Saturday, December 4, 2010

#38 YA Historical: Red Lick (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Red Lick
GENRE: YA Historical

In a last-ditch effort to gain his father's respect, Hawthorne takes part in a midnight hunt, only to learn his prey is human and his father is a member of the Klan. With no way out of the situation, he participates in a murder and learns the next day that the boy murdered was not the intended victim. Unable to live with himself, Hawthorne decides to turn himself in and tell what he knows, but can he do it before the Klan, or the victim's angry brother, take their revenge?

August 24, 1963

Thorny Taylor crept through the dark wood, his clothing heavy and damp with humidity. He had to catch up to the others, and he had to do it quickly, without notice. If he scared off the night's prey, there would be no more chances for him. He could not fail again.

“Watch out, boys! He's doublin' back!”

Thorny's heart quickened and he crouched behind a large sycamore, trying to melt into the sweltering dark. In the distance, a firefly blinked as though sending a signal. Thorny pulled his clothes from his sticky skin and peered around the tree.

Please, God. Let me catch him. Let it be me.

Brush crackled and branches snapped. Voices rose from the silent depths, growing louder and louder. They were coming, all of them, barreling toward him like a freight train, making no effort to be quiet. Thorny stood, ready to pounce.

A blur broke through the trees and Thorny sprang from the brush. Someone slammed into his chest and they both tumbled to the ground. Thorny shoved the body away then scrambled on top of it. He sat on the heaving chest and pressed his knees down on two flailing arms then stared at the struggling body beneath him.

Jesus, he whispered. Willie?

“Get off! Let me go!” Willie pleaded, his face twisted in terror. “Come on, don't do this. Let me up”

He doesn't know it's me.

Thorny swallowed, grateful for the hood that covered his face.


  1. Wow! That just doesn't seem fair to cut me off there. I want to read it all. ;-)T

  2. Very well written. Disturbing subject, the clan hunting down a human, but I'm also hooked.

  3. Very disturbing. Things like this raise a lot of issues for me so I probably wouldn't pick the book up but this is very well written and the conflict is apparent from line one. Good luck.

  4. The writing is good. My only trouble is with an unsympathetic main character. Could just be me, though. I'm hopeful that your MC lets this kid go, changes his mind, and goes home. But if he actually participates in the murder, I'm afraid you'd have lost me.

  5. Logline is great, I want to read.

    This is great! The description is excellent ... I'm holding my breath, but I agree that I'm almost afraid of what's coming. Good job with the tension.

    Although I'm a little confused as to who Hawthorne and Thorny are. Your logline names Hawthorne, but the story opens with Thorny.

    Great job. Good luck.

  6. Great logline aside from the whole asking a question instead of giving an answer thing.

    The writing of this excerpt is good but I really can't emphasize with the protagonist. He's KKK and he's about to kill someone? And we're supposed to want to read on? I get from your logline that he's going to regret his actions but I think you are going to find you turn a lot of people off, unless you find a way to create MAJOR empathy IMMEDIATELY.

  7. Klan, as in KKK?

    It's going to be extremely tough for you to create a KKK character that readers will sympathize with and root for.

    Well written, but it sounds like he's going to go on with the murder. If he does, I'm afraid you've lost me (and possibly others).

  8. I think this is a great premise and the writing is strong.

    The only thing keeping me from feeling sympathic toward the main character is that it isn't clear to me that he didn't expect human prey (which is what your logline indicates).

    In the first paragraph where you use the word 'prey'--what is Thorny expecting the prey to be? If he is expecting an animal, then I sugest you say specifically what kind of animal. And what kind of weapon is Thorny holding? What I am seeing (and I could be wrong) is a boy with a shotgun waiting while the men drive the game toward him. If he is a boy who regularly hunts, then does he think the way the men are driving the game like a freight train is unusual? I like the freight train discription very much.

    I just had another couple of thoughts. If Jace doesn't know this is a Klan hunt, then what does he think the hood is for? It makes Jaces seem pretty naive.

    If this scene takes place after Jace finds out his father's in the Klan and he knows the prey is human, then you'd lose my sympathy for Jace and I probably wouldn't read on.

  9. This was well-written, but I'm with the others on the sympathetic character bit. I'm not sure I'd pick up a book with a main character in the Klan, and you've lost me if he really does kill Willie.

    Good luck!

  10. I agree that the idea that Thorny wouldn't know that they were out to hunt a person is a problem you're going to have to work out, because it does hold all the weight for having us view the MC as a victim in something he did not want to do. You can't hunt if you don't know what your prey is, period. But if he thought it was a prank or a taunt instead of an actual murder...that might help.
    Also, the KKK's history what it is, it is VERY hard to believe that Thorny would sympathize with his victim and/or betray the klan. Something really major would have to happen to make that attitude change convincing, and if you have that in the novel, you might make it part of the logline.
    Speaking of the logline--my only complaint was how the clauses REALLY slowed it down. Just rework wording to make the sentences very active.
    The idea is intriguing, but I'm left feeling skeptical that all the issues are satisfyingly confronted with the opening scene throwing us right into the hunt.

  11. Logline:
    -You should give the year in the logline.
    -Use "Thorny" instead of (or in addition to) "Hawthorne" in the logline so the opening paragraph is clearer.
    -Also: how old is he?

    Line comments:

    I almost think you need to back it up. The logline makes it seem like Thorny wouldn't have done it if he'd known the prey was human--but here, he's already got the hood on and knows that he's after a person. This makes it rather difficult for me to sympathize with him. I'd rather see Thorny before the hunt, get to know how, and see what he feels as he pulls on the hood and realizes what the task at hand is--MAYBE then I can sympathize with him, but not now.

    In re-reading--it's even worse to me to see him think "please let me catch him," given the circumstances. He seems even more as if he *wants* to be there.

  12. Yes, you're definitely wandering into murky water here, but I think it's a fantastic concept.

    I guess my issue as far as character empathy goes is this - did Thorny know they were going out specifically to kill someone? If so, yes, hard to empathize. If not, okay, he got in over his head.

    Next thought - does Thorny feel bad b/c they killed the wrong person, or bad b/c he helped kill someone, period? B/c if he would've been totally cool with killing the intended person, well... yeah that's gonna be tough to pull off!

    I think the writing is solid here, although the description with the heat (sticky shirt, damp) got a little repetitive. Overall, good job!

  13. Ammi-Joan PaquetteDecember 7, 2010 at 8:31 AM

    The voice in this one caught my eye right away. I bid 5 pages.

  14. I'm intrigued by this story. I'll bid 10 pages.

  15. Here's a bid to read the first 50 pages.

    Weronika Janczuk
    D4EO Literary

  16. Love the story. I'll bid 75 pages.
    - Sarah LaPolla

  17. The competition is too fierce--I'm going all in. I want to see the full!

    Ammi-Joan Paquette

  18. Wait! Can I trump Joan w/ a full + one page critique?

    Strothman Agency

  19. Hey, Missy! Did you not see the big flashing sign that said BIDDING IS CLOSED! Of course you may NOT trump Joan with ANYTHING!

  20. *sweetly waits on ruling* I'm pretty sure all is fair in love and YA Historicals. But maybe I'll buy Joan a cuppa or a glass a wine at book club to ease her pain if she loses.

    Or maybe I'll just taunt her, who knows?

  21. I'm fully confident that the ruling will be in my favor. So there.

    But now that I know how low you can stoop... well!

  22. Wow--fighting over this one. Congrats, author!! :)

  23. Uh... hope it's still okay to leave a comment!

    I think the premise for the story is good, but the logline could be tighter.

    Other people have said this already, but I'll add my agreement; I don't see how Thorny can not be aware that they're hunting a human if he's wearing a Klan mask. I wonder if your intent was to hook the reader and then reveal that this was a Klan hunt. That doesn't work if the character knows... it just seems like an author trick.

    In the first paragraph, you've got the protag running through the woods trying to catch up with "the others." If he's behind--and assuming at this point that they're hunting an animal--why would he be in a position to scare the prey away? He'd be too far from it, wouldn't he?

    I felt you gave the firefly too much attention, such that it distracted from the action. Setting details should work with the action, not interrupt it.

    Your line, "Voices rose from the silent depths..." really didn't work for me, because there was nothing silent about the setting prior to this. Someone shouted, and then brush crackled and branches snapped... No silence.

    Where you say the others were barreling toward him like a freight train, I think you can cut the last part of that sentence. It's redundant. I also wonder if you can come up with a comparison that's less cliche. Maybe something that would hint at Thorny's cultural upbringing, thus doing double duty and telling us something about the character as well as the action taking place.

    When Thorny crashes into the other person, you say "body..." again, wouldn't Thorny be aware that it wasn't an animal? This is where I got the impression that you were trying to trick the reader into thinking they were hunting an animal. Why say "body" instead of "person" or even "victim?"

    A thought just occurred to me that the mentality of a Klansman might not allow that a black person is a human being.... Even so, I feel the passage is awkward and not an honest depiction of Thorny's thoughts or impressions.

    Something jumped right out at me, perhaps because I see this mistake made so often... If it's dark and he's in the woods (which means little or no moonlight), how can Thorny be sure of the identity of the person he's tackled? He wouldn't be able to see very clearly. The "face twisted in terror" would be a bunch of indistinct shadows, at best.

    I'm compelled to tell you that the use of Jesus' name as a cuss word will be highly offensive to Christian readers... even if it's realistic. You might want to consider some other word.

    Also, if he's whispering, then the dialogue needs to be inside quotation marks.

    The ending was a great hook, I felt. But I agree with the others, that a Klansman for a protagonist is a tough sell. Even though you've dropped us right into the action with this scene--which is good--I wonder if there is some way you can establish the character in a sympathetic way before we get to the killing part. Perhaps you could go back in time a bit, where his father calls him a loser and tells him to stay behind. If Thorny truly doesn't know this is a hunt for a human being, and indeed, that his father isn't a member of the KKK (as you stated in your logline), then get rid of the mask and make Thorny truly surprised when he tackles another person. However, this doesn't solve your problem, IMO, because Thorny's family life would no doubt include a lot of slanderous remarks about black people and the teaching of anger and hatred through his father's example. So... I'm afraid you've got a toughie on your hands!

    Hope this helps.

  24. Intriguing logline, but aside from the "how do you sympathize with a Klan member?" problem, I think the whole "prey" bit is a little much. Anyone reading this is going to know from the blurb that it's a person being hunted, so the designation as "prey" rings false to me.

  25. I think the agents see a quick fix to the obvious issue (doesn't he know what the hoods mean, etc) or they would not have jumped all over this.

    This has a whole lot of potential.

  26. Thank you everyone who took the time to read and comment. All your thoughts and suggestions are appreciated.

    And to all the agents who bid, boy, did you make my day. That was one heck of an ego boost!

    And Authoress, this had to be the best contest that ever was! Kudos to you for coming up with such a great idea!

  27. Wow.

    This is definitely taking a time period that's so overdone and doing something new with it. The conflict that the main character is dealing with really ups the stakes.

    What I don't understand, though, is how he is unclear on his father being in the Klan if he's wearing a hood, and how he's unclear on his prey being human if he tackles the guy himself.

    There will be a fine line to walk between sympathetic and not in the protagonist. It's fine if he's mostly unsympathetic, because this is a tough subject and it seems to be about whistleblowing, but I'm hooked enough that if I were to publish this kind of book, I'd read more to find out how well it was handled.

    Yet it does make me wonder why he had "no way" out of the situation. He made a choice to participate in a murder. Generally there are ways to say no, though they might mean severe consequences.

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