Friday, April 2, 2010

Better late than never . . . First Page Blogfest

Hi all!

I know, I know. I've been a bad, bad, blogger. Sorry guys! And I can't really blame it on any one thing in particular, except perhaps sheer laziness or . . . maybe procrastination? I dunno. I mean I work full-time and have 2 kids (and sometimes a third, if you count my husband--sorry, hubby!). But I know that's true for so many of us--we all have things/people that we have to write or blog around. So I'm starting back (to blogging) and workin' on the time management (I found some great links on this that I'll put in another post later). I'll also be posting links to some really interesting witer/publishing info that I've come across in the last month or two.

For today (or what's left of it), I'm posting below my entry for Kelly Lyman's "In the Beginning" Blogfest . . . it's from the first page of TRAIN WATCH, my middle grade work-in-progress. I've never participated in a blogfest before so I'm a bit nervous, and I also haven't posted any excerpts in quite a while either! Anyways, here it is . . . let me know what you think (especially if anything strikes you as unclear).

Wishing you all a happy & blessed Easter weekend! :)

And, of course, THANKS FOR READING!

Chapter 1

Letter to Mama

April 10, 1941

Dear Mama,

I hope you are doing well. PLEASE COME GET ME AND OTIS! I’m tired of working in the field picking cotton and corn and tobacco and whatever else Grandpa Lum grows for the Boss Man. I thought slavery was over! I want to come live with you, Mama. Now! And Mama, you’re not going to believe this, but yesterday, when me, Hattie, and Otis were out in the cotton field pulling weeds, Grandma Jenny hit me over the head with a hoe! She said I was too slow. Mama, I was just tired. Tired from walking the mile home from school. Tired from the heat. Tired


Oh no. Someone’s coming up the ladder! Grandpa Lum will skin me alive if he finds me up here writing to Mama.

Shoving aside the worn notebook she was writing on, Cleo Holmes swung her brown, mosquito-bitten legs over the side of the bed, narrowly missing the jagged metal springs poking through the thin mattress.

With the nearly-finished letter still in her hand, she hurried across the room and quickly pushed aside the dark sheet of the makeshift closet. Pulling down an old, tattered shoebox from the back of the top shelf, she placed the letter in the box alongside her blue ribbon ink pen (won in a most-books-read-over-the-summer contest). She scooted to the middle of the room just as Hattie, her twelve-year-old aunt, appeared at the top of the ladder, sweat streaming down the sides of her pecan-tanned face.

Cleo raised her eyes to the ceiling. Thank you, Lord. Grandpa Lum hasn’t reached the house—yet.

"Whoo-weee! It’s . . . some . . . kinda . . . hot . . . out there!" Hattie huffed, as she pulled herself up and over the ladder. She wiped the steady drip of water off her dirt-streaked face with the back of her hand and down the sides of the faded, dust-covered overalls she wore. Catching her breath, she continued, "Papa says you better hurry on down. He don’t want anymore dilly-dallying from you." She focused more clearly on Cleo. "You still in your school clothes?"

"Hattie," Cleo begged, shimmying out her knee-length plaid skirt, "tell him I’m coming. Please?" She forced her clammy legs into the new pair of blue jeans her mama had sent last month. "I just have to finish something first."

"Papa don’t care ’bout none of that. You better get a move on or he’ll be up here with a switch—or a belt." She looked over her shoulder, then back at Cleo.


Crystal Cook said...

I really like this, you did a great job! And yeah life is hard to manage sometimes isn't it?

What I like the most are the characters, especially Cleo. You do a good job of establishing a connection with her right away.

Kelly Lyman said...

First, I love historical fiction. Second, I agree with Crystal. The characters and establishing a connection is what pulled me in. Thanks for sharing!

Bryan Sabol said...


The letter and the narration sound authentic -- good job!

My suggestion is to provide an intro sentence/short paragraph that sets up the scene and adds tension right away. Maybe describe her fear of getting caught, but writing her letter anyway.

Then introduce the letter and go from there.

Just my 2 cents... but you've got a page turner for sure.

Sharon Mayhew said...

Very well done, Crystal!

Crystal said...

Crystal & Kelly--Thanks so much for reading! I really appreciate it . . . so glad you could feel a connection to the characters. I think that's something all authors really strive for. :)

Bryan--I like your suggestion about adding an intro sentence; I will most definitely think about that. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading my "first page"!

Sharon--THANKS! I really appreciate you stopping by and reading this brief excerpt. :)

Tara said...

This is the 2nd blogfest I've seen today that I somehow missed!

What great characters - and premise. I really want to find out why she's there, about the family and how things turn out for her. Nice job.

Sandie Lee said...

I nominated you for the Fabulous Sugar Doll Bloggers Award; Get details at

Crystal said...

Tara--Thanks so much for reading . . . glad you liked it!

Sandie Lee--That's so sweet of you! Thank you for the award!

Abby Annis said...

I really want to know what is going on with this girl. Great job! :)

Crystal said...

Thanks so much, Abby, for taking the time to stop by & read my first page . . . glad you liked it!

Anonymous said...

I felt sorry for the mc right away. That was a great way to create a relationship w the character. Great job.

Don't forget to sign up for Last Line Blogfest! (details on my site.)

Crystal said...

Thanks for reading my first page, Lilah! I'll be sure to look for your Blogfest info . . . sounds like fun! :)

Tess said...

Ah,those "brown mosquito bitten legs"

I adore that line.

there is voice and characterization here....

you already know I love it.

Crystal said...

Hey Tess,

Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you like this piece . . . I was beginning to lose faith in myself, or rather, in my writing ability, as I recently got back a rather harsh critique from a writing contest I entered. There were some valid points made so I'm learning from it & definitely not giving up! :)

Christina Farley said...

Thanks for sharing your work. Sorry for your harsh critique but I love your attitude to never give up!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Crystal--I just wanted to make sure you knew how much I appreciated your comments on my post about Stripes today. I'm struggling to get back into life...Hard to believe I'm a 44 year old woman at this momment not a 12 year old little girl...

Theresa Milstein said...

Very distinct voice. I missed this blogfest round.

Crystal said...

Thanks for stopping by, Theresa! :)