Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Secret Agent #20

GENRE: MG contemporary

No one ever said butchery was easy. I slide the steel blade down the delicate white backbone careful not to pierce the meat on either side. I want to get two clean, unbroken cuts. They make it look easy in videos. Lesson #1: Don’t trust videos. You see the edited, cleaned up version. You don’t see the hundred early attempts and apocalyptic fails.

“Do you need to watch it again?” Addie asks, Her face is scrunched up and she has that You’re not doing it right! expression that she gets when my performance is not up to her ridiculously high standards. The knife shakes in my hand but I rein it in trying  not to get frazzled by her scowl. I cannot let my nerves get the best of me. Chef Graysen Randall says a top competitor must keep his cool at all times He’s my hero and I channel him every time I cook. Well, him and my dad. My dad’s almost as famous as Graysen Randall. Too bad he’s not much of a father.

“No, I think I have this.” I’m careful to fold the breast off the bone.  A bead of sweat is beginning to trek its way down my forehead but I swipe it off with the cuff of my new white jacket. If I mess up, Addie will make me do it again. And again. And again. I place one flat on the cutting board.


  1. Solid opening! I love the line "My dad's almost as famous as Graysen Randall." It's subtle backstory. Great job! I think you do a great job of character development in a short period of time as well. I really want to read more!

  2. What a great start! And cool concept, too. I can't say I've ever seen a MG book about butchery before. We also learn a lot about the character and their father in this first section. I would suggest maybe including their name in Addie's dialogue, so the reader can attach the personality to a name.

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  4. I'm intrigued by the father relationship. And I wonder what other 'lessons' he has for us. I'm also already rooting for him to succeed.

  5. I would like to know the MC name. Also the one sentence with "a bead of sweat is beginning" the "is beginning" could be omitted to tidy things up and make it "a bead of sweat begins to trek down my..." Other than that interesting opening makes me wonder where dad is?? Enough intrigue to make me want to read more.

  6. The concentration is real! It slows down the scene in a good way and gives the reader a chance to enjoy the beautiful details.

    I absolutely love it!

    One suggestion, in the second paragraph this line, 'The knife shakes in my hand (add comma) but I rein it in trying not to get frazzled by her scowl.' Eliminate the 'trying' by maybe have it say, 'I rein it in to not get frazzled by her scowl.'

    I agree with Amanda and would love to know the MC's name but this is a strong beginning, and you should be proud.

  7. I thought this worked overall, although the voice tripped me up. It seemed too old for MG. Maybe experiment with it a bit, or maybe it's just me. But it's a nice start that presents a situation and problem and intros the MC very well.

  8. Barbara, I disagree. When you watch these Junior Chef shows, the kids are all mature and focused when it comes to cooking.

    I'd like to know his name as well. However, I think the tension is just right, and it's a great start. Especially "butchery"!

  9. Strong opening line. You can use action tags for Addie's line...Addie's face scrunches up...Should you hyphenate her expression or put in italics? You're-not-doing-it-right. Ouch! the line "Too bad he's not much of a father." great reveal there. Avoid ing verbs or starting to phrases...just jump into a strong verb (a bead of sweat treks its way...) Should you call the white hat a white chef's hat? last line I would clarify one chicken breast. Like others, I would like to know the MC's name and age. Love the idea of a Junior Chef plot. Not very many kids today get to spend time in a kitchen, so I think the MG reader would find this interesting.

  10. Slicing something open isn't the most expected middle grade novel beginning, but it's a unique one!

    I like the cooking show tie-in, since I think that's becoming a more commonplace interest with kids. I think the part about the dad being a bad father, though, seems like it's a bit too telling and out of place here. Too much, too soon, I suppose. Not that it's not relevant, but I'd like to come to that conclusion a bit on my own or along with the character rather than being told that so soon.

    I don't have a lot of questions answered by the end of the snippet. Who is Addie? How old is she? Is this middle grade-aged child cutting chicken unsupervised? Maybe I'm too old and I can't remember when using knives became commonplace and considered safe? LOL Nervousness aside, though, I like the young chef appeal, and I'd keep reading if I had more.