Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April Secret Agent #4

TITLE: Tap Dancing on a  Spider Web
GENRE: Women’s Fiction

Rena sat on a large flat rock with her morning coffee. The ocean spray tickled her face as waves slapped at the rocks and shot upward in geysers. She closed her eyes and inhaled the briny, fishy smell of Harbor Cove then opened them and watched seals stir lazily on their small island outcroppings. Several younger ones lounged on top of a lardy, buff-colored seal. What a life. Eat. Sleep. Play in the ocean.

Putting her coffee down on the rock, Rena stretched out her legs. She needed to take more vacations. In fact, she should move out of Juniper, live closer to the ocean. She winced as footsteps neared then stopped just behind her. She hoped whoever it was didn’t want to chat.

“Hi, Rena.”

Blood rushed to her ears. Her heart thrashed against her ribs. Joe. How had he found her? Especially here at the Cove? She couldn’t turn to look at the man with the voice she hadn’t heard for thirteen years, the voice that once comforted her, the one that made her ache with wanting, made her heart bleed with sadness without ever once cutting her soul.

She’d shaken this scene from her head a thousand times, always picturing how he might look as he aged. But to actually know … A tremor, as if she were shivering from the morning chill, worked its way from her shoulders down into her legs.

“Aren’t you going to welcome me to the Cove?”

Without turning, Rena said, “Damn you, Joe Rider.”


  1. Nice descriptions! It felt like I was at that beach.

    Thirteen years is a long time, even if you knew someone well. You might want a bit more confusion in there before she snaps to who it is.

  2. The opening paragraph is fun and made me chuckle.

    "She hoped whoever it was didn’t want to chat." I like this b/c it helps paint a picture of what kind of person Rena is. I like her!

    "Blood rushed to her ears. Her heart thrashed against her ribs."

    This almost feels like too much for me. I think the reaction needs to be reigned in a bit and she should doubt her instinct that she knows who the voice belongs to.

    "Joe." I'd like her doubt it here, and then I'd like to see something concrete about their past. Describe it with sensory details. I may not feel an ache of wanting or comfort the same way that you do, but a flashback to calloused hands across the small of my back--anyone anywhere understands that b/c it isn't abstract, it is sensory. Red tail lights when he left me are something I can see in my mind's eye. You get the idea.

  3. I'll second the comment that the descriptions were great. You're invoking multiple senses.

    I thought maybe this jumped too quickly into the action. I haven't really connected with Rena yet, so I can't feel her shock when Joe appears (and I echo the comment above that it would be more effective to show something concrete about their relationship, rather than telling us that he broke her heart). Also, thirteen years is a long time, but not knowing where Joe lives, or how far Rena is from her home, I can't really judge how surprising it is that he found her.

    I wonder whether it might not be better to look for a different way to create some tension on the first page, and build up to this encounter more gradually.

  4. In general, I feel like this all happens too fast. It's not that I don't want action, it is just that (as Rebecca M. said) I don't really care about Rena yet. And if I don't care about her or her problems, why should I care about her relationship with Joe.

    I suppose this is the case because we are so much in her head. If we were just being given action, then it would be interesting to see two characters interact, but most of what we are getting here is Rena, and I don't know her.

    I also think the language could be toned down a bit. Sometimes it gets out of control, as with "made her heart bleed with sadness without ever once cutting her soul." I'm not really sure how those images work together.

    That said, you have a great, great two paragraphs to start with. The description lives.

  5. I could really feel the beach, I almost think I know which cove (probably not)but it was very well described. However this opening scene did not make me want to read more. The story already felt predictable. Just personal taste here I suppose.

  6. I loved the description of the setting. I think I've been there on vacation and you nailed it.

    I agree the appearance of Joe and her reaction to him feels a little abrupt after the slow, lazy set-up of the scene. Maybe this isn't the best place to start the story. Of course you do need some action after all that setting description, but a smaller action might be better. Maybe a young couple walking by who remind her so much of she and Joe that it hurts to watch them laugh.

  7. The first paragraph was concretely beautiful. Definitely felt like I was at the ocean with the MC. I love the line "What a life. Eat. Sleep. Play In the Ocean" Seals do seem to have the good life and it looks like Rena's pretty much at peace.

    Then we have the entrance of Joe. I agree with what a few others have said. Joe's entrance was all of a sudden, and everything was happening so fast in just the first few paragraphs. I'd like to hear a bit more about Rena so I can share in this "Oh no. Joe is here." moment. Currently, I'm thinking "Joe? What's wrong with him being here?" I don't share the same concern as Rena.

    Perhaps Joe's entrance on Rena's tranquil scene can come a bit later. If you build up to this moment where Joe finally appears by hinting at reasons why Joe brings her such discomfort in the first few pages of this story, I think readers will care more for her sudden change in mood. Be that as it may, I think this story has potential.

  8. I really enjoyed this. The descriptions are vivid and the tone of the story is clear. I strongly disagree with commentors who said Joe's appearance was too abrupt. I love the contrast between the pleasant, idyllic world of the narrator and the crash of reality that breaks in on it. Bam! A great way to shake things up from the get-go. I don't expect to know Rena immediately, but her reactions to Joe are helping me get to know her a bit at a time. Nice job! I'm very hooked and I totally want to read this book. :)

  9. I thought this worked well. It’s nicely written and reads smoothly, and we’re introduced to a dilemma right away. The only thing I’d change is to replace the word ‘Rena’ in parg 2 with ‘she.’ She’s the only one there, so you don’t have to repeat her name. Very minor. I’d read more.

  10. This is the kind of thing I love to read, but agree with the commenters who said you jump into the action too quickly. I'd love to know Rena more before Joe shows up.

  11. I second Andrew; I felt rushed into the action. Frankly it reads more like a romance than women's fiction to me, probably for that reason. The last line of your opening is great, though.

  12. You've established a nice voice. Two things, though: Joe's entrance is too quick and take care not to overstuff. For example, her heart not only "thrashed" but "bled with sadness" in the same paragraph.