Monday, December 19, 2011

6 1st 5 Pages December Workshop - Jones, Rev 2

2nd Revision
YA Paranormal Romance
Sandi Jones

Where there is mystery, it is generally suspected there must also be
evil.--Lord Byron

Rusty trucks and derelict boats languished in front of houses along
the dark Carolina coastal road. Ever since we’d left home that
afternoon, I’d imagined winding up in the country, far from my family
and best friend, enduring months cramped in a shack with my mother’s
new boss, a reclusive writer who probably hoarded junk and never

Inspired by the hardcore music on my IPod, I finished my sketch,
shading the overalls of a cotton farmer fighting to pull a boy’s arm
from the churning spindles of old-timey farm machinery. My empty
stomach clenched at the sight of plasmatic splatters across my page.
Too dark to draw anymore, I snapped the sketchpad shut.

Beside me, Mom’s face pinched with disgust. She’d never understood my
art. Neither did I, really. It was my father’s gift.

The unexplainable image of the farmers’ agony would likely stay in my
head while I tried to sleep that night.

Somehow I’d lost track of time. The car slowed as we neared a massive
stone entrance under dim lighting. I removed an earbud.

“Chelsea, take the wheel. I have the code for the gate on my phone.”
Her blonde ponytail fell over her shoulder as she fumbled in her

Headlights burst from the open gate, blinding me in a flash of white
as a vehicle suddenly flew out, headed in our direction. I flinched,
cutting the wheel. Seashell gravel pelted our Toyota like rain when
the oncoming car hit their brakes and veered to miss us. Mom
recovered, swerving to stop on the shoulder of the private driveway as
the other vehicle, a shiny black Vette with lots of chrome and dark
windows, gunned the engine.

“Idiot!” Mom smacked the horn.

My heart thudded. I craned in my seat, watching the guy’s thoughtless
retreat. A license plate reading “GEOFF” in reflective blue letters
disappeared into the gloom.

“You okay? I’m sorry.” She sighed, collecting herself.

Rubber squealed in the distance as the other car spun onto the asphalt.

“Barely.” I scowled at the way she always accepted blame whatever the
situation. My instincts told me to hang my head out the window and
call the driver the name he deserved. However, an awful thought
stopped me. “Was that your new boss?”

“I don’t think so.” She bit her lip as she steered our car back onto the road.

The jerk had left the gate open, so we rolled past the entry’s digital
keypad. The bars closed automatically behind us with a metallic clank
as we moved from the lighted gateway for the black woods ahead.

She offered an embarrassed smile. “Poor guy didn’t expect anyone to be
out here at night. He was probably Ben’s—”

“Ohmigod!” I sat up.

The road curved, and a lighted building emerged at the end of the
driveway where ancient oak trees spread twisting lace-shrouded limbs
of gray Spanish moss. Ginormous pillars surrounded the white house.

Mom’s eyes were hopeful when she glanced at me for my reaction and
parked the car by the brick sidewalk. “This must be Antonia. What do
you think?”

I dropped the IPod and tumbled out the door for a better look.

Burning to draw, I walked backward with my head back so I could take
in the mammoth building. The plantation-style house stood three
stories high with balconies. The downstairs rooms glowed with movement
inside, while the upstairs windows were lifeless and dark. Far above
on the top floor, a single gauzy curtain flew outward, up and down,
waving us away.

Leave. Leave. Leave.

I rubbed at the goose bumps on the backs of my arms, dismissing the
thought as too much like one of Dad’s wild notions.

Mom led us past lighted palmettos and flowering shrubs along the
drive—an impressionist’s dream of soft and sharp textures—up the steps
of the wraparound porch to the double doors of what could’ve been the
set of an old Civil War movie. Except the place didn’t seem old with
fresh white paint. I hoped it was new.

Surely she wouldn’t expect me to sleep under the roof of former slave-owners.

My stomach knotted as she rang the brass doorbell, hands still
trembling after our near miss with the reckless driver. But why did I
dread meeting Mr. Ramsey? I’d never heard anything bad about the
British author. Lots of people I knew read his bestsellers. My
grandma, for one. His readers wanted to know more about him, but for
whatever reason, he couldn’t manage to write his story. Too humble. Or
too boring. Mom had spent hours chatting with him on the Internet
before they’d decided to work on his memoir together in person.

The door opened and a man wearing a blue dress shirt and khakis
blinked at us under metal-rimmed glasses. His expression slowly
smoothed from a look of utter disgust to awareness. “Lori!”

“I’m sorry we’re late, Ben. I should’ve called.”

“Not a problem at all.” His graying brown comb-over and wide smile
erased my suspicion that Mom found him attractive. Too nerdy.
“Dinner’s still warm.”

“I want you to meet my daughter, Chelsea.” She nudged me.

Ramsey shook my hand in his cool grip. “I’m so very glad to finally
meet you. I’ll wager you’re both exhausted.”

His face didn’t register the shock I was used to when Mom introduced
me. Apparently she’d already clued him in about my father, so my skin
color came as no surprise. Nor did my outfit of ripped jeans, combat
boots, and the blue streak I’d put in my hair that summer.

I lifted a shoulder. “It’s not been bad. Well, except for just now.
Who was driving that Corvette?”


“Do come in,” Mr. Ramsey interrupted, widening the door. “We can talk
over dinner.”

Paranoia prickled me as we moved through the foyer, but I’d save my
questions for later. Unlike Dad.

Dark-veined marble floors chilled the interior while light fanned
through chandeliers. We washed up in a formal bathroom, where I was
afraid to touch anything for fear someone would smack my hand and say
I wasn’t allowed to handle stuff.

An arrangement of fresh flowers sat in the middle of the dining table
before us. God, I’d love to capture those beauties on paper with
gouache paints. However, the aroma of fried food distracted me from
the subject matter as a serving woman wearing a gray uniform brought
in a covered tray, and then lifted lids off the awaiting platters.

“It was getting dark when we arrived but we saw lots of young people
leaving Hilton Head Island. It’s a popular place, isn’t it?” Mom said

Ramsey nodded. “Absolutely. I’ve made an appointment for Chelsea to
meet with the director of admissions at the island prep school
tomorrow.” He lifted a piece of something covered in golden cornmeal
batter. “Fried pickle?”

She held out her plate. “Thank you.”

“Wait. A prep school for me? Why?” Alarm twisted the knot in my
stomach tighter.

“Lori—?” He hesitated.

“It’s on the island. Very prestigious.” Mom smiled, but her eyes pleaded.

My fork clattered on my plate. So that was the drawback to this gig?

Hadn’t he seen how I dressed? Not to mention I’d probably be the only
half-black student there. They’d hate me.

“Thanks, but I’ve always gone to public schools.”

“Nonsense. My son will be attending Prep, too. You’ll ride with him so
your mum won’t have to drive you back and forth. Shrimp and grits?”


  1. Sandi -
    Love this!! I really enjoy how now we're getting the tiniest hints of paranormal - great work!! I also think you're bringing her art out from the start is very effective. It does the job well of making the descriptions that follow seem appropriate - things an artist would notice. I was a little disturbed by her subject matter:)
    I would still recommend skipping the part about Ben not being shocked by her appearance - I think it's a much stronger tie-back to her thoughts about not sleeping under the roof of former slave owners if we don't find out about her ethnicity until she's thinking about prep school. Just my opinion. I think you could still cover the fact that the other aspects of her appearance - her clothing, shoes and blue streaked hair, are out of place with her surroundings to give us a sketch of what she looks like.
    Wonderful job - I really enjoyed this a lot!!

  2. Great revision! It's looking better and better. I'm eager to know more about the situation and what's happening, but not confused, so that's a great balance. The descriptions are great. The connection to the dad is good too, it also leaves me curious.

  3. EXCELLENT revision. SO much clearer--so much more genre-oriented. She is a much more rounded character, and we have a better sense of place. You must have been eating your Wheaties, because this kicked it up a notch. Very impressive!

    My only niggle, apart from going through and tightening just a wee bit, is the action just in front of and around the headlights could be a bit clearer, and the narrative surrounding the meeting with the writer goes on a little long.

    Great job!


  4. I love this revision! My only complaint is that I was still a little confused by what happens when the other car goes by. I'm not sure I understand what cutting the wheel means, especially since the Mom takes over, but that could just be me. So much intrigue and such great character. Awesome job!

  5. I apologize, but I don't have much criticism on this selection. I do think with every iteration we're getting a little deeper into Chelsea's head and voice.

    I would say that I'm not sure I see the connection between how she's dressed and prep school. Plenty of those prep students dress all kinds of ways when they're not wearing the uniforms for school.

    I thought it was interesting that Mr. Ramsey just completely sidestepped the direct question about the Corvette. I wonder if that's not quite natural... or maybe it is... and shows a ton about his character.

    Great stuff you have here.

  6. Oohh, I'm hooked! This so much more clear that I want to read on whereas before I wasn't as compelled. Really nice work. Couple of nit-picks. Describing the "hardcore" music didn't ring true for me. I feel like a teen wouldn't describe her music like that. You might mention a real group or make one up. Also, I was confused when her mom asked her to take the wheel, but when the car came out of the entrance it was her mom cutting the wheel (which I'm not sure what that means). This is a strong re-write. Nice job. Shelley


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