Sneak Peek at Chago 2

18 Aug

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Photo Credit: Jeff Waye

Imagine spending an entire year – or longer – working on a novel and then having to sell it based on the first 250 words.

Now those first 250 words are essential.  A potential reader could be standing in a bookstore, skimming over that first page, and make a snap decision whether to purchase that random book by some unknown author.  I didn’t realize how important those first few lines were, until I found out about the Secret Agent Contest.  It’s a blog where writers can compete to post their 250 word start to their novel, and an unknown agent picks a few to review.  When I scanned through the entries, the whole exercise became a eureka moment.  Yes, I could quickly decide – from that short sample – which books I wanted to read, and which ones I would pass on.

Securing an agent and selling a book is hard work – full of mind-numbing rejection and countless attempts at rewriting.  It’s harder than writing the book itself.  Now the sample below clocks in at roughly 680 words, but right away you could decide if you want to buy this book, or pass.  It’s the opening passage to Shot at Redemption, the fourth story of the Shadow People series, and the sequel to Chago’s Shades of Grey.  And it’s all an agent might look at, to pass on or consider my novel.  Bring on the pressure!

 

SHOT AT REDEMPTION

Contains some violence and strong language.

“You’ve got an anger management problem, you psycho bastard.  You threw me through a plate-glass window.”

I shook myself free of Lloyd’s grip.  “I manage my anger quite well.  Right now I would like to throttle your scrawny neck for blowing my cover.  And yet, you live.”

“Gentlemen, please.  Can we resolve this civilly?”  Cassidy closed the mini-blinds in a last-ditch attempt for privacy.  People were staring through the office windows at the three of us.  The walls may be soundproof, but they wouldn’t stop the emotions flooding out.  I didn’t envy her job as peacemaker.  You couldn’t pay me enough for that task.

But there was no making peace with Lloyd.  “I want a new partner.”

“That can be arranged.”

“Chago – sarcasm isn’t helping.”  I hated when Cassidy called me by my first name.  It implied an intimacy, an understanding between us, when none existed.

Lloyd jabbed a finger at my chest right into my torn-up blood-stained shirt, like it was my fault – not his – this disaster happened.  “I’m done with you.”

“Ditto.”

He stormed from the room and slammed the door, sending the secretaries in the typing pool flying for cover.

I grabbed my jacket from the coat rack and turned to leave.

“Just a minute, Chago.  We’re not finished, here.”

“Is this going to take long?  I’d like to take a shower – wash this gore from my skin.”

“Sit down.”

Shit.  It must be bad news, if Cassidy wanted me to sit in one of her fancy leather chairs in my filthy condition.  More than just a mission gone sour.  I reached out and played with the artefacts on her desk – Guatemalan worry people, African tribal masks.  My favourite was the genuine shrunken human head inside a glass case.  Something new was in the mix, looking suspiciously like a voodoo doll.

I waggled it.  “Anybody I know?”

“How many partners have you gone through, Chago?”

“I don’t know.”

“Sure you do.  How about ten – in the last four years.  Sounds like you have some issues besides anger management.”

“We all have issues.  It’s part of the job.  Soldiers of misfortune.”

“Is that what you think you are?  A soldier?”

“Can you come up with a better word for what I do?  I’ve spent the last ninety years purging this planet of monsters.  Lucky for me, there never seems to be a shortage.”

“And what do you do besides work?  When was the last time you took a vacation?”

“I don’t know.”

“Sure you do.  How about 1939?”

I scraped the dirt out from under my nails.

“Take some time off.  Consider it a vacation.”

“I don’t need a vacation.”

“It’s not a request.”

“Fuck.”

So this is what happens when you get a dumb-ass for a partner who thinks he can take on a warehouse full of drug dealers.  I told Lloyd to let the humans clean up their own mess.  But no.  He had to get all idealistic on me, feed me some garbage about their mess being our mess.  They would have killed him if I hadn’t tossed him through that window – they were about to blow his head off, anyways.  I saved his life.  And this is the thanks I got.

I should have defended myself, but instead I fell back on old habits – like pride – and said nothing.

“How about we start with six months of leave – see how it goes.  Take it from there.”

“Six months?”

“Human Resources says you’ve got over three years vacation owing to you.”

“We have a Human Resources Department?  Since when?”

She tapped her pen against the manila file folder on her desk, the one with my name on it.  Of course, the real question was how did she get stuck trying to rehabilitate somebody like me?

“Go lay on the beach.  Drink some margaritas.  Play your guitar.  But if I find out you’re busting heads somewhere, then I’m going to haul your ass over the coals.  Do we have an understanding?”

“Sure.”

But no voodoo witch-doctor psycho therapist was going to tell me how to spend my vacation.

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14 Responses to “Sneak Peek at Chago 2”

  1. Lisa Forget August 18, 2011 at 10:07 AM #

    Love it! As a reader, I’d definitely buy this book and pick up any others in the series.

    If I were an agent I’d be requesting the whole lot!

    Great post! Thank you for reminding us the importance of the first page of our story and its impact.

    🙂 Lisa

    • jdwaye August 19, 2011 at 7:36 AM #

      Don’t forget Lisa, that this one incorporates everything I’ve learned in the OWG. The others -cough cough – need rewrites! LOL!

  2. Anne Michaud August 18, 2011 at 11:02 AM #

    Dianne, you are as talented as wise – Chago kicks ass AND the first 250 words are crucial.

    So happy you’re posting Shot at Redemption on here:)

    • jdwaye August 19, 2011 at 7:34 AM #

      Thanks Anne. **blushes**

  3. Angela Addams August 18, 2011 at 11:20 AM #

    I’ve read this before!!!!! lol – of course I want to read more…very brave to post this Dianne – it’s hard to put your stuff out there and ask for opinions! Well done!

    You’re right though…so much rests on those first few paragraphs. I know that many new author’s I’ve tried out have come from doing that very thing…just the first page, that’s all I give them.

    • jdwaye August 19, 2011 at 7:33 AM #

      So you’re one of those scan-a-few-pages people I see at Chapters! LOL!

  4. CDNWMN August 18, 2011 at 2:56 PM #

    I really like the way Chago rolls off the tongue…C-h-a-g-o-….yup sure is tasty. 😉

    • jdwaye August 19, 2011 at 7:25 AM #

      LOL – You’re a riot, Tammy!

  5. T. James August 18, 2011 at 10:03 PM #

    I actually didn’t read the whole post, OK, not until after. I wanted to try the first 250 words (guessed) to see if the writing worked, and appealed within the limits you mentioned.

    What works is the number of ‘hooks’ you squeeze in. There are several for the characters, and the relationships between them. You let us know a little, but that little is significant, and so I want to know more. Undefined terms like ‘peacemaker’ again add to the intrigue. It makes enough sense in this context, but I don’t KNOW what it means, so I want to read more to find out.

    Setting, action and language are also used well. Why are the characters fighting? What are they doing in the office building, with people staring at them? Unusual insults also bring the setting alive. There’s a lot here that grabs interest quickly, so I would say this was a success.

    • jdwaye August 19, 2011 at 7:29 AM #

      Hey TJ – Thanks for dropping by. The 250 words is just a few paragraphs, about a third of what I posted, so you can see how hard it is to convey anything in that word limit. It’s a great exercise to write flash fiction, cramming everything into a story of 500 words or less. It’s really influenced the way I write, bringing an urgency and tension to each page. Or – well – that’s what I’m aiming for.

  6. Gareth August 19, 2011 at 5:37 AM #

    Its definitely piqued my interest. An unusual start. I’ve had a character knocking around for some time who kicks off with the line “Pick a window, you’re leaving.” You’re a step or two ahead of that. LOL

    • jdwaye August 19, 2011 at 7:31 AM #

      Gareth – I would love to read some of your work. Will you post on the OWG?

  7. Pat Hollett August 20, 2011 at 9:40 AM #

    An excellent post Di! You’re right! The first few hundred words are crucial, and I think you’ve got some great hooks incorporated in the beginning. I felt a little detatched…sorry, that’s the critiquer in me coming out, but I loved the concept and what what transpiring. I wanted to ‘feel’ a bit more of what they were feeling. The words are there, the ideas are fantastic, but the emotions seem to be backburner and I’m one of those readers who wants to identify with a character and how they feel. Just me I guess. Everyone reads differently.
    I think you’ve got something good happening here and at least you’re a step ahead in knowing what works and what doesn’t.
    Good luck! Persistence and determination will pay off for you! 🙂

    • jdwaye August 21, 2011 at 8:27 AM #

      Thanks for dropping by Pat! As authors, we tend to write towards what we enjoy reading – and I love high-action sci-fi, where the emotions are on the back-burner. You’re very perceptive about Chago’s detached emotional state – I hope there’s enough interest piqued for you to stick around for a few chapters to find out how and why he got that way.

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