Saturday, December 4, 2010

#5 Dystopian: Hound in Blood and Black (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Hound in Blood and Black
GENRE: Dystopian

Kumari the Hound is a zombie wrangler; she catches undead and turns them into gladiators, whose triumphs in the arena mean food and water for those she loves. It's dangerous, but what isn't in a world filled with monsters? A dead brother and father are proof of that.

When Kumari saves a child named Heaven from slavery, she discovers the unexpected: hope. Now that she has found something worth living for, Kumari will do anything to protect it - even if it means becoming one of the monsters herself.

Last tank of gas, Kumari thought. The Jeep engine spit out a black cloud before picking up speed. Last chance to make a catch. Last chance to keep the people she cared about alive.

"Harder!" Kumari called over the battered engine's howl. She adjusted the bandana across the lower half of her face as her partner Bastion punched the gas, pebbles spraying the old army Jeep in peppered graffiti. She focused on her target and ignored her racing heart.

Looked like a man. About five-foot-ten, maybe two hundred pounds. No shoes, denim jacket. Bald. Dirty.


"Left!" she shouted. The Jeep veered hard, tires skidding over the rocky desert. Kumari caught herself with a hard foot to the wheel well, maintaining her balance as the vehicle sped across the uneven plain. The undead stumbled as the Jeep cut in front of it. "Damn it, Bastion! Don't run it over."

The Jeep jerked again, right, spewing more dust into the air. Kumari swallowed. Only daybreak, and already hot as hell. Best to finish the hunt and get home before noon.

No pressure. People would only die if she didn't.

She shook her head; now wasn't the time for distractions. Kumari flexed her hand around the collar, the most important part of her arsenal. A wrangler's prime tool, the seven-foot pole's horseshoe-shaped tip was the best way to pin an undead; at arm's length and with minimal damage to the future gladiator.


  1. I'm a little confused by the logline. It sounds like this is about zombies becoming gladiators so when you mention the child, I immediately think he/she is a zombie and am confused why this child would become a slave. You also say her motivation is to feed the people she loves, but then say her brother and father are dead and that she doesn't have anything worth living for.

    In the excerpt, I like that you get right into the action. I find it odd for her to refer to people in her life as "the people she cared about" and again later as "people". A person would think more specifically (such as Mom, Dad, Bob...). It's also hard for a reader to empathize with a vague motivation. This would be stronger if she was fighting for a named person.

  2. I like your logline.

    I don't think you need "Kumari thought" in the first sentence. The imagery of the pebbles as graffiti doesn't ring true since graffiti implies leaving a mark of letters.

    "Racing heart" could be stated in a different, more unique, way.

    I like "Dead" set apart as its own para. Nice.

    You've mentioned "Jeep" five times. Can you pare that down?

    I don't think you need the para: "No pressure. People would only die if she didn't." It reads awkwardly and is repetitious since you already said "Last chance to keep the people she cared about alive."

    The last sentence is really long and complicated. I'd break it up to keep then tension high and maintain clarity.

    Your story sounds like a fun thrill ride, and your detail in the setting is good, I felt how hot and sticky she was and was mentally slammed around in the Jeep with her. Good luck!

  3. I love this! I like the way she says it "looked like a man" and refers to it as "undead" and "it". It really removes me from feeling sorry for them and not liking her for doing what she's doing. I also love the tension. Great job.

  4. Very unique premise. I agree that more specific consequences/motivations would definitely strengthen the tension.

    I like the use of sentence fragments to increase the speed of the scene, but be careful not to overuse them.

    Good start!

  5. No pressure. People would only die if she didn't.

    Great line!

    The logline felt a little confusing, but the excerpt was fun to read and flowed well. I would like to know in the first paragraph who specifically she's trying to save. That little tidbit would give me more specific insight into Kumari's character.

  6. I love the concept you've got here and the world you're building. That said, the opening didn't really do much for me - I think the problem is what Holly said about vague motivations.

  7. I love the concept of this. Zombie gladiators? Seems so logical!

    However, like Holly, I had some difficulty with the motivations. Everyone she loved is dead, but she's fighting to keep them alive. And then the child -- zombie? Yes? No? I can't tell, and if he's a zombie, why would she care so much?

  8. Great action. A gripping start. I could feel the tension, the motion, the straining both physically and emotionally. All of that works really well.

    I didn't quite get the connection between the two sentences of the log line. How do those situations intertwine to become one story?

    I also felt confused right after they find the dead guy and then suddenly were chasing an undead. I think I just need a brief line to indicate she's spotted somebody else who's an undead and now they're switching directions to chase it instead. A small thing. :)

    Gladiator zombies. Intriguing.

    I agree with the others in wanting to know who exactly it is that she's caring about now that her dad and brother are dead.

    I'd read more for sure. Good luck with this.

  9. Abstaining from comment as I know this author :)

  10. Logline - I really like it, but it seems somewhat long to me. Most agents consider a logline to be only a single sentence, maybe two, so two paragraphs seems a little long.

    Excerpt - You do some nice worldbuilding here in very short order and you mix it very well with a sense of desperation and urgency that this is a life or death situation. It's a very good hook. Your use of short choppy sentences adds to the sense of urgency and speed that we see in the action in the opening section.

    The only thing that wasn't quite clear was the collar. My first thought was that she was wearing it (simply because of the term collar), so maybe make it a bit clearer that she's holding it in her hand?

    Overall, you do a very nice job of setting the scene for an interesting world in this scene.

    Good luck!

  11. What a hook! The idea of zombies being captured and used as gladiators is intriguing. Will readers sympathize with the zombies? :) I concur about the logline. Make it more clear what's at stake for her to become a zombie hunter. I also concur with the *collar* comment. I thought her shirt collar at first.

    Well done. I'd read more in a heartbeat.

  12. Log line - the first line implies she not only catches zombies, she trains them to be gladiators, and she isn't paid with food and water unless the zombies actually win in the arena. But from everything else, I get the sense that she just catches them, and is then paid. Perhaps make that clearer.

    I also wondered if Heaven was human or Zombie, and if she was the thing worth living for (or was it hope).

    Excerpt - I liked this a lot. Lots of action.

    Perhaps cut "she shook her head. Now wasn't the time for distractions.' I think it weakens the previous "No pressure" sentence.

    And you might say - she flexed her hand around the most important tool in her arsenal - a 7 foot long collar . . . which will explain the collar, and will do it in the context of the story, rather than as a break where the story is stopped for the sake of explanation.

  13. Logline-This is too much. Others have touched on this before, but you have zombie wrangling, gladiator trials, dead loved ones, a slave, and no mention of what connection Kumari has to Heaven or why on Earth she'd risk anything to save her. I'd stick to the most compelling fact here: Kumari is willing to risk becoming a zombie to save this girl. Set that up better. All the zombie wrangling stuff/gladiator battles is background compared to that.

    First page- I'm lacking the emotional connection here, mostly because all we have are "people." Who specifically does Kumari care about? This is an interesting premise, but something important to remember in zombie stories like this is the tension comes from the emotions. There is a psychological factor here. If she doesn't wrangle and enslave the zombie, someone she cares about dies (how? are they murdered as punishment? or are they just going hungry for one day? that's important!); if she does wrangle and enslave a zombie, well, that's hard. Zombies used to be people, people that living humans cared about. Don't ignore that factor! Kumari should have some emotion about this, and I'd like to see that on the page. After all, you would have to be pretty heartless to enslave a human being; a human turned into a zombie shouldn't be any easier. There should be conflict between Kumari wanting to hook a zombie and despising the whole enslavery thing, especially since her motivations are largely based on her love for people. [For an example of a good YA book that pulls this off, check out Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry.] Otherwise, this is a VERY interesting premise! Zombies as gladiators? I'm in, as long as the emotional side is there.

  14. This concept is gold.

    I do agree with what others said about naming the people she's trying to save in the text, and about some confusing issues with the logline.

  15. I bid to read 50 pages.
    Kate McKean
    Howard Morhaim Literary Agency

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. Full ms!
    Kate McKean
    Howard Morhaim Literary Agency

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. I'm having posting issues today *head-desk*

    75 pgs!

  20. Yay for this author! Best of luck!

  21. Totally hooked. Love zombie stories that twist the expectations, and gladiator zombies instead of just hack-and-slash makes for a fun change. Makes me think of a zombie version of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Jumping right into the action worked for me, and there was just enough detail to worldbuild without overburdening the reader.