Today, I thought I would post the first (partial) chapter of a book I have started in order to get your opinion. Is it worth pursuing? Do you like the characters? Am I giving away too much at the beginning? Would you consider reading something like this? I would appreciate any feedback I can get and/or suggestions. Of course I have ideas on how to move the plot forward, but if you have an idea or two that you would not mind sharing, I would love to hear it.
This is me being brave, showing this to my blog world, so be kind:
She kicked at the pile of orange and butter yellow leaves. A professed lover of autumn, Sparrow was now sick of it. If she never saw another pumpkin or corn-stalk or harvest moon again she would be….she would be what? How had she been stranded in a town that was forever October?
Eerie, bizarre, peculiar were all words that described the fact that when the calendar hit midnight on October 31st. and the trick or treaters were tucked in their beds, it was October 1st again.
The first time it happened was four months ago. Sparrow Burns had been on assignment in Nouveau Hartford, a town that had grown up half in Quebec and half in New Brunswick. She had been there to find out which province the citizens of the fair town aligned themselves with. Turns out about half were Quebecers and half were dyed-in-the-wool “Brunswicks”, as they called themselves. And of course the Quebecers only spoke French on their side of the border, and the good people of New Brunswick only spoke English on theirs. No big surprises there, which did not make for a very exciting story. But on her way back home the next morning, her car stalled as she entered a tiny town called Charings Hollow.
At first she had found the not quite a town, but bigger than a village Charings Hollow appealing. It was mid-October and the place looked like it was the set of a movie. A movie where the season of autumn took centre stage. Pumpkins were on every portico, and every door was guarded by stalks of corn and sheaves of wheat bound with wide ginger coloured ribbon. Mums exploded from every garden, and the town was strewn with countless planters boasting only one colour—gold. She later found out that there were massive floral tributes to fall on every counter in every store, along with gourds and squash and multi-coloured Indian corn. The cool air of the town smelled of spice, but not one she recognized.
Every house except one within sight had a wreath featuring all the season had to offer, and of course the requisite pumpkins and corn and mums. It was in front of this house her car stalled. She unlatched the hood to her emerald-green Spectrum and climbed out of the car, stiff from driving for hours without stopping. She peered at the engine. Sparrow had no idea what she was looking for. The inside of the car’s motor was a mystery to her. Unless something was on fire, or a wire had sprung loose, she knew that her actions were futile. But she did know, that when a car stalled, you looked under the hood.
She took out her cell phone, but for some reason it was “out of range”. She threw it onto the front seat, and leaned against the car. When she saw the lace curtain move in the front window of the house, she decided to go to the door and ask for help. She knocked. No one came to the door. She then saw the doorbell, and rang it. No one came. As she turned to walk away, she heard a noise. The front door was open a crack and all she could see was one beady eye.
‘Hello?” she said
The door closed quietly. Then it opened again to reveal a tiny woman looking at her warily.
“Yes?” asked the woman.
“My car stalled and I was wondering if you could tell me if there is a dealership or mechanic’s shop close by?”
“Two blocks up, turn right, and you’ll be at Turner’s. They should be able to help. Get your car fixed as fast as you can and then be on your way.’ she said curtly.
The unexpected warning raised the hair on the back of Sparrow’s neck.
“Why–do they roll up the sidewalk when it hits midnight?”
“You don’t know how close to right you are. Take my advice and get out of here as fast as you can. No good comes of staying here if you are a stranger.” The woman stepped back, about to close the door.
Sparrow thanked her for her ‘help’ and proceeded to walk the two blocks to Turners, thinking how beautiful the town was with its seasonal displays. She had seen Christmas transform towns, but never Fall. There were no Halloween decorations up at all. She soon learned that Halloween was a festival in its own right, and celebrated fanatically for the last three days of the month. The decorations became a bit more “spirited” at the end of the month.
At Turners, a young man came to the counter. Wiping his hands off on a rag from his back pocket, he put his right hand out. She shook it as he introduced himself as Sam…Samuel Turner.
“What can I do for you?” he asked. He acted familiar, almost like he was expecting her.
“My car stalled on Waverly, in front of the only house in town that is not decorated for autumn.” She had noticed the street sign as she turned onto Turner Street. Was it coincidental that the mechanic’s shop was named Turner, she wondered.
“I would take a look at it today, but I have to go get cleaned up for a funeral. My uncle died a couple of days ago.” He shrugged his shoulders and said as if in explanation, “the whole town is going.” He pointed to an elderly gentleman, “ I can get Elmer over there to tow the car here though, and I’ll look at it tomorrow.”
Remembering what the gnome lady had warned her, Sparrow said, “That is too bad—is there anyone else who can look at it this afternoon?”
“Afraid not, I am the only mechanic in town. And even if there were others, the whole town is going to the funeral.”
Something seemed to be conspiring to make Sparrow stay overnight in this place, and she was uneasy about it. Something akin to suspicion began to niggle at her, but she set it aside, thinking she was just being silly.
“It seems I have no choice. Is there a bed and breakfast close by?”
He laughed, “We are the town of bed and breakfasts. There is one on almost every corner,” Sam joked. My sister’s is right across the street. Her rates are good, and she is a great cook. Just don’t tell her I told you that though.”
Sparrow wondered if this seemingly “gosh darn guy” was for real. He seemed nice. She noticed that the garage did not have the usual smell of oil and gas and grease, but an aromatic spiciness she could not quite put her finger on. By no means pungent, it was warm and fragrant, almost friendly. She laughed to herself at describing a smell as friendly.
“Can I come over in the morning and see what you have found?” Sparrow asked.
“I should know something by 10. Want me to call Avis?”
Sparrow looked confused.
“My sister, Avis,” Norm said.
“Oh, yes, thank you. I’ll just walk over. The yellow house with the porch?”
“That’s the one. I think she has a room or two.”
Sparrow walked over to the cozy looking house. A sign above the door read “Turner’s Bed and Brunch”. As she walked up the steps, the door was flung open, and a voice said merrily, “Hello,… Sam just called. Sorry you are having car trouble. He said the car should be at the garage in about a half an hour and you can get your luggage then. Can I show you to a room and make you some tea?”
Tea was not Sparrow’s first choice of beverage. A Scotch and water yes, but tea? She smiled and said “That would be lovely. Thank you.”
Avis noticed Sparrow looking at the sign above the door. ‘”I made us a Bed and Brunch to differentiate us—I serve breakfast as late or early as you want. We are pretty relaxed around here. Would you like a sandwich to go with that tea?’
Sparrow nodded gratefully. As she settled into her room, she put her feet up on the bed and thought about her day so far. It was only 1:00 in the afternoon. She had expected to be home in another four hours, and James would be wondering where she was. He was taking care of her dog and had been reluctant to take on the job in the first place, but she had assured him she would be back by late Thursday afternoon. She glanced at the cell phone she had remembered to pick up from the car seat along with her laptop, but it was still flashing “out of range”.
Avis knocked on the door with a tray. It held a silver tea service, and thinly sliced smoked salmon curled up next to a croissant. The smell of the tea was familiar. Its spiciness reminded her of the smell the entire town seemed to emanate.