Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March Secret Agent #49

TITLE: A Murder of Angels
GENRE: YA fantasy

I should have known Bethlehem was nothing but bad news.

Dark, decrepit Rust Belt cities are never good places for Watchers. Three days of hard flight must have fried my brain for me to think this place would be my refuge. When the Hunters behind me tucked their wings and dropped out of the starry sky, that fatal optimism was too tempting to ignore. Less than a hundred miles from Watcher territory, Bethlehem was close enough I could run the rest of the way to New York. I was too exhausted to fly any further. Surely the Hunters’ disappearance meant the city was safe, and I’d finally caught a damned break.

Footsteps drum behind me, loud as the blood pulsing in my ears.

Yeah, well. Now I’ve got six Hunters behind me again. There’s a pretty likely chance they’re going to catch my ass and string me up like Christmas lights. So much for that.

I glance over my shoulder. Fresh adrenaline scalds my veins. The band is fanning out, only a few hundred feet away. Clothed in sleek black, they spill more than run, graceful as beasts. Their smiles are vicious and hungry as they drive me into Bethlehem’s rusting heart: an abandoned steel mill.

Gravel and broken glass crunch under my boots as I sprint, searching the shadowy buildings for an escape. The Hunters are too close. I need cover and some margin of height if I’m going to fly the hell out of here.


  1. I love the opening line and how it draws me in. I like how we start in the middle of action and we also get a quick sense of what brought the narrator to this point. Nice imagery towards the end of section as the narrator is running.

    I'm curious about what Watchers are and what Hunters are, though as a reader I'd be willing to wait for find out-- a little while, anyway.

    The verb tenses bothered me a hair-- it starts off in what feels like past tense, then goes into present tense. Maybe it's just me, but that jarred me a little.

    I also felt a teeny shift in the tone in the lines where the narrator says the Hunters are going to "catch my ass and string me up like Christmas lights." That felt a touch more snarky than the tone had up to that point. Minor, but I did notice.

    Overall, this intrigues me and I'd definitely read more.

  2. I appreciate being en media res. And I love your use of sensory verbs like crunch. There's obviously some dangerous sorts after the protagonist. I wonder if you might consider grounding us more in setting? Time of time? Year? And where the protagonist needs to be and why.
    Great start!

  3. I love the action-packed beginning! Chase scenes are always good. My question is, though: what is a Watcher and what is a Hunter? I mean, I know it's the way beginning, and I'm sure it gets explained later, but the only hint we get of what the characters look like is the word "Angel" in the title. For the people who know what angels look like, that works. Maybe make it clear that it's a person with wings, because in a fantasy it could look like anything. They could be bird people. You never know.

    Also, what does a Watcher even do? That would be cool to know, too.

    Anyways, those were my thoughts.

  4. I like how this starts out, but I lack the vocabulary -WATCHER/HUNTER. I would like to know what these two things consists of. I felt cheated out of this conversation and I withdrew from the story. I definitely liked the beginning. I am sorry, but I got lost.

  5. I love the feel of the story so far. If I were you, I might be tempted to start the story at: Footsteps drum behind me... Drop us immediately into the action and then tell us who's chasing him and why. I'm definitely hooked and I'd keep reading!

  6. The opening line's great and draws the reader in right away. I do agree with the comments above that the past tense pulled me out of the story a little, as did the use of "Hunters" and "Watchers" - I think starting at "Footsteps drum..." would bring the reader into the more immediate action. Great descriptions toward the end, though, and I'd definitely read on!

  7. "I should have known Bethlehem was nothing but bad news." --FANTASTIC hook.

    "Dark, decrepit Rust Belt cities are never good places for Watchers." --Still hooked. Really intrigued.

    "I’d finally caught a damned break." --Something about the divine juxtaposed with the "damned" is just perfect. Don't cut that word!

    "Yeah, well. Now I’ve got six Hunters behind me again." --I'd like a sentence describing the scene. You don't necessarily need to say that MC turns, b/c it is implied, but what does he or she see? What do they look like? How are the moving? Walking? Hurriedly? Conspiratorially? Meekly? What are they wearing? He recognizes them as Hunters, but is there something about their appearance that can help me identify them as Hunters, too? Red scarves? Horns?

    "I glance over my shoulder." --Again? IMHO it was implied at "Yeah, well."

    "Fresh adrenaline scalds my veins." --I think "scalds" is overkill.

    "The band is fanning out, only a few hundred feet away." --Great word choices throughout. Terrific descriptions. Don't know much about the MC but I like and care about him.

    "Clothed in sleek black, they spill more than run, graceful as beasts." --Well, "spill more than run" is very awkward. Had to read it three times. I'd suggest cutting "more than run". Spill is such a great description on its own.

    Good stuff. I'd read more.

  8. I'm definitely interested in reading more. I would like a few more details to ground me, though. We don't need to know everything about Hunters and Watchers right away, but when she glances over her shoulder, I'd like to know what she sees. What do the Hunters looks like? I can picture the city, but I'd like to see what's chasing her. I'd keep reading!

  9. I agree with previous comments about your first line being terrific - love Bethlehem as being bad news!!
    And also that footsteps drumming is also really good - perhaps go right form one to the other?
    Also - I was confused about the Hunters dropping from the sky. I think because we are just being introduced to the concept of the Hunter its better to just say they disappeared giving your MC the peace of mind she needed to go to Bethlehem and run to NY.
    great start!!

  10. Love the title on this one!

    And I loved the first line.

    I got a little confused with the descriptions--if they dropped from the starry skies, are they really up high where the stars are? And why is running easier than flying?

    Wasn't sure what the sentence "so much for that" was referring to. So much for being strung up? I assume he means so much for his optimism but you're making me work a bit here.

    Good voice. I'd like a little bit of getting to know the character before jumping right into the action, though.

  11. I have to say I was a bit confused by this opening. I do like the first line, but the second paragraph doesn't move the story forward, it takes a look back at what's been happening the last three days and then the third paragraph drops back into present tense. Why not just start a few beats back so the reader gets to experience a little of what happens in that second paragraph? Or just leave it and drop it in as the story moves forward.

    Also, Bethlemhem plus angels draws me to Palestine. Then you reference walking to New York. I had to actually Google it to find out that there is a Bethlemhem, Pennsylvania and a Bethlemhem, New York. My guess is that most Americans don't know that, not to mention international readers. I had the same problem when I set a story in Ontario, California and most readers assumed I meant Ontario, Canada (vastly different landscapes).

    Lastly, "graceful as beasts" doesn't really work for me. There are very few beasts that are graceful...mainly big cats. Bears, boars, rhinos...not so graceful.

    You definitely have the character's voice down and it sounds like some kick ass action is on it's way, but I think this opening needs a little tweaking before it's ready.

  12. There's some good stuff here, but I think it's a bit buried.

    I think you're trying to cram too much into this opening.

    What works: I like the character's attitude. It shines though. I also like the descriptions and the sense of immediacy.

    What doesn't: not enough explanation of Hunters and Watchers. I don't think I even had a sense the m.c. was a Watcher until a second read.

    I'd fill in answers to the Hunters/Watchers by describing what the m.c. does, and what the Hunters have done to him. What is the m.c.'s problem? Why are the Hunters after him? Even those simple answers could give the reader a sense of the world you're talking about here.

    There is definitely potential here and I'd love to see where this story is going.

    Good luck!

  13. Wonderful title and great opening line.

    When you use terms like "fried my brain" and "catch my ass" and "fly the hell out of here" it seems to change the tone from ominous to indolent.

    I'd love to read more particular details about the Hunters' appearances and movement. Do they have supernatural powers?

    An angel wearing boots struck me as strange.

    Overall this has an dark, mysterious quality and with a little more revision, I would read on.

  14. I like the hook, as it opens strongly and keeps the reader interested.

  15. I haven't read the other comments yet because I wanted to give you my initial thoughts, uninfluenced by what anyone else says.

    I had a hard time getting into this selection because of the backstory in the first paragraph. I was a little confused about what had happened and what was currently happening. I also thought the action scene lost its urgency and tension because I don't know this character.

    I did know what she wanted (not sure why I think she is a she)--to get to New York, but since I don't know her, I'm not compelled by her need.

    Hope that's helpful.

  16. I skip over a lot of the fantasy entries just because it's not my thing, but this first line grabbed me. Love it! I mentioned a hook for an opening line in another critique and this is what I meant.

    This reads really smooth, especially the second paragraph. I didn't think of it as backstory; it felt like explanation woven in with the present situation. Plus we get in that this character can fly and he/she is on the way to New York. It doesn't read like an infodump. I would like to get a line in there about why running was preferable to flying; if it drains powers or something like that, as long as the explanation doesn't get too lengthy. And maybe a hint more of why this character needs to escape the hunters.