Friday, November 26, 2010

Preview of TEN DEAD, a Paranormal Thriller. Chapter 1, Scene 1

I've been working on my latest paranormal thriller, Ten Dead, and wanted to give you a glimpse into what I've been up to. I'll start sending it to editors and agents within the next few weeks. Here's a glimpse of the first scene, starting from the beginning. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Ten Dead
By Jeff Bennington                                                                                                                                     
Chapter 1
Detective Rick Burns slammed on the brakes and stepped out of his rusty red Pontiac. He gazed into the crowd, took a deep breath and recalled the other murders. The heaviness, the blood, the darkness had finally pricked its sharp edge into his soul. He peered into the night and wondered, no, he feared, that this one would be like the others.
Red and blue lights enveloped his body and danced across the frightened neighbors that had gathered together, shaking and shivering. The car door let out a lingering squeak, slammed shut and he walked forward.
Rick lifted the crime scene tape, rushed past an ambulance and heard a woman whimpering. He turned his head, continued forward and studied her face with twisted brow.
“Teary and swollen,” he whispered to himself.  “Shocked at best, but not grief stricken.”
He examined her slow, careful movements as she gingerly wiped her tears. Her eyes lacked the hollow, desperately confused grief that he’d seen far too often. Lady of the house, or mistress perhaps, it mattered not, something about her seemed amiss. He pulled his notepad and pen from his jacket pocket and scribbled a few words regarding his first suspect: female caucasian, mid-fifties, pinstriped suit, stilettos, shoulder-length red hair, five-foot-eight, no blood visible, September 23, 9:30 p.m.
The detective weaved through the crowd of wealthy onlookers wrapped in lush throw blankets, Swiss satin pajamas, and lama-lined slippers. They watched and whispered. Fearful murmurs and conjectures splashed his ears amongst the waves of apprehension. He listened to their wonderings and walked on.
As he approached the home it was clear that he stood out from the other cops. Although he had a higher pay grade than the first responding officers, his running shoes, faded jeans, wrinkled t-shirt and patchwork sport coat made him look more like a down-on-his-luck-reporter than an eight-year veteran of the Indianapolis Police Department. But that was Rick Burns. He cared little for appearances. In his line of work, he found that appearances, more often than not, were deceiving.
He walked through the moistened grass and noticed that a second story window was open and the room illuminated. The house was a lovely Meridian Street classic with intricately stacked Bedford stone, copper gables and staggered limestone quoins. He could smell the fresh scent of glory maple and the last of the purple pansies at the base of the stamped-concrete entrance. He took one last look before entering. The elegant contours, lines, and lighting looked great from the outside. To Rick Burns, however, it appeared beautifully deceiving.
The detective opened the glass entry door, observed that the doorjamb had not been tampered with, and approached a group of officers gathered at the base of the stairway.
“Which way, fellas?” he asked.
They pointed toward the stairs. Rick noticed their disturbed behavior, arms crossed, eyes reeling in fear. Officer Nick Carmichael, the rookie, had recently vomited and was busy wiping the acidic residue from his chin.
One officer called, “Hey, Burns!”
The detective stopped. “Yeah?”
The cop shook his head. “It’s not pretty.”
Rick’s eyes jetted back and forth, observing the dread in the remaining officer’s expressions. “On a scale from one to ten; what’ve we got?” he asked.
The officer scratched his forehead. “Twelve. Maybe thirteen.” He looked directly into Rick’s eyes. Rick felt as if he were trying to warn him, offering an unspoken heads-up into the dreaded scene that awaited his inspection.
The detective looked up the stairway and imagined the grisly scene. He reached into his pants pocket and grabbed a bag of sunflower seeds and popped a handful into his mouth and sucked on the salty shells. Six dead in two years, he thought. And all on my watch. He swallowed, nearly choking on the apple sized lump in his throat.
 “Game’s on, boys.” He headed up the steps and slapped his hands together. “Time to get dirty.”
Throughout his career, he knew what to say to keep his fearless detective image intact, but the words never soothed his spirit. He took a deep breath and his heart raced in anticipation of the unknown...

I'll send out a few more excerpts to my blog followers over the next few weeks.  If you know anyone interested in this type of book, share this blog with them. Thanks and I hope you had a great Thanksgiving! 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Four Great Books to Improve Your Prose!

Writing is fun and easy...Good writing takes work....a lot of work!

I’m posting this because I’m so stoked about everything I’ve learned about writing in the last year that I want to share it with you (Yes, I've been doing a lot of reading along with my writing). And if you’re a writer or want to write, you’ll want to pay attention! So, are you paying attention? Good, because what I'm about to tell you can make you a better writer, I promise.
In keeping with that promise, I have a preface, and that is...if you want to write good fiction, you have to educate yourself and study the craft of writing. Although I write suspense, I am currently reading Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte.

 To begin with, good writing starts with reading lots of good literature and writing lots of words, but that's another post all together and it's covered in lots of other blogs, so I won't rant about writing and reading. I will, however, tell you about four books that I've read that have improved my prose ten fold (in my opinion). They are as follows: On Writing by Stephen King, Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell, Writing like the Masters by William Cane, and On Writing Horror by The Horror Writer’s Association (You don’t need to write horror to benefit from this one). These are all excellent books and I’ll tell you why. So if you write, you’ll want to get these books. I'm sure there are others and I'd like to know about them, but I read these and I think they're a great place to start.

  • The first book that I read about writing was suggested to me by my first editor Jodie Renner: Revision and Self-Editing, by James Scott Bell. I hear you...revision... boring! Well, actually, it is not as boring as it sounds. James does a great job teaching many of the common mistakes writers make and how to clean up your manuscript all by yourself. This is a must read if you have written a manuscript that needs a little TLC or not.

  • The next book on my hit list is On Writing by Stephen King. First of's by Stephen King! What more is there to say? Like him or hate him, he's sold a lot of books and there are lots of good reasons why. On Writing covers much of his writing process and the things you should avoid stylistically, but the thing I loved the most about this book is hearing his story. That's right, this book is 1/3 autobiography, 2/3 education. And actually, the autobiography is an education in patience, and how the publishing business works. Very cool, especially if you're a King fan.

  • Another book I recommend is Writing like the Masters by William Cane. This book is will transform the way you look at your writing. It is more or less a study of the methods and styles of all the great authors of modernity, and teaches what the masters did/do that makes/made them great. Cane covers the whole gamut of masters from Faulkner to Balzak, from Dickens to Hemingway, and Bradbury and Orwell and Melville to King. He covers every style and genre and teaches exactly what each one does/did that made/makes their writing unique. This book will teach you how to integrate their methods into your own unique voice and give you an appreciation for the classics. If you hate classic literature, you could potentially hate this book. However, if you love writing, you will learn to like the classics after reading this. I'll be the first to admit that I never heard of Balzac or Dostoevsky before I read this, but I've read them now and appreciate each one. You will too!

  • Finally, I want you to know about On Writing Horror by The Horror Writer's Association. Believe it or not, this hidden jem was tucked away deep in the literary mine of my local library, but I dug it up, brushed off the dust and couldn't put it down. Don't let the title scare you! This book is anything but horrifying. It was written by over twenty top selling authors and editors and is bursting with great information and very specific techniques for improving your writing. After I return this book, I fully intend on purchasing it as a full time reference book; it's that good.

So there you have it; four great books that will make you a better writer. And if you think writing comes naturally for some of us, you may be right, but good writing takes a lot of work! BOOM!