Wednesday, March 7, 2018

March Secret Agent Contest #13

TITLE: A Limb of the Sweet Tree
GENRE: Adult Historical Family Saga

Northern France, Summer, 1918

           Hundreds of fireworks exploded, illuminating the night sky. Walter couldn’t help but smile. It was the Fourth of July. He’d come here for one reason and one reason only. Weasel had said there was a bright-eyed, swell girl Walter just had to meet. Her name was Adele, from over in Brightwater. A blonde with legs longer than an unwound skein of yarn and deep blue eyes the color of a cloud-free summer sky. Walter hoped Weasel wasn’t setting him up with some old nag his friend had already passed on. His smile faltered. After all, Weasel was known for talking up a girl only to find out later she wasn’t someone you’d want to introduce to your mother, let alone grow sweet on.

            Walter shoved his hands into his pockets and rocked back slightly on his heels. The fireworks grew louder as the display progressed. The thick, choking scent of gunpowder filled the air. He was just waiting for his friend to return. And that girl. They had to be around here somewhere. Even with the light show, the pavilion was chock full of dancers. Weasel had gone that way. Walter wandered over to the stairs. He mounted them two at a time and then looked out across the sunken dance floor. He searched every laughing face, every flounce of hair that whizzed by him. His smile slowly slid from his face when he realized he didn’t see Weasel or the mysterious girl anywhere.


  1. The opening voice is great, and I love "legs longer than an unwound skein of yarn." Suggest relocating the information that begins with "Walter hoped" later on... don't kill our anticipation of this unknown woman too fast!

  2. Your description is strong, very evocative of the time period and scene. Unfortunately, there's more description here than I would prefer, lovely though it is. I'm impatient for some sort of action or some detail that is strange enough to prick my curiosity and force me to investigate further. I would exchange the second paragraph for something more active or curious.

    Beautiful writing, though. And I would keep going just because of that, hoping for action soon.

  3. I'm confused by a few things. We're in Northern France, so why is American Independence being celebrated? And isn't the war still raging?
    And Brightwater and Adele both sound British. "Swell" as an adjective the way you used it dates later, 1920s or 30s (though it's more commonly associated with the 1950s in America).

  4. Did you perhaps mean July 14th for Bastille Day?
    I can see you're trying hard to have the language well rooted in the era about which you're writing, and as a reader, I love that, but be careful. When I catch an error, I'm not only bumped out of a story, but I am smug and superior for the rest of the day. Also I lose a little faith in the author.
    I highly recommend you test your language in the Google NGram viewer which uses counts from books across time to indicate common usage of words and phrases.
    I am lukewarm on the skein line. I'm not sure it's a believable usage, but it is a little amusing. Best wishes and good luck.

  5. I'll give a little chime in on the confusion here. I did mean the Fourth of July, not Bastille Day, because at only 250 words you don't see what's coming with this character in the next 500 words, which is something quite dramatic. Actually, confusion sets the tone for this character perfectly, since that is what his story is all about. He is not a reliable protagonist because of this issue.

  6. Lovely writing here and nice use of language to set the scene. I’ definitely curious to see what happens next and hope we don’t stay in the character’s head too long before he starts interacting with people.