Excerpt of the Week #3

This week’s excerpt is from a newly resurrected novella. I’ve always been partial to it, but novellas can be tough to publish. I finally found a publication accepting longer stories with a June 30 deadline. I’m struggling with the flow and tone in several spots, but I like how my main character’s voice shines through here.

On my way out I heard it. Somebody was playing a high and mournful guitar solo, dragging a note out to just the right length before tumbling onward. I felt like I was walking through his open heart. I had to stop and listen, strain my ears through all the soundproofing in the walls. God, I loved listening to someone who could improvise like that. There are vocalists who can do it, too, but I never could. It was the one place where my voice still felt inhibited, like I had something stuck in my throat.

I heard another door open down the hall and shook it off, smoothing my arm hair down where it had been standing on end. When I walked past the room with the guitarist, I took a look out of the corner of my eye. The arm hair stood back up again and a chill went right down to my ankles.

— from Nightswimming (YA short fiction)

For previous Excerpts of the Week, click here.

Excerpt of the Week #2

Fishing through the pile of guest posts and creative non-fiction I’ve been working on this week, I felt inspired to share an excerpt from my young adult novel manuscript. I recently decided to switch the perspective from third person to first person, which had the somewhat unexpected effect of taking me way back in the editing process — if it’s not a first draft all over again, it’s nowhere close to a final draft, either.

I love intense, well-written fight scenes — think the Nate-Brenda breakup scene from the HBO series Six Feet Under (disclaimer: contains excessive profanity and, of course, spoilers) — and I worked for a long time on this one. Of course, switching the perspective forced me to tear much of it down and rebuild. Here’s a piece of the new scene:

John rubbed his eyes with his palms, letting out a long breath that puffed his cheeks out around his lips. Just a few minutes earlier I’d wanted to stand my ground in that room until I’d saved our love somehow, but now all I could think about was getting out of there. My heart was growing little tendrils, reaching out through space for somewhere warm and safe and, most importantly, nowhere near John or his house. I needed to find Claudia.

“Look, I have to go. I have plans with Claudia later.” I settled my messenger bag across my shoulder and turned to walk out the door.

“Mariana, hold on.” I turned around, tried to keep my eyes cold, felt my body tense as he stood and walked toward me.

“Can I have a hug?”

“Why?” We stood facing each other in the doorway for a moment, waiting to see who would blink first.

— from Standing on the Precipice (YA fiction)

For previous Excerpts of the Week, click here.

Excerpt of the Week #1

This week I’m introducing a regular feature I’ve had on my mind for quite a while. With Excerpt of the Week, I’ll share around 100 words from one of my active projects every other Friday. You’ll be able to find them all by clicking here or following #ExOTW on Twitter. Feel free to share your own excerpts in the comments!

I thought of my apartment, the stairs creaking and flexing as I hauled my feet up the two flights to my door with its three locks and its crooked lettering bearing the characters “3F.” Soon, I told myself. Soon. You’re almost there. Outside, an ambulance shoved its way through a line of cars. I tried to steal a look into the yellow-illuminated interior, where I could see a paramedic moving to and fro, head down. An ex-boyfriend had called this habit sick, voyeuristic, but in truth I was feeding my anxiety, trying in vain to see if everyone was okay.

— from The Test (flash fiction)