Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Secret Agent #47

TITLE: The Summer of Miracle Maude
GENRE: MG Historical Adventure

"Emmmma! Emma Sue!"

Emma scrunched down in the hayloft. She wasn't coming out. Nosirree. It was killing time, and she wanted no part of killing.

"Emma Sue Saunders! I know you're in here."

The barn door squealed, and Emma peeked between the floorboards. Sunlight sliced the shaded barn below, illuminating Auntie like a statue under a spotlight. She stood stiff as a rake, her flowered housedress unwrinkled, her apron spotless, her brown hair pulled back in a tight bun on her head. She peered over her bifocals and glanced up at the loft.

"If you don't come now, you'll have no supper tonight."

Big threat. There was always breakfast tomorrow. And she'd rather starve than handle dead chickens. Especially the kind with no heads and bloody necks.

"That goes for the radio, too," Auntie called.

Emma jerked back. No radio? No radio meant missing Buck Rogers in the Twenty-first Century. She peeked at Auntie again, arms folded across her chest, one practical black shoe tap, tap, tapping.
Chickens or the radio? Chickens or the radio?

She should help with the chickens. After all, Auntie had taken her in. But killing chickens was gross. It was 1936 for crying out loud. Hadn't Auntie ever heard of a butcher shop? Still, Buck was caught in the clutches of that nasty space monster, and it hadn't sounded like escape was possible. She had to hear how that turned out.

Auntie headed for the door.

"All right! I'm coming," Emma said. Buck"s predicament far outweighed the gross factor of dead chickens.


  1. I like how you establish the time period through Buck Rogers, and the sense of farm life. I've got one comment:

    "Nosiree" as one word gave me pause. Took me a couple of seconds to figure it out. You may want to change it to "no siree," so it doesn't hamper the flow of the language.

    Best of luck, and happy writing!

  2. I agree with Wolf above on the No Siree fix.

    I loved the rural setting and time period. One struggle for me is 1936 and a butcher shop? Probably not in a rural setting. There might be one, but most farm people with chickens would still kill their own as in the story. My grandma killed and cleaned her own chickens until late 1970s.

    It's so like a MG to weigh the want (radio show) against the task (work). I loved the voice of the MC. Good job!

  3. I love time period pieces. I didn't have a problem with nosiree, for what it's worth. The last line, Buck"s predicament far outweighed the gross factor of dead chickens" I expected to say Buck"s predicament far outweighed her own. We already know her predicament. Maybe it doesn't need to be repeated. (And you have a quotation mark in there instead of an apostrophe.) But on the whole, I enjoyed this!

  4. This is a very strong MG voice. Here's what I think I know so far: Emma is an orphan; she came from a much more civilized place to her auntie's farm and still struggles with some of the inherent expectations of the shift; she is a hider/people avoider/emotional bottler/bubble live-er because when she can keep to an imaginary life it's much more interesting and less painful; she really loves those imaginary stories; she doesn't hesitate to be disobedient if it keeps her in her safe world; but she'll do what she has to to get what she wants. Is this Emma's character at the beginning of her arc? If so - you've nailed it. Am I off? How can you clarify what is making her do what she's done?

    I love the descriptions of the setting. Auntie's appearance is very intriguing to me. Why so perfect? The phrase "It was killing time..." threw me because I read this as SHE was killing time hiding in the barn loft. Maybe say "It was THE killing time..." Just a minor tweak :)

    This is exactly my kind of story, and I'd love to read more. I hope to someday!

  5. I was immediately drawn into the story and loved the period details. Instead of killing chickens is gross, I would like to know how it makes Emma feel. Great beginning!

  6. Great immersion into time period with details and description of setting and characters. Strong verbs. I think it should be No, sirree. Would suggest in sentence 4 that you say "chicken killing time" or "neck wringing time". That's how my grandmother always killed them. Last sentence could shorten to "Buck's predicament far outweighed dead chickens." Good luck!

  7. This is beautifully written and you show us so much with your language -- especially about Auntie who is clearly very stern. I love Emma peeking through the floorboards, the slices of light and Auntie standing as stiff as a rake. The word gross kind of threw me though -- because it sounds too modern -- plus is that what this MC is really trying to avoid? Something gross? Or does the blood remind her of something too painful? Or can she not bear to kill another creature? I feel like gross doesn't give us enough about why she is risking Auntie's wrath. In these opening lines it's important to establish that. If you said killing was cruel instead of gross that would indicate something different than if you said killing was too bloody and I can't bear the blood. It's a really nice opening though with a balance of character building, scene setting and a slow reveal!

  8. I very much enjoyed this and would love to read more, but... (after second reading) I think the decision is made too quickly. If she has that big of a reaction at the idea of assisting her aunt as she butchers chickens (modified to what I'm assuming the reality is), it seems unlikely she'd "cave" for a show, unless she wasn't all that against it in the first place. I do like the year and butcher shop reference, though; that seems to correlate well with the modern concern by the farm industry regarding people understanding where their food comes from, so I think that offers subtle little teachable moment, if someone wanted to use it to start a discussion. (If she just moved out to a farm for the first time and previously only took chickens home from the butcher shop, the distance between eating chickens and butchering chickens may seem like a longer bridge to cross than it does for her aunt.) So, I think the "Chickens or the radio? Chickens or the radio?" is humorous, but because this touches on something bigger, I don't think she should cave that quickly. Since the beginning is strong as it is, though, a compromise edit may have her follow her aunt with the intention of finding a way out of it.

    I really would like to read more of this one and see where it all goes.

  9. Thank you, Secret Agent, and everyonr else who took the time to read and comment on my work. It is very much appreciated! Thanks again!

    1. You're welcome. It was a nice experience. :)