Tipsy Lit, Prompted: Previewing My Novel

prompted-buttonWelcome to the Tipsy Lit Weekly Writing Challenge. On the heals of winning by a tiny margin last week, I’m giving it another shot. The prompt this week was exciting for me, as it worked perfectly for me to share the opening of my first novel. The manuscript has been in the hands of 7 different editors and/or agents, who all asked to read it, following pitch sessions at the Pacific NW Writer’s Conference last summer. The wait has been terrible! Aside from my writing group, I have not shared my book with anyone thus far. However, this first chapter is from the perspective of twelve year-old Maya, a main character. It worked perfectly for this week’s Tipsy Lit Prompt, and I’ve decided to share it for the first time, here.  The Prompt states: “write about a sequence of events from the perspective of a child. Maybe the child is a witness to a crime, or the expert in the room on a particular subject. Maybe he/she is reporting on a school event or commenting on big sister’s activities. How do you ensure the reader sees child rather than simple-speaking adult?”

Length should not exceed 1,500 words; my entry is 1,238 words. I have chosen to not share the title of my book at this time, as I would prefer to unveil it when it is published. If you enjoy this writing, please visit Tipsy Lit on Saturday and vote. Again, the voting was VERY close last week; every vote counts! It only takes a few moments to check out the writers and make your vote.  Of course, I’m hoping I earn that vote with my story. Polls are open from about 7am EST until 9pm EST. I appreciate the support.  Constructive or kind feedback is always appreciated. Please leave a comment with your thoughts; thanks.

Preview of My Novel (1,238 words)

Though it’s been more than thirty years, I can still see the snow. The moon must have been full, because I remember that I could see everything two floors below me, and everything around my house so clearly. The snow had a magical blue hue to it, shimmering, and the trees stood out starkly against the muted light. The cold air hit my face, and my heart raced. It was so beautiful and peaceful beyond my window. And so I jumped.

*          *          *

Maya lay in bed and listened as her mother came in downstairs. Liv had been out drinking with friends, and Maya stayed home with her brother Jake. She looked at the small wind-up alarm clock on her nightstand. It read 1 a.m.. She heard a man’s voice and Maya held her breath, trying to hear what was said. Their voices were muffled, and she slipped out of bed and tiptoed to the top of the stairs, wanting to hear more. At the bottom of the stairs she saw them. Her mother was kissing the man. It was no one Maya knew, but they stood in plain site as he removed Liv’s pants and underwear and grabbed her buttocks. Maya gasped and pulled back behind the corner where the wall met the top of the stairs, terrified that they might have heard her. When she peaked back again, they continued to kiss as the man finished undressing Liv and she laughed drunkenly. Maya could hear the alcohol in Liv’s voice, a slow thickness that had become all too familiar on nights like this. But the words were lost as she watched her mother take the man’s hand and lead him out of sight, toward her bedroom.

Maya stood frozen, unsure of what to do. She felt waves of adrenaline rush through her stomach, her legs, and her chest. She could hear Jake’s deep breaths as he slept in the next bedroom. She crept across his floor quietly and watched him for a moment, afraid to disturb him– and wishing he would wake up.

“Jake, are you asleep?” she whispered.

He didn’t move. Jake had fallen asleep hours earlier, after watching The Wolfman on TV. At twelve, Maya was old enough to stay home with her brother, when their mother went out, but she could never sleep while she was gone. There were too many things that could happen, and she usually watched TV until she heard Liv’s car pull in the driveway. Some nights, like this one, she got into bed and counted back from one hundred, hoping for sleep. However, the nagging sense that cars crash, planes fall out of the sky, and scary things lurk to take mothers and fathers away always kept her vigilant. She usually waited to hear her Mom’s car in the driveway or the key in the door and only then drifted instantly to sleep, secure in knowing her mother was still alive. It was easier for Jake; he always slept soundly. His chest rose and fell easily as he dreamed, and Maya reached out and pulled his covers up over him and slipped back to her own room.

Maya could hear them downstairs in her mother’s bedroom, just below her own, as she sat on the edge of her bed, paralyzed. Their laughter oozed through the wooden boards of her floor. When she tried lying down, their murmurs, their silences, her mother’s laughter burrowed through her pillow and burned her ears. Oh my God! What is she doing? How could she just do it with him like this, right downstairs? Her mind raced and her stomach continued to churn. And then it was silent. Not a sound. She put her feet on the cold floor and lowered her body down to listen, pressing her ear to the floor. The wood creaked and she froze. What if they hear me? She held her breath and didn’t move,  expecting to hear her mother come up the stairs. Instead, she heard Liv’s low moan and the bed below creaking. The rhythm seemed to quicken and the man’s voice grunted and moaned with her. Her mother laughed again, and the bed changed its tune. She could hear them moving with the mattress, talking and moaning intermittently.

Lying there, listening to her mother have sex, she felt a stirring, a warmth spread through her own private area and she lay still, body pressed to the floor. She sat up, suddenly ashamed and frightened by her body’s betrayal. This is disgusting, gross! What the hell is she doing? I hate him! She could hear their moans through the floor, could feel it seep into her. She wanted to run; she wanted to hear more. She lay back down to listen, repulsed and fascinated in equal parts. Her mind raced as she listened and arousal spread through her body. This is so dirty. I’m dirty for listening… oh my God what do I do? She realized she was touching herself, feeling the warmth build.

Maya stood up and walked to the top of the stairs again, tears stinging her eyes. I feel so gross. I need to get out of here! I could go outside until he leaves, where I can’t hear this. Her thoughts raced with her heart. She looked at the front door, just at the base of the stairs, but fear pinned her to the top step. I know they’ll hear me, and then they’ll know I was listening. The front door was out.

She tiptoed slowly back to her bed trying not to make a sound, but her mother’s moans and the man’s noises were all she heard. Their laughter, their sounds, filled her small bedroom and bounced off the walls. It made her blankets sticky and her skin sweat, despite the cold. She stood up and gazed out the window realizing how beautiful the snow, two stories down, appeared in this light. The sky was bright and everything seemed illuminated and silent there in the moonlit night.

Maya grabbed her window frame, careful to keep it from making any noise, as it stuck on the old track. She pressed on the wood, steadying it and slid the window open in one swift, anxious shove. The cold air hit her face instantly. She caught her breath but her mind felt clear for a second; this was the way out. The idea was scary for only a moment, as she glanced down, but her anxiety pushed her to go.

Quietly she took her Keds from the closet and put them on her bare feet. She grabbed her thick blue robe and wrapped it around her for warmth. Maya knelt on her bed, and then stood up carefully. She balanced on the edge of her bed, and then stepped onto the small nightstand beneath the window, grabbing the windowsill for balance. The table wobbled for a second, and she waited, afraid that the noise might give her away. Silence and then muffled laughter came through the floor again as she pushed herself up onto the window ledge. The cold hit her face as she looked down. The height suddenly hit her and for a moment she was afraid again, dizzy. She looked out over the snowy yard and the forest beyond, amazed by the stillness and color. A blue world waited to catch her and without another thought, she slipped over the edge

*       *       *

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About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
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44 Responses to Tipsy Lit, Prompted: Previewing My Novel

  1. Wow, what an opening. Keep at it ! Thanks for sharing.


  2. Cathy Ulrich says:

    Great opening chapter, Dawn. But no fair! Now I want to read the whole thing!


    • This is the first half of the first chapter, Cathy… and if it makes you want more, score one for me! Thanks so much Cathy; I have been really nervous about finally putting it out there. Hope you’ll come back and vote tomorrow; I’m gonna need it! :-/


  3. Cameron says:

    I can’t imagine how awkward that would be. Eek. There is tremendous solace in a clear, cold night. I hope she found it.


    • Thanks Cameron… jumping from a 2nd story window is not likely to bring the solace she hopes for, but that comes in the 2nd half of this chapter. I hope it came across as a child’s perspective? Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment; it’s much appreciated!


  4. Daryl Madill says:

    Beautifully written. Makes me want to read more…


  5. Wonderful chapter, Dawn.


  6. Great hook to leave her just before she jumps. That would be a long way down. Realistic writing. Again, good luck with the Tipsy Lit challenge this week.


    • Thanks Patricia! I think it’s going to be a really tough race this week; I really appreciate the encouragement. I had to cut the story somewhere, so as not to go over 1,500 words… that seemed the perfect place to leave you. 😉


  7. Also, I hope your book’s published soon. All the best.


  8. Mike Lince says:

    Like Maya, we are all suspended in mid-air. That’s one big step for her and one giant leap for you, sharing your novel’s beginning. It is kind of a creepy subject, but it does what it is supposed to do, creating empathy for Maya while we hold our breath to see which way her life will suddenly turn. I am with your other commenters in that I look forward to learning what happens. Good luck on the voting! – Mike


  9. Pingback: Polling Prompted: The Child Reports | Tipsy Lit

  10. J. Raven says:

    Score one for you indeed! I look forward to reading the published version in its entirety!


  11. I was so enthralled with this! What an opener to your book! Good Luck with it 😀


  12. R. C. Black says:

    Dawn this was beautiful, and it made me tear up. Maybe too many feelings of my own childhood became entangled in your tale. I too am anxious to read more. You picked the perfect spot to grip the reader.
    Maya’s jump is a fine metaphor for the need to transport to a new reality To fly into a world that is clean, bright, slightly mysterious and unknown; the only escape that someone who is trapped feels is possible.
    It is dangerous, but to stay is far more frightening.
    More please, I would like more! Your writing snared me.


    • Thank you SO much darlin’; that means so much coming from you. I’m really nervous about putting it out there, but excited too! Thanks xo


    • Rachael, just read your comment again, as it really touched me so much. I feel a bit exhilarated, and at the same time, terrified, putting my work out there… Even if the goal is to be published, it’s a whole other thing to actually make the leap. This comment is so incredibly thoughtful; thank you for taking the time to read this, and encourage me so enthusiastically! It means a lot. xo


  13. Laurel Leigh says:

    Nice opening! I have my fingers crossed for you!


  14. Dakota'smom says:

    Great opening! Kept in suspense and wanting to read more! Thanks for sharing your novel!


  15. Can’t wait to read the novel! Hope there will be a reading at VB!


  16. Seriously? You are such a tease. This 1/2 chapter is AMAZING. Must have more!! Loved it Dawn and I’m so glad I read it in time to vote this week!! xoxo


  17. WendyStrain says:

    This sounds exactly like how I imagine a 12-year-old would react to the events you describe, maybe without the jumping part. Like everyone else, I’m excited to see your book! Best of luck through the process.


  18. Thanks Wendy; I’m so glad you enjoyed it. This was the first week that I didn’t have several of the other writers stop by… I was wondering where everyone went to! Another great week at Tipsy. 😉


  19. etomczyk says:

    Dawn: It was good that you took the leap. This is a really good opening chapter. I know how you feel and my heart goes out to you, but you had to do it. Stay the course, my friend. Wishing you all the best as you follow your heart.



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