Saturday, December 4, 2010

#2 Women's Fiction: This Side of Crazy (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: This Side of Crazy
GENRE: Women's Fiction

Cissy, a troubled 16-year-old in 1970s Mississippi, uses humor, OCD tendencies and conversations with "God" to help her cope after killing her abusive father. When her terminally ill grandmother busts her out of the state psychiatric hospital and they go on the lam, Cissy uncovers secrets about her childhood and finds a sense of family and normalcy in the most unlikely places.

For years I escaped to a private place in my mind and daydreamed about killing my daddy. The thing is I never really thought I'd go through with it. When I shot him in the back that July morning, I surprised myself as much as everyone else.

The Harrison County sheriff said I must be some crazy whack of a girl but I know I'm not crazy. I was just born into this world with good boundaries, which, in my opinion, most people lack. My definition of crazy is staying married when you're not all that happy, telling lies when the truth will do in most instances, and believing a gray-haired man in the sky has our lives all planned out for us.

My definition of crazy is bad-touching a child and then pretending to be a normal daddy to the outside world. I don't think it is at all crazy to kill your own daddy to stop the shameful things he's doing to your body and mind and to prevent him from hurting anybody else. Maybe what's crazy is waiting until age 16 to do it.

"Cissy, answer my questions." Judge Carroll's voice cracked. If he meant to sound authoritative, he did a poor job of it. He seemed more nervous than anything. The way he sweated, you'd think the Biloxi sun scorched a hole through the courthouse roof and beat directly down on his head. I wished he'd wipe his forehead because those shiny domes of sweat looked liked blisters waiting to pop.


  1. I don't want to spend too much time on loglines but this first line needs a major re-write. You can tell us her name, age, where she is from and what she did to get herself in the hospital, but that is it. The rest is out of character and makes it sound like she made a decision to be funny, OCD and talk to God.

    In the exerpt, you take a long time to get to the one line of action. The backstory needs to come gradually with the action. It's great for her to think about her opinion of crazy, but you should do this for a reason (such as the judge or someone mentioning the word). Otherwise, it comes off as a rant.

  2. Hello Voice!

    I'm right inside her head.

    My only concern is the logline makes me wonder if she's going on this journey just to end up back in jail, and I would hate that to happen. But, with a voice like that, I'm calling shotgun and coming along for the ride anyway.

    I cringe from the incest storyline (and that is a hard sell), but you have got such a winning style and that last paragraph was awesome. Great job!

  3. I tend to stray away from stories of incest. I think that information needs to be embedded within the story, and not the focus in the beginning. I would like to care for Cissy, get to know her first before finding out her past. The last paragraph sounds like a good place to start. I am intantly wondering what she did to htet there, you tell us where their ate and I get a sense of her voice as well. Regarding the tagline, you may want to take out the specifics, I don't think you need it. But I'm horrible with taglines so feel free to ignore.

    Thanks for posting

  4. I love the voice of the character, but I too have a hard time picking up books about incest. I agree with Courtney, it needs to be woven into the plot and revealed to the reader.

  5. I agree with the incest plot line. It's hard to take right away on the first page. I like the style though and I would probably go along with it for a bit. But a few of the word choices made me question if the narrator was really 16. Sounded a bit older at times and pulled me out of the story.

  6. Logline needs work - just kind of overwhelmed me with the number of "issues" going on here. Crazy narrator, abusive dad, dying grandma, etc.

    BUT loved the voice. This is not something I'd normally pick up but you drew me right in with the voice and I read all the way through and wanted more.

  7. I'm torn on this one. The voice is excellent, and I think if this was in a book I would read the first few paragraphs without a problem. However, casting a critical eye at it, the first three paragraphs are all telling and backstory. And, as others have said, the incest storyline can be a bit offputting. I'm wondering if it would be more effective to leave out mention of what her father did and just hint that she has a good reason to have murdered her father, allowing readers to find out later what he did. Perhaps starting with the last paragraph might be the way to go?

  8. Great voice, although I think you should probably start the story differently. That long spiel of backstory would be better woven into some action so if feels less like an info-dump.

    The logline needs work too. It feels like a laundry list of crazy and issues right now, and a lot of people aren't going to get excited about reading something like that. You need to make the story sound appealing, even if it is heavy going.

  9. The voice is exactly right. A 16 yo victim with years of incest does not think like your average teen. She has some of the same wants, but has learned at too young an age that her life is not the same as the others around her.

    The maturity levels are way higher in some ways. Where you will find the stinting is in relating to "normal" young people. The social skills will be lacking.

    That being said, I have a hard time with the subject matter, but was roped in by the voice! This takes courage to write. Congratulations.

  10. I agree with previous comments about the logline.

    Wow, you have great voice, and I was in her head, but it was a little backstory heavy. Also, incest isn't something I'd normally read, but your voice is tempting.

    Nice job. Good luck.

  11. The voice here is fantastic- you've nailed it!

    While I don't gravitate toward books with darker themes- there are some great ones out there (The Color Purple, The Lovely Bones). It was the voice that captured me in both of those and made me want to read the dark plots. You could introduce the fact that Cissy's been molested a few pages later- I wouldn't put it down the way it is, but it sounds like some would.

    Again, magnificent voice! And that's often the hardest part!

  12. This is definitely difficult subject matter to take in. However, while the logline could use a good bit of snipping, the voice in the sample page drew me right in. I didn't mind the backstory in this instance, because the voice was so easy and interesting to read. The way the narrator sees the world is fascinating. And while, yes, there's some time spent on the backstory, it doesn't take more than 200 words and it's *interesting.*

    This, for me, would be the exception to the "don't start with backstory" guideline.

  13. I feel like a loner here with my comments, but I actually really enjoyed this first bit of your story. I was drawn right in to her head. Her voice was great. Very believable. Not a lot of action going on, but I frankly didn't miss it because of this gal's interesting view of life.

    From the log line I got that the story is not actually about the incest (which, yes, is really tough), but rather about the adventure and relationship with her grandmother that brings healing to her life. That is what I found myself eager to read about. That intrigued me and made me want to read.

    Good luck!

  14. This is one of my favorite entries, actually. The logline could be more concise -- I like it overall as I think you have all the key bits of information in there, but the first sentence in particular reads a little awkwardly or passively to me. I don't know that the humor, OCD, and conversations with God part is all that important in a logline; as other people mentioned, it really does read like a laundry list of issues at the moment.

    As for the excerpt, the voice is fantastic and I have absolutely no problem with it being backstory because it gets right to the point instead of being irritatingly coy. The last paragraph is enough conflict to hook me (if I weren't already hooked by that amazing voice).

    Good luck.

  15. Query:
    This intrigued me, but I'm not sure why "God" is in quote marks. Is she talking to something else she assumes is God, or are you trying to imply there is no God?

    Line comments:
    -Great first paragraph
    -Your query implies that she prays, but the second paragraph implies that she doubts God's existence. This is a little abrupt.

    I struggled to have a sense of time and place in this piece. At first, I thought we were starting in the middle of the murder, then with the sheriff, then finally with the judge. The tone of the novel was a little more bitter than I normally read--understandable in circumstances, but not a voice I would necessarily want to spend much time with. This is probably a case of "not right for me" as the writing seems overall strong.

  16. Logline - There's something about the content in the logline and the language that is not sitting quite right with me. This is a very serious subject - a troubled young woman has murdered her own father - yet the language 'bust her out of state prison' and 'go on the lam' almost make it sound like a screwball comedy.

    Excerpt - And here you show us that this is tough subject matter indeed, so now the logline is sitting even less well with me. For me, there is a disconnect between the logline and the excerpt, but the excerpt is definitely the stronger of the two.

    You get us right into the character's head and I like what I'm reading here. The voice is clear and straightforward and a few short paragraphs tell a lot about your main character, which is great. It was a lot of backstory, but I didn't really mind that because it played very strongly to characterization.

    I get the feeling that the story really gets rolling just as the excerpt is ending, but 250 words is really, really short and I would always give a book much longer than that to get off the ground.

    Good luck with it! As I said, it's difficult material to work with, but this is a wonderful start.

  17. I agree with Jen Danna about the log line. It made me feel I was going to get comedy. After reading the excerpt I thought that dark humor might very well be a part of this as it goes along. And I like dark humor, so that wouldn't have put me off.

    My issue with it is the first three pargs. I thought the story started in the last parg. Everything before it is explanation, not story. I like her pov and take on things, but I'd so much rather see it in the context of the story through what she says and does(story is why I'm reading) than as a lecture. But, that's why we have thousands of different books - because we all have our own tastes.

  18. I love your style and this character already, but I wonder if it can be presented in a more active way. I'd start with the lines about the judge and weave everything else in through the action of the court scene. If the sheriff is present, it's a good reason for her to think about him calling her crazy, but show us the sheriff first. Since she's on trial for the killing of her father, that will naturally come up in the court setting without the info dump opening. Everything you have can be given to us in the context of the scene, rather than telling it to us as an introduction. Also, I agree with what others have said about the logline; it's a bit too much. Her name and her age and what she did - murder her abusive father - is enough, otherwise you risk coming off as though she adopts OCD as both a coping mechanism and comedy routine, which is probably not what you're going for. Finally, I'm no expert on the Women's Fiction market, but is having a teenaged protagonist typical of this market? Just wondering if you got the genre right for how you're telling this story.

  19. I liked the second paragraph as an opening, especially if you started it with something such as "When the Sheriff arrested me, he said..." Then skip the third paragraph and go right to the courtroom. I'd rather be curious about why she was arrested than have you tell me on the first page. I guess I'm basically agreeing with K. Cooper here.

  20. This is quite well-written. The first sentence didn't grab me, but the second did. I think it works.

  21. I am always interested in incest stories because I like it when writers take on topics that make people uncomfortable or that people don't usually discuss. Personally, I like to be thrown into a scene when I begin a book, but I like this voice and I'm curious about the person telling the story. I just wish it was a little more active (like the last paragraph.)

  22. Since this is labeled women's fiction, I think you get more leeway with a slower opening. If your MC is only 16 and we only get her POV, I would question if it's really women's fiction. All that being said, though, you totally NAILED the voice. I, too, would be troubled with the topic, but the writing is so *there* that I would have to read on.

  23. I love the voice here--I'll bid 5 pages.

    Ammi-Joan Paquette

  24. I was a beta reader for this book. It's probably not young adult -- the POV shifts to the grandmother in the middle of the book and then back to the protagonist. Cissy's voice may be young but I think it will appeal to adult readers who enjoyed Lily's voice in Secret Life of Bees.

  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. Sorry for the duplicate posting: I was a beta reader for this book. It's probably not young adult -- the POV shifts to the grandmother in the middle of the book and then back to the protagonist. Cissy's voice may be young but I think it will appeal to adult readers who enjoyed Lily's voice in Secret Life of Bees.

  27. I'll bid the first 10 pages
    Suzie Townsend
    FinePrint Lit

    (love the title!)

  28. I'll bid 15 pages

    Laura Bradford
    Bradford Literary Agency


  30. Totally hooked. Beautiful voice, unusual setup of what might be a cliched problem novel otherwise. The term "bad-touch" feels more 90s-2000s than 1970s ("molest" seems to have been more popular then, though I could be wrong--historical details like word choice are hugely important for believability in historical fiction). Other than that, though, if I worked with realistic fiction, I'd have requested a full read. This character's got spunk, and I'd be interested to read how she handles the aftereffects of her father's abuse and her own actions to stop it.

  31. By the way, I just noticed when I paged up after commenting that this is classified as "women's fiction." I'm curious why you chose that for a 17-year-old character who seems to be quite an immediate YA voice (hence my comment about problem novels). Depending on where the plot went, I'd suggest considering the YA market for it, but it's hard to tell from the little snippet I've seen here.