Friday, November 30, 2012

(59) YA Alternate History: Abel Pirates

TITLE: Abel Pirates
GENRE: YA Alternate History

To combat piracy in the Caribbean, a desperate solution is instituted: force pirates to surrender by holding their kin hostage. And if they don’t?  Hang their next-of-kin.  

When sixteen-year-old Beatrix is named “next-of-kin” to her pirating grandfather, she seeks refuge at sea, only to discover that the price of freedom might be too high.        

Beatrix was used to keeping her head down in Sheepshank, so it wasn’t until she felt Miss Black tense beside her that she looked up from the uneven cobblestones and spotted him.  A man on horseback in their path of retreat.

He hardly seemed a threat—oily black curls bounced beneath his ridiculously wide-brimmed planter’s hat; an orange feather plume sagged upon his shoulder—but Miss Black considered everyone a threat.  Even ruddy-cheeked fops who couldn’t keep their periwigs on straight.

“Hallo there, Miss Black,” he called with a wave.  “Lost, are you?  Courthouse is in the other direction!”  He laughed, a high-pitched titter, and spurred his horse toward them.

Miss Black stopped Beatrix, taking her by the wrist.  “Not a word,” she instructed quietly, her eyes clouded with worry.

The man was upon them before Beatrix could answer.  Not that Miss Black needed an answer—Beatrix would hardly choose today, of all days, to start conversing with strangers.  But ever since arriving in town and finding the streets dead, Miss Black had been on edge—more so than usual.  The bank had been locked up, and wedged in the door they'd found a hastily scrawled noted: “Closed.  Trial of Billy Cook, accused pirate.”

“But won’t it look suspicious if we miss the trial?” Beatrix had pointed out as Miss Black ushered her briskly toward the path out of town.

“Attend a pirate trial?” Miss Black had said with a humorless laugh.  “Sometimes I think you take it lightly, just how close you are to the hangman’s noose.


  1. This is clean and easy to read, and the last line is great. There's a nice atmosphere of tenseness and danger.

    But I wonder if it wouldn't be better rearranged a bit, because the first line that made me really sit up and take notice was 'But ever since arriving in town and finding the streets dead, Miss Black had been on edge...' Maybe it would be better to start with them, in the moment, finding the town empty and the sign on the door?

    I'd also like to be in Beatrix's head a tiny bit more, find out a bit more about her, for a first page, rather than concentrating immediately on the man on horseback. And I think perhaps one line describing the street would be good, so the reader can picture it in their mind, at the moment we only have the uneven cobblestones.

    Anyway, just my two cents, good luck!

  2. You do a nice job evoking tension here, so we have to wonder whether Miss Black is being overprotective or if things are even worse than she supposes. I agree that we don't get a lot of insight into Beatrix's thoughts, so I would make sure that happens soon after this opening.

    The descriptions are nice - I could easily envision the fop on horseback with just that paragraph. I would keep reading. Good luck!

  3. What a great logline--so compelling! I'm a sucker for beautiful language, and lines with voice like this totally won me over: "Even ruddy-cheeked fops who couldn’t keep their periwigs on straight."

    On the one hand, it wouldn't hurt to take us deeper into Beatrix' thoughts, but on the other, I was happy to delve into the action and tension in this scene as-is, and would be turning the page if there were more!

  4. Excellent voice and use of language! My only suggestion would be to establish the relationship between Beatrix and Miss Black sooner. That would also allow you to substitute "her guardian" or "her teacher" in place of "Miss Black" a few times. The repetitiveness of her name stood out to me.

    Otherwise, great job and a very unique concept!

  5. I love the concept of this story; it feels unique compared to a lot of YA I've seen lately.

    I agree with some of the comments above about getting into Beatrix's head a little more to be better able to connect with the character.

    I actually love the line delivered by the man on the horse. It filled me with a sense of foreboding and was the first clue that Miss Black and Beatrix are up to something they shouldn't be.

  6. Your idea is strong and so is your writing. I'm intrigued by the girl-at-sea angle. I think the pace is good, though if you rearranged as suggested before, I can see that working, too. I slowed down a bit on the first two sentences of paragraph five, but that might just be me.

    Beatrix seems a little timid in her actions, but then Miss Black's last statement makes it seem like she's more precocious--and she's bold enough to go off to sea.

    I think you have a strong entry. Good luck at the auction!

  7. Wow! I want more! I want the entire damned book - most intriguing bit I've read in a very long time ...

  8. Great writing! Both your logline and novel excerpt fully captivated me. I would like a bit more of a peek into Beatrix's thoughts, like others have said. And if there's a way to let us know the streets are deserted before the fob arrives (as Girl Friday pointed out), that would help further establish the lovely, almost creepy aura you've created in this town.

  9. I love this premise! Everything about pirates is dangerous and sexy. What a great concept.

    Your writing style is very good, very clean, and I love your use of descriptive language throughout. My only suggestion is to reword your first sentence. It didn't stand out to me, whereas other sentences in your entry were more packed with tension. I think if that first sentence came across as more ominous, it would help. The rest of the entry does come across that way (and I absolutely would keep reading!), so if you ramp up the fear factor in the first sentence, it might serve as a better hook to grab the reader.

    Good luck with the auction!!!

  10. This isn't my normal joy-read material but the pitch was intriguing (Which, it's good that it served its purpose!) so I decided to check it out.

    Not that I know anything at all about whether this would sound authentic to a reader who is used to this type of material, it felt real enough for me, who has little to no experience reading historical fiction of any type, much less pirates. So that's good!

    There was a moment about halfway through the excerpt where I floundered, unsure of who is telling the story - if it was Miss Black or Beatrix - so if I could make a helpful suggestion, being clear on who's narrating might be it. However, I mostly read 1st person POV's as it's hard for me to get into 3rd without getting confused so it might just be me and not your writing.

    Otherwise, I enjoyed this. Particularly the closing line! That was an excellent stopping point! Like I said, this isn't my normal reading category, so take it for what it's worth that I think you have a great entry here! Good luck!

  11. This is an intriguing idea and I enjoyed reading the excerpt. The first line felt a bit awkward to read, specifically the "Miss Black tense" part, but I loved the immediate tension building with the second line.

    I'm confused with why this isn't written in chronological order. I think that would make this great scene even better.

    I would definitely read more!

    Best of luck to you in the auction!

  12. Love the "periwigs on straight" touch. Agree with others that your opening could tell us more about the main character, Beatrix. My first impression of her is passive. But its a strong opening and I would probably buy this based on the logline and first 250 (esp. if it also included a hint of romance!)

  13. PIRATES. Amen.

    I loved that the voice sounded historical and in context, and that details put us exactly where we're supposed to be (hello foppish periwigs). I need answers to the questions you've raised on the page, and I sense they'll come in a most entertaining way.

    Great job. Lemme know your pub date. I can't wait to read. :)

  14. I love the idea of this. It’s laced with tension from the start.

    The character definition in this passage is a great start. I feel the defiant streak in Beatrix. I understand the wariness in Ms. Black that comes with a steal backbone. I know who these women are, and though I don’t know exactly where they are, or what they’re doing in these empty streets or why, I want to.

    I wasn’t as keen on some of the descriptors of our foppish gentleman on horseback, and that has to do with a self-consciousness that resonates from some of your use of period indicators. Sometimes, in the attempt to demonstrate how keenly aware a writer is of his period detail, he forgets how unimportant those details would be to the characters in the context of that time, and the very attempt to make the details right draws attention and makes them feel wrong. (I do hope I’m making sense. . . . ) All I mean is that this is perhaps bordering too much on the detail – to a level that stops feeling natural – so pull some of it back.

    Oh, and I loved the remarks about the unseemliness of a pirate trial. I want to be in that courtroom now (though I’m sure it would be just as unseemly for me.)

  15. I love this premise. I think the other posts have great points, so I'll leave it at that. Good luck.

  16. I guess I'm in agreement with a few of the others, meaning I'd like to know what Beatrix's reaction to the "ruddy cheeked fop" spurring his horse towards her. Like: is she scared? Strong and indifferent??? All it would take, I think, is one little line. With that said, I think you have a very strong premise...Good luck!

  17. Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy LiteraryDecember 4, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    50 pages!

  18. Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy LiteraryDecember 4, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    Ahoy, Tamar!