Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I'd buy that for a dollar! Excerpt from WIP


Aww, jeeze. It's been a while. Believe it or not, there are actually drafts saved for two other posts that I haven't had the time, or focus, to revise and post.

One is a review of Francine Prose's "How To Read Like A Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them," and how its a terribleness has lead me to stop reading books about writing. The process is different for everyone and no one has a unifying theory for writing well. Especially not Prose. I bought the book for a dollar, so I guess it was worth that much to learn this particular lesson.

Meh, fuck it. Here are the only tomes about the craft that I've felt were worth reading, out of the two dozen or so I've read:


"The Elements of Style" by Strunk & White
"On Writing" by King
"On Writing Well" by Zinsser

Plus this brief column by Ken Layne, Wonkette's arbiter of doom.

And now, to to keep this blog from further slipping into mediocrity, here's an excerpt from my current W.I.P. A fair portion of the world read about this Betelgeuse going supernova thing, so I, and probably a million other sci-fi writers, jumped on this money train to BestSellersville. This is the first chapter, the supernova thing hasn't happened yet.


Detective Stephen Huls winced at the smell of homicide. Wisps of decomposition swirled up to meet his nostrils as he rounded a corner into a short hallway. The apartment was dark and abandoned. It had been years since there was a straight up murder in this town and he wondered if he still had the stomach for it.

Huls worked his feet cautiously over old piles of laundry, broken dishes and mamed children's toys. This was some family's miserable life once upon a time, he thought. He silently scolded himself for having judged the previous owners without having met them. They could have been nice people, but this was the old projects. He had seen malcontents day-in and day-out here for years, before they shut the place down.

Random flashes of lights shot in and out of the hallway from a bedroom at the end of the hall and Huls could hear two people chatting. He finally found a piece of linoleum devoid of any societal debris in front of the door way and stepped over to it. "Detective Huls?" There was a bright light in Huls' eyes and he raised a hand, as if to swat it away.

"Yeah, that's me. Can you get the fucking light out of my face, please?"

"Oh, right. Sorry." The officer pointed his flash light towards the floor. He was a young patrolman that Huls hadn't met before, a surprisingly tall Asian man. He reached out his hand to shake Huls'. "I'm officer, Kanno."


"Afternoon, officer." Huls replied gruffly. "Good to see you, Roys." As if on queue, Kanno shown his light on Officer Roys standing next to him, a patrolman that had been in the precinct for several years now and who's partner had just retired.

"Good to see you, as well, oldtimer," he said between chomps of his gum.

"Knock that shit off. I'm only 45," Huls replied with a brief smile. He had always liked Roys and they often shared a great report. "What have we got?"

Kanno moved his light over to a naked body on the floor. "Dead woman, early 20s, maybe late teens. Lacerations all over her skin and judging by the smell, she's been here for more than-"

"Look at this shit?" Huls pointed a thumb at Kanno. "Fuckin' CSI over here."


Roys laughed and Kanno's face reddened.

Huls took in the scene for the first time in silence. The room was considerably cleaner than the rest of the apartment. There wasn't a stick of furniture or garbage anywhere, just dirty, checkered linoleum tiles, boarded up windows and small pieces of broken plaster skirting the edges of the room. The naked woman was facing the wall, away from him. Her skin was pale an bruised. He stepped closer and his throat tightened with the growing smell. The hair was straight, long and bright red with dark brown roots.

"Who called it in?" 



Roys stepped closer, "A mother. She said her two boys came home crying, saying that they had seen a dead lady."

Huls shook his head and stepped over the woman to check her frontside. "When are they supposed to tear this place down, again?"

"It was supposed to be next month, but it got delayed again, I think..." Kanno answered.

Huls let out an audible sigh. The eyes were still open and staring at the wall, her hands and feet bound. A ring of red, green and blue bruises wrapped around her neck. A sliver of light, slipped through a crack of the boarded up window and cut across her chest, illuminating several deep cuts in her chest. They looked like symbols, but nothing distinguishable to Huls, except one. Centered just above her breasts was carved a circle with several straight lines shooting out of it, like how a six year old might draw the sun.

"Uhhh, oh boy." The detective let out another sigh and stood up an looked around the room.

"You think this has something to do with the whole Betelgeuse thing?" Kanno asked.

"I dunno. I hope not."

Huls looked around the body, there wasn't a lot of blood on the floor, but with amount congealed on the woman's chest, Huls assumed that the cutting must have taken place while she was alive and she must have been killed elsewhere before being deposited here.

There was a ruckus outside the door, the sounds of things being moved around and someone cursing. One of the two state coroners almost tripped through the doorway.

"Jesus!" Dr. Boyd gasped. He was an older man, his hair had gone white long ago and now seemed to do whatever it wanted. Huls had met him several times over the years --always under bad circumstances-- and had taken note of his ever expanding waste line.
"Thanks for coming, Doc." Huls put out his hand.

"Yeah." Boyd dismissively shook Huls' hand and moved over to the dead woman. He seemed to be muttering to himself. "Boy! She was a pretty thing, heh?" Then he gave a little high-pitched laugh, not needing any acceptance from the people around him.

"Did anyone see anything?" Huls asked the officers.

"There are two other officers canvasing right now. We should know something a little later," Roys answered.

Huls took out a digital camera and began snapping pictures of the scene. There wouldn't be much to go on if the body had been dumped here, he thought. For all he knew, some weirdo could have just dumped her here and left the state. The rest of the apartment looked like everywhere else in the projects, a disastrous human experiment, and by the amount of weed butts he found on the floor, the neighborhood kids had been coming in here often.

Huls picked up one of the butts and rolled it between his fingers.

"There goes our chance at finger prints." Roys said from across the delapidated eat-in kitchen/living room.

Huls nodded and tossed the butt back to the floor. He returned to the bedroom when he heard several loud cracks of ply wood. Some fire fighters had pried open one of the boarded up windows. The room was now in sharp contrast with the situation that resided there. The dead girls pale skin was blinding in the New England sun light, and the woods beyond the window were quiet and tranquil. Before an ambulance was backed up to the apartment. That was Huls' queue.

He made his way back to the entrance of the building, where Roys and Kanno were discussing, with some other officers, the statements they had taken from people in the immediate vicinity. Huls absently reached into his jacket for the empty pocket that used to retain his cigarettes. A small flash disappointment crossed his face every time he did this. Something about leaving a crime scene kicked up the urge, a need to relieve the stress.

"You got somewhere to go tonight, Detective?" Roys asked breaking away from his other conversation.

"Yep. Some people on my street a throwing a barbecue." Huls said, patting down his jacket for some gum. "Dogs, burgers, all that." His hand triumphantly returned to view with a stick of gum.

"Great. I was gonna say, a lot of us are working a double because of the whole Betelgeuse thing, but there'll be a party at the station too," Roys said, wisps of his sandy blond hair were glowing like light bulb filaments in the sun light.

"Yeah, I heard, but I'm good. Thanks though." Huls started walking slowly towards the ambulance where paramedics were lifting a black bag out of the window. "You think tonight is going to get crazy?"

"Nah. The sarg is worried, but I think the most we'll get is a few drunks and DWIs."

"Yeah. Well, we'll see how the old man feels about this."

1 comment:

-RWWGreene said...

I think your craft-books-to-respect list matches mine to the letter. WIP-wise, you certainly have my curiosity piqued; I'd turn the page.