Monday, August 25, 2014


110,000 word
NA Contemporary Thriller

My dad has a gun he thinks I don’t know about. I found it yesterday in his bedroom. Technically, the place was supposed to be off limits, but I’m not too good with imaginary lines. I snuck in when he was out. Golf and midday bourbon keeps him distant most afternoons. Those are the golden hours—makes sneaking around a cinch, and I like life easy.

Dad stepped out at around noon and by the time he’d dragged his ten irons out the front door, I’d bobby-pinned my way into his tamper proof lock. He had it manufactured special, senators-with-expensive-secrets special, but I could pop it open in about twenty minutes on a good day, and yesterday felt like one of those—for a little while, at least.

I didn’t start off fishing for firearms, just snooping for secrets. Dad keeps Washington’s for a living, but lately he’s been bringing some home. Late nights, long benders, and less booze around the house meant trouble.

Dad keeps me on a need-to-know basis, which usually involves a sentence or two of un-juicy details, and a quick “don’t worry about it,” to close our conversations. But over the last week, he's been dead quiet, so whatever it was he thought I didn’t need to know, I planned on finding out.

So, like cat burglar Alice in a Washington Wonderland, I snuck through the looking glass. She and I have a long-standing love affair, mainly ‘cause her story's crazy, and when you’ve been as curious as I’ve been lately, crazy seems pretty exciting. Maybe it’s the magic doors and rabbit holes. I liked the idea that life came with those things—little doors and rabbit holes.

Don’t get me wrong—I don’t believe in magic, but I do believe in secrets, especially when they’re hiding in my house.

As expected, his bedroom was compulsively pristine, not a book out of place, not a drawer left unlocked, everything perfect— but only almost. A small stack of usually signed and stapled papers had slumped and spilled down onto his impeccably clean wooden floors. Passable? I thought not, because spills meant his world was off center. So I dug around for a real life rabbit hole on the off chance that I’d find one. And I did.

Not an actual rabbit hole, but a place in the floor vent behind his desk where he took off the grating one too many times. I jiggled the top, popped off the smooth metal covering, and there it was—a shiny new vault big enough to keep the vent grate from fitting into the ground.

I ran my fingers over the sliders, and clicked through every possible combination, until the lock popped open on my mom’s birthday. He’d deny that if you asked him, though. He denies a lot of things lately.

Anyway, that's how I found it—the gun in the vent grate with “Re-election Day etched into the steel. And as fast as I found it, I left it alone. Couldn’t risk getting caught, but neither could he. For a publicly anti-gun guy, a brand new pistol was anti-common sense. But at least I knew what his secrets looked like—dangerous.

But maybe it was normal. Eighteen-year-olds find crazy stuff in their parents’ rooms all the time. My dad’s wasn’t out of the ordinary. Maybe it was a collector’s item. Maybe it wasn’t, ‘cause he seldom brought home hobbies for pleasure, just solutions for pain. I tried un-freaking myself out about the whole thing, but when weird things like gun stashes show up, you're supposed to pay attention. If you don't, you pay for it later. I’ve watched a lot of movies so I know these things.

I had a gun stuck in the back of my head for the rest of the day. Dad came home, dinner was awkward and silent, but it always is. He doesn’t pay attention to much of anything, so the tension didn't even register.

After thirty minutes of dry steak and burnt potatoes, I skipped out on reruns of Gossip Girl, popped a couple Benadryl and knocked out early. Otherwise I wouldn’t have slept, ‘cause secrets aren’t easy to sleep on. The most you can do is try and forget them, so I did just that. But bad things happen to forgetful people, and bad things happen when you don’t pay attention. But maybe that’s just a movie thing. Fingers crossed.


The world fell apart at 6:00 AM. Well, maybe not the world, but definitely the downstairs kitchen. The crick, crack, crashing of glass against the tile floors, the rattle and bang of pots and pans, and the audible absence of my Dad confirmed my worst fears—a morning break-in. Very important neighborhoods begged for very important burglaries, and today, our house was that house.

I got to my feet, nervous enough to outdo Jiminy Cricket on crack, and grabbed my phone to punch in our private line to the Metropolitan Police Department. Dad had friends on the force, friends who’d take care of a break into a senator’s house without all the press. But on the off chance that I was wrong, and dad was making a very violent breakfast, I’d be the girl who cried criminal, and I couldn’t risk that. Not today.

I had a house to leave, a summer to start, and three beautiful months with the better of two parents waiting for me on the other end of a southbound Amtrak train. In a couple hours, I’d back in green and gorgeous Virginia, celebrating my future at UVA, and a maybe robbery, wasn’t going to ruin it. When you hate a place long enough, the goodbye isn’t bittersweet, just bitter—the sweet part comes once you’re miles away. But without dad and his driver to take me to Union Station, I’d stay bitter.
The house was eerily quiet when I started the upstairs search for my dad. I tiptoed down the hallway, balancing on the balls of my feet till it hurt, and reached his wide-open bedroom door—which he never left open. Ever.

I peered around the frame, pulse pounding my ribs to pieces, and found his almost perfect room in perfect chaos. His king canopy had exploded into a disaster of crumpled sheets and duvet covers, pillows were scattered in every which direction, and his clothes hung like jungle vines on the lamp rungs.

He’d either turned into Donkey Kong, or hit the bottle harder than usual. I kept my fingers crossed for the former. Even if he had been drinking, it was unlike him to be this messy. He was a quiet drunk with quieter problems. Clutter wasn’t his thing. Neither was stink. The carpet reeked of cheap liquor. He was a blue label man, and didn't spill. So I followed the stain trail till I tumbled over one of my mom’s old vials of lipstick lying in the doorway. He’d hardly touched her things since she'd left; at least, that’s what I thought was the case before this morning. Something was awry in the Anderson house.

The kitchen apocalypse started up again, even louder this time than before. I thought about escaping the house through the nearest window, 'til I remembered Dad’s ugly little secret. I ran right back into the rabbit hole and hopped out with a handgun.


  1. Wow, I LOVE the voice here! Your comparisons are amazing. The whole Washington intrigue angle is fantastic. If I had any suggestion, it would be that I want to know what she was snooping for, and what she expected to find. But that mystery also kept me engaged. Awesome!

  2. This reminds me of scandal, and I really enjoyed reading it. I can't wait to find out what happens next! I agree with Laurie, your chapter shines because of the voice. I get a sense of your MC and I'm interested. I do have a suggestion though, unless the father dies at the end of chapter one, maybe you could add some dialogue between them to depict their awkward relationship and reveal their characters more. All the best!

  3. Great voice in these 5 pages! I love how you built the tension.

    I'd definitely read more.

  4. Love this character's voice! She's passionate and funny. And, the tension she builds was palpable as I read your opening pages. Your first sentence, in and of itself, was startling to me...guns make me nervous:) The Alice in Washington Wonderland reference was a cool comparison--it makes me believe I'd be in for a real adventure if and when I get to read more (I hope!). Well done. This chick is a cool character. :)

  5. I really love the voice here! My only nitpick is that I wanted the excerpt to be a little less summary and a little more scene. It's easier for me as a reader to feel like I'm in the moment as it's happening (not necessarily present tense, but less reflective and more active past tense) rather than being told about it after the situation has passed. But this is a great premise and a wonderful character!

  6. This is an interesting start to a story - why does Dad have a gun? Why is he acting weird? I also like your voice. I would keep reading.

    I didn't understand this sentence:
    "Dad keeps Washington’s for a living, but lately he’s been bringing some home."
    Is a Washington a type of gun? Or is this a reference to him working in DC?

    And I love the reference to cheap liquor vs blue label. But I wonder if a teenager could tell the difference. My kids are MG, but it all smells bad to them.

    Good luck!

  7. Wow - this voice is SO engaging! I love the metaphors and allusions.

    I'm going to piggy-back onto another comment and say that I'd love to see some more scene-setting. I don't think the summary needs cutting back at all - the whole thing could just use some filling out with sensory detail. It's a great story, but it feels like she's telling it to us, not like we're in the room with her. Assuming that the balance shifts a little more toward scene (vs summary) as the story goes on, I don't think that you need MUCH more detail - just enough to give a stronger sense of the world outside the voice.

    I'd love to read more - this is SO strong! Good luck!

  8. Great opening line. Just great.

    I also really liked.
    "I didn’t start off fishing for firearms, just snooping for secrets." Nice alliteration and there's a good rhythm here in general.

    I agree that getting to spend some time in the moment with her would be great. A few lines of dialog as her Dad goes out the door, maybe a concrete example of his habit of need-to-know talking down to her... Plus it'd be nice to get her name!

    Great read.

  9. I enjoy this voice. This character seems fun and tough because despite the secrets and uncertainties she never waivers from that fun tone of voice. I might cut out one of the rabbit hole mentions just because there seems to be a few too many.

    I'm curious what her name is. Nice opening.

  10. Wow, so many amazing and quotable lines in this entry, and a MC the reader gets to know (and love) immediately. I can't wait to see this on the shelves.

  11. I read this entire book and it is ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC.

  12. Your voice is awesome, and the story oozes with suspense and tension. I love it!

    I do think a few parts are unnecessary, however. There are quite a few metaphors/similes that I feel pull the reader out of the story.

    One particular deletion that I think will really help tighten the story:

    "I snuck in when he was out. Golf and midday bourbon keeps him distant most afternoons. Those are the golden hours—makes sneaking around a cinch, and I like life easy."

    The only important parts of that sentence would be 'golf and midday bourbon', but that can be incorporated in the paragraphs that follow.

    I also have no idea what Washington's are.

    Wrong tense: He denies a lot of things lately.

    Overall, I really enjoyed the story, and would definitely read more!


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