Sunday, January 13, 2019

1st 5 Pages January Workshop- Bates Rev 1

Name: Lisa Lynn Bates
Genre: Middle Grade: Contemporary
Title: Man of the House

When Freddie moved to Georgia, he did not expect to bury a corpse.

Find new friends, yes.
Join the neighborhood softball team, yes.
And keep his mother’s illness a secret, yes.

But certainly not make friends with a girl who’d talk him into burying aliens from planet Freedom. The very one who coaxed him into facing his greatest fears—all which led to grave digging. The girl named Daisy with a last name most appropriate, Guerra. Which stood for the Spanish word “war.

But before going further into this part of the story, the part where he’s digging a grave, lets backtrack to the reason why Freddie and his mother decided to move south.

Let’s backtrack even further, to the part where Freddie lived perfectly content with his parents, the Santiagos, in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Where he played softball, and his father never missed a game, and his mother cut hair and painted ladies faces. Then on one 4th of July, Independence Day, Freddie’s father mysteriously disappeared. When Freddie did not hear from his father after twenty-four hours, he knew something had happened to him. Mr. Santiago never went a day without talking or texting Freddie. The last message Freddie did receive came in form of a text message.

It read:
Take care of your mother,
You’re the man, now. See you soon,
Love, Dad.

Since the local police were of little help, stating an adult had a right to disappear from his family if he wanted to, Freddie convinced his mother to drive to every urgent care and hospital in the area. The search for Freddie’s father ended when his clothes washed ashore Narraganset Bay which was about forty-six-minutes from Central Falls. At first, the police asked Freddie and his mother to search for a note. A note that would indicate Mr. Santiago intended to never come back. But after a long search, and no note, the police reported an accidental death, by drowning. It all came as a shock to Freddie, but more so to his mother. For Freddie’s mother did not believe Mr. Santiago had left the house to go swimming. No Sir, Mrs. Jenny Santiago tried to convince Freddie that aliens had taken his father hostage. Then dropped him into the middle of the ocean where his clothes washed ashore Narraganset Beach. That was her story and she stuck to it. But Freddie knew better. He knew his mother’s mind played tricks on her, often when she was stressed out.
Ten months after Freddie’s father’s accident, Mrs. Santiago decided it was time for a change. And that’s how they ended up in Fayetteville, Georgia.


The day Freddie met Daisy, he hadn’t been in the new home for more than four hours when he heard a knock on the door. When he opened the door wide, he found some girl, holding a lopsided flan on a plate. She was about ten, his age.


“Hi,” said Freddie, wondering what she wanted.

“Welcome,’ she said, and held out the plate. ‘I made this for you.’
Freddie just stared at it.

“Take it,” she said, smiling. “It’s not poison.”

He took the plate and said, “Thanks, I guess.”

“I’m Daisy Guerra. My parents want me to show your mom around the Home.”

She looked over Freddie’s shoulders, into the dark kitchen. “She home?”

Freddie blocked her view with his body. The last time he checked, his mother’s hair was matted in the back, eyeliner smeared, and her clothes were wrinkled. Not the image he wanted his new employer’s daughter to witness.

Daisy stepped into the kitchen and walked around. Man, she’s nosy, he thought. “She’s busy unpacking.”

“Oh.” Daisy flipped her long brown hair over her tan shoulders. “What about you?”
Freddie stared at the glittering crystal that hung from her tan earlobes. His mother never wore earrings.

“I’m busy too,” Freddie said, slowly backing her out to the exit, maneuvering the flan as it slid over the plate like Jello. When Daisy reached the opening, he forced his body forward jerking her out to the landing.

“Hey!” said Daisy, looking disappointed.

Freddie heard his mother mumble something. “Sorry, but I’ve got to go.” He shut the door. 

Freddie jabbed a corner of the flan with his finger and licked it. It tasted like vanilla caramel. Girl could cook.

“I’m not leaving till one of you get the tour,” shouted Daisy through the closed door.
Freddie held his breath then let it out. His lips flapped. Could this girl get any more annoying?

“Fine,” he said, loud enough for her to hear him.

“Great. I’ll wait,” she replied. Sounding complacent.

Freddie put the flan in the refrigerator and checked on his mother first. She had fallen back to sleep, sprawled over a pile of clothes on the bed. On the nightstand, she had left her medication bottle of pink pills open. Freddie decided not to wake her. After the long drive from Rhode Island, carrying luggage in and out of the car, and unpacking her make-up kits, she needed the rest. Tomorrow she’d start her new job at the salon. Freddie pulled a sheet out of a box, and snapped a tent over her frail body, where, before the pills and before his father’s accident, there used to be curves and squishy skin.


The tour was short and uninteresting. Daisy showed Freddie into a large room with rows of purple upholstered chairs. Wall to wall carpet the color of beets, Freddie’s least favorite vegetable. A podium with white phony flowers. A kitchen with a long wooden table and ten chairs. And a dome shaped crystal chandelier that hovered over the main entrance like a giant beehive. It was not the usual salon his mother worked in.

“Now for the great finale,” she said, “Follow me.”

Freddie followed Daisy to a locked door with an Employees Only sign on it. She grabbed a pair of gloves from a box next to the door and handed him a pair.

“Put these on,” she said. “No one’s allowed in here without gloves. You can take the small ones.”

“Whatever,” he said, taking them. The gloves were tight around his wrist and smelled like rubber balloons.

Daisy flicked a light switch and walked in. “This is your mother’s workspace,” she said.
Freddie didn’t follow Daisy all the way in to the sterile bright, white, room. Instead, he scanned it from the entrance. A large furnace hummed loudly in a corner. White tiling covered the walls, two long aluminum sinks, three white trays, white shelving, and a covered cot. In the center, there was a cot with a black plastic cover.

“What’s under there?” he asked. He pointed to the cot.

“Oh that?” Daisy said, “Don’t touch, or you’ll be sorry.”

“Pff, why not?” She made it sound top-secret. “If my mother’s working here, I should inspect everything, first. Don’t you think?”

She raised a shoulder and stepped back, “Suit yourself.”

Freddie pulled back the plastic from the cot and jerked back.

Daisy laughed. “Best part of my job,” she said.

Freddie stared down at the freezer-dried, pale male corpse. He felt his breakfast, a bean burrito, liquify into acid and erupt in his esophagus like a volcano.

“Meet your mom’s first client,” Daisy said, smirking. “Hope your mother is as good as she said on her resume.”

Freddie’s head shook. He was pretty sure his mother had no idea her clients were stiffs?


After that last scene, Freddie wanted to run home and hide. But he consented to meet the parents. His mother’s employers. He felt obligated to ensure his mother’s safety.
Daisy lived two houses away, also on Fayetteville Rd. Her house was painted a normal color, beige with black shutters. Unlike the pink cinder block house with lemon yellow shutters Freddie’s mother rented. It looked like a giant guava. Pink rose bushes lined up across the front of Daisy’s house. The glass panes trembled like hamsters as Salsa music blasted out the front door.

Freddie followed her to the back of the house. A large garden took up the backyard. There was a screened in porch where three men sat and played dominoes and drank beer. One of the men drummed his palms on the card table to the beat of the music.

Bendicion.” Daisy kissed the cheek of one of the men.

He wore a white embroidered guayabera. Dad used to wear them too during the hot summers, thought Freddie. “You can tell a man from his shirt,” he’d say. Freddie wondered what his father would have thought of the wrinkled, soiled, t-shirt he wore today.

Que Dios te bendiga, hija.”

“This is my dad,” said Daisy. “He’s your mom’s boss.”

Freddie waved.

Mr. Guerra nodded his head and kept playing.

Stepping into Daisy’s kitchen was like entering another dimension. The smell of fried onions and garlic saturated the air like oxygen. Freddie’s eyes stung.

Four women huddled over the stove and counter tops. Little kids ran in and out of the kitchen screaming.

“That’s my mom,” said Daisy.

Daisy pointed to a tan, thin woman with large—err—top, about Freddie’s height, five inches, wearing an apron over white jeans and flowery tank top. Freddie’s mother only dressed in black.

“You arrived just in time,” shouted Mrs. Guerra over the music. “Sit here. Help peel these gandules.

She placed a bowl of unpeeled pigeon peas between the Freddie and Daisy. Freddie stared at the plate.

“Go on,” said Mrs. Guerra. “Peel.”

Freddie started peeling, staring at Daisy’s mother. Her eye lids were smeared in silver shadow and black liner. His mother never wore makeup. She just applied it to other ladies.
The other women were dressed in jeans and tight T-shirts, with their hair wrapped in a bun.

“You’re mom going somewhere?” Freddie asked Daisy.

“Nope. Why you ask?”

Freddie shrugged, peeling a pea.

Daisy raised an eyebrow. As if she read Freddie’s mind, she said: “She always looks like that.” Referring to her mom.


Mrs. Guerra’s long wavy blonde hair bounced as she stirred a pot of soup and danced to salsa. Freddie’s mom would have made a comment about her dark roots showing.
Mrs. Guerra looked over her shoulder at Freddie. “Where’s your mom?” she asked, stirring.


“At this time?”

The top of Freddie’s head burned. “She’s just tired from all the moving is all,” he replied.

“I hope she’s ready for a hard day at work tomorrow.”
Freddie hoped so. He worried about his mother’s new work environment. Freddie’s father used to say that stress made her “condition” worse. He didn’t want his mother to stress. 

After his father’s funeral, she saw a doctor who prescribed medication to help her stress. They seemed to help. Most of the time.

One of the T-shirt wearing ladies in a bun asked, “So why did you move to Georgia?”

“Mom needed a change,” said, keeping his head down, peeling. He hoped avoiding eye contact with the women would end the conversation. It didn’t.

“Change? From what,” the lady continued.

Freddie felt like a suspect under interrogation.

Another lifted her head from chopping, “What does your mother do?

“Do?” Freddie asked.

“You know. Work?” asked yet another.

“Umm.” Freddie looked at Daisy. She looked more interested in the conversation than peeling pigeon peas. “She’s a beautician,” he said, realizing Daisy had no intention of saving him.

“She’ll be working for us,” said Daisy’s mom. “Prepping our clients.”

The women burst out laughing. “

Sweat dribbled down Freddie’s temples. Freddie realized the inquisition could go on for hours. He was about to get up and leave when Daisy said, “Hey, want to see my room?”
Daisy’s room was organized. Her clothes were neatly folded on her bed, shoes lined up in her closet, and her bed was made. The opposite of his own room. She even lined up her jewelry boxes along her white dresser. Daisy opened a box and pulled out a chain.

“My dad brought this one from Guatemala. She replaced the chain in its box. During slow season, he buys gold from other countries to sell. She opened another box.

Freddie made a face. He had no interest in looking at girl’s jewelry.

“These earrings are from Colombia. Maybe your mom can borrow them sometime? My mom uses my jewelry all the time.”

“Nah, she doesn’t wear earrings.”

“Why not?” asked Daisy.

Freddie shrugged. He didn’t want to tell her that his mother feared an alien would try to inject a chip into her earlobe if it had the chance. Which reminded him…“I have to check in,” he said. “Thanks for the tour.”

Daisy ran behind him, “Hey, maybe we’ll end up in the same homeroom. We have an end of the year field trip.”

“Yeah, maybe,” he said, picking up the pace.

Daisy stopped and shouted behind him, “I’ll walk you to school tomorrow.”

Freddie waved over his head and rushed into his house.


  1. Hi, it's Charlotte posting for Amy McNamara. We still can't figure out the technical difficulties!

    Hi Lisa,
    Wow – this is a really dramatic revision. You open with a very powerful narrative voice that’s setting forth a narrative frame, “But before going further into this part of the story… let’s backtrack… Let’s backtrack even further…,” and I’m not sure how that’s serving you for a middle grades audience. While it certainly increases the sense of being told a story, it also distances the reader from the characters in the story.
    Likewise, we know much more backstory and some of what’s to come, but at the cost of tension and slowed pacing. The work picks up when the characters start speaking.
    I urge you to consider whether or not this new omniscient narrative frame is giving you anything valuable – rather than sticking close to the characters and unfurling the important information (backstory, etc.) as the story requires it.

  2. Hi Lisa
    THAT FIRST LINE IS KILLER. I LOVE it—I really hope you can keep it, but for me it was just super voicey and I feel like it sets up some distinct expectations for the rest of the novel.

    The part that follows immediately after that where you sort of break the fourth wall is maybe too explicit? I felt like it revealed a lot of info that might be more fun to discover along with Freddie as the book progresses and maybe being cagier about would add to the air of mystery?

    I also liked the bits where he brought in his memories of his father and they lined up with different parts of the tour—nice job!

    -Katie P

  3. Hi Lisa,

    I love the first few lines – definitely hooky – but going back in time after that felt jarring to me. I’d stick with starting the story in the right place. Maybe you can use that for a query or something?

    Your story might start when Daisy and Freddie meet. Then, you can weave in Freddie’s thoughts about his dad leaving and how he got there (maybe he’s thinking it while saying something else to Daisy when she asks questions.) That way, we’d get to see the action unfold in real time while getting the backstory weaved in as needed.

    You’ve definitely got an interesting story with lots of conflict and intrigue! 😊 I’m excited to see the next revision!

  4. Hi Lisa,

    Wow, that was a significant revision! I appreciate the hard work you're putting into this!

    The thing to focus on now is finding the right place to start your story. The opening you have now still feels very much like throat-clearing. In fact, the first section reads more like a pitch than an actual story. I'd start things off with: "The day Freddie met Daisy,..."

    The other thing I'd strongly recommend you do is look for places where you're telling, not showing. A perfect example: the paragraph that begins, "After that last scene, Freddie wanted to run home and hide." It's devoid of the emotion that Freddie is feeling and just kind of glosses over what would be an emotional reaction by him. We need to see some interiority there, not just a narrator telling us what Freddie wanted.

    Speaking of interiority, we should definitely see more of it when Freddie meets his mom's first (dead) client. I feel like this would be a pretty significant shock to him, and cause for some reflection on his part. Did his mom really not now that she'd be working with dead people, or did she just not tell Freddie? If the former, he should be really worried about what the nature of her job might do to her, since she was already emotionally fragile. If the latter, he should be wondering why she'd take a job like that and why she'd hide it from him.

    Overall, I'm MUCH more intrigued by the direction your story is going! I think a lot of the changes you made were for the better. For the next round, I'd suggest focusing on the things mentioned above so you can do your intriguing story justice!

    I look forward to seeing the next round!


  5. Hi, Lisa!

    I love the first paragraphs a lot! It's hooky and a little creepy without losing the MG voice, but like the others have said the next paragraphs where you go back in time did pull me out. Unless the beginning of the chapter is referencing the end of the book, it might not help you in keeping us hooked.

    I have a question. This is a contemporary MG, but you mention aliens. Is it SFF contemporary? And if yes, is his mother right about the aliens? I was a little confused regarding that because in the previous version I thought she was imagining it all. If this is in fact a SFF contemporary and there are actual aliens later in the book, and you want to begin referencing something that happens much later, I suggest you elaborate on the alien aspect of the story. Maybe on how Freddie didn't believe his mom at first, and also keeping that beginning you have now, but tying it with the present rather than the past. Maybe with him discovering the corpse his mom is supposed to work on.

    I love the dynamic between Freddie and Daisy, too! Good job! Can't wait to read the next revision.

  6. Hi, Jeannie here. You officially have my attention - the beginning is amazing. I have a sense of place and empathy for Freddie. I feel profound empathy rather than sympathy for your character, which is tricky. It feels like Freddie has grit and I get the sense that this is a kid find a story that appeals to me. I feel the tension that Freddie experiences as he visualizes his mom's reaction to this job, and his dependency on her. Enjoyed reading your new version.