Monday, August 18, 2014

1st 5 Pages August Workshop - Leun Rev 2

Name: Garrett Vander Leun
Genre: YA - Urban Fantasy
Title: MONSTER TOWN - Revision 2

Henry had thought about killing his dad before. Hell, he'd wished it on candles.

Henry picked apart a fistful of foam from the hole in his seat, watching through the windshield while his dad got his special driving outfit all sorted out.

A pink gardening hat with a brim big enough to blot out twenty suns.

Yellow plastic kitchen gloves, cinched around his wrists with hair ties.

Orange snowboarding goggles, wrenched down so tight that his pasty face screamed pink mercy all around the edges. And then there was the shirt. A vintage, loosey-goosey Hawaiian shirt just because. Because he liked the way the flora made his soul sing, just like he liked the way his leather sandals tickled his toes, just like every little thing he did seemed calculated to piss Henry off.

Henry's eyes shifted over to a green, wooden gardening stake on the work table in the garage. What would it take, two seconds to climb out and grab it? Five more to plunge it through his dad's vegetarian, vampire heart? Henry smiled. Blood would spurt all over the concrete, his dad would drop, and the wonders of his weakness would do the rest. His dad would probably gurgle out some sort of wheezy last words, too.

But I loved you, Son!

Total bullshit. It was Henry's release day - one more test to prove he was a human and then he'd get good and gone forever - and his dad hadn't said one word about it. Sometimes his dad would get so lost in his little nocturnal world of secret research at the library and his clandestine meetings at the hardware store that Henry would have to bang on the blackout chamber door and remind his dad that someone in the house still depended on real food to survive.

Anton climbed inside the car with a thermos full of the bright orange liquid the government supplied for his cravings. The entire van reeked like fish as soon as he took a sip off the top.

There was a pen inside the cup holder that could serve as a stake in a pinch. Maybe Henry could use it on their way to the hospital that night. Ram it into his dad's sternum and slap him across the face when the death rattle crept up his throat. Hey, he'd yell, stay with me! I got something to say on my last day, something for mom. This is for chasing her off when I was three, for leaving me with nothing but a faded yellow picture and half a bottle of her favorite perfume. This is for flushing it down the toilet when you caught me spraying it in my bedroom.

Anton looked at Henry. "Something on your mind?"

Henry answered with a turn of his middle finger.

Anton sighed and stabbed the key into the ignition. "You know what?"

Henry never would know 'what' because his dad loved to let an empty threat dangle. Cowardice was the lifeblood of Section 671, the reason all those minor monsters ended up between those four giant walls when The War was over. Their monster kids played the same game, too; anytime they wanted to work their vengeance against humanity out on Henry, they simply made it look like an accident.

Scratches, scrapes, scars - every single report went to the sheriff station with a box marked 'accident' and the government never thought to ask otherwise. Henry still walked with a limp from the time a centaur 'accidentally' stepped on his foot and shattered three metatarsals. Every time he shaved his head, the scar from a gnome's overthrown dirt clod left a moon-shaped circle behind his ear.

The pinky finger was the one the other kids stared at. The little feeding accident involving one of the half-shark selachs. Henry grabbed onto the nub and waited for the van's engine to start up. You could hear their van coming from blocks away, a sound like someone playing basketball with a typewriter. It was one of many things Anton was going to take care of just as soon as he was done obsessing over himself.

Anton took a sip off the top of his mug and shivered. "Well, here goes..." He held his breath while the car rolled backwards, waiting to see what bit of skin he'd forgot to cover.

"Your forearms, Anton."

"Ah-ya-ya!" Anton's exposed flesh crackled like bacon as soon as the sun hit.

"Jesus." Henry grabbed the cuffs of his dad's long-sleeve t-shirt and pulled them out from under the short-sleeved Hawaiian one. His dad's constant flirtation with death-by-stupidity was the only thing that required physical contact between the two of them.

"We're good - I'm good - everything's good." The car pummeled the neighbor's bushes and laid waste to most of their lawn before everything was finally good. Anton steered the van out on the open road and choo-choo'ed his pain through the back of his teeth. "I asked you to lay off his name."

"Who? Jesus Christ?"

His dad moaned through a wave of nausea.

"You realize Arbo messed with me every time you destroy their yard?" Their neighbors were plant elementals; they felt every green, growing thing in town like it was their own skin.

"So tell Arbo it was an accident, he'll understand."

Henry shook his head. Not even the monsters understood his dad.

He'd disbanded his gang of vampires before Henry was born and gone vegetarian shortly after that. Henry came along right about the time The War was coming to an end and his dad was the only supermonster to sit it out. In a town full of minor monsters, his dad was treated like a disease. Henry had never even seen his dad sprout a single fang or batwing despite years of begging.

It cramps up my arms, Hanky Panky!

Between that and all the Cat Stevens music, Anton was about as human as a monster could get.

Anton pushed the cassette tape in and, true to form, Peace Train came blaring down the tracks. Henry gave it about two seconds before he popped it back out.

"Don't start - it's my week, Henry."

"And it's my release day, Asshole."

His dad's face went paler than pale. It went translucent. "I didn't forget. I was thinking about it this weekend, you know." He looked at Henry. "I was going to plan something, but I was up 'till sunrise last night, doing some work and..."


"The library."

"Doing what? What could you have possibly been doing that made you forget about today?"

Anton's eyes bounced around the mirrors. "Work."

Henry turned out towards the window. "Awesome."

Anton sighed. "Come on, I know this is a big deal. This is a big deal." He cleared his throat. "Happy birthday."

The town outside Henry's window moved by like an endless, tattered rainbow. Yellow was the color of the weeds in the ghouls' yards, because they were too dead to care. Black was the color of the oil stains splattered in the driveways of the ghosts, because they were too immaterial to scrub it. Brown was the color of the burnt and brittle dirt in the centaur paddocks, because those proud little ponies would never be forced into running behind a fence.

Every time another color disappeared behind them, Henry told himself it was the last time he was going to have to look at it. That it was going to be the last day he lived in a world built on hand-me-down human relics.

By tomorrow, everything's going to be new, he thought.


  1. Hi Garrett,

    I really like what you've done with revisions. It is much easier to follow and understand and because of that it makes me want to keep reading.

    While I understand what Hanky Panky means in the story some may not, so maybe add something after that explaining that it's his dad's pet name for Henry.
    I hope that at some point in the next few pages you are going to explain why his dad disbanded his vampire gang. If not a quick blurb about why that happened might be good here. Might help to explain why the monsters didn't understand his dad.

    I think you've done a great job of keeping the voice of the characters and incorporating the changes that help keep the story flowing and easier to follow. And I have much more interest in Henry, although I liked him anyway.


  2. I agree with Kate that you needed to explain the Hanky Panky reference (now I get it). I'm still confused as to why he hates it there so much and why he hates his dad (other than the obvious that he's a vampire). It's stronger now and we certainly get his hatred toward his dad but a part of me wanted him to find something he likes about his dad even though he's anxious to leave. I love the opening line but almost wish you'd combine them. Henry had wanted to kill his dad before, hell, he wished it on candles. Your choice. For the last line, what about leaving off, he thought and using italics to show it's his thinking? Otherwise, this is much better.

  3. Hi Garrett,
    You are gradually making me want to come out of the realm of realism and explore fantasy and monster worlds--I did like The Lightning Thief... Some of the additions you have added have really added depth to the characters. I like Anton's imagined last words, and I appreciated the explanations as to why he would forget Henry's birthday.
    Here's a question that you may want to consider, because I'm a little overwhelmed with trying to assimilate all of the information about the world that they are living in: What does your reader really need to know in the first chapter? I wonder if some of the information could be stuff that you, as the writer, know, but weave into some of the later chapters. It might serve as a way to continue to intrigue readers.
    Looking forward to watching this continue to develop!

  4. I really enjoyed this latest revision. The story was much easier for me to follow - except for this line:

    . "You know what?"

    Henry never would know 'what' because his dad loved to let an empty threat dangle.

    How is "You know what?" an empty threat?

    But otherwise I don't see much to comment on here. I enjoyed it immensely. I did flinch when Henry calls his dad an asshole. That is pushing him toward very unlikable. You could soften it just a bit by making him think it (italics) instead of actually saying it out loud. Just a suggestion.

    Nice job.

  5. Wow, this is amazingly vivid and I really like the world you're building. I wasn't able to read your prior ones, but this one flows and is pretty easy to follow. Two suggestions.

    1. There are bits and pieces that don't read totally smooth to me. If you haven't already read this out loud, you might want to try that. It's a great way to catch rough spots in your prose.

    2. This opening is great on characterization and worldbuilding, but it might be a little light on action. Too much time in a character's head without grounding the reader in the moment can hinder people from really engaging in the story. It doesn't have to be a car chase. For example, a bit more of Henry getting ready to go or getting in the car would work.

    This has a really cool voice and I'm definitely interested in the story. Good job!