Released: June 5, 2015
Caught between the sweltering fall landscape of Wilmington, NC beaches and southern illusions and expectations, all sixteen year-old Cameron Shade thinks about is art. That, and for Farrah Spangled to view him as more than just a friend. Cameron longs to win her heart through art.
After several warm interactions with Farrah, including painting together at the beach, Cameron discovers just how complex Farrah’s life is with her boyfriend and her family. Following a tense run-in with Farrah’s father, she forbids Cameron to ever speak to her again, but Cameron’s convinced there’s more behind the request.
To impress Farrah with a last-ditch effort, Cameron sketches her portrait. But the sketchbook he uses hides a dark secret. Farrah’s now in grave danger because the sketch he drew of her siphons her real-life’s soul into the sketchbook. Cameron now has twenty days to extract Farrah. To save her, he must draw himself into the book.
If he fails… they both die.
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I climb the tin can sounding bleachers to the press box. A barrel-chested rival school coach blocks the doorway to the room at the high ridge of the stadium.
“I’m from Seaview High, covering the game,” I tell him.
He rotates his body enough for me to peek past him. My heart jumps at the sight of Farrah, dressed in a sky blue and navy sweatshirt with two crossed battle-axes, our helmet logo. Her perfectly tussled auburn hair is pulled back in a ponytail. She beams and waves me in. “He’s with me.”
A smile radiates from my core at hearing those words. I step over the threshold into a din of fingers rattling over keyboards, papers shuffling, and people yelling commands into microphones, I reach Farrah’s position at a long table facing the field.
She smiles up from her laptop again. “Glad you made it okay.”
“I didn’t miss much, did I? Are we winning?” I ask before even looking at the scoreboard.
She darts glances around the room before leaning in close. “Pretty much a blowout already. It’s only first quarter.” She points to the scoreboard. Her perfume engulfs me. “So, you ready to get inspired? I figure, just kinda do what you do, you know? I mean, you’re the artsy guy, right? Pick a player. Maybe one of our stars.” She stops cold. Her blue-eyed gaze intensifies as it pins me to the chair. “It doesn’t have to be Chace, just so you know. Um, but I was thinking, you know how in big newspapers there’ll be sort of this,” she waves her hands around grandly, “…promotional page for the local team, that’ll have maybe a picture of the stadium and one or two star players superimposed––sort of larger than life style, know what I’m talking about?”
I’m still trying to process that Farrah is speaking the most words she’s ever spoken to me. Ever. I nod. “I totally get what you’re saying.” I flip open my sketchpad and then stare onto the field for a bit. Chace intercepts a pass and runs it back for a score. Our sideline goes bananas. The home crowd grumbles, none too pleased.
I watch for a while longer, familiarizing my eyes with the shapes and images related to football. If not for this assignment, I couldn’t care less about the sport. My attention returns to the sketchpad and I scratch out a few stylized broad strokes. I close my eyes for a moment to picture our stadium’s front elevation. Then I continue drawing a wide receiver leaning out of the stadium with a ball in his hands and on the other side, a quarterback, poised to throw.
It takes a few minutes. In the meantime, Farrah’s scribbling notes, banging on keys, and talking with the head sports reporter to her left. When I finish, I tap her shoulder. She whips her head around, in slow motion, like in the movies.
“What do you think about this idea?” I slide my sketchpad toward her.
She takes the paper and bites her lip in pensive thought. After a few deep breaths she turns to me. “This is good.” She takes a breath. “But what if you switch the players so that they’re both facing the same direction, right? I know that’s a lot to ask.” She frowns flirtatiously.
“And then since we’re the Vikings…” She continues and bites her lip again. “What if we could have, I don’t know, like lightning striking the area between the players. Like Thor or something. Is that even possible?”
I look into her eyes. “That’s the great thing about art. Anything is possible.” I swear sometimes I open my mouth and Mr. Cassisi comes out. “Wait… what do you know about Thor?”
“I read comics.” She scoffs. “In fact, I only took journalism because at first I wanted to make comics. But since I still couldn’t draw a straight line after my intro to art class, I figured I could be an editor instead.”
“Excuse me while I swoon over here.” I quickly flip to the next page before my broad smile betrays any semblance of trying to play it cool. I sketch out the elements again, taking into account her suggestions. Several long minutes pass. When I’m done I slide the paper back to her.
She finishes pecking her thoughts on her laptop and then glances over. A smile creeps across her face as she turns a sidelong glance at me. Her lips part. “How do you do this? And fast too. I couldn’t draw like this if you gave me a year and some art classes.”
I shrug. “I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil.”
She gazes at the sketch again and then touches my forearm. “This is fabulous.” Her warmth runs up my arm and spreads. “I wish I could do anything like this.”
I see my opening. “I can teach you.”
There’s a visual pause in her entire presence. Nothing moves until her eyes narrow.
“There’s an art studio in Carolina Beach,” I continue. “I know the owner.”
She remains silent and takes a deep breath.
“The studio overlooks the beach,” I say, gaining confidence. “And it’s right near the boardwalk, so you know what that means… hot Britt’s Donuts.” I see the wheels turning.
She sighs. “I better not.”
“It’s because of Chace, isn’t it?”
“Wouldn’t he want you to live a little… try new things?”
“Probably not. Especially not with some other guy.” She chuckles. “Besides, to his family, art is to be possessed, not to be practiced.”
“What the hell, Farrah? Seriously?”
“Excuse me?” She crosses her arms.
“I’m sorry.” I cover my mouth with my fist. “I overstepped.” I want to continue the conversation thread, but I may have played my hand too aggressively. I play on anyway. Damn the torpedoes. “But really, Farrah, I’m not asking you to do drugs. It’s just art.”
Setting is an important tool we authors employ. I engage two distinct settings as alluded to on the bottom of the book’s cover. The first, and the one that opens the story, is Wilmington, North Carolina, USA. The second is the world within the cursed sketchbook. It’s based loosely on a Tuscan village circa the Renaissance. I hope that the settings are vivid enough to become characters themselves.
I chose Wilmington as the base setting because I live here. I know it well, and I wanted to drop real-life sights and places into the story. This performs two actions for me. On the one hand, it brings the city to life for those who haven’t been here. They can look up certain places on my Pinterest board or on Google maps and get a three-dimensional representation of the places I describe. Secondly, for those who have been here, I hope to create an in-story nostalgia.
(My Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/chris_ledbetter/drawn-novel-inspiration/ )
The world within the sketchbook, Terra Sempre, is a darker version of a fortified, hilly village in the heart of Tuscany during the Renaissance. I chose Italy as my inspiration because of its obvious link to and influence over art. The Renaissance was one of the most artistically creative times in world history. So, feeding off of that was simply homage. And I loved the research that was involved. I’ve never been to Italy, but now I feel like I have. And while there isn’t a one-to-one direct correlation from Terra Sempre to Italy, because, hey, Terra Sempre is fantasy, after all, there is a strong enough link for Italians to enjoy it as well, I think.
Christopher S. Ledbetter grew up in Durham, NC before moving to Charlottesville, VA in 11th grade. After graduating high school, he attended Hampton University, where he promptly joined the best marching band on the east coast, without having one shred of experience.
He taught high school and coached football for six years in Culpeper, VA. He enjoys the occasional Spartan Race, and is working toward a triathlon.
As a self-described, young reluctant reader, he writes young adult stories specifically to reach other reluctant readers. As a participant in the prestigious Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program, he was blessed to be mentored by Suzanne Morgan Williams, 2012 SCBWI member of the year.
He now lives in Wilmington, NC with his family.
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