The lovely and talented Suze over at Subliminal Coffee just tagged me in a blogging game, wherein I'm to take my current manuscript, search for the word "look," and post the surrounding excerpt.  Except I'm breaking the rules a bit, because I'm not really ready to post something from my current WIP.  Instead, I thought I'd follow Suze's lead and take a lil trip down memory lane.  So... here's an excerpt from my very first attempt at writing a novel.  This thing wasn't sure what it wanted to be - YA?  MG?  Something with a coherent storyline?  (Okay, definitely not that last one.)  It veered around a lot, and did a lot of crazy things.  In any case, this is a little scrap of that rambling behemoth. 

For context, our teenaged hero, Declan, has just been released from a jail cell where he was being held for shoplifting; a strange man in a top hat claimed to be the owner of the store and declined to press charges.  Declan is confused (because he most certainly was shoplifting) but he's also grateful.  Until they head outside and the man starts saying some weird things to him...

"Are you feeling it yet?”

“Feeling… what?” Declan asked.  He was definitely regretting his impulse to speak to the man.

“The yearning.”  The man peered at Declan, studying him.  “The calling must have started by now.  We have to move.”

He remembered the flash of longing he’d felt a moment before.  “Hang on —”

"I’ll explain later.  We don’t have much time," the man said.  He grasped Declan's arm with his narrow fingers and beginning to pull him away.

"Whoa, dude - let me go!"  He jerked his arm out of the old man’s grasp.  I should get out of here, he thought.  This guy was obviously crazy, and besides, he had to make it home before his dad noticed he was gone.  He didn’t have time to play guessing games with a lunatic in a top hat. 

But something was happening.  As soon as the man had named the feeling - yearning, he had called it - it had roused something in Declan, something that had until that moment been napping, fitfully, but quiet.  But the moment the man  uttered the word, Declan felt it roar to life, growing in his stomach like an ache.  He had good, logical reasons for walking away, he knew that, but the yearning… there it was, stirred to wakefulness swift and sudden, mushrooming in him like a cloud, swelling in his lungs, plunging into his limbs, holding him fast.  He wanted… he wanted to stay.  He had to stay.  He couldn’t explain it, but it was a truth that infused every part of him.
Or almost every part of him.  There remained the smallest fragment of his mind not yet inundated with longing, and that part began to buzz with panic.  That part of him, the part that suddenly realized something was very wrong, flashed like a neon sign: run.  RUN!   For the briefest second the impulse to flee overrode everything else, and he turned, gathering his strength, but it was no use: the longing gripped his heart with fingers like ice, and his body refused cooperate.  He tried to take a step and his feet tangled beneath him.  He crashed to the ground, breathing heavily.

"Oh dear," the man tutted, towering over Declan as he lay splayed across the asphalt.  His eyes darted around, searching.  “Oh dear, oh dear.  Well, don’t just lie there - get up.  Get up!”

“What’s happening?” Declan asked, pulling himself to his feet. 

“The calling,” the man said.  “They've started.”

Declan noticed that the fog had been growing steadily thicker in the past few minutes.  It was dense as brick now; the whole world had shrunk down to a distinct sphere just large enough for the two of them to stand in.  An eerie silence fell, punctuated only by their own ragged breathing.
And then a whisper, from somewhere outside their circle. 

Declan jerked his head around, looking for the source of the sound. 

“Did you hear that?”

The old man's voice cracked.  "Don't listen to it.”  His long fingers worried at his throat, and for a moment he seemed unable to speak.  But then:  “You have to run.”

Declan was vaguely aware of the man tugging on his arm, trying to get him to move, but he swatted him away.  The yearning had finished its job; there was no more panic.  He was rooted to the spot.
"No," he told the man authoritatively. "I have to wait here."

He sat down on the asphalt, jaw set.  He had never felt more certain of anything in his life.  The thing he was waiting for - it was on its way.

The old man hovered over Declan, wringing his hands and tugging at him, trying to coax him into standing, but Declan ignored him. 

“You don’t understand… it’s your blood they’re after, Declan, your blood - you have to run…”

But Declan wasn’t listening.  All around him, he could feel the swirling fog that carried the voice of someone calling his name, carried it to him in a sickly sweet voice.  The fog brought him his name, and it sounded like molasses.



  1. A veering, crazy, rambling behemoth. I am thrilled, *thrilled* that you dug this out and posted. I am also incredibly curious about your preferred genres, what you like to read and if you write exclusively YA/MG.

    Favorite line: 'The thing he was waiting for - it was on its way.'

    1. Aw, thanks Suze! I do write exclusively YA (I have never set out to write MG, but this old project in particular definitely headed in that direction, mostly because I didn't know what I was doing.) I read a ton of YA - "know your genre" and all - and otherwise tend toward non-fiction, particularly history, memoir, and pop-science.

      What about you?

    2. Oh, silly me - if you want to see what I'm reading and what I've read so far this year, you can also click on the "What I'm Reading" tab up there. :)

  2. This is awesome. It creeps me out a bit, 'cause I have no idea how dark it's going to get, and dark stories give me the heebie jeebies, but that just shows well you reached your audience. :-)

    I like how Declan goes from being unaware, needing to be informed and guided by Mr. Top Hat, to feeling totally self-aware and assured. And how we don't know if he's making a huge mistake or not.

    I'd definitely keep reading. At least until I pulled the covers over my eyes.

    1. Thank you MC. :) Dark is definitely what I was going for.

  3. Very nice. Definitely creepy. I love the way you describe this "rambling behemoth," Lol.

    But I think there's definitely some nice writing here, and I like the story.

    From a critique standpoint, it might need some paring, just to speed the pace and ratchet up the tension for this particular scene, but there's nothing that really needs rewriting -- you write well, have a solid and confident voice, and the reading flows smoothly. The characterization is strong, the situation is fascinating, and I would definitely keep reading.

    Nice job, Jes!

    1. Thanks Chris. Yes, I did zero editing on this before I posted it, so it's basically a rough draft, and I agree it runs a bit long. Sadly, not sure I'll ever return to this story, but maybe one day...

      Thanks for your encouragement!

  4. Oh, how to build suspense. Nice effort, Jessica. Sounds like there's a real sci-fi twist here. I don't read much YA myself, but I am always looking for new works for my daughter, who can't read enough! Brave of you to share. Kudos! :)

    1. Thanks Jayne! And sounds like you have a cool kid - I have a soft spot in my heart for the ones who can't soak the words up fast enough. :)