Nailed the Opening for NIGHT ECHOES

After floundering on this book, ditching a bunch of it, and panicking more each day at the impending deadline and my lack of progress, I mowed the lawn last night. This is a process that takes about three hours (about an hour an acre) and that allows me to disconnect conscious thought. I mow, I take off my glasses and see everything blurrily, I smell the grass and the blackberries in the woods to the back and the rich scents of field weeds that are like perfume when cut, and my mind quits worrying for a while.

About two hours into the process, out of nowhere, my subconscious tossed me this. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of my own way when things are tense; when I do, I’m amazed at what happens.

Here’s the opener:

Three AM, and once again Emma Beck stood in her bare feet, in her sleep shirt, with her eyes almost closed, painting. The gessoed board sat unsecured on her easel, bouncing as her palette knives gobbed paint onto the board in a dark, impasto style she would never have recognized as coming from her hands. The painting that grew out of her frenzied work was of a subject that she would never have chosen to paint—one man in 19th century garb feeding wood into a bonfire on which burned the bodies of a Confederate soldier, a young woman, and a small child. The painting, technically proficient, was ugly, angry, frightening, disturbing.

More disturbing, though, was the fact that Emma Beck had arisen shortly after falling asleep nearly every night since she had moved into the house a little over a month earlier, and each of those nights, she had created another angry, strange painting. Each night when she finished, after no less than three hours, but no more than five, she had cleaned up her supplies and had hidden the canvases away in a secret room in the rambling old house—a room her waking self did not know existed. She had then returned to bed, unaware of anything she had done since going to bed the first time.

This night, though, something changed. This night, she did not close the door to the hidden room when she left it. In the morning, she would wake tired and inexplicably sore, as she had nearly every morning in her new home, and she would discover the secret room while awake for the first time, and find the paintings that were signed with her name, paintings that she could not explain.

In the afternoon she would tell the wrong person about these paintings, and all hell would break loose.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

13 comments… add one
  • EileenWalters X Jun 23, 2006 @ 17:47

    So sorry to hear of Jim’s stroke. I hope he wll recover shortly.
    Eileen

  • hollylisle Jun 23, 2006 @ 10:29

    Wolverine—you have a nice editing sense.

    I cut that line from the book the day after I posted the snippet. 😀

  • wolverine Jun 23, 2006 @ 10:06

    I really liked the situation, and all the paragraphs. Somehow, though, I don’t like the last line. It feels like telling too much, maybe? The rest is all mystical, very ‘watched’ in a scary way, but the last line just feels like you’ve cut out a scene. Hope this doesn’t cause offense, just my opinion, and hope the rest of the book is going well.

    Wolverine.

  • PolarBear Jun 17, 2006 @ 17:12

    Ah. Thank you. Trust the gut. I thought that was it, but, as you noted, you use it so rarely, I was afraid I couldn’t be right.

  • hollylisle Jun 17, 2006 @ 13:18

    Jean, the POV on the section above is omniscient. As best I can remember, I’ve only used it twice, the other time being a fly-in-camera sort of scene in Diplomacy of Wolves when the Sabir Wolves were getting ready to work the sacrifice that caused such a horrific backlash.

    The scene started at a distance and followed characters progressively closer to the action, finishing, I think, with the sacrifice.

    In general, I prefer close third person, because it’s much more challenging to write a story with strictly imposed limits in what the characters can know and what the readers can find out.

    There are rare instances, however, when a brief excerpt in omniscient offers the perfect solution to a difficult problem. Two scenes in thirty-ish books is pretty rare.

  • nienke Jun 17, 2006 @ 10:59

    I was hooked even without the last sentence.

  • shawna Jun 16, 2006 @ 20:00

    That would certainly catch my curiousity enough to take it home…

  • PolarBear Jun 16, 2006 @ 18:29

    I like it. How do you define the POV? (I’m really not good at picking that out in a book, and, somehow, I believe I should be.

    I can wait for the answer to the next question, but I imagine you’ll shift to another one and return to this one periodically?

    (Actually, since you’re the one answering or not answering, I do understand I can wait for any answer to answer question I may ask *grin*) Thanks for posting.

  • Adam101 Jun 16, 2006 @ 11:19

    I am not going to go over the top like my previous posters.

    I thought this was good although, as I know from Talyn you like the word “garb”. (lol)

    I look forward to reading more maybe here or when the book is released.

  • TinaK Jun 16, 2006 @ 11:13

    Ohhhhh…..more! This is a great start!

  • Rick Jun 16, 2006 @ 10:49

    Awesome.

  • BJSteeves Jun 16, 2006 @ 9:59

    All I can say is: WOW!

  • firelight Jun 16, 2006 @ 9:25

    More! More! More! Thanks, Holly. Now I won’t be able to sleep…at least until I get my grubby fingers on that book.

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