Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #33

TITLE: Monsters of Wintervast Island
GENRE: YA Magical Realism

Someone from the mainland might have marveled, starry-eyed, at the ethereal horse like it was miracle. But for me, someone who knew the tales of the equinocus, I saw it for what it truly was.

A killer.

I held my breath, shutting out the chill, and absorbed the sight of it standing only twenty yards away. Snow flew in a flurry around me, spreading the metallic scent of my blood into the whitewashed storm. I dropped the knife I’d used to slice open my skin; the knife I’d used to lure out the equinocus.

The Fat Man stood beside me, squinting through his facemask until he saw it, too. He muttered into his earpiece, “Snow pony, ten o’ clock from my position. Move in.”

Two ghost-like puffs of breath escaped the equinocus’s nostrils as it tasted my blood on the howling wind. Its powdery ears, seemingly made of fine snow, twitched toward the sound of the Fat Man’s gruff voice.

“Earn your pay, girl,” he grunted, raising his rifle loaded with lard-filled bullets. He pointed it through the snowstorm at the part-horse, part-apparition. I knew what he wanted, but my legs refused to move. For a moment, we stood at an impasse, none of us breaking the frozen spell.

He jerked the gun barrel toward the equinocus and barked, “Now, Stacie.”

For the money, we need the money, I chanted to myself. The only way I’d get paid was if they caught that creature. To do that, they needed me.


  1. This is a really different concept. Stacie brought out the equinocus, which is a killer. It raises so many questions right here in this excerpt. And it's nice to have at least one of them (why she created it), answered (for the money). The bit of dialogue we get from the man shows what he thinks of her but that he needs her.
    I'd definitely keep reading.

  2. Fabulous opening! I love this and would definitely keep reading. My only suggestion for improvement is that I would like more description of the horse. All we know is he's "ethereal" and half real, half apparition. But that doesn't really tell us much.

    Right here:

    "and absorbed the sight of it standing only twenty yards"

    seems like the obvious place to give us a few more pieces of description.

  3. Totally hooked. Would read more. Lard-filled bullets? Equinocus? I am so intrigued!

    My only comment is that I assumed we were in a fantasy world of magic until the Fat Man used military speak and and earpiece. But that only kept me reading more.

    This is great work. Let me know when it is published!

  4. Love the idea of the equinocus and how, to the Fat Man who hunts them, they're 'snow ponies.' I also liked the mix of realisim (with the military speak and earpiece) with the magical element of the equinocus.

    There were a couple sentences which I thought could be simplified/use a trim:
    -...might have marveled(, starry-eyed,) at the...
    -But (for me, someone who knew) knowing the tales...
    -snow (flew in a) flurr(y)ied around me...

    One other picky point -- suggest revising '...the knife I'd used to lure out the equinocus'. I know what you mean, but since it's Stacie's blood she used as a lure not the knife, I think it needs a rejigging.

    You've created a fascinating world and I'd read on.

  5. I'm confused. Where are we and who's there? When is this? I think a little grounding would help immensely.

    So, if the hose is a killer? are they there to kill it? Something else?

    Why would holding her breath shut out the cold?

    What is the it she's watching? The horse? and please describe the horse more.

    I held my breath, shutting out the chill, and absorbed the sight of it standing only twenty yards away. Snow flew in a flurry around me, spreading the metallic scent of my blood into the whitewashed storm. (This sentence is very long. Consider splitting it into two)

    Doesn't the fat man have a name?

    Don't think horses go after blood. That took me right out of the story.

    If you can clean this up, it's an intriguing idea though. Good luck

  6. This is a really strong first 250. The dialogue was clean, descriptions gave me a quick understanding to what situation she was in, and there were clear stakes at hand. I'd definitely keep reading.

    Only question I had was, did it taste her blood or did it smell her blood?

  7. Ohh, this makes me think Scorpio Races with horses as potential killers. I like. I like. And the first couple lines really do hit the nail on the head.

    Upon re-reading it hit a bit more because initially I was questioning positions and such but she's beside the Fat Man with the gun and she's needed for something. What's missing is the feeling. Since this is first person POV I'm getting the scene but not the narrator's feelings until the chanting and even then I cannot tell if she's tense or not because it's a lot of fantastic visuals but not as much emotion.

    I really do enjoy this and would read it from beginning to end based on this initial opening.

  8. I really want to know the rest of the story. You have me hooked and this isn't a genre I generally care for.

    I think you could tighten it up a bit -- The rest of the sentence after "I held my breath" seems unnecessary. I also think you could drop "none of us breaking the frozen spell."

    Otherwise, great opening!

  9. I thought this was a really solid beginning. There's tension and conflict. We get a sense of who Stacie is and that she (or she and her family) are in some kind of trouble, so there's the promise of more conflict. Nicely done.

  10. WHat a cool idea! I loved the word Equinocus, and the Fat Man calling it a snow pony. Loved the juxtaposition of the reality and magic. The snowstorm setting feels perfect. And you've given us suspense, tension and conflict on the first page. I would love to read more.

    You might reconsider your opening parg. You start by telling us in vague terms about the horse. WHat if you started with a description of the horse (through Stacie's eyes.) Then we know immediately what we're looking at, and a good description would do so much more than a vague telling sentence.

    And maybe - as it SMELLED my blood, as opposed to tasting it.

    And perhaps instead of - he pointed it through the snowstorm - It's not going to go through from one side to the other - give us something with more imagery. Falling snow drifted down as he aimed it at the etc.

    Nicely done!

  11. Wow, what a cool idea! Love the equinocus, and I absolutely would keep reading to find out why these men want to trap one and what makes the MC special -- why do they need her help to trap it? Also, lard-filled bullets -- what on earth do they need those for? I'm definitely hooked and interested in learning more about the character and what motivates her as well as the lore behind these snow creatures.

    The idea of an ethereal horse made of snow is romantic, but the description of it actually being a killer and tasting blood on the wind turns all of my assumptions regarding magical, snow-horses upside down and makes your story fresh and unique -- I love it!

    Best of luck and I hope I can read your whole story somewhere soon :)

  12. This is such an interesting conceit. I love some of the suprising details, like the "lard-filled" bullets. Why does the Fat Man use lard-filled bullets? That's so odd! It makes me want to read on to discover more about this strange universe you've created.

    I do think the prose could be tightened, however. The opening line especially reads awkwardly, and I worry you're using more adjectives than you really need (the fewer the better). E.g. "Snow flew in a flurry around me, spreading the scent of blood into the storm" - It's a great moment, but we don't need "metallic" and "whitewashed" to experience it.

  13. I was drawn into this immediately. I'm right there with the MC, and am curious to know why only she can catch the horse.

    "Snow flew in a flurry around me" implies a lighter snow, but later you say "howling wind" and "snowstorm." And it isn't the snow that spreads the scent, but the wind. Maybe something more like: Snow-spitting winds spread the metallic scent...

    Seems like you need a little something more to this: "I dropped the knife I’d used to slice open my skin--(or comma, not a semi-colon) the knife I’d used to lure out the equinocus--and waited.

    If the breaths came out of the horse's nostrils, he would have smelled her blood, not tasted it.

    A last little nit: Stacie seemed too "normal" a name for this kind of world.