Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #26

TITLE: Sea of Fate
GENRE: Historical Romance

Off the coast of Zanzibar, 1745

Daniel Manning stood at the bow of his anchored ship, gazing at the island bathed in moonlight. Tantalizing scents wafted on a gentle breeze. He inhaled deeply, enjoying the flavors carried on the air.

‘Tis not such a bad place to be stranded.

Captain Manning clenched his thighs, holding himself rigid as the Macht swayed. Small waves slapped against the hull, creating a tender rhythm that soothed his worried mind. He rested his arms on the weathered bowsprit, ignoring the splinters catching his white shirtsleeves. The night was too perfect to let thoughts of his predicament intrude.

A peninsula behind Daniel wrapped around the bay, providing them with a safe harbor, free from detection. The fragrant land mass in front of him was unknown to most navigators, unless they happened to be a pirate. And today, from the looks of it, the little island appeared to have been a hum of activity. Too rocky to be of much use to settlers, easy access to the beach made this the perfect dumping ground for fleeing marauders.

And the perfect hideout for an injured ship.

He had thought they were ready to make sail. God knows, they all wanted to return home to the Spice Islands. Why Captain Block had decided to try their luck in the wretched waters off the African Coast, he still didn’t understand. But his captain’s idea had been his last, buried at sea just after they managed to escape a Dutch gunner on the hunt.


  1. I like the first paragraph a lot. It does a good job of setting the scene through the MC's experience. The third and fourth paragraphs, though, could stand to be condensed, and the final paragraph looks like it could be leading into a backstory dump. I'd prefer to see the story move toward action more quickly.

    There were a few technical issues that tripped me up as well:

    - Referring to the MC as Daniel Manning and then Captain Manning was confusing. Try to pick one name and be consistent with it.

    - In paragraph 4, did you mean "hub of activity" rather than "hum?"

    - The final sentence has a misplaced modifier; it says the captain's idea was buried at sea.

    I think there's the potential for a good story here, but those small flaws could kill it.

  2. I realize this is really nitpick, but a peninsula wouldn't wrap around the bay. There's either a bay, surrounded by land, or a peninsula, surrounded by water. Both doesn't make sense. Maybe just say something like "Land at the mouth of the bay..." When you throw in that he's on an island next to the peninsula surrounding the bay... it's very confusing for me. I'm also not sure about "make sail." "Set sail" is more common.

    I agree with the back and forth. If others call him Captain Manning, that's fine, but it throws me off when reading description.

    The tone is good and it's an intriguing opening, but those things are distracting.

  3. The description of the peninsula stopped me, too. It didn't make sense as I tried to picture it.
    But I loved the description in the first paragraph, and wanted to keep reading.
    I'm not a reader who needs ACTION! in the first paragraphs. On the other hand, your back story of why Manning was stranded might be an interesting and exciting place to start your story, then move into the opening you now have. That could make a nice contrast between the attack and the safe harbor.
    Good luck!

  4. "Peninsula" is technically correct, although the use of the word "cape" might work a bit better. I pictured something like Cape Cod. Don't worry too much about it.

    I'd put "Captain Daniel Manning" right at the beginning. That'll sort out naming issues.

    In my opinion, you have enough information in the text that you really don't need that establishing date and location right at the start. Nice work.

  5. I love historical romance and I love ships. Your descriptions are really well done but I feel like you can do more with your main characters's feelings. Try writing "he couldn't fathom why Captain Block had decided to try their luck in the wretched waters off the African coast!". It is just my personal taste. To me it reads better than "he still didn't understand." And instead of saying "gazing", try using a word that makes him seem more hungry to catch and kill his enemy. A word such as "stared" or "glared" would be better. What his his body like? Is he battle scarred? What do his captain clothes look like?

    His "Tis not such a bad place to be stranded" is he thinking to himself?

    I really feel the captains' hunter instinct come off the words. Really riveting. I can see a battle between two ships coming in the next pages, alas all we have is around 250 words.

  6. I love the setting with the ship and Zanzibar. Other than the other comments you've gotten, the one thing that struck me is that there could be more specifics here. Like instead of "Tantalizing scents", you could tell us what he's smelling (specific spices, meat roasting, etc.). "Worried mind" and "predicament" where also places where you could give us more specifics, at least a hint of what is troubling him. I think more specifics here would help us feel more of an urgency and sense of tension here.

  7. I liked this a lot. Good sense of setting right away. I agree with the other writers above about his name. After introducing him, I might just use Daniel. Also, depending on what voice you are aiming at, for deep POV, you'd want to leave off the verbs such as "gazing" in the first sentence - "Daniel Manning stood at the bow of his anchored ship, gazing at the island bathed in moonlight." Instead you could say "Daniel Manning stood at the bow of his anchored ship. Moonlight bathed the island." That way we are in Daniel's head from the very first sentence. I would read on. Good luck!

  8. Nitpick: "clenching his thighs" sounds like he's trying hard not to fart, which is probably not what you're going for. Also, if he's standing rigid on a moving boat, he's going to make himself seasick - presumably if he's a professional at this, he'd instinctively know how to keep his limbs loose and to sway with the boat.

  9. This reads very much like other historical romance I've read, so nice start. Most of my critique has already been mentioned: show us what the tantalizing smells are, just one or two verbs or descriptors to show us what he is expericing. I also agree on the worried mind--maybe just show that he is nervous where to stow the boat. Or have him wonder whether he'll make it on time, if there is a chance to add a ticking clock scenario early on, that could provide some urgency.
    The line "clenched his thighs" seems a bit much, it's just awkward. Maybe he rooted his feet, or braced his legs, something else to show what you mean.

  10. This is off to a nice start, and I’m intrigued by the setting and the stranded ship. A couple suggestions: You might consider addressing the fact that Daniel is the new captain of the ship at the beginning, to introduce some intrigue about the ship’s circumstances and his character right off the bat. I agree with the other comments about replacing generalities like “tantalizing scents” and “flavors on the air” with descriptions of the specific spices, scents, etc. to really put us on that ship with him, and would also recommend tweaking the description of Daniel on the ship ("clenched thighs" in particular). I'd read on.