Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sample Sunday

The following excerpt is from my women's fic novel (which of course has ghosts in it) BROKEN ONES. It takes place near the beginning. Louise, an anthropology lecturer at San Diego State, allowed her sister, Marie, to spend the night at her place to escape the wrath of her abusive husband, Everett.

Any and all comments warmly welcomed.

The pounding on my front door woke me, which told me two things right away. One, I’d overslept. Two, whoever was at my door was about to break it down, they were pummeling it so hard.
I straightened out the tee-shirt and drawstring pants I was sleeping in and ran my fingers through my hair a few times, although from the feel of it, there was no taming it.
“Alright!” I shouted as I made my way to the front of the house. “Alright, stop it!”
“Marie!” came the answering bellow. “Marie, I know you’re in there!”
Everett. “Oh, god,” I whispered, unsure of what to do. A quick look around my living room showed that they had already left. The afghans were folded, stacked one on top of the other on one end of my old worn-out couch.
Everett started pounding on the door again.
“Everett, knock it off!” I shouted, and opened the door. He stood there, red-faced and panting, eyes wild. Everett has coffee hair and eyes, and just a hint of olive in his complexion, but at the moment it was as dark as a beet.
Everett Karrar came from a “nice” middle-class family in Point Loma. WASPy-types; they went to their church and attended fundraising events at local nonprofits. Everett fit their image of the good son—he’d done a tour in Iraq, got honorably discharged due to an injury, and now worked as a CPA at a firm in downtown San Diego. He had a wife and three kids, and he moved in the same circles he grew up with. But to look at him now, you’d think he was a reject from the Springer Show. He was so mad, spittle was flying from his mouth with every breath.
“Everett, she’s not here,” I said, trying to project calm.
“I know she’s here!” He was trying to push his way past me.
“See for yourself,” I said, and stepped out of the way so he could come in and look around.
Everett stalked into the entryway. I watched him take in the empty living room, and his eyes came to rest on the afghans on the couch. Some of the red was fading from his face. He kept his eyes on the afghans and said, “She was here.”
I shrugged. “Yeah. She spent the night.”
His eyes darted to me. Two spots of red stayed in his cheeks. “Where’d she go?”
I shrugged again. “I don’t know. You woke me up. I didn’t know she’d left.”
His eyebrows plunged down and his eyes teared up. His hands balled into fists. “Bull-fucking-shit, Louise. Bull-fucking-shit. You think you can hide my wife from me? My kids? Where is she?”
I stood and stared at him, trying to look bored. Inside, I could feel my pulse accelerating, and my hands went cold. I wasn’t going to tell him where Marie went, and I wanted him out of my house. But Everett used to be a Marine, and although his body was going to seed, he was still a lot stronger than me.
“Everett, I don’t know,” I said. “She was here when I got home last night. She asked to stay over, so I said sure. Now she’s gone.”
Everett grabbed my arm, fingers hard and squeezing. “You think you can just laugh at me, don’t you, Louise! Who the fuck are you to get in the middle of things? She’s my wife!”
“Let me go,” I said, yanking away, but he kept his grip on my arm. “Everett, I told you, I don’t know where she is!”
“Yeah, you do,” he said, nodding. “And you’d better tell me.”
“Listen, you fucker, I’m not telling you anything!” I said, my temper snapping. I raised a bare foot and slammed it as hard as I could against his shin, raking down to pound his sneaker. It wasn’t all that effective, except that his face flushed bright red again. “Let me go!” I shouted.
Everett gripped my arm tighter and then threw me down and away from him. I stumbled and my knees hit the floor.
“Jesus, Everett!” I cried. I scrambled to my feet and pointed at my door. “Get out!”
He ignored that and strode towards me.
“Get the fuck out of my house!” I shouted. “You’re crazy!”
That’s when he punched me. I hit the floor again.
“You think you can hide my kids from me? You think you can hide my wife? Where are they?” he yelled. I tried to get on my feet again but my head spun and my jaw felt like it had exploded. “Where are they, Louise!”
I grabbed at the couch for support, pulling myself up. He was fucking crazy. I had to call the cops. On my feet at last, I lunged for the phone, which sat on a table by the wall.
“Oh no you don’t!” he growled. My feet flew out from under me—he’s knocked them out—and then the phone was in his hand. I don’t remember much after that.


  1. Curious to see what happens after this, and how the ghosts work into the story. My only advice would be to keep a careful eye on things like listed actions and facts, and on verbs that don't quite match up.

    One sentence that has both is "I stood and stared at him, trying to look bored." There are four verbs, and it's only a ten-word sentence! I read "stood" to mean she was sitting, and had to go back and reread before I realized you meant it idiomatically. Additionally, the word "stare" has a disconnect with "trying to look bored".

    I also noticed a list where you talked about the reasons Everett was the perfect son--there were too many things there to internalize all at once. Can you spread them out any, to make it easier to get them over time?

    Like I said, really interesting scene. I felt the violence of it was believable, not to mention the action itself. It's really hard to balance this kind of scene without melodrama, so bravo there! :)

  2. Thanks for the crit, L.Scribe! You make excellent points that I will apply in my next edit. I really appreciate it.