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message 1: by aprille (last edited Sep 15, 2012 10:08PM) (new)

aprille (aprille43) If anyone is familiar with, then you might be familiar with this idea.

Post the first 2000 words of your manuscript here in the thread, and we (reading as agents) will tell you when we stopped and would've passed on it, as well as reasons why. Or, we got all the way to the end and wanted to know more, in which case, success!

Please include with your 2000 words:
- Returns after each paragraph to break up bodies of text.

message 2: by L (new)

L Interesting & could be very useful for an author.

message 3: by Paula (new)

Paula | 15 comments Hello! I'm the author of the e-book 'Who Needs Paradise?' and am really interested in what you have to say about it.

I hope I'm right in thinking you mean for us to post the first 2000 words directly into the thread. Sorry if not; let me know and I'll try and find a way to delete it.

Here goes:

Part One
It began at a funeral. A fairly strange place to start. Not many things begin at funerals. Emotional and spiritual healing, yes. The occasional plot to kill off whoever happens to be next in line to the family fortune, possibly. But not many things overall.
Certainly not death. You have to be a particularly unlucky person for death to start at the funeral. Normally that’s done and dusted at least a short while before. But then, it’s not the death of the lady whose funeral it was that we’re talking about. We’re talking about my death. The death of a young (and virile - if it was allowed) Catholic priest who had been harmlessly going about his business at the time of the unfortunate occurrence.
It was about five past ten in the morning when the service started. It was unusually prompt as the late Mildred Perkins was there already, so there was no formal procession of cars. Mildred had been a huge lady in all areas of her life. She was well-loved by the community and had been one of the local nursery teachers for much of her time with us. The small church I led was packed to the rafters – partly because of Mildred’s popularity and partly, I think, out of morbid curiosity.
Mildred hadn’t taught at the nursery for some years, even though she was only 48. This was because, aged 21, she had started gaining weight at a tremendous rate. Apparently this happened after some personal tragedy in her life that led her to comfort eating, and then, as is so often the case, the comfort eating continued - to try to mask her horror at what she had done to her body. Mildred was a huge lady in all areas of her life. She weighed 34 stone.
It wasn’t that long ago that Mildred was diagnosed with morbid obesity, which is when the condition can become fatal. She took it quite well. As long as I’d known her, there had been a lingering sadness in her eyes, no matter how much she laughed or how earnestly she conversed with or comforted you.
She confessed to me at the end that it was actually a relief. Apparently her fiancé had been taken from her a week before the wedding. Not many people had known about him - she’d met him whilst abroad on holiday and keeping everything secret had heightened the sense of romance they’d felt. They’d only known each other for three weeks really, she’d said, but it felt like forever… and when the car he was driving to join her in England crashed in France, it was like she’d died too. She’d waited a long time to see him again because her faith hadn’t allowed her to do otherwise, but she was looking forward to it now.
It was because of this that I felt less sad than I often did at funerals. Death doesn’t always have to be a tragedy and I fully shared Mildred’s belief that her fiancé would be waiting for her at the end of her journey. No, not all death is a tragedy… although mine bloody well was, and I suppose I’d better stop dawdling and explain what happened.
Like I said, everyone was in the church by five past ten and the service was ready to start. Mildred was at the head of the aisle, in an imposing coffin that balanced precariously atop the largest trolley the undertakers had been able to find. Still, if you looked closely, the legs were bowing very slightly under the strain and it seemed judicious to send Mildred on her way as swiftly as possible without being disrespectful.
We began the service with Mildred’s favourite hymn, Make me a channel of your peace, and then there was a reading by her best friend. I should be able to go into more detail about the service than this, really, because the Lord knows I put an awful lot of effort into planning it with the family. Mildred was very much valued in my eyes and I wanted her passing to be dignified and the service something of which she would be proud.
However, that isn’t how it worked out and I suppose the finer details of what should have happened have been squeezed from my memory by the more overwhelming issue of what did. It was as Mildred’s friend (Cathy Stewart, one of the more lax members of my congregation but a good hearted soul none-the-less) scrambled down from the lectern that the fatal events were truly set in motion.
Half-blinded by tears, Cathy scurried down the steps and past the coffin, knocking the trolley’s brake pedal with her foot. If she had left her contribution there things may still have worked out fine, but the knock to her balance caused her to trip and land quite solidly against the coffin and trolley. I quickly bent to help her up - after all, she was no equal in mass to the object she’d collided with and I was more concerned to reassure her that her mortification was unnecessary.
What I had failed to take into account, however, was the slight downwards incline of the central aisle itself. The church I had received in this - my first - posting was an old and beautiful one, but it was also undergoing repair work for the subsidence that had been noticed a few years earlier and which gave the trolley just enough motivation to make good its escape.
Realising what had happened I cast my eyes upwards in a swift and silent prayer for God to bring the trolley to a standstill. Sadly, God obviously had more important things to attend to and so the trolley, whilst moving slowly at first, quickly began to build up speed. This actually led to slight titters from the assembled audience, who were unsure how else to react. Not only that, but those who knew Mildred well also knew that this would have tickled her pink. Still, this was my funeral (amazing how true that became), my already damaged church and my job to prevent any worse damage occurring. I also have to confess that I was well aware an escapee coffin, still containing body, making it out the door and into mainstream traffic was not something I wanted on my CV. So, with all these things in mind, I dived after the trolley, making a grab for the handle.
Despite a lifetime battle with malco-ordination, I caught it. I was filled with triumph for a moment - until I noticed that it wasn’t slowing down. At a mere 11 and a half stone there was no real fight I could muster and I found myself dragged down the aisle, legs flailing uselessly underneath me.
I was about to give up the struggle when I saw where the trolley was heading. It was no longer on the straight stretch for the door but had been slewed a little to one side by my extraneous weight. It was now heading directly towards my treasured statue of the Welcoming Virgin, standing to the left of the church entrance. I doubled my frantic efforts to restrain the coffin (not my best option, I see that now) as various members of the congregation realised what was about to happen and hurried out of their pews towards me. That statue was one of the defining features of the church and no one wanted to see it blemished.
Which really makes it all the more distressing that the trolley crashed into it at a hell of a speed, knee-capping the Blessed Virgin Mary and causing her to wobble precariously.
“Get back,” I shouted bravely to my flock - the last thing I had the chance to say or do as the statue toppled in my direction.
“HolyMaryMotherofGod!” I remember thinking as she moved - what felt slowly - towards me, her outstretched arms no longer seeming welcoming but like some ghastly, deathly embrace. I thrust out my hands to ward her off but they were knocked casually aside, just as my teeth then were when her lips forcefully met mine in what came perilously close to a French kiss.
“Oh, God, this is such a sacrilegious way to go,” I thought in horror as I was cast backwards and my head bounced off the parquet tiles with a sickening crack.
“Still, I can’t possibly be blamed for it, surely. It was all in the line of duty,” I told myself fitfully, as a red mist crept across my eyes and I could hear Tony Dempsey, the caretaker, shouting.
“Oh my… look at his head. Look at his head!”

That was it. I’d completed box 11 on the form. Granted, I’d had to ask for two extra sheets of paper to get it all down exactly as I’d wanted, and the lady behind the counter had seemed far from pleased.
“It says ‘a brief account’, Sir” she had snapped, “we have enough of them to read through without every person requesting the extra paper.”
I’d protested that I felt it was important in this particular case – what with the accidental apparent kissing issue – that the details of the death were fully recorded, but she’d just shrugged. I’d thought I heard her sniff that it was “just for filing anyway” as I moved away, but that seemed unnecessarily callous, so I’d decided to ignore it.
So, onto box 12. Preferred metaphysical point of reference: - and again I was baffled by the phrasing (as on box 3: Male/ Female/Other – though I had at least been pretty sure of my answer on that one). Did I just put Catholic here, or should I stress I was a Catholic priest? The most puzzling thing was why the question was asked at all. Once we got here, wasn’t my “preferred metaphysical point of reference” pretty much irrelevant? If there was an ultimate truth, could we be tested on this later? Could we fail these questions?
I know as a priest I shouldn’t be worrying that maybe I’d gotten it wrong all these years - and on a deeper level, I wasn’t, not really - but nothing was as I’d expected it so far. No pearly gates, no Saint Peter…
All of a sudden the form, which had until this point appeared reassuringly like an insurance claim form (I am, of course, using the word “reassuringly” advisedly here) suddenly seemed a little more threatening. I lowered my pen and finally started to take an interest in my surroundings.
I’d like to say it was a clinical looking room. That seems most appropriate. Glaring whiteness that over-emphasised purity at every turn… but this was not the case. The room I found myself in was, well, dingy. It was like every waiting room everywhere. Not quite dank, that would be an overstatement, but certainly duller than a room should be, and lacking any noticeable windows. In the case of this room, however, that may have largely been due to the fact that it was lacking any noticeable walls. The space I sat in was so vast that I couldn’t see whatever held up the roof, although a roof (decorated in an attractive NHS hospital homage of putty gray ceiling tiles) there certainly was. The entire place gave the impression Escher had designed it. After a night’s hard drinking.
The chair I was sitting in was faux-leather, padded. This was obvious from its slightly squishy feel, although it would be overstepping the mark to call it comfortable. It was flanked on either side by an unending row of identical chairs, with only a single break in them, five chairs to my left. This was matched by the rows in front of and behind me, adding to the surreal feel of the place. In the gaps between the rows, stationed every ten yards or so, was a low, grey Formica table containing a...

message 4: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Yanski (NicoleYanksi) | 21 comments I love this idea Aprille!!! I will post mine soon :-)

message 5: by aprille (new)

aprille (aprille43) Paula wrote: "Hello! I'm the author of the e-book 'Who Needs Paradise?' and am really interested in what you have to say about it.

I hope I'm right in thinking you mean for us to post the first 2000 words di..."

Well I got all the way through it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the humour, especially the line:
“Oh, God, this is such a sacrilegious way to go,”

Seeing as I got all the way to the end, I'd probably be interested in taking it to the next step.

message 6: by Paula (new)

Paula | 15 comments Thanks, April. It's really good to get some feedback from someone I don't actually know. My friends who have bought the ebook have all been fantastic with their support and comments... But then, they're my friends; they might be biased even if they think they're being totally honest! I'm glad you liked the humour; I'm not very deep as a writer (or person). I basically just like to make people chuckle;-)

Again, thanks for the opportunity!

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

My e-book is entitled A Pitch for Justice by Harold KasselmanINTRODUCTION
My name is John Cowan, a baseball writer, but in the summer and fall of 2015 I had to reinvent myself as a half-assed lawyer to do my job. I spent more time attending press conferences and interviewing attorneys than I did analyzing baseball box scores. It was not something I ever imagined would happen, but then who could have foreseen the cascading events that unfolded that year. I got to know some of the participants in a drama that began on a baseball diamond and ended in a legal debate. As I write the story that I hope you will read, maybe you will find the answers that still evade me.
I was doing a story about the stellar crop of rookie prospects that year and I found myself in Philadelphia to watch a young pitcher for the Phillies by the name of Tim Charles. It was the last game of a three game series on a Sunday night with the Mets, and I was there to evaluate first hand for my readers whether the kid was a legit future star, or just another overly paid, one-year wonder.
I never did get to write the story about the other rookies because what happened that night made me abandon my efforts, and redirect them to the story I am about to tell you. Rather than use the first person style of narrative, I would rather you learn what happened without me as an intermediary. I’ll simply give you the facts as they played out on and off the field. I had the benefit of sitting down for long periods with many of the people you will meet in a short while. It is their eyewitness accounts, including court testimony, which provided me with the ability to share the events of those days with you.
The real enigma, as I reflect upon that baseball season, is how the sport lasted so long, apart from labor-management disputes, free from judicial intervention. My hope is that I never live to cover a story like it again.
There is one final warning. To grasp the heart of this story I have had to provide baseball background that may be alien to some. I ask your forbearance, but I have no doubt, as lawyers are fond to say, you need to know the facts to understand the issues.

Chapter 1
June 21, 2015
There was an undercurrent of excitement amongst the sold-out crowd at Citizens Bank Park because the home team’s young rookie pitcher was to start against their traditional arch rival the New York Mets. There was yet another emotion that many in the stands and players on the field shared as well. It was a free-floating sense of dread or anxiety that something ugly might happen between the two ball clubs in front of a national television audience. Few spoke openly about that emotion, but it could not be ignored as fans watched the players warm up before the game.
It had been a couple of years since the Phillies made the playoffs. That was largely because of the departure of some key veterans to free agency as well as the ravages of age. Still hope filled the air that summer because the young man warming up on the pitcher’s mound for the home team was ten million dollar bonus baby Timothy Charles.
He was just 20 years old, and he was everything scouts had envisioned when the team made him their 14th pick in the first round of the amateur draft two years ago. At 6’ 6” he had actually grown two more inches since the draft, but he still retained that wiry 210-pound frame that propelled the baseball effortlessly. His fastball had been clocked in excess of 100 mph on occasion, and he perfected a motion that hid the ball from the batter’s eye until the last moment before it crossed the plate.
Charles had learned at an early age that speed alone would not make him a success so he concocted a windup that looked like the ball came from his back pocket. It was a devilishly deceiving delivery that overmatched most batters. The fastball was not the only weapon in his arsenal. He had a curve ball that buckled the knees of even the most aggressive hitters. Many compared it to the stuff of Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan, or Steven Strasberg. Charles got the job done with those two pitches, but he had a decent slider and was working on a change up with pitching coach Terri Rowlands.
On this Sunday, Charles would pitch the last game of this three game series. To say that there was no love lost between the teams would be an understatement of enormous proportion. The rivalry traced back to the 2007 campaign when then Phillies’ shortstop Jimmy Rollins announced at the end of spring training that his team was the team to beat in the NL East. The heavily talented Mets team took great offense but they blew a commanding lead in September and the Phillies claimed the divisional title on the last day of the season. Rollins won the Most Valuable Player award to boot.
That animosity grew even more intense the next year when Carlos Beltran took the lead in 2008 by boldly announcing to the baseball world that the Mets were the team to beat that year. Ironically the Mets imploded again in the latter part of September and were humiliated as the Phillies went on to win their first World Series since 1980. In 2010 the Phillies won their fourth consecutive divisional title and late in the season Chase Utley slid late into second base on a hard take-out slide on the Mets second baseman much to the ire of several of the Mets players who hinted at future retaliation.
Then two seasons ago the irrepressible outfielder for the Mets, Marlon Whitaker, proclaimed that the Phillies were on life support and their time had passed. The Phillies were an aging team and critics felt that their place in history was a distant one. Many of the players from those days still carried their dislike for one another, and even the young players adopted the institutionalized animus.

The Friday night opener had renewed the smoldering feud when the Mets’ closer threw a pitch that struck the Phillies’ star second baseman Elliot Elwell that resulted in a broken finger. That injury forced him onto the 15-day disabled list. Notably, the pitch that struck Elwell had come immediately after a three-run homer that put the game comfortably out of reach for the home team.
Everyone in the stands and in the dugouts believed it was a purpose pitch. In other words, it was intended to send a message to the Phillies not to dig their heels in at the plate. As a result, the home plate umpire had issued warnings to both managers that any further retaliation would result in ejection for the offending pitcher and manager.
The loss of Elwell would be a blow for the team and it was fervently felt by his teammates and their new manager. Buck Sawyer had gotten a one-year contract the second season after Charlie Manuel retired. He was old school both in discipline and in the strategy of the game. He believed that pitchers had to employ intimidation as part of their repertoire. As a corollary, he believed that if his players were the targets of dirty slides or purpose pitches, his staff was to retaliate in kind. Buck made no secret of his style of play, and he expressed it more than a few times to his players both informally and at team meetings. His was a style that was the polar opposite of Manuel’s. While Manuel was a father figure, who allowed his players the freedom to play the game without an omnipresent manager, Sawyer was in your face.loyalty to their team, but they also had to think of themselves as individuals competing in a marketplace.
If a player were to get hurt in his free agency year, he could lose out on an opportunity to make the equivalent of a healthy state lottery payout. Equally clear was the reality that retaliation sometimes led to a cycle of violence between the two teams. If you were the recipient of a brush back pitch, that was one thing, but a fastball in the ribs or elbow could lead to an extended loss of playing time.
You also had to be concerned about a brawl after a bean ball pitch. Tempers could get out of hand, even though most baseball fights ended up in pushing and name-calling affairs. There was always the occasional one that left a player with a strained shoulder or torn ligament of the knee that put him out of action for a large portion of the season.
So on the Friday night opener, the benches poured onto the field after Elwell was hit, but the teams merely practiced the unwritten ritual of baseball fights. They mingled and pulled and gestured, but no punches were thrown and tempers were held in check. Even Buck Sawyer seemed calm, but that was merely a façade. Inside he was coldly calculating, and he vowed to himself that a Mets player would pay a price for the injury to his all-star second baseman. Retribution would be had by Sawyer through one of his pitchers. The rest of the league - as well as the New York Mets - would know what to expect if anyone tried to hurt one of his own.
After the game, Buck called the next day’s starting pitcher Mike Leahy into his office. Leahy came to the Phillies in a trade from the Angels a season earlier before the July 31st trade deadline. He was a Stanford college graduate and had obtained a master’s degree in business after several years of off-season study. Leahy was so knowledgeable about the finances of the game that he was the rare player who negotiated his own contracts. Accordingly, he saved the substantial fee that would have gone to an agent. In other words, Leahy was not a dumb jock. He may not have been one of the most popular guys in the clubhouse, but he had the respect of his teammates. Perhaps because of his business acumen, he was voted to be the team’s representative for the players’ union.
Buck was looking at video of the game and was fuming when a freshly showered Leahy sat down in his manager’s office.
“You know that cocksucker hit Elwell deliberately, don’t you, Mike? We can’t let that stand! You know I’m an eye for an eye kind of a guy, and I expect you to take care of business tomorrow night. The Mets may not be our biggest rival this season, but they could still be in it in September and you never know how injuries are gonna hurt a team, so I intend to equal the playing field. I’ll let you decide who to take out, but I want it done early in the ball game. I want them sons-a bitches to know it was payback.”
Leahy wasn’t shocked but he was uncomfortable with the notion that he was to be the avenger for his manager’s face saving “honor” play. He frankly detested Buck Sawyer. It was as if they were from two different cultures. Buck had toiled in the minor leagues his entire career and never got to the “bigs” before this year. He had taken the long bus rides and slept in cheap hotels for chump money to stay in the game as a player, coach, and manager for thirty years. He had worked his way up in the Phillies organization because he was loyal, didn’t buck the chain of command, and had a penchant for recognizing great talent in young players.
In fact his most notable contribution to the franchise had been scouting Tim Charles. Buck had coached the Phillies minor league team, the Clearwater Threshers, in Florida, when he was asked to scout a high school sophomore pitcher in nearby Sarasota. He was able to take the hour ride on several occasions to see the youngster pitch and become, by his senior year, a “can’t miss prospect.”
It was in large measure due to the efforts of Sawyer that the Phillies selected Charles as their number one selection in the amateur draft. It was soon apparent that the organization would repay Buck with a managerial spot at Reading the AA team. With Charles’ success at Reading under Buck’s guidance, Sawyer was tapped to manage the major league team when the prior interim manager was fired.
Leahy gazed at the spittle on Buck’s chin from the tobacco juice that failed to find its way into the empty Sam Adams bottle that served as a spittoon and ashtray.

message 8: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Cusick-Jones (melc-j) Harold wrote: "My e-book is entitled A Pitch for Justice by Harold KasselmanINTRODUCTION
My name is John Cowan, a baseball writer, but in the summer and fall of 2015 I had to reinvent myself as a half-assed lawy..."

Well - I'm a English girlie, who literally knows nothing about baseball except for the odd snippets you see in films (and I'm not sure that "A League of Their Own" or "Field of Dreams" would make me an expert). But I loved this - I was captured by the end of the introduction - didn't struggle with the baseball background and enjoyed the writing style - could have easily carried on reading :)

message 9: by Marc (last edited Sep 16, 2012 12:03AM) (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 181 comments Thank you for the opportunity. This is the opening to my forthcoming comedy sci-fi spoof novel "Time After Time", very loosely based on "The Terminator" movie series.

The first appreciable thing about the man was how spindly his legs were. The first thing that is, after the observation that those spindly legs protruded from underneath a pinafore. The apron was quite arresting too, seeing as it was bedecked with a floral pattern and trimmed with flounces. And talking of furbelows, his insurgent mop of chest hair had extruded over the apron's low neckline, since there was no blouse or chemise beneath the pinny. He looked like a cyborg with its fibre optic tendrils exposed awaiting some rewiring. Though cyborgs don't perspire. They don't even sweat lubricant.

The bare arms curled around the handle of a besom, displayed poor muscle definition. But then they were scarcely propelling the bristly sprigs off the same spot of the flagstone floor. The man was desperate for a cigarette, but such pleasures had been outlawed, the lone piece of legislation carried over from the glory days when men had ruled the world. Before they had had grown flabby and shiftless. Enervated, as they allowed their customary power to dwindle away. That law in itself was perhaps an indication of the wrong turn civilisation had taken, when it felt impelled to protect people's health by prohibiting the few vicious pleasures that remained to them. If the indigent chose to destroy their bodies at their own hand, rather than eke out a handful of extra days of miserable life without any sensual compensations, then they ought to be free to make their own choices. The paralysing inaction of too much nannying. The Nanny State in action. Crone midwife to the desperate state of affairs in the here and now, since it had gone on to butt them so unfeasibly hard in the hind quarters hadn't it?

So here he was, living in its posterity. Cradling a broom of similar thickness to his chicken legs, pecking it into the dust of a world controlled by women. Allied with a sprinkling of gay men. A most uncivil partnership as far as hetero-males were concerned. Of course the ruling classes were allowed to smoke, from hookahs. The irony was not lost on him, or any of the male of the species. All that labial application on the pipe going to waste. Left to wither on the vine, since none of it was permitted to go forward and service the male member. A further interdicted activity. Delighting of the flesh was only one-way, directed solely toward the female pleasure principle.

But the fight-back was underway. So clandestine, that no one had even clocked it. But in time they would come to know his name. A grateful masculine gender would be eternally genuflecting to him in acclamation. Chanting his name, Roger Jolly (he might have to change that, 'Jolly' was too subdued for the welter of revolutionary passions he would unleash. Also it suggested a certain contentedness with his lot that just didn't begin to scratch the depth of his animus). They would assuredly erect statues of his likeness. Put his face on currency, once they reintroduced it.

Now such time was close at hand. He flicked a glance over at the wall sundial (even though the sun's rays never penetrated this basement, somehow, unnervingly it still marked out time for him). His contact was late. A distinct lack of the discipline required for a revolutionary cell. He smoothed out a crease in his pinafore. He wielded the broom so as to lance an itch on his ankle. The coarse edged twigs drew blood. Curses, it must have been an insect bite and the bristles had only served to open it up. Hoist by his own petard, his slovenly approach to cleaning. Yet that in itself was a form of rebellion. Besides, certain insects such as spiders and wasps were a man's best friend. For they still retained the ability to put the willies up many a woman. In a way that men no longer seemed capable of. If they could have dared to wear pin badges, they would surely have been in the form of spiders or wasps. But pins run through flimsy aprons, risked drawing blood from the bare skin beneath.

He looked longingly at the mesh hammock strung across an alcove in the room. Oh how he yearned to put his feet up and rest his aching feet and grumbling spine. Time and again he'd been to the Infirmary about his lumbago and corns, but each time they'd only been firm about one thing. They'd accused him of malingering and workshyness, stamped the back of his hand A-1 and thrown him back on in here. This was standard procedure for the women medics, whose Hypocritc Oath was not to heal people nor ease their physical discomfort, rather only to keep men in their place and the serf economy ticking. Unless the doctor took a fancy to the male patient presenting before her, then he was transferred to heavier duties all right. Poor sap. Doctors' surgeries were part meat grinders and part male beauty pageants. Men could no longer dare to fall sick. No the hammock had to remain off limits, for now. It had a much higher purpose in store. The very reason why this location had been selected for an epoch-making event. Here, in this ostensibly unremarkable, dank basement. Where prying cold kohl eyes could have nothing out of place to latch on to.

A butterfly flittered into the room. Another alien insect, but one with no redeeming frightful charms. For as boys they were all made to learn to identify every species at their grandmother's knee. Seeing as Lepidoptera were often used in rituals and ceremonials, with different women opting for different species as some sort of abstruse symbolism known only to their knit-one, purl-one drop stitched minds. He recognised the interloper as a Painted Lady. A name dripping in resonance. The women wielded it like a badge of honour. Literally, broaches and earrings being fashioned in the image of just such a butterfly. A gaudy symbol of male oppression. But for men, they held on to its historical associations with Jezebel and her successors who caked their faces in cosmetics as part of their oldest profession. When the world was still spinning on its natural axis.

He idly speculated what the butterfly could be seeking down where there was no natural light. Perhaps it was actively hunkering after the shadows, like he himself was. Maybe it was undergoing an identity crisis and was labouring under the misapprehension that it was a crepuscular moth. There was a lot of that about these days. Many a man weighed up the ultimate lifestyle decision of whether to turn homosexual or not. To attain the privileges on offer. Living a lie. For what else lay in store for them here, other than persecution? Certainly the butterfly appeared to be wholly confused, since it had alighted on the bristles of his broom. It perched there unmoving. He tried to shake it off, with the added spur of shooing noises, but the beastie remained deaf to his exhortations. He started to swish the broom in his determination to dislodge it, by far the most lateral action imparted to the implement that afternoon. As he was involved with his impromptu pas de deux, he failed to notice a woman enter the basement. Wearing the war-painted insignia of high office, bedecked in the fearsome tattoos on her muscular arms and shoulder blades, as revealed by the strapless dress. She sashayed on past him, threw him a she-wolf whistle and flicked out a wrist in order to goose him powerfully on his rump without breaking her seamless stride.

"I do like a man who so enjoys his menial househusbandry. Keep up the good work."

And with just the wink of her eye, she was gone. Roger ceased his ridiculous dance straightaway, noticing that the butterfly was still resolutely stationed on the broom. If he thought the butterfly was out of place down here in the basement, what on earth could be a high-ranking official's reason for coming by this benighted venue? Were they on to him? His heart started racing. His breath hard to catch and rehouse back inside his chest. Her demeanour had been blithe enough. Still, he wouldn't put it past these duplicitous creatures to mount such a facade. After all, the other connotation of a painted lady was she who acted, who put on faces and guises in the theatre. Women of the basest repute. (Men were not allowed to act in plays, their parts taken by women 'dragging' down. Apparently reputations for playing male parts were keenly sought after, in this sick, inverted world of values). Yet what could she have seen? He was alone. The hammock and the rest of the room were innocuous enough, with nothing out of place. Had she caught his lack of impact upon the dust and other evanescent threats to hygiene? No, hadn't she only commended him for his commitment to the grind? She hadn't run the acid test of a finger along the wall to gauge the grime.

He judged he was probably in the clear. Though his backside stung to high heaven. She must have really pinched him hard. Probably contused the flesh. Even if he'd wanted to lie on the hammock now, it could only be on his side. He cursed her under his breath as he gingerly gathered the pinafore material in the tips of his fingers and tried to raise it from any contact with the afflicted skin on his posterior. But at least his heart rate was easing up and no longer threatening to slice its way through his ribcage and machete through his tangle of chest hair.

He sunk down on to his haunches, using the broom's vertical axis as a counterpoise. He smiled at the Physics of it all. If there was one thing he surpassed the rest of the world in, it was his mastery of the science. Stolen, forbidden knowledge he'd managed to garner over the years. Arcane knowledge with which he was going to change the fate and the face of the world. It was occasion to open up time and space to being relative once again, to afford the possibility of change. And once the reign of dominant men was re-established, to slam that door shut and brick it up so that this time their rule lasted an eternity. With the second-class women forced to do the masonry and grouting as men themselves had been forced to construct their own immuring walls here. He delighted in envisioning the cement and mortar lumps plastering the rag remains of women's fine raiment worn here.

He was dragged from his reverie by the sound of flesh squelching on flagstone. As he hoisted himself up, he realised that the woman earlier had been wearing spike heels yet her tread had made no percussion against the stone. This was the stealth power men had to contend with. He steeled himself to remain on his guard. A splotchy red face poked itself round the lintel of the door. It was male. Next, two hands appeared grasping the wooden frame. To Roger this began to take on the appearance of a bad mime act. Mime was very important to the male of the species, communicating messages without recourse to words. But it put an unholy strain on their facial muscles, unused to such articulation.

Finally the torso hove into view. The first thing he noticed was the fellow's mottled pink and ruddy skin. Patently the poor lamb was cold beneath his tabard. Not much of a physical specimen for the task ahead. Wait a minute, he was of the order of the tabard? Higher ranking than himself, albeit marginally so. This man swept out Palaces, hair salons, brow and nail bars. Could he be trusted to forego his privileges, scanty as they were? It was a caterpillar racing certainty that the man had accreted a cache of hair and nail clippings to perform unspeakable acts with. And we're not talking voodoo here... Besides, sticking pins into poppets as sympathetic magic patently didn't work. For men at least.

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Melanie wrote: "Harold wrote: "My e-book is entitled A Pitch for Justice by Harold KasselmanINTRODUCTION
My name is John Cowan, a baseball writer, but in the summer and fall of 2015 I had to reinvent myself as a ..."

message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Why not give it a try Melanie?

message 12: by Stan (new)

Stan Morris (morriss003) To all you who do a long post. Please go through it and place hard returns after each paragraph. It's much easier to read. I found that out when I did it.

message 13: by aprille (new)

aprille (aprille43) Stan wrote: "To all you who do a long post. Please go through it and place hard returns after each paragraph. It's much easier to read. I found that out when I did it."

Agreed. Big blocks of text are quite daunting.

message 14: by Marc (new)

Marc Nash (sulci) | 181 comments Stan wrote: "To all you who do a long post. Please go through it and place hard returns after each paragraph. It's much easier to read. I found that out when I did it."

done! :-)

message 15: by Heather (new)

Heather James (makexbelieve) | 22 comments This is a great idea! Since I would like to start sending my book out to agents soon this could prove very helpful...


Chapter One - Roxy:

Fire rose high into the trees on either side of me, closing in much faster than I'd anticipated. The air was thick with heat and smoke. I had to keep moving, fast. My heart hammered against my chest, keeping time with my feet as they pounded across the uneven ground. Both suns hung high in the air above me, shining down mercilessly and adding more heat to that of the flames.

A huge ball of flames rushed through the trees, devouring everything in its path and I threw myself to the floor to avoid it, hitting my cheek against the earth. Great. They were getting closer.

I struggled to my feet and set off again, faster than before. As I ran, I pushed a loose strand of hair---as red as the flames surrounding me---away from my face. It had fallen out of its tie hours ago, but I hadn't stopped for long enough to fix it.

The flames kept coming, attacking me from both sides, forcing me to duck and weave as I went.

But I couldn't outrun them forever.

I needed to stand and fight.

``Come on then. I'm ready for you." I whispered to myself, wheeling around in time to see a cloaked figure emerge from the trees to my left.

It looked as though the cloak itself was aflame, gleaming with glittering red swirls. Where there should have been a face, I saw nothing but darkness.

Slowly, the figure raised his hands out towards me, toying with me; he thought I was beat. Flames sprung up at his fingertips, dancing along his hands, gradually increasing in intensity.

But he was being complacent. He was nowhere close to winning this fight. While he put on his pyrotechnics show, flames danced in my own palms, burning faster and fiercer. Before he realised what was happening I cast my hands out in front of me, sending a ball of flames straight at his chest. Thrown back by the force of the hit he lay on the ground, motionless.

One down, two to go.

The flames receded from my fingers but the tingling sensation lingered, I was ready to attack as soon as I needed. Bending over the unconscious figure I pulled a shining silver ring off of the index finger of his left hand. Shoving it into my pocket I set off again, but this time I headed left, from where the cloaked figure had emerged.

I'd had enough of being hunted.

It didn't take me long to find the next one, following the sounds of his gasps for breath, audible even over the increasing noise of the flames. He wasn't even trying. I paused behind a tree, braced on my toes, ready to attack. My fingers tingled as flames sparked at the tips, before gradually winding down around my hands, growing hotter and brighter every second. The flames were only a precaution though; I had other plans for this hunter.

I heard his footsteps approaching, but stayed still until he finally lumbered past, then I kicked out with a strong shot to the right, hitting him square in the side. He stumbled and almost fell to the ground, but righted himself at the last moment and sent a ball of flames in my direction. I dodged quickly, swinging round to the side and kicking out again, this time colliding with his stomach. Before he could counter I followed rapidly with two more shots, sending the cloaked figure to the ground, unconscious. I bent over him and tugged the ring from its finger.

``Not bad. But you really need to remember to watch your back."

Flames! I spun round to face a third cloaked figure. Unlike the others his hood was down, so I saw the arrogant glint in his eye and the smug smile which dominated his face, as well as his hair---streaked with the same violent red as mine---and the flames dancing menacingly around his hands; he was ready to strike.

The shot came faster than I expected, a small ball of flames, whizzing past my ear as I dodged right to avoid it. Before I could steady myself another followed and I was forced to throw myself behind the tree. Come on Roxy, you can do this. I breathed deeply, letting the flames rise up inside me. They curled around my fingers as I emerged and found their target straight on, hitting him on the shoulder with a blow that made him curse. It would take a lot more than that though.

Fire flew in both directions. Flames hit me relentlessly and I toke blows as many times as I made contact with him. The air simmered and the strain of three days on the run was taking its toll; my muscles screamed. But I couldn't lose; too much was at stake. He'd been out here just as long as me and the fatigue showed---his eyes were circled in blue and his reactions were slower. I knew I could beat him.

When it came to fire we were evenly matched though. I wasn't going to win with flames. I needed to try something else, something that would make him mad. I lunged at him, throwing as many punches as I could manage, making contact with arms, chest and head. Eventually my fist collided with his face.

Blood trickling from his lips he lost it. ``Flames!" he yelled. ``Look what you've done! I'll make you pay for that Roxanne." There was a flash of silver and I found myself on the floor, a gleaming silver dagger hovering inches above my body. ``Give me your rings," he hissed, his eyes glinting with victory.

``That's cheating!" I breathed, wary of raising my chest towards the blade.

He grinned at me wickedly, pressing down with the full force of his weight. ``You need to stop thinking in terms of the rules, Roxy. We're out in the real world now. And you're going to pay for touching my face."

While he was busy taunting me I forced my knee up hard into his gut and he doubled over in pain. Before he recovered, I'd flipped him off me and wrenched the knife out of his slackened grip. Sitting astride him I held the knife up to his cheek.

``Don't think I won't do it, Cinaer" I hissed, letting the blade touch his flesh. I don't know if it was the cold sincerity in my voice or the shock of being straddled by a wild, mud covered woman, but he didn't try to argue. ``Give me your ring. Now."

He pulled it off of his finger and handed it over to me without a word, his lower lip quivering.

``See, that wasn't so hard." I smiled sweetly and moved the blade away from his face. He let out a sigh and I got to my feet.

It was over.

``Not bad Firefly," another cloaked figure emerged from the trees. ``I really thought he had you for a minute." This man was older than the other, but he too had his hood down, revealing soft brown eyes and red streaked hair.

``You could have stepped in Vincent---he cheated---there were no weapons allowed."

Vincent shrugged, ``I wanted to see what you could do. Outside of the camp people won't always stick to the rules; you need to be able to adapt, which is what you managed to do today. I think I can safely say that you've passed with flying colours."

I grinned with relief.

``But don't think you're not going to pay for that Cinaer," he added, looking sternly at my attacker, who had stood up rather tentatively. ``The rules were clear. No weapons; just your powers and your fists. I'll be reporting this to your mentor."

Cinaer shrugged casually and walked to join us. ``Whatever. We can go now, right?" Vincent looked at him, exasperated.

``Yes. Roxy, I'll take you back to base so we can hand over the rings. We can take my bike."

``What about me?" Cinaer demanded, incredulous. ``How do you expect me to get back?"

Vincent smiled. ``The same way you got here. On foot."

``But that will take days!"

``You should get started then. It will give you plenty of time to work on an excuse for cheating. Come on Roxy, let's go."


Chapter Two - Jasmine:

The Arcan Realm was bitterly cold, as usual. But that hadn't stopped me from rushing down to the sea as soon as I finished my morning chores. I'd been there for an hour now, standing on the very edge of the shore, eyes fixed to the horizon. Facing the cold was more than worth it; today, Brae was coming home.

Brae had been like a brother to me my whole life. We were like twins, everyone always said so, which was why being away from him---even if it was only for a couple of weeks---had been so hard. There had been so many moments when I'd wanted to find him, to ask him some crazy question that he would have thought I was insane for even coming up with, to suddenly remember that he was in another Realm.

I pulled the beige shawl Noni gave me for my last birthday a little tighter around my shoulders; protection against the icy wind that whipped across the sea. My shoes were off though, lying discarded half way up the beach; it didn't matter if I was about to turn into a glacier, I never missed an opportunity to let the waves break over my feet. Besides, once you got used to it, the water felt a lot warmer than the air; its temperature always stayed the same as it wasn't constantly fluctuating like the wind.

I let my bright, cerulean eyes scan the full length the horizon, but they couldn't pick out so much as a speck in the distance, let alone Brae's ship, the Aeolia.

Frustrated, I turned my attention back to the water, letting my feet trail slowly across the surface, sending ripples out into the sea. I closed my eyes, focusing entirely on the movement of the water as it licked the bottom of my feet like flames. I'd always felt drawn to the sea. In the same way that Brae liked to stand on the top of Bryer Hill and feel the winds whip around him, I liked to walk out into the open ocean. In fact, I really preferred to be completely submerged in the water rather than out in the open air, but I wouldn't have time to get dried and changed when I saw the ship if I did. Besides, I'd promised Brae that I'd try to keep myself out of harm's way, and swimming out into the open water without anyone nearby wasn't exactly the best way to stay safe. Not that I'd ever had any trouble out in the water over the sixteen years I had been alive, but it could happen.

I spun slowly in the water as I went in deeper, feeling it rise up almost to my knees. I opened my eyes to check that I hadn't got my dress wet, but before I had the chance to lower them, they caught sight of a large object obscuring the horizon. It was getting closer every second; its sails billowing in the wind as it travelled unnaturally fast towards the shore. Protectors must have been inciting the wind and that could only mean one thing; Brae was nearly home!

I hurried back to the shore to retrieve my shoes so that I could go out onto the quay to meet him. A playful breeze caught my hair, blowing a long dark ringlet across my face, which reminded me that I needed to put it back again before I went anywhere populated. I secured it in a loose ponytail with a blue ribbon before rushing back to the water to check my reflection, making sure that everything was covered. Once I was certain I was safe, I started the walk back across the beach towards the quay.

message 16: by Stan (new)

Stan Morris (morriss003) That's a good start, Heather, but you might want to change 'floor' to 'ground.'

message 17: by Heather (new)

Heather James (makexbelieve) | 22 comments Stan wrote: "That's a good start, Heather, but you might want to change 'floor' to 'ground.'"

ok, thanks, that's a good point.

message 18: by L (new)

L From a readers perspective, i very much enjoyed yours Heather. x

message 19: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Kneipp (cmkneipp) | 5 comments Okay I'll give it ago. First 2000 words of my dark urban fantasy novel Parallel.
Read all 2000 words I dare you. LOL

An office, or what had once been an office. Its wood panelled walls, soft lighting and fine furniture, testified to its opulence, but no glory remained. The room was shattered, destroyed by something sudden and violent that had swept in and left a blanket of silence over the rubble.
Unevenly distributed across the faded walls were darker rectangles. Once there had been framed boasts of high achievement and honour, but all were now gone. Someone's life had ended in that place and even if they had survived the disaster, their life was over.
The rest of the office had been visited by the same chaotic force, its mark left on everything.
A large filing cabinet lay across the door. Broken shards of glass were strewn everywhere, with paper and debris covering every square inch of the floor. The disorder and silence filled the room, creating a tangible tension, like the hours after an earthquake waiting for a tsunami.
There at his desk was the room's occupant, dishevelled and dull-eyed. Doctor Martin Francis Laynor, M.D.; obstetrician and murderer. He sat corpse-like in his chair, staring at a space neither in nor out of the room. Only a dim light of life remained in his eyes, like a cooling ember not quite dead.
The doctor's appearance was a desperate cry for help, with his face unshaven, his grey whiskers matched his wild grey hair. Sprayed across his shirt, face and hands was what looked like drying blood.
In his mind Laynor still argued with himself “Murderer / Healer / Murderer / Healer.”
The two concepts tumbled together struggling violently for his sanity.
Laynor's mind was a blur of nightmarish images with no order or resolution.
The hospital nursery with many cribs and the peace of the sleeping new-borns.
The images were all mixed up in his head, coming in powerful waves, bitter and sweet, one after another.
The delivery of a child. The nurses, the midwife and the hysterical mother. All of them came into his memory as the conflicting thoughts continued to wrestle.
He'd attempted to write the report several times, but how could he explain the mother's death? How would he explain the cold fire that only he saw, leaping from the child and destroying her? He could not believe the cold callousness of the child's eyes nor the growing fear within himself. It was like bile in his throat, a silent dread that had been rising ever since seeing that child.
Laynor wrote, “The child already appears to be able to focus on objects, and is highly responsive to external stimuli. Pupil response is unusually advanced. Something is...” he could not bring himself to write the words. There was something deeply sinister, fearful and terrible about the child, like malice personified.
Laynor remembered the eyes of the child. He could picture them, dark, almost black, and filled with a terrible knowing. The iris was indistinguishable from the pupil and he relived the nightmare of having looked into them. The child had been in his hands for only a moment, but that moment was burned into his mind's eye.
“It's stupidity to be frightened of a child. It's just a child,” he rebuked himself.
“An evil child,” came the mental reply.
“Get a hold of yourself, Laynor. It's just a child,” he said.
Yet even as Laynor was reproaching himself, a chilling thought was crawling into his mind. It forced its way into his personal hell, and would not leave. A resolve that was too grotesque to be given voice.
“If you don't do it now, you'll never have the chance again.”
Attempting to contain the quaver in his voice, Laynor had handed the child to the midwife and muttered the usual instructions, before departing the birthing suite, barely containing the urge to run.
Then the images of the birth lost their hold on him and the psychic storm returned once more, tearing at his fragile mind.
“Murderer/Healer/Murderer/Healer.” The accusations were more powerful now, obscuring all other thoughts.
Pain and confusion filled the doctor's mind and something more; something disturbing. At first he thought it was just the madness, but slowly it had grown in strength and malice.
Laynor began smashing his office. He tore the useless pieces of paper from the wall and smashed their frames, pushing the filing cabinet across the door to prevent anyone from entering his world of pain and madness. Finally spent he had grabbed his finest scotch and collapsed in his chair. The child would come for him now.
It would have been incomprehensible to him only a day before but now he sat and drank 12-year-old Malt Scotch from the bottle. He tried to drown the quarrelling thoughts that filled his mind, to drive the suspicion of what he might have done from his head. Less than a day was all it had taken for the child to destroy his life. As he lifted his hand to take another swill from the bottle, the crimson-brown spray confirmed his madness.
“Murderer/Healer/Murderer/Healer/Murderer/healer/MURDERER!” the wicked thoughts screamed.
Dark images came at him like shadows cast over his mind and it was more than he could bear. The implication of what he had done returned. All the while he obsessed over the child.
“Only a child/evil//Child/Evil Child,” the accusation consumed him.
“The child is evil/Evil Child.” Slowly the appalling resolve had taken hold of his mind.
The wicked voice had waited for the perfect moment and uttered a single command.
“Kill the evil child.”
“I can't.”
“No. Please, not that. I can't.”
The pain, the madness and the wicked voice were overpowering and all Laynor's defences crumbled.
The words had taken control holding Laynor like a puppet and there was nothing he could do.
Half-formed images flooded Laynor's damaged mind. The nursery with many cribs. The peace of the sleeping newborns. The scalpel in his hand. The scream, high pitched, like fingernails on a blackboard.
Laynor recalled feeling no emotion as he turned and lunged at the duty nurse. Blood sprayed from a red line across her throat, spraying him and the sleeping infants. Laynor's memory was filled with the sight of the nurse's blood. So much blood and he had felt nothing.
“Evil Child/Find/Kill.” Once more, the wicked voice spoke and Laynor obeyed.
The cause of his pain was the child and only in its death was peace to be found. There was no logic in the knowledge, just an inarguable instinct that drove him on towards that act of malevolence.
There were so many clear plastic cribs and they all looked alike. He'd thought blandly how he needed his glasses as he moved from one to another seeking that tiny monster. There were so many cribs and so many children and all of them identical.
Finally, he saw the deception.
“Hiding/Same/all/all the same,” the thought's roiled. “Kill/KILL THEM ALL!”
He watched himself raise the blade again, the image clear and undeniable but then, darkness filled his mind, and the events that followed were lost. Try as he might, he could not recall what had next taken place.
He had found himself back in his office, alone with the hole in his memory, and the unbearable madness. The mess, the fear, none of it caused him the anguish of the unanswered questions. Questions raised by the sprayed accusation of blood that marked him.
Laynor considered his options. He was certain of his guilt. The pain had passed now, leaving only numbness in the place where it had been. He was exhausted. What was needed was a sacrifice as atonement for his sins.
Taking a large swig from the bottle Laynor began rifling through his drawers. Pills and vials chosen and stacked in a growing pyramid on the desk or discarded onto the floor as he rummaged for his exit. Blades he laid out in a line on the desk, along with syringes and assorted potential tools of self-destruction.
He searched cupboards, cabinets and drawers, all the while stockpiling his armoury. As he reached the bottom draw he stopped, sighting the shiny edge of a well oiled cedar box; a memento of his time at the hospital. He pulled it out of the drawer and placed it on the edge of the desk. It was not very large, with a silver plate engraved on the lid. Lifting the lid revealed the contents which taunted him. The black starting pistol was awarded to the department that won the hospital charity games. Obstetrics had won it for the last three years running. A tear came into his eye.
In the soft light of his office the pistol looked real enough but fired only blanks. It's impotence teasing him like an empty promise and without thinking he pulled the trigger. The replica exploded into life and the gunshot reverberated through the confines of the office.
“Great, deaf and crazy,” he said and then laughed. Taking another swig from the bottle he considered the mountain of options spread out before him.
Outside his office he heard scurrying feet and muffled voices, the sounds of panic were growing. Someone knocked on his door and he screamed obscenities finishing with a stern, “I'm busy.”
He began sorting through his collection of drugs and tools, weighing up his options carefully, writing notes on a pad. For a while he wrote notes for his treatment until he heard another knock at the door.
“Doctor Laynor, this is the police. We've got a few people worried about you, do you want to open the door and tell us what's going on.” The voice seemed reasonable, almost pleasant.
“Go away,” Laynor shouted. He turned his back on the door and returned to the desk, his notes and the pistol.
Was it his thought or the child playing with him still, he had no way of knowing but either way he needed an exit and he saw how the pistol could release him.
Opening the barrel he removed the spent cartridge and replaced it. He had two shots and if his plan was going to work he would have to be convincing. He smiled as he remembered his university days, doing amateur theatre. He could be quite convincing.
“I've got a gun, get away from the door or I'll shoot.” He felt a strange exultation as he said his line and punctuated it with another gunshot. His ears ringing, he laughed at the thought of the headlines; remembered as the Medical Maniac who killed a bunch of newborns.
Suddenly the door heaved under the weight of the police as they rammed it. The lock splintered its housing with a terrible crack and the two policemen burst through.
Laynor prepared himself, calmly raising the pistol and pointing it at the shattering door. “Wait for your cue,” he joked wryly.
The tactical response police slammed against the door one more time, pushing the filing cabinet away and exposing them both to the barrel of Laynor's harmless pistol. Laynor pulled his trigger again and the police revolvers echoed his shot.
Down in the nursery the babies lay without making a sound, all united by their bloody christening. All bound to the dark eyed child, Tyrren.

Chapter One: Fog and Shadows

The shadows danced across the ceiling like dark creatures, while Mark Tandell was a motionless wave in the covers of his bed, silent but for his gentle breath. Outside the winter wind blew hard and loud, its wailing cry rising and falling in pitch. Through it all he slept, unaware of the importance of that moment.
In appearance, he was unremarkable, just another teenager from suburban Sydney. Nearing his sixteenth birthday, his messy, shoulder-length hair was in need of a cut. Lately, his fringe had been flopping over his eyes. Only a barely perceptible flicker of his eyelids betrayed the fact that his mind was alert. Something new and extraordinary was happening to him.
For the first time in his life, Mark was dreaming.

message 20: by Stan (new)

Stan Morris (morriss003) Christopher, your post would be a lot easier to read if you inserted a hard return after each paragraph.

message 21: by Stan (new)

Stan Morris (morriss003) Christopher, definitely an interesting beginning. Was the first part Mark's dream?
Here is a suggestion. Try taking out this line and see how it reads. "Someone's life had ended in that place and even if they had survived the disaster, their life was over."

message 22: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Kneipp (cmkneipp) | 5 comments Stan wrote: "Christopher, definitely an interesting beginning. Was the first part Mark's dream?
Here is a suggestion. Try taking out this line and see how it reads. "Someone's life had ended in that place an..."

thanks Stan. One of the pluses of having an eBook is the ability to publish revisions relatively quickly. As to whether it was Mark's dream, yes originally it was but it read better as an omnipresent POV and leaving the reader to wonder. Sometimes you've just got to have some fun with them, and let the figure it out for themselves. It gives the reader that Uh Huh moment later when it is made more obvious.
Chris K

message 23: by Stan (new)

Stan Morris (morriss003) Christopher, yeah I had a feeling that was what was going on. Good way to start, it captures the reader. And I agree about ebook revisions. I am redoing all my books, and in some I've added new scenes. I don't use DRM so sometimes I wonder if some people get the rtf file and then change parts of the book to suit themselves. Who knows? Maybe they make it better.

message 24: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Hoffman (samanthahoffman) Well, if we're still posting these, here's mine.

Chapter One
I lift the metal baseball bat higher, feeling much better with a heavy weapon in my hands. They twist nervously around the rubber grip, and I step silently from behind the building, careful to avoid stepping on anything that will make noise and give away my position.

He’s shuffling along a few yards ahead of me, right in front of the alley I need to get to. His left arm is dislocated, and it’s hanging at his side. His ankle is broken; the skin is tattered and bloody, and the bone is poking out.

He’s walking on it anyway, oblivious to any pain he might be in. Upon closer inspection, I notice that three of the fingers on his right hand are missing, probably bitten off. His skin looks soft; the infection’s been in his body for a while, and he’s started to melt. At first, they look like deranged humans that can move fast and gracefully, until after a few weeks and they start to decompose.

I move forward another couple of steps, and stop when a can goes skittering loudly across the ground, eventually coming to a rest against the leg of a dumpster.

He stops his mindless shuffling, and turns slowly to face me. Like the rest of them, he’s absolutely disgusting. His nose is gone, ripped entirely from his face; only a jagged crater remains. One eye is missing, probably gouged out by one of the others, and the bottom part of his jaw is missing entirely.
He moans once, and begins walking toward me, limping along on his twisted foot. I grip the bat tighter and raise my arm. When he steps within my range, I swing the bat, connecting solidly with his head.

He falls to the ground, moaning louder. I bring the bat down again and again on his head. On the third, his skull cracks, and on the fourth, the head splits open with a wet, squishing sound, almost as if someone had burst open a watermelon.

I quickly look around, hoping that his dying moans haven’t attracted others. That’s what draws them to an area: noise. One dying zombie always attracts others with their death moans, and that’s how people get swarmed in a massive zombie horde.

Sure enough, there are half a dozen of them wandering aimlessly around in the nearby street, moving around the obstacles left during the destruction of the world. Burned shells of cars, broken windows, dead bodies, and other zombies litter the street I’m currently on, just as they do everywhere else.

I lift my backpack higher over my shoulder, fastening the straps tighter, before starting off at a jog down the alley I’m currently nestled in. It’s a dead-end, which gives the zombies only one point of entry. If it comes down to a fight, it will be easier to kill them if they’re bunched together.

I reach the fire escape of the apartment building I’m holed up in, and I begin to climb. I’ve left it down in case I ever need to make a quick getaway, and I pull the ladder up behind me now. I pass the second story windows and keep climbing.

When I reach the third story, I climb in through an open window, and close it shut tightly behind me. It’s the only safe way into the apartment, because zombies aren’t capable of working elevators or climbing ladders. Unfortunately, this access point isn’t as close to my room as I’d like it to be. I have to run through the halls, to the far end of the floor, just to get back to my safe zone.

Since the initial outbreak I’d blocked the doors to the apartment complex as best as I could, but there was always a chance that a zombie could find it’s way in, and I couldn’t afford to take any chances. One bite would undo every measure I’d taken to stay safe, and it would make all of my hard work be for nothing.
The room I step into bares the obvious marks of an attack. Bloody handprints stain the walls, and splashes of gore litter the overturned furniture, the carpet, and even the ceiling. I hurry into the next room, which isn’t as bad, and find my way to the front door.

I look out through the peephole, checking as much of the hallways as I can, before opening the door. You could never be too careful nowadays. A cautious person was a live person. And when there are so few live people left, caution is always a must.
I grip the metal baseball bat in my hands and look down the hallway both ways, checking once again to make sure that the coast is clear. Satisfied that I’m alone, I edge my way five doors down, stopping at the final door in the hallway.

I open the door and close it behind me, turning the lock and dropping the bat by the doorway. Zombies couldn’t turn doorknobs, but bandits or thieves could, so it was best to always be prepared. Zombies were thoughtless monsters, but monsters of the human kind were much harder to deal with.

Killing a brainless death machine is easy, killing someone that’s still human isn’t.

I turn into the kitchen area beside the front door and open the nearest cupboard. Inside are stacks of different canned goods, and I grab a thing of pear halves. The can opener is on the counter, and I grab that too.

When the pears are open, I drain the juice into a half-filled water bottle, grab a fork, and start eating. The pears are warm and soft, but they’ll have to do because I don’t have much else to eat at the moment. The only food I have is canned beans and fruit, along with what vegetables I can grow in my little rooftop garden.

After I finish off the pears, I quietly sip at the watered down pear juice. It has a sweet taste to it, and it calms my nerves as I think about everything else I have to do before nightfall, when the zombies are at their most active. They tended to just wander around aimlessly during the day, and at night they formed groups and walked the streets, searching for prey.

They’d eat anything with a pulse: dogs, cats, cows, horses, people, and even birds if they could catch them. Nothing was safe from the masses of zombie killers and, just six months after the appearance of the first zombie, there was very little life left on the planet.

I take another sip from the bottle of pear water and head over to the front door again. With the bat in my hands, I feel instantly safer. Being weaponless was the fastest way to get yourself killed, aside from just being plain stupid. Thankfully I wasn’t stupid, and I certainly wasn’t planning to die anytime soon.
A small, blue water cooler sits on the nearby couch, and I quickly grab it. Inside are three large, empty milk jugs and a funnel. It’s what I use to purify the water I catch on the rooftop. The water isn’t one hundred percent safe, but I have to risk it. My body needs the water to keep going; dehydration can kill you just as fast as a zombie.

Once again, I peer out into the hallway through the peephole. When I’m satisfied that the halls are still clear, I unlock the door and quietly slip out the door. When I close it behind me, I cautiously make my way over to the nearest flight of stairs. My apartment is on the third floor, and there are five floors in total. Access to the roof is easy, only one extra flight of stairs, and in no time I’ve reached the door to the roof.

Scattered around the empty rooftop are ten large, plastic, five gallon buckets. Each is almost full to the top with rainwater. Some of it will be purified into drinking water, some of it will be used to wash myself and my clothes with, and the rest will go to watering the six large vegetable boxes nearby.

In two of the boxes are a few tomato plants, each with a small to medium-sized reddish fruit. The next two boxes hold cucumber plants, and the final ones are planted with green bell peppers. I would have liked a few other types of vegetables, but those were the only seeds I could get my hands on.

I place the cooler on the ground and sit beside the nearest bucket, and I open the cooler’s lid. I grab the first empty milk jug, and place the funnel in the opening. Bracing myself, I grab the black bucket, and lift it as high as I can, before dumping the water into the funnel, careful not to spill any of it.
The jug quickly fills up, and I switch it out for another one. When the second and third ones are filled up, I dump the rest of the water into the nearest vegetable patch. I use water from another one to water the rest of the vegetables and, when I’m done, I look them over carefully, noticing that there are two cucumbers ready to be picked.

I carefully twist them away from the plant and tuck them gently into the cooler with the three full water jugs. Then I grab my baseball bat and tuck it into my belt. Grabbing one of the buckets and the cooler, I head back down to my apartment. The sun would be going down in a little while and, even though there aren’t any zombies in the apartment building, I still feel exposed and vulnerable outside at nighttime.

When I’m safely hidden for the night in my apartment, I place the cooler on the counter and take out the three water jugs. I open my fridge where, even though it doesn’t work anymore, I keep three water pitchers with built in filters.

I empty the contents of the jugs into the pitchers and leave them on the counter to fill up. Next, I grab the bucket by my feet and head into the bathroom to wash. After brushing my teeth with some of the water, I use the rest to wash my hair and scrub my body clean of a week’s worth of dirt, grime, and blood.

After I’m done, I slice one of the cucumbers and finish the rest of the pear water. With a full stomach and a clean body, I climb into bed for the night. I’d need a full night of rest for my venture into town tomorrow. I was running low on toiletries and some basic food supplies.

My eyes finally close, and I slip into a fitful sleep, complete with nightmarish creatures, fire, and dying people.

message 25: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Rydder (ThomasRydder) | 81 comments you go...
The first 2000 words of my debut novel The Clearing...

It wasn't anywhere near noon, and Beth Lowe already had a sneaking suspicion her day was about to down the drain. The odor of urine and feces was enough to make her eyes water, and the barking dogs around her created a din that was overwhelming. Trying to ignore the yips and howls, she watched Lizzie as she tried to coax the biggest dog Beth had ever seen to the front of his pen.
"C'mon! C'mere, boy! Come onnnnnnn – nobody’s going to hurt you." Dejected, Lizzie turned away and trudged back along the cage-lined aisle, oblivious to the bedlam on either side of her.
“Never mind, honey,” Beth soothed, “we have a lot of other dogs to choose from. Let’s keeping looking.”
Glancing around, Lizzie spotted the big dog peeking around the corner of his cage. "Look! He wants us to come back!"
Beth could only watch in dismay as the little girl darted back and was greeted by a low whine, and soaked by a tongue that would have been right at home on a Texas Longhorn. Sighing, she slogged back and stood regarding the pair with apprehension.
"He seems like a nice dog, but he's so big – and he'll eat so much. Look at all these other dogs. They need a home too. Like this little guy,” as she knelt next to a forlorn little terrier sitting against to his cage door. “He looks miserable."
Nuzzling the canine's huge nose, Lizzie put forth her best pout, "But, I want him – he’s soooo cute, isn't he?"
Beth had never seen an uglier dog.
He was enormous and reddish brown in color. Eyes that were almost hidden by folds of drooping skin were framed by ears that seemed large enough for a bull elephant. His hanging jowls reminded her of a plump British colonel - except British officers seldom had strings of drool hanging from their mouths. Impossibly long legs and feet like saucers completed the questionable picture. Ugh, she thought. This brute in my house?
Just as she was opening her mouth to try one last futile protest, the beast stood up and shook his head violently, sending ears a’flapping and covering everything within six feet with long tendrils of saliva.
“Hah! Look at his ears! When he does that, they look just like the little pancakes you make us in the morning! You know, when you throw them into the air? That’s your new name fella. Flapjack!” Throwing her arms around the monster’s neck, Lizzie planted a wet kiss directly on the end of the newly christened dog’s rubbery snout. Beth shook her head. Doomed, she thought, the little so-and-so just doomed me, as usual. As the assistant who had led them back to the cages walked up, Beth asked him, “Can you tell us exactly what kind of dog this is?”
Kneeling to give Flapjack a rub, the caretaker answered, “Well, we can never know exactly, unless the previous owners give us their papers. This fellow was an owner-surrender, but they left him tied up at the door. He looks like a Bloodhound, but we can’t say he’s full-blooded.”
Bloodhound. Even the breed name sent a slight shiver up her back. Glancing down at the Kodak moment unfolding before her, she knew two things with equal certainty. She didn’t want the dog, and Lizzie most certainly did. Sighing, she caved to the inevitable. “Okay. Let’s get the paperwork done.”
“Yes!” Lizzie shouted, “You hear that boy? You’re coming home with us!”
The young attendant looked at Beth, his bemused expression indicating that he knew exactly what had just happened. Beth shrugged and dug for her wallet. So she was easy - so what?
They had been watching television one evening when Lizzie asked, “Why don’t you own a dog?”
“I don’t know," Beth had murmured, her mind focused on deciding whether the main character was secretly married, "Guess I’ve never really thought about it.”
“We should have a dog.”
Suddenly realizing she'd been missing something, Beth looked over at Lizzie. “Why?”
The youngster's face was carrying an expression that was a mixture of innocence and solemnity, “Well, we’re out in the country, so we’re kind of alone. What if someone tries to break in?”
Silently amused, Beth decided to see where this would go, “I hadn’t thought about that.”
The opening wasn't wasted. “You should. I bet it would take the police a long time to get out here. And we have a fenced in yard, and woods he could run in, and I promise to take care of him.”
“Have you considered being an attorney when you grow up?”
Lizzie screwed her face up in a face that suggested she was eating lemons, “An attorney? Yuk. Why would I want to be one of those? I'm going to be a country music star. Please? I've never owned a dog before.”
“You made some very good points, so I’ll tell you what. I don’t have any classes Friday. Why don’t we go to the animal shelter and have a look around? One condition, though. It’s your dog, so it’s your responsibility. You feed it, you water it, and you take it outside to potty. Agreed?”
“Yayyy! You’re the best!”, and Lizzie ran over and gave her a huge hug. Beth grinned and hugged her back, silently acknowledging her defeat. But, she reasoned, both of them would enjoy the additional companionship. They did have Barlow, a Persian cat Beth had owned since her college days, but he stayed to himself much of the time. A dog might be a nice addition.
Three days, fourteen suggestions and one decision later, the two ladies were driving to the pet store with the newest family member. While they browsed around, picking out food, bowls and toys, Flapjack acted the perfect gentleman on his new leash, occasionally sniffing a stuffed animal, or a package of rawhide bones. On the drive home, Lizzie insisted Flapjack ride in the front, and he took advantage of the treat by sticking his head out the passenger window. As soon as they piled out of the car, Lizzie was up the driveway, Flapjack close on her heels. "Come on, boy! You're home!"
Home. The word shot Beth's mind back to her arrival in the sleepy little community of Hemingway Originally from Clifton Heights, a suburb of Philadelphia, Beth had traveled to western Pennsylvania as a child with her parents. The tiny hamlets and villages had impressed her with their country charms, and she had never forgotten the serenity that had enveloped everything there. When an opportunity to teach Entomology surfaced at Paxton University, just a few miles outside of Hemingway, Beth had leaped at the chance.
She had rented a room above one of the general stores in town for a short time, until she was familiar enough with the area to consider a house purchase. When the time came to look for a more permanent residence, one property in particular had struck her fancy. Large and roomy, it was styled after farmhouses commonplace in that area at the turn of the 20th century, and boasted a large fenced yard with a brick barbeque pit. It was situated on a back country road, and immediately to the rear of the property was a large wood in which she could gather samples for her class work. The old house was a fixer-upper, but she hadn’t minded, since it furnished an everyday escape from civilization. Beth had spent many weekends slapping paint, laying tile and patching holes, but the result was a warm home she could call her own.
Life here was slower here than the hustling burbs, and she had grown accustomed very quickly to country living. Everyone spoke, milk was delivered to her doorstep, and the mail man waved every day on his rounds. Beth had found contentment in Small Town, USA, and since Lizzie had come to live with her, she truly felt her existence was complete.
Since securing a position at the small university, there had been no time for a man in her life. She was a pretty woman, flaxen-haired and petite, with limpid brown eyes that gazed at her world with a combination of scholar and schoolgirl. Various professors – and students – had hinted at their interest, but she had politely and firmly turned away each in their turn. Her life was her work, and since Lizzie's arrival, her daughter's welfare and upbringing.
Now, Beth couldn’t help but smile. This was the most life Lizzie had shown since arriving at her aunt’s house, almost nineteen months earlier. For weeks after her mother and father’s death, the nine year old had remained in an almost catatonic state. Fortunately, Beth and her sister had been remarkably close (having sis's first child named after her still brought a tear to her eye), and under the conditions of the will, Beth had become Lizzie's custodian. Month by month, the little girl had been responding to her aunt’s tender nurturing.
On the night before the formal adoption, Beth had explained to Lizzie exactly what was to happen – that her mother would always be her mother, but she would now be her legal mom, and would take care of her forever. Lizzie had responded in typical Lizzie-ish fashion.
“Well, then you’ll be my Momma Beth. Is that okay?”
It was indeed okay, and slowly, the youngster had begun transforming back into the bright, cheerful girl Beth remembered.
Nor had it taken long to realize Lizzie shared her love for anything outdoors. Soon after her new daughter’s arrival, Beth was preparing for an afternoon of specimen collection, when Lizzie stuck her head around the workroom door.
“Where are you going?”
“Just out in the woods for a bit. I wanted to give a class on the Rose Hooktip moth, so I was going to collect some specimens.”
“Can I come?”
“Well…sure…I didn’t know you liked the woods.”
The shadow of a frown came across Lizzie’s features. She averted her eyes, “Daddy always took me with him went he went fishing. He showed me how to bait my own hook and everything. Sometimes, we would just walk in the woods, and he would help me lift rocks and look at all the bugs underneath.”
Beth managed to swallow the lump in her throat. “Well, I could sure use an assistant. Carrying all these jars and stuff gets to be a bit much. You interested in the job?”
“You bet!”
And from there, the pair had been a team, foraging the quiet woods for specimens, and occasionally catching sight of a deer or fox before it bolted from sight.
As a bonus to the course curriculum, Beth hosted barbeques from time to time, leading her students through the woods to view their subjects in a natural habitat, before treating them to a supper of grilled burgers and corn on the cob. On these occasions, Lizzie slipped seamlessly into the role of host, chattering happily, making sure glasses were full and everyone had eaten their fill. Everyone fawned on the new lady of the manor, and she was quickly absorbed into the close-knit community small colleges often afford.
As Beth came out of her reverie, Lizzie was pelting around the house corner into the back yard, breathlessly urging her new buddy to keep up, "Look boy, look at this huge yard. We can play all the time out here." The big dog sniffed around several spots, lifted his leg once to mark his territory, and then allowed Lizzie to lead him inside to the kitchen. "Here's where I'm going to put your food and water bowls - right beside where I sit to eat, see? Come up these steps, there you go, good boy, this is my room, and this is where your doggie bed is going, nice and big and soft, and right below my bed, so you can protect me. The guy in that poster is Toby Keith, and that's Taylor Swift. See," as she stuck two cd's under the new arrival's nose, "these are their new albums. This is my stereo and my TV - we can watch what you like sometimes - and," she bent forward and whispered into the dog's ear, "you can even sleep up on my bed with me some."
Running for the stairs, Lizzie looked back, "Come on, boy!" While his new owners busied themselves filling his bowls and arranging his bed, the huge canine began his own inspection of every inch of the house, sniffing and snuffing, woofed once at Barlow, and finally flopped down on the rug in front of the fireplace. Flapjack was home.

message 26: by aprille (new)

aprille (aprille43) Samantha wrote: "Well, if we're still posting these, here's mine.

Chapter One
I lift the metal baseball bat higher, feeling much better with a heavy weapon in my hands. They twist nervously around the rubber grip,..."

I thought this was very well written and powerful. Your descriptions of the zombies had me squirming. I read all the way through it and enjoyed every bit of it, so if I were an agent, you'd be sitting well with me.

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