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Cedar Ravine: 1.1

by rosette


Cedar Ravine was an ugly town.

I knew this before I even entered it. Simply sitting in my family's minivan, packed into a backseat corner, I had a picture begin to take shape in my mind of what our new home would look like.

No - it was not home. It was just an old, dead town with rotting houses, and bitter citizens, and woods so great and dense they blocked out the very light of the sun. It was an appalling and dreadful place and we were foolish for even considering moving here.

Perhaps it was the deserted road and blackening November sky and the stiff, pointed trees blurring endlessly past my window that fueled my imagination. Maybe it was the hestitation in my parents voices when they spoke of this "humble" and "quiet" little town. Or it could have been my older brother Jackson's seething anger the whole car ride that made me think so negatively.

Or maybe it was just the fact that I did not want to be here.

A loud snore sounded from my lap.

I looked down at the chubby little bundle curled into my skirt. Before we embarked on our great adventure, my little sister had announced she would not be sleeping at all this car trip. "I want to see exactly where we're going," she had whispered to me, mysteriously. But we were scarcely five minutes into the two-hour drive when Kiley conked out, head lolling and snores resounding.

I didn't understand how she could sleep. Or how any of my family, for that matter, could. Weren't they nervous? A tad resentful? Even a little apprehensive? My stomach had been twisting and churning all week, and I only felt the butterflies multiply as we neared our destination.

Oh God, why are we doing this?

Papa broke the silence: "We'll be there in a few." He was looking at me in the rear-view mirror, dark eyes grave and solemn, forehead kneaded together. He looked anxious. I gave a quick jerk of the head in understanding.

"You might want to wake up everyone," he said, turning his eyes back to the road. A short wooden sign with "Cedar Ravine - 2 miles" engraved crudely upon it's surface flitted past. The image of dilapidated homes and grim neighbors appeared in my mind again.

I pulled one of Kiley's braids. "Rise and shine." She groaned, pushing my hand away. "Maddie, stop..." The right side of her face was spotted dark red when she sat up rubbing her eyes. "Are we almost there?"

Unfortunately.

Jackson echoed my thought aloud in a mutter. He was slouched directly in front of me - the only other person besides Papa and I who didn't sleep. But while Papa was occupied in driving and I with my phone and journal, Jackson had gazed moodily out his window the whole ride. At times I could sense his anger, boiling hot and strong.

He now nudged Kiley's twin, leaning against his side. "Ben. Wake up."

Ben was instantly alert, sitting upright in his seat. He looked at Jackson, who had resorted back to his pessimistic out-the-window-gazing, and was silent.

I leaned over Kiley, who had begun rebraiding her pigtails, to poke my oldest brother's shoulder. He was already beginning to stir. "Good news, Kentucky: we're almost there."

He looked back at me a moment, forehead slightly wrinkled. He didn't look annoyed, just a little pensive. But that was Kentucky, even if he detested sarcasm.

I felt a brief touch of conviction, then irritation that I did.

Dear Lord, why is he so much like Papa?

As if on cue, Papa spoke. "There it is." He sounded hopeful, but I didn't miss the nervous hint.

I fiddled with my phone in the pocket of my cardigan, watching as a dark sign announcing "Welcome to Cedar Ravine" passed. Small pinpricks of light began to appear on either side of the road, revealing ramshackled old homes sagging among the pines. My stomach twisted as I noted the crumbling chimneys and crudely constructed porches. Rotting and dilapidated houses, indeed...

"Now this is a small town, as you know," Papa said, glancing to the left and right. "Just about everything Cedar Ravine has is on this road - Main Street."

Everything?

A small strip mall housing a Subway, thrift store, Family Dollar, and one abandoned building emerged on the left. The few cars scattered throughout it's parking lot looked homeless: battered and streaked in dust, glinting dully in the weak pole lights. I noted the Taco Bell sign directly behind the Family Dollar unit, leaning precariously to the right. Ick.

"This doesn't look too different from Reno," said Kiley, attempting a cheery tone. I resisted a snort. "If you live in the ghetto."

At the opposite end of the lot, before cedar trees and brush sprang up thickly once more, a sprawling Safeway gleamed dully at us. I noted the "a" and "e" bulbs were out. Papa should have come here for a quick handyman job, not that of a full-time pastor.

"Check it out," said Jackson. "There really are people in this town." An old and splintered bar - Frank's Pub - passed on the right. It was drowning in the midst of a sea of rusty pick up trucks and station wagons. A few grizzled old men standing out front stared insolently at our van. "They don't look very nice," said Kiley - almost sadly, I thought. But who could blame them? Foreigners in this town were most likely as rare as modern cars.

Some distance away from the bar sat a vacant gas station, it's doors opened wide to anyone who dared venture inside. "Is that..." Ben cocked his head slightly, dark eyebrows furrowed. "Music?"

I listened, and heard faint melancholy notes. "It's a piano."

Ben looked at Jackson again, but smirked this time. "Since when do gas stations play piano music?" Jackson was quick to respond. "Since they got plunked in the middle of Timbuktu."

Ben looked amused. Papa did not. He looked at his son, sharply. From where I sat I could see Jackson's jaw tighten. I had wondered at multiple points in the trip how he had not yet exploded in a ball of fury. Jackson had never been able to hold in or rein in his anger; his temper had always manifested itself in one way or another. But he was letting this simmer far too long.

Kentucky, ever the mediator, interrupted. "What do you think?"

I blinked at him.

"What do you mean - " Kiley gasped. "Wait - that's it?"

Papa nodded his head. "Just about. There's a hardware store and maybe a few other shops hidden around here." He waved a hand vaguely toward the surrounding forest. Oh, Lord.

Papa managed the smallest of smiles, and I saw that glimmer of hope again. How could he even feel a touch of happiness out here? "Welcome to Cedar Ravine."

---

A/N: To all my reviewers: Thanks for reading! Please review as you wish, but refrain from pointing out grammatical errors and such. I can go through and fix those later. :) 


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Wed Feb 14, 2018 3:54 am
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scribbleinks wrote a review...



Hey rosette! I'm late to the party, but better late then never? :D

I just quickly wanted to throw it out there that I'm not a religious or spiritual person, so if I ever say anything offensive please feel free to shout at me! (And I probably won't be able to be much help in those areas as a reviewer, but I'm going to try my best!)

I've already read most of what you've published, but I remember the first time I read this (and reading it again now), the first line really grabbed me. It immediately sets up the atmosphere, and the way Maddie feels about Cedar Ravine.

Following up on that, you're really good at your descriptions. It's easy to paint a picture in my head from the way you describe the setting. I'll have to take notes from you :P

"I want to see exactly where we're going," she had whispered to me, mysteriously.


I know this probably won't make much of a difference overall, but 'mysteriously' feels out of place. It's probably just me, because I'm not quite sure why, but I don't really like the way it fits into this sentence. I imagine Kiley would be aiming more for conspiratorial over mystical, but maybe I'm reading into it wrong.

He looked at Jackson, who had resorted back to his pessimistic out-the-window-gazing, and was silent.


I don't think you need the 'and was silent' at the end there. Ben wasn't talking anyway, so we already know he's silent. Maybe he could start to say something and then fall silent, or change the 'was' to 'remained'?

I felt a brief touch of conviction, then irritation that I did.


Wait, what is she feeling convicted/irritated for? Being sarcastic? I get she said that, and Kentucky didn't like it, but I'm missing what Maddie's irritated by?

And right after that, why does Maddie sound annoyed that Kentucky is so much like her father? She seems to have a good relationship with both of them, even if she is unhappy that her parents chose to move to Cedar Ravine and Kentucky sort of advocating that decision. I think Maddie still could have thought about how similar they were, without expression that annoyance (unless that is, in fact, what you were going for. If so, I apologise)

One of the things I noticed a few times is that you don't split up lines when different characters talk (like when Kiley comments that it doesn't look too different from Reno, and I assume Maddie is the one that replies to that?). You did clarify who was speaking for at least one of these times (Jackson was quick to respond. "Since they got plunked in the middle of Timbuktu."), but it would be a lot easier to read if you split up these lines, so it wasn't confusing as to who was talking.


That's all I've got for today! I hope there was something marginally helpful in there xD I'll come back for more, but I think I'm done reviewing for today.

I'm sorry I don't have much to comment on in the way of the story yet. I haven't adjusted to the characters or the plot well enough to do that yet, but I'll try to fix that later on!

Would you actually mind tagging me when you post new chapters? Just so I don't lose any of the chapter in the matrix of yws :D

I hope you have a wonderful day!!




rosette says...


Yay, you reviewed! :D
I super appreciate it, so gracias, gracias. And just a quick FYI: every review is helpful! I love hearing different peoples opinions on everything. Thanks for the comments, and you have a great day, as well! : )))))



scribbleinks says...


:D
Of course! I'm glad I could be of assistance :)



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Mon Feb 05, 2018 12:42 pm
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Megrim wrote a review...



Hello, here to review as requested! Very prompt and timely of course. (I forgot YWS existed for a few months there...)

Overall, I think this is a strong opening chapter. It sets up the conflict, the setting, the main character, and gives a lot of character to the town. I love the descriptions--I think you did a really good job bringing out the atmosphere, without drowning us in descriptive prose.

I had a few thoughts come to mind while reading.

Smaller things:
- The parents surely must have been here at least once, if not multiple times. Viewing houses, getting the house inspection once they've picked one out, all that annoying stuff. I could see them being nervous about how their *kids* will react to seeing the town, but the whole time I was reading, I felt like it was missing some indication that the parents have ever been here. It seemed almost as new to them as to the kids.
- There's no way they'd be able to hear piano music coming from a gas station as they drive by. How about they stop for gas, and her window is cracked or all the way down, so she can hear it?

Bigger things:
- Unfortunately, there are so many names and characters thrown at us, I find it very hard to keep track of them all, and the term that comes to mind is classic "character soup." I've heard advice that there should be no more than two named characters in a first chapter. I think better advice is that there should be no more than two named characters that get explored/developed in a first chapter. Tossing out a few extra names helps set them up to get explored/developed in the second chapter. But at any rate, giving us a van full of children is character overload. It's tricky, because obviously the whole family has to be there, but I'd say focus on two main ones to interact, maybe one side one to take note of, and leave the rest for the next scene. I also have a rule that characters should have more than one paragraph between their introductions, at bare bare bare minimum (and this includes mentioning their name). You can show that they are present without really going into it yet ("the twins were asleep with their heads lolling on each other's shoulders, while Kentucky, only slightly older, sat quietly in the back"). Kiley, Jackson, Kentucky, a second twin, the dad, AND the POVC is too many to juggle in a first chapter.

That was really the main thing. Cheers and happy writing!




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Thu Jan 04, 2018 4:09 am
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Junel wrote a review...



Hey there! This is a great start to your story.

First, the boring nitpicks:

rotting houses, and bitter citizens, and woods

The bolded is unnecessary and messes with the flow of the sentence.
the deserted road and blackening November sky and the stiff, pointed trees blurring endlessly past my window that

Same problem here, so just trash it and add a comma after road
been my older brother Jackson's seething

Ok, so this is a bit funky. Normally I would just say add commas around Jackson, but seeing as it's possessive that doesn't really work. So try to reword this so that proper commas can be added.
Papa broke the silence: "We'll

I think a comma would be more appropriate for here or maybe a period.
"Since when do gas stations play piano music?" Jackson was quick to respond.

Small error, but this need to be a new paragraph, at least I think so because as far as I understand Ben is asking the question and Jackson is answering.
been able to hold in or rein in his anger

The repetition of in here ruins your flow. You could just get rid of the first one.

Ok so I just noticed your note... oops, but at least you can use this for whenever you do edit, especially because as the author of a piece it can be much harder to pick up on such small details.

This was really good, and an interesting way to introduce your story that gives the reader lots of information about the family without overloading them by trying to list off each character too quickly. One thing really important though is the main character's name, which you only mentioned once, and I actually forgot and had to go back to find, the rest of your names are repeated or come with specific descriptions which helped me remember. Additionally, as the previous reviewer mentioned we don't have any specific ages, or even too much to give us the range, which might be helpful to add at some point sooner than later in your story.

Overall your descriptions were amazing, giving me a clear image of the character's surroundings and a good bit of their personality. You included multiple types too, not just visual, but some auditory which can be hard. The only way you might be able to improve it is that although I had a clear image it was purely black and white. Color isn't the most important thing, but still shouldn't be overlooked.

You have left me very interested though, and with lots of questions. I can't wait to see where this story will lead so please tag me when you update it. (I see the next part is up so I'll go review that).

I hope this review is helpful to you!

Sláinte -Junel




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Wed Dec 20, 2017 7:34 pm
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Lael says...



Ooh, I like the idea! Tag me when you publish the next chapter, please. :D




rosette says...


Will do! :)



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Sun Dec 17, 2017 1:05 am
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inktopus wrote a review...



Hi rosette! Storm here for a review, so let's jump right into it!

Cedar Ravine was an ugly town.

I really really like this for a first line. It doesn't tell us a lot, but it does implant a negative opinion of the setting, which I think is very important. It makes me want to read on.

Simply sitting in my family's minivan, packed into a backseat corner, I had a picture begin to take shape in my mind of what our new home would look like.

This sentence is a bit weirdly worded, in my opinion. Just a suggestion, but I'd rework it to something of this nature: Sitting in the cramped backseat of my family's minivan, a picture of our new home began to take shape in my mind.

I think the main difference between your version and my version is mine is more condensed, but manages to convey the same information that yours does. Make sure every sentence is worded as clearly as possible and you don't use unnecessary words.

It was an appalling and dreadful place and we were foolish for even considering moving here.

Just a nitpick, but I think taking out the bolded 'and' and replacing it with a comma would make the sentence flow more nicely.

"I want to see exactly where we're going," she had whispered to me, mysteriously.

Are you sure 'mysteriously' is the best word to use here? Mysterious doesn't seem to fit. What was mysterious about it?

He was looking at me in the rear-view mirror, dark eyes grave and solemn, forehead kneaded together.

'Forehead kneaded together' is a strange phrase. I've not heard it before. I have, however, heard the phrasing "knitting one's brows". Is that perhaps what you meant?

But that was Kentucky, even if he detested sarcasm.

I don't quite understand this sentence in this context.

"If you live in the ghetto."

Is this still Kiley speaking? If not, new paragraph for new speaker (I'm sure you know that, though). If not, I think the bit about Maddie snorting should come afterward because this snippet is pretty funny.

I think you did pretty well for a first chapter, but I'm left with one minor question. How old are Kiley and Ben? The description of Kiley as chubby had me placing her to be pretty young, like 5 or smaller, but she and Ben don't seem to be quite that young. I think establishing the general age of them might be something you'll want to add in edits.

Overall, I think this is pretty interesting. You should definitely tag me when updates come out (I need to review more, anyway). I hope this review was helpful, and I'll see you for the next update of this!

~Storm




rosette says...


Thank you for the review!
I'll definitely work on those pointers, haha. Sure, I can tag you but just a bit of a warning here: this novel is like super spiritual and I feel like that might turn some people off... so I guess I'm basically saying, read at your own risk. :p
Thanks again!



inktopus says...


I'll just review it until I feel that I can't anymore. There probably will be a point that I can't bring myself to do it (I'm an atheist), but for now, I'll see where this takes me. It may also help to have a different perspective on at least part of it.



rosette says...


That's fine. And a different perspective will help.




"You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it."
— We Bought A Zoo