Wednesday, April 1, 2015

First Impressions - Ghost Tree

First Impressions is back this month and today I have the first page of GHOST TREE, a YA novel by Chuck Robertson. He blogs at authorwithadayjob and you can also find him on twitter, @chuckookoo. Author DianneSalerni will also be critiquing this first page so do go visit and see what her thoughts were. My thoughts will mostly be at the end.

The old, dying oak loomed high above me. Silhouetted against the darkening sky, its claw-like branches looked ready to reach down and snatch me at any second. Rather than get close to that creepy tree in the dark, I would just as soon have let my softball stay outside overnight. But it was the one my dad had given to me right before he went away. I couldn't leave it there.
I reached into the cool grass at the base of the tree and grabbed the ball. Pounding it into my glove, I backed away.
I thought I heard someone call my name. "Hello?"
Crickets chirped. Fireflies drifted over the grass like yellow embers. Except for the night bugs, I was alone in the backyard, though. Maybe I was hearing things.
Christa Parker.
The voice came as a scratchy whisper. It grated on me like fingernails on a sheet of glass. And it was not my imagination. The back of my neck tingled. My pulse thumped in my ears. "Who's there?"
Hey, I'm up here. In the tree.
Slowly, I tilted my head. A misty human-shaped figure floated above me in the leafless branches. Its blurry, transparent face stared back. My stomach twisted itself into one gigantic knot. I stumbled backwards.
The image had to be my imagination, probably just a sheet caught in one of the branches. I threw my softball at the figure. The ball passed through it.  So much for the sheet caught in the tree theory. I turned and sprinted home.
The voice called to me as I fled. Please don't run. I need your help. 
My hands trembled as I groped for the door knob.  I tumbled inside, slamming the kitchen door behind me.
Mom and Samantha paused in their unpacking and gazed at me. Mom set the dish in her hand onto the table.  "Careful. You'll break the window, banging the door that way. That glass has to be at least a hundred years old. "
Still panting as if I had just slid into home, I leaned with my back against the door.
Mom squinted at me, bringing out a couple wrinkles around her eyes. "Are you all right?" 
"I'm not sure." I stared out the window to see if the ghost had followed me to the house. Nothing. 
Samantha brushed back a lock of her hair. Strawberry blonde this month. "For someone who's not sure, you look awfully scared to me."
My thoughts: I like the opening paragraph - a lot! It’s got a great spooky feel to it and I love spooky.
"Careful. You'll break the window, banging the door that way. That glass has to be at least a hundred years old. " I’d like to know how mom says this. Is she angry? Or has she said something like this before? Her expression could also cue us. This will make her more real for the reader – imo.
The last thing I’ll say (and it’s picky) is that I wonder how many teenage boys notice hair color. I’ve asked a fair number of male relatives about hair color and they seem to be pretty oblivious to it. But. If our narrator is the sort to notice his sister’s hair color, then he should be consistently observant throughout. This goes to character.
Other than that, I really liked this first page (and the title!) and would definitely have read on to find out what happens next. Who’s the misty ghost? What does she want? Have these people just moved here? Why? Lot’s of interesting questions…and only one way to find the answers: read on!

Now, what about you, dear readers? Any thoughts for Chuck?
            I’ll be back on Friday with another First Impressions; meanwhile, enjoy the A-Z madness!


  1. I thought the main character was a girl. Isn't Christa a girl's name? Otherwise, I thought it was a creepy good start.

  2. Oh I love the personification. It makes this intro very compelling.

  3. I agree. I really like it too! :)

  4. I am impressed that the experience was frightening enough that the softball WILL stay out tonight.

  5. Sets up a pretty spooky encounter. A good jumping off point for a story. :)

  6. Hello, and thanks to you all. I'm not sure if responding to my own story is proper behavior on this site. If it is not, please let me know and I'll refrain from doing it any more.

    Christa is meant to be a fifteen-year-old tomboy. Some other people have been confused as to her gender also, and I will have to make that clearer.

    Some people have also said the voice sounds too young for fifteen. I will try to make her reactions in the next draft more mature while still keeping the fear factor constant.

    Thanks to all of you for your help. There are some things in this opening that were not readily apparent before reading your feedback. It's much better to find this out before sending it to the submission grinder. You helped me find these things out.


    1. Chuck you are welcome to respond! And I misread/wasn't paying close enough attention to see that Christa is is the narrator, which means she would definitely make/think the comment about her sister's hair so scratch that thought! I think I assumed (bad me) that since the narrator was playing with a ball he had to be a he, which was a stupid assumption on my part.

  7. Bravo, Chuck, for your brave submission to First Impressions!


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