Books Read in 2011

Tessa's books-read-2011 book montage

Clockwork Angel
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer

Books Read in 2011 »

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Book of Black

Image by Cindy Eric for the site

I'm finally revealing the title of my book: Book of Black. I've named the series: The Son of Black, but I'm still wondering if I should change that. Maybe The Eva Jones Series(Protagonist), The Ruby Series (hard for me to pronounce the American r, so maybe not), The Mira Fir Series (name of the land), The Myrkvera Series (Featuring race in the book)...

The second book is Book of White and the third book is Book of Grey. I think I might write more books in this story world, but they'd be a different series.

I've also decided to post the first scene of the book. I've already done this in the WriteOnCon conference for critique. Feel free to critique here if you want to. Be as brutal as you like - I can take it.

Book of Black - Chapter 1

“Stand still, Eva!” Laura fussed, trying to pin my brown hair up in an elegant way after tying a yucky mustard-colored satin scarf around my neck. She held three bobby pins between her lips while she talked. “I still can’t believe you’re going on a date with Richard Hark. Did you see the looks on the McKinney’ faces when I told them? And I swear Sarah Forester was jealous. Poor thing. Her ugly daughter will never get a decent date.”

“It’s not a date, Laura, and Jennifer isn’t ugly,” I said and puffed out a breath when she finally stepped back to look at my silly new outfit. The khakis had a zipper on the side and the hips were much too wide, the ketchup colored shirt, and the shiny black shoes with the buckles on the sides were already hurting my heels. To top it off, the bobby pins were pushing painfully against my skull.

“Nonsense. I have never seen worse skin condition, and she’s much too tall and bony to attract men. Sixteen year old girls should be petite, and have curves, like you. That’s much more feminine.” She removed the bobby pins from her mouth and I cringed when she stuck one of them in my hair.  “And even if you’re just going to Highfield Park on a school assignment, it could still be a date,” she continued. “I’m sure he would have made more effort to do the project in town if he really didn’t want you at Highfield Manor.”

I shook my head and cast my eyes at the ceiling.

“Sarah Forester’s daughter can’t get a single date while my foster daughter got the date of the year. Just think! In a couple of years you’ll live at his mansion as Mrs. Hark, with your children, and I can have tea with his aunt.”

I huffed and slipped past her, into the living room.

Stephen and Laura Smith’s eleven-year-old real daughter, Ella, had been shouting for her mother’s attention all evening. For once, Laura didn’t give in to her demands; she was too busy fussing over her new favorite foster daughter.

Stephen sat in his recliner. Laura had forced him to wear his finest suit and tie, instead of his usual tank top and boxers. He sighed and turned up the ESPN as I passed him.

“Ohmygod, I still can’t believe you’re getting outa here with dreamy-creamy Richard,” Lucy gushed and grabbed my shoulders. She smelled of cigarettes and I wrinkled my nose at the stench. Her shaved head had Laura in a fit only a week ago. “God, Eva, if you and he start dating for real, I’ll have to kill you.”

“We won’t,” I half growled. Stephen’s football game was so loud that it hurt my ears. “I don’t even like him, so just leave it.”

“He’s here!” Anna, the self-appointed lookout, called from the hallway.

Lucy’s heavy boots thumped loudly as she ran across to the living room window and pulled the curtains wide apart to see.

The news of Richard’s arrival suddenly made it hard to breathe. I rummaged through the shopping bag and grabbed my toothbrush before stumbling through the living room and into the bedroom. Ella stuck her tongue out at me as I passed, but I ignored her. I shoved the toothbrush into the bulging new bag, with all my new non-secondhand clothes, hauled it off my bed, and hurried into the hallway.

I pushed my way through the crowd by the door and knocked Ella, who was now too curious to keep up her attention seeking, to the wall.

“Your school bag!” Lucy called from behind.

I turned and retrieved my brand-new, weighty school bag, nearly tripping over Anna.

“Hey, relax girl!” Anna said and helped me stand up straight, which was uncharacteristic for her. The two other foster daughters in the house, Lucy and Anna, were loud, rowdy and rude. Laura made no attempt to discipline them and Stephen simply didn’t care.

“Eva!” Laura urged with her nasal New Jersey accent, fidgeting by the door in her new outfit. It was, supposedly, a very fancy two-piece set, but I thought it made her look twenty years older. Of course, most of the women Laura dreamed of socializing with were at least twenty years older. Elizabeth Hark, Richard’s aunt and guardian, was the head of the charity committee that Laura had joined and Laura was always eager to impress her.

I pushed onwards and finally reached the door. My throat felt swollen. I was getting lightheaded from the stuffy air and the excitement and noise around me filled my head.

“Wait,” Laura said, putting a hand out in front of her. “It would be more appropriate to let him knock first. You should be ready, but not too ready.”

Yeah, right. She would have encouraged me to have sex with him if she wasn’t afraid of public opinion on teen pregnancy.

Then Laura looked over the crowd in the hallway. “Everybody, go into the living room!” she commanded and dusted everyone away with her fingertips.

I stood alone in the hallway when the knock came. I swallowed loudly and a drop of sweat ran from my neck and under my collar. Not good.

Laura hurried past me to open the door, bumping into me on the way so hard that I dropped my bags. One of them landed on my toes. “Welcome, Mr. Hark,” she said formally, bending one knee behind the other in a deep bow.

I groaned and pushed the throbbing toe against the calf of my other foot.

“Thank you,” Richard said with his British accent, flashing his irresistible smile. He wore the usual black pants and white shirt. He looked past Laura and caught sight of me. I quickly turned and put on my brand-new coat to hide my warm cheeks.

“Would you like to come in for some tea and biscuits?” Laura asked, her voice unnaturally drawled. I was tempted to mention that Laura never drank tea, only coffee in bucket-loads.

Richard looked at me again with his perfect, amber, almond-shaped eyes. I shook my head a little. He smiled and his white teeth and flaxen hair contrasted perfectly with his tanned skin. I actually sighed out loud and could have kicked myself.

“Thank you for the offer, Mrs. Smith,” he said. Laura gasped at the sound of her surname. “But we’re in a bit of a hurry. It’s a long drive from Bernardsville. Perhaps another time?”

Another time? Laura was going to take that literally and tell all of her friends that her foster daughter was having a second date with Mr. Hark. But, for now, she took it with a broad smile and finally stepped out of the way. Before I could reach for my bags, Richard had already stepped in and picked them up for me.

“Yours?” he asked, lifting the bags slightly. He was so tall that I had to look up to see his face.

“Yes,” I said in my tongue-tied stupor. A grin slipped onto my disobedient lips.

He smiled back and led the way outside. As he passed Laura, she put a hand over her heart and sighed.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath before following.

As soon as I stepped on the front porch, I heard a rustling behind me. I turned and saw them, all of them, pushing each other in the doorway to get a better view. Even Stephen stuck his head out from the living room to get a look.

After giving my foster family the evil eye, I turned to follow Richard but stopped yet again at the sight of the car. It was a black limousine with silver hubcaps and trim. Across the road I saw the Foresters glancing from behind their curtain, Jennifer’s face covered in green face mask, and Cliff McKinney stood in his driveway with his mouth hanging open.

“A bit over the top, I know,” Richard said as he put the bags into the trunk. “But there are four of us, a driver and a chaperone, so it’s either the train or this. The train doesn’t take us the whole way.”


“Aunt Elizabeth insisted,” he said, as if that would explain everything.

He opened the door for me and I awkwardly made my way into the car. I had only seen the inside of a limousine in movies. As soon as I had looked over the interior (dark wood with silver trim and black seats), my eyes stopped abruptly at the sight of Ian Murphy, spread over the length of one seat, flipping through some game cards, and at the sight of Meg, Richard’s twin sister, quickly turning her head to watch the horrible scene by the Smiths’s doorway, her long, flaxen hair whipping at the movement.

My heart stopped. This was the first time vicious and evil Meg would notice me, and what a way to be noticed. This was too good for her to ignore. Jennifer Forester, the closest thing I had to a friend, was still suffering from Meg’s latest sport. Meg had somehow broken into her locker and filled it with cotton and cheap skin care bottles. The hallway was full of kids when Jennifer opened it and the stuff came pouring out. She couldn’t connect it to Meg, but it was obvious by the evil smirk on Meg’s face that she’d done it. I could almost swear that Jennifer’s face was perma-blushed after that.

I briefly wondered what kind of bullying Meg would come up with for me. A pang of anxiety punched my stomach as my invisibility slipped away. I felt sick.

“Is that your family?” Meg asked, a hint of malice in her voice. Her British accent was more Americanized than Richard’s. She wore tailored blue jeans and a lined pink hoodie, an outfit Ella would die for.

“Foster family,” I answered quietly. I exhaled slowly and covered my face with my hands after I securely buckled myself into the seat. My shaky hands relaxed a little but were replaced by a wave of dizziness when I felt Richard sit beside me.

I risked a glance at him. His eyes swept over the interior of the car, careful not to look outside the window.

I noticed a small woman sitting primly on Richard’s other side. I hadn’t noticed her when I came in. She wore a pressed black suit, and her dark hair was pulled back in a bun. I assumed that was the chaperon.

I cleared my throat and looked back at Richard. “I’m so sorry,” I whispered weakly and fidgeted with my sleeve.

“It’s all right,” Richard said kindly, smiling down at me.

The car finally started moving. I slowly pulled off the uncomfortable, ugly scarf that pressed against my throat and made it hard for me to breathe. Once the scarf was gone, however, I discovered that breathing normally became no less of a challenge.

“I thought we might start on the project now,” Richard said. He scanned my face for a response. When I managed to give him a forced smile, he picked up his laptop from a drawer underneath the seat. “We won’t have all day tomorrow; Aunt Elizabeth wants me to meet friends of hers.”

“All right,” I blurted.

Richard looked down at me, and the heat in my cheeks spread through my body. “Do I make you uncomfortable, Eva?” he asked.

“I’m just embarrassed about my foster family,” I said after a little silence. “Laura, my foster mom, is over the top sometimes.”

“Ah,” Richard said. “Isn’t that the norm, though?” His beautiful lips pulled up at the corners as he arched an eyebrow.

“The norm?” I asked, not following him at all. No other family was like the Smiths, certainly no family that Richard had met.

“Yes, whenever I take a girl out on a date, their families go out of their way to make me feel welcome.”

“Perhaps,” I said slowly, forcing sudden pangs of jealousy out of my heart. “But we’re not going out on a date.”

“No, we’re not,” he chuckled and smiled. It wasn’t a sort of offensive, as-if chuckle, it was a conversational chuckle. I relaxed a bit.

Ian sat up in his seat and looked at Meg, his eyes wide in his bright face. “Should we do that, too, Meg?”

“Date?” Meg asked, looking at Ian as if he was something disgusting stuck under her nice designer sneakers.

“Eh, I mean work on the project,” Ian said, blushing heavy crimson. Ian was one of those unfortunate boys who was constantly bullied at school. He wore his weird combination of polo shirt and baggy pants with countless pockets. He also wore his usual water-combed-to-the-side hairdo. He was only fourteen, but he was too smart for his age and shared classes with my year.

“No,” Meg answered curtly and turned up the volume of the music video playing on TV. The bass thumped rhythmically against my back.

“Megan, please,” Richard said.

Meg sighed heavily before turning the music down a little, giving her brother an “are-you-satisfied” kind of look.

Richard thinned his lips and focused back on the computer.

To compare Richard and Meg with me would be like comparing roses with weeds. I looked as normal as Richard and Meg looked paranormal. My dull, dark brown hair reached just past my shoulders; my skin was pale from a lack of sun; my eyes were a boring shade of blue and I was much too short to make anything I wore look nice. Not pretty, not ugly, just normal.

The positive thing about being so normal was that I didn’t stand out in any way. I blended in with the crowd and flew under Meg’s radar, so she hadn’t given me a hard time in the past.

The not-so-positive thing about being so normal was that I flew right under Richard’s radar as well. Before today, he hadn’t even known my name.

I unzipped my schoolbag to retrieve one of the history books I’d found at the library. As I did, a piece of paper flew out and landed on the floor. On the note were scattered unfamiliar things such as Eva loves Richard and Eva Jones-Hark, colorful hearts and flowers. To my horror, I saw Meg staring at it. I quickly snatched up the note and shoved it back into my schoolbag, feeling the edges of it bend in the process. Fortunately, Richard was ferociously typing and watching the screen, so I let myself hope that he hadn’t seen it.

Meg didn’t say anything, but she kept giving me evil little smirks during the whole trip while I tried to concentrate on the project. Of course, I wasn’t any help at all since I kept waiting for Meg to say something about the stupid note. By the end of the drive, I was sick with nerves.


  1. Wow! Tessa, this is really good. I think you really have something here. At least from what I've read. I love Eva and Richard. This opening chapter is terrific. I'm having a hard time telling you anything I would change. I have to admit, when you said you'd written this in a month, and were getting ready to submit it a month later, I though, whoa there, slow down, revise, revise, revise, but really if the whole story is as good as this, you may be in great shape. I'd still be happy to read the whole thing if you'd like. But bravo. I think this is on par with a lot of the YA stuff I've read lately (and you name it, I've read it.)

  2. Thanks Melissa. I readily take you up on your offer! Just let me know when I can critique something for you in return. I'm going to Uni this fall, so I should have some extra time.