I’m still working on my occult detective story. A problem I ran into is that the original draft started with the protagonist (Isa) and did not present to the reader a body, as the genre is meant to do. I’m not averse to playing against genre rules in my fanfiction, but for a story I am interested in publishing someday soon, I figure I need to adhere more closely to what’s expected of me. My writer/editor friend Kate Johnston suggested a prologue.
I hashed this out in an afternoon. My hope is that it provides the reader with the body necessary to get this occult murder mystery adventure started. If you’re interested, take a look and let me know what you think?
For Round 2 of the July 2023 TeamWriter Writing Challenge, we had to write the first 250 words of a story based on a first line from Round 1. I chose to expand on this line: The house on Peachtree Avenue had a history of ghosts and strays. While I knew a ghost would have to come into it at some point, I needed a push for the rest. As is usual for me, an afternoon walk provided some inspiration.
My idea for two “strays” was a pair of young lovers. I wanted to write dialogue, but I also wanted to write a sex scene. (I have simple tastes.) I’ve been writing a space opera story that does have sex in it, but I’ve had a hankering to write something a bit more raunchy than what takes place there. I came up with some names – Kalle and Isa – and just started writing. With a sex scene in mind, the words flowed freely. It felt great. You can read those first 250 words here.
While those first 250 words to the story came easily, I got to the reveal too early. These young lovers never really got to the lovin’! So, I jumped into a longer telling, this one with more in-depth description. If you’re interested, you can read the first draft below. Now, this was before I outlined the overall plot, so this first draft has some elements that will probably change in a more complete writing. But it’s got some fun stuff, and I had a blast writing it. I hope you enjoy it, too. (more…)
Round 2 of the July 2023 #TeamWriter Challenge required us to choose 3 of our 50 First Lines and expand them into 250 words of a story start. Here are mine…
#TWWC 1: Number 18: In case you’re curious, the number of dogs it takes to build a spaceship is twelve.
In case you’re curious, the number of dogs it takes to build a spaceship is twelve. Their lack of opposable thumbs was a challenge to construction, at first, but they quickly overcame that shortcoming. Dogs are pack animals, you’ll recall, and the value of being in a pack is that no one member ever works alone. They are consummate teambuilders, at the top of the solidarity hierarchy, dedicated and devoted enough to the whole to put even the most rabid communist to shame.
Cats, on the other hand, are strikingly self-indulgent. They don’t appreciate group think, nor do they enjoy participating in committee. They are, frankly, terrible at meetings. Sit a cat in front of an executive board and they’re more likely to unabashedly clean themselves rather than stick to an agenda or listen to a report. And they wholeheartedly despise middle management.
So it should have come as no surprise to anyone that the dogs’ spaceship, christened Laika at its unveiling, made it from prototype to production in record time. On the other hand, Morris, the cats’ rocket ship endeavor, lingered on the drawing table months after Laika made its first successful orbit of Mother Earth.
Snowball watched the replay of Laika completing its initial run on her computer screen. Next to her, the Morris plans lay forgotten, marked only by a puddle of spilled water from some idiot intern.
“Bitch,” Snowball mumbled, and started to scratch out a new plan.
#TWWC 2: Number 37: The sun never touches us, down here.
The sun never touches us, down here. We wake in the dark, hunt in the dark, learn in the dark, and dream in the dark. We even make love in the dark. Or at least, they do. I prefer the dim, that middle depth where one can sometimes see, when they look up, shadows of our majestic past: giant floating structures made from steel and glass, called tytanniks.
Only the elders remember when we rode the tytanniks, and even then only through stories. There was a great war, and a tytannik fell from the sun. Many died, but a few survived. They learned to live in the dark, little by little. They mated and made young, and those young learned more. It took generations, but now, we do everything in the dark. Except me.
I like the light. It’s too bright for my eyes unguarded, but I like watching the shadows it makes in the rippling sky. Sometimes, it’s a tytannik; usually, only another creature of the dark. But every so often, a small shadow sets out above. It has lines and curves and moves like no other, twirling and rolling and spreading its limbs in free motion. It calls to me in a way I’ve never felt before. I’ve always wanted to see one up close.
Today, I will.
#TWWC 3: Number 44: The house on Peachtree Avenue had a history of strays and ghosts.
The house on Peachtree Avenue had a history of strays and ghosts. The strays came in all shapes and sizes: animals seeking shelter, vagrants needing a dry place to sleep, even lovers in search of a spot for romantic rendezvous.
Kalle and Isa were two such strays, divided by class and county lines. Having discovered the house as children playing on the edge of the encroaching forest line, they recalled it as a place of games of hide-and-seek and double-dares. For adults, its empty rooms and remote location offered a clandestine comfort.
Isa hugged herself at the threshold while Kalle made up the bedroll under the single unwebbed window. “Creepy.”
“But private,” he said, returning to fold both arms around her.
Isa shivered. “I heard people used to…do things here.”
“The same things we’re going to do, I bet.”
“Maybe we should just get a motel.”
“If your uncle finds out that I checked into a motel with his precious only niece, he’ll throw me right back into his jail cell.”
“Well, maybe you shouldn’t have pissed on the deputy’s truck.”
“Maybe he shouldn’t have called me a Cherokee tomahawk chucker! Which isn’t even accurate, because my mom was Ojibwe.”
The outburst flared in her a different feeling, one that made her damp. “I love it when you’re passionate.”
He reclaimed the moment with a smile. “You do, huh?” He kissed her then. In minutes, they were on the bedroll, half-naked and huffing, until Isa saw the ghost and screamed.
Recently, Kate Johnston over at the Facebook #TeamWriter group challenged us to write 50 First Lines. Kate recommended setting a 1-hour timer so we don’t get too involved in perfectionism. I needed 3 hours to go all the way to fifty, but I did it! Here are my offerings…
- “Maybe we should just get an abortion.”
- Jonno and Al found the body in the river, but Daisy found the head in her garden.
- Earthers knew how to kill better than most species in the galaxy.
- What had I done in my last life, I wondered, to get reincarnated as a cat?
- A terrified shriek snapped Sam’s senses into combat mode.
- Brown, bespectacled, and betrothed, he wasn’t at all what she wanted, but he was there.
- Smoke filled the valley as fire encroached on all sides, yet still the birds were singing.
- Looking down from the top of her tower, through a haze of misty clouds, the Princess Amaranth opened the sash of her gown, stepped onto the ledge, and fell, naked, toward the ground.
- “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned many times against your congregation.”
- Australia is a continent of impressive isolation.
- The chilly, recycled air smelled of disinfectant, dust, and dead bodies.
- The ghosts of her foremothers floated in a circle around her, silent in their judgment, save one.
- When man first walked across Mars, he didn’t know what he was disturbing.
- All my life, I wanted to be a mermaid.
- There isn’t much that’ll make a man say no to romance faster than a gun in the face held by an angry husband fooled one too many times.
- The word partner had never held significant meaning for him until he didn’t have one anymore.
- Sharon looked around the little kitchen – the stove with the scorched burners, the knives dull in their sheathes, the mess of mixed herbs on the counter – and wondered which would be the best way to kill the father of her unborn child.
- In case you’re curious, the number of dogs it takes to build a spaceship is twelve.
- On the outside, Lux may have been a man, but on the inside, he was all demon.
- After so many years of having the people who lived above not look down, Andy learned not to look up.
- “Five robots rampage in a week, Doc, and you don’t think that’s suspicious?”
- It was only a matter of time before the trees would organize enough to take over the world.
- The whip hit hard and fast across his back, breaking skin and bringing blood, while around him the crowd chanted for more.
- Aksel sat in his prison cell watching the crackle of the electric bars but hearing only the echo memory of his daughter’s voice calling for help, calling for him, and how he hadn’t answered.
- It was difficult to dance in a wheelchair.
- In all her years and all her travels, what set Lil’s pulse to pounding hardest was the forbidden kiss of her best friend’s son.
- Farmer Framm had prayed for a boy, so, of course, he’d been blessed with three girls.
- No one knows how the baby came to be alone out there in the woods, only that she was found four months old holding a golden apple in her little fist and surrounded by a flock of owls.
- Wasted and bleeding from the split in my lip, I fell to the ground in front of the bar, cursing my half-blood heritage.
- A good meal is like a good lover: it should make your mouth water and your soul long for more.
- The tiny cactus sitting in the office window had never spoken aloud before.
- This woman wasn’t my first and wouldn’t be my last, but I was a professional, and professionals always leave their clients happy.
- Blood spurted, and someone cried, “Jesus, Jacky, watch where you throw that thing!”
- Kalle was hiding in the museum that first night the paintings came to life.
- “In the head,” she said as she slipped bullets into the six chambers of her pistol’s cylinder one by one, “is the only way.”
- Most people thought pretty, preppy Lizzie Paine was perfect in every way, but Sandy Carter knew the secret she hid under her skirt, and he was ready to tell.
- The sun never touches us, down here.
- Adam wasn’t the first man to walk in Eden.
- On June 30, 2667, the Earth stopped spinning.
- Tick-tock went Father Time’s clock while Mother Nature brought the Season Sisters into creation.
- For a thousand years, the lizard slept, but then the atom bomb exploded.
- I’ll never forget the day I was murdered.
- Despite his being human, there were parts of him – parts that Kedeva herself found very interesting – that placed him high on the list of the Queen’s favorites.
- The house on Peachtree Avenue had a history of strays and ghosts.
- “It’s the end of the world as you know it,” the demon said as it dropped its umbrella on the back of its chair and swung into the seat with a stylish swish of its tail, “so bring me the terrine and your best Beaujolais, tout suite, if you will.”
*** Some less polite first lines follow.
- For three nights of every month, I become a monster; for the rest, I’m just a bitch.
- I guess I was too distracted by the luscious shape of her ass on that dingy stool in that nowhere bar to notice the pearl-handled revolver attached to her hip, until it was too late.
- I didn’t go to the waterfall to kill myself.
- “Get up, bitch,” he said, and not for the first time, Anan wished she could put her heavy spanner – the one made for pulling apart ship engines – straight through his hated head.
- Never piss off a fairy.
This week’s Saturday Sentence Challenge prompt over at the #TeamWriter Facebook Page was:
I am so very happy to see him come back all in one piece.
The first thing that struck me about this prompt? How the words should evoke a feeling of happiness or relief. However, the sentence construction, which is very stilted, made me feel nothing at all. There’s also the cliche of the phrase “all in one piece.” I believe that cliches become cliches because they’re true. I also think we can use them in our writing, so long as it’s done sparingly and to effect. Or humorously, though satire is a completely separate conversation.
As I’ve mentioned before, I try not to spend too much time on a Saturday Sentence Challenge prompt. Usually, I need at least a few passes before I get the right words. For this one, though, the sentences popped nearly fully-formed into my head on first thought.
Immediately, I knew whose voice I wanted to use for this prompt: June McAllister. June is the mother of one of my “Finding Mister Wright” protagonists, Rob, who spent time in the US Army. I got an image of Rob returning home, and June taking him in her arms. The powerful emotions associated with a mother hugging her son on his safe return home from a tour of duty filled my own heart with sympathetic joy.
I’m actually pretty proud of my answer to this particular prompt, which you can also read below (for sake of text-only accessibility):
I cried as I hugged him, my little boy who wasn’t so little anymore, who’d in fact grown big and muscular from carrying a fifty-pound pack every day through the far-off and frightening wilderness of war-torn Afghanistan. Thank God, thank God, I thought with every breath while this brave young man just squeezed me once and said, “I missed you, Mom.”
Happy writing to you this week, whether it’s your own or prompt-driven!