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The Woman Below

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Old 06-11-2010, 05:52 AM
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I originally posted an invitation to read my first fiction book "The Woman Below" in The Library forum, but was advised that I should post an excerpt here first. I admit I don't see the purpose, I would like comments on the whole book not the excerpt, but here it is nevertheless,

[img=100x150]http://www.katiebooks.ca/wpimages/wp6a5b9a55.png[/img]
Title: The Woman Below
Genre: Counter Espionage
Words: about 62,300

This book is finished and available for download in three ebook formats.

I hope this short, randomly selected passage will pique your interest. Please comment as you wish. What I would like are general comments on the complete book. The second book in the series is in preparation, and I would welcome suggestions for improvement.

Recap: Miss Whyte, an old and skilled spy, has recruited a young agent, Peter Greene, to break into offices in the Department of Defence to gather evidence of an information leak that may lead to an employee spying for a foreign power. This is the first page and a half of Chapter 5 where he prepares to steal personal information from the first of several computer systems.

Excerpt about 800 words.

The week of interrogation after his luncheon with Miss Whyte, and the ease with which she had arranged his training, made Peter singularly aware of Miss Whyte’s influence and authority. He made casual, discreet inquiries among his few acquaintances in the Division, and casually mentioned her name to a couple of course instructors with no hint of recognition. Peter came to the conclusion an unknown inner circle existed in the Intelligence Division, and Miss Whyte was a charter member. After five years on the job, he realized if he became too curious, he would regret it. He resolved to follow instructions, do the best job he could, and stay out of trouble.
Following the rules meant he reported to the Administrative branch, indicated he was on assignment, and requested documentation to enter Ministry of Defence buildings. Next, he visited the Research and Development Branch, commonly known as “Gadgets,” explained the basics of his undertaking, and was given a black box instead of the personal system he expected. They explained it would operate for at least thirty hours, and the provided connecting cable and universal adapter, would fit most target systems. It sounded overly simplistic. The single button on the box controlled the process and siphoned out user files. The box would even search unused space not identified in the Global Directory in case something was hidden away. An indicator on the box would show white while operating, green when the operation finished, and red if no data transfer was taking place. The whole process should finish in minutes and leave no trace.
Believing what he was told, Peter called in at Operational Stores on his way out of the building and signed out a briefcase, a set of common burglar tools, an automated lock pick, and a few other items he thought handy. Packing everything into the briefcase, he sat down in the lobby and studied the list of Defence personnel Miss Whyte had given him.
The fourteen people on the list were located in six different military buildings, in four different areas. Their homes and apartments were scattered throughout the city. All except two were married. Three had dogs, and six had children. Peter hoped they were all lazy and left their portable systems at work, otherwise the job faced complications.
Peter knew Miss Whyte was not coy when she warned him about capture. With false identification in his pocket he was more than a common thief. If there was publicity, the Intelligence Division could disown him. One Ministry spying on another was too much of an embarrassment for the Government to wear, or the Press to dismiss. With no criminal record and a history of foreign travel, portraying him as a foreign spy was easy, and handing him over to a foreign country in exchange for some consideration was possible. Even conviction as a thief meant several years in jail. Arrest was not an option.

His preparations had taken a couple of hours, and it was approaching noon. As the closest Department of Defence building was a short distance away, he gathered up the briefcase and strolled toward it. His arrival should match lunch hour. He could locate the offices of the names on the list, and if he was lucky, find some systems unattended while their owners filled their bellies.
With an unrestricted pass, the one difficulty he had entering the building was making progress against the stream of hungry workers leaving for lunch. The elevator going up was empty and stepping off, he found the floor vacant. The office on his list was behind a barricade of missing secretaries and assistants, and when Peter gently pushed the door open an inch, the occupant was hard at work on the very system he sought. Two anomalies, Peter thought, a hard working civil servant working over the lunch hour. It was very suspicious. He backed away without disturbing him. Taking the stairs up two floors, he continued to the office of the next name.
There he found the system he was searching for on a desk, with no one around. A short moment was all he needed to open the briefcase, connect the cable, and push the button. Everything worked as intended and he was on his way in five minutes.
Offices three and four in the building presented some difficulty. He couldn’t find office three, and by the time he was approaching office four, workers were arriving back at their desks. He located office four, but could not enter it unnoticed. He took the opportunity to ask a secretary the location of office three, and received precise directions which he checked on his way out.
During the afternoon he made it to Building Two and Three, found the offices he was seeking, and had a peek at the occupants. He had no opportunity to dump their data because while a few people were working, the rest, career civil servants, were standing around talking. He would come back that night to do the dirty work.

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Last edited by tony_a20; 06-13-2010 at 06:36 AM.. Reason: Highlighted Chapter number
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Old 06-11-2010, 03:30 PM
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Your writing is good. I think you've got a nice story idea, but this excerpt is all in narrative. You tell me everything and show me nothing. There are some great places you could draw out interactions between your main character and Mrs. Whyte and perhaps add description too. Just my opinion. I hope this is helpful.
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Old 06-11-2010, 05:36 PM
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Thank you Ms. Milliken, you've found the reason I wanted comments on the whole book. The excerpt is just the first part I found which seemed to come to a logical conclusion in the few hundred words I could post. There are still 61,500 more containing action, interaction, dialogue and intrigue.

The protagonist is Miss Whyte. Peter Greene in the excerpt is one of her agents, himself under suspicion to some extent, and the other major character is Karen Black.

The pace of this book starts slowly and mimics the startup of any counter espionage investigation in a bureaucratic environment. At this excerpt's point in the story, things are just starting to happen.

Previous chapters set the stage and introduced the three main characters as well as showing their attitudes and yes, interaction. There is an amount of "telling' to give the reader the necessary background to understand the characters - the story doesn't start with a bang - it explores their relationships as they probe, discover, and..., well you need to read the ending yourself, it builds!

Give it a try from Chapter 1
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Old 06-12-2010, 05:43 AM
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Too much wordy description bogs the reading. Needs edited down to the basics. You say the pace of the book starts slowly. Hard to keep the readers attention and interest in the work if they have to struggle through para after para of overdone detail that does little more than descrbe an office building. Your writing a spy/action novel. Give us something to bite on from the onset.

"The name's Bond. James Bond"

That's my two cents worth. Pull us in from the start and you'll have a winner.
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Old 06-12-2010, 02:35 PM
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Intrigued by your quote from the Bond films, I did some research on the internet looking for Mr. Fleming's opening lines, and found this information.

His first book, Casino Royal, opened with "The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning."

Moonraker, was characterized as "a slow, laid back Bond adventure." It begins with M asking Bond for a personal favour.

Diamonds Are Forever begins with seven pages about a scorpion stalking his prey in the desert.

"For Your Eyes Only is a collection of short stories.The shortest of the short stories in the book, From A View to a Kill, shares nothing with its movie counterpart and suffers the most from a lack of fleshing out the characters. Unlike the other stories in the book, Quantum of Solace is not about James Bond at all. The Hildebrand Rarity is, at its core, a story about Bond going fishing, while Bond is in the middle of everything, he is merely an observer of a not-too-exciting story."

Goldfinger: "James Bond, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and thought about life and death."

Ian Fleming was often praised. "From Russia With Love is stunning. Fleming writes in an unusually excellent prose for a thriller writer, combininng the threads of the complex plot to excellent and often harrowing effect."

However, I didn't find anything indicating he used your quoted line in the opening of his books. Perhaps you know of one?

The line "The name is Bond. James Bond." was made famous by the films made from Ian Fleming's books, but it was probably the invention of a screenwriter.

Last edited by tony_a20; 06-12-2010 at 02:42 PM.. Reason: One of my quotes had an originator's spelling error, which I corrected.
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Old 06-13-2010, 03:53 AM
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My reference to the James Bond line was just a suggestion to add a little hook or piece of action to your opening, or the excerpt. Nearly all the Bond movies start off with a bang. Gets the viewers attention and let's them know...hey this is Bond.

Many a slow opening read has begun with an intriguing or thought provoking opening. It can set the tone and hint of what is to come. I often reread opening lines from well known novels just to remind myself of how powerful a device a good opening can be. I'm sure you know of many. Just a thought.
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Old 06-13-2010, 06:39 AM
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One of the big differences between movies and books is that a film can open with a slow pan of a scene and give the viewer more information than a writer can in twenty pages. In our visual society, reading always seems slow because of the need to establish location and character. Even in action stories, not every chapter starts with a bang. The Bond films are much more memorable than Ian Fleming's books, so I can understand the reason you chose your reference.

I would appreciate it if you read the whole book and commented again.
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