Sunday, May 7, 2017

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Garrett

Name: Catherine Garrett
Genre: Young Adult with the genre: Urban Fantasy
Title: Randa Rune and the Erie Street Witch
 
There is a house on Erie Street,
Where ravens, and spiders, and rodents creep.
The man who lives there is a witch you know,
With gnarled fingers and a crooked nose.
 
I clasp the tree limb in my hands while standing in the snow-covered front yard of the alleged haunted house of Erie Street. The rhyme flits through my thoughts, as with me, rhymes always do.
 
There’s enough light from the street lights to see in the dark. The house looks like a sunken soufflé with its sagging roof, the attached conservatory’s dome of stained-glass panes soiled from time and neglect. My breaths drift upward in frosty white pillows, my gaze following to the peak where three ravens rest. They always squawk when anyone gets near. Now they are as silent as death.
 
Under Asher’s arm, my precious Chester Pug whimpers and kicks his hind legs. He hates when anyone holds him, except me. All I want is to get my dog and rhyme journal back, then I’m out of here. As Asher grips Chester Pug tight, I edge toward him, opening my mouth to protest. But before I can speak, he snaps his fingers near my treasured companion’s buggy eyes. His little legs go limp, his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth like it does when he’s settling in for a nap on the sofa.
 
“Quit stalling and break a window, Randa,” Asher says in a sharp tone.
 
“What did you just do to my dog?” I say squeezing the branch tight, considering what he would do if I just charged him.
 
Like he can read my mind, he steps back and says, “Don’t worry about your dog—just do it.”
 
I look at the branch in my hands, then at helpless Chester Pug under Asher’s arm, my rhyme journal tucked between them. Bolting to the street is not an option, but I don’t want to break my neighbor's window. “Break it yourself,” I say. I  pitch the tree limb on the ground near his feet.
 
He huffs and picks it up, all the time his eyes on me, and raises the branch like a one-handed batter. I stagger away only to stumble to my knees in the snow. Then he faces the conservatory and swings. The branch makes contact with one of the small windows, but nothing happens, not a shatter, nor a crack, or even a dull thud.
 
“Now, you try,” he says. He flings the branch to the ground. All but my heart remains statue-like, my mouth hangs open. Asher crouches, eyes unblinking from beneath pierced eyebrows. The branch lays in the snow between us. “Just hit a window,  any window.”
 
“Why?” I let loose a held breath and breathe out the word.
 
“Because I know you can break it,” he says, his voice calm, like he’s soothing a child who’s just tumbled off a bike. But I’m not buying it. “Do it. Now get up.”
 
With my blood pumping like fire in my veins, my vision blurred by tears I won’t dare let pass the border of my eyes, I grab the branch and haul up my body. The shadow of the old oak’s limbs sways in the icy winter wind like gnarled fingers summoning me to escape. I step near the dreary dome of glass, my long blonde hair whipping across my face. Taking aim at a single window, I swing with everything I’ve got.
 
The branch hits my mark. I know it because I feel the sting of impact in my hands, the aftershock vibrating up my arms, but as with Asher’s attempt, there’s no sound. I toss the branch aside, hug my arms across my chest, and move back a few steps when a shower of glass rains onto the snow followed by Asher’s cry of victory. “Booyah!”
 
Before my brain can register the distinct pause that took place before the rain of broken glass, sparkling green vapor seeps from within the conservatory. It curls around the edges of the shattered glass, followed by finger-like slithering vines.
 
Dissipating into a mist, the vapor drifts in the air around us. I detect a sweet aromatic fragrance, perhaps flowers, but remain fixed on the creeping plants filling the jagged gap. Asher too watches in awe, and I consider charging him but worry Chester Pug could get injured in the process. So I look back at the window, and the glass has appeared again. The vapor and vines are gone.
 
“You did it,” says Asher. He shoves Chester Pug into my arms, but my rhyme journal remains in his grasp.
 
I inch near the window. Not a mark or a crack is visible, so I slip off a mitten to bravely tap it with a fingernail. “What just happened?” The words glide across my lips in barely a whisper. The more I mull over what I just saw, the more my brain spins.
 
Then Asher is beside me, asking if I’m okay. He grabs Chester Pug from my arms and sets him on the ground. “Randa?” he says, touching my shoulder.
 
My body is paralyzed, but I feel every beat of my heart, hear the rush of blood in my ears. Tingles run up my back raising the hair on the nape of my neck.
 
“Look,” says Asher. He thrusts his palm so close to my nose that I stumble and fall. Chester Pug bounces through the snow to the cast aside branch which he proceeds to pee on, then I see Asher is holding something red.
 
I find my voice, and with no care for who hears, I yell, “Did you see that? The window…how did that happen?”
 
Asher crouches beside me and in a calm voice says, “Randa, calm down. Yes, I saw it.”
 
I look at him with my mouth open. “Okay…so…it was real?”
 
“It was real,” he confirms. His voice is now soothing. “I told you something was going on here. And we’re gonna figure it out. Together.” He shows me what he shoved in front of my face—a red pyramid-shaped stone. “This is the second one of these I’ve found. See those?” he says pointing toward the conservatory.
 
“What?” Having somewhat gathered my wits, I look at the dome of glass, half expecting more creepy green gas to seep from the windows.
 
“Those indents in the snow. I bet more of these are buried there.”
 
When I realize he’s aiming at a snowdrift and not the conservatory, I laugh. It’s not a hearty, joyous laugh, but one that stems from nerves on overdrive, which releases some of the tension in my chest. He’s right. There must be over ten divots spaced evenly apart, but I still can’t shake what I saw. Then Asher produces a cotton bag and drops the stone in. Who carries stuff like that around?
 
While Asher digs in the drift, I scoop up Chester Pug and creep backward into the shadows, then dash in the direction of the street. But before I can even make it to the oak tree, Asher seizes my arm.
 
“Where do you think you’re going? I didn’t say you could leave.”
 
“Let me go,” I yank free. Asher Eastwyke isn’t just a bully, he’s nuts. “Keep my journal. Show everyone my rhymes, I don’t care. Like that can make my life any worse.”
 
“Just help me dig up the rest, then you can have your journal.”
 
“Fine,” I bark.

17 comments:

  1. I like how you opened with a rhyme, it was catchy. I also like the description of the house.

    I would like some detail of who Asher is. You say at the end that he's a bully, but before that he seems sort of caring or at least concerned about the MC by asking if she's okay. Maybe he's a caring bully? Or the MC just calls him a bully because he's threatening to show everyone her journal. His intentions are unclear.

    I got confused with the sentences about the broken glass and green gas, but after reading it again it started making sense. That might be my own issue and not a writer-issue, if that makes sense.

    These first pages make me want to read more.

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    1. Thanks Elisa. I'd say you're spot on with Asher, so I painted the perfect picture that plays with your mind. The glass was a hard one to write. Randa hits the window, and there is this time delay between when she hits it and the window breaks. If you have any suggestions of how to fix it, I'd love to hear them. :)

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    2. Now that I read it again, it makes sense. Maybe you can have her saying/asking why it took so long for the glass to break. But it will probably make sense to others. I have to read things twice sometimes to register

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  3. Fabulous. This is a great opening scene that doesn't try to do too little or too much. It grips me from the start.

    You write beautifully. There were a few sentences that were borderline awkward, but that's a really fine line between too and too little description language. For the most part you balance that very well.

    At first I thought Asher threw the stick up at a window. I pictured them keeping their distance from the house, maybe out on the sidewalk. It took a little while to realize that they were standing right next to it. It sounds like a scary situation to be in, so maybe they could be shown getting that close more slowly, cautiously?

    I wouldn't change much!

    Zack

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    1. Thanks for your feedback, Zack. I can't tell you how many times I've rewritten this opening chapter.

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  4. Catherine,
    Your story feels quite unique. I am intrigued by the rhyme book- is that a spell book? Also, think about starting with the second paragraph "There's enough light..." That paragraph is intriguing. There are a couple of questions that came to mind when reading- if Asher can snap his fingers and make the dog go limp, why are we doubted a house is haunted? Plus, if Randa knows Asher by name why does't she know what he is capable of? Does the dog play a role for the storyline? Just curious. I found the tree limb and the glass window a bit confusing myself. Why can't Asher break the window with the limb? Is the house magical? How did he know Randa could do it? It seems like Asher is a bad guy, then they know each other, but Randa doesn't know Asher can't break the window, but Asher knows she can. Is Asher Randa's friend? Why did the window need to be broken if the stones are in the snow? I am a little confused but that could be me.
    Can't wait to read your revisions,
    Julie

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    1. Thanks so much Julie. Let me go play with it.

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  5. Hello Catherine!

    First off, I really love the imagery and writing in this sample. The story is very intriguing, though there are parts that left me confused. I've made notes in the next comment I post within the sample by placing *** around my text. I've only included the paragraphs I had comments on since the comments wouldn't take the full thing. My critique is nitpicking and is just about making things clearer. I really did enjoy reading this excerpt. Great job!

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    1. Awesome. Thanks so much Brenda. I'll get on these ASAP. :)

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  6. Part One ...

    There is a house on Erie Street,
    Where ravens, and spiders, and rodents creep.
    The man who lives there is a witch you know,
    With gnarled fingers and a crooked nose. ***I like this poem, but maybe it should come after the next paragraph. It would get us in the MC’s head right off and have a lead into the poem.***

    There’s enough light from the street lights to see in the dark. The house looks like a sunken soufflé with its sagging roof, the attached conservatory’s dome of stained-glass panes soiled from time and neglect. My breaths drift upward in frosty white pillows, my gaze following to the peak where three ravens rest. They always squawk when anyone gets near. Now they are as silent as death. ***I love the imagery in this paragraph!***

    Under Asher’s arm, my precious Chester Pug whimpers and kicks his hind legs. He hates when anyone holds him, except me. All I want is to get my dog and rhyme journal back, then I’m out of here. As Asher grips Chester Pug tight ***tighter? We already know he’s holding him so unless he’s increasing his grip this part isn’t needed.***, I edge toward him, opening my mouth to protest. But before I can speak, he snaps his fingers near my treasured companion’s buggy eyes. His little legs go limp, his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth like it does when he’s settling in for a nap on the sofa.

    “Quit stalling and break a window, Randa,” Asher says in a sharp tone. ***Who is Asher? Maybe add a little thing here about him. Who is he to Randa?***

    “What did you just do to my dog?” I say squeezing the branch tight, considering what he would do if I just charged him. ***Does he have magic? Is this a magical world? Maybe add a hint to it here.***

    He huffs and picks it up, all the time his eyes on me, and raises the branch like a one-handed batter. I stagger away only to stumble to my knees in the snow. Then he faces the conservatory and swings. The branch makes contact with one of the small windows, but nothing happens, not a shatter, nor a crack, or even a dull thud. ***Why can’t he break the window? Is there a spell on the house? Give us a hint as to why.***

    “Because I know you can break it,” he says,***How does he know she can break it? Does she have special powers? Maybe have him mention it. “Because you have the magic” or something that fits your story.*** his voice calm, like ***maybe use “as if” so as not to use “like” so frequently*** he’s soothing a child who’s just tumbled off a bike. But I’m not buying it. “Do it. Now get up.”

    Dissipating into a mist, the vapor drifts in the air around us. I detect a sweet aromatic fragrance, perhaps flowers, but remain fixed on the creeping plants filling the jagged gap. Asher too watches in awe, and I consider charging him but worry Chester Pug could get injured in the process. So I look back at the window, and the glass has appeared again. The vapor and vines are gone. ***I’m confused here. What does Asher want? The gas and vines appear and then disappear. What’s the importance of this? Make it clear and explain why Asher wants the gas and vines.***

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  7. Part Two ...

    I inch near the window. Not a mark or a crack is visible, so I slip off a mitten to ***use “and” instead of “to” to avoid a split infinitive***bravely tap it with a fingernail. “What just happened?” The words glide across my lips in barely a whisper. The more I mull over what I just saw, the more my brain spins.

    My body is***to avoid passive voice maybe use “I’m paralyzed*** paralyzed, but I feel every beat of my heart, hear the rush of blood in my ears. Tingles run up my back raising the hair on the nape of my neck.

    “Look,” says Asher. He thrusts his palm so close to my nose that I stumble and fall. Chester Pug bounces through the snow to the cast aside branch ***comma**which he proceeds to pee on, then I see Asher is holding something red.

    Asher crouches beside me and in a calm voice says, “Randa, calm down. Yes, I saw it.***should he answer her first and then tell her to calm down – this reads strange***”

    “Those indents in the snow. I bet more of these are buried there.” ***How did they appear there? Did the gas and vines bring them? I think you need to give more details about what’s going on here.***

    “Let me go,” I yank free. Asher Eastwyke isn’t just a bully ***He’s a bully? It’s confusing because one minute he’s forcing her to break a window, the next he’s soothing her and speaking calmly to her above. I don’t know maybe have her think he’s just soothing her to get what he wants above?***, he’s nuts. “Keep my journal. Show everyone my rhymes,***period not a comma here*** I don’t care. Like that can make my life any worse.”

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  8. I really like the rhyme at the beginning, though you might want to make it clearer that Randa is remembering something she’s heard, so the reader understand this is a prose story and not poetry right from the start.
    I would avoid using “light” and lights” in the first sentence of the next paragraph so as not to be too repetitious. I do like the description of the house, especially the “sunken soufflé” imagery. The description of Chester Pug is also very vivid.
    I’d work on the sentence where you describe Randa as statue-like but for her heart. I’m guessing you mean her heart is jumping around while the rest of her body remains still, but it’s not entirely clear. I did like the description of green vapor escaping the conservatory. You have several references to Randa “charging” Asher. This can make the story a little repetitive.
    Overall, this was a very intriguing opening that made me want to read more. Randa and Asher were both interesting characters with distinctive voices. The only thing I would suggest is maybe give us more of an idea of who they are and what the relationship between them is. I get that Asher is threatening Randa’s dog to get her to do what he wants, but it’s not clear why or how they got into this situation. You may be saving some of this information for later, but I would reveal a little more upfront just so we know the stakes.

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  10. This is an interesting opening with lots of tension, but the more of it I read, the less I understood what was going on. This guy kidnapped Randa's pug and stole her secret rhyme notebook in order to force her to help him investigate a haunted house? That seems a little far-fetched, especially given that these two don't even seem to like each other.

    Unlike McDermott, I didn't like the souffle image, and I'll tell you why. All of the images you use need to contribute to the mood and feel of your scene. The house is supposed to be scary, right? Now imagine a three-story souffle. Not exactly scary, is it? More like comical. Try to find an image that adds a more sinister feeling.

    I agree with Elisa that I'd like to know more about Asher earlier in the piece. However, I think you've got a good pace and a solid start here. Good work!

    ~Kit Alloway

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    1. Thanks so much for the feedback Kit. Very helpful. I'll work on it.

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    2. To clarify, the rhyme is something Randa thinks. It's what she does. She turns what she sees into rhyme. Rhymes are threaded throughout the story and play an important role, so I need to show that in these first five pages. :)

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