First Chapter of My Book

If you read this blog, you’re probably aware that I wrote a book that I’m trying to get published. I’m in the query letter phase right now, and most agents ask for anywhere from 5 to 50 pages of the novel to be sent along with the query. So I figured I’d put the first chapter out here for people to read. I’d love to hear any feedback you might have, even if you hate it. Thanks for checking it out!

Chapter 1

My eyes are crusted shut. Blood I guess. I don’t —I don’t remember being hit, but my throbbing forehead tells me something solid recently connected with it.

I’m lying face down. The smell of garbage and rancid grease is searing my nostrils. Shuffling noises tell me I’m not alone. But who’s there? I battle the haze in my mind, trying to figure out where I am and how I got here. It’s not coming to me. Prickly jolts of pain shoot up through my fingers and toes. I stretch out and find my wrists and ankles are tied. They tingle sharply as the blood tries to circulate.

I can hear voices, a woman and a man. He has a thick Italian accent, hers a softer one. I try to catch the words, but my mind is too foggy. There’s a constant beating, hammering noise, but after a minute I realize it’s just my head telling me it’s not very happy. At least I’m still able to think that thought, or any thought for that matter. I probably should be dead.

So why am I still alive?

My stomach drops. Mom is probably wondering why I haven’t called today. She’d be hysterical if she had any idea where I was. She didn’t want me to be a cop in the first place. Said I was too young and I’d probably get killed. I’d really hate to prove her right. My ex-girlfriend Maria wouldn’t be too thrilled either. We haven’t talked in months, but I’d like to think that she’d still care if I got shot up by some bad guys. I wonder if I’ll ever see her again. I don’t want to die. Not like this.

A kick to my chin snaps my head back. I spit blood and wallow in my self-pity some more. Whoever’s doing this, they’re really enjoying it. Why don’t they get to the point? I can’t think of a reason to keep me alive. I don’t even have a rich uncle to call for a ransom.

I hear a harsh voice in the dark. Is that Russian? I should have paid more attention in that class at the academy. I fight one eye open, but it’s only a little brighter in whatever room I’m in. A pile of putrid garbage sits rotting inches from my face. Instinctively I recoil. That gets their attention. Suddenly I’m yanked to my feet. Two, maybe three sets of hands drag me up. It’s still hard to tell what’s going on. I guess I’m still wearing my own clothes, though they took my gun and belt. My leg holster is gone, so my backup is too.

“Zdraststvooy tyeh, you piece of trash.”

Okay, definitely Russian. That’s one of maybe three sayings I know. But is this the mafia? What about the Italians I heard earlier? Since when did the Italians hang out with the Russians? Maybe they’re not as discriminating as I thought. My mind starts to clear. Things start coming back to me a little at a time.

We were following a tip from an informant. He said there was a meeting of some kind going on down by the Navy Yard on the South Side. He was scared, but not of us. There was something else that frightened him. Marty and I were just… Oh man. Marty.

There’s no reason they would have kept us both alive. He’s been my partner for the four months I’ve been on the force. He’s a good cop. Twenty years on the job. He even volunteered to train me when I first got on. Said he wanted the challenge of teaching an eighteen-year-old the ropes. And now these scumbags are probably trying to figure out what to do with his body. My own pity disappears as I think about Marty’s family. A few people will care if I’m gone, but Marty’s got a wife and two daughters. They’re never going to see him again. They’re going to go to a funeral in the rain, with all the cops dressed in their finest clothes. There’s going to be a twenty-one gun salute and bagpipes. The captain will fold up a flag and give it to his wife and his girls are going to cry their eyes out, wishing they could have their daddy back. And there’s not a stinking thing I can do about it.

“What do you want from me?!”

The scream erupts from my lips before I even know it’s coming. I’ve had my share of good and bad times, and if this is the end for me, fine. But I don’t want anyone else to get hurt. I grit my teeth against the bile rising in my throat. The room is momentarily silent. I think I shocked them a bit. Great, now the Russian is laughing at me. I memorize the sound of his voice. He’s going to pay; It’s my life’s new goal. I just have to make it out of this alive.

Someone yanks my head back and suddenly I’m sputtering, spitting out the water that’s pouring down on my face. A rough towel that reeks of pine cleaner is brushed across my eyes. I struggle against the dried blood to blink them open. My head is still foggy, but as I squint the shapes start to come into focus. The floor has even decided to stop spinning. A light flicks on in the corner, and I finally get a better view. Though from what I can see now, maybe I should have left my eyes closed.

Five men tower over me, and I’m surprised to recognize a few of them. The woman is nowhere to be seen. I look around, trying to get a view of my captors, and it’s pretty much what I expect to see. Vinnie and Ludo, the Moretti brothers, and Sal Florenazio. Apparently I’ve gotten the attention of the Giovani crime family. These other thugs must be with the Russians. But it still doesn’t make sense. The Italians have been in Philly for years. The Russians have been slowly trying to push their way into a cut of the action for a while. But now all of a sudden everybody’s best friends? Something is very wrong here.

The clacking of high heels sounds on the floor behind me. I gingerly turn my head and see her—Nicole Giovani, the late Angelo Giovani’s only daughter. She’s a stunning, olive-skinned beauty. Rumor is she’s as ruthless as she is gorgeous. She walks slowly to me, her dark eyes burning a hole through my own.

“Good morning, officer,” she says with a sneer.

“Morning already?” I try to laugh, but it’s a big mistake. My head reminds me it hasn’t had the best night. I wince and drop my chin to my chest.

“So, what can I do for you, Miss Giovani?” I manage. Go for the charm. Mom always said I was a charming guy, although Maria might not exactly agree. I think my charm wore off her pretty quickly. I raise my head to meet Nicole’s gaze. She’s not impressed either. She and Maria should hang out.

“You can start, officer, by telling us how you found us last night. Your partner has not been very forthcoming. Though in his state…”

He’s alive? My heart leaps. Hang in there, Marty. There’s a chance we might just make it out of here. You’re going to see your family again, if I can just get us out of here, or at least buy us some time while we wait for a miracle.

“We were just on patrol in the area—”

I don’t even have a chance to finish the lie before my legs are caved in from behind. Was that a baseball bat? The throbbing in my head gets some company as I try to figure out if I’ll ever be able to walk again. If I get out of this alive, if I get Marty and myself out of this alive, we’re taking a vacation. Somewhere they don’t have mobsters. Utah, maybe. But as for right now, I’m writhing on the ground, trying to convince my body to not give up. The pain in my legs dulls to a slow steady pulse.

“Care to try again, officer?” she says almost politely.

How can someone with a voice like that be so evil? I’m able to wriggle into a sitting position, but there’s no way I’m standing up right now, or anytime soon. Okay brain, we need a lie. Lie like you’ve never had to before. Some of that creative stuff, like when I completely spaced the birthday dinner for Maria’s grandma. My mind races, and then, strangely, it comes to me, almost as if there’s a voice telling me what to say. I have the idea for a perfectly believable lie that these idiots will probably swallow. It’s got all the little details and everything. I don’t know where it came from, but I’m going to give it a shot.

“Here’s the truth,” I start. “My partner and I-”

A deafening explosion from behind cuts me off. It sounds like the whole wall was ripped away. The blast throws me forward and I smack my face on the concrete. Any other day that might really hurt, but today it’s the least of my concerns. People are shooting and bodies are falling. It sounds like somebody brought some machine guns to the party. My mind spins. Has the cavalry arrived? I don’t hear the familiar commotion of the SWAT team. No megaphones or sirens, either. It’s doubtful that the chief even knows we’re missing yet. I hope whoever this is is on our side.

Bright lights and bullets are still filling the room. The laughing Russian hits the floor right in front of me. So much for my life’s new goal. Guess I’ll have to come up with a new one. That is, once I’m able to move again. I glance around quickly. It looks like Nicole made it out alive, but the two schmucks standing right next to her weren’t so lucky. See ya Vinnie and Ludo. You won’t be missed.

The gunfire stops abruptly. I hear footsteps approaching quickly. I turn to look but the blazing lights hit my eyes, and once again, I’m blind. Once again, I’m also being manhandled. At least this time they’re being a little bit gentler. And as far as I can tell, nobody has a baseball bat.


4 responses to “First Chapter of My Book

  1. This is excellent. Wow! What a great start to a book. You dropped us right into the action. I’m a very emotion-driven writer and I always tend to start at an emotional crisis w/my characters and shrink away from the action until later. I have such awe and respect for people who write good action scenes because that’s what I struggle with.

    I just have two suggestions, and they’re JUST suggestions. If anything I offer doesn’t resonate w/you, totally ignore it.

    First, like I said, starting w/action rocks. And you also do a super job of making our hero emotionally relatable w/ his caring attitude toward his partner/mom and his cynical wit. One of the lines I really loved was this one: “She and Maria should hang out.” In fact, I thought you could take it up a notch and say, “She and Maria should hang out and compare notes.”

    Also, did I read somewhere that you’re going to query this as YA? 18 is a little old for a protag in a YA book (doesn’t mean it can’t be done, just saying it’s another challenge for your query and story to overcome). But there is another genre recently started by St. Martins called New Adult. Here’s an article about it online:

    You might research that and see if your book is better fitted for NA. Other than that, this ROX. The sensory is spot on, dialogue is great, I couldn’t find anything wrong! Good luck w/this! Keep us all posted on your journey. 🙂

  2. Anita, thank you so much for reading this and for the kind words! I love the addition of the women comparing notes, so I’m definitely going to put it in there. Thanks for the suggestion! (and for letting me use it)

    The New Adult information is really helpful. I’d originally written it with Jason as 21, and it was going to just be an adult title. But I realized there was nothing objectionable (other than some Hunger Games level violence) and decided to shoot for YA. His age was an issue, but I’d read some things saying that although it’s on the verge of being too old, 18 would be more or less an acceptable age. I kind of determined that MG cuts off around 14 and YA picks up from there. But that might not be accurate to what’s actually happening. It would totally make sense to have the New Adult genre though. I might start querying as a YA/New Adult and see if I get any bites that way.

    Thank you again for taking the time to read and respond. I’ll definitely keep you posted!

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