Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My First Novel - Chapter 1 . . .

Dancing with Butterflies

Chapter 1

-------“Who do you say that I am?”
-------The familiar voice lured Shannon from her disoriented state. As her senses returned, so did the memories of the past evening. She had been awakened by the sound of three men entering her bedroom. Darkness concealed their faces. Speed and purpose allowed no time for resistance. Hands stronger than her own left her unable to move.
-------A cloth over her mouth and nose muted her screams. During the struggle, she managed to free one of her legs, but her kicks only produced glancing blows. She struggled for air, but found none. Desperate for oxygen, her body became weak. Despite this fact, she continued to struggle until her senses faded. Then …
-------A bright fluorescent light now burned her eyes. Still, she recognized the man in front of her. Those eyes. She didn’t dare look at them. For within those eyes dwelled a powerful presence, a hypnotic force displayed for her many times in the past.
-------But, his voice also possessed power. Gentle and compassionate, yet stern and frightening. “Who do you say that I am?”
-------She glanced around the room, assessing her surroundings. A small room. An empty room. As her eyes adjusted to the brightness weighing upon them, the scene slowly became clearer. Everything was white. Pure white. The walls, floor, ceiling, even the bare table in front of her and the chair that now imprisoned her. A nylon strap on each armrest held her wrists firmly in place, burning her raw skin as she fought their hold.
-------Recessed in the center of the painted cement floor, positioned between her shoes, was a drain. The smell of bleach saturated the air, stinging her senses. But there was something else in this air. A tinge of something she could only describe as … impure.
-------Her lungs struggled against the increasingly heavier air, fighting for every breath as though the atmosphere had been transformed into a viscous liquid. Her eyes froze upon the figure standing before her. The same handsome face that had once been the object of her schoolgirl fantasies, now only terrified her.
“Who do you say that I am?”
-------“Please—just let me go. I—”
-------“Go where? Back to the world that abandoned you? Have you forgotten that I am the one who gave you life? I rescued you from the hell outside these walls.” He walked behind her as he traced his hand softly across her throat, then around to the back of her neck. “No one wanted you. No one cared about you. The world that you want to go back to … has already cast you out.”
-------“Please, I just want to go home.”
-------“It was no accident that you came here.” His voice softened. “Your destiny was to be with me.” He circled back in front of her. “And after all I’ve done for you, this is how you repay me. I … am the giver of LIFE!” He pounded his fist on the table. His eyes fixed on her as though trying to bore into her soul. He smoothed out his tie as he leaned back and stood tall once again. “And what I have given, I may also—”
-------The door burst open. Two men escorted Shannon’s brother into the room.
-------Derek.” Shannon leaned forward in her chair ignoring the straps as they dug further into her wrists. “Please. He’s going to kill me. Get me out of here.”
-------“Ah, Derek.” His eyes remained locked on Shannon. “I’m glad you could join us.” His finger dug into her chin forcing her face toward his. He studied her for a moment, tilting his head slightly before allowing her to pull free. “We are finished here. You may free her now.”
-------She leaned back in the chair finding a comfort that she previously believed could not exist there. This time she thought he would kill her. This was the third time they caught her trying to leave. But he would never allow that to happen. After all, she was one of his special ones. But that’s exactly why she had to keep trying.
-------Derek stepped toward her. She almost managed a smile as their eyes met. When she saw the knife in his hand, she could almost feel the straps being cut free. He then stepped to his right and walked around her. She turned her head as far as her restraints allowed her. “What are you doing?”
-------“I tried to warn you, but you wouldn’t listen,” Derek whispered from behind her.
-------“I know, I know. Please, just cut me loose.”
-------His hand flashed before her, covered her mouth and nose with a cloth, and gently forced her head against the chair. She tried to plead with him, but only produced muffled sounds.
-------“You just wouldn’t listen.”
-------A sharp jab in her back forced her to inhale the fumes that had penetrated her nostrils.
-------“I am sorry,” he whispered into her ear.
-------The pain of the knife sliding out of her back couldn’t compare to the agony that now tore her heart apart. The agony of knowing the knife was in her brother’s hand.

- Dayle James Arceneaux

A little about the plot:

Freelance journalist, Jonathon Cole, agrees to write what he later discovers will be the gospel of religious cult leader Daniel Meyers, who claims to be the first coming of the Messiah. While discussing the project, the cult leader demonstrates supernatural powers and proclaims that Jesus could not be the Messiah because he loved his enemies—the real Messiah will destroy the enemies of Israel.

After years of abuse, Kayla Domangue has finally decided to escape the Meyers cult and the arrival of Jonathon Cole provides the perfect opportunity. But Daniel Meyers won't just let her go--she is one of his "special ones".

Author's note: ALL comments are welcome (no matter how old - I read them all) . Negative or positive. I'm a criticism junkie. I thrive on it. To see what others have said go here: Into the Fire


Nicole said...

Thank you, Dayle, for giving me the first chance to preview your work for future readers. Your chapter is well-written and intriguing, and I love the use of the sense of smell.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Thank you, Nicole, for allowing me the privilege and for your kind words.

Janet Rubin said...

Enjoyed reading a second time. I still love how the bad guy quotes Jesus at the beginning. Mucho creepy:)

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Mucho gracias, senorita Janet.

Janet Rubin said...

Okay, so the publisher will probably change it anyway, but the one thing I'd pick on is your title. Sounds like a women's fiction book. Think of other thriller/suspense titles:
The Dark Half
Bag of Bones
Crimson Eve

Dancing and butterflies are both very nice things. Can you take one of those words and give it a hint of something scary or dark? (ha ha. Killer Butterflies.)

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

But, Janet. It's a romantic comedy. :)

I actually discussed this with a publisher. Believe it or not, this is a cross genre Suspense/Love story. Seriously - most who read the whole thing, cry. (men included)

The title has sygnificant meaning to the story. Once the whole story is read, it is clear that there is no other title. It literally leaps off the page and declares it.

But, you are absolutely right. What man would buy a book with that title. And, do I want my name next to it on the cover.

It can go two ways. If the publisher decides to market it to women, then it sticks.

If they decide that it should be both men and women. Then I suggest keep that title with an ominous cover. Or change it back to my original title of "The First Coming."

I would love to hear what you men think.

Thanks, Janet. This is an important point.

Janet Rubin said...

The editor I spoke with at the conference told me the title the author comes up with is almost NEVER the title the novel ends up with-- that the people at the publishing house sit around and brainstorm titles until they come up with the one they think best. So the main thing is the story anyhow, right?
I didn't realize it was romantic suspense. Well cool.
I would just say that if all you saw was the book on the shelf and you read the title, you could get the wrong impression. Of course the artwork on the cover can make a diff too...

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Another great point, Janet.

Even Dean Koontz doesn't get to pick all his titles. So at this point, it's just a label to give the editor an idea of what you have.

I wouldn't call it a romantic suspense, because it would work without the romance. (ugh, I hate that word ) To me it has a romantic component.

At this point, I really don't know what I have. Is it a suspense with a good love story subplot. Or, is it a love story set against a dark suspense.

Several people have read the entire work. Maybe they can chime in.

Nicole said...

Titles are seriously important to me. If this title fits, I hope they keep it. I definitely see Janet's point, however. Not a title most men would take a second look at.

Oh, Dayle, aren't you just the typical male shying away from the dreaded word "romance". Tsk, tsk.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

That's my thought, Nicole. The title is so perfect artistically, I think it makes reading the book a more powerful experience.

But, Janet is right. Titles are marketing. And marketers will ultimately make the decision. But, we can pull or our favorite.

But then again, Charles Martin wrote "When Crickets Cry", "Chasing Fireflies", and "Wrapped in Rain". Hmmm. I wonder if anyone was murdered in his books.

Mark Harbeson said...

I have to admit, as a typical guy, "Dancing With Butterflies" probably would not make me grab the book off the shelf. It sounds like a romance title. And typical insensitive guys like me don't do romance, right Nicole?

But I haven't read the book, so I don't know how it fits. Like Janet said, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Not yet, anyway.

How about "Chopping Butterflies to Pieces"? Or "Blowing Butterflies to Smithereens with Rocket Launchers"? Now those are titles I could get excited about. ;)

Nicole said...

And we won't discuss Mark's dirty little secret here . . .

Janet Rubin said...

Wrapped in Rain was one of my three favorite reads this year. Incredible. Poetic. Loved it. No murders that I recall:)

Janet Rubin said...

Wrapped in Rain was one of my three favorite reads this year. Incredible. Poetic. Loved it. No murders that I recall:)

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I had my doubts about the title. After reading, it totally fits. Great first chapter, made me want to keep reading. I pray that everything goes well for you and your writing.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Let me guess, Nicole. Mark secretly writes for Harlequin under a pen name.

Thanks for all the comments everybody. I truly appreciate your time.

"Thanks a lot, Janet," Dayle said sarcastically. "Now I have to add Wrapped in Rain to my 30+ stack of books to read." :)

Beth Arceneaux said...

I was given the privilege to read “Dancing with Butterflies” in its entirety. The use of romance and suspense really kept me interested and wanting to read more. Although I wasn’t sure of how the title would fit in with the book, I was still drawn in. As I continued to read more chapters, I knew this was a great book and everyone should have a chance to read it. I was so into this book that I put it in my mind as if I were watching an awesome movie that was full of suspense, love, action and even some comedy. I really enjoyed the Southern Louisiana scenery that was portrayed throughout the book. I believe the title is perfect for the story. Once you get a chance to read the entire book you will also agree. I pray for Dayle that everything will work out with “Dancing with Butterflies”. I am ready and waiting to see what he has next for us. God Bless!!!!!

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Wow. Thanks Beth.

That's the best review I've ever gotten. I knew you liked it, but . . . Well, I don't know what to say. I may have to print this out and frame it.

Thanks again and thank you for your prayers.

Kay said...

I'm not usually a fan of suspense, but this has me hooked. I think it's really good. And I like the title. I think with an ominous cover it would be perfect. Silence of the Lambs doesn't sound particularly scary either out of context.
Thanks for stopping by my blog, too!

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Hi Kay,

Thank You for stopping by and especially for taking the time to read my sample.

I appreciate the feedback. I envision a little girl in bottom right corner facing right reaching for a green butterfly on a bright day. But behind and above her she is unknowingly surrounded by darkness and the ghostly image of evil eyes staring at her.

Kay said...

That sounds creepy. Sounds like a book I probably wouldn't pick up LOL. You know, because I don't read a lot of suspense. But the whole cult thing is really intriguing to me.

Anonymous said...

Caught your link via myspace, just so you know, and I am really looking forward to reading your book. (Hope it's soon.) And as for the title, I love when you have that "ah" moment as you understand the author's artistic intent. It's a little something extra or as we say, "langiappe."


Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Thanks for stopping by DL. And, thanks for the positive thinking. I hope you get to read it soon, too.

But now you've ruined my night. You must be a local and I'm going to spend all night trying to figure out if we know each other.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

I've got the answer.

I'll demand (insert giggle here) in my contract that the publisher release two covers. One aimed at women and one aimed at men.

It would be a great experiment and brilliant marketing if you don't mind me saying so.

Anonymous said...

Not a bad idea. But please, about the cover for women, don't have the hero represented as some "Fabio-esk" character with wind blown hair, half open shirt, etc... No, please think more of your female readers. Instead, may I suggest, brooding intellectual good looks and black rimmed glasses. Ah, I've got it! Someone like that, Reeves is his last name. Not the guy who played "Superman." It's a weird name something like Kikinu or Kayak. You know the guy who is in all the Sandra Bullock movies. ;)

And no you don't know me, though I am a local. I found your link via Todd's profile. I really enjoy his blogs, and I am enjoying yours too. My name is Darcus, by the way. (Another weird first name.)

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Don't worry, Darcus. (Or should I call you Todd. You have to escuse me - I'm a little paranoid.) My respect for women is legendary.

Another contract demand: No men on my cover.

Todd said...

OK, first things first ...

Sorry it took me so long to leave you a comment here. I have no real excuse or explanation, but I am sorry.

And, second things second ...

Darcus who commented earlier is actually ... Darcus. Until last week she had a MySpace page and you easily could have verified her story. She also used to leave the absolute best comments on my blog before she regrettably left MySpace.

But finally, to my thoughts on your book, if anyone is still interested.

After reading the entire manuscript, I think the biggest strengths of the book are in the basic elements of the plot and the well described South Louisiana setting. You did a good job of placing visual images in my mind when describing sights, sounds and smells.

You also did a fine job of delving into the psyche of most of the main characters. I thought that they were well written and I enjoyed the glimpses into their thought processes and theological underpinnings. Although, I did find some of the theological passages a bit dry and overly preachy. I would have preferred a bit less overt explanation and a little more subtlety and inference. Readers need to feel that they are smart and feel good when they figure it out for themselves.

As for the negatives, sometimes in trying to do two things, neither gets done as well as possible. The work does not know what it is. It is a love story, but not written in a manner that would satisfy a true love story buff. It is a suspense novel, yet not written as such and would not satisfy a true suspense aficionado.

Personally, and speaking as a man, I think the suspense was good, but not exceptional. To me, it would have worked better if you had concentrated more on the suspense and took it up a notch as you had discussed doing. Of course that would automatically dictate a change of title.

Or, you could have softened some of the more graphic portions and expanded the romantic elements of the story to make it more of a true romance novel. In that case I think the title would be fine.

All in all, I think you show potential as an author. Time will tell whether you can be a great one. Thank you for letting me read the manuscript, I really did enjoy it.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Thanks for the thorough review, Todd.

1) I was just kidding with Darcus hoping to get you riled up, but you disappeared on me.

2) You make some valid points. I have taken out the passages where I believe the narrative got a little preachy. My intent was not to preach to the reader but identify with them. But I now believe that's the wrong way to do it. Hopefully upon a reread you would fine that problem resolved.

My goal was to create a cross-genre suspense a la Dean Koontz. After we discussed ratcheting up the suspense, I started hearing from other readers and changed my mind. In other words, I was getting the reaction I wanted. Which is a strong connection between the characters and the reader.

Of course, ratcheting up the suspense never hurts. And, I don't think I'd have to tone down the love story element. What I have found-is that straight suspense is a lot harder than I thought.