Sunday, April 2, 2017

1st 5 Pages April Workshop- Collins

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

Chapter 1
The toe tag on the decapitated body read: IF FOUND, CALL (512)576-3038, so fifteen-year-old Del pulled out her iPhone.

“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.

The burning Texas sun played spotlight for the headless body starring center stage. Nothing else in the forgotten hay field warranted a second glance. Del spied a turkey vulture gliding in a copycat pattern around the body. She reached her sweat drenched hand down, snatched a piece of gray limestone from the dirt, and launched her projectile at the hideous black bird.

“Get outta here, dumb bird! He’s mine!” Del’s cheeks boiled red matching the shade on her Deadpool t-shirt. The vulture settled into the field’s lone oak tree and voiced its displeasure, but, for now, Del owned her prize uncontested.

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.”

Dead bodies were a one-way ticket to life in jail for most, not a bloody precursor to salvation.

Dad better not be full of shit, but finding a body with a phone number attached to the toe just like he mentioned in his stories was too much coincidence to simply be a coincidence.

Del chewed 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?

Del wondered if she should have dialed 911, but the cops would canvas the field. Talking her way out of one dead body seemed plausible, but not half-dozen. Her underground fort kept them hidden from sight, but their putrid scent would 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.

“Hi, this is Del.” She pulled the phone away from her ear and stomped the unforgiving limestone ground. Dammit, Delilah. You, stupid child. Why would you say your name?

“Pez, who the hell you talking to?” A garbled male voice in the background asked.

“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 the corpse lacked fingers. No blood ran from the 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. Maybe the perfect guy.

“Should I be freaking out?” Del asked.

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?” he asked.

The background voice chimed in, louder 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 phone number, Dermit,” Pez paused. “This is your phone.”

Del jerked forward, laughing 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.

Del wiped the phone clean on the hip of her jeans shorts.

Trashing these as soon I get home. Not sure how I’ll explain to Mom how I “lost” another pair of shorts, though.

Del scrunched her face when she felt the remnants of the ooze squash against her ear. Addie was going to owe her big time.

“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?”

Del rolled her eyes.
Doubt many kids achieved my body count without getting caught.

Del filled her lungs and then exhaled a full three seconds before speaking releasing her frustration. “I’m here.”
“Text me your location,” he said, before lowering his voice, “and if you keep this between us, I’ll make sure there’s a little something in it for you.”

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

“A magic fountain of life,” she muttered. “Dad better be right.”

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.

Chapter 2
“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 truly want 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 to her headless companion. “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 the way 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 man-boob. Moobs as we call them in high school.” 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!”

Del glanced at the digital readout on her iPhone. Ten after three. She rolled her eyes realizing she didn’t ask the guy how long it would take them to arrive, but Del didn’t believe she could risk leaving.

“How come you don’t reek?” Del inhaled deeply. A few small particles of dust snaked deep into her nose. Her chest heaved before it evicted every bit of oxygen from her lungs in an epic sneeze. The force of air sent the loose bits of the Dirtini flying in the opposite direction.

Del cleared her throat and 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.”


  1. Hi Timothy!

    I love the concept of this! The MC's voice is really compelling, & I was completely hooked by the 'Seen. Created. Collected. Same difference.' line. Great stuff!

    There isn't a lot I've got to suggest in the way of changes. There are just a few places where I think you can pare it back a little. Less is more sometimes. The third paragraph, for example, seems to be using a lot of words to say it's hot, there's a vulture circling & Del throws a stone at it. And the bit where she tells us she's leaned her bike up against a tree - you don't always have to find an original way to say something. If you cut things back a little, I don't think you'd lose anything, & get the plot moving on at a much snappier pace.

    And one thing I thought felt a bit inconsistent was her contemplating calling the police - she hasn't done that with the other bodies. Some of which she's collected, as opposed to created. Why would she call them for this one? Wouldn't she just add it to the pile?

    But that's it. There's definitely plenty there to hook the reader in to Del's world, & I totally sympathised with her situation, which isn't easy, under the circumstances!!

    I hope my comments help :)

  2. Hi Timothy,

    Not too much to say here. The attitude and demeanor of the MC is fun and unique, so I was drawn in right away.

    My only comment is there were a couple instances of contradiction between the MC's actions and her words. For example, chewing the fingernail to a nub before calling (something I associate with nerves), and then immediately saying most people would have been afraid to call, but not her.

    Overall, those tiny inconsistencies are few in far between, and I really enjoyed the MC and the beginning of her story.


    1. Thanks! I'll re-examine that. It was meant to be nervous-excitement, so I might need a different way to convey since I understand the possible confusion.

  3. Tim! Definitely got me hooked and curious in this first chapter. You've created a really unique MC and did a great job of making me feel the scene. Your diction is also good and helps me see the characters really well.

    I agree about the nail chewing. I definitely associate that with nerves, then got a little confused when she laughed. There was also one place where her thoughts sound more like narration than actual thought.

    One other tiny thing is that is this is Del's POV then she isn't going to be able to see her own face turn red. Though I did LOVE the sun-chapped lip part. I live in Texas and that really resonated with me! You capture the setting well.

    Ultimately, these pages make me want to read more, to figure out why Del has these bodies and what the deal is with the body with the tag that doesn't smell!

    Thanks for sharing your writing!

    1. Initially I started as 3rd POV, but switched to 1st. Clearly, I missed a few adjustments back to 1st! Appreciate y'all catching those.
      I'm going to revisit the nails as it's meant for nervous excitement, but may need to add a clarifying comment.

      Austin, TX for me, so an easy setting to ink :-)

  4. Hey Tim! This was super gross. In the best way possible :) I love place more than just about anything, and you'v painted a really stark, vivid picture of where our MC is standing, the heat, all of it. The very visceral situation juxtaposed with the humor moves the narrative along at a good clip. Exposition is always hard, it may be worth looking at to find a more nuanced way of expressing there were stories told by Dad, - the phrase "Just like he mentioned in his stories" is just a bit clunky. But I like this girl's nerve, her prowess, and this situation. Readers who are heavy may not be into the phrase 'Taco Tuesday fat', I totally get this is a raw and unapologetic character, just a heads up that I'm sure you already are aware of. Anyhow - this is really different, and exciting, and I can't wait to read more. I keep saying that this round but these entires are all SO intriguing! - Jen

    1. I've waffled on the taco Tuesday a few times. The clunky dad phrase was a recent change. Now that I've had a few days away, I can see how it does interrupt flow. I appreciate the feedback!
      Also, saw in your bio, you live on an island outside of Seattle. I've been to Whidbey Island many times. Got stuck there once when the ferry docks had a major issue. Had to drive the entire island to get to the mainland, so I could get to the airport. Such a beautiful place. I'm completely jealous of anyone living on the islands off the coast of Seattle.

  5. Tim, oh the ickiness of this scene is superb! You've got a decapitated body, milky goo, roadkill to cover up's very well done. I'm curious about what her role and her father's role is in the story, but I'm sure that comes within the next few pages or so. Your MC is witty and likeable.

    I don't have much critique on this piece, so what I do have is nit-picky.

    “Hi, this is Del.” For someone who has done this multiple times, this feels like a rookie mistake. In the same context, I don't think calling the police would ever cross her mind if this isn't her first body she's found and delivered. While she seems so confident and sure of herself, especially when she's confiding in the corpse, the name and police issue contradict that.

    You might want to run through the pages again. There were a few editing errors. "Del fingertips danced nervously" is missing the possessive 's'. There were a few others, but I can't find them now. Along with editing, I noticed you start many of your paragraphs with Del and a verb. For flow, you may consider changing it up a bit. "Del cleared her throat and sat back on her knees" changed to "Clearing her throat, Del sat back.." for example.

    "Dumb bird"...I can't decide if I like this. It feels very young and juvenile. Since you're aiming for young adult, I'd consider kicking up her maturity level a bit. Teenagers wouldn't look at a bird and call it dumb, or at least not in this day and age. The other option would be keep those sweet, innocent like mannerisms and move toward a middle grade horror. The ick factor you have here isn't horrifying enough to entirely bump it out of middle grade, in my opinion.

    Overall, a very well done piece. I look forward to your revision.


  6. Yo, dude, this is sick. In a good way. You've certainly got an eye and voice for the macabre.

    You are definitely a writer.

    My only point for you to consider is Less is More and Kill your Darlings.

    You do a very good job of painting the scene, and planting your MC dead in the center of it. Let the reader use a little of her imagination to fill in some of the other blanks.

    I think you can pull back (just a little) on the gore without losing your voice or your intent.

    Have you ever read Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake? She does a good job with YA horror by keeping it to a minimum. Not saying you should to that, too, you obviously have your own style. The terror in horror sometimes comes from the unseen and the reader's own imagination.

    This is good stuff, and I look forward to reading more.

  7. Many thanks for the suggestions! I appreciate all the recommendations from such a talented group.