HH Com Rd 2 -#34 (231/227)

hook here

My profile on our school’s “friendsite,” www.myplace.emma.k12.ut.us, is one of my attempts to convince everyone I’m normal.

Name: Eric Wright

Age: 14

Grade: 9th, Honors Track

School: Patrick Henry Junior and online with Park City Community College.

Favorite Music: Old stuff like the Cars, Queen, and Idlewild. Current stuff like Narcissistic Sarcophiles and Calliope (Hey, she’s hot!). NO country western.

Favorite Movies: Old movies, especially old horror movies: Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee movies, “Wait Until Dark,” “The Haunting of Hill House,” even cheesy ones like “Casper,” “Witches,” and “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.”

Favorite Foods: Italian (heavy on the garlic), Mexican, steak

Favorite Clothes: polo shirts and jeans (kind of preppy, I know)

Places I’ve Lived: Chicago, Boston, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, and Emma

See, I’m just the all-American, boy-next-door type. A nice, normal guy...... Okay, well, not
What the profile doesn’t say is that I also drink mammal blood, don’t have a shadow, and faint in bright sunlight. That’s what happens when you’re a vampire. A half-vampire, actually.

It also doesn’t say that the reason I’ve lived in so many places is because Mom and I move whenever people start treating me like I’m something out of a
Stephen King novel.

A lot of the kids have downloaded their yearbook photos onto their profiles. I downloaded a picture of Indiana Jones. A couple of girls told me that it was funny, so I’m keeping it. They don’t need to know that I don’t show up in photographs. Some of the kids even have blogs on the friendsite. I think that’d be cool, but it wouldn’t exactly help me blend in better with a blog called “True Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire,” so I skip that part of the profile.

It’s not Mom’s fault that I’m a vampire, really. I mean, she was in college when she met my dad, and she knew he was into the whole “gothic” thing: wearing black, eating raw meat, hanging out in all-night coffee shops. He told her he was a vampire, but she thought it was a joke. You know, she was finishing her degree in international business; she was too
educated to believe in silly ghost stories.

My dad apparently wasn’t too thrilled when Mom found out she was pregnant with me, so he stopped dating her and she hasn’t seen him since. It wasn’t until she gradually discovered my weird allergy to bright sunlight and how very sharp my cuspid teeth were when they grew in and that if I didn’t get about eight ounces of mammal blood every week I’d show signs
of malnutrition that she realized my dad hadn’t been living in some fantasy world.
Mom believes in vampires now. She has to; she’s raising one.

This is the prologue.
It's all set up.
It works.
It's funny, it's vivid.
Of COURSE I want to read more.

There's a 750 word limit, but the author sent both the prologue and the first chapter.

Here's the first chapter, sans comments.

Mom and I had been living here in the thriving metropolis of Emma (population 2000, except during the deer hunt, when it’s more like 1300) since I was twelve, and it’d been awhile since I’d had human blood.

But last January, things started getting bad again. Maybe it was a puberty thing. You know,
hormones. But the health textbooks don’t cover hormone differences in vampires, and since my dad was out of my life before I was even born I couldn’t exactly ask him, so I wasn’t really sure.
At the semester change, a bunch of new kids transferred into my 1st period class, and that’s when I started to notice. Actually, the first thing I noticed was Alison.

As Alison stood in the front of the classroom, waiting for Ms. Nielson, our English teacher, to assign her a seat, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Her short, brown hair was scooped up into a ponytail, leaving her whole neck uncovered. Her skin was the color of milky coffee, without a single freckle or flaw anywhere. And she had on this black, stretchy choker with little sparkly beads on it. It was so tight on her skin that I could see her pulse beating through it; with each heartbeat, the beads would catch the light. Saliva swirled in my mouth. How was I ever going to concentrate if Nielson put her near me? But what if she sat behind me? Wouldn’t that be --?
There was a poke in my ribs.

“Whoa!” came Scott’s hoarse whisper from behind me, “Check those out! Awesome!”

Scott had noticed sparkling beads? This was not his style. But I just nodded.

“Yeah, amazing,” I whispered back, not turning my head much in case Nielson decided
to look up at me.

“Yup,” Scott added, “Gotta be size double D, at least. Hope Nielson puts her real close to me.”

Beads have sizes? What was he....? Oh. I glanced down a bit from Alison’s neck and figured out what Scott had been talking about. I hadn’t even noticed, but I felt myself turning darker and darker shades of red -- even though Scott had no way of knowing I’d been checking out her neck, for crying out loud. How embarrassing. But it got worse after Ms. Nielson had moved us all into new seats. Alison sat at the back, out of my line of vision, but I now sat behind Tim and kitty-corner from this guy named Michael, which was not a good thing.

The next day, I caught myself staring at the way the tag of Michael’s tee shirt was sticking up instead of down while Nielson was writing notes about the Victorian Era on the white board.

On Wednesday, when I was supposed to be finishing finding all the predicate nominatives on pages 64--65 of Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition, I realized I was wondering what it would be like to touch the shaved-short hairs on the back of Michael’s neck.

Not good. Not good at all. Why was I staring at a guy? Did that mean I was gay? Crap. A gay
vampire. Like I wasn’t different enough already. I shuddered and made myself look at Britni
instead. She smiled and mouthed the words, “I hate grammar,” at me. I felt a little better.
By Friday I was determined to have one normal day. I didn’t look at Michael at all during vocabulary practice. And I didn’t check out any girls’ necks.

Life was fine. Until Ms. Nielson started handing out books.

“As I’m sure you’ve noticed, class,” she said, plopping a large cardboard box down on Britni’s
front-row desk, “we’ve been talking about the Victorian period and the genre of Gothic horror

Nielson began passing out copies of blue-and-white paperback books. “So, I’m sure you’ve
realized that we’d be reading a Gothic horror novel for the mid-term book essay.”

Ah, so that was it! What was the book? Frankenstein would be cool. Yesterday, Nielson was
going on and on about Mary Shelley and her determination to write a more horrible story than any of her friends could. I’d seen a bunch of old movie versions, but I’d never read the book.

“Make sure you initial on the list next to the number of the book you’re checking out,” Ms. Nielson was saying as I grabbed the book that Tim passed to me.

The day instantly got worse.

Really great.


writtenwyrdd said...

I liked this a lot. for some reason it reminded me of Thirsty, and not because of the overt similarities, but because the main character isn't resigned to being a classic or "normal" vampire. There's that element of struggling to find oneself.

I'd certainly want to read this one. I loved how your character is worried about being gay, and how his focus is on necks. Classic.

Anonymous said...

If the author were asking me for advice, I'd say dump the prologue entirely and go straight for that first chapter. The first line is a grabber. We don't need to know all the backstory and what kind of music the kid listens to. (Queen is "old" indeed! Harrumph! If that whippersnapper doesn't mind his manners I'll have to hobble over there and whack him with my walker.) Just drop us into his world and off we merrily go.

Don said...

Ya, this is beautiful. A modest request (perhaps Miss Snark could make this a blog post). If any of the crapometer submissions get published, I'd love to have some notice in a blog post (so I don't miss it in an over-full comment thread). There are some that I'd love to read, and it would also be interesting to be able to go back to the CoM submissions and compare them to the finished/published work.

Anonymous said...

Yes. This definitely works.


Tia Nia said...

I agree with writerious. The first chapter is more interesting to me if I don't know right away why this kid is focusing on necks. It's explained in the gay vampire para, and that's plenty soon enough.

writtenwyrdd said...

I have to add my 2 cents worth about the prolog. I think you could leave it. A lot of folks skip the prolog anyhow.

Bella Stander said...

I agree w/ writerious & tia nia. Dump the prologue and work the backstory into the narrative. Otherwise, I really like this--and I couldn't care less for paranormal fiction. Perfect voice.

Anonymous said...

I'm not in love with the writing, but I adore the character and concept, so I'd definitely buy this.

A Paperback Writer said...

Wow. The Great and Powerful Snark liked this? There's hope?
Y'know, it's hard to type when you're floating several feet above the keyboard.
Thanks for all the comments -- especially to those who looked up my ID on the hook comments, went to my blog, and commented there.
Thanks, writerious and tia nia. I've really been sweating over what to do about the info in the prologue. In fact, chapter one (of which this is not all) has been reworked more times than the whole rest of the book put together -- and I still feel it's weak compared to the rest of the story.
But this has given me hope. I guess it's time to polish up my query-writing skills and honing down that list of agents to the ones I'd like to try first. Here's hoping I find one with a mentality like Miss Snark's.
Thanks, Miss Snark, for doing all this for us. My weekend just got tons better -- and I didn't even have to eat chocolate to get there.
Oh, and lest I offend anyone-- let me add that later in the chapter, it becomes clear that Eric is NOT anti-gay; he's just paranoid about being different. Very shortly after he expresses this worry, two of his best friends make positive remarks about a gay relative. (I have lots of gay friends so I'm quite sensitive to this. But I'd still appreciate comments from gay readers to make sure it doesn't sound negative.)

Virginia Miss said...

I'd keep reading! Great stuff. Good luck with publication.

Anonymous said...

I loved this. I wasn't knocked out by the hook, but this is my favorite of all the pages we've had so far. It's original, it's well-written, it's funny. The part where he's concerned about being a GAY vampire - the horrors! - made me laugh out loud. It's just such a typical twelve-year-old-boy reaction. (And, for the record, didn't strike me as remotely homophobic.)

I agree you can probably lose the prologue. I was turned off by having the kid's profile first thing, though you quickly grabbed me again as soon as I'd skimmed over the profile. Details like the Indiana Jones photo (which also made me smile) and his parents' romance can be worked in later.

Good luck with publication!

Dave Fragments said...

A vampire who isn't sad and lonely (ala Rice) - HOORAY! ! !

Unknown said...

I love it! I'd love to read more. You could do away with the prologue, but all in all I love the style and the humor. That, and I love vampires.

Mark said...

The voice sure works and the execution, but "I'm a teen-age vampire doesn't." I'd be interested in why such a concept could fly and why? But then I'm the guy who gave Sabrina the Teenage Witch a lie detector test so I didn't get that concept either.

Simon Haynes said...

I skip prologues too. By the time I get to the point in the novel where I need to know backstory from the prologue, I've forgotten what it was. And mood-setting prologues don't do it for me - I want to get on with the story.

McKoala said...

Loved the last para of the prologue - the sharp teeth and the mammal blood! Nice surprise for mommy. But...I'm with some of the others - do you really need the prologue at all? His situation is pretty much explained neatly in the first pages; the rest (photos etc.) could seep in later?

Liking the first chapter muchly.

alternatefish said...

I'd say cut the prologue, but I'm not a prologue person, I rarely see them as useful. I liked the style and info included in this one, I just don't know that it's needed.

Also...the beginning of your first chapter is KICK ASS.

First, the neck/chest bit is brilliant, very true to real life. (real life with vampires.) And I love the Dracula bit, because you can feel it coming, and feel it coming...and then bam! Even though you feel it, you also feel Eric's reaction when it happens. Fantastic. I want more.

Miz Treeze said...

This was great! There was stuff which bored me to tears in the prologue, but I became snared (attached, attracted) in the prologue. Possibly I could have done without it, but I also think the majority of Chapter 1 would have made less sense to me without it. I became unhooked at the beginning of Chapter 1. I got hooked again before the writing stopped.
So, even if everyone tells you to nix the prologue, consider it carefully.

Anonymous said...

Sooner or later we're going to want to know the history of how his mom and dad got together, but the chapter is more interesting to get me involved with the boy.

I think the story is interesting and appealing. But I do question the main character's age and I'll explain why. My older son is a 7th grade boy who will turn 13 in Feb. He is a bright boy who gets mostly A's (incl. phys. ed.) and the kind of active kid who likes throwing footballs, wrestling, climbing trees. He's VERY concerned and vulnerable about his own body (he'll say, Mom, did you notice my voice is getting lower?) but when he talks about OTHER people, he's more sarcastic and a bit silly. Big boobs are something to make a joke about rather than get excited by. I wasn't convinced your main character & his male friends are 12. Have you ever seen the movie by Tom Hanks called "Big" featuring a 12 year old? Now THAT 12 year old boy rings true.

Georgiana said...

This is terrific! I love it. My fourteen-year-old son does also; we would both for sure keep reading. Great job.

A Paperback Writer said...

To anonymous who doesn't think that Eric sounds like a 12-year-old: You're right; he doesn't. He sounds like a 14-year-old. And if you read the prologue, you'll find it says he's 14 and in 9th grade.
But you're absolutely right about how 12-year-olds discuss such things.
Thanks again, everybody. I'm analyzing all your comments thoroughly so I can learn from them!

Brady Westwater said...

Love the prologue! And the first chapter is great in that it sets up enough things happening that you want to know how multiple things will come out.

Anonymous said...

I didn't care much for the prologue -- it wasn't bad, just so-so -- but I LOVED what followed. What a great job of just dropping the reader into the world. And how great is this:

Crap. A gay vampire. Like I wasn’t different enough already.

I'm decades too old for this book, but I want to read it anyway.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

I would keep the prologue but shorten it, the website list and then a short statement about trying to sound normal when you're a vampire.
I liked this idea a lot, and he ends up in Scotland, right? I've been to Scotland, it sounds like a great place for vampires. My husband lived there when he was a teenager and he said it rained every single day the first year. He kept track.

River Falls said...

I enjoyed this, and I am not a horror reader (although I am a die-hard Buffy fan). I may be alone in my tolerance for prologues, but this didn't bother me a bit. Still, to satisfy the prologue-phobes out there, you could always move it, making it a flashback instead of a prologue. Capture your reader with the lively scene in the classroom, then hit them with the backstory after you have them hooked.