Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April Secret Agent #46

TITLE: Hoodoo
GENRE: Middle Grade

When I came out of my mama, Grandmama Frances took one look at me and said, “That child is marked. He got Hoodoo in him.”

And that’s how I got my name.


She was talking about the red smudge above my left eyebrow, shaped just like a heart. Everybody said it was some kind of sign, but what that sign meant nobody knew. But I’ll tell you one thing—everybody knew I was different as soon as they looked at me.

Mama Frances was the one who raised me ‘cause my real mama died when I was born. My daddy was dead too, hung for a crime he didn’t do. I was only five when he died. That was seven years ago. They said he shot a man in the next county over but I didn’t believe it. Daddy was a powerful mojo man and was known far and wide. Some folks said that’s why he was killed—because people were afraid of him and wanted to make sure he didn’t put a hex or spell on them. I didn’t think I’d ever know the real truth.


I smelled the Hoppin’ John before I even got to the house. Hoppin’ John is black-eyed peas and rice if you didn’t know.

I pulled the door shut behind me and put my bag on the table. The bag was full of rocks, pecans, some old bottle caps, flattened pennies from the railroad tracks and the skull of a small bird I’d found in the woods.


  1. I enjoyed this. I like the voice and the way you've put us in the setting. I can picture it well.

    Not sure about the way the MC talks to the reader in the second last paragraph - is there another way to let the reader know what Hoppin' John is? It pulled me out of the story.

    Good stuff!

  2. I really liked the strong and engaging voice and the emerging character. I especially liked the details of what was in the bag (rocks, pecans, some old bottle caps, flattened pennies from the railroad tracks and the skull of a small bird). I'm expecting a wonderful, character-driven novel. I would definitely keep reading.

  3. I loved this. I agree with the comment about not talking to the reader though. It disrupted the story for me.

  4. Oooh. The voice alone makes me want to keep reading. I don't really have a clue what it's about, but Hoodoo is already so interesting, I don't really care at the moment :P

    I agree with Franziska, though... Hoodoo addressing the reader was a little jarring. Is that part of his storytelling throughout the book somehow? If not, I'd try to find a different way to let us know what Hoppin' John is. (I had to re-read that sentence twice, by the way, because I originally thought Hoppin' John was a stinky man! Ha!)

    This is a fun one! Good luck :)

  5. I really love the voice and the world Hoodoo is from--that's unique and I want to keep reading! Is the beginning a prologue? If the book is set up like that, then I think it works. Otherwise, you might start with the next section and weave in the other info. Good luck!

  6. Great, original voice for YA. I'm not exactly sure where this is headed, but it seems to have great potential.

    I feel like the first two sentences in the second part are a little awkward. (Hoppin' John)

  7. I feel all contrary today lol. Anyway I liked the addressing the reader. It made it feel more like the narrator was telling the story, but I'm partial to that sort of thing.

    Lovely voice.

  8. I really liked this. The voice is great and there is humor in there even though the story is tragic.

    I didn't mind the narrator addressing the reader. The voice feels like a storyteller, and a storyteller would address the listener to make sure they understood the story.

  9. Like this a lot. Would definitely continue reading.

    Hoppin'John: After the first sentence, you could have something along the lines of..."Grandma Frances dish of black-eyed peas and rice was the best in the county" or whatever. Better than addressing the reader.

  10. I love this. Amazing voice. I think I'd remove the one line that addresses the reader though. It threw me off too. Other than that, I thought this was pretty solid.

  11. Love, love, love the voice. The title is great too. Back story is woven in nicely.

    I'm feeling a southern setting for sure, and love the details about what is in the bag.

    I'm a vote for not directly addressing the reader though. You pulled me into the story like magic magic, but that booted me out.

  12. I like the country aspect to this story. Not enough of that out there. That said, not my particular cup of tea. Writing was strong and the the voice is definitely distinct. But I would probably not read on.

    However, I'm clearly the minority. ;)

    Good job.

  13. Yes.

    I want more.

    Leave the Hoppin John in - I'm from the South and I got it right off.

    Your writing is clear and direct and I didn't mind the speaking to the audience thing. It engaged me.

    The tokens in the bag...something's definitely up with that.

    I want to read more.

    Good Luck!

  14. Nice voice - feels original - although it's not consistent in places. I'd avoid lecturing your reader in that tone for the hoppin John comment - save that attitude for the people he? she? actually talks to. (Can stick to regional yum as has been suggested or go off track ...Disgusting stuff. Peas and rice should never be in the same pot ... )that way your young protagonist isn't effectively telling half the readers out there they're idiots. Which is kind of cool - but it does cut both ways and you'll lose lots of readers. I'd be interested in reading more - but it is jumping around a bit as if you're rushing to put in vital elements in the word-count available and haven't quite made it to the vital supernatural element.

  15. I enjoyed this plenty. Folks sure do seem to be easily thrown off and booted out by something as little as Hoppin' John. I'm Canadian and I'm happy Hoodoo was kind enough to tell me what the f#%k it was.

    Nice writing. I'm hooked line and sinker.

  16. I love everything about this - especially the voice. And I like the MC talking to us, even though I already knew what hoppin' john was.

  17. This intrigues me, I like the voice and it's unique enough to draw me in. I want to know more about your MC, especially why they carry around all those objects!

    I'm hooked.

  18. The dialect here is amazing. You really capture the flavor of your setting. I would read more!

  19. Well I was not even going to comment because I felt it has all been said but I wanted to let the author know that you can add my vote to the mix in terms of I LIKE the narrator addressing me. It feels natural and intimate and I would not lost that. To be honest, I always expected that in a certain type of 1st person story and am surprised to see it turns off a group of people. Excellent voice and authentic-sounding description so replete with details that I trust the writer and would go on for sure.

  20. Even though it's telling, it works because the voice is strong. I'd read on.

  21. Great voice! I really like Hoodoo and I love how he describes his mark. I also love how he has an attitude. More of that!

    The numbers in the "Mama Frances" paragraph were a lot all at once. Spread those out. Tell us later that he was five when his daddy died. Tell us later that it was seven years ago. But good details about his Daddy shot a man and that his Daddy was a mojo man and people were afraid of him.