Archive for the 'First chapters' Category

Release week!
by Jessa Slade on May 31st, 2010

First of all, today is Memorial Day here in the USA.  I hope everyone celebrating has a good BBQ, safe travels, and a chance for a quiet moment of remembrance.

Currently working on: Almost release day!
Mood: Whee!

This week’s topic here at Silk And Shadows is “the hardest part of writing.”  But I’m hijacking the thread, because this is a celebration week for me.   Book 2 of the Marked Souls, FORGED OF SHADOWS, comes out tomorrow, June 1, 2010!


The war between good and evil has raged for millennia, with the Marked Souls caught in the middle, but the new girl doesn’t play by old rules…

Liam Niall never meant to be a leader. Barely surviving the horrors of the Irish Potato Famine with body and soul intact, he escaped to Chicago…where he lost half his soul and gained a wayward band of demon-possessed warriors. Now, as the talyan face a morphing evil, Liam grows weary and plagued by doubt-until a new weapon falls into his hands. Her name is Jilly Chan. To save her demon-ridden soul, Liam must win her to his battle…and his bed.

Waging a one-woman war against the threats to the street kids she mentors, Jilly won’t be any man’s woman or weapon. But Liam-with his hard eyes, soft brogue and compelling hands-is a danger to her rebellious independence…and her heart.

These two halved souls sharing one fierce passion will sear a fresh scar across the city. Who’s in danger now?

“[F]or readers who love J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood, the Marked Souls series will hit the spot.”
–4 Stars RT BOOKReviews

This is only my second book, but so far, it seems to me that release week  is one of the EASIEST parts of writing.  Because by the time release week rolls around, it’s too damn late.  Everything has been done.  The story is written, edited, wrapped in a manly chest — or backside, as the case may be — printed, and shipped to the stores (hopefully) to appear on shelves.  From thence to fall into book baskets everywhere (again, hopefully).

Sure, there are other things for me to do: Bite my nails, obsessively click refresh on the Amazon ranking page, self-medicate with chocolate syrup (I already ate all the cookie dough).  But the story itself is done.  All that remains is for someone, somewhere, to read it.

If YOU want to read some of it, you can:
Check out the first chapters here.
Or read the alternate beginning here.
Or even buy it.

This is the moment (okay, months) of truth for a story.  I’ve heard of writers who say they write for themselves, but I write to share.  The release of the book into the wild is my chance — finally! — to share.

I sincerely hope you like it.

To celebrate, I’m giving away a $25 bookstore gift card this week.  Just tell me which of the two beginnings to FORGED OF SHADOWS that I posted in the links above you like better, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win.  Tell a friend about this giveaway, and have the friend enter your name in her comment, and you’ll both be double entered for a chance to win.  Thanks for celebrating with me!

Mysterious beginnings
by Annette McCleave on January 27th, 2009

Each writer has a process unique to them. Not right, not wrong, just unique. Case in point, I chuckled when I read Jessa’s post yesterday. She and I approach the fresh beginning of Chapter One in very different ways.

For me, beginning a new book is exciting, yes, but also terrifying. Here I am, in love with my story idea, feeling warm and fuzzy about my hero and heroine, and then the worry creeps in: I won’t be able to capture those delightful feelings on paper, it’s impossible, I don’t have the skill.

Funny thing is, I’ve completed seven manuscripts and that worry continues to plague me. I think it’s because the magic in my head at the start of a new book is so wonderful, so perfect, that words seem too mundane to bring it to life. Nouns, verbs, adjectives. Subjects, predicates, punctuation. How can these unwieldy concepts possibly do the job?


Of course, my fears are always unfounded. Language has a magic all its own, and it’ll grace the pages later—in draft two or three. To get draft one started, I simply need to flip the kill switch on my internal editor, who fusses over every nuance.

My first few pages are awkward and uncomfortable. Full of fits and stops. My beloved characters are uncooperative and moody, and I realize that despite all the time I’ve spent getting to know them, they still harbor deep mysteries and act with motivations I never suspected. Motivations they still haven’t confided to me. I’m on a voyage of discovery, and there are surprises lurking in the mist, some of them requiring complete rewrites.


I’m one of those writers who can’t build on my story if I believe the foundation is unstable. This means I spend more time at the very beginning of the book than I do writing subsequent chapters. I don’t mean finding the right setting or the right starting action—although those are vital, they can be reworked—I mean testing my characters to find out how they really think and feel and act under pressure. By Chapter Four my characters and I are bosom pals. They’ve spilled the beans on the inner workings of their minds. There’s almost always a surprise or two left, but the fundamentals are down and I can move forward with confidence.

So, yes, I love to start a new project. But I also love to get the first few chapters under my belt. That’s when the story truly takes off.

Some authors are truly amazing at building an emotional connection between reader and character right from page one. What are some of your favorite reads where this happened? Did you notice it at the time, or only after you closed the book with a contented sigh?

First chapters: Even better than first dates!
by Jessa Slade on January 26th, 2009

Currently working on: The heroine’s betrayal
Mood: Sadistic

I love first chapters. My first three hit the page with a speed that I won’t match again until I start the next story. I’m not saying they are great chapters. In all honesty, they usually suck and often have nothing to do with the story itself. But that doesn’t lessen my enthusiasm for first chapters at all.

Because I think of first chapters like first dates. (You probably started to see the correlation with the ‘usually suck’ part.) Hey, I’m a romance writer at heart. (The previous parenthetical comment notwithstanding.)

  • Firsts are all about the excitement that anything could happen. That charming guy you’ve agreed to meet for cocktails could be a millionaire bachelor — or a serial killer! See? How exciting! First chapters are like that too. I never know if I’m onto something… or if I’m going to end up with three chapters that need to be drenched in lye and buried at a crossroads with their heads removed lest they come back to haunt me.
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  • During firsts, everyone is on their best behavior. I come to my keyboard perky and coiffed… okay, not literally coiffed, but my desk is clear, my notes are piled tidily. But eventually comes that first hiccup. Oh sure, it made me giggle once. How sweet that my characters feel comfortable enough with me to share their… er, inner selves. Then I realized it wasn’t a hiccup. No, that was a full-on burp. Nay, a belch. It’s a turning point in the relationship (coming about the same point as the first turning point in the three-act structure) and the infatuation is over. We stare at each other over cups of coffee, and the silence thickens as I contemplate throwing that metaphorical sexy strappy sandal through my screensaver.
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  • Firsts have no baggage. I arrive at the first date with one of those supremely cute little beaded clutches without room even for a mass market paperback much less my Alpha Smart. The cursor blinks at the beginning of a pristine blank page. But even then I know this isn’t like a first date to the hottest new nightclub; this is like the first step of an around-the-world walkabout with scenic sidetrips up Everest, down the Amazon, and across the Sahara. You gotta pack for that.
  • Firsts offer freedom. There’s no commitment, and I can try on new clothes, be whoever I want to be. Eventually though, I’m going to have to decide: Is this a story for which I’m willing to strip myself bare?
  • Ah, the passion and promise of those first chapters, when the story is young and fresh, not to mention thin and pliant. This is no time to think about the sagging middle…

    So what’s your best worst first date story? When did you realize the magic was gone?