Friday, July 8, 2011

first impressions - Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade

Our final submission for July comes from Susan and this is from her novel, Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade. My comments are in purple and you can find Dianne's critique on her blog.


      Pearl Bryzinski emerged from her house, sniffed the air, and stretched. Dark clouds bulged overhead, poised to dump yet another load of wintry delight, but she didn’t notice. For the first time in weeks, tentative spears of grass peeked through the snow, so sunny thoughts of springtime bloomed rampant in her head. When she started her car, she was singing about summer.ooh, I know how that feels! which also means the author has made a connection with me, the reader.
   She tapped the steering wheel and sang in sync with the cheerful chick-chick-chick of her snow chains, and smiled as she drove past a red mitten lying in the gray slush beside the road. It reminded her of the time her father took her to an art show. Every painting was done in shades of Payne’s gray, with a single splash of red: a cardinal in a snowstorm, a rose atop a coffin, a pair of lips in a crowded bus. She’d never forget those paintings, or that day. They even got a strawberry shake at Arundel’s. Best shakes in the world. Best father, too.
   Still smiling, she turned onto Kinship Road. Her parents had lived here in the same sprawling house for the past seventy years, and even though Pearl hadn’t lived there for almost thirty-five, every visit felt like a homecoming.

This is the end of the first page but the author actually sent a little more and I'm going to include it because...well, because its my blog and I can do what I want!

   Strange. An ugly brown Pinto was backing out of their driveway. She watched the unfamiliar car, and then, with a grin, rolled down her window as fast as she could, stuck her head out, and yelled, “DADDY!” 
   He kept staring straight ahead, but the woman behind the wheel glanced in her direction, so Pearl waved and yelled again. But while she was still hanging out the window, panting white breath into the cold January morning, the Pinto drove away. She watched until it drove out of sight, and then parked in the driveway behind her father’s Cadillac.
   She took the porch steps two at a time, just as she’d done a thousand times before, then grabbed the heavy crystal doorknob, lifted slightly, and twisted. “Ida?” she called as she entered the living room.
   The house was quiet, too quiet. No TV, no radio, just the steady ticking of the cuckoo clock. Without thinking about it, Pearl deftly sidestepped the creaky floorboards as she walked to the kitchen. “Ida?” she called again. “You in here?”
   The window shades were down, cloaking the kitchen in somber wintry shadows. Pearl flipped the light switch and grinned. “Forget to pay the electric bill?” she asked.
   Ida sat motionless in her rocking chair, a cigarette hanging from her fingertips, a long ash dangling from its tip. She flinched at the sudden intrusion of light, but didn’t respond. Instead, she regarded her cigarette, and silently watched the ash tumble to the floor.
   “Is Daddy going to be gone long?” 
   Ida took a quick drag of her cigarette before stubbing it out in the ashtray. “Hello, Pearlie,” she said. “We weren’t expecting you.” She stood. “Coffee?”
   Pearl touched her mother’s arm. “What’s up?” she said. “Where’s Daddy going? And who was that woman?”
   “Name’s Barbara.”
   “Where they going?”
   Ida dumped the coffee dregs down the drain.“Take off your coat,” she said.. “You’ll get overheated.”
   Pearl knew better than to argue, so she took it off and carried it to the living room. While hanging it, she reached behind the coat rack to run her fingertips over the multi-colored hash marks on the wall. Red marks to record her growth, and blue, pink, and green ones for her kids. They were all grown now, but thanks to Daddy, their history would be part of this wall forever.  
   “So, what’s going on?” Pearl asked, (I don't think a comma is needed here) as she breezed back into the kitchen. “I thought I’d go to the market with you and Daddy this morning. Aren’t you going?”
   Ida was in her rocker again, with a fresh cigarette in her hand. She took a long drag and blew the smoke out slowly before answering. “Afraid not,” she said.
   Pearl’s smile faltered. “When’s Daddy coming home?”
   “I’m sorry, Pearlie,” Ida said. “We weren’t expecting you. I thought I had more time.”
   “Time for what?”
   “He ain’t,” Ida said slowly. “He ain’t coming back, Sweetie.”
   Ashen-faced, Pearl collapsed into a chair. “That’s not funny,” she croaked.
   “No, Pearlie, it ain’t. Ain’t a damned bit funny. But it’s the truth.”
   Pearl’s face flushed, almost as red as the mitten she’d seen. “Oh my God,” she said. “What have you done?” She swallowed the bile rising into her throat, and wiped the sweat from her face with a shaky hand.
   Ida blew out another lungful of smoke. “And might as well tell you now,” she said. “I’m selling the house."

Now you see why I included it. Because everything before led up to these last lines: "He ain't coming back" and "I'm selling the house." I'm guessing this is an adult novel which means that readers will be a little more patient to get here. It helps that the writing flows nicely, and that we get an idea of who Pearl is; someone who loves her dad, her home, and seems fairly happy - until now. My only question, who's Ida? And why is she selling the house? ok, two questions, no three; who was the woman in the pinto with Pearl's dad? An interesting beginning to be sure...

what do you think? 


  1. That mannequin is super creepy.

  2. I want to know more. I'm thinking: Ida is the second wife as Pearl did not call her Mom, Daddy is being sent to "the home", and all hell is about to let loose.

  3. Susan,
    Who is Ida. She threw me off. Very suspenseful.
    How can she sell daddy's house. Is she step mother???
    Very good. More more more!

  4. Maybe Daddy tried to kill Ida. I would. The picture that Susan drew of her smoking was very vivid and could cause someone to commit an evil deed. I want to read Page 2.

  5. "because its my blog and I can do what I want!" Heehee, loved this!

    Very nice, Susan!! I really enjoyed this!

  6. Nice :D
    It was a good setup - even though I'm generally a hater of prologues, lol.

  7. Hi, Marcy. Thank you so much for your critique. I really do appreciate it, and like I told Dianne, it wasn't painful at all. I find it interesting that everyone seems to be confused as to who Ida is. Check this:

    Pearl touched her mother’s arm. “What’s up?” she said. “Where’s Daddy going? And who was that woman?”

    Ida is Pearl's mother, and I'm actually delighted that fact seemed to elude everyone. I LOVE Ida, but before I wrote the prologue, (which actually came after the rest of the book was done)the way I feel about Ida and the way I portrayed her made it difficult for the reader to identify with Pearl's antagonistic attitude about her. The purpose of the prologue is to allow the reader to experience Pearl's sucker punch to the gut feeling she had the day her father left.

    Hi, Matthew. Cool picture, isn't it?

    Hi, Barb. Glad you want more, more, more. That's very encouraging. Thank you, ma'am.

    Hi, Starting Over. Thank you, thank you, thank you! The fact that you feel antagonistic toward Ida tells me I succeeded in putting you into Pearl's skin. YAY!

    Hi, Marisa. Thank you, ma'am. I appreciate it.

    Hi, Jolene. Thank you. I understand your dislike of prologues, because I usually don't care for them, either, but I honestly believe this prologue serves its specific purpose very well.

  8. I think the reason Ida's identity eluded everyone is the use of her given name, rather than mom. Of course, this raises even more questions. Why does Pearl refer to her her dad as daddy but her mom as Ida?

    Glad you found our comments helpful :)


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