Wednesday, March 11, 2015

March Secret Agent #35

GENRE: YA Speculative Thriller

A hollow snap like fractured bone filled the air as Aaron's hatchet bit into another half-frozen log. Mismatched wedges of wood tumbled to the ground, spraying snow across the wet cuffs of his jeans. Shivering, he jerked the hatchet out of the chopping block and stared at the pitiful pile of kindling he’d managed to split. There was no way it would last the night, especially if it started snowing again, but—

Please. He grimaced at the unbroken layer of clouds hanging heavy and low in the sky. This was Prague; of course it was going to snow again. That’s all it ever did here. He hadn’t seen the sun in so long, his body was going through vitamin D withdrawal.

He flexed his numb fingers—after two months he still wasn’t used to the cold—and debated whether to call it a day.

A gust of wind knifed through his coat.

That’s it.

Hatchet poised above his shoulder, he eyeballed the chopping block and was about to bring his arm sweeping down when his phone rang. The guitar blast ringtone was so startling in the winter stillness of the backyard that he almost dropped the hatchet on his head.

“Son of a—”

This snow-hell of a city was going to decapitate him.

Aaron fumbled inside his coat, pulled out his phone, and immediately rolled his eyes. Considering the fact that his dad still wasn't home, it didn't take a particle physicist to figure out why he was calling.


  1. I like the subtle snark in the narrator's voice. While reading I really was drawn into the scene and felt the cold along with the MC. Well done. I would read on.

  2. I love the voice in this, so frustrated with Prague and its cold, and the premise sounds like a lot of fun. My only problems were with some cluttered sentences that ran overly long for me. The first, for instance (although I can't come up with anything to change it, so feel free to ignore me), and the one with the guitar blast nearly decapitating Aaron (I'm not sure you need "of the backyard" there)

    I'd definitely read on, though! I miss a good Golem book!

  3. Great job. I can feel the cold, and I like Aaron's voice. I agree about cutting "of the backyard" from that sentence. For some reason the final sentence tripped me up, I think because he thinks about his dad before you tell the reader it's his dad calling. You might just switch the clauses: "It didn't take a particle physicist to figure out why Dad was calling, considering he still wasn't home." (Or even give us a bit more info- considering Dad should have been home two hours ago.) But this is a great start, and I love the idea of golems!

  4. JUST LOVED THIS! Only one thing: it's not clear how old Aaron is. I mean, I understand he's young, but how much? He could be anything between 12 and 18. Maybe try to slip in some info to give us a better idea of his age. ther than that, these first 250 words truly rock!! And having a Jewish dad, I'm a sucker for anything Prague-related!

  5. Great voice...slight snark with out being to overly sarcastic. I too love a golem book. And Prague is a beautiful setting for an old magic story. I agree that some of the sentences felt a little crammed but some simple trimming would help clear that up. I would keep reading for sure!

  6. I am all in for the first sentence. Holy crap it's good.

    Let's see if I can find anything useful...

    Hmm, not really. I'd say don't change a word, actually. I think you have good pacing, and I don't mind waiting for the action to start because you've set up a small problem for the character right away: it's cold! I love the title, too. I'm sure you'll be snatched up quickly!

  7. I really like Aaron's voice and the bits of his personality we're seeing here, like the guitar ringtone. That makes this one stand out in my opinion. I was drawn into the scene and felt the cold with Aaron. I'm not sure you need the "but" at the end of the first paragraph. You could get the same effect by removing it and reversing the order of the first two sentences of the second paragraph (so the please comes after he grimaced at the sky). Pretty nit-picky for only getting rid of one word, so feel free to ignore as you see fit. The final sentence also tripped me up. I like the earlier suggestion of switching the clauses. I'd definitely read more! Great job and good luck!

  8. I'm really taken with this. The only thing I can really think to critique is that I know some agents say they see *eye rolling* overused in general, so to have it on the first page might cause some red flags ... for some agents anyway.

    I agree with the striking the "of the backyard" part of the sentence with the winter stillness. Probably don't need that.

    One thing I'm left wondering ... and this is probably just my ignorance, but is it common to chop wood in one's backyard in a big city like Prague? Where is he getting this unchopped wood? Are people delivering logs? Maybe emphasize a tiny bit more that it's kindling he's chopping from pre-split logs?

    Small nitpicks though, this is really fantastic as is.

  9. I love your title, as soon as I read it I wanted to know what your story is about. Your MC had a strong voice and I liked your writing style. I would read on.

  10. Excellent. Like others, I would only nitpick.

    I find "grimaced" to be a writerly word, that is, it reminds that there is a writer and not just going with the story. Maybe it's mostly me, but I'd toss swarthy and furtive in that bag.

    fumbling in the coat pocket and rolling eyes seem like stock reactions/ descriptions of actions. I only point these out because otherwise it is so good, moments of ordinary writing lower its quality.

  11. Brrrrrrr I can feel the cold! I love that he's doing something, and his frustration at his situation clearly comes through. My only beef is that maybe I'm not a particle physicist…so I don't understand quite what you're saying with the last line. Is his dad calling to tell him he isn't home or will be late? Sorry I'm dense… Great job, though, setting the scene. And your voice is effortless. I'd read on to see how/if he finally gets some vitamin D!

  12. I like the action happening here, but I wonder if you're trying to squeeze in a few too many modifiers. I feel like you're getting a bit too caught up in making the description artful, which, in my mind, seems a bit forced and takes away from the narrative. You have an interesting character here and I enjoy his thoughts, but I'm not connecting with certain aspects of the voice. I think it would be stronger if you stripped it down a bit.