Monday, September 17, 2012

7 1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Carpinello Rev 2

Author: Cheryl Carpinello
Genre: Middle Grade Adventure/Mystery
Title: Sons of the Sphinx

I don’t see dead people. I hear them. I talk to them. Boy, you should try that. Talk about people looking at you like you’re a freak. That’ll do it.

It would be one thing if I talked to famous dead people. You know like that Elvis guy my mother still drools over? I mean, really? Like the guy would be seventy-something today! Anyway, if I talked to him, I could give my mom a personal message like “Sorry we never got to hook up.” That would be something, don’t you think?

No, the dead people who talk to me are just dead nobodies. Nothing exciting to say. Nothing going down. They’re just hanging out, waiting for I don’t know, to be more dead, I guess. Or, to see how much trouble they can get me in.

Take today in math class. We are taking this test, see. I’m concentrating real hard on this problem trying to figure height or something. Then I hear this.

“Hey you.”

I jerk up in my chair, looking around for the guy doing the talking. I glance at the kids on either side of me. Nothing. I look up at my teacher. He’s glaring at me.

“Great,” I whisper. “He probably thinks I’m trying to cheat.” I bow my head and focus on the problem again.

“You, I’m talking to you.”

I shake my head in hopes of tossing the voice out, but it doesn’t work. I should know better.

Every time I rebel against them, I end up in trouble. Just what I need now while I’m trying to take this test.

Inside my head I say, “Would you be quiet? I’m trying to take a math test.”

“Oh sure, that’s okay for you to say. I’ll never take another test again.” His voice broke up, kind of like bad radio reception.

“Not my problem.” I formed the words in my head.

“I died too soon, I really did.”

“Look,” I told him, still in my head. “I haven’t talked to a dead person yet who didn’t say that. Kind of goes with the dead part. I can’t do a thing for you. Believe me, if I could, and if it would get rid of all of you, I would. Now leave me alone. You’re going to make me fail this test.”

I hear him snort, like he has to blow his nose, if dead guys really do that. Then comes the kicker.

“I just want another chance. I promise I’ll do better.”

“I’m going to say this once more. Not my problem. Now leave.” I formed three exclamation points in the head just so he would get the picture.

“But it isn’t fair,” he whined. “It just isn’t fair.”

Okay. I’m fed up with this guy. I can’t even remember the formula for whatever I’m trying to find. I am definitely going to fail math if this guy keeps on yapping.

Out loud I say, “Bud, I don’t give a damn if it isn’t fair. Just shut the hell up so I can get this test done!”

Did you get the part where I said “out loud”? Yep, that earned me an F on the test AND a trip to the AP’s (that’s assistant principal’s) office. I couldn’t even defend myself there. What was I going to say? “Excuse me, I’m sorry I blurted out loud in class in the middle of a test, and I’m sorry for cussing, but you see, this dead guy wouldn’t shut up.” Yeah, that would have gone over well. Nope, I just had to sit meekly back and say politely, “It won’t happen again. Had to be the stress over the test.” You get the picture.

Then I had to face my peers, as they are called, the rest of the day. I just shrugged and mumbled something like “Idiot dead people.” The kids will avoid me for next few days. I think they’re afraid whatever I have will rub off on them, or that I’ll go bananas or something.


And when my parents get home, and I tell them what happened...Well, I may be the one shouting
“It’s not fair!”

So now I sit here in my bedroom trying to work on a history project. You know, the kind where the teacher puts you in a group, and then no one in the group does anything. Yep, that’s my luck. The project is due the day after tomorrow, and no one except me has done anything.

I’m thinking about what happened today, and what’s going to happen if this project isn’t done. I’m having a super hard time of focusing, and my eyes wander around my room.


Without thinking, I blurt out, “It’s Rose, not Roose,” I screamed. “And I told you to get lost. Now.” I jump to the door and slam it shut. Do the dead have no respect?

And just who is this guy? It’s not the same voice. That’s nice. Now I have an army of dead people invading my brain. Too bad they can’t do this project for me.


Who is this idiot?

“Listen. I am done with dead people today. This is my room, my space, and I don’t want you in here. I’m not sharing my things with dead people!”

Silence. That’s encouraging.

“Look, I’ll make you a deal. You do my homework, make my bed, and clean out my closet, and we’ll talk.”

I wait. Nothing happens.

I must be going nuts. OMG. Who tries to deal with a dead person?

“Roose. Please.”

Will this guy never give up? I cover my ears even though I know it won’t do any good. Why can’t I at least talk to interesting dead people, instead of these whining ones?

Sitting down at my desk, I glance at my King Tut ticket stub on the wall. Now that would be one dead person I’d talk to. At the age of nine he ruled all of Egypt. And his tomb wasn’t discovered until 1922, more than 2500 years later, by that man Carter.

I touch the picture next to it. You know, the one where Ankhesenamun and Tut on the back of the Golden Throne. He is sitting in the throne; she is standing facing him, her arm outstretched, touching him. I’m not a romantic, but when I look at that picture, I can feel their love for each other.

Yep, I could talk to Tut, but I’d rather talk to his wife, the mysterious and beautiful Ankhesenamun. The Lost Queen.

Sometimes I imagine myself as her discussing our future with Tut. How many children we’ll have; how we’ll raise them. Some days we talk about what’s happening in Egypt, and I show my support for him with a simple touch of my hand. Still other days, we talk about where we’ll be buried. They did that, you know. Had their burial chamber ready sometimes years before their death.

On days when I’m feeling depressed--and today looks to be one of those days--I imagine saying goodbye to Tut as he dies. I assure Tut that we’ll meet in the After Life. Then I go to bed and wonder what it would be like to wander the earth looking for my husband’s spirit or ba. I wonder if he looks for her.

“I do, Roose.”

I turn around and scream. I look at the picture and then scream again.


  1. Wow! I have liked your characters voice from the first version and throughout the changes, but your last few paragraphs in this one have me really wanting to read more! :)

    A couple of tiny things noticed:

    "I formed three exclamation points in the head just so he would get the picture." - should say "in my head" instead of "in the head"

    "The kids will avoid me for next few days." - you missed the word "the" before "next."

  2. Hi Cheryl!

    I love where this is going. This revision clarified so much while still maintaining the humor and tone of the story. Your voice rocks. It is very believable and I can even hear the whine in her voice through your word usage. Great job. There are a couple of things I noticed that I hadn’t before and I think it is because this revision is so much tighter, some things now stick out. For instance, if she can talk to dead people in her head, why does she even bother speaking to them out loud? (I know the geometry guy drove her crazy) There has to be some mention that they can hear her thoughts. That way when you drop the bomb on the reader about King Tut speaking to her, it doesn’t make us pause. I also think she should be whispering her responses to the geometry spirit instead of thinking them because that makes for more humor. Think how much more annoyed her classmates would be if she is whispering to a dead person during the test. You can even have one of them say, “Oh, there she goes again.” This would build up to the point where she lets him have it and also tie in with the peers reactions later.

    I think the word “cuss” dates this a little bit and probably dates me too. ☺ Swear could be another word to use but I would ask a teenager to be sure. The paragraph about her discussing her future with Tut, how they are going to raise their children sounds like more of a YA thing to do. Maybe she should be in awe of him and the wonder of how this Pharaoh and her are each other’s best friends and tell each other everything, how the grown ups tell him what to do and he has to listen, etc. Since this is middle grade, “The icky but I think you are cute” phase starts to come into play when it comes to boys. Just a thought.

    The line “And I told you to get lost,” is confusing because I don’t know when she told him that. Does she think it is the geometry guy? If not, is there a distinct voice characteristic that can distinguish him from the geometry guy so the reader and Rose know right away that this is someone different? Does the voice send a shiver up her spine because it feels familiar to her? I would like to see some physical reaction from her throughout these first few pages because she treats this ability as so ordinary. Does it creep her out? Surprise her because she can’t see them and they pop in on her? Does she feel a chill when they are around? Having some kind of sensory cues would be helpful too. Maybe when Tut is around she feels warmer. Just another thought.

    This is a great revision. I would definitely read more!

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  4. Wow, this revision feels so much tighter and the dialogue really moves the tension/suspense along.

    I do have a few comments. The beginning still kind of bugs me. I want to see her hearing the dead.

    ...I don’t see dead people. I hear them. I talk to them. Boy, you should try that. Talk about people looking at you like you’re a freak. That’ll do it.

    Show this. You do, a few paragraphs with the dialogue which has a great rhythm. I think if you showed us at the beginning it would work.

    ...“Hey you.”

    I jerk up in my chair, looking around for the guy doing the talking. I glance at the kids on either side of me. Nothing. I look up at my teacher. He’s glaring at me.

    Also you stop right in the middle telling us about going to the office.

    Show us this.

    The ending is intriguing with touching the photo. I wanted to see more there too.

    You've done such a great job revising this from the first time I read it. The dialogue really adds to your piece. I think if you show us a little more, this will be a winner!

  5. Hi,

    The showing versus telling thing is so hard because it's a balance. Showing can take longer. I love the first paragraph because it is an establishing shot. But yes, in essence, you are showing what you have already told us in that next scene, so be sure that every line of the dialogue is moving the story forward. This time, the dialogue felt a little bit too long to me, and I think you could condense it.

    I agree with the comment about her screaming. It seems to me that if she has been dealing with this her whole life, something has to be different for her to react like that. Something has to be changing, and we need a hint of that, if it's the case.

    OMG, I LOVE the ending. That's fantastic.

    Be careful in that transition between the two voices. I like the initial possibility that the same ghost has followed her from school -- and there's a good opportunity to show how unusual that would be? -- but then the paragraph where you say it isn't the same voice is off in sequence. Flow through the logic in the whole section and make sure it is linear.

    Your voice is great, as always. The story has great potential. The ghost of Tut? I'm in. If there's a big issue for me, it's still motivation. Make the flow of Rose's actions and thoughts more believable so that we don't have an opportunity to lose our sense of buy-in.

    Great job!


  6. Everyone has pretty much already said what I had planned to say! I agree that we should hear someone talking to her right away. Maybe the ghost could be whispering to her and she mutters, "If you give me the answer to number 23, maybe I'll listen to you." Then that plus the yelling gets her sent to the office.

    Also, yes, if they can hear her thoughts then why ever talk aloud to them? I think you need to decide which way to go with that.

    The Tut part is really compelling I was surprised--pleasantly.

    Good work!


  7. Love the ending!!! Oh, great idea about her asking the first ghost for an answer. Also agree that you need to make it clear the second ghost is different. In the first version didn't you mention a different voice?

    This is just an idea I got, so it's just a suggestion for fun, not something I'm saying you need to do, but it just occurred to me that maybe since she's the only one working on the class project, she's decided to do the project on King Tut and the lost Queen. That would give you an even better reason for her to be thinking about King Tut, though this version is a big improvement over the last one.

    This sentence is still awkward: Without thinking, I blurt out, “It’s Rose, not Roose,” I screamed.

    You use another scream at the end, where it fit betters, so I would drop the scream part in the above sentence.

    Also there's some repeated words here: no one in the group does anything. Yep, that’s my luck. The project is due the day after tomorrow, and no one except me has done anything. "No one" and "anything" both repeated.

    Great job! I really want to read more.


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