46 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Snippets, Please!

  1. Opening paragraph:

    The grinding machine’s twenty-four steel hammers each swung more than five hundred times per minute, converting the hay bale and Catherine Mae Blackston into cattle feed. Shreds of both spewed onto an already six-foot high mound of steamy, soggy, and nutritious bovine dinner. Mason Miller used the front loader of his tractor to drop another bale into the rotating contraption. The racket dulled as the hammers bit into the thick mass, wet from the late January rain common in west Tennessee. He waited until the machine chewed the hay below the lip of the tub, then hopped out onto the muddy ground.

  2. Furious with Clara for being disruptive—and because, I had to admit, she’d hit the mom nerve—I stood up and began to circle around my desk toward her. Before I could reach her, we both jumped at the sound of a loud thump. My office door flew open and four men burst into the room, two dressed in black with ski masks on, the other two in suits and carrying what looked like military grade rifles. They covered the room quickly, their silence nearly as shocking as their presence. Later I would think back and realize I had expected one of them to shout, “Police!” or something. Instead, with silent rapidity, they were upon us. Two of them grabbed Clara while the other two held me at gunpoint. And still, nobody had said a word.

  3. From the end of the first chapter

    I looked up just in time to see it happen. Spider was right at the edge, the dog just a few feet from him. The excited mutt let out a growl of victory, and Spider’s head spun in the direction of the sound, his arms windmilling as he tried to avoid what was coming. They collided, exploding in a tangle of limbs. The dog’s triumphant growl turned into a yelp of surprise and Spider let out a shocked “Whoa!” as they disappeared over the side.

  4. Demise in Denim
    the beginning
    The convertible top was down, a crescent moon hung low over the marshlands and the night sky was filled with a bazillion stars as I drove Walker Boone’s precious ’57 red Chevy toward Tybee Island. It was a perfect spring night except that my palms were sweating, my heart was rocketing around in my chest, I shook so bad it was hard to keep the car on the road and there were one, two, make that four police cars on my bumper, their red and blue lights flashing in my rearview mirror.

  5. Pavement scorching, Eugene scrambled to retrieve a camera. Time slowed as he turned back, firing on instinct, picking his moments, hunting for focus, his ear telling him the shutter would freeze the action. For an instant, the tangle of uniforms parted and the man’s face was painted with light. Eugene’s index finger punished the shutter button as the viewfinder blinked and the camera captured eight frames of blood-smeared rage.

  6. In the moments before her death, Rachel Finn breathed in the earthy smell of dust and broken brick. Thunderclaps echoed overhead, the low drumming bass of artillery shells raining down on the Iraqi capital. The walls and ceiling shuddered. Looters rushed through the corridors above, scavenging the remains of the National Museum like vultures picking away at a carcass. The war provided the perfect cover, the perfect distraction to steal what Rachel had come for—a fragment of a Viking runestone.

  7. The restaurant was starting to fill up as the glass office buildings disgorged their inhabitants for happy hour. For the next half hour he sat nursing the bourbon and watching the young women click-clack in on their sky-high heels, long hair and short hemlines swinging. God, the women were beautiful here. Silicone-pumped and pouty-lipped beautiful. Not his taste really – he liked his women with real curves on their bodies and more lines on their faces — but these women were exotic compared to the ones back home in Nashville and, like rare birds, interesting to watch.

  8. He drove down the driveway and didn’t look back in case Martha waved for him to return. Trees dressed in their summer foliage greeted him, hugging the dirt road, leading to the land left to him by his great-uncle, Seth. Uncle Seth never married and had lived on the five acre plot for as long as Homer could remember.
    Lived alone.
    Died alone.
    Homer frowned as he pulled into the driveway. He trudged to the door of the building, and glanced both ways before digging the old key from his pocket and inserting it into the lock. With a twist, it clicked and he forced open the creaking door. One more glimpse toward the dirt road and he stepped inside.

  9. Chapter 1 opening paragraph:
    Mother Roots was dying and no one knew why. The first to notice was Oats but that was only because his empty beer can pile on the front porch was overflowing onto the path as he made his way to the car to buy more beer. See, Mother Roots would come by to collect the empties a couple times during the week like clockwork just like she did for most folks in Parch City which really isn’t a cit at all. It’s not much more than ten streets interconnecting with each other once in a while, not in a makes sense fashion, more like the city planner was tripping on some good acid, which he probably was since Parch City came into being in 1961 and grew very little since then.

  10. Out of the car and up to the house. He lifted the back of his guayabera over his rear waistband, exposing the weapon for easy access. A slender Latino answered his rap on the door. The guy had stringy black hair and surprise in his eyes, as though he’d just opened his door to Fidel Castro.

    “Hello, Chicho,” Logan said. Neither of them moved. Chicho’s black hair hanging in thin shocks over a sweaty forehead. His flowered tropical shirt unbuttoned to reveal a stained wife-beater. Movement in his eyes from surprise to fear, pupils heavily dilated.

    Logan asked him, “Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

  11. Jonathan waited, parked on the side of the highway, gripping the steering wheel, listening to the emergency radio broadcast. Hundreds dead. Hundreds missing. Bodies in the streets. No electricity, no sanitation. Disease warnings, looters, dangerous animals. What else might I encounter here, Jonathan wondered. He’d know soon enough, he decided. He switched off the radio. Like everyone else in the world, he’d heard the news many times already.

  12. He’d touched her foot once. She was sitting in the safari van with her left sandal resting on the running board and instead of telling her it was time to go, he pressed one finger against the frosted varnish on her big toe and then allowed his hand to drift up until it wrapped around her ankle. For a millisecond, they both stared at the dark hand on the pale leg. Then he gently lifted her foot and tucked it inside the door. When he straightened, his eyes were hooded; hers were wide and staring.

  13. More than a snippet: Apologies:

    It’s strange what you think about when you’re running across the Afghanistan desert to kill someone.

    There is a tale told by my Dad—my second Father, Hokte’s Dad—and the other storytellers of our Aransa Indian tribe of central Oklahoma, of a leader who was dying. He lay in the warmth of his buffalo robes.Those robes were the ones tanned and given him by his daughters, nieces and the daughters of his sons, for his wife had died some years before. When he knew he was near his end, he asked all the girls and women of our small tribe to always wear the simple buckskin camp dress made of the buffalo hide. He asked that they wear only simple decorations, beads made of bone, feathers and, when they could, trade the crazy white people for the the little colored beads that looked like those little sweet white man candies he had tasted once or twice.
    “When I am gone to see the Great Grandfather, I will come back in my hawk spirit, and I will see your simple dress, and I can go back to tell Him that His people are well. For your simple dress will let me know that there are still plenty of buffalo, and that the eagles continue to bless our people because they still drop their feathers so that we can hold our ceremonies in the proper dress,” he said.
    When I was adopted into the Aransa Tribe so that Hokte and I could be sisters, we were dressed exactly that way, though George and Tommy, who would become my older adopted brothers, had to use turkey feathers painted to look like eagle feathers, because the United States government has made it illegal to own eagle feathers except in very special circumstances. The adoption of a tiny redheaded white girl into the Aransa tribe was apparently not special enough.

    “If I return and do not see the buckskin camp dress,” the leader said, “I will know that the People of The Great Grandfather have gone crazy, too, like the white people.”
    It was an odd moment of thought, because I was going to kill the guy beating his wife if I had to.

    I was in full sprint when I heard the hawk scream overhead that day above the sandy Afghan lower desert. I was tempted to look for it, among the killer drones, the Air Force AC-130H hell-raisin’ gunships nicknamed Spectre, A-10s, the B-1s, B-2s, the Kiowas, Comanches, Iroquois, Apaches, and all the other flying machines making war against the Taliban.

  14. It seemed like an eternity passed before she hit that last digit on the phone. Once she tapped send, calling the recipient who’d left numerous messages, only one hope remained; she’d get voice mail and leave a succinct impersonal message. That thought appealed to her more and more. Her fingers were crossed and Abby’s eye’s searched the slate sky, praying for a reprieve in communicating with the last person on earth she wanted to reconnect with.
    It appeared as if another bombshell of a thunderstorm was about to unleash its fury on the eastern coast of South Florida. Could this be another omen that the past was about to come back with a vengeance?

    The above is an excerpt from my third novel, ENDzone.

  15. Opening, One Night in the Hill Country (in PreOrder) :

    Parked in the shadows of a line of one and two story western style wood buildings, Tara spied the young girl, barely a teen, if that, start and stop to cross the small border town’s roughly paved street.

    Hesitant. Fearful. Hearing the protestors down the street like a funeral procession.

    Yet, hiding it well, thought Tara. Remembering to flick her hair, gaze upward, as if unfazed, walking about. Definitely a girl with her bearings about her. Definitely someone the right age her brother would want. Rolf will be proud of me, Tara smiled.

    Down the flat street, dusty as a barren riverbed, just a few blocks down, the immigration rally picked up momentum. In a spurt, bullhorns chanting, it began heading their way.

  16. Her agitation returns. She paces the room, kind of strutting the length between the living room and adjoining dining room. It’s sexy as hell. And all I can do is watch her move. I can no longer concentrate on anything else because I’m instantly captivated by her. Caught up in her presence. She moves through space as if she owns the atoms themselves, and they split upon her command. She is fusion. Nuclear. Cold.
    Yet, she is so graceful and purposeful it makes me want to follow her wherever she goes. It’s not just a mental thing it’s more like a mind meld. I get her. I think she knows I get her, but I would bet that neither one of us can explain the why.
    And then there’s the physical attraction. That’s a given. But there’s so much more to it than that. It’s everything about her from the melodic sound her voice makes that seems to have worked its way into my brain like the lyrics to a song. It’s the way her eyes metamorphose into different shades of green depending solely upon her mood in that given moment and being lucky enough to be the one who lives to see it.

    She is living color, and I’ve been in a black-and-white world for far too long without her.
    Powerful stuff. It surrounds me. I’ve felt it since I first arrived. The forcefield of her. The magnetism of her. The power she wields over me. I’m alive again because of her, like a dying plant that finally gets some water. I’ve got it bad for this girl.
    Reality dawns.
    The light comes through the darkness and shines on me.

    She’s my water.

    Just finished this one last weekend. This is an excerpt from “The Truth About Air & Water.”

  17. Standing outside of the south gate of the Tsurukubo Elementary School, Ayano Kimura struggled to maintain her composure. Today was supposed to be the first day of her new career as an elementary school teacher. What she had believed would be a “get acquainted” meeting with the principal and the other teachers at the school had turned into a nightmare.

  18. “Houston, we got a problem.”
    “What now?”
    I see Detective Kevin Sperling easing back in his chair. Then he remembers and leans forward, careful to stay in view of the laptop’s camera. “Let me guess,” he says. “Another gator under someone’s car.”
    Skyping himself on his end, Officer Medved fills the screen. He shakes his head. “OK, what?” Sperling asks. “Cats? Dogs?”
    “It’s different.”
    “Where are you?” The detective can see Medved is inside somewhere—and now the officer’s camera slowly pans the room. Stainless steel tables and operating lights, water running. Medved again fills the screen.
    “You’re in the forensics lab.”
    “OK, you got my attention. Animal Control doesn’t generally ‘do’ autopsies.”
    Medved smiles and nods, enjoying himself. He has something too good to let go of. Something that needs buildup.

  19. An excerpt from my third novel, ENDzone.

    It seemed like an eternity passed before she hit that last digit on the phone. Once she tapped send, calling the recipient who’d left numerous messages, only one hope remained; she’d get voice mail and leave a succinct impersonal message. That thought appealed to her more and more. Her fingers were crossed and Abby’s eye’s searched the slate sky, praying for a reprieve in communicating with the last person on earth she wanted to reconnect with.
    It appeared as if another bombshell of a thunderstorm was about to unleash its fury on the eastern coast of South Florida. Could this be another omen that the past was about to come back with a vengeance?

  20. Cade cursed himself for not grabbing the machete. He leaned back against the wall and turned both his feet to the right so that he didn’t block the door when it opened. A heavy footfall landed on the doorstep. The doorknob rattled and turned and then the door popped open. It swung around and stopped after hitting his foot. The man stepped into the room and hit the light switch. Two bare bulbs in the ceiling flickered and came on full strength. Cade’s heart beat thump, thump, thump like a subwoofer pumping out major bass.

  21. He came right before Mommy died. Since then, he had told Thea Johnson many things, like her mother needed to die in order for Thea to become special. He also told her what was going to happen on the last day of school and that she needed to save the fly. During their last conversation, he said people wouldn’t believe her if she told them, not even her father. She would have to show them, and even then, it may take a miracle for people to believe. Thea didn’t really know what a miracle was. She knew it was something great, but certainly not how to create one.

  22. Behind me, imbedded into the rear end of the Prius was a large blue SUV. At the wheel, from what I could see in my tiny mirror, was the face of the most handsome man I had ever seen. He was beautiful and he was exiting the vehicle and running to my window. The man carried himself like a rock star. His stature vehemently emitted confidence, he was hot.
    “Ma’am, are you okay?” He asked, “I am so sorry that I hit you, your car stopped cold, did something happen?”
    I was speechless looking at him. He had dark brown hair, piercing blue eyes, strong shoulders and a white collar. Like a priest’s collar. The man was a priest. I then and there decided I had the worst luck on the planet.

  23. (Basic opening for my novel… still in the draft stages)

    Matt dragged his body through the misty pine forest on the abandoned campgrounds. The air stank. . . like copper and blood and burning. He was vaguely aware of the bright ribbons of energy overhead. Like a blue, black, and white aurora borealis. Except the island sat just off the shores of the Yelar Peninsula – way too far from the poles to be a true borealis. Besides that, the early morning sun beat down on them. The sun would block a real borealis. Right?

    His stomach churned, his head pounded, and his vision blurred for the umpteenth time since he met that. . . that. . . thing in the woods. For all he knew this was a hallucination, false and frustrating. He felt stretched. Thin. Like his body had been stretched to fit over something too large for him.

  24. She sat silently and very still, darkness invading her sanity, the sound of rustling leaves all around and she waited. Disjointed whispers crept closer and closer. She wanted to scream but fear had taken hold, and instead she tried to recite the Lord’s Prayer in her head, “Our Father who art in heaven…”
    All sense of time was lost. The humidity and heaviness of the hot July night air was tangible draining her of what little energy she started out with. Her concentration came in short bursts but even then she could make little sense of what had happened. Although her voice was lost to terror and her breathing labored, she managed to take several slow drawn out breaths in an attempt to stay conscious.
    Falling into a poacher’s old trap, in her scramble to survive, her foot was badly mangled, the skin savagely torn close to the anklebone. The pain became increasingly unbearable as she stifled a silent scream by biting into the leather belt removed from her jeans.
    In Cully’s derelict shack, by Lake Echo, in the dense backwoods of small town Keeter Ridge, she desperately hoped she had found temporary sanctuary until she could reach real safety. When she heard fallen branches cracking beneath leaden footsteps she knew she had made a grave misjudgment.
    Large splinters of wood flew across the floor as the door readily gave way to the force of a determined fist.
    As she backed into a corner, seeing the face of her tormentor, a gasp escaped her.
    “Oh my God, it’s you,” she half whispered.

  25. Here’s my opening paragraph: The still silence of the night is my addiction. There’s no better drug on earth. It’s an incredible feeling to know I’m the only one awake. The only person stirring among peaceful, darkened homes. Alone in the dark I am free. Alive. Invincible. Nothing can touch me.

  26. In the foyer, their eyes met in the bronzed mirrors, revealing distortions too scorching to face, and their eyes sought other, safer places.

    As she was shutting the door behind her, she caught sight of his face, one side warmed by the sepia glow of the lamps on the foyer table, the other a shadowed mask. She would never see behind his mask, just as he would never see behind hers. Some things were meant to be unknown and unknowable.

  27. The Kubelwagen slammed to a halt, desert dust spiraling up from the road. Major Barret Jaeger stifled a sneeze as his driver leapt from the staff car, grabbed his rifle, leaned over the car’s hood, set the wood stock into the small of his shoulder, and took aim.
    “Cover your ears, Herr Major,” the driver said.
    The click-click-click of the rifle’s bolt pulled back and slid forward chambering a bullet. Silence. A thunderous reverberating pop. A blast of dark feathers exploding skyward. “Damn vulture.”

    • I like the feel of this one. The callousness. The request that the Major figuratively look the other way. The foreshadowing feeling of how this particular army will see another character or group of characters later in the story, even if it’s never explicitly said again. “Damn vulture[s].”

  28. The words barely register Gone to Nashville. Should I go after her? I should’ve known she wouldn’t settle for life in Leeward. Beautiful, talented girls don’t marry motorcycle mechanics even if they own their own shop. I didn’t stay to hear Mr. Potts apologize to the wedding guests. Pulling away from hands trying to stop me I charge down the aisle like a Gladiator on my way to battle. I dare anyone to get in my way.

  29. The opening paragraph of my first draft: On Friday at 4 p.m. my vacation started with strings attached. My ex-fiancé, Detective Greg Mason, wanted to have “the talk” about why I called off our engagement, but before that conversation could happen, he enlisted my help in solving a crime. It wasn’t like I could refuse him; the crime involved someone putting a hit out on my father.

  30. Detroit Metro’s McNamara terminal, overcrowded with confused and bewildered air travelers looked typical for an early Friday afternoon in March. Businessmen mostly, coming and going, wearing overcoats and carrying brief cases. Searching Delta’s Arrival electronic flatscreen, Beryl noted Angela’s Atlanta flight clocked in five minutes late. Bummer. She not only disliked having to play chauffeur to her younger step sister; but now she had to wait on and act as a lookout scout for her; which is probably why Ellen bribed Beryl into doing it.
    “You want a new smart phone, then don’t balk at performing a chore you should volunteer for.”
    “She’ll expect Teddy or Gray. Why not them?”
    “Because I’m asking you to do it.”
    So, here she was, a day later, waiting for Princess Angela as if she were Cinderella scrubbing the fireplace hearth for her ugly stepsister, except Angela wasn’t ugly, only special. Why? Why did everyone cater to her as if she were super special, as if she were a Dresden doll to be handled with velvet gloves?
    The baggage carousel began moving as arriving passengers rode the Down escalator to pick up luggage. Angela appeared at the top all pink and ash blond wearing designer jeans, a hooded Marcella Ingram Boarding School sweat shirt and sporting a Louis Vuitton backpack. She looked beyond Beryl as if she were invisible. Twit.

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