The feel of a book

When an author makes you feel, she has you.

I remember reading a manuscript, enjoying the characters, and wondering where the story would lead. Then, in the middle of a conversation, one of them cocked his head. Something wasn’t right. A noise that shouldn’t be there. I felt a chill.

Suddenly, those wonderful characters — high school students — were engulfed in horror:

Mani had his shoulders, while Kyle had his arms awkwardly around Daniel’s hips. One arm was hanging down, limp. They didn’t bring him to the tents, but stopped behind the house, far enough from the flames, and laid him down gently on his side with his head in Mani’s lap.

The first thing I noticed was the blood. It was everywhere, all over Kyle’s clothes and arms, soaked through the back of Daniel’s shirt and already dripping onto the sandy grass near Mani’s knees. It was so much darker than I had thought it would be — almost black — until I touched him, and my hands came away red.

A week later I was still replaying that scene, and I wasn’t alone. When it came time to title the book, one of the women on our team quoted a line from the story — and we all agreed. The author, Lisa McKay, had every one of us from that scene forward. What else would we call the book?

My Hands Came Away Red.

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