Wednesday, September 23, 2015

September Secret Agent #32

Title: Sea Strand
Genre: Fantasy

Tell him to find me an acre of land,
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Between the salt water and the Sea Strand
Then he'll be a true love of mine.

English Folk Song

For the rest of her life, no matter where she went or who she became, Anna O’Sullivan never forgot she was a child of sea and shore.

Gazing at the ocean from the sunny deck of her mother’s house in Half Moon Bay, Anna’s nerves tingled with electric anticipation. Any minute. He would be here any minute. She pushed her straight blonde hair away from her face in a gesture born of long habit. Her eyes remained fixed on the surf below, but she also concentrated on the house behind her, listening for the chime of the doorbell.

The windy Northern California coast filled her senses. Anna inhaled, tasting the salt on the breeze and smelling the sea. The raucous cries of the birds and siren crash of the waves beckoned her closer. Cool depths with their vibrant greens and deepening blues hinted at locked away secrets and mirrored the questions in her mind.

Anna started at the distant sound of a car door slamming. She turned from the tides and hurried through the kitchen of her childhood home to the family room and out the screen of her front door.

She ran down the porch steps to greet the handsome man coming up the front walk. “Derek!”


  1. This is probably entirely beside the point, but I gotta say, the song lyrics stopped me dead for all the wrong reasons. I spent a stupid amount of time sitting here trying to figure out what song I thought that was and then trying to dissect how much of "Scarborough Fair" was in that. (Or is it the other way around?) Anyway, since this isn't YA, you may run into that problem with other adult readers, but moving on.

    And as your first sentence is so lovely, it's a shame that I experienced it in a Simon and Garfunkel haze. (Or did that heighten the effect? Hmmmm....)

    I'm getting too philosophical for this thing.

    Anyway, the rest of it is not compelling. The imagery is rich and beautiful, but I was just starting to wonder if there was some point to how fascinated she was with the waves (which would have been totally cool and I was getting excited) when, no, what we're going to do instead is the super common arrival of someone at the door. I was let down. It almost had me. Part of the disappointment might be that what little action and words were about her specifically made her feel very cliched or even somehow vapid. Like she was going to ruin all the great opening to go gush over some boy.

  2. I really appreciated the rich description; it completely grounded me in the scene. In addition I adore the California coast. I also struggled to connect with the poem though. If this was a book on my bookshelf I would most certainly read onward. Although I agree with Miss Petersen that there should be some meaning to the wave fascination, but I have faith the person coming will bring it.

  3. Is this about Selkies? If so, I'm in. But I went back and looked at your genre and category again because I didn't get it was fantasy from this opening. If there is a way to include more fantasy elements that would be better. Good luck!

  4. I liked this, but I'm not sure I liked it as an opening. It's good, but there isn't a lot to draw us in. The imagery is rich, but then there are the things that make it like all the other first pages--you mention the characters hair type and color as she's pushing it out of her face, a common tactic--and it seems like I've read a story like this before. In fact, it reminds me of a couple of mermaid stories. I know you haven't hinted that way specifically, but it really feels like The Mermaid's Mirror, which is a mermaid book set in almost the exact same location (so if your book isn't about mermaids, sorry to spend so much time on it).

    I would like to see a little more direction, but I get that sometimes you have to set up a scene.

  5. I think this could start at the third paragraph. 'The windy Northern Californian coast...'. The poem and the other paragraphs had bits of info mashed together and came across a bit choppy. Waves + waiting for man + house + blonde hair. You could easily weave these details in more smoothly in the fourth paragraph. And this would get you to the action sooner.

    The first paragraph after the poem is a bit confusing in tense. 'for the rest of her life' = future, 'Anna never forgot' = past.

    I like the hints that this might be a mermaid or selkie type story. Always fun.

  6. This piece made me ever so homesick!! That being said, the first line, while good, didn't seem to connect with the rest of what was being said, and I wanted to read about that first line more than what came after it. I like some of the suggestions above to jump the opening down a bit to the third paragraph or so--I think that would work well!

  7. Mmm, thank you. I now have that song stuck in my head!

    Watch that you don’t make her eyes disembodied — her gaze was fixed, not her eyes themselves! Otherwise, this doesn’t feel like a fantasy to me from the opening, but rather a more contemporary piece. If it’s magical realism, I’ll definitely be in. It’s an atmospheric opening with some lovely descriptions, but it still feels a bit static. She’s waiting for Derek, yes, but in that time she’s waiting we’re filling it with things I’m not sure really drive the plot forward just yet. You have her listening for the doorbell, yet she moves from the deck when she hears a car door slam? What if it was one down the block, etc.

    Play around with the order of your paragraphs and I think you’ll have a better pacing for the opening… one that propels us forward and into Derek’s arms!

  8. Consider what happens here. A woman admires the scenery until the doorbell rings. Not that you can’t do this, but perhaps find a way to work in some info about her or the problem while she’s doing that.

    Much of this says nothing. She is a child of sea and shore. What does that mean in the context of this story? Why is she at her mother’s house? In a gesture born of long habit. What is that gesture? How does a coast fill her senses? What does fill her senses mean? Say that instead. The sounds of birds and waves beckon her closer, but how can she go closer? She’s standing at the porch railing and the sea is below her. Mirrored the questions in her mind. What questions? Tell us what she’s thinking, what questions she has.

    Give us some content and context. Why is she there? Who is she meeting? What secrets does she hold? What questions is she asking herself. Give us something more than a description of the ocean.