Sunday, April 16, 2017

1st 5 Pages April Workshop- Collins Rev 2

Name: Timothy Collins
Genre: Young Adult Horror
Title: Neffers


Desperate to save her terminally ill sister, fifteen-year-old Del blindly believes the words of a dying man. He speaks of a fountain with the ability to heal. Undaunted by its steep price of human sacrifice Del amasses a pile of dead bodies.
If lore holds true, she can exchange them for access to the fountain.
Healing requires baptism in Eternum’s fabled fountain. Del and her younger sister, Addie, travel to the walled city, but once inside Del realizes it’s a trap. The only sacrifice the townsfolk want is Addie, and they expect Del to kill her. When Del refuses, they toss her beaten body into the forest occupied by Neffers, beastly protectors of the fountain. These imprisoned once-human creatures survive on the blood of sick children like Addie.
To save Addie, Del needs the Neffers’ help, but success means freeing the Neffers to feed upon the sick children of the world. Doing nothing means sacrificing the last of her humanity and letting Eternum continue to sacrifice children, including Addie. In a no-win battle of monsters and men, Del must figure out how many innocent lives the person you love most is worth.

1st 5 Pages:

The toe tag on the decapitated body read: IF FOUND, CALL <Phone number>, so fifteen-year-old Del pulled out her iPhone.

The burning Texas sun played spotlight for the headless body starring center stage.

“I’m not afraid of you,” Del said, circling the shirtless decaying corpse. She maintained a perimeter outside the buzzing flies and fluid soaked ground but breathed easier knowing it wouldn’t answer. “I’ve seen other dead people, you know.”

Seen. Created. CollectedSame difference.

Del spied a turkey vulture gliding in a copycat pattern around the body. “Get the hell outta here! He’s mine!” she fumed. She snatched a piece of gray limestone from the dirt and hurled the rock skyward. The irritated vulture voiced its displeasure before settling settled into the field’s lone oak tree. For now, Del owned her prize uncontested. Dead bodies were a one-way ticket to life in jail for most, not a bloody precursor to salvation.

She sneered at the corpse. “He’d eat you if I let him, but you’re my entrance fee.” Del flipped her head toward the oak masquerading as a kickstand for her ten-speed bike. “And them.”

Nervous excitement drove Del to chew her last unbroken nail to a jagged nub before dialing. She figured most people would be afraid to call, but they weren’t in her situation. How many people needed to find a magical cure for cancer, like yesterday?

What if no one answered?

The option to call the cops had long since passed. They would canvas the field. Talking her way out of one dead body seemed plausible, but not half-dozen. While her underground fort kept them out of sight, their putrid scent would undoubtedly betray her.

 “Yeah?” Gruff and tumble on the other end, but welcoming in an odd way. “You got Pez.” Del strained to hear him over the hum of the idling truck engine behind the man’s voice.

“I found something I think belongs to you.” Del opted not to slow play her hand. Time wasn’t an ally.

“I’m listening,” Pez said.

“A body. Male. Fat and goopy. Like, ‘loved Taco Tuesday’ fat.” Del noted no blood around the corpse’s wounds. “And no head.” She performed a quick pirouette to verify she didn’t miss it in the open field.

Nope. No head. No smell either. Maybe the perfect guy.

“Should I be freaking out?” Del asked, dragging a sweaty palm across her Deadpool t-shirt. Silence swept over the abandoned field. She dug her teeth into her sun-chapped bottom lip.

“No need to freak out. We’ll take care of everything. Can you tell me where you are?” Pez asked.

A background voice chimed in behind Pez, loud and filled with subtle rage. “Did you put your phone number on a dead body?”

“Do you think I’m stupid? I’d never give out my number, Dermit,” Pez paused. “This is your phone.”

Del laughed so hard the jet-black iPhone slipped from her hands. It bounced harmlessly into the white milky substance oozing from the body. She hesitated but relented and plucked it from the goo.

“Five-second rule,” she muttered, wiping the phone clean on the hip of her jeans shorts before putting it back to her ear.

“Just find out!” The background voice faded, but his anger resonated through the phone.

“Relax. You’re gonna burst a blood vessel.” Pez cleared his throat. “Still there, kid?”

“Kid? I’m not the one losing their dead bodies,” Del scoffed. “This thing’s got no head, and I think it may be smarter than you.”

“Touche,” Pez chuckled. “I like your spirit.”

“And you owe me a new pair of shorts,” Del’s greedy spirit took control of her mouth.

“Liked your spirit may be more accurate. How ‘bout you text me your location,” he said, before lowering his voice, “and if you keep this between us, I’ll make sure you can buy a whole new ensemble to match some new shorts.”

Del’s fingertips danced nervously across the touch screen tapping out her location.

“A magic fountain of life,” she muttered. “Dad better be right.” The stories were entertaining and all, but what Del needed more was hope.

His words ran through her head:
It’s like those trays by the convenience store cash register.
Give a penny. Take a penny.
But instead, the fountain treats lives as pennies.
Give a life. Take a life.

Del amassed enough bodies for six lifetimes, twice what she needed. If these guys coming weren’t who she thought they were, that number would have to increase to eight.

“You’re the first headless body I’ve seen, though. I’ll give you that.” Del relented her guardian’s prowl and knelt near the body. “If you really wanted to impress me, you’d answer.”

Ears or no ears, the dead made the best listeners.

“Can I tell you a secret?” She cupped her hands around her mouth and leaned in close. “We’re not alone in this field.”

She pushed a pile of dirt over the “dude milk” as she referred to it. Dude milk seemed harmless compared to whatever name some scientist would label the white ooze. Maybe they’d name it after her. God, she hoped not. That’s not how she wanted to be immortalized. There was a better way if one was inclined to believe the ramblings of a dying man.

The corners of her lips turned higher when she saw a clear spot close to the body. Del tossed a handful of dirt onto the corpse’s chest. The clump floated on the soggy flesh. She continued until his nipples became a buried treasure.

“Sorry, dude, not a fan of Moobs. You know, man-boobs.” Del leaned in closer and molded the dirt into a bikini. “Everyone’s going to be wearing one of these this summer. All natural, organic dirt bikini. The Dirtini. It practically sells itself!”

The digital readout on her iPhone read ten after three. More troubling was the eighteen-percent juice left on the battery. She rolled her eyes realizing she didn’t ask the guy how long it would take them to arrive.

Clearing her throat, a light-headed Del sat back on her knees examining the random brown splotches on his otherwise bare chest. “Design flaw. We’ll need to work on that.” She moved her finger and thumb to her chin. “Why don’t you smell? The others smell.” Del flipped her head toward the oak tree. “Can’t get enough air fresheners to kill that stench. Can you believe I used roadkill to cover the smell? You’d be surprised how effective a splattered skunk carcass can be.”

Not a single cloud in the blue sky. Not one break from the sun. These were the hardest days to contain the lingering decay of death’s perfume. Her nose had grown immune to the skunk, but not to them. The human body simply wasn’t designed to tolerate that smell.

“When the doctors diagnosed Addie with Leukemia a second time three years ago, I swore I’d never let anything happen to her. A foolish promise, but as a twelve-year-old at the time, I didn’t know any better,” she sighed and returned her focus to the ground. “Two years later, no one had any answer as to why she wasn’t getting any better. I learned words like chemotherapy, metastasize, and hospice.”


  1. This is really tight now Tim. I love her coming back at Pez on the kid thing & Pez's reaction. I love her chatting away to the corpse more. Not much to say in terms of constructive criticism now.

    Because you've played around with it a bit, you've got a couple of typos - the vulture 'settling settled' into the oak tree. And you're missing an a before half dozen. The only other thing I would suggest is that Del saying 'a foolish promise' didn't feel right to me. I'd go with something more like. "Stoopid, I know. But I was twelve. I didn't know any better."

    But it's niggly little things. Nothing major. I love the pitch too. Maybe just clarify that the little sister she takes with her to Eternum is the same one that's terminally ill.

    But that's it. Love the world & the quest & would love to find out what happens next! Great stuff :)

  2. The Pitch: I like it! The stakes are high and her moral problem is rough. I also like the interesting conundrum of Del's already seared conscious (if she has, in fact, been killing people already). The only thing that trips me up a little is the fact that the villagers leave Addie alive? Why wouldn't they just kill her when Del refuses to do so?
    This may just be a good question to leave open, but that's the only niggling thing I could pick on for your pitch. Good job! :)

    1st five: I agree with Lorna. I like the expanded conversation she has with Pez and the corpse, particularly her diction. There were one or two places where I felt like there needed to be a bit more transition (like when Pez answers), and one spot where you wrote "settled" then "settling", but those are pretty minor details, easily fixed. This whole piece has me curious about how she's amassed these bodies, how the heck she's going to get them to the location she wants them, and how Pez and his buddy are related to this fountain of life. I'm still slightly jarred by how funny Del finds Pez's line about the phone (not that I find it weird that she'd laugh, only that it sends her into such a fit of giggles - if this is just because of nerves I think you need to play that up just a tiny bit more :)).

    Overall I like it and it hooks me! Good job!

  3. Hi Timothy,

    Comments on pitch: You've got a really strong pitch. I often don't like pitches that begin with questions, I kind of like the idea of starting the pitch out with something along the lines of "How many innocent lives must Del take to protect the person she loves the most?" and then going into the rest of your pitch, instead of having that line at the end of your pitch. It's a sinister question, and I feel like it really helps draw interest, as it would leave the reader wondering why Del is having to take innocent lives to protect someone (and then explaining why in the rest of the pitch, like you do).

    Overall though your pitch is great. It's definitely not overwhelming, and it sets up the sinister feeling that I feel you were trying to get across for your story, considering it's a horror story. I would just suggest trying out that question at the start, and removing the line at the end of the pitch. I feel like it will help to make the pitch a little stronger, and even more sinister.

    Comments on pages: The first thing that jumped out to me was the humor within your first pages. You've set the story up in your pitch as being very dark and sinister, so it's nice to see the contrast of dark mixed with humor when we are introduced to Del and she is having a conversation with Pez.

    The world you've imagined for your story seems great. It's difficult to get a clear sense for it all just off a few pages, but when you explained it within your pitch I was really intrigued. Wanting to know why the people within the city want to sacrifice Addie, and other children. You clearly set up that there is a strong reasoning behind why it is happening, while leaving me with a lot of questions (which is a good thing) because that made me really interested to dive into the pages.

    There aren't really many major issues with your sample pages. You introduce the main character right off the bat, which I always love to see. And you break up the sinister vibe of the story with the humor. I also love that she is wearing a Deadpool shirt, little details like that are always nice.

    Aside from minor editing issues as I see Lorna has mentioned above too, I feel like your pages come off as really strong. I was definitely left wanting to find out what is going to happen next, and to see if the humor of Del's character continues.

    - Justin Wells (connect with me on Twitter at @Justin_941)

  4. Hi Tim,

    There isn't much I can say about the revision, as you've tightened it up and through the dialogue (including Del speaking to herself) I really get a feel for the type of story we're in for. Definitely want to read more.

    The pitch was awesome. It was detailed, and though as a reader I tend to want to find some of that information out through the story, I can see how having some of the major plot details would be critical for an agent.

    Well done!