Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Secret Agent #1

GENRE: Adult Thriller

Josh Anderson had endured the worst Thursday morning ever—then, evening catapulted him into the eye of a sh** storm.

A knot on the back of his head throbbed in contempt. Several incapacitating minutes passed before he eased his bulky frame onto wobbly legs. He propped against a kitchen island, rearranged the cockeyed suspenders of a compression brace, and smoothed his polo shirt over the worthless device. A current of electricity, from two herniated discs, ricocheted up and down his spine like a rogue elevator. His feet rooted to the floor, paralyzed by maddening spasms. He couldn’t lift his arms and it hurt to breathe.

How long was I conked out?

A few puzzling beats later, Josh spotted a woman sprawled near the piano and the dark goo puddled on the hardwood. He knelt beside her, slid two fingers into place, and felt a thready carotid pulse. The woman’s swollen mouth skewed to one side. Her wide eyes stared at him in haunting fear. Josh used a pen to fold away blood-soaked waves of salt and pepper hair glued to her face so he could inspect the gnarled gashes. He surmised the trauma had been caused by the bent four iron tossed nearby.
Josh knew the woman—Piper Alston, an insurance claims agent at Charleston’s Lansing Group.
Worse—he recognized the four iron from an old set of Callaway’s he kept in his trunk.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Alston.”


  1. What suspense! Great start. I'm dying to figure out Ms. Alston's role. More words, please. :)
    There are a few minor tweaks that could be made:
    1. In the second paragraph, it would be nice to read about the discs before he props himself and calls his device worthless because it's the pain making him think this thought. Again with the next line, let me read about the spasms before I read his feet are rooted to the floor. Cause and effect.
    2. In the second paragraph, where it talks about brushing the glued hair out of her face, use the connector 'and' in place of 'so he could inspect.' Keep his actions moving and out of his thoughts. I'd rather read what he's doing than what he's about to do.

    Overall, I'd read more. Good luck!

  2. Love the element of surprise here! I would suggest shortening that first paragraph as much as possible so you can get to him spotting the woman earlier, as that's where it really gets interesting. Or maybe even finding a way to switch it up, with him spotting the woman first, realizing he knows her, then thinking about the things he's feeling and still ending with the four iron and "I'm sorry, Ms. Alston." Great start!

  3. Makes me want to read more! I agree that spotting the woman earlier would make it even more interesting. My suggestion:

    Josh Anderson had endured the worst Thursday morning ever—then, evening catapulted him into the eye of a sh** storm.

    A knot on the back of his head throbbed in contempt.

    How long was I conked out?

    A few puzzling beats later, Josh spotted a woman sprawled near the piano and the dark goo puddled on the hardwood. He eased his bulky frame onto wobbly legs…

  4. Be aware that he wakes up at the kitchen island, doesn't go anywhere and spots a piano. I'm assuming there is no piano in the kitchen, so you may want to have him get up and at least glance into another room.

  5. I like adult thrillers and police procedurals, so the title of this one set my hopes and expectations up relatively high. Unfortunately, this was one that I would have liked to jump to a later page to get a feel for how things progressed since the beginning wasn't as strong as I'd allowed myself to hope.

    Having an opening scene that is set up retrospectively is risky, because it falls within a pet peeve of editors and agents sometimes, but in this particular case it doesn't feel as clichĂ© as it does undecided. I get the since that the writer is freewriting, deciding where to go as he or she writes, rather than knowing where the author wants to take the character and what happened that Thursday morning. I think I'd rather starting from normal and descending into "the worst Thursday morning ever" rather than reading it happened and trying to sync with the assumed emotions that would bring. Also, what is "worst" for someone may not be "terrible" to someone else, so when I get into the second paragraph, now I’m wondering if the compression devise and herniated discs are from a past of pain or if they are directly related to "the worst Thursday morning ever." What sensations did he feel so that "he couldn't lift his arms?" Did he feel bound? Broken? Drugged? I'm reading, being told to, but not syncing with the character's experience, and (for me, at least) I go into police procedurals with a long-time expectation of the same sense of being, so to speak, so when I don't feel as though I'm going to slip into that same reading uniform, so to speak, I'm not likely to keep going with it.

    Some of my questions get answered in the third paragraph, but not to the extent I'd like.

    If I had to base a decision on this alone, my interest in Adult Thrillers may incline me to ask for other pages further in the book to see if I connect better with the character, and then if I do, then I'd probably request either an R&R for this to start from a different point or request the full with an R&R likely planned, again, because I think this should (for my reading tastes, anyway) start at a different place and/or time.

    Other little things to note are some word choice elements. The second paragraph had a bit heavier use of adjectives than may have been necessary, but that just may be my personal reading taste coming out. I assume the asterisks in the first paragraph were added since this was going on a blog, but if it was not required, that's something I'd definitely change before sending it out on submission. Likewise, the use of "dark goo" seems off for this genre and readership; the market readership isn't likely to be overly sensitive to describing blood in a less "Goosebumps" (MG series) type of way.

    Things I liked:
    • opening scene seems to fit the title well, which makes me think the plot arc may be well organized and on point, but also makes me worry that we are going to have too much set up too soon
    • a sense of immediate action, but offset by the realization the action has already taken place

    • opens reflectively
    • overuse of adjectives (subjective issue)
    • lack of character/reader synchronization due to questions that give rise to more questions rather than to tension (as I'm assuming was intended)