So after I went through and examined my opening lines, I decided to look at the next couple of paragraphs in each of my manuscripts. They say these are what agents and editors look at to determine if you’re good enough to publish (traditionally speaking).
I selected my own four favorites–the ones I think I did a decent job conveying the tone of the story (and hopefully had enough interesting to intrigue them to read). I limited it to the first 15 sentences (which should be roughly 3 paragraphs, but you know how things go).
Here they are, in no special order, with quotes attributed.
Getting hit with a wrench hurts.
I know for a fact—I’ve had my jaw broken twice by thugs swinging them around—which is why I cringe every time Pete and Brisko land a blow. The crunch of bone and the wet splat of blood on the warehouse floor fill the otherwise silent atmosphere.
I light a cigarette and inhale, already disgusted with the spectacle. Perhaps I should’ve been paying more attention when they questioned the kid, but I don’t know what Pete and Brisko are looking for. I’m just here in case trouble finds us.
“So how long have you been workin’ for the cops?” Pete asks.
The kid shudders and keeps his head hung. Rivulets of blood stream from his mouth and lip, dripping onto his lap and staining his jeans. His shoulders bunch around his neck, but his hands are tied tight against the back of the chair. He doesn’t have much range of movement—even his feet are secured to the chair legs, keeping him vulnerable.
Brisko grabs a fistful of the kid’s black hair and jerks his head up. “Well? You want us to keep going or are you ready to talk?”
“I—” the kid says. “I… don’t….”
I outlined a fresh grave for the cemetery as bells rang from the isle’s tower, signifying the start of the celebrations. The soil reeked of ammonia and rot, but the crisp morning breeze washed the scent away, dispersing it over the ocean. I removed my shirt, allowing the wind to cool me while I worked.
Every ten years, the people on the Isle of Ruma gathered to watch the fledgling phoenixes bond with a few chosen mortals. Lamplighters did their duty despite the glorious sunshine, each lamp’s fire representing the flames of phoenixes. Merchants cleared their horses and carts from the main road in anticipation of the crowds.
This was my second Day of Phoenixes. A decade ago, on my fifth birthday, I missed the bonding ceremony to attend my father’s trial. He was convicted of murder, but because he hadn’t been born on the island, he was taken to the mainland for final judgement. That was the last time I saw him.
Although the last Day of Phoenixes had been inauspicious before, I intended to change that. Once I had finished digging a shallow grave, I would make my way into town.
I slammed the shovelhead into the dirt and scooped deep. The cemetery sat near the edge of the island, far from those gathering to observe the hopeful students trying to win the favor of the phoenixes.
Tradition stated that anyone who handled sewage, waste, and dead bodies wasn’t allowed to attend the bonding ceremony, which was just my luck.
STAR MARQUE RISING
The dregs of Capital Station gathered for their blood sport, and I was more than happy to give them a show.
Section Six, the armpit of our massive space station, was the only section to condone violence, so long as it was kept to competitions. Thousands squeezed themselves into makeshift stands built atop gas lines and water pipes. The foul odor of sweat and vomit lingered like fog, but that didn’t deter the crowds. I doubted anyone would miss a battle royale.
“We have ten participants, ladies and gentlemen,” the game announcer said through a voice amplifier strapped over his mouth. Damn thing looked like a black surgical mask, but it sent his statement over all the speakers, blanketing the massive maintenance room with the declaration.
“Place your wagers while you still have a chance,” he continued. “Perhaps you, too, can be lucky enough to win big!”
I stood among the competitors, but I kept my gaze fixed on the audience. The oil-stained jumpsuits of the crowd blended together in a sea of gray and blue. The physically deformed sat in the far back, right alongside the sick. I recognized no one, which was for the best. I didn’t want my old “friends” from Section Two interfering. I refused to be their gunrunning hatchet man. I was done with that life.
“We have plenty of ambitious fighters this year. It’s bound to be quite a show!”
THE HALF-LIFE EMPIRE
I snuck into the silver mines through a hidden fissure in the rocks, my heart beating against my ribs as I slid from one shadow to the next. I stayed out of sight and avoided the guards, waiting for an opportunity to delve deeper.
I kept my eyes on the miners. Imprisoned enemy soldiers were made to work as slaves, and the taskmasters loved making examples of the rebellious ones. It didn’t take long until someone was insubordinate. Their punishment involved getting beaten, tied, and dragged around until the last of their skin had scraped away on the rough rocks and metal grate floors. The taskmasters used the trail of blood as a red carpet, parading their dominance around like a depraved fashion show.
The spectacle made a good distraction. I continued at a cautious pace, thankful for the dim lighting in the underground tunnels. Getting caught would result in my enslavement, and I had no desire to be anyone’s slave, especially since women didn’t always get a choice when it came to hard labor or down-on-your-knees service.
A chorus of smashed rocks and grinding metal hid my footsteps. Halfway to my destination, my hip flared in pain, making it difficult to walk without a limp. I was only twenty-three years old, but without a proper doctor some injuries never healed quite right. I continued regardless, even if I was slower.
Finally, I reached my goal: an alien computer terminal that controlled the doors to the storage rooms.