Showing posts with label Tuesday Teaser. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tuesday Teaser. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Teaser

Work on my WiP is progressing. It's time to be brave and share an excerpt.

I'm interested in hearing how the pacing feels to a first-time reader. As a short story writer, I've worked hard in perfecting the craft of concise exposition, of only giving readers background information essential to the story's one significant moment in time. The voice of a novel, however, is entwined in the POV's internal perceptions, often stemming from his/her background and experiences. I don't have the experience yet in novel writing to know how much background information and internal perception is important and relevant in any given moment, without slowing down the pace. I pay a great deal of attention to this as I read other author's work. But when I sit down to write, ugh! Doubt seeps in. Your feedback on this point is greatly appreciated!

This is one page from Chapter One. As this is an excerpt from my WiP, it will only be posted two days :)


[Excerpt deleted.  Thanks everyone for your feedback!!]

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Truth and an Excerpt to Prove It

Almost every lie I wrote yesterday held a grain of truth, but there was nothing false about the two that were true. Of course, I've written stories about the most harrowing of my life's adventures, so my Tuesday Teaser will follow, a snippet from that story. But first:

1. I earned my doctorate in Rhetorical Speaking from the State University of New York at Oswego. Nope. I earned a Bachelor's in Rhetorical Communications from that school.

2. We have seven pets: a Shitzu puppy named Sammy, a Himalayan Persian cat named Pumpkin, an African Gray parrot named C.J., two love birds called Happy and Mango, a Betta Fish called Mr. Odie, and a frog named Jeremiah that hatched from a tadpole we caught in the pond out back. False! We have a Betta named Mr. Odie, but the other pets ALL live with my sister.

3. A ten-foot-long shark swam right alongside me while I was looking for seashells in water up to my knees on the Florida coast. TRUE! I was beach combing on a six a.m. walk, and I thought it was a dolphin in the water. I couldn't believe I was that close to a dolphin and in my excitement, I waded further in and walked alongside it. When it didn't surface for air I became suspicious, but when it thrashed its head I was sure: it was a shark, trolling the shore for breakfast.

4. I trained for three months and won at the regional level (Southeastern U.S.) of the Fitness America Competition. No...but I did place third!

5. I was kidnapped at gunpoint by machine gun-toting rebels during an African civil war. 100% True. See excerpt below.

6. One summer, I juiced three cucumbers a day, and drinking the juice made my hair grow six inches in three and a half months. No way.

7. In 1991, I shook Madonna's hand on the red carpet when she arrived for the premier of Truth or Dare in Hollywood, CA. Untrue-ish. I was there, and Madonna stepped out of her limo fifteen feet in front of me. But I didn't shake her hand.

8. I speak four languages: English (duh), French, Spanish, and an African dialect called Sango. Nope, I only speak three languages. No hablo Espagnol.

I apologize in advance for only offering a short excerpt of the following. In the Face of Danger, which tells the story of my abduction by rebel soldiers during the 1996 mutant army uprising in the Central African Republic, is currently submitted to The New Millennium Awards contest in the category of Creative Non-Fiction. For this reason, I can't publish it on the web. And, for the same reason, this excerpt will only be up for one day.

Here's the set-up: I was a Peace Corps volunteer with only a few months of service left before finishing my two year, three month tour of duty. My husband Christian, who was then my fiancé, and I met there. At the time of this story, he was living ten kilometers away on his company's construction base. When the war broke out, the Peace Corp issued a country-wide evacuation, and we were to follow the Emergency Evacuation Plan implicitly. This included volunteers in the region locking ourselves in the predesignated "Safe House" and awaiting further instructions. We were not to leave under any circumstances. I did. Here's what happened:

Excerpt From: In the Face of Danger
by Nicole Ducleroir


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday Teaser

Although the book I'm writing falls in the literary fiction genre, some scenes will require the characteristics of other genres. It will include, for example, suspenseful scenes with a lot of action. Over the past two years, I practiced my hand at different genres through short stories, working on the skills I'd need when I wrote my novels. The following excerpt is from one of them, an action/adventure piece entitled "The Way Forward."

They made their way to the head of the trail in high spirits. "White rectangular blazes mark the trail over the entire 2100 miles from Georgia to Maine," Michael read from the trail map. "Turns are marked with double blazes and side trails and approaches use blue." Michael stopped. Kaitlyn was no longer walking beside him. Turning, he spotted her heading off the path into the woods.

"Kait, honey, you're not supposed to leave the trail. Hon?"

Kaitlyn put her finger to her lips and looked back into the woods. A moment later she rejoined him.

"I thought I heard an animal, but it must have gotten scared and scurried off." Her flushed cheeks glowed with excitement.

"You never know what could be hiding in these woods, babe. There are snakes and bears living up here with the bunnies and squirrels." Michael wasn't sure if the look on Kaitlyn's face said his concern endeared him to her or simply amused her.

Kaitlyn's suppressed smile lingered in her eyes. "Tag! You're it!" she suddenly shouted, taking off down the trail.

Kaitlyn's playfulness infected Michael, and they made their way through the quiet woods, talking and joking. By noontime, they had hiked into Sosebee Cove, a remote nook protected by a wall of rock and ablaze with the colors of flourishing springtime bloomers.

"Do you hear water?" Kaitlyn asked.

Michael consulted the map. "It looks like DeSoto Falls is about a quarter mile from here." He looked to the left. "There, see that tree with the blue blaze on it? That trail will take us to it."

Ten minutes later they were heading down the side trail. It was harder to follow than the first one. The woods were thick with forbidding underbrush. The din of rushing water grew louder with each step, until its source came into view.

Melted snow from higher elevations had swelled the river to twice its normal size. Above them, raging water rushed over a promontory and crashed in billows of roiling white foam fifteen feet below. The noise was deafening. Kaitlyn pulled her camera from her pack and began snapping pictures. The air was much cooler here, and after a few minutes they turned to go.

"God! It's beautiful here," Kaitlyn sighed when they could hear each other again. Then, she sucked in her breath.

Following Kaitlyn's gaze, Michael saw the brightly colored butterfly she had spotted. She raised the camera to her eye as it settled on a trillium bush. No sooner had she focused the lens than the butterfly took flight again. Kaitlyn stepped off the path in pursuit of it.

Closer and closer to the river, the insect flitted from one blossom to the next. Finally, it alit on a branch at the water's edge. Looking through the lens of the camera, Kaitlyn edged closer. Michael called out, "That's close enough, Kait," but his voice was lost to the river. As she snapped the picture, her foot slipped on the moist embankment. She let out a high-pitched yelp that never made it to Michael's ears. All he saw was one of Kaitlyn's arms shoot out awkwardly before she disappeared below the bank.

Michael sprang into action even before his mind had time to process what had happened. He sprinted toward the river, ploughing through branches that tore at his face, shouting Kaitlyn's name. She was nowhere to be seen. He searched the white water churning with the vengeance of a stampede of beasts, mirroring the panic coursing through his body. Suddenly, Kaitlyn's head broke the surface of the water several yards away. There was an outcropping of rock visible further downstream, and Michael bolted for it.

"Swim for me!" he shouted as he ran, never taking his eyes off her. He threw himself onto the rock's edge, yelling, "Kaitlyn! Grab my hand!" He was flat on his stomach, reaching as far out over the water as he could manage, as the fast-paced current carried Kaitlyn toward him.

Terror was etched in every furrow of her contorted face. She could see Michael's hand but she was powerless over the current dictating her trajectory. The river slammed her like a rag doll against a rock, pitching her violently under the water. When she resurfaced moments later, she was heading straight for Michael.

Kaitlyn was floating impotently past Michael, but she managed to stretch her hand out. With astonishing timing, Michael heaved his weight forward and caught her firmly around the wrist. She dangled heavily there, her frightened eyes locked with his. The nightmare from years ago was brutally triggered, and fear threatened to rob him of brawn and confidence. He forced the old memory out of his mind and his resolution stoked his strength. "I've got you, baby! I've got you!" he gasped. Fighting the current and the water-logged weight of her pack, he struggled to pull her in. It wasn't until he got his hand around the back of her belt, that he realized he had denied the arrogating river of its quarry.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesday Teaser

It's been a productive week for me. Since deciding on a new profession for my MC, I had to scrap close to half the chapters I wrote during NaNo. This week I researched her new line of work, wrote a new outline, and began writing a new chapter.

So far, I think these changes are good for the project.

It's still to early to begin sharing teasers from the WIP, so today I'll offer a snippet from a short story I wrote in 2009, called Stopgap.

Liza pulled the Studebaker up to the gas station's store front. As Van yanked open the passenger door he saw the cashier watching him through the plate glass window. Van managed a smile as he folded into the car; the clerk didn’t smile back.

“I thought I’d drive. Hope you don’t mind.”

Van grunted, his attention on a black SUV at the pumps, where the man who'd smacked his young son in the cashier line stood shouting into his phone. Van’s father used to say, “Get your ass in the car and wait.” Silent or spoken, the threats had been fierce. Eventually, when he was about that kid’s age, the threats had evolved. He’d known, even at that innocent age, that his father liked knocking him around. It got the tension out; made life easier to deal with. If Van’s mother had lived, things would’ve been different. She’d have protected him. Isn’t that what mothers do? Where was that kid’s mom, he wondered. Liza’s voice broke into his thoughts.

“Alright, we made it, babe! We’re home free: me, you, and all that cash!” She slapped a manicured hand on the steering wheel. “Damn, we make a great team!” She glanced over, her smile faltering. “What’s the matter with you?”

“Nothing,” he grumbled as the filling station disappeared from sight in his side view mirror. “How about some music?”

Van turned on the radio. He cranked the large, grooved knob and the red needle moved across the FM dial with jerky motion. Elvis’ voice issued suddenly from the scratchy speakers. Van noticed Liza’s fleeting grimace, but the nostalgic strains lightened his mood. He turned it up.

“Perfect, right?”

Liza lifted the hair back from her temple and hooked it behind an ear. “Yeah. Perfect.”

Two songs later and Van’s smile had returned. The conversation focused on how they’d spend the money. As they began the climb into higher elevations, the Studebaker’s underpowered engine showed signs of complaint.

Liza’s eyes flicked to the rearview mirror. Van checked over his shoulder and scowled as if he got a whiff of a rancid odor. The black SUV came up fast behind them. It swerved across double lines and edged alongside the Studebaker.

The driver’s attention was fixed forward. What an asshole, Van thought with a sneer. As the SUV pushed past them, the small face in the backseat window came into view. For a suspended moment Van stared at the boy whose eyes appeared pleading to Van for liberation. A knot of remorse choked him as the truck shot forward and around a bend.

They heard the screeching brakes and sickening metallic crunch before the Studebaker hauled itself around the curve. Liza clapped a hand over her mouth and gasped as the scene came into view. The SUV lay on its side across the highway, its front end rumpled like sheets of an unkempt bed. Smoke hung in the air and angry splatters of blood wet the road between the vehicle and the dismembered deer whose eyes stared into nothingness. Van had the door open before Liza slowed to a stop. He ran around the top-side of the car.

The driver hung out the front, the jagged windshield embedded in his torso as if the car had tried to bite him in half. Van blinked hard and shouted, “Liza, don’t come over here! It’s bad.” The cell phone lay on the pavement. Snatching it up, he moved around the nose of the SUV, peering through the windshield. Seeing nothing, he clambered up onto the passenger side. The window was cracked so he was careful to place his knees on the door frame as he looked down into the back seat. He spotted the boy, lying in a ball on the window now flat against the road. The doors were locked. Van tapped the glass, and the youngster stirred. Van straightened and located Liza pacing in circles next to the Studebaker.

“Liza, the boy’s alive! I’m calling 911!” He placed the call then jumped down and ran to her.

“An ambulance is on the way,” he said.

“Good. Let’s get out of here.” She moved toward the car.

Van grabbed her elbow. “We can’t leave! That little boy may be hurt. He’s trapped in that car and his dad’s dead.”

Liza glanced at the wreck with tear-filled eyes. “Van, are you crazy? The cops will be here any minute. We have stolen money in our car! We need to get away from here!” Her voice rose an octave with each statement.

Van shook his head. “No. I’m not leaving that kid alone. I won’t do it.” His tone was even, determined.

“Well, I’m not staying!”

Thanks for reading!
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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday Teaser

I'm busy working on my WIP today. In fact, I have challenged myself with lofty writing goals for the month of March, and I'll rely on the next several Tuesdays to keep me accountable. I'll post teasers from my WIP in the next several weeks...but not today :)

Today's teaser is an excerpt I'm pulling from a short story I wrote last year entitled, "Under Dock and Key." The story was prompted by a photograph of a narrow, wooden dock stretching out from the shore of a lake. The still, mirror-like water reflected the sky across its surface. Enjoy!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

...A minute later, Samantha pointed. “There it is!”

As Samantha steered the car from the dirt road onto a still narrower path, both women gasped. Into view appeared a quaint, white building with large windows overlooking a lake. The shore was lined with a sandy beach, and a narrow, wood-plank dock stretched thirty feet into the water. Gentle mountains rose in the distance, giving the scene a picturesque and protected semblance.

“No way,” Samantha exclaimed. “Do you think….?”

Marla tore the key off the paper. “Let’s see what this unlocks,” she said with a mischievous smile.

Samantha led the way up the steps. Rollercoaster riding had been one of her favorite childhood activities, and the excitement mingled with fear in her stomach now reminded her of the sensation she got standing on the quay about to board the ride. The key quavered in her hand but slid fluidly into the lock. It turned with a loud click and the door swung open a few inches. Samantha looked over her shoulder at Marla, who gave her a reassured nod.

Light flooded the cottage’s main room. Out the lakefront windows, the cloud cover was breaking apart. Dazzling sunlight danced on the gentle waves near the shore; its fiery flecks reflected like diamonds across the ceiling. The space was divided into areas of function: one corner housed a kitchenette outfitted with a sink, gas range, refrigerator, and café style table and chairs; the opposite side sported a seating area with overstuffed armchairs and coffee tables stacked high with glossy books. The center of the room was dominated by a rustic oak table. One end served as a desk, with writing implements and papers. The rest of the table was littered with tubes of paint, jars of gesso, and vases sprouting from their necks paint brushes of every size and shape. A large easel holding a half-covered canvas stood at the table’s edge.

Marla approached the table, while Samantha moved to the paintings hung on the walls. The subject of every one was a female child, though no two were portrayed with the same physical characteristics. She took a few deep breaths to slow her racing heartbeat. She was startled when Marla called her name.

Samantha joined Marla at the table. “Look what I found!” she said, handing Samantha a leather-bound journal. Samantha opened to the first page. In handwriting she now recognized as her mother’s, Samantha read aloud, “June 28th: Dear Baby, I can’t wait to meet you! I’m Donna, your mommy, and your daddy’s name is Seth. We found out today that you are on the way, coming into our lives, and we are so excited! I am going to write in this journal daily so when you read it some day, you’ll know exactly how you came into this world!

Stunned, Samantha looked up with large, dewy eyes. “I don’t get it?” she whispered. She began scanning the pages covered with descriptions of doctor’s visits, sonograms and morning sickness.

Reading over her shoulder, Marla suggested, “Sam, skip ahead to your birthday.”

“Good idea.” She flipped through the months looking for March 10th, but following the February 17th entry the pages were blank. Shaking her head, Samantha turned questioning eyes on Marla. She thumbed the remaining pages and discovered more writing further into the book. Opening to where it recommenced, Samantha read, “December 5: I haven’t had the courage to write since the fire.

Samantha gasped, her hand covering her mouth. Marla slipped an arm around her waist, sending waves of comfort up Samantha’s back. Samantha took a deep breath and read on. “I lost everything that night. Seth is gone. The baby is gone. And what’s left of me is hideous and repulsive. All that’s left for me is pain.

Samantha stopped. Marla said softly, “Why don’t you take your time with this?”

Without a word, Samantha took the journal to an armchair and began to read in silence...

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Thanks for reading!

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday Teaser

In 2008 I took part in a creative writing workshop that explored the genre of memoir writing. At that time, I'd only written fiction, so stepping outside my comfort zone was exciting and nerve-wracking. Adding to the challenge was the fact that two of the writers taking part in the workshop were hilarious women well-known for their quick humor and funny storytelling styles. One assignment was to write a short comedic piece based on something that happened in our homes. I'm not a comedic writer! But luckily for me, (but not so much for my son), something had happened the night before and became the subject of my workshop homework:

Laughter Is The Best Medicine

Uncontrollable laughter had broken out, the kind that is almost silent except for the occasional snort that perpetuates the hilarity. Still seated around the table, my husband and I, and our two kids had just come to the end of a meal when it happened.

Mealtimes are reverent moments in my household. My husband is French, so for him partaking in a meal involves careful attention to detail and certain protocol. It is insulting to his palette to eat fruit during the same course as the meat. And there is no going back to the meat course once the fruit has been served. I, thankfully, LOVE to cook, and was a willing student under the tutelage of my mother-in-law in the early years of my marriage when she worried that her son would suffer a life-sentence of American fare. What some consider gourmet dishes are mainstays of my daily menus. I am also an avid advocate of eating healthy and exercising, and many heavy sauces and butter-soaked recipes clash with my idea of sane nourishment. So, careful planning goes into each repast, from leisurely weekend meals to time-pressed weekday meals, to ensure a balance of nutrition and taste.

This particular evening, I had chosen a side dish of sliced zucchini, lightly sautéed in olive oil and garlic. My daughter, who is always in a rush for dessert, complained about the vegetable throughout the entire meal.

"This broccoli doesn't look right," she whined.

"It's zucchini and it's delicious. Just eat it."

"It's BROWN," she said.

"It's a little seared. It has more flavor that way. Just eat it."

She pushed it around her plate with her fork. She sighed. "It's gross and mushy." Oh, for heaven's sake. I tried to ignore her.

My son was drinking from his water glass, when suddenly he started to cough. It was one of those coughs that comes from deep in the throat, and seems to have mixed along the way with a burp. His face turned red and his violent coughs would not allow him time to get a breath. My husband thought he was choking, but my mother instincts quickly ruled that possibility out. Just as I knew intuitively that he wasn't choking, I also knew the boy was going to throw up. I knew it, and I didn't want it to happen on my table.

I sprang from my chair and grabbed Cody by the back of the neck, pulling him to his feet with my other hand. I was racing the vomit's arrival, and in the panic lost track of the next installment of my plan. Where should I allow him to vomit? The trash can!... No, no good. He'll have to angle the vomit's trajectory and it'll wind up all over the place. I turned Cody with the back of his neck. The sink! Perfect! I half dragged the choking mess of a boy, a bit surprised that he hadn't heaved by now. Once he was safely held over the kitchen sink, what turned out to be a vomit-free coughing fit subsided. I kept him bent over for safe measure a few moments more, until he finally said, "God, Mom, let me go!" At this point I checked him out properly, making sure he was indeed ok, and gave him a loving escort back to the table.

Everyone asked him if he was alright, and my husband shared how frightened he had been that Cody might have been choking. Cody wiped his still teary eyes with his sleeve and reassured everyone that he was feeling better. My husband said, "You must have swallowed sideways, or something."

My daughter mumbled, "It was probably the broccoli."

She delivered the comic relief that diffused the whole drama, and we roared!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday Teaser

I didn't work on my WIP this week, taking advice from all you fab Followers who commented on my post Confused, and Hating It. You guys rock!! I felt uplifted by your words, more encouraged than I've felt in a while. Thank you, everyone, from the bottom of my heart!

While I sort through the new leads I've come up with for my novel-in-progress, I thought I'd share a piece of flash fiction I wrote some time ago. I've always appreciated a good twist, a line or a moment near the end of a story that turns the plot on its head. For me, the most clever twists are those you never see coming, the ones that throw into a new light everything you've understood about the plot and/or character(s).

The prompt for the following story was, "Tell a story in 300 words or less about someone who can fly." There's a twist. Will you see it coming?

Flight of Freedom
By Nicole Ducleroir

“So, nervous?” the man asked, tightening the harness around my torso.

“Terrified,” I confided. “But she finally caved, I can’t back out now.” I nodded toward my mother, conspiring with the helmsman. “She treats me like a child. I just want a chance to test my wings."

“You’ll be fine, she’ll see.” He tugged on the line connected to the chest clip, pulling me off balance.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, embarrassed.

The boat's engine revved and we accelerated. The parachute above me rippled noisily just before obeying an insistent gust and snapping open. Suddenly, my feet lifted off the deck. I heard Mother nervously cheering me on, but I couldn’t concentrate on the sound. My mind went blank, as if my thoughts couldn’t keep up with the swift ascent of my body. Adrenalin-infused exhilaration issued from the depths of my soul, eradicating my fears. I unclamped my hands from the straps, and spread my arms open wide.

For precious fleeting moments I was a sylph soaring through the balmy air, freed from the heft of my oppression. Time was irrelevant; the past and the future ceased to exist. The heady perfume of thalassic air intoxicated me. I heard howls of carefree laughter, yet didn’t recognize my own voice. It was over too soon.

I was immediately aware of my descent. The world came back into focus for me. I heard the boat below, and Mother’s overprotective voice urging the crew to be cautious. Spray from the wake diffused a mist of sea water on my face as I was reeled in; I tasted salt on my lips. Assisting hands pulled me to the deck.

“How was it?!” gushed Mother.

“Amazing!” I beamed.

“Here,” she said, “I’m handing you your cane.”

My smile quavered as I reached out to accept it.


I'd love to hear your reactions to this flash fiction piece. Also, how important is a twist at the end of a story?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesday Teaser

It's Tuesday, the day I share an excerpt from my WIP, Overcome. Below is from an early chapter. Enjoy!
Julie heard a metallic screech from below as she gained the landing, of another train pulling into the station. A steady stream of chill October wind blew down from the street above and whipped Julie’s straight blonde hair away from her face. With nowhere to go, the gale slammed into a cold concrete corner, trapping the dead leaves gathered there in its blustering eddy. Julie headed for the last stretch of escalators, checking her wrist watch, as had become her habit, to time the long ride up the mechanical staircase to the top. It was a silly little game, but it gave her sleep-deprived mind something else to concentrate on and forced her memories of last night’s horrors into temporary retreat.

Near the top of the escalator, she twisted to look down toward the fare card machines, shrunken now by distance. Her eyes fell on the man riding at the escalator’s halfway point. From his upturned face, piercing eyes peered from under the brim of his fedora, locked on her. Julie faced forward, and a sudden gust stole the air from under her nose. He was the man who’d been seated next to her, who’d spoken to her on the train. With a sharp inhalation of icy air, she thought back. She’d stood as the train pulled alongside the platform. The man had remained in his seat, as if he weren’t detraining. Julie had had to step over him. Unease was prickling the hairs on her neck. She was still new to the city, but she told herself she should trust her instincts. Something just felt wrong about seeing the man on the escalator when he clearly hadn’t intended to get off at her stop…or did he? Her weary mind sought to excuse her questions. Maybe he was unfamiliar with this part of the city and didn’t realize until the last minute that this was his stop? Perhaps his plans had suddenly changed? She glanced at her watch as she stepped off the escalator and onto the concrete sidewalk. Ten minutes, ten seconds. Not bad, by D.C. Metro standards, she thought. But the echo of another thought reverberated in her mind. Perhaps his plans had suddenly changed.

With a brisker pace than her fatigued legs preferred, Julie turned and headed north up Connecticut Avenue. Her apartment was four blocks from the Metro Station. Even if she could maintain this speed it’d take her seven or eight minutes to get there. And she wanted to get there as soon as possible.

Thirty feet from the escalator entrance the traffic light turned red, forcing Julie to halt at the intersection. She glanced over her shoulder and dread spread through her chest and squeezed her heart. The man in the fedora had arrived at street level. He scanned the south side of Connecticut Ave., and then turned his sweeping gaze north. His survey stopped cold when his eyes fell on Julie, and without looking away, he began to walk toward her. Julie’s head snapped forward, feeling a balloon of panic burst in her gut. Just across the intersection, her darting eyes spied the pastry shop with its glowing sign lit by wavy orange heat lines rising from a garish neon blue muffin. A shrill ringtone shattered the air next to Julie and a startled yelp escaped her lips. The woman to Julie’s right didn’t notice. She glanced at her phone, smiled, and flipped it open. “Stephanie! Great to hear from you…”

Julie stared at the woman’s smiling profile as a momentary sense of calm washed over her. Stephanie. A sign from Stephanie. I should go to the bakery; I’ll be safe there, thought Julie. Maybe it was silly to think her sister was sending her messages from beyond, but so what? The man had to be just feet from her now, only the crowd of pedestrians preventing him from reaching out and grabbing her. Her heart pounded at the thought as the light changed. She bounded off the curb and dashed across the street. Moments later, she slipped into the bakery to the welcoming chimes of little bells hung above the door.

“Good morning,” a robust woman behind the counter called out.

Blindly, Julie moved in the direction of the woman’s voice, watching the whole time over her shoulder and out the storefront windows. The man in the fedora appeared, walking slowly, peering inside. Julie reached the counter but didn’t turn when the woman addressed her again.

“Miss, is everything okay?”

The man with the fedora slowed his pace, looked in with the pinched expression of a game show contestant who's blurted the wrong answer. Or was that the strained look of someone tempted by the rich smell of coffee but running too late to stop? The moment was too fleeting to sort through. She thought she saw one side of his lip curl up into a smile, (or was it a sneer?) before he walked on and out of view. Only then did Julie release her held breath.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesday Teaser

I've seen around Blogger other writers who post a snippet of their WIP on Tuesdays. I love reading their excerpts and I thought I'd give it a shot today. I tried to trace the origins of Teaser Tuesday, to link to the blog of whoever came up with the idea, but I didn't get far. If anyone knows who I should credit the idea with, please let me know!

In the meantime, here is a peek into the chapter that introduces the story's antagonist:

Ray Manners twitched, tossed an arm across his body where he knocked a pack of cigarettes off the nightstand. His forehead creased then relaxed as the dream unfolded.

Young Ray sat stock still in the icy water of a deep, claw foot bathtub, his stare concentrated on the closed door. Peals of laughter from downstairs rang out in waves, sound washing over itself, giving little Ray the impression that the house was full of people. But he knew he wasn’t hearing the joyful timbre of friends enjoying an amusing anecdote; it was not the noise of merriment at all. There was, in fact, only one other person in the house besides Ray, and the shrill tone of her laughter smacked of asylum clamor. Had it been where it belonged, the racket would have reverberated impotently off padded walls instead of frightening a defenseless little boy. The palpable silence of the bathroom was contracting under mounting pressure from the mad hilarity wafting up the stairwell, growing nearer every moment. The meager door was as useless at preventing the cadence of insanity from reaching his ears as it was going to be at forbidding the entry of its producer once she came for him. And she was coming for him.

Ray’s eyes shifted for an instant away from the door to the high window, but snapped back; he feared being taken by surprise when it flew open. His heart hammered in his chest and despite the chilly water he sat in, beads of perspiration formed above his lip. His instincts screamed at him to flee, but his rational mind countered that there was nowhere to run. Suddenly the laughter stopped, and the air became still as the surface of the bathwater. The vacuum of silence sucked the breath from his lungs, forcing him to take quick, shallow breaths. In the stillness he dared to hope, for a fleeting second, that his aunt had left the house. But hope was for the foolhardy. Without warning the door swung and met the wall behind it with a sickening crack.

Aunt Ethyl stood in the doorway, swaying ever so slightly as if moved by an unseen breeze. Anyone who had heard the crazed laughter moments before would never guess this woman was capable of making such sound. Her dour expression seemed out of sync with the vacant look in her eyes; as if one person was looking out but another was reacting to what she saw. Ray didn’t speak, but the water he sat in was now disturbed by tight ripples of despair. A drop of perspiration leaked from under his hair and ran down his back. Aunt Ethyl seemed to hear it hit the water, for at that moment the focus returned to her eyes and she settled them on Ray. She raised her arm and Ray followed its length to the object she held in her fingertips. Light bounced off the tip of the dressmaker’s pin.

“No, Auntie Ethyl. Please, no,” Ray whimpered softly. He knew better than to speak too loudly, experience taught him that things were worse when he raised his voice.

“I must, Ray. I must take care of you. There is bad blood in your veins, Ray. But we’ll get it out. Don’t you fret, now. Auntie will get it out.”

Ray shot bolt upright in the bed; sweat covered his six-foot frame and soaked the sheet twisted tightly around his waist. Disoriented and panicked, he drew gulps of air into his lungs, struggling to quench a thirst for calm that would not come. The nightmare had been vivid and he distrusted the muted colors of darkness as belonging to reality. The gloomy room came into focus, and the dream retreated to a safer distance. Until tomorrow night, Ray thought grimly, dragging his fingers through his thinning hair...


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