Monday, December 9, 2013

Pete Catalano: GRIMM & CO Rev 1

Name: Pete Catalano
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: GRIMM & CO

My name is Scarlett Hoode; my friends call me “Red”. 

In a world where magic and curses reign, an economic recession has hit Fairytale Land and unfortunately for all of us, it hit hard. I had the idea for GRIMM & CO PROTECTION AGENCY a few months ago. We only take on the tough cases, and using the specialized skill sets of the many characters, we prefer the more direct solutions to problems. The friendly employees at GRIMM & CO are always happy to help . . . for a price.
After putting our business plan together and then having to beg, borrow, and steal (forget I said that last part), I was finally able to sign a lease for a small but cozy space behind the Baker’s Building. I currently have two partners, Duke Wolfe and Nathan Hunter. Needless to say the two boys do not get along so everyday in the office is an adventure, or at least the days when Duke decides to come in to work.
We moved a few desks, several bookshelves and file cabinets into our small but cozy space . . . and waited. When people didn’t line up at our door the way we had expected we knew we had to go out and get their attention. We hired a marketing company with the few bucks we had left, contracted to create a slogan we could use to kickoff the opening of our promising venture.
                                             GRIMM & CO. When Fairy Godmothers Just Aren’t Enough.
Is what they brainstormed and much to everyone’s chagrin, preceded to plaster on every inch of billboard space, telephone pole, and abandoned building that was scattered throughout Fairytale Land.

I had a lot of very pissed off fairy godmothers there for a while. And they can be a nasty bunch too. Forget pickets lines. I would have loved to have picket lines, rather than the spells, curses, and even the well placed poison apple in the fruit baskets that were dropped off at the office from time to time. Eventually they all settled down and we found a happy medium where we could all work together. Besides, Fairy Godmothers don’t do revenge anyway.
After what had turned out to be another very long day, I gathered my purse, the files on new accounts, turned out all the lights and turned on the lamps fastened securely to the building, brightly illuminating the name GRIMM & CO that was painted, rather beautifully, over the entrance. 
Stepping out onto the first in a series of limestone steps, there was a creepy coolness to the dark as I found night had come much earlier than expected. Three steps down and out onto the cobbles, the first remnants of evening mist hugged them tightly as it rolled through the streets of an unexpectedly quiet Fairytale land.
The sharp clack of my high heels as they struck the cobbles echoed off the face of the tumble down brick buildings that lined the snickelway. It was, eerily enough, the only sound to be heard.
Walking under the gas lamps, I slowed my pace as a strange popping noise started from somewhere just ahead of me. I saw one of the lamps farther down the block flicker a few times and then go out. I stopped in mid step, letting my hands carefully fall to my sides. Three more lamps in front of me dimmed within moments, one after another, until the only one left to light up the night was the one directly above me.
The moment I looked up, the lamp grew bright as the others had and just as I thought it would burst, it snapped dark, leaving the bright outline of the bulb still fresh in my eyes.            
I twisted my wrists slightly, dislodging two sharp blades from hidden sheaths and letting them slip into my waiting hands. I closed my eyes, taking two blind steps forward before shooting my left arm out to the side, placing the tip of my blade under what was a very familiar chin.
“Hello, Duke,” I said to Duke Wolfe, my on again off again partner, and resident poison expert at GRIMM & CO. Wolfe is charming, cursed, and despite being exasperating most of the time, one of the few people I trust . . . mostly.
“Hello Red,” Duke smiled, as he pushed the blade slowly away from his throat. Every smile from him looks like a leer but it’s part of his genetics, but not his character. “A beautiful woman like yourself shouldn’t be walking home alone after dark, especially on a night like this.”
Retracting my knife back into its sheath, Duke reached up to the spot on his chin. He wiped his fingers across it to see if I drew blood. “What makes this night so different from the rest?”
The sound of music rising from the dark interrupted our conversation.
As we walked I saw some movement in the shadows.
“Hey, Red,” a voice called out from the darkness followed by the sound of a violin, guitar, and a cello, playing so softly.
“Hello, boys,” I nodded and the music followed us down the block, choreographing our every start and stop.
“They’re so annoying,” Duke groused. “Especially when you run. Don’t ever run past them, Red. It’s embarrassing.”
“They’re old, Duke,” I laughed, “and just trying to fit in like everyone else. It’s tough trying to find a gig for a dog, cat, donkey and rooster all playing string instruments. Nobody ever believes they can play a note, until they hear them.”
“Then why aren’t they set up with some sweet gig somewhere and staying off the streets and out of my soundtrack?” Duke asked.
“Hey, I tried to help them,” I said. “Had them all lined up but they like being on the corner and setting the mood for all of Fairytale Land. They’ve gotten pretty good at it.”
“Hey Red, where exactly is Bremen?”
“I’m not sure,” I shrugged, “but I have to say I’m kinda glad they never made it.”
Duke and I walked the rest of the way to my house together, talking about some of the cases that have walked in during the past several days.
How was work today?” he asked.
“It was okay,” I said, trying to figure out why he shown up out of nowhere, how he managed to make those gas lamps go out one by one, and why was he suddenly so interested in work. “A little busier than I had expected, but that’s because one of the partners didn’t show up the way he had promised . . . again.”
Duke smiled shyly. “Sorry Red, just one of those things that came up last minute. Time is valuable these days. If it will make it any easier on you I will be there first thing in the morning and catch up on anything that I’ve missed.”
“That would be great,” I agreed, though a little surprised. “Why the sudden change of heart?”
“I . . . I have a friend of mine that will be coming into the office in the morning,” Duke said. “An old friend that has helped me a great deal throughout the years and has never asked for anything in return.”
“And now he’s asking?” I said.
“And now he’s asking,” Duke repeated.
“Of course I’ll be happy to do whatever I can for him, Duke,” I said. “As always. But why do I get the idea that there’s something you’re not telling me?”
“What do you mean?” Duke asked. “I’m telling you everything. I always tell you everything.”
“Yeah,” I said, “I know. Maybe I should put it a little differently. I know you won’t help me find this answer unless I ask exactly the right question. Duke, you seem to be making sure my weapons are still at my fingertips . . .”
“Literally,” Duke laughed as he touched hi chin again.
“Plus you’re walking me home,” I shook my head. “You never walk me home. What’s going on Duke? What are you afraid of?”   
Duke was quiet for a moment. It was very un-Duke like. “”He’s back, Red.”


  1. The protection agency is a better racket for Red & Co. for this type of story. This lends itself more to noir then just your average employment agency. It also gives a reason why Red would be packing. The only missing piece is the why. Why has Red opened this business? What is going on in Fairyland that the fairytale characters need more protection or who is being protected? Are the fairy godmother’s not doing their jobs? Are Disney thugs giving the fairytale characters problems? Some new menace in Fairyland would also add to Red’s caution and for pulling a shiv on Wolfe.

    The second section, which was initially the first section, still lacks purpose. A lot is going on for Wolfe to say I got someone you need to meet. You can make this work better one of two way (although there may be more):

    1) There’s a Secret No One Else Can Know: Wolfe accosts Red on the street instead of the workplace because Wolfe can’t let anyone know, esp. anyone in the office about someone. Wolfe can say something like “The walls have ears, literally they have ears” or you can come up with something else. Right now there is no logical reason why Wolfe accosts Little Red Riding Hood in this way instead of telling her in her office. Why not have Wolfe dress up as granny—he’s in disguise because he doesn’t want anyone to know its him—and accost Red. Then Wolfe walks Red home through the woods. Both of these two illustrations would play on the Little Red Riding Hood story. And make the keen line—“Plus you’re walking me home,” I shook my head. “You never walk me home.” —work better. However, if you go this route, Red and Wolfe can never talk about the secret at work but rendezvous at different locations.

    2) Red’s in Danger: Wolfe tracks Red because she is in danger. Someone is out to hurt her. Instead of the lamp lights going out—which still doesn’t make a lot of sense. Instead Wolfe tracks her for her protection. Red rounds a corner. Instead of continuing to walk, Red puts her back to the wall. As Wolfe rounds the corner, Red puts a knife to his neck.

    In either scenario, the lights and the whole town musicians of Breman is distracting.

    The friend Red is supposed to meet and the “he” mentioned at the end is a bit confusing. I don’t know if these are one and the same person or different people. You need to clarify this. Perhaps, the return of “he” is also the reason why things have gotten rough in Fairyvale, which you can also introduce as previously mentioned. For example this line—“In a world where magic and curses reign, an economic recession has hit Fairytale Land and unfortunately for all of us, it hit hard.”—really doesn’t tell us why a protection agency is needed. In fact during the actually economic recession in the USA, crime per person has declined not risen. What’s up with Fairytale Land? Why has it suddenly become dangerous—other than the obvious dangers that already occur to many fairytale characters? It actually appears to be safer since Wolfe is working for Red.

  2. Hi Pete,

    GREAT last line. You nailed that.

    I love the set up here. It's a cool twist on the fairy tale, and I like the tension you are building between Red and Wolfe. That rocks. Your writing is smooth and while there are places where I think you can trim for pacing, I think it moves pretty fast with all the dialogue.

    My biggest concern, and I'm not quite sure whether it's really a concern, is whether the voice is working for YA, or whether this is reading more MG with an older protagonist. In other words, there's a lot of TELLING here, albeit in a charming way, that may be better served with more SHOWING. As a result, even though the narrator is speaking directly to the reader, the fact that she is telling the story means that we aren't actually close to her emotions and we're getting everything filtered.

    With a few exceptions, this isn't a popular way of handling upper YA fiction, and the exceptions have to have a really strong connection to the protag.

    I'd recommend playing with the voice and trying to zoom in and out a bit and seeing where you like it best. At the very least, I would recommend not starting with the economic woes, because that doesn't seem very YA. Maybe try starting with your mc in motion, doing something, and then sliver in the critical background as the reader needs to know it. The important thing is to bring us in to connect with what she is feeling, thinking, and experiencing so that the reader can experience it with her.

    You do a great job with dialogue in Chapter Two. REALLY great. There's so much subtext in that dialogue, so much weight and micro tension. I'd really love to see that up front and center as we get into the story.

    Looking forward to seeing where you go from here!

  3. Hi Pete,
    I really got into your story once Duke was on the scene. I think you could leave off the whole first section and maybe put in a sentence or two when needed. For example, when she tells Duke is her partner. You'd also need to tell that it's a protection company.

    Which brings me to the same questions that Paco had. I wanted to know why they were needing protection. What's going on. However, if I read a few more clues and you kept hooking me along, I could wait to find out.

    Loved the last line. That's a great hook to keep me reading. I like the twist that Red Riding Hood is the one protecting people too. And although you are telling, I like the voice of the piece, too. Can't wait to see what you do with this.