Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Caged Baby

One of the reasons I love reading and writing historical fiction is that, as a society, we are so self-absorbed in our present and our future, we forget our past. Sure, we occasionally laugh at a Facebook meme that asks who remembers the connection between a cassette tape and a pencil. But that's not very far back, really.  Does our memory only stretch backwards to the 80's?

I am pretty certain that no one reading this post will remember a time when THIS was okay.


Fresh air for your city baby.

Discuss!

(Thanks, Larry O'Donnell, for sending this photograph my way!)

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Perils of Eavesdropping on Your Readers

Reviews. You need them, and yet … they can be painful. I’ve seen authors discuss (on blogs, on Facebook, on Twitter) whether or not they read reviews of their books. I’ve come to the point where I don’t read all of them anymore.

However, thanks to social media, there are other ways to “eavesdrop” on your readers which are extremely tempting and addictive.

The first time I discovered a link on Goodreads that showed me all the status updates related to my book, it was very exciting. That weekend, I secretly stalked a reader through my book and just glowed with pride as she reacted exactly the way I wanted her to. She was puzzled at the right spots. Touched at the right moments. Surprised and shocked just where I wanted her to be. Following her progress was like crack for authors!

The next time … well, I was sorry I looked. The next reader’s updates were snarky and unkind – every single one of them. This quickly cured me of clicking on that “status update” link!

Unfortunately, that particular reader linked all her status updates to Twitter, so I got to see them there, too. Which brings me to the next way you can eavesdrop on your readers: setting up a Twitter search for your book title. Some people will mention you in their tweets – which means they want the author to see what they’re saying. Those are fine. But if you search for your book title on Twitter, inevitably it becomes like that scene in countless movies where the protagonist is in a public bathroom stall and some girls come in talking about her, never knowing she is there.

The habit of looking on the Twitter feed is harder to break (at least for me) than checking Goodreads status updates. If I hadn’t set up the search, I would have missed the blogger who described my book as “mysterious and beautiful.” Or this incredible review on the Kirkus Blog.

But I also come across things like this:

Tweeter1:@Tweeter2 How are things going?
Tweeter2: @Tweeter1 Slow.
Tweeter1: @Tweeter2 Ha, slow. So is The Caged Graves.

For almost a week, anytime Tweeter1 engaged in a Twitversation, she took the opportunity to bash my book. Later, she wrote a review on Goodreads that listed all the things she disliked about it – and gave it 4 stars!

Which brings me full circle – back to whether or not it’s good to read reviews. I have several 4-star reviews that nitpick the book to death and a couple of 2-star reviews that are very complimentary. Really, it makes no sense.

What I conclude is this: Better your book be read, reviewed, and talked about widely than for only positive things to be said about it. As for eavesdropping on the conversations … be brave, be selective, and consider that maybe you should stop snooping and get back to writing the next book!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer Goals 2013

Normally, I would have already written this post by now. I’ve been out of school for a week! But don’t worry. I haven’t been laying about, sunning myself by the pool and feeding the goldfish, totally un-goal-oriented. Oh no. (For one thing, there's been very little sun.)

I’ve been so caught up in revisions for THE EIGHTH DAY, I haven’t had the chance to write it down as #1 on my To Do List! But by the time you read this post, I expect I will have sent the manuscript back to my editor, so I can go ahead, make the list, and check the first one off:

1. Complete revisions for THE EIGHTH DAY and send the manuscript off to my editor. (DONE, I hope!)

2. Plan and then complete revisions on the draft of THE EIGHTH DAY #2. This is due to my editor by August 1. It will be her first look at the manuscript – and the very first manuscript I’ve ever turned in that was contracted before it was written. (Gulp.)

3. Visit my sister’s family in Kansas and try not to think about book stuff all the time.

4. Contact book stores and libraries about appearances to promote THE CAGED GRAVES. (This is difficult for me because I am shy. I love it when I am invited to appear somewhere. Soliciting engagements is harder for me.)

5. Plan and plot THE EIGHTH DAY #3 – at least as much as I can before the main characters wrench the outline out of my hands and force me to start writing the draft under their direction.

6. Get off my behind to swim and walk and bike as much as possible.

7. Visit London, Wales, and possibly Paris with the family. Part of this trip will be book research. Part of it will be Doctor Who Fan-Girling. All of it will be fun.

8. Make a quick pass of revisions on another manuscript and do a little brainstorming/research for a Shiny New Idea.

I know this is far more than I can ever get done in a couple months, and yet I feel like I have to put it all on the List. What are your goals for the summer?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Time Travel Western Romance and A Science-Oriented Christmas Miracle

I have been (and still am) buried under some intensive revisions with a deadline, while simultaneously promoting a new book and, up until last week, finishing school. So I feel like I haven’t given as much of a shout-out as I should to my two main critique partners – the people who read my work chapter-by-chapter as I write it. They tolerate my meandering first drafts, point out my errors (even if I ignore them until months later), and never fail to read my work when I’m in a pinch and need advice. And recently ...

THEY BOTH SOLD A BOOK IN THE SAME WEEK.

WiDo Publishing purchased Marcy Hatch’s time travel western romance novel (working title:
PARADISE), which is set for release in 2014. From WiDo’s blog:

Set in the Old West, it is a tale of mistaken identity, romance, and murder. WiDo’s acquisitions editor, Allie Maldonado, fell in love with the story, and with the characters. “I love the mixing of genres in Marcy’s book. Part historical fiction, part romance, and with the time travel element thrown in, it is fresh and original, a novel you just can’t put down. We think it will do very well.”

Meanwhile, Month9Books purchased Krystalyn Drown’s MG fantasy adventure. From Publisher’s Marketplace:

Krystalyn Drown's TRACY TAM: SANTA COMMAND, about a young girl who doesn't believe in Santa, yet must rely on the magic of the season and the miracle of science in order to get out of a jam in time for Christmas, to Georgia McBride at Month9Books, with Ashlynn Yuhas editing, for publication in Fall 2014 (World).


I am so proud of both of them! This will be Marcy’s debut book – and Krystalyn’s third in two years. Please congratulate them! Add them on Goodreads! Do a little dance in celebration for them!

And there is still time to enter to win a sign copy of Joy Preble's new book THE SWEET DEAD LIFE. Check out the Rafflecopter link in the post below!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"A Texas Makeover of the Angel Story" via Joy Preble

Joy Preble and Yours Truly
WAAAAY Back in March of 2010, I was invited to attend a launch party for the Sourcebooks Fire YA imprint at Books of Wonder in NYC. My debut book, WE HEAR THE DEAD, wasn’t due to be released until May, but I got to attend the event with other Fire authors such as Adele Griffin, Lisa Brown, Helen Ellis, Laura and Lisa Roecker – and Joy Preble, author of DREAMING ANASTASIA.

Then, last month, while I was celebrating the release of THE CAGED GRAVES, I saw on Twitter that Joy’s newest book, THE SWEET DEAD LIFE, was releasing the same day as mine. It seemed like a pretty big coincidence: Her book has a grave on the cover; my book has a grave on the cover … Clearly, we were meant to launch more books together!

So, Joy is joining me here for an interview to talk about her new book. Here is the blurb from Amazon:

"I found out two things today: One, I think I'm dying. And two, my brother is a perv."

So begins the diary of Jenna Samuels, who is having a very bad year. Her mother spends all day in bed. Dad  vanished when she was nine. Her older brother, Casey, tries to hold together what’s left of the family by working two after-school jobs—difficult, as he’s stoned all the time. To make matters worse, Jenna is sick. Really sick. When she collapses one day, Casey tries to race her to the hospital in their beat-up Prius and crashes instead.

Jenna wakes up in the ER to find Casey beside her, looking pretty good. Better than ever, in fact. Downright... angelic. The flab and zits? Gone. Before long, Jenna figures out that her brother didn’t survive the accident at all, and she isn’t just sick; she’s being poisoned. Casey has been sent back to help Jenna find out who’s got it out for her, a mystery that leads to more questions about their mother’s depression and their father’s disappearance.

1. Joy, our books (DREAMING ANASTASIA and WE HEAR THE DEAD) were part of the original line-up for the Sourcebooks Fire YA imprint back in 2010. But your book actually released in 2009, about six months before the imprint officially launched. How did that come about?

DREAMING ANASTASIA actually sold to Sourcebooks in late 2007, and at that time, the as yet unnamed Fire Imprint was scheduled to launch in 2008 or 2009. But things happen in publishing and plans change. And so since the book was ready even though the imprint wasn’t quite set, they went ahead and published it in September, 2009, under the Jabberwocky imprint, which was already up and going. Later editions – including one with a font change for Anastasia’s letters—have been published as a Fire book. So I was Sourcebooks Fire’s first YA novel… sort of!

2. DREAMING ANASTASIA became a trilogy, which must have kept you busy for a long time. When did THE SWEET DEAD LIFE come along? Did you have multiple projects going at once?

THE SWEET DEAD LIFE came about in spring 2011 – actually the day after I had turned in my resignation letter to my principal, telling him that I was going to try writing full time, at least for a few years! My 2nd editor – I’m not sure if he was also yours—at Sourcebooks had moved to Soho Press to start the new Soho Teen imprint and asked me and my agent if I was interested in doing a project that he thought would be perfect for me. Of course I said, yes! So that did mean that I was working on ANASTASIA FOREVER and THE SWEET DEAD LIFE at the same time on and off. But as I was also no longer going to also be teaching 175 students, it wasn’t as daunting as you’d think!

3. You are my hero! Seriously. Because you were a teacher, then a teacher and an author, and now a full time author. I’m aspiring to follow in your footsteps but haven’t reached that point yet. Can you share a little about the journey?

Hah! I allude to it a little above, but if you want the fuller version…I will say that the thing about having worked for a number of years as a high school English teacher with a 6 class load with 30 students per class or more is that to survive, you become an endlessly working grader/reader/planner. The only weekend you actually don’t have something to do during the school year is the last weekend before spring finals. You grade everywhere – often 8 – 20 hours on a weekend as well and 2 -3 hours every night. So working like a crazy woman was pretty much the only thing I knew. I’m sure you can relate. I wrote in the late afternoons or late at night and of course all summer long I could write more hours. And somehow, DREAMING ANASTASIA got written and it found me an agent, who sold the book and eventually it was published. 

The trick came when Sourcebooks asked for book 2, HAUNTED. So there I was, promoting DREAMING and writing HAUNTED and teaching those 175 students—and carving out family time and a bit of a life as well. Which was sort of okay in a crazy sort of way until somewhere in the middle, I ended up with thyroid cancer and had to have surgery. I don’t know if you knew that I met you in NYC and went home to have surgery that same week. (I am fine now, by the way, and hope to stay that way) And in the midst of all this, I was orphaned by two editors and a publicist. Somehow we sold ANASTASIA FOREVER at some point, too. And eventually I decided that this was a real career with real goals and a limited amount of hours in the day and that my passion was in writing now. So I took the leap and quit teaching. There you have it! We are poorer, but I do sleep now, which is nice.

4. I didn't know about the thyroid cancer at the time, but I did find out later when you shared your story on your blog: seeing your dream of being published come true -- and being hit so quickly afterward by such frightening news. But you beat it and published 3 more books (and counting)!

Now for the question I ask everybody. Are you a plotter, a pantster, or something in-between?

I used to be somewhere in between – usually writing about 50 pages to test the waters and then plotting in these loose bullet point outlines. Now I am an outliner, although still bullet point-y. I write novels in a three act structure. I write character sketches. I make charts. I ponder subtext. For me, this is what I feel most comfortable doing at this point in my career where honestly, expectations are much higher than when I was a debut author.

5. Another of my favorite questions – when you were writing THE SWEET DEAD LIFE, were there any characters who surprised you? Which character was the most fun to write about?

No surprises really in this book but I can definitely say that Jenna Samuels, who is the narrator, has been the most fun to write of any character I’ve ever written! She is sassy and smart and because she is 14 (she turns fifteen in book 2, THE A WORD), everything is a ‘first’ for her. I love her irreverent take on the world and particularly on the northern Houston suburbs. Jenna calls it like she sees it, such as this, said about the nurse who takes care of her in the hospital after she and Casey have their car accident: “I decided that the clogs were making Ed cranky. Just because the Crocs kiosk in the mall was still in business did not mean that one had to shop there.”

6. What do you know about yourself as a writer now, that you didn’t know when you wrote DREAMING ANASTASIA?

I would say, um, EVERYTHING. I was such a newbie amateur back then. I had NO IDEA.

7. What’s next for you? What are you working on now?

The sequel to THE SWEET DEAD LIFE, titled THE A WORD, is coming out in May 2014, so we’re editing that right now. Beyond that, I’m working hard on some projects I hope to be able to announce eventually!

8. I was trying to think what profanity began with A -- but then I realized that the A Word might be Angel, huh? Or maybe Angel AND the other one?

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about THE SWEET DEAD LIFE?

If you want a Texas makeover of the angel story with cowboy boots, irreverence, a sibling story, a mystery, and a growing amount of romance in book 2—plus breakfast tacos, kolaches, and the UT/A&M football rivalry, and a most unlikely hero, then this is the series for you! What better place than Texas to have angels walking amongst us. And who’s to say one of them isn’t the stoner dude next door. Seriously.

Thanks for joining us here today, Joy! You can find out more about Joy and her books at her website, and check out THE SWEET DEAD LIFE on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

You can also win a signed copy of Joy's book by entering the Rafflecopter Giveaway below. Contest is open to US residents until June 25.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 10, 2013

Steven Symes, Versatile Blogger, and Is There Anything I Haven't Told You Already?!

A couple weeks ago, Steven Symes passed on the Versatile Blogger award to me. If you don't know Steven, who writes non-fiction and also paranormal fiction (despite being a skeptic), please check out his blog HERE.

Now, as part of this blog award, I'm supposed to share 7 little-known facts about myself. This had me scratching my head. I'm such a big blabber, is there anything I haven't already told you?

I asked my family: "Hey, guys. I'm supposed to share 7 unknown things about myself on my blog. Any suggestions?"

Bob: "I think you've pretty much told everybody everything. I can't think of what you could have left."

Gina: "Maybe you should make stuff up. Tell them you're a wrestler in your spare time."

Gabbey: *ticky, ticky, ticky ticky on her keyboard* (She is working on her epic fantasy novel and ignoring us.)

Okay, so let me give this a go ...

1. Oooh, how about this? My teenage daughter is writing an epic fantasy novel. This summer, I really, really want her to spend some time reading the blogs of authors on craft and story-telling. Gabbey is a talented writer -- probably more talented than I was at her age. And she has aspirations of being an agent or editor. I think blogs are an excellent way for her to learn and make a few connections.

2. I write a lot about my dog, Sorcia, so most people probably don't know I've always been a cat person. I've had cats all my life, and I can name them all. (Frisky, Mystery, Topaz, Regan, Pyewacket, Strider, Smokey, Gimpy, Claudia ... finally Maui, the smartest and most personable cat I've ever had. Maui broke our hearts when he was killed on the road outside our house a few years ago.)

3. As an addition to #2 above, I was always scared of dogs. Barking made me flinch. Growling made me burst into tears. It was grief over losing Maui that made us suddenly decided to get a dog, and afterwards I wondered if we'd lost our minds! The first time I was left alone with Sorcia, I had a moment of panic. She looks like a wolf. She could eat me, I thought. I got over my fear pretty fast, though.

4. I also blog about skiing, so you might not know that I am a terrible athlete. I can't swim with my face in the water because I never mastered rotary breathing. I only recently re-learned how to ride a bike -- and had to unlearn the art of peddling backwards to brake, because that's the only kind of bike I ever had as a child. I can't throw a ball (or catch one either). Let's not even talk about swinging a bat, a racket, or a club.

5. I met my husband at a murder mystery dinner party. I received a last minute invite because one of the girl attendees dropped out. Lucky for me.

6. The first album I ever bought was Blue Oyster Cult: Fire of Unknown Origin. I can still sing along to all the songs.

7. Um ... I'm a wrestler in my spare time. No. I can do better than that. How about this? I was so frightened as a child by the urban legend of Bloody Mary -- you know, the chick who will scratch your eyes out if you say her name three times in front of a mirror in the dark -- that even to this day I avoid looking into a mirror if I get up in the middle of the night. So, when Georgia McBride asked me to write a short story for her 2013 Month9Books anthology of legend retellings ... guess what I picked?

At this point, I'm supposed to choose 7 bloggers to pass this on to. But I was always leery of chain letters (guess I could have used that as one of my seven things). So instead, I'll just invite you to share a little known fact about yourself in the comments!

Friday, June 7, 2013

First Impressions: THE MACHINATIONS OF DR. JEKYLL

I’m finishing up June’s First Impressions with the opening page of  Alicia Willette-Cook’s steampunk novel, THE MACHINATIONS OF DR. JEKYLL: 


“She’s got quite the nerve, I must say. Five invitations to tea in one month.” There was, of course, no response from the battered hulk of useless Clockwork taking up room on the divan next to Henry. “I said. She’s got...oh never mind. Incompetent pile of dreg.” He heaved himself up from the couch and made his way through the cluttered room to his desk to read the embossed letter again.

Your Presence is Requested at
the Grand Palace
by Her Majesty Queen Victoria
for High Tea
1Pm
Sharp
Thursday
Please RSVP via AutoBalloon.

Then in her tidy scroll underneath, she had taken the time to write out: “No games this time, Jekyll. N&B ~Vicki.”

He crushed the thick stationary in his hands, tossing it in the incinerator along with the other trash. He absently picked up a scarred crystal snifter and poured a splash of whiskey. “Tea. As though that would fix anything. Infuriating woman.” His eyes stared blankly out the small porthole window directly behind his desk. Just as he was about to turn away, the sun glinted off a small machine darting behind the clouds. Henry growled in frustration, dropping his glass heedlessly to the floor.

“Really, Victoria! StealthWings? Do you really think I can’t out fly them?” Reaching above his head, he grabbed for a dangling pair of binoculars and squinted through them. Seconds later, the small machine broke through the cloud cover for a few moments before diving back in, clearly trying to follow the great airship without being seen. Spinning from the window, Henry raced to the door, barking his shin against a pile of loosely piled rattan and wood baskets. Goddamn crap everywhere! Useless USELESS clockwork brassmen. God I miss my lab!

Just as he was about to holler for his automated butler, the small two way ariel on his desk squelched to life. He froze as a distinctly female voice cried out over the aether, obviously in distress.

“Mayday! Mayday! Harbringer5 to W Class Airship! Do you copy? Mayday!”

Henry ground his teeth and frustration knowing this to be yet another ploy of Vicky’s. Maybe if he waited for another minute he wouldn’t have to respond. She would just...go.

“W Class! Do you read! Level One Mayday! Please Respond!”

Just another minute....

There was a horrible staticy squelchy noise over the radio. Silence.

Henry smiled tightly to himself. Well. That was...

“...Jekyll. Please. I’ve been shot.”

I’m having a hard time finding anything to critique in this! Dr. Jekyll aboard an airship, avoiding “Vicki’s” invitations to tea? Has there been anything more irreverent to Queen Victoria since the Doctor Who episode where the Doctor and Rose baited her to say, “We are not amused?”

Honestly, I can’t find anything I’d suggest changing. I love Henry Jekyll’s reaction to the invitation, seeking commiseration in some clockwork companion that has ceased to function. His ranting about the junk littering the airship (undoubtedly his own) is priceless.

And Queen Victoria signing her invitation VICKI? I have to wonder if she dots the i with a heart!

As for the transmission on the “ariel” – which must be some sort of radio – I want more! I would definitely turn the page here. In fact, I’m unhappy I don’t have more to read. It’s not often I find nothing to suggest for improvement, but the only thing I’ve got for this page is maybe a horrible squelchy burst of static might be better than using staticy.

So basically, the set-up and first page are right on the mark. It’s up to the rest of the plot and characterization to carry this promise forward. If I were an agent, I’d request the manuscript based on this. If I were a humble blogger, I’d volunteer to beta read this manuscript based on this sample. (Yes, that’s a serious offer, Alicia.) Readers, your thoughts?


Alicia, thanks for sharing your page with use today. Readers can find Marcy’s take on this same page over at Mainewords.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

First Impressions: AND WE ARE ALL DAMNED

Our second First Impressions post for June comes from Sarah Turnbull. This is the first page of AND WE ARE ALL DAMNED, a gothic horror novel:

“As Raymond would have wanted,” Veanne said, clinking her clay mug to her brother’s. She took an inexperienced mouthful of foamy pine cider and burped, immediately pleased by the chance to be improper.

“Bless you,” said Haeden.

“‘Bless you’ is for sneezes,” she replied, pinching his arm. 

Veanne took another sip, smaller this time, and admired the mirror behind the bar, etched with climbing ivy and forget-me-nots. At the top, a pillar and scroll clock sat, wooden dial stopped at the doctor’s time of death.

Veanne’s heart sunk in her chest. The aromatic scent of brandy and hops was a warm reminder of the man who had raised her and Haeden as his own.

She slid off her bonnet, even though she knew her ears were still red, and toyed with her curls, attempting to arrange them into some sort of acceptable shape. Without her hat, the bustle of the alehouse streamed louder and more chaotic. A welcomed distraction.

Peasants made up the majority of space and noise, happier away from the cold scrutiny of the upper class. Few of Haeden and Veanne’s age, and those that were carried steaming cups of coffee and mulled wine to patrons. Extra hands hired by the Vintner.

In the center of the house, a pair of familiar faces invited the siblings over.

“Welcome, young bantlings,” cheered Seamus Hartwell, pulling out a chair. “Here, have a seat.”

“Thank you,” said Veanne, accepting.

Haeden followed her lead.

“Put your stampers up,” added Deri Wren. The cobbler’s untidy, red hair had achieved an unusually chaotic arrangement that night. He gestured to the misshapen platter of stacked smoked ham, charred apples, and crumbling fire-cakes on the table in front of them. “Fine fare tonight.”

“Seems so,” said Haeden, pinching off a piece of cake before downing another swig of cider.
Seated and silent, Veanne observed her surroundings.

The Awry Anchor’s oil lamps, sporadically placed and too numerous to count upon first inspection, hung on cherry cedar walls. In the back of the alehouse, haloed by an engraved whitewashed mantel, a cold hearth rested. Four marble-coated posts divided the room into neat quarters, interspaced with a mixture of russet-colored chairs and walnut box tables, overflowing with boisterous patrons.

One or two more blasé gentry littered the room, out of place in their fine apparel. They sipped dainty beverages and murmured in low tones. Veanne assumed they discussed the political repercussions of Raymond’s death. That or finances.

I immediately grasped that the first line was a toast to someone recently departed, and I liked that as an opening. A death is a good place to open a horror story! It took me longer to understand that mourners have gathered at this alehouse in honor of Raymond, and I’m still not 100% sure I’ve got that right. The situation could be clarified by saying that the clock was stopped at the time of Raymond’s death – rather than “the doctor’s.” (I’m assuming they’re the same person.) I infer this is a sort of funeral dinner, because why would the tavern stop the clock at the time of this man’s death unless they were honoring him? (Or he died there.) Also, the tavern owner has hired extra help for tonight. But then again, it’s implied that only two faces in the crowd are familiar to Veanne. So you see why I’m uncertain.

The scene is rich with vivid description, but there are extra adjectives and adverbs that could come out. For example, the words inexperienced and immediately could be cut from the second sentence. Likewise the words accepting, unusually, misshapen, and seated and silent could go. Eliminating unnecessary words will give the remaining description more power.

There is a strong voice here! I already feel connected to the main character and interested in knowing more about Raymond – and what will become of Veanne and her brother now that he is gone. I do love a historical (obviously), and I favor close third person POV, both for my writing and my reading, so this is a win for me.

What I’d recommend most of all for this page is clarifying what is happening at the Awry Anchor this evening. Not as an information dump, of course, but simply by use of careful clues. For example, are Veanne’s ears red because it was cold at the cemetery? Was the tavern-keeper a friend of Raymond’s? Even referring to the food items on the table as part of the funeral dinner (if it is) will tell us what we need to know. Readers, any thoughts?

Sarah, thank you for sharing your page with us, and good luck with this project! Sarah can be found on Twitter, and don’t forget to stop by Mainewords to check out Marcy’s take on this page.

Monday, June 3, 2013

First Impressions: SECOND DEATH

It’s June (hurray!) and I’ve got the first page of Gwen Gardner’s YA Paranormal Cozy Mystery SECOND DEATH here today for your “First Impression!”

 “Are you sure this is the right address?” Badger scanned the tall buildings scowling down on us, and in particular the one we stood before. An old Victorian industrial covered with centuries of grime and soot, the rusted lock melded closed, the key long gone.
   
“Bloody hell,” Simon whispered. “You don’t expect us to go in there?” His voice cracked at the last.

I shone my flashlight down at the paper in my hand and nodded. “This is it all right. Can’t you feel it?”

Simon gaped. “I’ll tell you what I feel. I feel this is a bloody daft idea and any sane person would be at home in bed in the middle of the bloody night.” He jammed his hands into jeans pockets, his blond hair a fluffy cloud against the dark and mist. He shot me a mutinous glare through amber-brown eyes.

I had to agree. The gray fog-filled street looked a friendlier alternative to the dingy, decrepit building. But insane or not, we had to go in. Never mind that we were going to hell for breaking and entering, not to mention the possibility of jail time.

“Hey, can you lot keep it down a bit?” Badger hissed. “I don’t fancy going to jail tonight.” With a last covert glance over his shoulder, Badger pulled a pair of bolt cutters from under his jacket. One snip snapped the lock in two.

I held my breath at the resulting echo announcing our indiscretion down the street like an old gossip. “Come on, let’s get inside before anyone sees us.” I struggled with the door handle before it came free. Another loud screech echoed down the cavernous street. We quickly stepped inside. The dark corridor was silent as a long neglected grave. The only sound, my heartbeat in my ears.

“I’ll go first,” said Badger. “Indigo will be with me.” He entwined his fingers with mine in a tight grasp. “You take the rear, Simon.” 

Simon mumbled to himself, but loud enough for us to hear. “Yeah, thanks a lot. ‘Cause you know they always grab the last bloke in line in those scary movies and he’s never seen or heard from again. Unless of course, he’s a zombie.”

“Shhhh. I can’t hear with you back there grumbling.” I sputtered and flailed both hands around my head trying to rid my lips and face of clinging cobwebs as we made our way down the corridor.

“I don’t look good in blood, all right?” he hissed back.

Three friends breaking into a creepy Victorian house is a great way to start a book, but I stumbled a little over the first sentences. I’m not normally a Grammar Nazi: I sometimes end sentences with a preposition or deliberately use a fragment. But I try to avoid them in opening paragraphs. I’d love to see that paragraph tweaked and smoothed over. Also, how do they know the key is long gone? They might assume that, but the key wouldn’t be sitting in the lock in any case.

What kind of lock is it that can be cut off with bolt cutters? In my first read-through, I thought they were cutting through a chain because the gate to the house was padlocked shut. But then I read it again. No gate, chain, or padlock is mentioned. Just a door – and he snips the lock with bolt cutters?

I also wondered about this sentence: Never mind that we were going to hell for breaking and entering, not to mention the possibility of jail time. It would be a pretty strict religious upbringing that would result in thinking you can go to hell for breaking into an old abandoned house. But Indigo’s flip comment about damnation suggests she’s not very religious. So, I don’t know if mention of hell is something that doesn’t need to be there – or if it’s something we’ll learn more about later.

Likewise, Indigo’s statements, Can’t you feel it? and I can’t hear, make me wonder what they are supposed to hear and what she’s listening for. But I know we’ll learn about those later, so they don’t concern me. They are going to make me keep reading.

I like how the relationship between Badger and Indigo can be inferred. It is very naturally done and appropriate for this scene. I also like Simon’s grumbling about being the last in line and his worry that he will suffer the stereotypical horror film fate for that position.

Once the whole lock/bolt snipper thing is clarified, this will be an engaging opening. I would turn the page to find out what these three are looking for. Readers, do you have anything to add?

Thanks, Gwen, for sharing the first page of your new book with us! Gwen is the author of GIVIN’ UP THE GHOST and can be found at her blog. Don’t forget to stop by Mainewords to get Marcy’s response to this page.