I am on the backside of the hill in terms of my life, and I look back on it and still smile. Hardships and struggles? Yes, a few. Disappointments? Sure. But if I were to list all the positives on one side of the ledger, and the negatives on the other, the positives would be so much longer than the negatives.
“Regrets, I’ve had a few,” to quote Frank in his song, I Did It My Way. I’m sure we all have some. But the last line and title of the song is the big one to never forget: “I did it my way!”
Perhaps my biggest regret is that I began writing late in life. I was wrapped up in family- as I should have been, and in career- nah, should have been down on the list. I should have done more for myself. Like writing.
There is something scary and spectacular as I sit in front of a blank page on my laptop. I’m halfway done on #9, Fan Mail about a fan’s love and yearning turning deadly, but I have two more stories fighting for attention. While I “think” I know which I will attack next, I am still uncertain. We’ll see.
Back to the blank page.
I’ve written posts about the parts of a story: The Beginning; The Ending; The Murky Middle. I thought I’d go through my books and give you the opening paragraph or two of each. I believe the opening line and the opening paragraph are like the first smile and the first kiss on the first date. It’s the invitation to another date and perhaps more. It’s asking the reader, “Do you want to turn the page? Do you want to keep going?”
It’s the excitement of the first page, and in particular, the opening line and opening paragraph that excite me. In actuality, I view each opening of each chapter in much the same way: an invitation to keep going.
Here are my opening lines and paragraphs of each book from my first, Taking Lives, Prequel to the Lives Trilogy, to my newest, Blaze In, Blaze Out.
Taking Lives, Prequel to the Lives Trilogy
Pete slipped on a pair of blue surgical gloves and knelt down on one knee next to the ME, while Summer did the same but on the other side of the body.
Because it was desert, there was some decay and a whole lot of stink, but that didn’t bother Kelliher much. Not at all, actually. What bothered him was that the dead body they were examining was that of a boy whose life was taken and extinguished way before it should have been.
Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy
Approximately Two Years Later . . .
The boy’s muscles ached and he longed to stretch out, but the handcuffs prevented him from doing so. His head hit the steel wall of the dirty van each time Frank drove over a rock or a rut or pothole in the dirt road. The boy’s neck and shoulders had grown stiff from trying to cushion the blows. He shifted sideways so that his arms could take more of the pounding, but that was even more uncomfortable. He leaned as tightly against the wall as he could, pushing with his heels, but slipped on a McDonald’s bag, frowning at the mustard and pickle juice on his pants’ leg.
Shattered Lives, Book Two of the Lives Trilogy
A NOT QUITE SAFE HAVEN
. . . He faced the man with the gun. He couldn’t quite make out his features, but he seemed to be medium height, maybe shorter than that, and well-built but not overly so. At least he didn’t seem to be a bulky, weightlifter kind of man. His voice was cold and flat, which is what George would remember the most about him. That and the gun pointed at the boy next to him, a boy George did not know.
Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy
Mike knew he was going to get shot and probably die. He didn’t have any doubt about that. He didn’t shut his eyes. He didn’t hold his breath. And yet, the sight of the gun didn’t provoke any fear.
Caught in a Web
“You’ve gotten shots before, right?”
The young blond boy licked his lips and nodded. He wanted to back out, leave and go home, but he didn’t know how he could do that. He was only thirteen and he was alone with three high school kids.
Spiral Into Darkness
Vincent O’Laughlin was the youngest partner of the firm. Just four years out of grad school, he had skyrocketed up the food chain, leaving several dead bodies in his wake. Well, not actually dead. Just dead in the firm. Three of the four went on to different advertising outfits, one in Minneapolis, one in Chicago, and one in Kansas City. The fourth was still unemployed, as much to do with his age as it was his lack of creativity.
It was still. No breeze. The air, dead, smelled of red dirt and decay. A hawk circled overhead, cawed once, and glared at him. At least Brian thought it did. He wondered vaguely if it was an omen, a message from the spirit world George often talked about. A warning, perhaps. Fitting if it was, Brian thought. If they survived, he would ask him.
Blaze In, Blaze Out
He sat his boney ass on the unyielding wooden bench in nearly the same spot, sometimes for up to six or seven marathon hours give or take, minus a lunch break or whenever the judge decided to give the jury a break. It wasn’t often, but it was enough.
He wondered for the hundredth time if the place was ever cleaned. The same long black strands of hair lay on the floor along with a spent staple, two paperclips, and fingernail clippings. None of it had moved in the three days he had sat there and probably wouldn’t get moved unless someone shuffled their feet along the floor as they filed past aiming for a seat to watch the show. Dust bunnies and a tipped over empty paper coffee cup had been pushed in a corner. All remnants of human filth, dirt and debris. Fitting he thought, considering who had filed into and out of the massive stone structure.
You noticed in several spots I added a second paragraph. I wanted to give you more than just the first. In Shattered Lives, you saw my use of italics. In my writing, I use italics sometimes for emphasis, or sometimes when a conversation takes place on a phone or radio. In this case, it was because it was a dream George had and woke up from.
Writing is fun for me. It is my stress release. I enjoy the entire process. There are only one or two things I don’t care for. One is writing the synopsis. Most writers don’t like it either. It seems to be an impossible task: to tell what the book is about, including all major plot points and spoilers in one or two single-spaced pages. It’s what agents and publishers request. I have a hunch it is a quality check on the author: does he/she know their story well enough? Is the story viable, exciting, and interesting? Is the writer good enough to condense a 90,000 word project into two pages?
The other thing I don’t care for is writing the query letter. The query is required for both the agent and the publisher. It is the writer’s introduction: who are you and what did you write? It has to be simple, but interesting. It has to capture the attention of the agent or publisher, and it has to jump to the top of the heap from all the thousands of other queries that land in the agent’s or publisher’s inbox. Like the synopsis, the query cannot be more than one page.
I start thinking about the synopsis and query towards the end of the story I’m working on. It is at that point in my writing when I know all the character interactions, the dialog, and how the story will end. I ruminate (one of my mother’s pet words) on it so I can begin working on it as soon as the story is over, and before I begin the edits.
Some writers don’t like the editing process. I enjoy it for several reasons. I enjoy reading my finished product. I often catch a phrase or word I want to change. Sometimes, I’ve changed entire scenes and characters. Besides correcting grammar, punctuation and spelling, editing allows me to put the bow on the finished product.
If I had to choose my favorite part of writing, I would say the beginning. I believe it is because that is when the story idea comes bursting to the forefront, and I simply have to get it down on paper. The beginning occurs when the story will not, cannot wait to get written.
I hope you enjoyed the beginnings of my books. For your convenience, I’ve listed each in order below with their blurb and link for purchase.
The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Kelliher, 11-year-old Brett McGovern, and 11-year-old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out. https://amzn.to/34nXBH5
Book One of the Lives Trilogy, Stolen Lives:
Two thirteen-year-old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved. https://amzn.to/3oMo4qZ
Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
Six men escaped and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families, but they don’t know it. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them. https://amzn.to/2RAYIk2
Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
A 14-year-old boy knows the end is coming. What he doesn’t know is when, where, or by whom. Without that knowledge, the FBI can protect him or his family. And he cannot protect himself. http://bit.ly/SplinteredLives
Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner! Named “One of the Best Thrillers of 2018!” by BestThrillers
Bodies of high school and middle school kids are found dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. MS-13, a violent gang originating from El Salvador, controls the drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors and the Milwaukee Metro area. They send Ricardo Fuentes from Chicago to Waukesha to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay, who had killed his cousin the previous summer. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696
Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!
He blends in. He is successful, intelligent, and methodical. He has a list and has murdered eight on it so far. There is no discernible pattern. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, do not know they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement. https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm
Betrayed: A PenCraft 1st Place for Thriller-Fiction! A Maxy Award Runner-Up! A Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner!
Now Available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback!
A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, but no one will talk. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. Seeing is not believing. No one can be trusted, and the hunters become the hunted. https://amzn.to/2EKHudx
Blaze In, Blaze Out – New Release!
https://www.blackrosewriting.com/mystery/blazeinblazeout. Purchase your copy prior to January 6, 2022, and receive a 15% discount. Use the promo code: PREORDER2021 .
Detectives Eiselmann and O’Connor thought the conviction of a Ukrainian gang lord meant the end. They forgot that revenge knows no boundaries, vindictiveness knows no restraints, and ruthlessness never worries about collateral damage. A target is a target, and in the end, the target will die.