Thursday, July 17, 2008

#93 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

GENRE: Middle Grade

Beneath the shade of a jacaranda tree Paul devoured details of murder and cursed gold. According to his book, the Lost Dutchman’s hidden mine waited to be found less than 50 miles from where he sat:

. . . beneath Superstition Mountain near Apache Junction, Arizona lies a tornado-shaped pit of pure gold—worth billions. WARNING: the treasure is cursed. For the few who have found this "mother lode” all have died gruesomely—buried in landslides, beheaded, torn apart by animals. The most famous prospector, the Lost Dutchman, vanished without even a body part to identify in 1880. Today, drawn by greed or legend, some still seek the gold, but all should understand: anyone who finds this golden funnel and dares to take a single nugget will not live to spend it. . .

He turned his book sideways, intent on the map of Superstition Mountain until his older sister shook his shoulder.

“Shine, shine, shine, Paulie! Abby loves rabies horses—”


“Yeah. Okay.” Abby tugged Paul’s arm and pointed at the grey mare drinking from a metal tub. “Aunt Penny says Abby will ride. Today.”

Paul squinted against the intense afternoon sun. The aluminum post and rail fence appeared to warp through shimmering heat waves. “She also said we
can’t go in the paddocks alone.” He tapped Abby’s hand to make sure he had her attention. “AND she warned us to stay away from Spitfire—over there. He
kicked Uncle Mike yesterday.”


  1. White on this light green is very hard to read, almost painful. Is there a way to darken this up so we can read it more easily?

  2. No, I'm sorry. But this is because this isn't my type.

    That said - I think this works. I get the idea that Paul is going to be looking for cursed treasure. :)

    What's the deal with Abby, btw? She's described as older than Paul, but she sounds younger.

  3. Yes, I'm a sucker for a treasure story. I agree with the comment about the sister's age, she sounds alot younger. I also like the descriptions you provided.

  4. Yes! I love boy books and treasure stories. I think maybe the sister is "different" and that's intriquing. An adventure with a "challenged" sibling...I'd read more.

  5. I see a mystery here involving the gold and Paul's sister and I would definitely read on to solve it.

    I hope this posts, I have been having problems!

  6. This one has definite potential :)

  7. I felt too much of the book was quoted and think maybe a phrase sprinkled in would put more of the story up front. This long quote didn't do it for me.

  8. Tentatively yes. It's an interesting premise, but I'm not a fan of starting a story with a character waking up (it's cliche and unexciting).

    Also, unless Abby has a developmental impediment, she doesn't speak like an older sister (ex: using her own name instead of "I" or "me" and juvenile sentence construction). I'd Kill "older" until a later time when you can either explain why Abby talks that way, or switch her to being a younger sister (i.e., a toddler).

  9. I'm hooked.

    About the sister: to me, "older" is a subtle clue--in just one word...then you get the dialogue--another clue. Even most little kids don't usually talk in third person. Definitely something going on.

    And, Paul isn't sleeping, he's sitting under a tree reading a book!

    Good feel for the setting. Arizona in the summer is like a blast furnace.

    Do agree with a comment to trim the book excerpt...just a taste would work and allow more of the story to emerge.

    Also, got a sense of foreshadowing with the sister and the horse--Spitfire. Imagine that's a hint to go with the title?

    With a bit of revision, this would really work for me.

  10. Afraid not. I'm not a fan of treasure hunts, so nothing about this particular plot hooks me. I skimmed through the book except. The older sister seeming so much younger than Paul intrigues me. I think others who like the genre would keep reading.

  11. Cursed gold is always a promising thing. I like treasure hunts :) And I know my kids would enjoy anything with treasure and horses.

  12. Hooked.

    I like treasure hunts. I seriously missed the part about the sister being 'older'. I thought she was a toddler. The quotation from the book was a little long-winded, but I like the setting and premise.

  13. It would have hooked me as a MG reader as I love horses and Arizona. That said, I thought some of the language in the book was strangely stilted. I had to do several re-reads to understand it. I must have skimmed the word "older" as I was imagining a young Abby with an odd way of referring to herself. Sorry! Maybe if you show her admiring the horse, hear her say "Abby loves rabies horses" and have Paul wipe the drool from his older sister's chin as he corrects her... That's a tough one. But yes, I'd continue to read.

  14. Kinda-sorta hooked. I like the relationship between the siblings and the treasure hunt that's about to commence, apparently -- as well as the foreshadowing of some kind of trouble with the horses -- but I agree with the others about the length of the book excerpt and leaving the information about the kids' relative ages until later. :-)

  15. Cursed treasure? Pass.

    Also, the dialogue was bit confusing for me. "Shine, shine, shine"? Does she mean "rise and shine"? I get the feeling that this is a little girl speaking, but it almost seems more like a caricature of a little girl. Sorry. Best o' luck to ya.


  16. Hooked? Yes.

    Mainly because it is set in my neck of the woods. If there be treasure here... well you know. :)

  17. Yes. And no.

    Cursed gold, murder, and what promises to be a exciting, if not dangerous, treasure hunt, definitely perked my interest. The interest waned, however, as I plowed through the too long quote.

    You totally lost me when the sister came on the scene. I assumed from the voice, that she was younger, having missed the clue words, "older sister." (You don't state Paul's age, but I'm guessing him to be about 12 based on the book he's reading.) But having missed the apparent significance of the "older" sister's young voice, I didn't understand why she was there and how she fit into the story.

    Is there a reason you're being vague? If not, make it more evident what her capacities are, then I'm totally drawn in.

  18. Probably, but the quote from the book could stand shortening, and like everyone else I am VERY confused about the age of Abby - her dialogue comes across as somewhere around 3 (though not quite right even then), but she's older than Paul?

    And her last two lines of dialogue seem like they're coming from a completely different person....

  19. This one's almost there. I'd take another run at Abby's dialog and then I think you're in good shape. Something about the transition from first to second sentence struck me as odd and I wonder if it's that "According to his book" that's doing it. A few tweaks and you'll be in good shape, I think. I'm definitely curious.

  20. Maybe--it needs a bit of work but I'm curious and like the voice and tone so far, so would probably read a bit more.

    Good luck,