Author Topic: First chapters of my middle grade fiction novel  (Read 262 times)

Offline Allan Evans

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First chapters of my middle grade fiction novel
« on: March 22, 2018, 02:33:34 PM »
The pitch:
12-year-old Henry Davenport’s life is about to be turned upside down. Convinced he’s adopted, he takes a DNA test to find out for sure. Henry’s results confirm his suspicions, but raise larger questions when his DNA is listed as half anomaly. That’s like the doctor saying you have an unknown blood type—it can’t happen. With the government believing his 50 percent anomaly is actually alien DNA, a rogue federal agent comes after Henry and makes his life unbearable. But life can take a strange twist and it does when Henry begins to show some unusual abilities. Can the government be right?

Anomaly tells the story of Henry’s search for his origins and his dawning realization that he may not be the normal 8th grader he thought he was. Henry has a choice to make: stay in the shadows or fight back against the agent and risk everything.

The first chapters of Anomaly:


1 | A fast start


The sirens come from every direction. There’s so many, every last one of the White Bear Lake police must be on the way. The sound of a shoe scrape gets me running even faster, even though my heart is already threatening to drum its way out of my chest. But I’m not going to let them catch me, I still don’t have my answers yet.

A red Miata pulls out of the alley ahead of me. With the sidewalk blocked, I’m forced hard to my right. I bounce off the side of the sportscar and head into the alley. “Sorry,” I call after him. Moving fast behind the downtown storefronts, my heart is still pounding, though less from the run and more from being chased. But don’t get me wrong, I like to run. It’s one of the few things I’m good at. My father says that with my long legs, I am built for running. The rest of my family more resembles a fire hydrant: short, stocky and solid as steel. Me, I’m giraffe tall and thin enough to be concerned when the wind blows.

I don’t hear anyone pursuing me, but the loud wail of the sirens masks every other sound. And I’m not willing to risk a glance behind as it might slow me down—or terrify me. I hate being chased.

I’m running out of alley and options. A right turn will head me toward the lake and I’m not a good swimmer. Put me in water, and I sink like a rock. A left turn will bring me towards Highway 61, which means more traffic and more possibilities. Left it is.

A small dog, a Yorkshire terrier, races along the sidewalk across the alley’s entrance. A leash drags along behind it, closely followed by a young girl. She’s crying as she struggles to catch up. With all the converging police squads, having a dog on the loose—let alone a four-year-old chasing it—is going to be a dangerous combination. My left turn to freedom will have to wait.

Taking the right turn, I’m almost immediately next to the girl. Her blonde pigtails bounce as she runs. “Ollie,” she wails. “Stop.” But there’s no way she’s going to be able to catch up to her speedy dog.

“Hang on,” I tell her. “I got him,” and several steps later I have him. I deposit the little furball back into the girl’s arms. Her eyes go wide and she looks like she doesn’t know if she should stop crying yet or not. “All better,” I say as I ruffle her hair in a gesture I really don’t have time for. Glancing up from her big eyes, I see two men burst out from the alley. They’re wearing dark suits and dark sunglasses and frankly, they scare me.

“He went that way,” I say pointing in the other direction. They can’t help themselves and turn to look. “Gotta run,” I tell Ollie and give him a quick pat and smile at the girl. I turn and accelerate away, anxious to get some distance away from my pursuers. I probably shouldn’t have stopped, but helping animals and people is hard-wired in me. I’d stop again, no matter how many are chasing me.

I’m running down the sidewalk, passing the familiar landmarks of our town, Runyon’s Dance Studio, Pearson’s Candies and Evans Music, wondering how it could possibly have come to this. I was always told it was good to ask questions.

Tires squeal on the next block as the sirens draw closer. And with two men chasing me, clearly I’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest. Not wanting to meet the business end of the bees, I’m running as fast as I can. I don’t want their questions. I need my answers.

A squad car rolls to a stop at the end of the block directly in front of me. The officer is looking at me as he hurries out of his car. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want a policeman’s full attention. Even if I haven’t done anything wrong, it still makes me feel guilty to have him staring me down.

I put on the brakes and look back. No longer paired up, one of the men has crossed the street and is moving down the opposite sidewalk in my direction. The other man is several storefronts down from me. I appear to have their full attention as well. Sure, any other day when I’m in a store and trying to get an adult salesperson’s attention, I’m totally ignored. Maybe I’ve gone about it all wrong. Next time I need help picking out a dress shirt, I’ll be sure to ask him about alien DNA.

So, how did this whole mess get started? Like many of history’s major events, my mess began with an innocent enough comment.


2 | The shallow end of the gene pool

“I have to be adopted.”

My twin brothers, Zach and Sam, are packing up their crossbows and gear for a deer hunting weekend. In between their gear stowing, they are taking part in one of their favorite pastimes, a game I like to call punch. Near as I can figure out the rules, there aren’t any. Whenever one gets close enough to the other, he punches him as hard as he feels like punching. And from what I can tell, they feel like punching very hard.

“Really, you think I sprang from the same gene pool as these two?” I ask my younger sister sitting next to me on the couch. I gesture towards Zach and Sam who are now wrestling on the ground. This often happens in the punch game. After punching harder and harder, one of them gets angry enough and tackles the other.

“Henry Davenport!” Emmy exclaims with what sounds like indignant surprise. “I’m from the same gene pool, you know.” Emmy is my 10-year-old sister and all-around best friend. Like our brothers, she is a little shorter and a little stockier than average. Unlike my twin brothers though, she doesn’t want to gather, hunt and kill every living animal. My brothers have it out for the animals of our planet. For example, Zach has a rabid-looking squirrel mounted to a stand on his bedside table. If you crossed an overly caffeinated lemur with a severely dehydrated zombie, you’d have Zach’s stuffed squirrel. It seriously creeps me out every time I look at it. And Sam is no better. He has part of an animal mounted over his bed. But it’s not the head; it’s the other end. I feel bad for the deer having to be the butt of Sam’s joke for all eternity.

The boys continue their struggle on the floor. With Sam in a headlock, Zach commands, “Say my name.” A grunt from Sam and Zach repeats, “Say my name.”
I pull Emmy close. “I know, but you don’t have the killer genes these two have. You just like to have target practice and murder the occasional trout.”

“It’s called fishing, Henry. Not murder. Just fishing.” She shakes her head as she nonchalantly watches the struggle continuing on the floor. “You’ve always been the sensitive one. Our animal lover.”

What can I say? I love animals. My brothers had a lemonade stand that overcharged for their watered-down drinks, while I had the dog wash stand that gave out free biscuits to all my satisfied customers.

After struggling for another fruitless minute, Zach taps out. They get to their feet in front of us. I can’t help but roll my eyes when they both puff out their chests. They’re definitely twins from the same mold. After a moment’s staredown, with neither winning the intimidation game, they shrug and move back to their deer-killing equipment.

Emmy accurately reads my thought. “Yes, you’re from the same gene pool.”

“Maybe, but they’re from the shallow end of that gene pool.”

“Funny, but they’re your family.” She smiles and gives me an elbow. “And don’t forget I’m your sister.”

“Never. But how can I be from the same bloodline as those two?”

As if illustrating my point, the twins start arguing again. I didn’t catch the start, but Zach is accusing Sam of always doing something or another. For his part, Sam looks both hurt and angry. “You don’t even know me!” he wails. This coming from the inseparable twins.

I drop my head and sigh. “I have to be adopted.”


“I know how you can find out.” As it is the next day, I have no idea what Emmy is referring to.

“Find out what?” I ask as I’m pouring my bowl of cereal. I look inside to see if the prize is still there. “You can be amazingly random sometimes.”

“If it pops into my head, I’m going to say it. That’s how it works.” Emmy grins as she spreads Nutella on her toast.

Score! There is something in the cereal box. I’m not usually this lucky I think as I fish out the prize. Just in time for Halloween, it’s Monster Disguise Stickers. "Peel 'em off. Stick 'em on. Scare your friends."

“Find out what?” I ask again as I examine the stickers. It looks like I could have scary eyebrows, bloody fangs, facial scars, a bolt in my neck or even another eye in the middle of my forehead. Emmy looks back at me with a mouthful of toast. “Well?” I prompt. You have to keep Emmy on track if you’re ever going to finish your original conversation.

Emmy grabs my stickers and studies them for a moment. “Gross,” she says and hands them back. “I know how you can find out if you’re really from this family.”

“Aha. So you do think I’m adopted.”

She shakes her head. “I know you’re from this family, but everyone has their differences. We can’t all be the same. But you’re as Scottish as the rest of us. You may not be as ginger and you don’t have our stoic nature…” Emmy hesitates, clearly searching for similarities. Our grandpa would say that us Scots are as stoic, serious and dour as a church of Scotland minister on a wintry Sunday morning. I’m waiting to see if she’s come up with any similarities. Emmy pauses, looking like she’s going to say something, but nothing comes out. I make a show of checking my imaginary watch.

“Maybe if you list the differences first, it’ll help you find the commonalities,” I suggest.

Emmy brightens at my suggestion. “Okay, you’re tall, we’re short. You’re thin, we’re … not,” she finishes after a moment’s hesitation. Emmy has always been somewhat conscious of her weight. Continuing, she says, “You have dark hair and olive skin, we are gingers. We love to hunt and fish, while you embrace all living things.”

She laughs and says, “Remember your tree?”

It had started with Charlie, the tree. My parents would pull up the little trees that would spring up through the garden mulch. I remember thinking he had deserved a second chance as it wasn’t his fault that he grew in our garden. I replanted him in a small pot I found in the garage. I’d read that plants do better when you talk to them, so I began talking. Thinking it’s easier to talk to someone you know, I decided to name the tree Charlie. He did look like a Charlie after all. And so I talked to Charlie everyday about whatever popped into my head. Was learning cursive writing really necessary? Why I think the freezer deserves a light as well. And perhaps the most puzzling question of them all: why are there no B batteries?

Once Charlie grew big enough to be on his own, I gave him to a family friend for his first birthday. Over the years, I’ve given over a hundred trees to family and friends—and I’ve named and talked to each and every one. I open the stickers and stick an eyeball to my forehead. Emmy doesn’t notice as she is still listing the differences as she touches each finger. “You’re always so positive.”

“You are too, eventually. I think you expect things will turn out poorly, but your hope is always there too.”

“Yes, but…” Emmy looks up at me, noticing my third eye and cracks up. “You are a goofball. But Henry, you always just seem to know things will sort out and be all right.” She holds my gaze. “You just know.”

She reaches up and peels off my eye sticker. “I can’t talk to you with this stuck to your forehead.” She sticks it to her own forehead. “Let’s see how you like it.”
“Well,” I begin before I crack up. And then we’re both laughing. After the laughter dies down, I hold up a finger. “I’ve got it. Our similarity. Neither of us embraces the Scottish affinity for wearing kilts.” I fold my arms and lean back satisfied.

The look on Emmy’s face isn’t the happy one I expected to see. Instead, there’s sadness and resignation. “That’s the best we can come up with? You may as well take the DNA test then.”

I’m confused. “Wait, DNA test?”

“Yes. I was reading a magazine at the library and saw an ad for a home DNA kit to discover your ancestry. This ad,” she says pulling out a folded sheet and hands it over. “I saved it for you.”

I pause and look at her in what I hope is my best reproachful look. “Hold on; you defaced public property and ripped this out of the Ramsey County Public Library’s magazine?”

Her eyes flick down for a moment before returning my gaze. “I can be a rebel sometimes, you know.” She looks sort of proud.

I laugh and pat her shoulder. “I guess so.”

Opening up the sheet, it’s a full-page advertisement for RelativeDNA. The headline reads: One simple at home test. A world of discoveries. I look back up at Emmy who gestures for me to continue reading. Besides the picture of the happy family, and a globe overlaid with dots spread around the continents, is a paragraph: “Uncover your ethnic mix, discover distant relatives and find new details about your unique family history—with a simple DNA test.”

“I checked it out. They send you a kit. You spit in a tube and mail it back. Sounds easy enough. What could possibly go wrong?” Her sweet smile is reassuring.

As turns out, a lot could go wrong, actually. 


Offline Kit

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Re: First chapters of my middle grade fiction novel
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2018, 11:55:10 AM »
Hi Allan,

I really like your premise and think readers would have fun identifying with your MC.  Here are a few of my comments:

Henry has a choice to make: stay in the shadows or fight back against the agent and risk everything.

I wonder if it would rack the tension up a bit if Henry were forced to fight back, instead of having the passive choice of staying in the shadows.

Once Charlie grew big enough to be on his own, I gave him to a family friend for his first birthday. Over the years, I’ve given over a hundred trees to family and friends—and I’ve named and talked to each and every one.

If the MC is 12 years old, and let’s say he’s started talking to trees at six, that would be about 14 trees per year he’s tended.  It doesn’t seem realistic to me.

Opening up the sheet, it’s a full-page advertisement for RelativeDNA. The headline reads: One simple at home test. A world of discoveries. I look back up at Emmy who gestures for me to continue reading.

Should the headline be in quotes or italicized?

If you crossed an overly caffeinated lemur with a severely dehydrated zombie, you’d have Zach’s stuffed squirrel. It seriously creeps me out every time I look at it. And Sam is no better. He has part of an animal mounted over his bed. But it’s not the head; it’s the other end. I feel bad for the deer having to be the butt of Sam’s joke for all eternity.

This is just gross.  Love it!

So, how did this whole mess get started? Like many of history’s major events, my mess began with an innocent enough comment.
AND
“I checked it out. They send you a kit. You spit in a tube and mail it back. Sounds easy enough. What could possibly go wrong?” Her sweet smile is reassuring.

As turns out, a lot could go wrong, actually.


I like how both scene endings make me want to turn the page to find out more.

I hope you find my comments helpful or interesting.

Thanks.

Kit