if no one were there to eat the rest of burrito she had swiped from the backpack of an unsuspecting college student as he napped with his head pillowed on a battered copy of Victor Hugo’s Les MisĂ©rables. There had been poetry to that minor act of thievery, which was mainly why she had done it. She no longer needed to steal food to survive, as she had when she was a child, but sometimes an opportunity was too good to pass up.


  1. Oooooh, I love the setting here, and I love the way you've thrust us right into Echo's wold with just the right amount of detail.

    A couple of nitpicks:
    --"Echo knew this simple fact to be true." I assume you mean the truth about stolen food tasting better, but for a second, I wondered, what simple fact? Maybe just say "it" so we don't think something else is coming?
    --The phrase "warded to high holy hell" tripped me up a bit.

    But very, very minor nitpicks. Overall, this is such a great beginning, and I would definitely read more!

  2. I'm hooked! Being a Jane Austen fan, I love the first line. You've got a great balance of character, action, and description here. And the fact that she lives in the NY public library is pretty awesome.

  3. Echo = female Aladdin.

    Total love from me here.

    The hook is really good, and I wanted to know more about Echo's world - the New York Public Library, but it's warded? How? Why?

    Good luck!

  4. I like this -- I like the atmosphere you've established and I like Echo's voice.

    But I think "exponentially" is used incorrectly here. "Exponentially" means to grow larger over time. So the literal meaning of your opening sentence is stolen food grows tastier over time than food that's not stolen.. and I think you mean that stolen food simply tastes much better. So you might want to rethink your adjective usage.

    Also, I think varying your sentence structure would make the paragraphs less of blur. I'd also break your paragraphs up into smaller, more easily digestible chunks.

    Good luck!

  5. Just wondering, how's Echo sprinting and eating at the same time? She's way more talented than I ;)

  6. Love this opening scene. What a great blend of action and interior narration. Echo's a strong MC right off the bat. I disagree with the previous poster who called for breaking up your paragraphs into "digestible chunks." You do have some run-ons, though.

  7. I love the action of this, but I'm a bit confused. The entire scene is her running for her life after stealing food. But at the end we learn she doesn't need to steal food to get by, and only does it when the opportunity is prime. So why is she stealing this bun and risking her life.

    This is okay, but I think the question needs to be answered pretty quickly after this, or at least hinted at.

  8. I'm intrigued. I'm not a huge fan of the nod to Pride and Prejudice, if only because it seems to break the fourth wall a little for a character to parody another famous novel opening in the opening of a novel. Unless the main character really loves books, in which case it makes total sense. ("Reader, I stole his burrito.")

  9. The P&P opener does not bother me, and I like the tie-in with the literary/library. Great action. The hook for me is her bedroom in the NYC library stacks. (!)

    I agree that there is a conflict between her stealing and her goal.

    Nice voice. Could use editing and cutting out extraneous verbiage so we can savor the good stuff. 'warded to holy hell to keep out intruders.'

    I found it very interesting, but the tone was distant.

  10. Yeah, so your writing is fantastic and your YA voice is awesome. I second Kaye in saying you've got a female Aladdin!

    I do have one consideration/confusion: The Jane Austen reference is cool, but soon it's followed with the setting: Taipei, Taiwan, and then the narrator speaks of living in the New York Public Library...

    I'm guessing, since this is fantasy, the narrator can somehow get from one place to another and is familiar with the global world (hence all the references. Austen=England, Taipei=Taiwan, Library=NY, Hugo=France.) Still, I was confused about the setting, made me pause.

    I'm thinking it's something a la Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Anyway, love the piece overall. Very intriguing.

  11. Great voice and intriguing setting. Nice subtle hints that this world is not quite our normal world - maybe something in the future? I'd definitely keep reading.