I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo (username is ekehlet if anyone wants to be writing buddies this year!) for a couple of years, but I have not yet managed to finish. I also have a handful of other partially written drafts and I go back and forth between them. I try to work on all of them a bit here and there, but I have decided that it would be a good idea to actually complete a rough draft of something I already have started before beginning a brand-new writing project this November! I’ve narrowed my choices down to two, and I’m hoping to get some feedback.
Below are short excerpts from a cozy mystery and a ghost story / paranormal thriller. I started working on the cozy several years ago, but still only have 7 chapters written. I know who did it, so a little time spent outlining what I think needs to happen should get me to the end. The other story is my NaNoWriMo attempt from 2014. It started out as a retelling of a bad dream I had one night (I think too much pizza the previous evening may have been involved), but took on a life of its own. The more I wrote, the more it wandered off in unexpected directions. It is a lot closer to being a complete rough draft than the cozy mystery, but I can’t quite figure out how to get it there.
If you have the time to give these a quick read, I would really appreciate your opinion. Assuming either is a genre you would read, do either of the excerpts sound like something that would interest you enough to read more? If so, leave me a comment to let me know which one!
Excerpt #1 – from a cozy mystery
So what’s going on here? – Amanda Beasley, a former legal secretary, returns to her home town of Cypress Falls TN and opens a kitchenware and gourmet food shop. Her next door neighbor is an older woman she knew growing up in Cypress Falls, and they look out for each other. Amanda receives a call from her neighbor Alice one night saying that she has fallen down the stairs and needs help. She admits to Amanda that she heard someone at her back door and was sneaking downstairs in the dark. On her way home from the hospital, Amanda runs into the police chief who decides to follow her home and make sure there is no sign of an attempted break in.
During the warmer months Amanda’s gravel driveway was separated from Alice’s by a thin strip of grass and in the spring, the occasional dandelion. With the snowfall however, the two blended together and appeared to be one extra wide drive between the two-story houses where the two neighbors lived. Amanda pulled into the drive on her side as Bill’s police car pulled up in Alice’s driveway to her left. She pulled up under the car port at the end of the driveway and turned off the engine, then got out of the car and prepared to follow him to Alice’s back yard.
“Why don’t you just head inside. I’ll pop over in a few minutes to let you know what I find.” Bill said.
“Let me come with you.” Amanda replied. “I’ll stay back so if there are footprints I won’t step on any.”
“Well, since it was probably just the wind rattling her door handle that Alice heard I suppose it’s ok, but you stay behind me Amanda, and if I ask you to go, you go, understood?”
“Understood. Now let’s go see what spooked poor Alice tonight.” Amanda said.
They walked around the back of Alice’s house, Bill in the lead and Amanda right behind peeking around him. As they rounded the back of the house the steps going up to the deck came into view. There was a little less than an inch of fresh, unblemished snow covering the yard, the steps, and the deck.
“Looks all clear”, Amanda said.
“Yes, but how long has it been snowing, and what time did you and Alice leave for the hospital?”
“You’re right. It didn’t start snowing until we were on the way there, and we didn’t arrive until almost 10:30.”
“So someone could have crept up to the back door before the snow started and we wouldn’t be able to tell. I’m going to take a look in through the back door, you wait right here.”
Bill started up the stairs to the back door and Amanda followed right behind him, suddenly too anxious to stay in the dark yard alone. He either didn’t notice or didn’t really mind, because he continued up the stairs to the french doors that led into the kitchen with Amanda right on his heels. There was a light on in the kitchen, which was plainly visible between the sheer curtains pulled back on either side of the doors. There were Alice’s neat white cabinets along both sides of the room, and the large granite topped center island. There was a cardboard file box on its side on the island with papers spread out around it. It was the box of Edward’s papers that Amanda had seen while she and Alice were having lunch, but she couldn’t remember if it had been turned over when she had been here earlier. Nothing else seemed out of place except for the french doors themselves. The right one was open just a fraction of an inch, not enough for Bill or Amanda to have noticed it from the yard below.
“Amanda, do you know for sure if these doors were closed when you and Alice left her house this evening?”, Bill asked.
“They were. I checked them myself to reassure her before we left. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I switched the light back off on my way out of the kitchen, too.”
“Ok. I’m going to have a look inside.”, Bill said as he slowly pushed the door open far enough to enter.
He took about three steps in towards the right side of the island and stopped. Since Bill hadn’t actually told her to stay put this time, Amanda was once again right behind him. She gasped when she realized what had caused Bill to stop walking. Lying on the floor with his head in a pool of a dark, sticky looking substance that Amanda assumed must be blood, was Robert Mathis. Next to his head, also in the pool of dark liquid, lay Alice’s marble rolling pin.
“Amanda, I need you to go home now.”, Bill said.
“Ok.”, whispered Amanda, but she stayed where she was and continued to stare at the dead body of the man she and Alice had been chatting with at the church the previous afternoon.
“I’m going to call this in and wait for the crime scene team. You better try to get a few hours sleep. Someone will be over to talk to you later this morning.”
“Ok.”, said Amanda again, but she still didn’t move.
Bill gently took hold of her shoulders and turned her so that she was facing him, forcing her to look away from the body. “Amanda, are you listening? I know this is a shock but I need you to leave now. Can you make it over to your place? Maybe call your mom so you don’t have to stay there alone?”
The though of waking her mother at this hour was enough to bring Amanda back to her senses. Only bad news came at 2 in the morning, and the phone ringing now would scare her mother to death.
“I’m ok Bill, sorry. I’ll go.”, stammered Amanda. Then she turned and walked quickly out of the back door and down the steps they had climbed just minutes before, and hurried across the lawn to the safety of her own home.
Excerpt #2 – from a paranormal thriller
What’s going on here? – Laura is a thriller writer whose entire family was murdered when she was just a child. She has no memory of the events, even though she was home at the time. She has just recently started seeing the ghost of her dead twin, Lisa, and decides it is time to try to remember what happened to her family that night.
In the bathroom, Laura brushed her teeth, changed into pajamas, pulled her blond hair up into a high ponytail, and then reached for her bottle of sleeping pills. She felt a twinge of panic when she didn’t find them in their customary spot, but then remembered that she had packed the bottle to take with her. Keeping one hand on the wall for support, she walked carefully down the hall to the living room. There was a small light on the water dispenser on the front of the refrigerator, and it cast just enough light into the living room for her to make out the shape of the chair and the bag on it. She crossed to the chair, using the back of the couch as a handrail as long as she could, and then hopped the last two steps. She unzipped the bag and reached inside, feeling around for the small cosmetic bag. As her hand closed around the satiny fabric of the bag, she felt a chill start at one side of her back and flow across her body like a cold breeze. She spun around on her good foot, clutching the cosmetic bag to her chest. There was nothing there, but her heart was pounding wildly. She listened for any sound of movement and at first, heard nothing. Then it was there, ever so faint but unmistakable. A girl’s voice, whispering. It was whispering her name.
She hopped across the open space between the chair and the couch, then leaned against the back of the couch and moved as quickly as she could to the hall. She stopped and looked around again, but she was still alone. I’m being paranoid now, she told herself. It was just a draft, that’s all. It caused the cold air on my back and the sound. It couldn’t have been a voice I heard, there’s no one here! Remembering Dr. Evans’ advice, she tried to calm herself. She took a deep breath in through her nose, then let it out slowly through her mouth. She actually felt a little bit better, so she took another deep breath in. As she exhaled, she felt a matching breath of air being blown across the back of her bare neck.
All advice forgotten, she ran down the hall, feeling a stabbing pain with every step but not slowing until she was in her room and had the door pulled shut behind her. As she tried to push in the lock button, the handle was yanked violently downwards, and had she not been standing right up against the door it would have flown inward. As it was, the door pushed into her with such force that she staggered backwards a step, and she had to throw her entire body weight into the door to re-close it. She pulled upward on the door handle to try again to lock it, but something on the other side of the door continued to pull down. She couldn’t lock the door, but she was able to keep the handle from being pulled down far enough to open the door. It took all of her strength to hold the handle steady, and after a few minutes, her arms began to shake from the effort. Crying, she yelled at the unseen entity. “Who are you?! Why are you doing this to me?!” And as the echo of her voice faded away, the pressure on the door handle stopped, and she fell to the floor as her hands, still pushing but now meeting no resistance, slipped right off the handle. The door never opened, but she felt the same cool breeze flow over her like a gentle wave. The girl’s voice spoke again, close by her ear. “It’s time, Laura. Time to remember.”
She lay where she had fallen with her eyes closed tightly shut, afraid of what she might see if she opened them. “Lisa?”, she finally managed to whisper. “Lisa? Is that you?” There was no answer. “I am coming home. Tomorrow, I’m coming home and I’m going to try to remember. Please leave me now. I know you won’t hurt me but you’re scaring me. You’re scaring me, Lisa. Please go!”
As soon as she had spoken the last words, she felt a difference in the air. The temperature was back to normal, but that wasn’t all. The whole room felt lighter somehow, and she was sure she was alone again. She still stayed where she was, huddled on the floor for what seemed like hours, but was, in reality, only a few minutes.
She finally rolled herself up into a sitting position, leaned over, and locked the bedroom door. Then she crawled into the bathroom, pulling that door closed and locking that one behind her as well. Part of her knew it was useless. Lisa hadn’t come through the door just now, but she’d gotten in all the same. Still, it made her feel slightly more secure. She climbed up onto the toilet seat and examined her foot. The pain was nearly unbearable now, and there was fresh blood seeping through the bandage. She cleaned it, but the skin around he wound still looked red even after washing away the blood. She put on a fresh bandage, and then took some Tylenol for the pain. She unlocked the bathroom door and went back into her bedroom to find the cosmetic bag. It was on the floor just a few feet from the door. She picked it up, grabbed her pillow from the bed and her cell phone from the nightstand, and then pulled the comforter off of the bed and drug it behind her back into the bathroom. She pulled the comforter all the way in, closed the door, and re-locked it.
Once she had herself locked in, she piled the comforter in the tub to get it out of the way and took two tablets out of each of the medicine bottles in her cosmetic bag. She swallowed all four together with a glass of water from the tap. Then she scooped up her pillow and phone from the floor, and climbed into the tub on top of the comforter. She set the alarm on her phone for 6 AM and placed it on the edge of the tub. She pulled the shower curtain part of the way closed so that the light wouldn’t shine directly into her eyes, and then spent the next few minutes trying to find a position she could sleep in, settling in for what she hoped would be a quiet, dreamless night.