Monday, May 16, 2016

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #22

TITLE: Deep, Dark, Truthful Mirror
GENRE: Adult - Urban Fantasy

Declan would rather die than kill again. But, to prevent a massacre, he must embrace his power as the newly awakened god of death and choose sides in a divine cold war that pits his conscience against the fallen god who may be his soulmate.

Declan had to get to the brothel on time and stick to the plan or he'd lose his nerve. Chill seeped through his crappy t-shirt. He pulled his leather jacket shut, quickening his step. Cardboard shielding the holes in his boot pinched his foot. At least the boots didn't have to survive another rainy season or even another day.

Just a few more hours, and he'd be done.

Almost ten o'clock. Shit. He couldn't risk missing Thad. He'd have run up Hollywood if everything didn't hurt so damned much. Skag usually deadened anything resembling a feeling, but he wanted no chance of a performance issue, so peace of mind was worth cold-turkey aches. Dope had stopped muting the reaper's demands weeks ago anyway.

He sped past Rubber Room's bouncer, pushed aside the velvet curtain, and gagged on death. Sticky-sweet funk, like rotting fruit drenched in blood, clogged the air. Christ, he hated crowds. Dumps like this were beacons for the doomed. He ought to know.

The club's house lights blurred through a smoke fog, and speakers blared Joey Ramone singing about Sheena the punk rocker. Hustlers worked the usual Friday crowd of syndicate players, gangbangers, and leering civilians. Edgy drunks packed the floor with an aura of violence ready to blow. Some of them wouldn't see the sunny side of tomorrow. The reaper crawled under Dec's skin, testing for gaps in his self-control.

Where the hell was Thad? If he didn't get his hookup soon, somebody was going to die.


  1. Good logline. It sure caught my attention. One small detail is use of "the" fallen god - you haven't mentioned her before, so it should be "a".

    The 250 is pacy and interesting. The only complaint I have is introducing too many new words and concepts too fast. Skag, Dope (I'm not sure if that is an substance or a person) and too many names for just first 250. Ease us in a bit. The urgency and the mental state of Dec is well done and shows through clearly. I would read on.

  2. You have a great sense of urgency in your first page. The MC wants something and he's moving toward it as fast as he can. We get a good feel for his mood and personality in these paragraphs.

    I agree that there are a lot of new concepts crammed in as well. I think you could thin them out and give more breathing room to the most important ones. For example, I get that Skag is a drug of some kind, so that's good. But you mention dope (skag again or another drug?) and "the reaper's demands" in the same sentence. Then you vividly describe the smell of death, but there's nothing dead that we can see. A little more context, some sparse but effective explanations, would help draw us in further.

    Trust your own writing. You're doing a great job of giving us a character to care about in a moment of urgency. Don't worry that we'll leave if you don't shove everything into the first page. You've got us. We'll stay.

  3. Very strong logline! I agree about changing "the" to "a" for the fallen god. I'm curious about what she had been the god of, but that's not important for the logline. By using "but" in the logline, I suggest making it one sentence instead of two.

    I love the voice in this, the urgency. But I do think you can slow down the pacing a little. Is something actually dead that he's gagging? That confused me.

    That last line, though, is brilliant. I'm definitely hooked.

    1. Thanks!

      To answer your question, someone is going to be dead soon. Dec senses the mark of death, and one aspect of that is smelling imminent death in their blood (though he doesn't know specific details at this point). After that, he knows when and how they're fated to die, sees and feels their deaths, and has an overwhelming compulsion to kill them.

      How the peculiar qualities of his nature are revealed and when has been an ongoing internal debate, so I hope you don't mind me jumping in to ask you a question back.

      The next paragraph shows Dec recognizing the imminent death of his dealer's flunkie. In it, he specifically references sensing the mark of death, as well as knowing the guy's expiration date, plus feels the blow that'll kill him. Right after, he senses the deaths of a bunch of underworld criminal types in the crowd (the coming massacre in the logline).

      My initial instinct has been to let a reader kind of go along for the ride in Dec's head, sensing things as he does, and revealing what those things are/mean along the way, rather than drop the info straight off. Granted, someone reading will have ideally seen a query or blurb that would probably help to better moor them into who/what Dec is and what he knows at the start of the book. But, in doing a more organic stream of information, without Dec explaining his first instances of sensing the mark (the smell) and mentioning the reaper (his compulsion to kill), do you think it starts off with too many confusing or crazy-making questions?

      Oh, in answer to the other question, the potential soulmate is the psychopomp who's supposed to show souls the way to the other side. He has a similar nature to Dec, embodying mercy/penance. And the pace does chill a bit, at least for a few pages, after Dec arrives at the brothel. Too many pages of Dec in GO mode would be super-crazy-making.

      Thanks again!

  4. I really like the logline and the whole drama and masses of conflict it suggests, along with a soulmate story.

    Like Nicole, I was also confused by 'gagging on death'. My first impression was that everyone in the club was dead.

    I was also confused by the reference to The Reaper as that would imply that there was already a god of death and that maybe Declan wasn't so much a god being awakened as a mortal who comes to embody a god -- like an avatar.

    I really like the voice, the pace and the descriptions. It's easy to imagine the scene and Declan with relatable details like the t-shirt.

    I would read further.

    1. Thanks! I really appreciate the questions and details of what might throw you off while reading. Like Nicole, I'd love to ask a question back, if that's cool with you.

      I'm pretty stoked because you've come SO CLOSE to nailing who/what Dec in, just from the opening page. Trying to convey Dec's nature has been a little tricky, without risking a lapse into info-dump territory. The main issue is that even he doesn't know who/what he is at the start of the story. He only knows he senses imminent death and sees/feels how and when someone will die, then has a compulsion to kill them. (He's Death, and embodies mercy or penance, so can choose to spare someone or change their fate, for better or worse.) Ideally, the reader discovers specifics about him and their meaning along with him.

      That said, does the lack of clarity make it confusing or frustrating, coming into the situation?

      I've wrestled with how/when to seed revealing information about Dec's nature, and whether treating it more organically is too murky from a reader's perspective. The main plotline of the book is Dec discovering his nature and coming to terms with it, so sorting out how that shakes out for a reader is a big concern.

      Do you think him referring to his compulsion to kill as a reaper before later figuring out he is THE Reaper throw a weird wrench into finding a decent foothold in the opening of the story?

      Thanks again! Getting to pick your brain a little is a HUGE help.