I continue to be amazed with the wonderful submissions that are coming my way for the Chapter One contest! In July, I narrowed it down to ten, and then five, and then selected the winner.
Teresa Bellew - Letters From Inside
Roger Stouff and Kenneth R. Brown - The Dark Lands (Book Two)
Liz Long - Gifted
Stacey Turis - Here's to Not Catching Our Hair on Fire
Marsha A. Moore - Heritage Avenged (Enchanted Bookstore Legend Two)
Here's a good portion of chapter one:
It was a nice day to go for a drive in the Texas hill country. Especially if the car you were driving belonged to Mr. Otis. Mr. Otis had a ‘69 Mustang convertible with clean seats and an ashtray full of quarters. He also had an expired inspection sticker. That was Ruckus’s favorite feature of his stolen car. Mr. Otis knew how to break the rules. He knew how to live life on the edge. Too bad Mr. Otis was neck deep in triple tequila peach lime smoothies or Ruckus would have invited him along.
Or maybe not.
Mr. Otis didn’t always break the rules. Lights out at nine-thirty. That was one rule Ruckus wished Mr. Otis would bend. No pissing on the lunch trays. That was another rule.
One of Ruckus’s biggest pet peeves was inconsistency. Either break all of the rules or none at all. People and their ‘socially acceptable behavior’ bothered him.
“I’m almost to the last chapter, Ruckus,” Fred frantically whined beside him, eyes glued to the unbound pages of his latest romance novel.
“Quit reading that damn book until we get there,” Ruckus muttered while tapping the accelerator. White puffy clouds had gathered overhead, shading the thirsty soil from this spring’s unusual dry spell, which meant the deer might come out to feed. At the risk of losing life and limb, and maybe putting a scratch on Otis’s car, Ruckus didn’t dare go faster than 90 mph.
“I can’t stop,” Fred sniffed while dabbing his glossy eyes with the back of his sleeve. “She’s almost got her happy ending.”
Sometimes Fred could be a real pain in the ass.
Fred liked books.
Fred liked girly romance books with happy endings. The more happy shit in the books, the better. Fred especially liked books with pregnant chicks who married millionaires. Like that was ever gonna happen. But those books made Fred happy. And Ruckus didn’t climb down three story buildings and steal his orderly’s car just to disappoint his best friend.
“We’ll be at Maureen’s in five minutes,” Ruckus reassured Fred while he tapped the accelerator. Ninety-five mph and no faster or he was sure to hit a deer.
Maureen’s Used Book Exchange was located just on the edge of town, twelve miles from Shady Grove Home for the Mentally Insane. Maureen was a nice old lady, as nice as a social conformer could get. She always set aside a stack of millionaire baby smut books for Fred and she never minded being paid in quarters.
Usually, they had enough quarters left over for chocolate dipped cones at Dairy Queen. Shady Grove didn’t serve ice cream. Not the good stuff, anyway. They never had toppings. Who ate ice cream without toppings?
By the time they pulled into Maureen’s, Fred was sobbing like a baby.
“Girl get her happy ending?” Ruckus asked.
“Yeah,” Fred sniffled. “He saved her baby’s life and he married her.” Fred blew his nose into Mr. Otis’s gym shorts.
“That’s just great, buddy.” He leaned over and patted Fred’s back. Ruckus knew better than to show Fred no more affection than a few pats. The last time he gave Fred a hug, Fred called him ‘Daddy’ for a month. And Ruckus was nobody’s daddy.
Since their hospital pants didn’t have pockets, Ruckus dumped the contents of Otis’s gym bag onto the floor and filled the bag with quarters. Otis never went to the gym, anyway.
They walked down the gravel path to the front of the store. Ruckus had to push hard with his shoulder to get the warped door to open. Maureen’s Used Book Exchange used to be a farm house. Fred said it smelled like dead chicken ghosts. Ruckus thought it smelled more like dusty books.
Either way, Ruckus didn’t like the smell, but he put up with it for Fred.
Maureen looked up from a stack of books and straightened the rim of her glasses while running a hand through her white up-do.
“Hey, Fred,” she cooed, her scratchy voice laced with Southern sugary sweetness. She pulled out a tube of red lipstick and applied it to her mouth. Then she pressed her lips together, smearing the color all over her bleached upper lip hairs.
Ruckus got the feeling that Maureen had the hots for Fred even though she was old enough to be his grandma.
“Hi, Mrs. M.” Fred beamed as he stepped up to the other side of the counter. “Have any books for me?”
“I sure do.” Maureen fiddled with the fabric of her tank top before lifting her sagging breasts off her stomach and arranging them on the counter.
Women were always flirting with Fred. Ruckus could never understand it. He supposed Fred was good looking, in a Ken Doll sort of way, tall and blond, with straight teeth. Ruckus was too average to attract women, from his dull brown hair to his size ten shoes. He was just plain old Ruckus, with the exception of his eyes. Fred told him his eyes were dark and brooding.
Fred’s eyes were green. Women liked green. He’d read once that green made them horny.
But Fred was nuts.
He had nothing to offer a woman. No toaster. No laminate flooring. No white picket fence.
“You’re in luck,” Maureen drawled. “A lady dumped off her Harlequin collection yesterday.” She slid her stack of books toward Fred.
“O-mi-god!” he cried, totally unfazed while Maureen stroked his forearm with her bony fingers. “Can I borrow your box-cutter, Mrs. M?”
“Yeah, Fred,” Maureen answered in her usual deflated tone. “Here you go.”
He eagerly took the box-cutter from her, sat at his table and got to work.
When Ruckus first started bringing Fred to Maureen’s bookstore four years ago, she’d argued with Fred for almost an hour when he wanted to cut the spines off the books.
“Spines are too restrictive,” he’d told her. “They hurt my fingers.”
But Ruckus knew the real reason Fred cut off the spines. He’d seen Fred throw away entire chapters - the unhappy parts of the stories. Fred didn’t just need a happy ending. He needed the entire book to be happy. And if he’d accidentally read something sad, he’d cry for weeks.
It took Fred two hours to meticulously cut all the spines off his books, speed read through them, throw out the sad parts, then rebind each chapter in paperclips, and finally bind each book with rubber bands.
By the time they left the book store, Ruckus’s mouth was watering for a chocolate dipped ice cream cone. When they pulled into the pot-hole-filled parking lot of the old Dairy Queen building on Crocket Street, he could almost taste the chocolaty crunchy bliss melting on his tongue.
He grumbled as Fred bumped into him on the way into the building. Eyes glued to his latest novel, Fred was too distracted to watch where he was going. Ruckus ushered Fred to their usual table, then he went to the register and laid his quarters on the counter.
Maria was already dipping the cones.
“Hola, Ruckus.” Maria, a middle aged, buxom Latina woman who always wore her dark hair in one long, thick braid, held out two cones, each layered with a generous amount of ice cream and chocolate topping. “Here’s your usual.”
“Thanks, Maria.” He smiled as he reached for the cones. “You make the best ice cream.”
Maria knew the secret to good dipped ice cream cones. The secret wasn’t in the ice cream or the crunchy chocolate shell. The secret was in the cherry she buried inside. Somewhere in that smooth creamy goodness was a hidden morsel of ripe sweetness. Ruckus and Fred liked to play a game. Whoever found their cherry first was the winner. Nobody really won anything because they didn’t have many possessions at Shady Grove, but they still liked to play the game.
In the past six years he’d spent at Shady Grove, Fred was the only person Ruckus had learned to trust. The only person who’d convinced him to conform to a routine. The bookstore and Dairy Queen - his one little tradition amid the chaos of pissing all over the cafeteria.
Fred dropped his book on the table and eagerly held out his hands when Ruckus sat down with the cones. He plowed his face into his ice cream, coming up only to breathe and to wipe chocolate stains off his lips.
Fred found his cherry first. Even though Ruckus had seen where Maria hid his cherry, he let his friend win the game. In fact, Ruckus always let Fred win. Ruckus found satisfaction in making Fred happy, and making Fred happy was easy.
I like the author's quick, witty sense of humor as well as the flow of this first chapter. It moves well and holds my interest. It's edited well and written well. I love the description that's used for the main character. Right away, the reader gets to know what he's like--what he likes, what he doesn't like--what makes him happy, upset, etc. It's good writing. To purchase Driving Me Nuts, click HERE.
Want to know more about PJ Jones? Read the Q&A:
Tell me about yourself: Where are you from and how long have you been writing?
I’m from Texas, not far from the fictional town where Ruckus and Fred live. I have been writing since I could hold a pencil. I majored in English in college and taught high school English and writing for several years before becoming a full-time author.
Tell me about the novel—what inspired it?
Like all my books, this one was inspired by a dream. I was dreaming that Owen Wilson was sitting beside me, crying as he ripped unhappy scenes out of a romance novel and I kept telling him to stop. I woke up and wrote the first scene of Driving Me Nuts! I decided to give each character a tragic backstory, because I had overcome my own adversity, a health crisis that I’d believed would take my life. I connected with these characters by likewise dragging them through hell and then offering them the shot at healing and redemption. Of course, I had to infuse my own brand of PJ Jones humor throughout because I’ve always believed that the best way to deal with adversity is through laughter. *
What genre do you write in and why?
As PJ Jones I write dark comedy and paranormal parody. I write it to make myself and others laugh. When reviewers write that they spewed orange juice, coffee and tea through their noses while reading my books, I know I’ve succeeded.
What’s the next project for you? Tell the readers about it.
I am currently trying to finish up a novel under another penname, which is my bread and butter at the moment. Then, I’m going to finish up my Jane Austen parody, Pride, Prejudice and Sparkly Vampires.
Let’s put the novel aside and talk about YOU for a minute—what are your hobbies and what can’t you live without that’s non-book related? What do you do when you are not writing? If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?
I love photography, swimming, and researching healthy living. I couldn’t live without my family. They have supported me throughout my writing career and I love spending time with them. If I could live anywhere, it would definitely be near a beach where I could catch and eat fresh seafood and swim with my family.
If a reader asked you to recommend the three BEST books to read, aside from your own, what would they be?
That’s tough. I have read so many good books lately, all by indie authors. If I HAD to narrow it down:
The Sable City by M. Edward McNally
Wool by Hugh Howey
Kissed by Darkness by Shea MacLeod.
If you could have dinner with one author, who would it be and why?
You! To thank you for choosing Driving Me Nuts! as this month’s winner, and to tell you that your success has inspired me as a writer.
(Comment by Cheryl Bradshaw: Thanks PJ, that means a lot!)
Get in touch with PJ here:
Get in touch with PJ here: